Understanding Basic Impetus Troop Types

I’m thinking of using Basic Impetus for the next game in our Fall of Hispania Campaign. The good news is that the army lists for the Fall of Rome period are freely available at Vol 7. Rome and Empire and Vol 8. Fall of Rome. The bad news is I don’t understand them.

My problem

The Early Visigoths list from Basic Impetus Vol 7. Rome and Empire is a good example of my problem. Completely baffling to me when I first saw it.

Basic Impetus Early Visigoth Army List

Basic Impetus Early Visigoth Army List


CP, FP, S, VBU, I, VD, oh my god! They haven’t made it easy for newbies. And aside from the Nobles it isn’t clear who these guys are! Yeah, I know there is a “Legend” at the top of the page but needing a Legend at all is a bad smell.

The really puzzling thing for me are the troop types. Even when I’d figured out that a “CP” is “Heavy Cavalry” and a “CM” was “Medium Cavalry” Basic Impetus gives no clue as to what the difference is between “medium” and “heavy” cavalry is. Unfortunately Basic Impetus doesn’t have a lot to say about the classification of troops as it just lists the types and claims that “the classification of the various troop types has been made by considering their actual tactical use”. Hmmm, not convinced without more detail.

Classification of Troops in Full Fat Impetus

I don’t have the full version of Impetus but my mate John McClennan does – he plays it a lot – and he shared some snippets that shed light on the troop types basic version.

Here is John’s summary:

Impetus can take a bit of fathoming. It has fewer troop types because you can change factors within each troop type.

BI suffers from a lack of clarity and you often need to refer to a blog or two – or even the full rules to reach the Eureka Point.

FL can be anything from Auxilia to Warband and beyond. It is simply a way of suggesting a looser formation.

EIR and later Auxilia (regular) can be FL or FP under the full-fat version.

For cavalry you are looking at knights, Gothic HC and others as CP. CM will include many other types of cavalry intended to operate in a close-ish order. CL is self explanatory.

S are skirmish types – but they can also shoot. T are the grouped or mass archers, crossbows etc. Aux archers can be either in full fat.

Sometimes troops can be in more than one category. Gallic war band can be FP or FL depending upon either personal choice or a representation of the way they fought. We regularly read about Gauls fighting Romans in organised formations of close order. Hardly warbandy – so FP.

I agree that Impetus can take a bit of fathoming but I disagree that it has fewer troop types. It seems to me that it has a similar number of troop types to other rule sets (such as DBx or FoG) and you can change factors within each troop type. I have a suspicion that is going to do my head in.

Anyway, what follows is what I now know about the main troop types. Basically from the Basic Impetus (Satori, 2008a), full fat Impetus (Sartori, 2008b) and Basic Impetus Fantasy Points System [Version 2.1].

Cavalry / Mounted Troops

Cavalry charge further than infantry.
All mounted troops are penalised when they fight in Difficult ground or against troop entirely inside that terrain.

Heavy Cavalry (CP)

This type of cavalry relies on impact to break through enemy lines. This category includes Medieval knights or Renaissance gendarmes and some cavalry from the Ancient period armed with kontos (a long melee spear) or Cataphracts.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 8U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 5 to 8
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 4 to 6

Heavy Cavalry (CP) that win a melee will automatically pursue the retreating or routed enemy

Medium Cavalry (CM)

This category covers most of the cavalry in the Ancient Period. In the Medieval Period it represents Asian cavalry and less-armoured western cavalry.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 10U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 4 to 6
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 3 to 5

Light Cavalry (CL)

This is fast Cavalry that skirmishes and that were often armed with missile weapons.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 12U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 2 to 4
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 1 to 3

Light Cavalry (CL)

  • can cross and be crossed by Light, Medium and Heavy Cavalry.
  • fire at 360°

Troops firing at Light Cavalry (CL) suffer a penalty.

Elephants (EL)

Elephants were used above-all in the Ancient period to induce panic amongst the enemy troops, especially if mounted.

TODO

Factors:

  • Movement (M): U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): ?
  • Impetus Bonus (I): ?

Elephants can panic due to receiving fire.

War Chariots (CG)

A typical weapon in the pre- classic period. Chariots are mobile firing platforms and can be sub-divided into Light (CGL), normally pulled by 2 horses, and Heavy (CGP) that were pulled by 4 horses.

Light Chariot (CGL) Factors:

  • Movement (M): 10U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 2 to 5
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 1 to 2

Heavy Chariot (CGL) Factors:

  • Movement (M): 8U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 3 to 6
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 1 to 3

War Chariots

  • fire at 360°
  • must always move at least half speed once moving
  • must always move at least half speed before stopping or wheeling

Scythed Chariots (CF)

These Chariots have scythes and other weapons used to Disorder enemy lines.

TODO

Factors:

  • Movement (M): U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU)
  • Impetus Bonus (I)

Wagenburg (W)

These are formations of wagons that are protected and armed with light Artillery or maybe defended by archers, crossbowmen or har- quebusiers. This is a purely defensive weapon mostly used by Hussites, who beat the Imperial Cavalry on more than one occasion.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 5U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 2 to 6
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 0 to 1

Wagenburg (W)

  • can be interpenetrated by any troop type.
  • fire at 360°

Troops firing at Wagenburg (W) suffer a penalty.

Camel troops

Camel troops are similar to Light or Medium Cavalry (see army lists) and, unless otherwise indicated, they behave in the same way. Camel troops have a specific characteristic, in so far as they do not suffer the impetus bonus of other mounted troops.

Infantry

Heavy Infantry (FP)

Massed infantry and melee troops. This category includes Legionaries, Pikemen, Schiltron and some Warbands.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 5U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 3 to 6
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 1 to 4

Pikes:

  • lose 2 d6 if they fight in Difficult ground or against troop entirely inside that terrain.
  • nullify the Impetus Bonus of enemy cavalry
  • have a Depth Bonus

Like Pikes, Infantry with Long spears nullify the Impetus Bonus of enemy cavalry

Impetuous Heavy Infantry (FP):

  • get a Depth bonus.
  • that win a melee will automatically pursue the retreating or routed enemy

A fresh Legionary Unit count pilum when charging or being charged.

Light Infantry (FL)

This Infantry fight in loose order, and for this reason they are less penalised when moving and when fighting in Broken or Difficult Ground.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 8U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 2 to 4
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 0 to 3

Light Infantry (FL):

  • can move and shoot with javelins without penalty

Impetuous Light Infantry (FL):

  • get a Depth bonus
  • that win a melee will automatically pursue the retreating or routed enemy

Skirmishers (S)

These are open order infantry with missile weapons such as slings, bows, harquebus and javelins. They also suffer fewer penalties when moving and fighting in Broken or Difficult Ground.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 8U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 1 to 3
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 0 to 3

Skirmishers (S):

  • can move and shoot with javelins without penalty.
  • can interpenetrate any troop-type
  • can be interpenetrated by any troop-type and automatically follow the Unit that interpenetrate them.

Troops firing at Skirmishers (S) suffer a penalty.

Missile Troops (T)

These are formations of Missile Troops in close order. This category includes archers, crossbowmen, harquebusiers and formed musketeers.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 6U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 1 to 5
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 0 to 1

Artillery (Art)

This category includes firearms and throwing weapons, such as trebuchets, mangonels or catapults. They are, in turn, subdivided into Light and Heavy Artillery.

Factors:

  • Movement (M): 3U
  • Basic Unit Value (VBU): 1
  • Impetus Bonus (I): 0

Artillery (ART) can be interpenetrated by any troop type.

Troops firing at Artillery (ART) suffer a penalty.

What I make of it

To start with I hate the names. “Medium Cavalry” seems like a throw back to WRG in 1960-80s. But the killer for me is “Light Infantry”. What can I say – the classical writers would have included that lot in the “Heavy Infantry”; it is the “Skirmishers” who are the real lights. Sigh. Deep breath. Move on.

I think John did hit the head on the nail when he said “you can change factors within each troop type”. Basically the Troop Types specify bands of allowable values for Basic Unit Value (VBU) and Impetus Bonus (I). You can have both a Heavy Cavalry (CP) and Medium Cavalry (CM) with a Basic Unit Value (VBU) of 6 and an Impetus Bonus (I) of 5. They will, more or less, behave identically. But that is the top end of the Medium Cavalry (CM) spectrum however you can get Heavy Cavalry (CP) that with Basic Unit Value (VBU) of 8 and Impetus Bonus (I) of 6.

This is a surprise and in some ways disappointing. A surprise because I started this post assuming that Troop Types in Impetus were significant, at least as significant as in other rule sets such as DBx or FoG, and it isn’t true. The Troop Types have unique features but not many. And that is what I found disappointing really. It loses some flavour. If I know that the unit has Basic Unit Value (VBU) of 6 and an Impetus Bonus (I) of 5 then I don’t really care whether it is “Medium” or “Heavy” cavalry.

References

Sartori, L. (2008a, Nov). Basic Impetus. Dadi&Piombo.

Sartori, L. (2008b). Impetus: Rules for miniature battles. Dadi&Piombo.

Canonico, A. and Solcia, J. (2010, 15 Feb). Basic Impetus Fantasy Points System [Version 2.1].

5 comments to Understanding Basic Impetus Troop Types

  • Victor Cina

    i understand how you feel about this. I feel the same way when looking at DBA. I don’t know why they couldn’t make it easier.

    • Steven Thomas

      The DBA abbreviations are not very helpful, e.g. Ax – which for me is a type of weapon.

      I have to say, however, that my exposure to DBA (DBx in general) was part of the reason I was confused by Impetus. The troops types are the most significant thing in these game systems. I have come to realise that is not true in Impetus.

  • Daniel

    We tried Impetus but found combat to be very erratic and unrealistic. A lucky die roll and unit could be blown out in one turn. The only thing I really liked about Impetus was the large bases… We’ve moved on to L’art de la Guerre. We enjoy it thoroughly, especially the command system.

    • Steven Thomas

      I admit I’m not an Impetus fan. The games I had a few years ago were very uninspired. The low point, or high point of my bias forming, was when a unit of French Gendarmes charged and broke an steady enemy pike block at first contact. Historically that never happened. Not once. Ever. After all being Knight-proof was one of the main reasons Pikes became popular in the renaissance. However, the Impetus factors made French Knight breaking Pikes quite a likely outcome. Groan.

      I feel obliged to give them another try because they (like you) inspired me to move to big bases. Also because the period I’m going to try them on is Dark Ages, so no Knight-Pike combinations. And my mate John Mclennan is a huge fan.

      Writing this blog post didn’t improve my mood.

    • Steven Thomas

      I’ve ordered L’art de la Guerre. Hopefully it’ll give a good game.

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