Jumpers for Goalposts: Playtesting ‘Homunculus Est’

Editor Guy and I managed another carefully distanced 'lockdown game' last week, and we had a stab at helping to playtest Mark's micro-scale game, Homunculus Est.

THIS - Dear Reader - is what Homunculus Est should really look like.

This did present us with a couple of interesting challenges, as we were trying to fight with forces we could not field on a gaming surface we did not possess, so the first issue was improvising a table with a grid patteren on it. Guy had a rummage around and surfaced with an old terrain project that had been put aside after the mdf warped, but the two boards we needed were certainly flat enough for our purposes. After some Laurel-and-Hardy-style fun with tape measures and marker pens, we'd managed to lay out a 75mm grid, so that just left the opposing forces.

Waste not, want not: it's not literally the back of an envelope, but nor is it very far off it.

For want of either appropriate minis or a decent printer, (Mark has provided 1-1 scaled top-down facsimile images of his own miniatures for the playtesters to print out) we had to improvise with rectangles cut from cereal boxes and labelled - I did this and cobbled together two army lists whilst Guy organised the 'setback' and 'disaster' cards needed for play.

Guy's Romans would be facing off against hordes of Gauls, and Mark had warned us that the Romans would need to choose their ground carefully to avoid being swamped by superior numbers, so we added in some patches of woods (using far bigger-scale scatter terrain) and hills (shown here by hatched contours which - honestly - looked more like mis-shapen glowing pears). Altogether it all looked rather botched and old-school, which bought me great joy: real Jumpers for Goalposts stuff!

After a lot of stalling and faffing on both sides, the battle lines finally start to close...

I won't give you a blow-by-blow accound here, but in short we had a fun time playing Homonculus Est and (vitally) we told a good story whilst doing so.

Not quite 'the horns of the buffalo', maybe, but the Gauls start to close around the Romans

It soon became apparent that Guy's staid Roman legions were - whilst strong and tough and hugely intimidating - rather too inflexible to be able to counter the Gallic light cavalry - really he could have done with one fewer legion and his own light horse...but then, I was expecting my recce screen to collapse into disarray after their first contact...not to wipe out the Roman elites in a series of flanking charges!

Charge! Into the flank!

...and the Roman Elite are forced back from the battle - the day is lost!

We both struggled at first to manoeuvre our troops effectively: I was trapped by too many units trying to move through and between terrain, whilst Guy was cursed by the indolence of the 'Snail Legion' [Legio Cochlea?] who simply refused to edge forward; both of us had issues with logjams and bottlenecks due to the grid system too... but with micro-scale forces and gridded tables both being new to me, I honestly had a blast, and I look forward to playing again before too long!

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