Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Adventures of Prince Micheal of Valdur: Episode 16


A Little Mayhem by  the River.

The Saxon raiders leave a vigilent boat guard.
It had been a quiet summer but with the fall came the Saxons. When word came that the raider Helgin had marched inland leaving a small guard on his boat, Duke Stephen sent word for the coast watchers to march for White Harbour and led his household knights to battle.
As the Coast Watchers gather from all around, Helgin's party comes in sight along with a cart full of loot.
As the Duke and his knights, including our hero, rounded Woody Knoll a watcher pointed out the approaching raiders but an arrow cut him down. The Duke detailed Prince Michael to gather some footmen and hold off Helgin's party, while he, Sir Robin and Sir David, burned the boat to cut off their escape.

A storm of arrows ftom the boat guard held the riders back though and through the huts the Duke could see the approach of the famed raider, Redlegs. Having scattered a party of leaderless watchers, he was hurrying to the relief of the boat at the head of more swordsmen and archers. Looking over his shoulder the Duke could see that Sir Vince, a local knight, had joined the Prince but that the party was still outnumbered almost 3 to one. Pulling his horse around, the Duke raised his mace and spurred to the rescue.
Sir Vince's armour could not turn back the Saxon waraxe.

Taking post at the head of his small band, Michael steadied them as Helgin gave the warcry and led his warriors forward at a run. Sir Vince went down at the first clash but so did one Saxon. Once again the Prince squared off with his old foe, Earl Helgin, deflecting one blow then laying the Chieftain low seconds before the Duke crashed into the Saxon shieldwall. It bent, then suddenly, it broke and the Saxon raiders scattered like leaves on the Autumn wind. Seeing this, the boat guard cast off and headed down river towards the Saxon Sea, while even the fierce Redlegs  opted to head for the shelter of the woods. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chain of Thought..

So there I was, tired after a trip followed by a busy non-wargaming weekend and a bit under the weather as well, looking at my wargames table and thinking that I should clear it off, but the Archduke's latest Big Battles for Small Tables  post was on my mind. Suddenly I was poking at the ACW lads and thinking about last year's Gettysburg game. 
 I really must make some 40mm figure compatible Adobe.

That eventually got me to remembering that I had meant to start using my 3 stand ACW units as regiments not brigades. A quick search revealed that I seem to have deleted the only copy of the rules developed from the Gettysburg game leaving me with just the posts but by then I had remembered my determination to have different parts of my collection provide different kinds of games and that I have been playing with the idea of reorganizing my Sikh War era Brits ( calm down there in the back and stop waving the pipe around)   into 1 stand battalions and 3 stand brigades so I grabbed some 40's that were near by, testing out the look of 8 figures on a 60x60 mdf base. The unit turned out to be not Brits but my one unit of Mexicans which in turn reminded me that the scenario laid out on the table was inspired by a Mexican-American battle and that my MexAm Americans have only once been allowed to play themselves.  Moments later..... 
Deja vue all over again but this time the Mexican defenders are activating infantry units.

The intent was to drop a division of Americans on the table using 1 stand battalions but somehow thet turned into 2 stand battalions which are the appropriate size for a One Hour Wargame unit. So, in the end, I just went set out the game by the book and played a game using HofT with 2 stand units and the reintroduced rule allowing hits on a unit to be spread out among the stands.   
A person paying close attention to the rules and situation might have thought the Mexicans would be broken when they lost the 3rd of 6 units plus 1/2 of the objective but apparently I wasn't that person so let the Grenadiers counter attack and drive out the invaders as the clock ran out.

It was a fun little game which see sawed a bit until a last minute Mexican counterattack evicted the Americans, it just wasn't anything I was planning to do today. The table has now been cleared and I can go back to pondering big battles vs small ones, more units vs fewer, and what to paint next.   

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Right question, wrong answer

OK I'm back after a hectic week. This evening I tried replaying last game but using the Tin Army with ACW regiments. It felt wrong,  and was over waaay too soon to make it worth deploying 102 stands of miniatures when I could have played exactly the same game with 10 stands.

After a bit of thought I remembered that I used to let HofT units share hits amongst stands and only once every stand had 1 less hit than the maximum did I start removing stands as more hits came in. Its a small step to go back to that but make it simpler by just tracking up to 12 hits per average unit and then removing the whole unit.  Problem solved.

As long as I was tinkering and since I want to restore some ability to recover but  DO NOT want to go back to infinite rallying, I inserted my usual version of Grant's old rule of merging two half strength units. One unit comes off and counts as lost for army morale while the other is restored to full strength.

I should test this but its time for something different. What? Not sure yet, there is a backlog of games to be played but after most of a week away, it'll be a few days.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Finale. Trying a One Hour scenario the Impractical Way.

Having concluded partly by experiment and partly by listening (sic) to comments and looking at other blogs, I am satisfied that Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargame does what it set out to do, so, Kudos to Mr Thomas.

Catching up on and experiencing something new while it is still 'the buzz' is a rare pleasure for me these days and since it seemed to fall in one of my corners I admit to having been curious so I wish to thank the generous and always inspiring Bob Cordery (wargaming miscellany blog ) for his gift to me of Thomas' book. Of course one must be careful of who you give gifts to and in a week or so I will be trying out and reporting on the brand spanking new copy of Bob's When Empires Clash which came with it!

But first, since I normally play impractical games (not my definition) and have normally played scenarios for the last thirty years and since OHW includes a few new ones and some variations of some old favorites, I decided to see if a OHW wargame could be expanded to suit what I've been calling my little table.
The Zouaves prepare for their first action.
I started by selecting Number 28 where a larger defending force is hampered by having 1/2 of its army frozen. A situation I've encountered all too often by chance using rules like Black Powder or BKC, but not often otherwise.

I started by converting the map. Ordinarily I would usually stretch the map but since part of the defending force was parked on a big hill on one end of the table, I decided to square the board up by using some impassable terrain.  I thought about ignoring the grid but decided to stick with it which gave me a field of 9x9 squares. Easy peasey, each of the 9 squares on the map became 9 squares on my table. (hmm as I type this, it occurs to me that if I shrink distances and use 1 table square per map square, I  could deploy 9 scenarios on table simultaneously forming a sort of on table mini campaign, but not today).

The Opening Positions. The Rebs can only activate one unit from the force on the hill but if it is destroyed they may then activate another.

Next I turned to forces. It felt like time to get my 1/72 ACW troops out. If nothing else there were Cesar's Zouaves who had not yet 'seen the elephant'. Since my units are nearly 5"  wide, 3 such regiments nicely take up the same ground as 1 unit in the original so I deployed a three regiment brigade for each scenario "unit". Another option would have been to roll 3 times on the unit chart but I didn't think of that at the time. Since it was not uncommon to go into battle without cavalry but very rare for a division to engage without artillery, I only rolled for options with artillery for the 4 unit attacking force. I then attached 1 battery to each brigade. For the 6 defending units I rolled twice on the 3 chart instead of once on the 6. Since they were supposed to have an incompetent commander, I let the dice decide whether or not the artillery was present.

The Rebs deployed Featherstone's Elite Brigade of veteran Airfix figures in town supported by Taleri's Brigade. Kinch then deployed a scratch brigade of cavalry and 2 brigades of infantry on the hill in support of a mass of 3 batteries with orders to open fire and keep it up until there were no Yanks left.

The Yanks sent 1 brigade against the town with another in reserve while sending an elite or Zouave brigade to screen the flank and drive off the supporting Reb brigade.

The Zouaves launch their first ever charge, driving back the Rebs and  capturing General Kinch during the pursuit.
They kin fight!
The attacking Yankee regiments took a pounding coming forward and the lead regiments had to be pulled back and the reserves sent forward. The defenders had been somewhat weakened though and the attack eventually cleared the town and held against repeated counter attacks.

Seeing the supporting Reb brigade preparing to counter attack the town to its flank, the Zouaves lowered bayonets and charged. The sight of the colorful metal Zouaves must have unsettled the enemy and they broke one unit and sent a 2nd one packing without taking a scratch. They even managed to nab General  Kinch before he could see what was happening through the pipe smoke.

On the flank one lone regiment and a battery stood threatening the Reb massed guns to deter them from firing into the flank of the division as it attacked. The Reb guns were on fire and even after growing support from more Yankee batteries, at the end of the day the Reb guns took out an elite regiment and 2 batteries in exchange for 1. They couldn't stop the attack though and the Yanks, despite heavy losses, were no where near collapse when the sun went down.

I couldn't help but wonder if I should have activated an infantry brigade first but that will have to wait for the next play through of the scenario.

Yes that means that even though this was an impractical game (some folks just don't know when to let things go!) played with 400 1/72nd miniatures on a 4 ft x 5ft temporary table over the course of an hour and a half, the scenario provided the basis of a fun, engaging game. I look forward to playing it again and trying more of them. I might even try Thomas's rules on the bigger surface using triple size armies. Maybe.

Around turn 10 of 15.  The Yanks have taken the town and the Rebs are running out of troops to counter attack with. It may come down to whether or not the artillery can break the Yankee morale by itself.
There was one troublesome note to the game, not scenario based. This is the 3rd or 4th Hearts of Tin game that I've played in the last few months and its been the same issue each time. I've gotten used to not removing casualties and having combats resolved quickly (as in 1 or 2 turns not as in how long the playing takes). The whole process of marking hits, removing stands, then reuniting units later as I put them away has become a chore where it used to be a joy and I get impatient for a result (I blame Morschauser and Borg!). In other words, "it's me", I've changed. Only 1/2 the Rebs and 1/3 the Yanks were out yesterday so it was ok, but it doesn't make me want to get them all out. (Plse note that 1/2 the troops were a group donation of retired veterans looking for work. The troops on table exceed my initial planned count).

I probably won't have time until the weekend but I think I'll replay the game using an ACW version of Tin Army with each unit being treated as an entity rather than as 3 stands grouped together.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Alexander the Quick

This post is a continuation of my review and exploration of  the rules and scenarios in Neil Thomas's  book One Hour Wargames.

Having confirmed my suspicion that I had done something wrong during the first set of games I decided to do an extra game of the 2nd test scenario. I was going to use the medieval rules again but decided instead to use ancients which are very close ruleswise. Scanning my remaining handful of ancient figures I decided that I could fudge a Macedonian vs Persia game. The Persians ended up defending with 1 cavalry, 1 archer and  2 infantry (Greek Hoplites) against a Macedonian army with 3 infantry, 1 skirmisher and 2 cavalry.

With the Granicus in mind I was tempted to defend the river bank with cavalry but resisted. I think it would have worked though.

After a prolonged fight at the ford the Macedonians advanced. Since the skirmishers were the only unit on either side that could enter the woods, they were sent that way. The rest of the army attacked piecemeal since time was short. The lead phalanx was taken out by a flank attack. Corner contact vs flank, not sure if that was proper or not but it worked.

In danger of being flanked by the skirmishers, the hoplites then fell back to the hill. The question of how the pivot is supposed to work came up again. If the ends of the pivoting unit had to wheel through the full 180 degree arc, they could not have done it without violating movement rules and the Greeks could not have retired. I decided to allow units to about face without worrying about the arc since the arc wasn't mentioned and with it a player's already limited options become even more limited.

Anyway, to keep this as short as the game itself, the last phalanx attacked uphill while the skirmishers flanked them, not that that helped much. Finally, at the end of turn 15 there were still units whaling away at each other on the hill which means neither side met the conditions for a victory.

Anyway, the rules were perfectly acceptable for classical ancients and the game took almost 1/2 hour to play all 15 turns. There was a certain amount tension watching the dice fall but with no decisions to make once locked in melee, it wasn't exactly mentally stimulating so OK but not my thing. Three stars for the Ancient rules.

During the game I noticed that I was having 2 major personal issues with playing the rules. The first was trying to break the habit formed over 4 decades of having both sides roll dice in melee. Habits are hard to break!

The second was minor and is a result of a very personal condition which Wikipedia tells me affects between 3% and 6% of the population; Dyscalculia. Actually until I did some googling this morning I didn't realize that it was a recognized condition with a name so this is self diagnosis but most, nearly all actually, of the symptons fit to some degree and they apply to my sister as well (actually she is much worse than I am) but not to my brother. In essence some things that involve calculation, whether spacial, time or numeric, don't come instinctively so they take a little longer. This affects things like instantly judging left vs right, doing basic arithmatic, reading analog clocks quickly, judging distances, relating names and faces (we use spatial patterns to recognize faces) etc. and with holding them in my mind rather than redoing them every time. Words and logic, no problem, numbers and spatial relations, like the impossible, take a little longer.  The condition, is the main reason why I'm pretty useless at sports, don't like driving in heavy traffic, especially at speed in unfamiliar surroundings and prefer rules where I don't need to do arithmatic or refer to charts.

Let me bring this back to the game and illustrate the issue with an example. Skirmishers subtract 2 from their die, hoplites add 2, the score is halved against hoplites and halved again against an uphill enemy. I have friends who could have instantly worked out that for skirmishers a 1 or 2 was a miss and anything else was 1 hit while for the hoplites attacking 1 or 2 was one hit while anything else was 2 hits. It took me several turns of calculating (d+2)/4= (etc depending on the unit and situation)  each roll before it sunk in. So, more work, less fun, for me but not for 94-97% of gamers.

Anyway I also realized that for Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians since  skirmishers with javelins have the same effective range as bows, they can just substitute peltasts, italian allies etc for archers using the same shooting and melee factors as archers. That resolves the army list problem.
Up next.

Last but not least, I was planning to try another scenario and the WWII rules but I feel that I have a good idea of how the rules and scenarios play and feel that they deliver what  they  promise but can't see me choosing to use them since they deliver a different sort of quick game than the sort I prefer. So instead of playing another "as written" scenario, I am going to try expanding one of the new scenarios to a 4x5 table and dress the table up a bit. If that works the book will add a dozen or so new scenarios to my bag of tricks.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

OHW The Second Period

Having flipped through the scenarios and finding a few different ones that looked interesting, I chose Number 26. Since it was inspired by Bladensburg I was briefly tempted to use 1812 miniatures  but instead decided to go with the glossy 40mm troops. These armies were designed for small, quick  games ( 2 hour ones) and they are now on bases which fit nicely into the parameters of the game. I contemplated trying the Rifle & Saber rules but after rereading the scenario and the rules I decided to try the Machine Age rules including the entrenching option.

Seriously? You are going to play with your stupid little men again instead of cuddling with ME?
(sorry Minnow my girl, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do!
This scenario is a good one for solo play since the defender basically isn`t allowed to move any units for most or possibly all of the game. He just sits and shoots at whatever walks into range. Units are freed to move if an enemy comes within 6" but with a 12" range and no close range bonus or melee options, there is no reason to ever get that close so it only arises if the defender emerges from the wood on their flank. This would of course be different in an earlier period with melee but then they can`t entrench so it all evens out.  I also decided to use the chance cards since I often use them myself anyway.

The end of turn 2. The Allies have suffered from the pre game barrage but have taken a toll of the Germans as they marched on table.
Since the river is impassible apart from the bridge and there is no close assault, the only real option for the attacker was to form  an arc and pour in as much fire as possible into the first defender who just had to take it because of the 6"scenario rule. Eventually the French unit was taken out and the Germans poured over the bridge and into the woods while trading fire with the defenders. In order to make room for units to pivot and move to the flank the lead units had to breach the 6" rules allowing the enemy to move but entrenched with an enemy to the front there was no reason to do so and indeed they won the following firefight. (Lucky for them that the attackers had no artillery!)

The attackers had the numbers though and managed to work forward through the woods while feeding more units into the meat grinder in front of the trenches.  To be honest, the game was almost decided by the chance cards, the poor attackers pulled a never ending stream of bad cards and backed that up with unlucky dice causing heavy casualties, poor rallies and in one memorable moment, freezing two units that were trying to slip past the defending MG to get into the woods. The defenders on the other hand were not bothered by cards stopping movement, rallied well and got double shots when it was really useful. The decks are the same though and eventually the attackers got a few which helped them.

It was certainly a better game than the first two and lasted about 1/2 hour and about 12 turns. If you included time to choose a scenario and armies, set the table, play the game and then clear it all away, then it would live up to the One Hour Wargame moniker.

These things are subject to a fair amount of personal preference and interpretation but it seems to me that adding a tactical option beyond getting into extreme range then shooting until one side goes away would  help make the games more interesting. There may not have been a lot of bayonet charges in the age of firearms but battles were hardly ever, if ever, decided by long range fire, especially when one side was entrenched. It always required a close attack and any first hand account of the time is full of  close quarter fighting. It may be more about the mix of deadly close range fire and psychology than bayonets  but it needs to be represented to give a good period feel and in my opinion would make then games more mentally stimulating as one tries to decide which tactics to choose and work how how to survive the enemy fire to get to decisive range. It doesn't have to be complicated it could be as simple as  a 3" shooting bonus or just allowing infantry charges as per earlier horse and musket cavalry rules including the fall back if you don't wipe the enemy out. That way it would be a risky move indeed until the enemy was worn down.

Still the rules were OK. 2 stars out of 5.

*** I just reread the medieval rules for the nth time and discovered I'd made an error jotting them down to reference during the game and was rolling too many dice in melee. I'll play another game but I am confident that the correct rules would have resolved my complaint about the speed of the game and would also have rated 2*.

As the clock ran down the German  dice improved. They ended up with 4 units left. Cavalry (off screen by the road) and a badly wounded unit hiding in the woods. 

Since I want to test the scenarios separately from the rules I again reset and played with my usual rules for the same period, also very simple but based on Morschauser and the "roll multiple dice to hit" approach rather than the Scruby "read the score off the dice"  approach which was adopted by Featherstone and including an assault option.  I could have played with the same 2 stand units but the game would not have had any depth so I counted each stand as a unit as usual and fielded the same number of stands as the previous game.

Turn 3 and the Germans have only now cleared the way and have lost 2 units doing so due to the ferocity and tenaciousness of the  Zouaves (or the dice, take your pick)  
It soon became obvious that the entrenchments were providing better cover this time around and that units were more vulnerable. Turning the Zouaves out of their trenches by shooting was liable to eat up the whole game. One unit had suffered from the pre-game barrage so a company was sent storming across the bridge and finished them off but took heavy casualties doing so. On the next turn the remaining defender was flanked and also assaulted in front by a fresh unit. Against all the odds it managed to wipe out the already damaged flanking unit and badly damaged the other attacker as it was itself destroyed. The game proceeded with the Germans again pouring over the bridge and into the woods while some units advanced to screen the first line of trenches, losing heavily in the process. I began to fear for the attack!

With 25% losse and 30% of the remaining attackers in danger of destruction things looked bleak. 
This game had several twists and turns though and one of the flanking units freed the reserve unit as well as the front line. The defenders survived a flank attack by and pulled back the  front line while sending the reserve to threaten the attacker's flanks in turn. Both sides were only a few hits from hitting their 50% army morale. Ironically it was another failed flank attack that turned the tide. (Technical rules comment: the flanked units were rolling 4 dice looking for 1's to hit, the attackers 4 dice looking for either 3's or 4's or less depending on circumstances, the defenders aren't expected to regularly win or tie! That's dice for you!)  The chance cards, my own version with more "no event" options and only 1 per turn not one per player per turn, were less intrusive though they did play a role for both good and bad.

It was closer than it looks and I was tempted to let the defenders fight to the death but resisted.
OK that's the second period done. Lets have a look at the score so far while we wait for the Third period to start.

Regardless of rules the games took about the same time and provided a close game. That seems to take the rules out of the equation as being merely a matter of taste.

What about the scenario? Well, it gave a good short game as intended. Just the thing for running a mini campaign in a full evening or a best 2 out of 3  in a short evening. The fact that I'm not usually (ok ever )  looking for that doesn't detract from their ability to perform as planned. Since some of the scenarios are cut down versions of full scenarios it will be interesting to see if I can enlarge this scenario or some of the others to provide a good longer game.

But first, the Third Period and a new scenario.

and for Canadian readers, who haven't been disenfranchised for living abroad, if you haven't already voted in advance polls, DON'T FORGET TO VOTE ON MONDAY!!!!  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Half Hour Wargames (Amended]

There has been a lot of buzz on the Blogosphere about Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames.  I've been increasingly in  favour of simple wargames over the last two decades and have been a fan of scenarios for a decade or so before that so I liked the book's concept and have been curious about the implementation.

Game 1 set to go.
Sometimes, what someone is trying to communicate can get distorted by how they present it or by our reaction to the tone and I admit that he managed to get my back up with his assertion that the sorts of wargame that I have been playing for over forty years along with hundreds of my friends and acquaintances, as well as by thousands of people that I don't know personally, are impractical because some people live in circumstances where they would have to use a bit of  creativity and effort to play. Now during those over 40 years I have lived in barracks, in apartments, flats, mobile homes, and small houses  and have never had great difficulty finding a way to play a conventional wargame. I have played on surfaces as small as a card or kitchen table to as large as 6 ft x 10 ft at home, not to 6 ft x 20 ft at conventions. I have played on  temporary or shared surfaces as well as having been fortunate enough to have a dedicated table for many of tbe last 20 years. I've even played on a homemade folding board in the bar car on an overnight train trip using 15mm figures.

 I admit that during the times that I was living aboard a destroyer at sea I was too busy to bother trying to find a place to play but this book would not have helped and I'm sure its of little help to the homeless and many other people in society so his claim that his game is the one that can suit "everyone" really doesn't hold up any better than his claims that other games are not practical.

OK enough on that,  there is certainly room in the world for yet another small gaming system.

A card table game using 1/72nd figures from 2 years ago.

The first part of the book is a slim primer for beginners and does an adequate job though I've seen better. It did strike me as a bit odd that when he mentioned 1:72nd plastic figures, the only manufacturer he could come up with was Airfix. Really? Airfix, much beloved but who have released 1 new set in what 30 years? However, as I went through the other resources, books, rules, figure manufacturers, etc., I noted that they were, with the possible exception of WWII history books, exclusively British. So, basically, One Hour Wargames for very British Wargamers, I'm not sure if this indicates ignorance of the rest of the wargaming world or disdain for it but it does help explain some of the short comings.

On to the 2nd part, the rules. I like simple rules but I am not in agreement that "Simplicity is at least guaranteed to produce enjoyment". Some of my most enjoyable games have been played with simple rules but so have some of my least enjoyable.  I like some of the ideas behind the rules but have issues with some of the period specific choices partly because I feel they detract from the player's options and partly because I disagree about their appropriateness for that period.

My first hurdle, a very small one, was that while a shared army list works fine for the many periods of symmetrical warfare where both sides used similar tactics and weapons, it works less well for asymmetrical warfare. For example, he begins with an acceptable survey of Persians, Greeks, Romans, Gauls etc and claims the rules are good for almost everything from 500BC to AD 100. The lists however give every army whether Greek, Gaul, Roman, Carthaginian or Persian the possibility of being 1/3 massed archers even though of these armies only the Persians typically used such troops.  I pity the poor novice who goes shopping for a Parthian army to use against the Romans and can only find cataphracts and horse archers, neither of which  are covered. It might have been better to give each army a basic unit type, archers for Persians, Warbands (from the dark age list) for the Gauls and Infantry for everyone else, and substitute a different universal unit type, perhaps elite infantry to fill the 4th spot or else just replace the archers and specify that the rules and list were just for Greek, Roman and Carthaginian wars.

My second hurdle may be due to having played too many different games and having introduced too many novice gamers to the hobby but some simple illustrations of manoeuvres would have been useful.

I admit that I'm not a fan of the spin around the center turns. In life and in wargames, a wheel is easy, that's why even poorly trained troops and novice gamers can manage it. Wheeling about the center is hard in real life which is why its usually confined to marching bands and demonstration teams.  On the table I soon had two questions relating to turns. Since units may not move through other units and since the arc of the outer edge of a unit that pivots about the center will  extend past where the flank was, was the intention that units too close to another unit cannot turn? or is the slight interpenetration excused? I decided to do the latter.

The next arose because units which are charging may only turn before moving, not after. So does this mean that as long as a corner is in contact the units fight or does a unit have to manoeuvre to be exactly parallel  before moving and if so how m6ch of the frontage has to contact given that only 1 unit can contact each face? It struck me that a valid delaying tactic might be to twist your unit back and forth so the enemy couldn't quite line up perpendicular so I decided that upon contact I would align the units and place them face to face for simplicity.    

The third hurdle was period specific again, in the early periods no unit may retreat from melee. If skirmishers get caught, too bad, they should have manoeuvreed to keep out of harm's way. Fair enough. The Saxons at least would have been happier if the Norman cavalry hadn't been able to do the repeated charge thing.  Both hurdles cleared without changes.

The fourth one I haven't had a chance to try out yet. In the ACW period there are no charges by anyone, nor is there a close range. Since it is fire or move I see no way to avoid all battles being fire fights carried out at extreme range which is not at all typical. I haven't tried the ACW rules yet so it may be one of those "suck it up" things if the result works.

In 2012 I played Platea, from Grant's Ancient Wargaming, scaled down to 30" x 36" using 25mm figures. 

OK onto the scenarios. A lot of the scenarios are stripped down versions of already published ones, especially those by Grant and Asquith. Given that I have at least 200 published scenarios in various books, magazines and rule sets, including some of my own, these stripped down ones are less appealing than they might be to someone without the resources and experience.  I have found that many existing published scenarios scale down well to small tables without changes and to my eye, these maps are a little bit too empty,  probably to avoid the sin of having to make an effort to make terrain, but it was time to put them to the test.

I decided to start with one of Thomas' original scenarios and chose Pitched Battle Number 2.  Having just rebased my Turanians I decided to pit them against my Midlanders using the Medieval rules. The Turanians rolled 3 knights (clibinari etc), 1 archer and 2 levies while the Midlish rolled 3 knights, 2 levies and 1 men at arms. Since the Midlish normally rely heavily on archers, I had to scramble to find enough spearmen but managed it. Each unit was 2 of mine giving a 120mm frontage. Each side began with each side holding 1 objective but needing to control both. The first game lasted a little over 10 minutes and 3.5 turns out of a possible 15. The Turanians had 4 units still on board.  ***OOPS, I just discovered an error in how I resolved melee, I rolled too many dice ! That resolves my issues with the medieval rules. ***

The end of the first game.

At first I didn't see what other tactics that the Midlish could have used given their lack of missile troops but eventually I figured it out and reset the table.  A unit of Midlish knights was detailed to ride down the Turian archers if they dared to advance into range. The armoured foot, best able to stand a volley, were on the vulnerable flank. The thinking was that the infantry would wear down if not defeat the Turanian cavalry leaving the knights to mop them up and then ride over the levies. It didn't go quite like planned  but the game lasted an extra turn and ended up with a 1/2 strength Midlish man-at-arms unit in possession of the field.

Game 2, Turn 2.

The next day I reset using the same forces but with my own Gathering of Hosts rules where each stand is a unit. This time the game lasted 5 turns and nearly 1/2 hour with the advantage  switching back and forth but the Midlish finally managed a narrow victory.

In none of the games did the victory conditions come into play since 1/3 of a game was plenty of time to rout or destroy the enemy. (Playing the rules correctly solves this issue but although my rules are slightly more complex they are faster and more decisive so the issue remains for me.)
Game 3 finished with the Turanians hitting their break point just before the Midlish hit their's

At this point I have no idea how to make the game last longer other than by adding a chatty friend and a supply of beer and pretzels but I'm going to choose a less straight forward scenario and change periods. A report on that will follow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Once again we interrupt this blog

No Quiet on the Martian Front.

Earlier today Martian Tripods were seen advancing towards Dartmouth. This time they were joined by a larger tripod, more heavily armed and armored than any seen before. None the less, the defenders were determined that the Martians would not pass, even three Tripods breaking through would be a disaster.

At first the Martians appeared intent to force their way straight up the road but once the Earth defenders rushed tanks and infantry to block their way, the Tripods turned and strode to their right. 

A platoon of motorcycle Roughriders sped out to meet them.

From one of the Tripods  a beam of light swept across the field, vaporizing one section. Moments later a second beam wiped out a second section but the brave men of the third section pressed forward, machine gun blazing. Quick as thought they roared into the safety of the narrow alleys of a small hamlet. 

After a short pause the Bikers seized the initiative and emerged right underneath a tripod before it could fire. A tow wire shot out wrapping around the monstrous legs rendering it immobile as they dashed back to cover. Every gun blazed at tangled tripod.

Leaving the immobilized tripod to engage and delay the defenders, the other three Tripods strode away to flank the humans and break through. The defenders rushed to block them, tanks steaming forward full strength, guns blazing. At first the tall Tripod seemed invulnerable but then a shot bounced up into a small opening and.....

While the Martians were distracted the Heroic Roughriders spun out of a cloud of dust to loop first one, then another, tow cable around the rear Tripod. While it struggled to free itself the tanks closed in, guns blazing. 

Across the field, the first hogtied Tripod was under close assault by waves of infantry. After shooting wildly, the Tripod suddenly stirred and attempted to free itself only to crash and be destroyed. 

Suddenly a 5th tripod strode onto the battlefield, a duplicate of the tall one,  indistinguishable from it to the human eye. Its massive gun flamed out, sweeping the tanks from the field and wiping the central hill free of machine guns.  The wounded tripod struggled, first wrenching a joint but finally freeing itself. The three tripods then strode across the open fields towards their objective. The tall one lingering, using its heavier armour to shield the wounded tripod as they pulled away from the pursuing enemy.  

The humans weren't out of tricks yet as more soldiers swarmed out of ambush positions and rushed to get long range shots at the retreating enemy. Even if they could find an opening, experts gave them no more than a 5% chance of bringing down the wounded tripod.

It had been four hours since the first shot had been fired. The Martians were poised on tbe far edge of battleground. Looking back over the smoking battlefield, time seemed to slow to a crawl for Rifleman Ron. Spotting an opening between a palm grove and the second tall tripod and noting the damage caused when the tripod broke free from the tow cables,  he drew aim squeezed. The bullet struck the rent in its armour, ricocheted up into the cockpit and struck the pilot. The tripod shuddered, lurched, and toppled to the ground. The incursion had been halted! 

From the tall Tripod rose a chilling cry:


The previously promised review of One Hour Wargames will be published on Friday.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Basing of a Host

This weekend I felt like playing a Gathering of Hosts game but now that the experimental phase is over, I didn't want to play with ramshackle units with a mix of basing sizes and styles nor did I feel like using the incomplete West Lands army. The Northern Confederation which will contain my old Valdurian Guard, Minifig Rohirrem bought at the Minifig booth at Aldershot in 1974 needs a few score figures to be painted so it was still out. I only needed to re-base a few of the Turanians though in order to get a balanced opponent for the knights and infantry of the Midlands Kingdom. I decided I should start there.

The bases still need a little damp brushing with tans and lighter greens but the army is now playable again.

All of the armies are being planned as 36 stands of troops with each 60mm x 60mm stand being a unit but, where possible, stands are being painted in pairs so that they can be used as 2 stand units with other rules. So far I have 30 Turanian stands ready to scuffle. This includes 4 of 6 Heavy Cavalry (Cataphracts, clibinari etc), 4 out of 6 cavalry, 6 light cavalry, 6 infantry, 4 massed archers, 1 of 2 light archers, 3 of 4 light infantry, 2 elephants and a stray chariot.

The Great King Rossius the Long Lived, Eye of the Dragon.
The army commander is a old Hinchliffe figure who post dates my college days having been painted one summer's day in Summerland in the Okanagan Valley back in 1978. His escorts are more recent replacements from Garrison, the original unit having been amongst the figures that did not follow me when I graduated.

By the time I was done painting bases (finishing touches to follow), our Thanksgiving Long Weekend was almost done as well but, since there has been so much blogging buzz about Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames, I decided it was time to try out my new gift.

But that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rebellion Reappears in Rosmark

With the latest invasion attempt by the Pragmatic Coalition having been handily repulsed at Portland <click> in May, the always simmering civil unrest has boiled over again in Rosmark.

New recruits, just off the boat from Ireland, begin training as a Light Company is added to the Irish Regiment. They have removed the red uniform coats to facilitate the rapid movements required by skirmishers. In the background a rebel volunteer in civilian dress can be seen following along.

The root of the problem lies in the 2nd marriage of the current King's father to the Duchess of St. Lambert, capital of an area commonly called The Maritime Provinces. Upon the death of the old King, the new Crown Prince claimed the provinces, referred to in Rosmark as the Dowry Provinces, as part of the Kingdom of Rosmark by inheritance. The provinces rebelled claiming independence and were initially joined by the Dowager Queen who maintained her right to the title of  Duchess. The young King besieged the Queen in St. Lambert, <click> reaching a negotiated truce before leading a Northern Alliance expedition to capture the fortress of Adelheim <click> in retaliation for the  previous year's invasion by the Pragmatic Alliance which was repulsed at St. Michel.<click>

 After a few clashes <click>  the Dowager Queen and the Young King reached an agreement by which she was to retain the title for the rest of her life after which it would fall on King Michael. To everyone's surprise the Maritime Provinces disagreed and the war went on. <click> Two years later the threat of yet another invasion by the Pragmatic Coalition led the rebels to acknowledge the King's right to inherit and a contingent of troops in the pay of the Maritime Provinces contributed to the victory at Portland. Soon after it became clear that the two sides had not understood each other. The king claimed that the Provinces were now part of Rosmark and thus subject to his rule while the Parliament of the provinces declared that they had merely assented to allow him to inherit the honourary position of Duke  with purely ceremonial duties and no right to make laws or levy taxes.

Both sides are raising new troops.

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Cuppa Joe

On Sunday I broke out the glossy 19th Century lads and replayed the same scenario with one twist, I rolled for the size of the Red and Blue armies and made the larger force attack.

For this game I selected The Square Brigadier for rules. The board is currently marked with 8x12 squares big enough to hold 2 stand units but while 12 is about enough for width, 8 isn't enough depth for late 19th century armies.  So, I decided to treat each stand as a unit and count quadrants of the marked squares like I did last June.

The resulting game took about an hour and was, well, not boring but not exciting either, certainly not compared to the 2 Gathering of Hosts games. For example the last 5 or so turns were a static shoot out between two lines of infantry each trying to roll more 5's and 6's than the other side and little or no reason to try anything else. So after much contemplation, I decided that I needed a little more Joe in my game.

Joe Morschauser that is,  a little bit more risk, more speed, and more options. I doubled the number of units, reworked the Tin Army and tried again today.

The result was a humdinger of a battle. I'm not sure how long it took, I was too busy playing. Probably more than an hour but less than 2 but if I didn't have things to do I could cheerfully have reset and played again.

The new and improved Tin Army rules are posted under Other Links. I'm finally just about ready to lay out my wargaming plans for the coming years but I've got bases to cut, figures to paint......

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rainy Day Soldiers

Few things are as delightful as a cold, rainy Autumn Saturday when one has no immediate obligations. Nowhere to go, nothing that HAS to be done, no reason not to play a war game, nothing to do but clear the table and choose what to do. Ah......hmm.
The 1/72nd Zouaves are ready for duty.

Since the new Zouaves were ready to march I thought about an ACW battle but I wanted to do some more work on commanders, cavalry and artillery before playing, not to mention getting names and organization down on paper. Still I did want to see if a full battle could fit on the small table so I looked at rules and scenarios and suddenly it all felt like a lot of bother and I was starting to miss my bigger table. Not good, but then I hadn't designed this set up to be ideal for the largest ACW game I could manage. I put the Zouaves into the Federal box until I get more work done and started trying to remember what I did design this set up for.

As I recall, the idea was to play smaller games, either skirmishes or games with small units. For some reason I have been side tracked into trying to figure out how many 40mm figures I could cram onto the table. It was probably good timing that another generous friend recently gifted me with a copy of  One Hour Wargames, the book that has been creating a buzz on the blogosphere since it came out.  Its been well reviewed elsewhere so let me just say that based on those reviews and tests I had decided that the scenarios were largely simplified versions of existing published ones or of popular battles and that the rules would not be to my taste. Having read through it both those things hold up though I do intend to try both scenarios and rules anyway since that is the best way to see what I can learn from them. In fact, on my first read through, I found some interesting thoughts and ideas and realized that we share more common ideas of how to approach things than I anticipated. I'm very glad to have read it and to have a copy to reread again and look forward to trying them  out. But not today. It did however get me back on track.

Looking at the disarray on my shelves, I suddenly had the bright idea of starting with armies that were ready to go using rules that I plan to use going forward.
16th Century English and Scots face each other across the table.
This is probably as good a time as any to mention that I have decided to consolidate my two main blogs. I will leave the Gathering of Hosts blog available to any who wish to peruse it but all new posts will be done here. While I was at it I started adding a page for each of the "campaigns" or "periods" that I intend to focus on going forward. There is at least 1 more to come for the early 20th Century stuff when I figure out what to call it and where it fits in and I will probably add one page for the various small odds and sodds. There will be fewer armies when this year ends than when it began.

Anyway, the armies that I selected were 16th Century English and Scots using the new version of Gathering of Hosts rules. These are now an adaptation of Morschauser's Shock rules, as was Rough Wooing when Rob & I started them. These ones are closer to the original and were intended for an Old School fantasy mass combat game but I like them so much that I've adopted them for my Medieval fantasy and 16th Century games. The Draft is available from the links at the right or the one at the start of this paragraph.

A simple scenario was what I was after, something fought across the width of the table so I could see if it was too shallow when used this way and one without rivers or a lot of terrain. After going through 5 different books of scenarios I was bemused to  find that they contained a very small number of such scenarios and I had played them all too often, too recently. I decided to improvise. I rolled for a selection of hills and placed them roughly by die roll using 2d6 to locate them on the grid. Once they were down I rearranged them slightly to fit then rolled for the number of woods. Since the number of woods matched the number of mottled dark green squares I just filled them with trees, I had chosen those squares as likely spots anyway.

Then I turned to the armies and tossed a die to select the first, the English won. I then rolled 2d6 for infantry and 2d6 for cavalry and artillery. This gave me 6 infantry, 1 gun and 8 cavalry. Looking at the table I decided they were a blocking force and deployed them astride the road. Turning to the Scots I rolled up 8 infantry and 5 cavalry. OK, well being outnumbered, out gunned and out armoured it was starting to look like a raiding party trying to slip by.

"Oh Flower of Scotland....."

Fair enough. A little over an hour later, with the English just hanging on, the Scots collapsed with only 2 units escaped. Oh well, tough enough for the Scots when they outnumber the English. It was a fun game and just the sort of thing I had had in mind for this setup.    

The rules are still being developed and while I was 90% happy with them, I decided I shouldn't have taken out the melee resolution mechanism I had tried. I decided to reset with some 25mm fantasy medieval's and play again using an improved resolution rule, hoping for a more powerful attack force. Once again the deployment dice favoured the defenders and an even smaller party of Westfolk light troops was forced to make their way past an even larger all arms Midlands army. For a minute it looked like an end run through the woods would work but there was this one stubborn unit of archers, The Tunstall Tower archers......... oh well, once again 2 units managed to escape.  Oh well, both armies are well loved and the rules tweak worked just the way I envisaged.  The narrow table worked just fine but with a 6 "length" bow range, I think I'd best make a stick marked in 2" segments instead of the 3" one I made for the 5'x6' table.

Felt like another game but  it was time to make supper.

Deja Vue all over again.

Playing these two games reminded me of why I have been trying to deal with a sudden itch to give 1 stand units another try in other periods, harking back to the original Morschauser Meets MacDuff. Hopefully something late 19thC ish tomorrow if I can.