Friday, 27 June 2014

Fear & Losing in Mesopotamia

First game back from holiday, and for various reasons we're playing on a Thursday.

As CoW is looming the final play tests of "To Ur is Human" are becoming more important, or rather urgent. We haven't played a game for a while, and whilst I was away I was musing on late 19th century warfare and before that I was painting Assyrians. This meant there was a danger I would forget how they worked.

As it proved to be.

Now the rules are in close to final format - just some chrome to work on - I can start putting more terrain back on the table. This meant a game back in the fertile crescent, with irrigation ditches, palm groves, villages and fields.

Here we have a typical land dispute type game. On the right the aggressor city-state is giving those on the left a right see-ing to over some ownership claim on grazing land. To make their point they're going to burn some crops, groves & villages. A scratch force of locals and the provincial "Big Man" ("Lugal") are going to stop them, if they can.

Chris W was in control on the left, Phil on the right.

Phil's army started with a general advance. Negotiating the battle carts across the irrigation ditches at the crossing points meant that careful thinking was required to get them lined up properly. Elsewhere light infantry worked the flanks.

Chris was having none of this, - after some dithering, when he considered just retiring from contested areas - and started to develop local counter attacks, whilst holding onto his threatened objectives.

A nasty scrap developed around Chris' left flank palm grove, as Phil tried to get local superiority over the defenders. Chris rushed up more light troops to support his defenders.This combat would eventually provide a good test of the Fear mechanisms in multiple unit combats.

On his right wing Chris had succeeded in repulsing some of Phil's light troops, but the pursuit was drawing him away from his defensive line. In the middle Phil has pushed a unit of battle carts lead by his Lugal across the canal, and declared a charge on some of Chris' massed archers.

The mere threat of the on-rushing carts was enough to convince the archers they had more important business elsewhere, leaving the carts a square short of two heavy infantry units.

Ordered to counter charge the carts, the heavy infantry were not keen (ie failed the Fear Test) and dropped a fear level. Bad news.

Elsewhere in the centre Chris' Lugal was endeavouring to stage a counter attack to disrupt the advance, using his personal battle cart unit.

Not being one to pass up an opportunity Phil piled into the heavy infantry who had wavered in front of him, and they immediately broke.

Chris' Battle carts stalled in the middle of the table, enabling a weakened unit of Phil's to charge them in the flank. They don't take kindly to this and drop a fear level.

Phil has now been in possession of some squares long enough to set fire to them.

Despite being slightly worried by the flank charge, Chris's battle carts see off their opposite numbers, and charge into a supporting unit of Phil's heavy infantry. Note to self: Make it clear to players that fields with stones marking their outlines do not provide a barrier to battle carts.

The charge does damage and bounces the infantry out of the field but doesn't break them. Phil is starting fires everywhere he can now. He has also got some infantry across the irrigation ditches and is roughing up my infantry (Chris has gone home by this point, so I'm overseeing the demise of his army).

And that's about it. Most of the defenders are broken, dead or in fright. Fires are springing up everywhere. It isn't looking good for them.

Overall, once I'd got my head round what I'd previously written, the game played well. The main issues of dispute with the players have been marked out in the past and represent a difference of opinion on how things should happen. I'm getting the results I want however. A few changes are still required, especially in the pursuit area, I need to put some better troop definitions in the final set of the rules, but I'm good for CoW.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Holiday Reading

Back now from our trip to Peru, so normal service will be resumed shortly.

In the meantime I thought I'd share with you my thoughts on one of my holiday reads.

Sometimes - I don't know if you are like this - I acquire a book because the price looks good but I have no immediate need or desire to read it. One such book is Paul Preston's "The Spanish Holocaust" which had been remaindered at an attractive £2.99. This is Preston's account of the non-combat related murders and physical retribution inflicted by both sides behind the lines during the Spanish Civil War and after. As such it isn't really a book that informs one's understanding of the military side of the war, but is my opinion an important book that should be read if you want to understand why the War was important, and is important still.

It is a book that divides opinion. The use of the word holocaust in the title has been objected to as the slaughter does not compare to that of the Jews under Hitler. It's certainly the case fewer were killed, but it is also the case that a lot of people were, at least enough to warrant a description that means destruction or slaughter on a mass scale.

The second criticism is that the book contains unsupported accusations. It may have. But it is also one of the heaviest footnoted books I've read in a long while. It is meticulous in the accounts of the killings, torturings and rapes it gives and the sources from which they are obtained. It is almost as if Preston anticipated that this criticism would be made, and prepared against it.

Finally it has been criticised as Preston is clearly a pinko liberal who is biased philosophically against the Nationalists and is repeatedly unfair to Franco. Well, Preston may have left wing views. He is certainly more sympathetic to the Communists that the Anarchists (in contrast to Beevor), and he's clearly not a fan of Fascists. Even so he covers the killings on both sides in equal depth as far as I can tell. It might be fair comment that the Republic would have been as vindictive in victory as the Nationalists, but I doubt it.

The book does occasionally veer into judgemental language that mars what is a valiant attempt to be impartial. It must have been a really hard book to write. There's very little in it to bolster your faith in human nature.

It's a really hard book to read as well. The continuing repetition of the murders and indignities inflicted from location to location is unremittingly grim. Page after page catalogues what happened. Often the words are the same, only the places and names are changed. In the end I resolved to finish the book regardless as an act of remembrance for those who suffered, in the same way that the list of names is read out at 9/11 remembrance services.

At the end of it I was left with a feeling of intense fury that Franco got away with it. He died in his sleep with apparently a clear conscience believing he was doing God's work as a Christian. It's enough to make me want to believe that there is a Hell and he is burning very slowly in it whilst being force fed castor oil.

In a uncomfortable way the part of me that has designed one or two "black" games thinks that there is a game in there. In any event, even if there isn't, at £2.99 anyone who wants to wargame the SCW has no reason not to buy this book and read it.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ceresole, - the refight

And here's the result of the last Spain v France match. Both sides playing away from home, as usual, but both also employing some ringers. The orbats were in an earlier post: Ceresole Orbat. If you are trying to follow the game both the army lists give the units in order from nearest the camera at the top of each list.

Phil played the French, a shoe-in for the dashing 24 year old Francis, Count of Enghein, whilst Richard played the older and more wily Del Vasto. I over saw the game (bit too strong to say I umpired it as I'm still a bit hazy on FoG-R) and intervened with some one off rules when needed.

Most of the Imperialist army, in readiness for the battle. The buildings are two farms, much fought over in the initial skirmishing, but as far as I can tell utterly irrelevant otherwise. I added them mainly to break up the monotony of the green table. Their exact location is far from clear anyway.

 The French Army, arrayed on the crest line. Well, most of it. I'm shooting these pictures with a 300mm zoom lens so I can get close ups without leaning over the table too much, but it does rather restrict the wide shots. NB All these pictures were taken without flash, relying on the normal Shedquarters' lighting.

Richard won the initiative roll, and passed his turn. Phil got everything moving. A young, vigorous man in his first battle field command he was intending to show all he meant business. The French command figures are the elements of Gendarmes with big flags.

The Swiss put their heads down and  rushed across the table. Phil made full use of the chances for double or triple moves in this phase of the game. This helps to reduce exposure to artillery, but alas for him he lost a base in the Swiss early on, dropping the unit below the key "four ranks deep" in one file.

The rest of his foot lagged a bit behind, but Des Thermes and his "light cavalry" (actually fairly heavily armoured) near the camera pushed ahead in an attempt to get to grips and turn the Imperialist flank. NB FoG-R experts will note that I'm using two element units and so exposing units to a high risk of auto break. Because this was needed to fit the game in the space and time available I dispensed with the auto break rule for small units.

Richard responded to Phil by coming off his base line. He had an advantage in infantry units and was looking to break this flank and refuse the right with his tercio.

Phil, on the other hand, reckoned he could get a unit of "Mounted Archers" behind Richard's right flank.

That's a chunky group of Landsknechts Richard has there.

The clash on the French right started badly for Phil. The Impact phase achieved nothing. On reflection I should have give the French cavalry an advantage to help towards a more historical outcome. As it was both sides were evenly matched. The best that could be said for Phil was that when he finally lost the combat Richard's cavalry wasn't already behind his flank. If the combat had been fought more in the centre of the board it would have made a big difference to the final result.

The other wing was a different story. BTW The pieces of parer are the unit descriptions, with a big, black, letter saying what Battle the units are in (Vaward, Main or Rear)

The Swiss are now two bases down, but Phil pushes on. He wants to draw the landsknechts on, pin them with the Swiss, then hit them flank or rear with his main cavalry, seen wheeling inwards in the centre.

Richard's right wing cavalry collapsed rather quickly. His General did get away. In the end.

The centres now closed. The more sharp eyed amongst you will note that the Swiss are up to full strength. In view of the poor performance of artillery in the battle I had a secret rule that put casualties back when contact occurred. This meant that both sides were wary of the artillery, but no one was put out of the game by it.

Richard has moved his Tercio and supporting Gendarmes up to threaten Phil's massed Gendarmes, but they are intent on wheeling into the rear of those landsknechts anyway.

Phil's right hand cavalry, meanwhile, gave up the ghost and lost their commander to boot. All Richard had to do now was to get his cavalry up and into action. Had he made a mistake by choosing to fight so far back?

Everything has now hit everything else, pretty much. The French pike block and the Italians facing them were each given an arquebus volley as part of the impact phase to simulate the tactic on the day of embedding a file of arquebusiers in the head of the column to shoot the opposing side's captains. This worked to the French's favour. Elsewhere the Swiss were getting the rough end of it, and only the intervention of a small unit of French Gendarmes was holding up the unit of landsknechts closest to the camera which would otherwise have crushed the French foot. This charge went really well for Phil, disrupting the landsknechts. The added rule of letting him break off at the end of an impact phase was politely waved away as his eyes focussed on the opportunity this gave him.

Bang! The Gendarmes hit the rear of the landsknechts.....

... which they wipe out, saving the blushes of the Swiss who looked like they were taking a beating. At the same time fortune favoured the other, smaller unit of Gendarmes, who together with the French foot broke the other landsknecht unit....

 ...pursuing them through the gap in the line.

The Tercio finally advanced and got to grips with the Gruyere foot. These were soon destroyed. Del Vasto had fled the centre of the board to take refuge with the Tercio.

All too late to save Monluc's French foot, alas. The Italian horse finally got round and caught them in the rear. Trapped by the Italian foot to the front they were crushed.

The good news was that Monluc wasn't killed. Not much else left, however.

The Italian Gendarmes who had done nothing all game except keep out of trouble were finally hunted down by Dampierre's horse from the left wing and broken.

In order to stop Richard exploiting his victory over the French foot Phil threw his Gendarmes into combat with everything they could hit.

The Tercio was Richard's last hope. He turned it, in good order, into the centre but all was lost, pretty much. They were able to retire in good order. Win to the French.

A win to the historical victors, with some elements of the original battle occurring. As noted above I didn't get all of the unit categorisation correct.  I think Des Therme's men should have been superior, as should have been the tercio. I wasn't happy, completely, with the formations I set up and there should have been more firearms for the Imperialists. The special rules worked well, however.

FoG-R continues to entertain and baffle me in equal measures. I cannot hold all of the detail in my head in the way you need to in order to play the game well. I do not find it intuitive. However, the rule book is comprehensive and pretty well laid out. The index isn't bad at all, although occasionally odd. It is a better product than some other glossy, hard cover rule books, and uses its page count well. It often gives results that look and feel right, but, boy, does luck play a part at times. The wheels can drop off just simply by rolling a couple of threes

We will persist, I'm sure. May even buy a copy. My old lads are getting a good number of outings and enjoying themselves enormously. Although I hear that some of the landsknechts would like to play at being Swiss next time.

They wish.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Liebster Award Posting


I've been nominated for the Liebster Award for bloggers-with-not many-followers again. Three times on this current circuit of the award.

I was rather hoping to be ineligible for it by now and have topped 200 followers, but no such luck. My nominators are (in reverse order):

Tim Gow of Megablitz and more
Jonathan Freitag at Palouse Wargaming Journal
Natholeon at Natholeon's Empires

Having been nominated, you answer these penetrating questions:

1. Why did you start blogging?
Like most people, it's a combination of ego and philanthropy. I feel other people should benefit from my wisdom and life experience. You also get to interact with new people. And it's cathartic. The personal postings from last few years helped me deal with difficult issues.

2. If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?
The obsession with form over substance. Great figures do not a great game make.

3. What is best in life?
Being married to Mrs T. And wargaming.

4. Do you want to live forever?
Only if I have good physical and mental health. Otherwise I want to go before I lose the rest of my marbles.

5. Fame or fortune?
Fortune. No contest. 

6. What miniatures are you most proud of having painted?
Why is it always about miniatures? Why not "What is the best game you've ever designed". My favourites of all time would either be the Henrician English or Huguenot French. Probably the latter.

7. How do you deal with burn out?
What's that? 

8. Why is a raven like a writing desk?
Because a hawk is like a handsaw.

9. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Doctor Who. (If pushed on the others, probably Star Trek)

10. If you could only buy from one miniature company from now on, which one would it be?
On current form it would be Hat Miniatures. For 15mm it would be Peter Pig.

11. What is your favourite takeaway?

Fish and chips. With Mushy Peas.

The final thing you have to do is "pass it on" to 10 or 11 other blogs. Problem for me is I don't follow that many blogs on a regular basis. Life's too short if you want to do other things to follow 100 blogs or whatever the rest of the world does. What's more not everyone puts up the number of their followers. Anyway, if you don't follow these, you should do:

Phil Steele does several blogs, based on different periods. All are worthwhile:

ECW battles: Does what it says on the label
P B Eye candy: Phil's 20th century modelling projects
Phil's FoG Blog: Miscellaneous other bits and pieces.

Chris Kemp's NQM blogs are full of useful stuff and are a go to place for Operational WW2 wargaming.

NQM: Be careful. He changes the location from time to time.

Finally Prufrock has some interesting thoughts and has been a supporter of my blog:

Here's No Great Matter

There are a few others I'd mention, but they've been Liebster'd already in this round.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

More Medes & Persians

Latest batch off the Trebian assembly line are some javelin light troops.

These are based three to a base, so in Armati terms LI not SI. For AMW/DBA they're probably Auxiliaries/Auxilia.

Anyway, these have been bulked out with some sword & axe men as I have no particular use for the latter otherwise and the Zvezda/Italeri boxes have quite a few of them.

he pictures are a bit dark, I'm afraid. Can't seem to get the lighting right today. Probably because the sun is out.