Thursday, 17 August 2017

Down in the West Country Again (1)

Is it that time of the year again? Why, yes it is. Off to Richard Lockwood's for a day of wargaming fun.

We correspond before these days to work out who is going to put on what, and we usually try to have something new to share. Richard has been talking up "Dux Bellorum" from Dan Mersey, published by Opsrey. He has been using it for Greeks & Persians, but we agreed to use it for what it was intended on this occasion.

I wanted to try them but had low expectations. I've been underwhelmed by the Osprey rules that I have had a chance to read, but Richard was keen on them.

Richard set up some Saxons (me) and Irish (Chris A). He threw some terrain on the table, including a marsh in the middle, which proved to be decisive.

Gratuitous eye candy shot of the Saxons. The rules focus on troop types (warriors/shieldwall etc) and leadership, through the allocation of leadership points.

The Warrior Irish can fight in the swamp without hindrance, unlike the Shieldwall Saxons. I therefore had to wriggle past the marsh, whilst holding back some of my force as a flank guard. On reflection I should have just sat on my baseline, banging my spears on my shields, but that would have been dull. I put skirmishers in the marsh as a delaying tactic, and also on the right of my shieldwall.

Our skirmishers clashed on the hill on my right, but I would eventually prevail by running in some heavier troops to help out. This gave me a shieldwall unit out on the flank to roll up Chris's line as soon as an opportunity arose. Chris was having problems motivating his chariots, which are out of shot, so he was having issues with his flanking manoeuvres.

The battle lines collided. The stars represent leadership points. You can use them to add extra combat dice or cancel hits.

The skirmishers all fled. My spare shieldwall unit was now available to intervene in the centre. Instead it decided to sit on the hill for at least 3 turns, despite me spending leadership points on them. Rubbish.

In the marsh Chris caught my skirmishers. I put in some Leadership Points to cancel some hits...

...alas to no avail. Chris rolled devastating attack dice and I was swept away.

Like BP you need to roll low to activate. These are the first three activation rolls by Chris' Irish Chariots. Not good for him.

My flank guards on both ends of the line were being recalcitrant, and I only got one unit up to hold off the Irish emerging from the swamp. The unit on the hill just sat there.

The combat in the middle ebbed and flowed, and had a nice feel to it.

The Irish prevailed over my first line flank guard. I had a unit or two left, but loss of units reduces your leadership points, which started to cause problems for me.

Chris charged my rear units, and finally motivated his chariots. In the centre a lot of units - mostly mine - are down to one cohesion point. The unit on the hill still sits there, having been shot by some Irish slingers.

At last the hill sitters get involved. It is almost certainly too late. Too many of my units are down to 1 cohesion pip, and as Chris now has more Leadership points, and crucially, I have to put mine down first, he can now shore up where he has problems better than me.

What this means is that despite getting in the extra unit on the end of the line, - but not a flank charge - it isn't enough to save my nobles, who are broken. Chris loses a couple of units in the centre, which is good news, but he is winning at the back of the table.

Then it goes really badly, on one end of the line, and Chris out sixes me 3:1. My other noble unit breaks.

The judicious use of Leadership Points keeps his warriors in the game, and another shieldwall breaks. Game over, comprehensive Irish win.

Thoughts? Well, I really loved it. Good period feel, good simple mechanisms that work, well written rules (would be nice to have a playsheet). Everything clear and well explained. Well done, Dan Mersey. Shame I don't have any suitable armies. Yet.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Giving it another chance

Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Or just a soft touch for a lost cause? Or just wanting value for money for an expensive purchase? Whatever the reason, "Black Powder" made a return to Shedquarters this Monday.

In fact it was inspired by the suggestion that I might be taking part in a BP game later in the week, so it made sense to get a refresher.

Consequently I dug out my War of Spanish Succession Airfix plastics, and filled the table full of terrain. On this occasion the Anglo Dutch are defending the top right of the picture, the French attacking from the bottom left. I had the French, Phil the Anglo-Dutch.

I advanced steadily on my left, volleying the troops occupying the small village out there.

They returned fire, and I got the worst of it. Still, plenty more subjects of the French King to fill their spaces.

As I said, Phil was playing the Anglo Dutch, and I had the French. We were a bit thin on the ground for a regular evening. He opened up with his artillery as I threatened the right hand bridge.

Regardless of this barrage, I was able to bound forward and seize the river line. My right flanking manoeuvre has stalled due to bad command rolls.

The musketry exchange continued on the left, and I was getting the worst of it.

The moment had come to launch my massed cavalry charge in the centre. Unfortunately my Guard cavalry were bounced conclusively by some countercharging Dutch cuirassiers.

Phil followed up with a "Sweeping Charge" or whatever it is called...

... and overran my second line too, although this time I inflicted some hits.

Meanwhile, back on my left one of my infantry units broke under musket fire.

I was able to rush up reinforcements and using a combination of front and enfilading fire did for the British infantry in the village.

Time to step back and survey the full picture. My artillery deployed on the hill couldn't hit a thing. To protect my flank on the river assault I had formed up an infantry unit to their left. The loss of the cavalry fight had rather opened up my centre quite badly. Over on the left I've got more infantry lined up, enfilading Phil's British again.

Having achieved fire superiority Phil counter-attacked across the river on the right, inflicting a lot of damage.

He was also able to counter attack on the left, hitting the flank of my line with a cavalry charge. You will be astonished to hear that I survived this attack.

Up until this point BP had been behaving itself fairly well, although the poorly written rule book doesn't help if you have any rule queries. Important rule points are buried in paragraphs of rambling text, and cross referencing in any sensible fashion is largely absent. The book really needs a proper index. However we had a couple of bizarre outcomes such as the flank charge here mentioned, and another on one of my lines on the left.

We ended the game with the armies looking like this. I had failed Brigade Morale for two out of three Brigades, so my army was done for presenting Phil with a win.

BP continues to infuriate me. The command sequence has a lot of merit, but it clearly works better when you have a lot of units to enable the random (I use the word advisedly) effects to even out. On the plus size you can use any size units with it, as long as you are consistent. Of course that does mean that the ground scale is complete garbage, but you can't have everything.

I know that for a WSS game I should have used the "Last Argument of Kings" supplement, but I've seen that and it's mostly garbage*, putting sticking plaster over an already flawed system. Bear in mind, of course, that the basic rule book promises to cover the WSS** anyway, - something the writer of LAOK makes clear isn't the case, as units under BP perform in a way that is alien to the start of the 18th century.

On the other hand it passed the evening pleasantly enough, with a lot of figures and terrain on the table, which is pretty much the justification for BP. I just tend to think that there's more to wargaming than only that.

*Although it is an absolute gem compared with the total waste of paper that is "Zulu".
** Note, however, that it refers to it as "The Spanish War of Succession", which is a thing that doesn't exist.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Wednesday Wargaming

Monday Night regular Will has a copy of "Mortem et Gloriam" (or whatever) that he doesn't really get on with.The armies are too big for his existing collection and no one else locally wants to play it. I'm not unsure that this isn't entirely connected with the £60+ entry tag, once you've paid for rule book, special dice and special cards.

Will's been to tutorials and "boot camps" and so on, but he's not going to continue with them. I borrowed his set on the off chance there was something in them that I'd find useful, but a quick perusal didn't really do it for me either. Some of the new ideas in there I've already tried in slightly different formats, so no real need to go with them. Plus we'd need to buy more dice and cards to play them.

So Will is going to take his copy to Britcon and off-load at the Bring and Buy. If you're interested he's selling for £40, and his box includes not just what I mentioned above but a card rack, measuring sticks and other bits and pieces which'll cost £90+ from the store. It includes the currently out of Stock Marker set too.

What this meant was he needed them back, and as I'm not around for our next regular game he popped over to pick them up on Wednesday afternoon. I thought it was only fair to put on a game for him in compensation for all his trouble.

In the absence of any better ideas I grabbed Neil Thomas' "One Hour Wargames" off the shelf and thought we could give that a go. I taped out a 3' x 3'square on the table and got some scenery handy to set up a scenario or two. Previously I've played in a one-off game run by Chris A and done a bit of solo stuff with them, so this was a chance to explore it all a bit wider.

NB You will note in all of the pictures that I used one base per unit, rather than the 3 or 4 the rules suggest. I don't think it made too much difference.

These pictures are a bit small as they're taken on my phone.

First game we did was Scenario 27 "Disordered Defence" where Blue (me, near camera) had to capture and hold the crossroads from a Red force, part on the table, part off. We used Wars of the Roses medievals for this game. Will got a lot of cavalry in his army.

I quickly attacked the advance guards, with varying degrees of effect. Attacking first gives quite an advantage in hand to hand, as you only inflict hits on your turn. The dice behind units denote hits inflicted. It takes 15 to kill a unit.

To stop me overwhelming the troops on my right, Will charged forwards with his cavalry guarding the cross roads, so my archers sneaked round the back.

I defeated all the advanced troops, but all my stuff was damaged. When Will's reserve of 3 knight units got on the table they made quick work of my forces and Will won.

We then tried it again, with the "Rifle and Sabre" rules, using Bolivians and Chileans. Neither of us got cavalry, but we both had some artillery and rifle armed infantry.

Going first let me pour fire into the advance guards, and also shell the artillery guarding the cross roads.

After a desperate fire fight I overwhelmed the advance guards and blew away Will's artillery. I was then able to move across the table smartish and intercept the reinforcements and finish them off.

We then changed to Scenario 2, "Pitched Battle 2 ". We switched to ancients, and I got Germans and Will got Romans. The aim here is to hold both the hill and the crossroads at the end of 15 turns. I don't know how balanced this is, as the hill offers a benefit in combat, whereas the road doesn't.

Will put some legionaries on the hill, and attacked the cross roads with three other units of the same. He held his middle with cavalry and skirmishers.  I thought I'd shoot his infantry off the hill with my skirmishers, and then attack vigorously from the crossroads. I put my archers in the centre.

Well, the skirmishers couldn't hit a thing, rolling successive 1s on multiple turns. Will hit my archers with his cavalry, and did a lot of harm. I got the drop on the legionaries on the right and started to inflict casualties first.

In desperation I tried to get a 2:1 fight on the hill with my skirmishers. I soon found that they were no match for uphill legionaries. So Will held the hill. I saw off his other foot on the right, and also succeeded in doing for his cavalry, so I held the cross roads. A draw as time ran out.

Finally we did Scenario 3 "Control the river", using the Dark Ages rules and my Khmer and Thai armies.

As the river was impassable we had a slogging match with heavy infantry on the left.  On the right  Will had some skirmishers lurking in and about the woods to cover the bridge with missiles, backed up by some warband. I had more infantry to take the bridge and a skirmisher unit to provide cover.

I supported the bridge fight by shooting at the rear units.

Will eventually shot my skirmishers away, but ended up having to fight my infantry on the left hand bridge. I saw them off, and was able to hunker down on the objective whilst the skirmishers shot at me. By this time we were late on in game turns and I thought he didn't have enough time to shoot me to death. This proved to be right.

On the other bridge I was getting the upper hand, but we ran out of time. So I got half a win.

We played 4 games in about 2 1/2 hours, all of which provided entertainment. The scenarios do play differently with the different periods, and the randomised armies add an extra dimension. As we got into it all it became clearer that there was more depth to the games and rules than we first thought.

An enjoyable afternoon, and a recommended buy, if only for the scenarios.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Edg-ing towards a game

For Phil & me our eventual aim is to produce a game on Edgcote that we can take round the shows and use on the SNorthampton Battlefields Society stand. This one will use 28mm figures as that's a market we don't currently tap in to. If we are going all 28mm then we might as well go "all in" and use a popular set of 28mm rules. So why not start with Warlord's "Hail Caesar" as we've tried "Black Powder" and it wasn't totally terrible.

With the freely downloadable QRS, some notes on their Bosworth game by the Perry twins and an interview with Rick Priestly I thought I had enough to give it a go, relying on BP to fill in the gaps.

As I don't have oodles of 28mm WotR figures to hand, I pressed my Peter Pig figures in to service, and used the Armati scaled down inches measure to get the rules to work with smaller figures. For this trial game I had Chris K, Will & Phil. In practice we pitched Chris against Will, with Phil & me on the side lines shouting encouragement.

When we do it for real we'll probably zone up the terrain, so that there's no need for measuring sticks.

Based on my recent reading we put the Welsh on a hill, with the men from the North just across a small stream. Without having a proper figure/ground scale I improvised three units aside for the main battle lines, with the Welsh having the option of their best troops being mounted if wanted. As they are in the picture.

Just off table we have Lord Stafford, with his archers. The Welsh are not provided with any bowmen for this game, following the usual interpretation.

The Northerners reinforcements are some lighter horse, under Sir John Clapham, and some rag-tag infantry from Northampton.

The Northerners started by advancing across the stream and shooting at the Welsh. They were quite effective, with a number of red casualty markers now in evidence.

Sore provoked by the hail of shot, Pembroke ordered a general attack. One of his units refused to join in.

Despite the odds being in their favour the cavalry were bounced, taking slightly more hits than the Northerners. They tried their Break Test re-roll to keep in touch, but got the same number. Tough going, guys. The yellow counter means disordered.

I think I'm missing some pictures here, as it looks like the previously recalcitrant Welsh unit charged down the hill, only to get well and truly duffed up. It retired in disarray to the hill top, pursued by the men of the North. At this point both sides rolled for their reinforcements, and Clapham arrived, his men shouting "a Warwick, a Warwick". I then required each Welsh unit to take a break test, on sighting the new arrivals.

In a stunning array of Break Test failures, the entire Welsh force turned tail and fled.

So, a very historical outcome.

I'm still not a fan of BP & HC, but they got the job done here. We can simplify the system and produce a 30-40 minute game which will look and feel like "Hail Caesar", but will also be unique for our game.

We have some more issues to solve, - one noted feature of the battle was a feat of amazing derring-do by Sir Richard Herbert, where he slew "four score" men. Or was it eight score? I can't remember, but it is a significant amount. We also have to deal with the issue of how Quarter was given in the battle, and how Robin of Redesdale is to meet his end. The game isn't just a game but a tool for us to explain the battle, so it needs to have a good, clear, memorable narrative.

Any how, a positive start. And we're got a few months yet before the 550th anniversary in 2019.