Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Getting all your mistakes in, in one go.

We've been talking about what's hot and what's not on the ancient rules scene, so naturally I put on a game of Armati.

I chose two Successor armies, Antigonid and Early Seleucid (l-r above), but made some odd selections. I bumped up the light troops a lot, especially for the Antigonids, and gave them all the peltasts I had in the box. This might have been an error.

I rigged up a curtain for deployment. We started with Will & Tim as Seleuceus, whilst Richard & I took old One Eye. When we took the curtain down we had managed to deploy with neither wing facing the other. Oh well.

I had a sort of plan when I picked the armies for both of them. I had a senior moment when deploying, and got it completely wrong. I really don't know what I was doing. Richard, who had never played the system, made some suggestions which I should have said no to, quite forcibly, but I didn't. Consequently the game was pretty much lost before we started. (We should have had all the heavy cavalry as individual divisions, with the phalanx as one, and then put the light infantry out on the flanks to support the cavalry).

The Seleucids had elephants. I over compensated in my fear of them. Any how, by this time I was off the hook, as Chris had turned up and took over my wing.

He held his heavy cavalry on the hill, and sent his light horse out wide. We were out numbered in light horse, but Chris got himself into a position where only one of them could shoot at him.

Richard and Chris also taunted the phalanx with a light division. They got some hits early doors...

...but then had to evade out of the way.

Seleuceus lead his Companions up the hill and started to trash the Antigonid heavy cavalry.

As the phalanxes approach Tim has got his peltasts in a good position. That pesky elephant, however, is just out of the way of everything and wasn't worth worrying about.

Another round of melee lost. Chris had gone by now, and I was back behind the right wing, with Phil umpiring.

Things did seem to be looking up for us. After some fiddling about Richard managed to get his cavalry into the back of Will's phalanx, breaking some phalangites. Alas, this was a false dawn. The size of the cavalry unit and the angle it had come in at meant it would find it hard to perform a similar trick on another unit.

No so Tim. After skewering our cavalry he's into the back of our hoplites.

Not just once, but twice.

All over.

Not my finest moment. The Antigonid list has problems, - its troops are generally less good than the Seleucids, and there are things you can't have. To compound it all I made a number of bad decisions when putting it together, then screwed up the deployment and then the battle plan. So, stunning performance all round really.

Any how, now Tim & Richard have been introduced to the rules, maybe it'll go better next time.

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.