With all the excitement building over the imminent release of Hail Caesar! the Yahoo Group (less than two months old and the rules aren't even out, yet and they have more members than Legion and Empire ever got! No I'm not bitter.) and Forums are already a buzz about supplements.
That was before Rick Priestly even asked what people would like.
This has kicked off another debate about points and army lists. For many decades we have had the WRG/DBx/FoG approach, with Chinese restaurant menus of troops and building an army to a certain amount of points. Some like them since it gives them a handy guide to what they can include in their army and limits on how many. There are some highly subjective and very tenuous quantifiers as well, although I think any mook should be able to figure out that a heavily armoured cavalryman is just a bit more valuable and useful than a guy in rags with a pointed stick. I wanted to take the high road and make Legion and Empire 'pointless' but I was pushed into it by the parties interested in publishing the rules.
I think this illustrates one of the fundamental problems with ancient wargaming. Many of these lists are based on some very sketchy textual and epigraphical evidence. We cannot even agree on the colour of a legionaries tunic and yet we are to come up with an official and binding army list when all we have are literally some scratches on a rock? This of course creates endless arguing and spilling of ink in the gaming media as people bring out new research to challenge the old lists. Games set after 1700 can get away from points and army lists because there are more historical sources, including actual orders of battle upon which one can build one's army.
Plus the whole idea of selecting your order of battle off a menu like you're ordering a meal just doesn't work for me. The lying awake at night wondering if it is worth the points expenditure to go for the armour and long spear upgrade is extremely silly. (And I lost a Warhammer Ancient Battles game because I did not spend the extra points to get the long thrusting spear option!) I doubt Caesar had these issues. He had the troops he had on hand and did what he could with them.
So I'm thinking some sort of card or dice driven random selection process might not be better. One could start with the scenario and some basic core troops and then dice or draw cards for the extras to flesh out your order of battle. The possible selections could be varied by the scenario, the army or even the results of the last game giving a simple campaign mechanic. Peter Pig's Wars of the Roses and Samurai rules use some opposed die rolling to modify the orders of battle and generate a scenario. I'm trying to incorporate these ideas into the revision of Blood & Chivalry I was working on. I also have vague thoughts of doing the same for Legion and Empire, but going back and dismantling it to rebuild seems like a lot of work right now.
Many, like myself, have been turned off by the tournament style army lists and welcomed Hail Caesar's scenario driven approach as a breath of fresh air. Let's hope Rick is listening and resists the pressure to turn his game into a Chinese dinner.