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  The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele   The Grass Crown was the Roman Republic's highest honor. It was given for actions that saved a legio...

The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele

The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele

The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele

 The Grass Crown



  The Grass Crown was the Roman Republic's highest honor. It was given for actions that saved a legion or the entire army. Some of the Romans honored with it are: 

Quintis Sertorius

Scipio Aemillianus

Lucius Cornelius Sulla (Felix)

Publius Decius Mus (received two Grass Crowns)

 The Grass Crown continued through the whole of the Republic to be thought of as the greatest achievement of a Roman. That is, until it was sullied and thrown in the mud when it was given to Octavian for being Caesar's heir or throwing up the most in his tent during a battle (sorry, just a bit bitter). This is why Hollandspiele chose the name The Grass Crown for their second game in the 'Shields and Swords Ancients' series. The Grass Crown is about battles during the Roman Republic.


 This is what comes with the game:

17" x 22" Mapsheet

(3) Countersheets

28-page Rulebook

12-page Battle Book

A Brief and Digressive (But Mostly Accurate) Military History of the Roman Republic, With Jokes, a 28-page supplement

(2) eight-sided dice

 This is the Hollandspiele write up about the game:

"This second game in the Shields & Swords Ancients series recreates ten battles spanning nearly three hundred years of Roman history. As was the case with the first game, With It or On It (2019), The Grass Crown is a fresh, innovative taken on familiar material. The primary unit of maneuver is a "Wing" which itself consists of ten or so individual counters. Losses can be resolved by flipping the individual unit that was attacked, or by flipping any unit adjacent to it. Unrelenting pressure in the right places can prompt a Rout Check, causing the line to collapse. As the result of a single attack, multiple units can find themselves in your dead pile.

This simple but compelling theme sees many variations thanks to special rules that chart the evolution of Roman warfare, and contrasts them with the rigid Greek Phalanx, the sophisticated army of Hannibal, and the ferocity of the Gauls.

The ten battles are: Heraclea, Asculum, Trebbia, Zama, Pydna, Second Citra, Vercellae, Pharsalus, Thapsus, and Munda."

The three counter sheets

 So, we have two battles with Romans against Pyrrhus. Then two with Romans versus Hannibal. The next two battles are of Romans versus Jugurtha in North Africa, and then against the Cimbrians. The group of ten is rounded out by three battles of Caesar versus the Republicans (Pompey, and Cato etc.). I understand the choice of battles, but I would have preferred to have one where Sulla is in charge and not just an underling to Marius (wow, that puts a bad taste in my mouth). The battles show the Roman Legions against a wide variety of different enemies. They face phalanxes, barbarians, and then other Romans, with various allies. I would also have liked to have Magnesia in the group, but it is essentially another battle against phalanxes. The game is also setup like the almost fifty year old SPI PRESTAGS games. Meaning, that with some reading you can come up with forces to play out any battle you want from these eras. 

 The components are your typical Hollanspiele ones. This means that we are going more for functional, rather than pieces of artwork. The map is a terrain free green one, made up of squares instead of hexes (more on this later). The counters are large at 9/16", and are both color and alphabetically coded. They are not 'busy' at all, and are very easy to read. The Rulebook is twenty-eight pages long and the insets are in color. The Battle Book is twelve pages long, and has the setups for the different battles. The last page of both the Rulebook and the Battle Book has the Sequence of Play, Combat Results Table, and other reference material. The Military History of the Roman Republic is twenty-eight pages long and is worth the price of the game alone. The illustrations in the book were done by John Leech (1817-1864). He was known for his work in the magazine Punch. They were originally used in the book 'The Comic History of Rome' published in 1851. They, and the writing, are hilarious. While the author, Amabel Holland, has her tongue firmly embedded in her cheek, it is nonetheless an accurate history. I read a history book of Rome by Isaac Asimov, and it is just as informative and entertaining as his book was. The components are all up to snuff. So, what about the game itself?

 As was mentioned, this is the second game in the 'Shields & Swords Ancients' series. After a while I fell in love with the first design. The non-use of hexes threw me at first, but it made a ton of sense in the end. You cannot expect phalanxes, or legions, to operate as 21st century skirmishers. 

  The first game, 'With It or On It', was about battles in Greece before Alexander the possibly Great. So, besides two battles that had the Persians in them (Plataea and Marathon) it was phalanx versus phalanx battles. The designer explains that the rules had to be increased for this game because of the difference between battlefield tactics and changes compared to the older battles in the first game. This game does show the growth and change that took place in the legions between the time period shown. Marius's Mules are much more competent and deadly than the Roman Armies faced by Pyrrhus, and possibly Hannibal. Rome was an eclectic society one all levels. Be they Gods, or battlefield tactics. The manipular legion though can be placed at the feet of Roman intellect, and it enabled them to rule most of the known world. 

 This is the Sequence of Play:

1. Command Phase

2. Action Phase

    a, Skirmish Phase

    b. Rally Phase

    c. Move Phase

    d. Combat Phase

3. Victory Phase

4. Initiative Phase

  There is way more to this game than meets the eye. When you first open the box, you might be thinking that this is a beer & pretzels game. In no way, shape, or form, is this one of those. One of the best things about the scenarios and the rules is that you can see the progression of Roman battlefield tactics, and their actual formations. I absolutely love it when a game can teach a player something. This does not mean that the game is just a boring rendition of history. There is just enough friction of war put into the mix to make the battles seem fresh each time. I admit I am a sucker for anything that games the Macedonian phalanx against the Roman legion. This game lets you play out those encounters to see the strength and weakness of each of those formations.

 One of the many innovative rules deals with 'brittle' units. When checking in combat if a unit receives an exhausted result the owning player must turn one of his units, or that one, to its reverse side. If it has two stripes, it is a brittle unit and is immediately eliminated. Just when things seem to be going your way a bit of friction will reduce you to a Nervous Nellie.

 I want to say thank you very much to Hollandspiele games for letting me review this, and other, games. I want to especially congratulate Amabel Holland for her design acumen and her sense of humor. This series of games is a must own for anyone who has the ancients bug. I see on BGG that an expansion is already planned with more battles and different units. Please take a look at all of their games, but especially the 'Horse & Musket' series. You will find many battles that have never been gamed before.




The Grass Crown:

The Grass Crown – Hollandspiele

With it or on it:

With It Or On It – Hollandspiele