Sunday, 11 November 2018

A Full Friday of Fun

Time for this quarter's full on wargaming day with our friend from the West Country (actually he's a proper Northerner who has mushy peas with his fish and chips. He only lives in the West Country).


We started with a Sudan Game, based on El Teb. I had all the players as British and ran the Mahdists. There was some discussion about who should be in charge of what.

There was some nervousness as there as a lot of terrain, including acacia scrub, so they couldn't see everything, and suspected I might be trying to sucker them in.


The mistrust was such that they did not come on in column (which really slowed them down) and immediately deployed into line


They spotted some Mahdists skulking behind some hastily built field fortification.


The British Cavalry skirmished a bit too far forward, and one company was rushed by the Mahdists and destroyed. The infantry on the edge of the scrub presented arms and volleyed into the Dervishes, removing a base and disordering them.


They then deployed a screw gun and fired some shells as well, finishing off the remainder, pretty much.


Perched on the hill tops, the Mahdists awaited the British approach.


On the left you can see my camels being chased off, while in the distance the infantry mass for an assault on the far end of the position. Historically the British formed square and marched round to attack from the end nearest the camera.


Phil reformed his cavalry, and charged my unfortunate Mahdists out in the open. They turned and fled.


Crying "Tally-Ho!" they jumped the field defences like they were on a steeple chase.


As they sabre their way through the village, more Mahdists emerge.


The cavalry are given a shock and flee away from the Dervishes, mixing themselves in with routing Dervish infantry.


To the left of the main hill line, the Dervishes get a decent number of action points and close the range. They only need to get a lower playing card than the Brits then they're in. Oh dear....


Sustained volley fire, supported by a Screw Gun start to clear the hill side.


The Mahdists who lost the card draw are shot to death and destroyed.

A few more rounds of firing elsewhere and the British are masters of the field. The four of them felt pretty pleased with themselves at this point.

In practice it turned out to be a fairly easy problem for them to solve, and although a couple of errors were made that opened them up to embarrassment they were luckily saved by the card activation sequence.

It's a good looking scenario, and I think I might like to run it again, some time. I will increase the Mahdists if I do (I used about the same number of infantry bases, and less cavalry and artillery) as it was a bit of pushover really. I probably need to go fully Science v Pluck, too, as that gives the players more chance of making mistakes. In practice the British forces are so strong and also numerous that they should win unless they do something foolish.


Next up we had a full on game of SPI's "Fighting Sail", with Gary's wooden ships. Chris & I took a combined US/French fleet (I had the four French ships), whilst Phil & Richard took the Royal Navy. My ships are the four on the left. The plan was for Chris to head their fleet off, and for me to attack the rear. The RN had two supply vessels they needed to evacuate off the far edge of the table.


The fleets approach each other. My strongest ship is also my slowest. It's the one at the bottom of the picture. The important thing here is to ensure we get the weather gauge to control the game.


The fleets close whilst the British commanders confer. My first rater is lagging further behind.


The first engagements take place. Brother Jonathan appears to be avoiding the fight. Surely not? After all, they have the USS Constitution "Old Ironsides".


As you can see one of my ships on the right has lost a mast. As the French player I am learning that shooting out your opponent's rigging is a rubbish tactic.


It's really confusing, but the French are doing a fine job of fighting the British all on their own. To the left you can see some ships are involved in a boarding sequence, my vessel having been pounded into submission.


In another boarding action, however, I manage to capture a British ship.


The British then take on the Constitution, which is duly captured by the Shannon, before the Lydia sailed in to help out.


My First Rater finally catches up and puts two broadsides down the table, destroying one of the British supply ships, and I then do the same to the other one as well. Game to the French. I can't recall the Americans doing anything useful, except lose their flagship.

Everyone really enjoyed this game, - the ships are fun, and the system works really well. Excellent.


Finally we did some Dux Bellorum. By this stage Gary & Chris had left us, so it was me v Phil, with Richard umpiring. He's playtesting this scenario for the SOA conference. The scenario is that the Irish, on the right, have been raiding, and laden with loot, are currently bedding down for the night. The Saxons, on the left, are hoping to surprise them. The Saxons have a smaller army, but start with 6 LPs. The Irish start with 1, but get an extra one each turn as they get more active.

I concentrated all my nobles in the middle, with ordinary shieldwall units to watch their flanks. Archers in the bog to provide extra cover.


Several turns in. My nobles have gone off like a train, the left hand flank guard is tied up with warriors in the woods, and my right hand flank guard won't move. In fact, they never, ever, move. I gave up giving them LPs in the end, as their heart clearly wasn't in it.


Here I am, gearing up for Phil's compulsory charge.


And in they came! A tough fight, but I won out in the end, due to (a) Phil's poor dice rolling and (b) my extra LPs.


The big punch up starts in the middle. Not going as well for me as I hoped. I needed to hit big, early on, before the extra Irish units envelope me.


As you can see, there were "Fahsands of 'em"


After another turn, however, thinks start looking up. The LPs can help keep my shieldwall units fighting, and if I can do that they'll grind the warriors down. Phil started a terrible run of dice rolling here (49 without a 6, - which meant I wasted a lot of LPs on blocking hits that never came). Out of shot to the right, however, you also can't see that I've shot and killed that slinger unit, which cuts Phil's LPs back by one. Good news.


Another round of combat bounces a lot of the Irish, but that simply means they can charge back in next turn with a bonus.


On my left I drive they warriors back into the woods.


Next turn I am able to kill them off, at the cost of a hit.


The centre is looking a bit raggedy, but I have a couple of Phil's units down to single hits remaining, so that's good. Alas, so do I.


Well, if your unit won't go to the enemy, perhaps they'll come to you. Phil finishes a massive encirclement move with his chariots, and my remaining shieldwall just sits there doing nothing. I  fought this battle with a quarter on my army sat on its posterior.


The battle is reaching a crescendo. I'm pinned in place, and Phil has a free unit on my right. My free units on the left are moving up slowly.


Sure enough Phil gets round the back, but I get lucky (er..demonstrate superior skill) elsewhere, and break two units, handing me the game. First game of DB I've won at the third or fourth attempt. I like it, - it has charm - but it is better with more cavalry.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

A Shed Load of Arguments

As we are regularly having a big turn out at Shedquarters, I thought it would be good to take the opportunity to playtest a multi-player matrix game (if you don't know what this means there's a brief bit on this blog I wrote a few years back). The scenario, - the Battle of Hydaspes - is intended for 6 players, which we've had quite a lot recently. As it was we had four players, which is enough, but the evidence from the game was that 6 would have been better. (BTW It seems as if someone has stolen bits of my memory as I've run this game before: see this blog).


The set up was based upon "Lost Battles" and the excellent articles written for "Slingshot" when Hydaspes was chosen as the battle day a year or so back by the Society of Ancients, together with the battle pack that Richard Lockwood wrote.

Of the four players one was an old hand at matrix games (Phil), one was an experienced wargamer who had never heard of them (Richard) and two were neither of the above (Tim & Steve). I explained the principals to the newbies and went over some basic argument structures. They all looked bemused.


Phil played Alexander, and did a successful argument in the first turn to show how it worked (something about light horse evading charges). The other three looked on and confessed to be baffled. Richard, - not for the first time - put his head in his hands and said he didn't know what to do. Richard is one of our most thoughtful players and is always very conscious of the rules in a game. Effectively being invited to write his own sort of threw him a bit. Steve took up the challenge and argued successfully for faster move distances for his "equine units", although why he wanted this I wasn't sure.


Every so often you come across someone who is a natural, and finds it all liberating, despite protestations to the contrary. Tim could see how the mechanism would help him, and worked his way into getting a bonus for a flank attack. He then argued successfully for the target unit to break and flee.


The centre, without a commander player caused me a problem, but I resolved it by creating a third pseudo-player on either side.


As he'd had a s successful first round, Tim started the next with the initiative. As you only inflict hits  in your turn having the initiative is a big deal. He manoeuvred into another flank attack, although slightly less successful this time.


Richard went for an argument about the cavalry never having seen elephants before. This failed mainly because it wasn't true (Alexander had been in contact with other Indian rulers, and already had  elephants in his army). In the distance you can see Phil's light horse evading Richard's chariots.


The Macedonian light infantry was doing quite a good job on the Indian elephants, so Steve charged a unit of cavalry down the middle to clear them.


Meanwhile Alexander lead a flank charge with his Companions and got a resounding four "1s". This lead to an argument that Alexander had been killed, but he only ended up wounded.


This shamed his Companions into becoming a killing machine.


Which opened the door to a breakthrough move by more Macedonian heavy cavalry.


The phalanx advanced to force the Indian cavalry to retreat.


Thy duly turned and charged into Tim's flank, and resulted in his character, Koinos, being killed.

By this point the Indian left had collapsed, and Alexander was about to roll it up so we went into the end of game sequence, where each player argued why they won.

Phil won, partly because he was Alexander and survived a battlefield injury, but also partly because he rolled good dice. Honourable mention to Richard who was still expressing bafflement at the end, but submitted a brilliant argument based upon reincarnation and the fact that there were more Indians to hear stories of his bravery than Macedonians and Greeks.

We had a interesting post game discussion, and everyone said they enjoyed it (very polite players I've got) whilst making points about how hard it is to get into the swing of it all. I find this a bit odd, as it all makes complete sense to me, and has done from when I first started playing this type of game nearly 20 years ago. I like how it frees the imagination and creates a narrative for the game. I'm still surprised at how this is all news to experienced wargamers.

That's why this game is going to the Society of Ancients conference this year.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Return to the Retro

Nearly three months ago I got out my 28mm Crusaders & Turks for a one-off skirmish game. Well, now they're back for another fast paced hackfest.


I have observed on previous occasions and in other publications that the important thing with skirmish games is the scenario and the narrative. There are a lot of issues with 1:1 wargaming to do with how much ground someone can cover in a given time, reaction speeds and how detailed combat need to be. There are so many issues with this that you really need a good story for the players so they overlook all the other stuff that in't really quite right.

For this game two parties of Hospitallers had to go up a river valley and rescue something or someone from the Turkish village. The Turks had to protect this, and drive off the crusaders.


Here's Phil's party advancing carefully up the road, with a screen of crossbow men out front.


Tim had the other Crusaders and he took a wide sweep out right.


The cardboard markers are the potential locations of concealed Turks.


These are the Turks waiting to get on the board. The playing card numbers correspond with the markers on the table.


Phil's Crusaders are strung out along the road.


Suddenly some Turkish horse appears!


And then some short bow archers pop up and start to shoot at the Crusaders.


One of Phil's crossbowmen is ambushed, but he shoots the horse of one of his attackers first. The chap with the yellow base and hit ring should be mounted.


Phil counter attacks with his Mounted Knights. The results are mixed.


Then hordes of Turks emerge from hiding


The Crusaders take some casualties, but their foot sergeants are fast approaching.


Several Turks go down under the Crusader's onslaught.


The Turks in the middle of the board are shot at by Tim's crossbowmen, who inflict some damage.


Tim's men are making good progress, mostly unmolested. Phil is drawing the heat of the Turkish defensive forces.


Having defeated the Turks by the rock, but at the cost of his last horse, Phil's men head to the village. Richard is rushing his Turks to cut them off.


Some guards emerge in the village. You can't see it here, but Tim's men are quite close now.


The final melee on the road ends with the last Knight going down under multiple stab wounds.

As Phil's force was now leaderless we ended it there, and had a chat about what we liked and didn't like. The Crusader armour is still too weak, and the archery is too effective. I don't like how I'm doing shooting, so that needs looking at. The mounted Turks were too effective in hand to hand combat.

Some of the changes since the last game worked okay, so I'm going in the right direction, but I don't want to over complicate things. I'm happy to have a few loose ends and manage the players with more umpire intervention.

Looks nice enough tho'