Friday, 29 August 2014

Making new friends

Last week I got an e-mail out of the blue offering me free figures. Now I know you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, but after that incident with my Nigerian uncle you can't be too careful.

Anyway after exchanging some e-mails it transpired that the person concerned (we'll call him Jim, 'cos that's his name) and I had met a few years ago at the Derby World Championships when I was running the SoA participation game. I'd even put him in an article for Slingshot where I'd got his name wrong. He's a follower of the blog and aware of my love of soft plastic figures so as he clears out prior to moving he thought I'd provide a suitable home for some boxes of unpainted Hat "El Cid" figures. Well, they're on my "to do" list in about two or three year's time so why not? All these years of blogging finally pay off.

What better way to arrange the hand over that for Jim to pay a visit to Shedquarters for a game of AMW with loads of painted plastic toy soldiers?

So that's what we did this Thursday. 14 units a side Assyrians v Medes with a General each. Jim took the Assyrians. Smart move, although his motivation was because he likes the shields. Which is a shame as you can't see them from that side of the table until they start to run away.

For the deployment phase I had us roll a die off against each other then the loser deploys four units, each of us alternating until everything was out. Both fairly unimaginative with mostly horse on the wings and infantry in the middle.

 Jim started off aggressively as you'd expect from Assyrians. The Median strength, such as it is, lies in its archery. The Assyrians have a fair amount as well (half of all heavy units are bow armed) and can move and shoot. The Persians are pretty much all bow armed (correction, are all bow armed) but mostly can't move and shoot. That means I have to let him come at me and hope to shoot lumps off him to even things up before he thumps me into the ground.

It looked good on my left at first. I hit his cavalry coming in several times and he failed a morale test (in your face, Elite troops) so that evened things up. The chariots are a tougher proposition (high saving roll) and I put my General in there to help out.

On the other flank I had a couple of light cavalry units trying to tie up Jim's other heavy cavalry, but his chariots slipped past them on an internal flank, so I had to turn one of my heavy archer units towards them and hope for the best. This opened up a slight gap that I plugged with some light bow.

Those Assyrian heavy infantry do look ominous.

And with a General attached are truly scary. No worries because I'll get something out of the flanks. Perhaps.

Or perhaps not. I really wanted to inflict more than one hit on the chariots as they charged in, but the Heavy Chariot saving roll is 4-6, so they are very, very, tough to kill.

However, on my left I dealt with the Assyrian cavalry and was holding on against the chariots. Just.

Next turn and I was in on the chariots' flank. Surely I'd soon have this sorted.

Alas I was losing the shooting battle in the middle, despite outgunning Jim by 2 to 1. Not looking good for my infantry, and we haven't even started the hand to hand yet. And my foot archers out on the right are down to one base against the chariots.

Those chariots soon blast through that last base and turn the flank of my main line. Oh b*gg*r. I have hopes at the other end, however, and if only the centre can hold on, I'll be able to turn Jim's right with an overlapping heavy archer unit.

Alas, the left of my line caves, and Jim is able to swing the infantry commanded by his General to stop the flanking manoeuvre.

However, the chariots smash their way through one of my central infantry units with ease.

At last! I win the battle on my left, so I have a couple of free cavalry units to get involved in the middle.

Jim's being very careful with the positioning out on his left, but there's little point. The battle will be won elsewhere.

Those chariots crush another unit, and a spare heavy infantry unit heads for my base line to loot my "camp".

I just can't get my spare cavalry into the action. The infantry fight on the left hand end of my line is in the way, and Jim's got his chariots across to cover the flank of his infantry anyway. Stunning sweeping manoeuvre by the men in the carts.

Yup, those infantry are one move from the base line...

... and they step across to victory.

The Assyrians are a tough army to fight, even without the terror rule which we (rather I) forgot. I should probably have fought further across the table, especially as the archery was quite ineffective, to delay the inevitable march-off.

My other reflection is one I've had before; AMW works really well in the classical period, but the Biblical rules and army lists are a bit flaky. The Heavy Chariots are virtually unstoppable, and fast as well. If we persist with these, then changes are due.

Regardless of these issues it was a closer game than it may appear and a lot of fun. Hopefully Jim will be able to make it for future games.

Although I play solo from time to time it's mainly for play testing. Mostly I enjoy playing games with other people. Most of my friends have been met through wargaming, and it's always nice to make a new one.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

More Redcoats, More Desert

After the abortive attempt last week actually to play a game of my revised Sudan rules against a real person this week was greeted with more success on that front. Will arrived (a little late) plus he'd also bothered to download the rules from our yahoo group and read them.

As with most of my games in the Sudan the British have to advance across terra incognita, usually looking for water or an opportunity to slaughter Mahdists. The curve ball for them this time was a couple of units of Egyptian infantry being blooded on their first expedition.

Will took a bold approach and set off to advance down the table in battlefield order, eschewing any form of square based defensive formation. I decided to sneak down the line of the hills and try to take him by surprise.

Soon I thought I had Will exactly where I wanted him. He had a battalion of Egyptians in marching order, and I had a rub of horse bearing down on them. Then Will reminded me that cavalry have to charge from a range of at least two squares in order to gather momentum. Curse him for reading the rules.

Soon the Empire forces were making their presence felt by blowing away most of the garrison of the nearest village with a barrage from their screw guns.

Meanwhile I lurked in the hills.

My inability to charge gave Will enough time to deploy and give me some serious volleys. The Egyptians were going through a baptism of fire without turning a hair, it appeared.

One of his British battalions was not so fortunate. I caught them in the open with a helter-skelter charge. His troops failed to stop me with a volley and we were in, breaking the battalion which rapidly retired to the edge of the board. I hacked his baggage camels up and slaughtered the crew of the Gardner Gun.

My joy was short lived as the neighbouring battalion smartly turned to its flank and charged me with the bayonet, driving my Ansar off.

However I was then able to charge them, and encourage them to take a trip to their base line. They were saved by the steadfastness of the Egyptian foot. Oh, the humiliation of it all.

With the aid of the Egyptians the Imperial forces managed to clear the first wave of Mahdist attacks, but leaving their forces scattered across the desert.

In order to restore a bit of British pride the cavalry launched a charge at some disorganised Mahdists,

 ..only to find themselves beaten off and needing to retire to reform.

Meanwhile the second wave was sneaking up behind the hills again.

 The Egyptians smartly formed into a brigade square and awaited the attack.

This duly came, but the Egyptians refused to be cowed and drove them off.

The British were now up and past the first objective, and despite the few shocks they had received in the early stages of the battle still didn't feel the need to be in a square.

The confidence proved to be well founded as a last despairing charge was easily dealt with, and the remnants of the Ansar retired from the field.

Another satisfactory playtest of the system. There's a need for a few modifications still. The Dervishes need to be able to fire at a slightly greater range than currently allowed, and I'm not sure about the cavalry momentum rule. The system may well play more satisfactorily as a solo game, but Will was polite enough to say he enjoyed himself.

So, what next?

Friday, 22 August 2014

More Marlborough

You will recall that on Parataikene Day we also played a War of Spanish Succession game put on by Richard Lockwood. The rules were his own, written in a coffee shop on his way here. We liked what they were doing and he sent me a copy and also the results of some further playtesting. It only remained for us to give them another go.

I had to make a few quick changes, - Richard's armies are 15mm with eight company bases to a battalion. Mine are 20mm with three elements. Pretty much identical really.

I threw some European looking terrain on the table, and deployed everything I had. Anglo-Dutch are to the right, French to the left. The Anglo-Dutch are effecting a river crossing and trying to capture the road junction. The French are trying to stop them.

This is just another gratuitous shot of some of my figures.

Phil arrived and took the Anglo-Dutch, so I got the French. In classic WSS fashion I immediately despatched three battalions of foot to occupy the village. If you are interested in where the buildings came from you only have to ask.

Phil boldly advanced down the road, pushing his cavalry ahead to try to catch me before I deployed.

I started to occupy the village on my left.

As we advanced towards each other I congratulated myself on how nice my 30 year old Airfix conversions look. Thanks to Pete Berry of Baccus for talking me into doing this army when I was a student so he had an opponent for his GNW Swedes. It has been re-painted and varnished since then, and given new flags, but it's still the same army to me.

Phil seized the initiative at the appropriate point for him and charged headlong into the front of my infantry column advancing up the road (yup, get me before I deployed). The red counter indicates I have inflicted a "Disruption Point" (DP) on him with my musketry as he came in. Cue discussion on what should be happening as this didn't happen in the previous game. I argued for my column being a bit like a square mainly because I didn't want to lose the game this early. Phil was too polite to push the point.

On my right flank I launched a charge with my horse against Phil's flank guard infantry. More of that later.

My remaining infantry moved up and deployed as Phil charged more cavalry at my centre. Don't know what I expected in the game, but it wasn't this (when I set the figures up I was intending, as the Anglo-Dutch, to weaken the French centre with my infantry then bust it open with well timed cavalry charges).

The village on my left sees cavalry swirl round it. Phil has charged down the main street (out of picture) and I'm pinning his infantry with my cavalry. As you can see it is costing me some DPs.

The combat across the centre has become more generalised, with infantry firefights breaking out. One of my battalions has broken, failing a die roll against its DPs. You can see the yellow trail of shame off to the left. My infantry in the centre are holding on against the cavalry, due to the efforts of the brigadier attached to them. Another one of my units, the one with three green DP markers, also fails a die roll against them and beats a hasty retreat. Dammit.

I have to move some more units up to plug the hole. Luckily Phil's cavalry is fairly tied down, so can't get at me.

I'm light a few pictures on this flank, but the cavalry attack didn't go well, with two out of three units being forced to retire. The remaining unit is still stuck in and doing okay, despite being pistoleers rather than hard charging cavalry.

We ended the game at this point as we had run out of time. It was all looking a bit sticky for me, and another half an hour would probably have seen me retiring en-masse.

Richard's rules were basically one side of A4 so were never going to answer every question we had, so lots of notes were taken. Having said that it was a known work-in-progress when we started. The DP mechanism with the associated recovery process and outcome moves works very well. The core of the system is solid. What Richard needs to do is work his ideas up into a full set of rules, filling in the gaps and hopefully not losing what makes them fun.

Another enjoyable afternoon's game.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Squares in the Sudan

Due to unforeseen circumstances I ended up with no players this Wednesday evening. No worries, the system plays pretty well as a solo set of rules, so I played it through anyway.

The British drew a low card in the first turn and formed up into a Brigade square. The very sophisticated plan was to march across the table, mowing down any approaching Dervishes should the opportunity arise. It's the sort of plan that made the Empire great. The square is full of baggage, camels, a battery of screw guns and a Gardner gun pulled by some jolly Jack Tars. The cunning Dervish is lurking in cover.

The British horse have moved out to the left to cover the square from that direction as Dervishes emerge from the palm trees. The Gunboat steamer currently thinks its work for the day is over.

Unable to restrain themselves (plus I wanted to finish before 9pm to watch CSI on 5+24 as the DVR failed to record it on Tuesday) the Dervishes emerge from the gullies.

On the left the Dervish horse close and open up a desultory fire on their opposite numbers.

This is just a gratuitous eye-candy shot of the square with the MG deployed, because it looks great from this angle.

Hordes of Dervishes start to swarm across the plain. The square halts and deploys its heavy guns. The Jolly Kaftan moves up to provide covering fire.

Being typically gung-ho the British cavalry launch a charge at some Dervish foot. This doesn't end well.

The Square finally opens fire. The effects are less than stunning. (Rolled four d6 looking for 4 or less. Got four 5s).

Luckily the fore mounted gun on the Jolly Kaftan has the range and opens up to devastating effect.

Despite the Jolly Kaftan's fire one Rub gets through. And it's going to move first this turn before the square can fire. Alas for the Mahdi it is beaten off with cold steel.

Right into the path of the Jolly Kaftan's gun.

The square then opens up again and this time the men in the Redcoats do their business. The Mahdists are driven off with heavy casualties (NB You can see the cavalry skulking behind the square next to the river on the right. They're disorganised, and will continue to be so for most of the game.)

Despite the volume of fire another Dervish Rub contacts the corner of the square.....

...only to be driven off again. This is looking too easy for the British.

Especially as the gunboat keeps delivering on the fire support front.

The square exchanges fire with some dervishes who just won't go away...

...who, together with some other colleagues succeed in Disorganising the corner of the square.

Another Ace, and the Mahdists are in, screaming their battle cry.....

...and the Regiment breaks. The Mahdists overrun the Gardner, leaving several lads lying on the sand who are never going to sea again. They also start slaughtering the camels.

The routing infantry emerge from the back of the square into some fire from the Dervish horse. Could it all be going south for the Soldiers of the Queen?

The Jolly Kaftan sails to the rescue and opens up on the Dervish cavalry with the rear Gardner gun.

The rear of the square about faces and prepares to volley into the centre (now, where have I heard that before?).

The British Cavalry finally get themselves sorted out and produce a charge on the Dervish cavalry to enable the routing troops to reform.

With the Brigadier present the infantry reform and give the Dervishes a volley or two.

The rear of the square opens fire and halts the Dervishes in their tracks. Up at the top of the picture the other face of the square is crossing bayonet and sword with some howling Dervishes. It all looks nip and tuck again.

But help is on its way. The cavalry drive off their opponents and get round to the Dervish flank. They let off a volley of carbine fire.

After a round of combat in the remains of the square everyone is disorganised, but no one is broken.

No matter, as the cavalry deliver a final charge into the flank of the Dervishes....

....routing them into their colleagues. Game over.

Actually, about a third of the Dervishes are left holding the village and their artillery is still intact. There was probably another hour's play if I wanted it, but I'd been running the game for 1 3/4 hours, and it was time for CSI. On reflection it's a bit of a mess for the British. They've lost the Gardner gun and about half of their baggage, and still have a mile or so the trek to the village and another battle to fight before sun down.

I made quite a few notes during the game and have some changes to make. The cavalry aren't working quite right yet and some of the shooting was too devastating.

Still, passed the evening, didn't it? And the Brits very nearly got a good pasting.