I had a quick rad through the rules the day before and made some changes. The rules have always worked okay but they have a clunky resolution system that involves rolling up to a dozen or so dice one at a time. This can take a while and can lead to very big swings in fortune. In a moment of revelation I realised that I could have the dice all rolled together if I only changed the "Moral Vigour" value for the unit at the end of each phase, rather than on a dynamic basis. I therefore type up the changes and got ready for the game.
The Ever Victorious Army at full strength are attempting to liberate a small town near Shanghai from the grip of the Taiping forces. The Taipings have marched out in strength to confront them. When I was setting out the armies I realised I had failed to supply the EVA with any command stands. Accordingly the colonel of the Dragoon Guards had to stand in for F T Ward or Chinese Gordon. I couldn't decide which. Anyway, the EVA are on the right of the picture, the Pings on the left.
To represent the town I used my wooden Chinese puzzle walled house and garden that I wrote about a few years back. I put a bit of a wall round it, which improved the look. I resolved then and there to disassemble some of it and paint the walls white to resemble a small Chinese town of the period, and get some pantile sheets to use on the roofs. Another mini-project on the list. I also really need to make some more paddy fields and look again at my Bellona river sections so I can build some river sampans to put on them.
Before the boys arrived I took this picture of two battalions of the EVA advancing in column up the road. The unit with the Green Dragon banner are the Bodyguard, armed with modern rifles.
The Taiping forces had formed up in front of the town, but deployed their guns behind the walls. I should have put them on raised platforms so the could fire over their own chaps.
The Monday Night team for this game were Phil, Will, Chris K and me. Chris and I took the Long Hairs, and Phil & Will the EVA. Both sides edged towards each other, but being numerically stronger Chris and I pushed troops out wide to try and flank the EVA. I hoped to do great things with our one unit of cavalry on the right. We had massed all of our bamboo spear armed units in the middle to try to get some shock effect.
The EVA's artillery started to make dents in our army's morale. The Mah Jong tiles represent where a unit's MV rating has fallen. I used to use really dinky travel tiles, but we can't really read them now, so I bought a new box of full sized tiles when we were in Vietnam a couple of years back. Our jingals did hit the Bodyguard in the centre tho'.
Wading through the paddy fields was slowing my progress and exposing our troops to sustained fire. Our skirmishing jingal unit in the centre was doing a fine job of protecting our advancing spear units from the withering fire of the EVAs modern weapons. On our left we had our infantry units concentrating their fire on the battalion on the T junction, and we were causing some damage.
My left hand unit in the paddy field finally succumbed to the effects of modern, well handled artillery and had to fall back. The Mah Jong tile is a value of 1, meaning the unit must retire. My other infantry were also taking fire, but my cavalry had cunningly sneaked round the wood and were about to fall upon the flank of one of Will's infantry units.
The EVA's fire finally broke the skirmishing jingals, enabling us to charge in with our spearmen. The EVA battalions held their fire and delivered a pint blank volley to virtually no effect. Phil was again doing his best to break the rules by rolling in the lower quartile of outcomes. I mean, he's rolling 16 D8's three times, looking for 8s. So he should inflict a couple of hits on each unit. In practice he got two hits in total, missing one unit completely.
This meant he had an uphill struggle in the ensuing melee, compounded by another dreadful round of dice rolling. The Pings drove his unit back, and gleefully followed up. (Note: I was beginning to think that the melee rules might need some work, following the change to the MV resolution system referred to above.)
To the left the EVA had got itself fully deployed in line and was delivering sustained volley fire into our forces.
The next round and the Pings were compounding their advantage. The EDNA system at the core of the rules can make it difficult to claw back a position once it has started to slide, and it gets worse quicker the worse things get.
As the EVA got the initiative Will's men were able to form square and beat off my cavalry, who broke and fled. On our left at least one infantry unit is taking the better part of valour, and heading for an early tea. In the centre we're driving back the two EVA battalions opposing us, but it's hard work. If we don't finish them off quickly then our opponents will be able to bring more forces to bear on us and we'll get repelled. Luckily despite routing my cavalry had pinned the EVA left flank in place.
We finally break through in centre, but elsewhere we've got several units retiring as quickly as terrain and dress will allow. Our breakthrough troops are also about to get serious amounts of cannister served up in short order.
It was getting late, so we called the game off. I think the EVA were just ahead, and would soon roll up our left, and probably push in our right. The loss of two battalions would be a bitter price to pay, however.
So, a good evenings entertainment, with the rule changes working well. There's more work to be done on the rest of the rules, however, and after a two year hiatus that might make it a worthy project for the next few months.
"Taiping Era" is one of my favourite of my designs. There's a cleanliness where everything is driven by the EDNA mechanism that I like. It's elegant and economical. However it does mean that I have to work at how the mechanism will work in all areas when I make changes. I can't suddenly introduce a percentage die roll or the turn of a playing card as that isn't how the rules work. It requires careful consideration to make everything fit, but I think it is worth the effort.
Could be back to COW next year if I like the changes. And do the work on the Chinese House.