Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Battle of Paraitakene & some other games

Following hard on the visit of Mr Wallace of Treefrog, Shedquarters hosted another visitor. Richard Lockwood, who organises the Society of Ancients battle day, came up for a full day's gaming and joined a number of the Monday Night Group for the occasion.

The opening game was another AMW Successor refight - Paraitakene/Paraitacene. The set up was based on "Lost Battles" as usual.

Apart from using more than eight units we applied the following modifications:

  1. Generals: Eumenes & Antigonus got one selective re-roll per turn if attached to a unit. Subordinate generals got one total re-roll per turn.
  2. Elephants: Represented by four bases, one per hit, rolling 1 or 2 dice per base depending on opponent.
  3. Elite Troops: Elite troops were allowed a complete re-roll of combat dice if desired.

(NB The photos are taken with both my compact camera and my SLR. The SLR was used with a 300mm zoom to capture events at the far end of the table. This accounts for the variety of definition in the pictures and the colours not always being equally bright).

The set up: Eumenes to the left, Antigonus to the right.

First player to arrive was Richard, and he leapt at the chance to play Eumenes. He was followed shortly afterwards by Chris W, who willingly took Antigonus.

We had a short chat and decided to start without our other two players who had been unable to meet the agreed start time.
Antigonus' right wing

Based on Phil Sabin's analysis, we had Antigonus move first.

Chris decided to advance generally, eschewing the opportunity to refuse one of his wings. He was keen to get his infantry involved asap. The unit at top left on the white piece of paper is Eumenes' light cavalry on the left wing who historically re-deploy to the right in double quick time. I gave Richard the chance to do the same, but he declined.

Richard as Eumenes started to push his units out wider to stop him being outflanked by the missile armed light cavalry near the camera.

The Antigonian right wing turned into a bit of a traffic jam or exercise in formation dancing depending on your perspective as Chris wheeled his light cavalry out from reserve to cover his extreme right.

The wings are both heading towards each other at maximum speed. The white markers, BTW, indicate if the unit is either Elite or Levy. All other units are average.

After about an hour's play Phil & Will arrived. Will teamed up with Chris, & Phil joined Richard.

It was difficult to know who had been given the most difficult start. Richard, as Eumenes, took the right wing, facing off against Will. Phil was given the other end of the table with the instruction to "hold the left wing". Their arrival was timely, as it just preceded the first major clashes of arms.

Eumenes lead his Companions into the heavy cavalry opposite him, and Will galloped his general figure up to help out. As you can see it availed him little and he lost two bases in short order, one due to a morale roll.

This shot shows the Eumenids getting stuck in. On the right what you can see of the Antigonid body language shows they are very relaxed  about where they have got to.

A pure eye-candy picture, this one. This is the Antigonid right wing cavalry moving up, supported by elephants.

Phil by this point has organised the left wing defence, creating a crescent to receive the on-rushing cavalry. He has pushed the light horse archers out left to try and slow the advance down.

Back on the other flank Eumenes' troop did for his opponents pretty much immediately. Will's general survived, but suddenly looked a bit lonely.

Everything then happened at once at the far end of the table. I think Phil had just about got the line up of who was fighting who to his advantage, but Chris had more units, so Phil was always at a disadvantage.

Chris' master stroke turned out to be catching the elephant unit in the flank with his Companions. I think this may need looking at in future games.

In the centre of the table Richard did the equivalent of tossing a coin and hoping for the best, by charging his elephant into its opposite number. He got the better of the first round of combat, so it looked like an inspired decision.

Back on the Antigonid right Phil had seen off Chris' elephants and nearly lost a phalanx in the process. The Heavy Cavalry of both sides was locked in a death struggle, and both players had their generals at the red-hot point of contact.

Things were going really well for Richard on his right (near the camera). He drove Will's light cavalry out wide, creating a gap to push his cavalry through to turn the flank of the phalanx. However, he was relying on his left holding out against strong Antigonid pressure.

...and then Antigonus died at the head of his Companions. Chris remarked. "Well, that's about it then. Can we stop now?"

Yes, he took this reversal of fortune really well. However, Will was not down hearted, and believed he could grab victory from the position. Especially as he was now in charge of the army and the Antigonid head of state.

That view lasted for about a turn, when he was then trapped and killed whilst leading a heavy infantry unit.

Sometimes it just doesn't go for you, does it?

I was still not convinced it was all over, and made the players run through another couple of turns.

Richard finally won out in the elephant combat and so was able to inflict damage on the supporting Antigonid phalanx.

So I called the game as a Eumenid victory before the full victory conditions had occurred (quite a lot of the Antigonid army is still in place) as it looked like it could now only go one way. Plus it was lunchtime.

Richard provided our afternoon entertainment with some 15mm War of Spanish Succession and a set of rules he'd written in a coffee shop on the way to see us.

Last time he came to see us he gave us WSS using Charles Grant's "The War Game".

Now, with all due respect to Old School Wargamers, I have to say those rules suck. They're clumsy and unrealistic and take hours to achieve next to nothing. On this occasion we were only about 10 minutes in and I was able to say to Richard that he'd written a better set of rules than Charles Grant. Result.

Phil & I took the Anglo/Dutch forces, against Will & Chris. The scenario was a bridgehead, with the French trying to push us back across the river. Phil & I decided to counter-attack.

I was faced off against Will, commanding the cavalry.

We were soon into it with gusto. The rules use a "Disruption Point" system that reduces a unit's effectiveness and also enforces some compulsory actions, depending upon circumstances. This produced lots of charging, retiring and counter-charging.

Which seemed about right.

Infantry stop about two inches apart and have to fire at each other. Rules cover the removal of DPs, so positioning of brigade commanders is key.

Our reinforcements arrive. Lots of Austrian Cuirassiers.

Phil pushes our infantry reinforcements out wide to flank the French position.

Will is under a lot of pressure and has to stop for a refuel,

Not sure why I took this picture, but I can assure you it was exciting at the time.

We opened a chink in the French line between their foot & horse and in best Alexandrian style thrust some cavalry into it.

Oh yes! Cuirassiers exploit the gap and ram into the side of a French foot unit. French blushes are saved by the need to pack up and go down the pub for dinner. We were joined by Mrs T & Mrs W and it was only slightly marred by the decision of our chosen pub not to serve food on Mondays & Tuesdays, all signs outside to the contrary. So we went up the road to The Coach & Horses which I can thoroughly recommend.

Phil did some North African PBI (Italians v French) as the evening entertainment and as I was handling the Italians on my own I only took a couple of pictures, so I have no narrative. Hopefully Phil will supplement this with a full description over at his blog. Anyway, it looked great, and I was probably losing when we had to call it a day.

The Italian defensive position, before deployment.

My Syriana armoured car defends the oil depot.

Phil also brought along his quick paced WW2/Ironclad Naval Game. We squeezed in a quick run through of that. I hope to do it proper justice when it re-emerges on a Monday Night.

All things considered a very satisfactory day's entertainment. As Richard has since remarked "I think this is the way forward".

What, spending the whole day wargaming?

He may have a point.

Monday, 28 July 2014

A Visit from Mr Treefrog

I met Martin Wallace the owner/designer of Treefrog Games through Wargames Developments. Over the years I have played a lot of his prototype designs at CoW. A year or so ago he moved to New Zealand so he doesn't do CoW these days, so imagine my delight when he e-mailed me last week and asked to come and visit as he was in the country.

"I have the third Discworld game with me" he added, enticingly. What could I say? So this Sunday we got together to share some time over some games.

Firstly I subjected him to Rapid Raphia. "RR" is more of a board game than a figure game and I thought that the card management aspects of it would appeal to Martin.

This is the first time I've actually played through a full game of the system myself. I've tidied up some more loose ends and produced a simple playsheet summarising the use of the cards to make things easier. I played Ptolemy, with Martin as Antiochus. I decided to refuse my left and try to break Martin on my right. To this end I transferred Ptolemy as quickly as possible from one wing to the other.You can see him with a single card on my base line. I don't think Martin had an overall strategy, and became reactive to my moves. To be fair he was developing a strategy based on the mechanisms, and he therefore needed to learn those first. This vindicates Phil's strategy in the last game, - just act like a Macedonian General and see what happens.

What I was trying to do was pin the opposing phalanx and hit the flank with my elephant. I was looking to offset the advantage the heavy cavalry have against my lights by using the extra card you get from having a general present. This proved to be successful, but it does burn through the cards quickly.

I also managed to store up some high value cards so I defeated the opposing elephant on this flank as well

It was clear this flank was going to be critical so we had a blizzard of cards.

When they were all turned over I had got it right, I think and Martin had worried prematurely about the elephant. Turning the rear phalanx to the flank reduced the strength of the front line, and the presence of Ptolemy was critical as well.

This blew most of Martin's phalanx away, but I was struggling to find a sixth unit to kill before I ran out of cards. In the end I managed to push a unit off the baseline and as he had also run out of cards his army broke.

Martin enjoyed the game and thought the mechanisms worked well. A few changes/clarifications were identified. His main recommendation was to switch from standard playing cards to a bespoke deck. The cards would have all the information about what can move etc rather than have it on a playsheet.

It also then becomes saleable.

Whilst Mrs T was preparing dinner we squeezed in a game of the Field of Glory card game, where I fluked a win.

After lunch we sat down to playtest the new Discworld Game. The working title is "The Gods", and you get to play a major god (Offler, Om, etc) spreading your followers across the disc.

Compared to the previous two games (Ankh-Morpork and The Witches) this is much more involved. It's a card deck building, resource management game. It's deep and will require several plays to get a grip of the strategies.

We set up on the deck in the sunshine and got stuck in. A lot of the ideas in it take a bit of getting used to. Mrs T & I were struggling for what we should be doing, and the game was starting to emerge from the mists when the wind picked up and blew it off the table.

Martin has done another fine job of embedding Discworld mythology in the game. The dice goes up to 7, as you can see, in a reference to Cohen the Barbarian being required by the Gods to roll as such on one die. The cards reference well known characters and what they do is relevant to what the characters do in the books. This is the trick he pulled off so cleverly in the first game as well.

We then retired to Shedquarters for an hour's worth of AMW (Greeks v Persians). Martin took the Greeks and won by a single unit.

We set up "The Gods" again after tea and gave it another go, indoors this time. Some of it was still baffling and I reckoned I'd got it sussed, more or less, when the game ended and strangely enough the game designer had the most victory points.

There's still design work to be done, but this will be a challenging and fascinating game when its finally produced.

I then got beat in a rematch of Field of Glory.

All in all a most satisfactory day.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Quick Game of Armati

This week's game was a bit of a fill-in. I've got an all-dayer next week so I've been working on that and there's some other bits & pieces I've been working on (replacing window beading in the summer house & re-painting it) so I needed something quick.

I don't think I've ever done an Armati game with classical Indians & Alexandrian Macedonians so I thought that might be fun. I worked out the standard 75 point armies but they looked a bit small, so I upped the points to a 100 aside. That gave the Indians lots of elephants and chariots and the Macedonians lots of phalangites.

Will turned up first and promptly took the Macedonians ("Because I'm in this side of the table" so he claimed). I rigged up the deployment curtain, - so much easier than drawing maps - and we shuffled figures around.

The Indians have a number of problems. The Macedonians are a more flexible army with a higher initiative. The Indians have mostly heavy units, so they're tight on divisions. In the end I put my archers in the middle of the table out of command. I guessed, correctly, that Will would put his phalanx in the middle of the table so I could stand and shoot at them whilst having more divisions on the flanks would mean I could win there then turn on the slow moving heavy foot.

The other problem for the Indians is they have no killer units. I mean, even their Heavy Cavalry only has a frontal FV of 3. The Heavy Chariots are quite useful, but they're not that quick.

When the curtain was pulled back Will had got his deployment about right. He'd got light troops opposite the big elephant unit on our left, and his phalanx was extended sufficiently far to impede the mobile units on our right. Anyway, enough moaning and on with the game. We both headed towards each other as fast as possible.

Now this is where I got it seriously wrong. I've trapped my skirmishers between my elephant and the phalanx. What's more I should have wheeled all my right wing out to the flank to avoid the phalanx. However I mis-estimated the distance and caught Will's problem from last week, - thinking in 2/3rds inches when we were using full ones. At this point Chris W turned up, and offered to help me out. I gave him the left wing.

My elephants therefore clipped the end of the phalanx whilst my chariots roared onwards, clearing some light troops and heading towards the non-Companion heavy cavalry, which was refusing Will's left flank. This turned out to be really clever as it meant my most effective units (those chariots have bows as well) were fighting a long way from the main action. The elephant unit hitting the phalanx was a bust. Although it has impetus and will break the infantry if it outscores it alas it is at -2 on the dice versus the phalangites and duly lost the dice roll (it's odds are about 1 in 6 of winning this fight).

Chris on the left had pushed his cavalry up and was able to catch a single light infantry unit whilst Will was trying to get a 2:1 advantage. Chris, of course, has the impetus advantage here, but he's on a -1 against the peltasts and lost the die roll. See what I mean about lack of killer units? Even missed with the javelins.

Talking of missing our massed archery was singularly ineffective as well.

Our left hand elephants had a light infantry screen to soften up the peltasts so that the elephants could finish them off, before turning on the flank of the phalanx. Alas, although fighting on equal terms they were rubbish in this game.

I did manage to get both elephants and General-lead chariots into Will's left flank cavalry, however, and gave them a good seeing to.

In the distance you can see that our light infantry has been eliminated and the peltasts are now mashing up our elephants. Our cavalry has now been hit by Alexander and the Companions. I'm sure it'll be fine. On my flank I've broken one cavalry unit and I'm in the process of swinging the elephant/chariot unit round to help out in the middle. My other chariots are finishing off another Greek heavy cavalry unit. My elephant has been killed by the phalangites, who have now about faced to become a flank guard for the main phalanx.

As you can see, 5 rounds of shooting with 4 units inflicted 2 hits. The odds say a minimum of 4 should be expected. Still, maybe the melee will go our way?

Or maybe not?

And then the cavalry on our right are eliminated, together with the elephants and we're through our breakpoint in about 2 hours of game play. Final score 5 : 2 to the Macedonians.

I will admit to making a few mistakes, and the dice didn't go our way. After all, I've seen armies with fewer missile units than this one destroy an opponent. Still, no point in complaining about a random element in a game. It's put there to make things more...random.

If I haven't mentioned it before I was part of the playtesters/army list writing crew for Armati 2. It was quite a fraught time and I didn't play all the armies. Those I could play, I did, and commented back. I never tried the Indians, for example, and I think the list has issues. The Armati points system formula is published and is transparent. My main criticism of it is that the points cost to an army of extra divisions and more initiative is not in proportion to its effect.

Some armies suffer because their historical counterpart had problems. The Ancient Brits, for example, were notoriously useless, having lots of lightweight warbands that got in each other's way. The fix, - allowing core units to deploy in flank zones - was my idea and helps a lot whilst not putting in ahistorical units.

I love Armati as a rule set, but sometimes it is a little bit infuriating.