Friday, 22 March 2013

Big Bosworth



This week was Phil’s Bosworth DBA game in 54mm. Some of you will have seen this as it has featured on Phil’s “Ancients on the Move” blog as it is his participation game for the Society of Ancients this year.
The 54mm figures are what catch the eye. They’re a mixture of Irregular, Britains, Phil’s home casts and bits out of lucky bags. Or something like that. They parade beneath a colourful array of banners from Graham Fordham’s “Fluttering Flags”, printed on real cloth. Phil is still working on some of them, as is his wont with his display games. They start the season in playable condition and gradually evolve to fully completed by three or four shows in.

Ready for action. Bit of glare off the display board
What should attract the public is Phil’s use of the new analysis of the battle that derives from the battlefield archaeology done by Foard et al. Having re-fought Bosworth once or twice before this is what stands out. That and Phil is using DBA 3.0, which, like the game, is still in development. As regular readers will know we play DBA from time to time and I still get a bit confused with bits of the new rules. Phil B is still tweaking them and I suspect they will never see publication. Not ever. Not even after Mrs B has got a publishing deal to do a hardback book about how to start wargaming with DBA.

Ricardian baggage, featuring Lord Strange and executioner in waiting.
Playing with the 54mm figures is a bit odd at first. I’m used to the idea of mixing metal and plastic in smaller scales, but you really notice it in 54mm as a block of infantry can be quite heavy, - right up until you pick up one that isn’t. Ironically I fear the bigger figures may prove to be less robust than their smaller brethren.
The game board is Phil’s favourite pasting table turned side to side and re-hinged. He fills it with polystyrene and then sculpts the surface. The marsh area is teddy bear fur painted green. My feeling is that he would benefit from putting on a bit more texture, - either polytex or PVA/sand as the polystyrene can look a bit like painted polystyrene at times.

A view of the deployments. Note artillery range stick

For the evening’s entertainment in the Shed we had me, Phil, Chris K and Ian, and we rotated sides and teams for three games.

The Ricardian vaward
 The setup, for Richard, has his advance guard of four deep archers on the road, supported by two guns. The other two battles are on the base line, consisting of mixed foot and cavalry. One of these only movers on a 5,6.

Richard's massed artillery
Henry has a vaward of one heavy infantry base supported by two normal archers. On their left flank is one artillery piece. Four mercenary bases are on their extreme left. Henry with two supports is on the baseline. Stanley is on his right wing and only moves on a 6. Richard can move Stanley on a 6 as well, but only Henry can make him attack.

Stanley awaits
We played three games and got two Ricardian wins to one Henrician. We may, by the end of the evening, have developed a close to guaranteed win strategy for Henry. Phil had been shown one for Richard and it is easy to see how both players using the optimum strategies would play out quite a long draw.
Historically Henry got stuck in early and caught Richard while he wasn’t formed up properly. Phil tries to do this in the game and from my experience it doesn’t quite work for Henry. The challenge for Henry is that Richard’s forces have quite an unpleasant beaten ground in front of them to cross. In the first game I lost in about three moves as my vaward was blown away.
We know that artillery is significant in the battle as the archaeology now tells us this. My feeling is that in DBA it is too powerful for this game, and having two artillery units packs quite a punch.
DBA is a game of PIPs as we all know, and being unlucky with your PIP rolls can frustrate most players. It is easy to describe DBA as all luck, but at the same time it is not surprising to note that good players win more often than they lose.
Having lost as Henry we swapped sides and I had a go with Richard. The Ricardians won that even quicker through the slaying of Henry. Basic lesson of DBA, - don’t put your general in harm’s way unless it is the only way to save the game.

Henry moves up, and is just about to die
At this point the three players were wondering how Henry ever gets to win this battle, whilst Phil shook his head and remarked he hadn’t seen anything like this in all the show games he had run of it.So we made another brew and swapped again. As Henry for a second time I ignored the umpire’s advice and urgings and resorted to using tactics.

Henry's flank attack gets stuck in
I was helped in this, ironically, but rolling low PIPs whilst my opponents were rolling in the higher register. What this meant in the early stages that I adopted a minimalist approach and kept the army together. Awash with PIPs the Ricardians rushed their reserves hither and yon to get at me as quickly as possible. When their hot streak of PIP rolling dried up they were strung out a bit and a mild improvement in PIPs enabled me to put in a series of perfectly directed counterpunches. Collapse of the Yorkist army and death of Dickie Crouchback soon followed.
The postgame discussion after one of these refights is always entertaining. Phil has done a lot of research and hence has me at a disadvantage in some areas, but I think we made a few points that may influence how he runs the game in the future.
Of course repeated re-playings of the game mean that optimum strategies can be developed which is probably to the detriment of the game overall. A few years ago I re-ran the Trebia for the SoA stand. Will played it a lot and worked out the optimum Roman strategy. That effectively broke the game unless he was very unlucky.
Or played me, as I had the optimum Carthaginian strategy.

Any way, - the Bosworth game is doing the rounds this year. Look it up, and talk to Phil. He really knows a lot about Bosworth now.

15 comments:

  1. This game hit all the key buttons for me:

    1. Nice toys.
    2. Well thought-out.
    3. Simple.
    4. I went away from the game knowing more about the battle than I did before.

    A very enjoyable evening.

    Regards, Chris

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    1. I think having the context really makes the game work. It is surprising how good a re-fight you can get with such simple rules and so few figures.

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  2. That looks beautiful. I've always fancied doing some 54mm armies just for the look of it.

    As for rules, we've used HOTT 2.0 for Wars of the Roses games, and they came out pretty well. The higher factors Shooters have over DBA Bows mean they are less vulnerable, and more dangerous, to the men-at-arms Blades. Basically armies are a mix of Shooter and Blades, with some Knights, the odd Rider and sometimes some Spears, Warband and Artillery.

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    1. I think something needs doing .We used HOTT years ago for historical games and they worked well. Phil's point here, I think, is to help with the developement of DBA v3 and encourage its publication!

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  3. Very nice looking and unusual game

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    1. It's a good twist on what might otherwise be a run of the mill DBA game. You should seek it out at one of the shows this year.

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  4. A good selection of pictures, Treb, plus thanks to your readers for their kind comments about the game.

    I was at a DBA event today and able to talk through some of the clunky bits with seasoned playtesters - suffice to say there are some nuances in how artillery interact with other shooters that tone the effectiveness down a bit. Not exactly 'hidden' nuances, but nuances missed by me.

    So as well as giving me a chance to put on for locals what I'm perfecting for shows, it has also enabled me to sort out one or two issues.

    So a valuable session. Thanks

    Phil

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    1. You'll have to explain the nuances when we meet up next. DBA doesn't have a lot of rules, but understanding how they all link together is something I've never grasped properly.

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  5. Saw this at WMMS, lovely display game. We had a very interesting chat with Phil (I assume) about the location of the field. Looking forward to seeing the 'new' location.

    Regards,
    Matt

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    1. Phil was at WMMS.If it was the chap with a beard and glasses who knew a lot about the battle, it would have been Phil you were talking to.

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  6. Nice to have met you, Matt ...

    Manning games at shows is always a tricky balance between running the game, letting people browse and sharing the knowledge that went into designing the display.

    So thanks for going public with the expression 'interesting chat' :) It was an enjoyable day out.

    Phil

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    1. It's good to get feedback after a show, - having done a few of these you never really know if you've made an impact or not.

      Well done, sir.

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    2. Hi Phil, thanks for taking the time to explain the latest thoughts on the locations of the camps and battle site. As I said, my brother and myself found it very interesting.

      Regards,
      Matt

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  7. Very pretty display of the big figures. Interesting to use 54mm figures on a small battlefield. It should be mentioned that DBA 3 did get published in fall, 2014 and went out of print in 6 months but is coming back. The rules do well for Wars of the Roses.

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    1. I don't think the battlefield is actually that small. I think that some play the game on larger boards, but that just slows the whole thing down. Much as I like DBA, and this version in particular, it isn't a game a I want to spend two hours over for a single battle.

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