Sunday, 26 November 2017

Russian about, but no delighted Turks

After the epic battle that was Ipsus, Chris put out a quick Russo-Turkish War scenario. We've played a few of these games, using Neil Thomas' 19th century rules. This was a scenario based on a real campaign in Kurdish Turkey, I think, (or was it Turkish Kurdy?) and was very confusing. In essence it boiled down to this. There's Russians in a town besieged by the Turks and a column is trying to rescue them. In the final scenario the length of time it takes to force the defile gives the number of turns to capture the town.

I played the Russians. Chris started with the Turks as Phil had to go off to visit a sick relative. He came back for the end.

I had infantry and guns and some dragoons.

The town was in another corner of the table

My guns were nice and shiny and bronze.

Having softened up the Turkish levy with devastating artillery fire I charged with my dragoons. What could possibly go wrong?

Losing the melee and being nearly wiped out, that's what. Curses.

Just as I was doing a super job of forcing the defile with my infantry some Turkish dragoons turned up. They launched a charge at my guns. What could possibly go wrong? Again?

Well, hardly inflicting any hits and being overrun. That's what could go wrong. And it did.

My infantry were doing great tho'. I am perfectly suited for Russian tactics. I can form column and march straight ahead. I'm good at that. I cleared that there defile good and proper.

Of course I still had that pesky horse in my rear.

And it was still a long march to the town.

But I'm claiming a win

These games are always a lot of fun. I've written elsewhere as to why I wouldn't use Neil's rules for this period every week, but every so often they really hit the spot.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The "Lost" Lost Battle

Periodically I do these big refights using my 20mm plastics and the orbats from Phil Sabin's "Lost Battles". I don't use the Lost Battles rules, but usually AMW instead. Due to an unexpected convergence of events I was able to run another one this Friday.

I've always liked the Successor battles for these as they're really big and have all the cool stuff like elephants in them. I'd like to do a few more Roman games but alas I really need to beef up my Roman Republicans and allies a bit more before I return to the battles I haven't done from that era.

Trouble is I think I've done all the Successor battles in "Lost Battles" now. I could always do a repeat, but where's the fun in that? Luckily, however, I also have "Strategos", Sabin's first go at the LB system. That has a few more battles in it, including the mighty clash between Antigonus and his son against Seleucus and his boy plus some allies at Ipsus in 301BC.

This is a battle with a lot of elephants.

And probably scythe chariots.

There is a reason why it didn't make "Lost Battles", however. Although we have force sizes and some description of the action it is quite a confusing engagement and most accounts have to make stuff up in order for it to make sense. In fact, it is so tenuous that Phil Sabin probably just couldn't work out how to make it fit in LB. Or there simply wasn't enough evidence to justify trying.

That's not going to stop me, however. And this time I thought I'd use Basic Impetus instead of AMW. I'm a devil once I get going, aren't I?

Working from the Strategos listing and my books on Successor armies I put together the armies using the various Army Lists in BI. The Early Seleucid listing on its own doesn't have everything. For example there's no Scythe Chariots and you've got to have those, haven't you?

Any how I ended up with twp armies, about 20 units aside, with an army value of 44 for Seleuceus and his allies, and 42 for the Antigonds. The two lists are given at the end of the blog.

BTW This is a Red Letter Game. First time neither army was hiding some interlopers such as Assyrians or Celts to make up the numbers. This was as a result of a painting splurge on the bounty I uncovered at Hereward, which I discussed here: link, and the completion of my four boxes of Macedonian Elephants.

My fellow players and opponents for the day were Chris A, and Phil, who wasn't sure when he would get there. Chris, who had never played BI before, took the Allies and I took the Antigonids

The Allies are nearest the camera, with their big block of elephants in reserve clearly visible. The location of Seleucus' 400 war elephants during the battle is a matter for some debate. Reserves are very rare in Successor battles, but the few facts we have about the battle (and there are really not very many) imply they weren't out front. Or at least not all of them were.

Antigonus has to win big on the right, where he has a lot of Companion quality cavalry, under his son, Demetrious. The need here is to blow away the Seleucid cavalry, keep the horse archers out of the way and then find a way round the elephants to attack the phalanx.

On the left BI showed us its mercurial nature. Chris skirmished with my light horse with his horse archers. I charged him, he evaded, I declared a false charge, threw javelins at him and inflicted a hit. He failed the cohesion test with a 6 and his unit evaporated. Would have been better off standing his ground and fighting.

The centre was getting a bit messy. I shot at and hit the scythe chariots (see centre, - they have a Rummikub tile to show the revised Combat Value- "VBU" - of the unit) but they passed the cohesion test. On the left of my phalanx the Seleucid cavalry was threatening to envelope me, so I needed to turn a few units of hoplites to face.

In the centre the chariots ran over my light infantry speed bump, and rather than hit the elephants was found to be lined up to clip the phalangites.

At this point we had a slight rules issue. The BI rules say, in respect of Impetus:

The (Impetus) bonus is allowed for Mounted troops that charge any type of enemy except Elephants, Wagenburgs, Camels (see 2.2.3), and Foot with Pikes, Long spears or Polearms or protected by stakes or pavises.

Now, Scythe Chariots are Mounted, under the rules (as are elephants). This means they are denied Impetus when charging phalangites.

What?? They don't get impetus against the troop type they are designed to fight??? But they do get it against light troops, which are the type of troops you would use to defeat them????

This is a big deal, - the scythe chariot basic factor is 2 (against, for example, a poor quality phalangite unit on a 4), but their impetus bonus is 5. That would mean rolling 7 dice instead of 2 in the combat if you get impetus.

After a short discussion we decided that this rule was stupid, and ignored it.

Ouch. I rolled my black dice (there's one too many in the picture) and missed (you hit on a 6 or two 5's) Phil rolled his and got two hits.

My phalangites staggered back, but luckily survived the cohesion test, so were only disorded (the disorder markers are blue, so easy to spot). The chariots now hit my elephants as well.

On my right the cavalry closed. One of my four units is off the picture on the edge of the table, flitting around with some horse archers.

In the centre Chris went "all in", adding peltasts and his front line elephant to the mix. This elephant had already seen off my Thracian Peltasts, because, although it doesn't get impetus, neither do the peltasts and it has a higher VBU, which means it is more likely to pass the cohesion test..

I could accept neither getting it, just, but this is another odd piece of rule writing (luckily it is easily fixed, and will be for future games).

Anyway, many hits are inflicted, but everyone stands their ground. Even those blasted chariots.

Over on the right some poor initiative dice rolling and some ridiculous luck on cohesion tests mean the Seleucid left clings on, and instead of being driven back beyond the reach of the elephants just means I'm stuck right in front of their charge path.

At the other end of the table my flank guard cavalry are steadily loosing ground. Alas I don't have a pile of elephants to come to their aid.

Back in the centre it's all a bit mixed. I finally killed the pesky chariots, and drove back the elephants attacking my left. However the peltasts did a number on the centre of my phalanx which fell back. You'll note the peltasts are still fresh (no disorder, no damage) so I'm clearly stacking up a whole lot of trouble for the future.

Contrary to expectations my right wing cavalry doesn't crumble. Luckily those elephants only have a side charge, not a flank attack. I just get bounced back, which isn't such a big deal. Especially as I've got a shiny clean unit of cavalry enveloping the flank, at last.

As predicted the peltasts break through, taking out two units of (admittedly not very good) phalangites.

However, honours are almost even as I do succeed in breaking the elephant unit in the centre.

Now, clearly this is something you should never, ever, do. Charge into the back of a phalanx with completely fresh light cavalry. They are still denied impetus by the pikes (somethings don't apply if hit in the rear, like defensive fire, but denial of impetus isn't in that list), but with the die rolling probably wouldn't have made much difference. Still it is a bit odd, and could be easily fixed.

Anyway, having cleared all the Seleucid crud out of the middle it's tally ho and get stuck in with a will. I need to take the phalanx apart to win, as that's where I have another small advantage. And I have to do it quick, before the Seleucid elephants in reserve come to sort me out, along with their missile armed light cavalry.

On the right we've traded companion quality cavalry, but those elephants won't let me alone. Then Demetrious, the son of Antigonus, gets trampled.

The centre is going well, however, although those returning peltasts on the left of the picture are a problem.

Some stunning skill sees my elephants punch a big hole through the Seleucid line. I've even avoided the peltasts and got into the phalanx Chris was trying to flank me with.

You can see here that Chris and Phil are using the elephants for some fire fighting. I'm round the back with cavalry, and through the middle. The army points count puts us neck and neck.

A stunning piece of dice rolling - four sixes out of six dice destroy the elephants, having caught them from behind. Antiochus, Seluceus' son, goes down in the melee.

Too soon to celebrate, however, as on the other wing the hoplite unit with Antigonus is wiped out, and he dies too*. It's still pretty close, however. Both armies are at the 50% break point.

Next turn everything Chris touches turns to gold, and units start breaking. Although the point tally for victory isn't done until after I move I can't get any of my units in a position to kill anything.

Win for the Seleucids.

So, what do we think? Well, it might not look much like the historical battle, but then we know so little, it might do. Chris hasn't played BI before and wasn't enamoured of the catastrophic effect the cohesion test can have. I'm okay with it. There are problems with the rules, - I have pulled out a few of the most egregious issues as I've gone along - and in our case they are probably fixable. There are other ambiguities, - the drafting of the rules on wheeling are marvellously incomplete, for example. The basic rule reads as follows:

A Unit or Group can move or wheel. If not in Disorder, the Unit can wheel (first) and move (afterwards) for the rest of the move, but the Unit will be disordered at the end of the move.

So, can a unit in Disorder wheel? One for the rule book lawyers which could be easily avoided without resorting to sub-clauses.

Will we persist with them? Well, yes, probably, and I'm intending to take them to the Society of Ancients battle day. How much surgery will be needed is a matter for deep consideration.

But a very satisfactory way to pass most of a day.

*Antigonus did die at this battle. Only not like this.

Army Lists:

Number Type
1 Greek Hoplites FP  VBU=4  I=2  VD=2  Long spear
4 Astetairoi FP*  VBU=5  I=1  VD=3  Pike
1 Lykian  FP  VBU=4  I=2  VD=2  Long Spear
2 Pezetaioi FP*  VBU=4  I=1  VD=2  Pike
1 Thracian Peltasts FL  VBU=4  I=2  VD=2  Javelin
1 Persian Archers S  VBU=2  I=0  VD=1  Short bow B
1 Pamphylians S  VBU=2  I=0  VD=1  Javelin
4 Agema CP2*  VBU=6  I=3  VD=3
1 Persian Cavalry CM  VBU=4  I=2  VD=1
1 Thracians CL  VBU=4  I=1  VD=2  Javelin
1 EL  VBU=6  I=3  VD=3
Number Type
2 Greek Hoplites FP  VBU=4  I=2  VD=2  Long spear
3 Argyraspides FP* VBU=5  I=1  VD=3  Pike
2 Phalangites FP* VBU=4  I=1  VD=2  Pike
1 Asiatic Archers S VBU=2  I=0  VD=1  Short bow B
1 Cretans S VBU=3  I=0  VD=1  Short bow B
1 Greek javelins S VBU=2  I=0  VD=1  Javelin
1 Greek Peltasts FL VBU=4  I=1  VD=2  Javelin
2 Agema CP2* VBU=6  I=3  VD=3
1 Greeks CM VBU=4  I=2  VD=1
1 Greeks CM VBU=4  I=2  VD=1
2 Horse archers CL*  VBU=3  I=1  VD=1  Comp. bow
4 EL  VBU=6  I=3  VD=3
1 Scythed chariots CF VBU=2  I=5  VD=0

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Not quite in Harmony

Right. So. My final Chinese Wooden Building. For the moment.

This one is quite ambitious in terms of size and complexity. It's the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City. I took it into Shedquarters so I could lay it all out. This makes it to assemble in the end.

For the first time with one of these I decided to paint before hand. I realised I'd have to touch in some of it later, but it seemed like the best option. The printing on this one was in a very light brown and got lost in the grey. I therefore had to draw in the paving slabs by hand, - something that would have been very difficult if I'd assembled it first.

I also had to draw in the black lines on the balustrades, which weren't printed straight. In this case it would have helped to have assembled it so you could see what was intended. You can't win, just as you can't tell from this picture.

The building sits on a three tiered platform which is quite large and stretches across several sheets of pieces. The numbering was a bit hard to follow at this point.

Flipping over you can see it is all held in place with wooden clips. The ones on the base level will need to be cut off and glued so it sits flat.

Damn. Missed painting the rear of the base.

The temple itself is, indeed, red. Or it might be vermillion, because that's the Imperial colour. I painted it red. I remember it being red from when I visited.

You can just see through the entrance into the interior where there's a representation of the throne printed on the wall. I thought everything was going well at this point, but I had missed fitting the doors. Also the lower level roof supports had a different numbering system and need to be fitted right at the very beginning before you put the walls in the base, not at the end as I thought.

So, anyway, I thought I was doing great, and put the roof on.

Then I took it off again, to fit the doors. Which involved removing the interior walls and two of the side walls. The doors have working hinges, but because of the roof, once you've pushed them open you can't close them again without taking off the roof.

Then I put the roof on and had to take it off again to fit the lower roof. I didn't photograph me doing that, although that also involved removing the interior walls etc.

Once I'd run out of bits I decided I must have finished, so I took it inside to finish the paint work. The golden roof is simply done with my normal tinted varnish, slightly diluted. Shiny.

Then back outside for a quick picture with some Imperial Bannermen on guard. They can stand on all the levels, just not all the way round.

This took the longest of all of these models partly because of how I did the painting. I think that was the right decision, but it did make the wood swell slightly, so some of it was harder to fit together.

Of all of the buildings I think this one might be of the least use, although it does look magnificent. It was also hard on the fingers, like the walled house.

But I am quite proud of it.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ney, Ney, Thrice Ney

For November my monthly SPI retro game meet up featured the well-regarded "Ney vs Wellington". Published in 1979 and available tin the May/June edition of S&T, this game covered the Battle of Quatre Bras at battalion level, and used the "Wellington's Victory" game system.

This is quite a complicated game. It's a tactical Napoleonic game, and has a lot in common with 1970s figure games. Units can be in different formations, - column, line, square - guns limber and unlimber, infantry puts out skirmishers and so on. There's a lot going on, a lot of units and a lot of markers.

The rules for the game, with scans of the counters and map can be found here. Alas the definition of the map is poor, and it is hard to make out the hex numbers.

No matter. When I arrived at Gary's he was still pushing out the counters. Yes. He had a pristine copy from his 1979 S&T magazine. BTW I also have the magazine but not the game. I do not remember ever playing it. Alas my brother had all of games and has lost them. I am more than a little annoyed about this. 

I do not recall ever playing it. I suspect that at the time I was playing Napoleonics with figures against my mate Derek and had large armies of mixed Airfix / Minifigs / Warrior / Hinchcliffe figures, using Bruce Quarrie's rules. I had no need for a tactical Napoleonic boardgame.

Any how, as I'd found the rules online and Gary had the original we'd both had a chance to read them before we got together. This was interesting when we met, as Gary knew nothing about Napoleonics and so was really struggling with what the rule mechanisms were trying to make him do and what it all meant.

Gary decided defending was easier, so I took the French. The first problem I had was working out where everything was, and what it was (where are my guns? where's the cavalry??) and then deciding on a strategy. Basically the French have to get north of the Namur Road that runs from top left to middle right and occupy Quatre Bras, which is the crossroads. On the French left is Bossu Wood (the big green blob) and there are marshes and a pond on the right. The Namur Road offers quite a good defensive position with the edges lined with cover. There's also some reverse slope.

I had two thoughts. One was I had a lot more light infantry at the start, hence more skirmishers. I intended to flood Bossu Wood and turn that flank. In the middle I had a lot more cavalry, so I meant to threaten the allied infantry, force them into square then blast them with artillery before close assaulting with infantry in column. The aim was to do this quickly, before all the allied reinforcements turn up.

Early on I had problems getting into Bossu Wood as Gary tried to defend as far forward as he could. I had a lot of skirmishers as my Voltiguer units split down into 6 counters (marked 1-5-5), where as his Belgians & Dutch can only give up one each, and sometimes not even that. At this stage things are a bit confusing as we kept forgetting that units in woods are automatically disordered so don't need "Dis" counters. One of the problems with this game is that the counter stacks get big as you also put strength markers under the units when you give up skirmishers or are hit. You then add status type markers, or formations and commanders and it isn't always clear what you've got where. That's where the analogy with figure games break down.

At this point of the game I went through a phase of not rolling any 6s (luckily this flipped later on) so my skirmishers really struggled to push the British skirmisher screen back. Eventually I had to clear some with cavalry which was a risk and a waste. Gary had chosen to defend forward and was chucking stuff down the main road very quickly. His units were also a bit bunched.

I didn't take a lot of pictures, and we didn't finish the game. We're about 30%-40% through at this point. This picture is taken near where we stopped playing. The Allied units at the back with white markers on them are routing. Those in the middle are all disordered. I've got some disordered too, but I've got a rally phase coming up. Out on my right, that's all cavalry, bearing down on troops in march column. In the centre Gary's problem is that I've caught him whilst still in column, and he doesn't have enough room to get into line. My skirmishers have seen off his lights, and I've managed to close assault, - sorry "Shock Attack" - all along the line pretty much and there's a hole opening up. I also have all of my guns deployed on forward slopes so I can hit most units in the centre. Out of picture on my left I've got stacks of skirmishers enveloping Gary's right, making a dash for the cross roads through the woods.

We played for about 5-6 hours, with drinks and lunch breaks. Gary was convinced he'd lost by the time I had to pack up and go, and I would have been disappointed to have lost from here. My chum Russell reckons it takes 20 hours to play properly, as opposed to the BGG estimate of 3 hours. THREE HOURS??? Yeah. Right. Or, rather, thrice tines nay.

It's a game where knowledge of Napoleonic tactics helps if you want to win. It isn't a bad simulation, from that point of view. Knowing what is supposed to happen when reading the rules is is a great help. The rules are quite well laid out, but key definitions such as what happens when disordered units are disordered again are scattered throughout the rules and the cross referencing isn't always great. If I was to play again,  I think I need to go through the rules again and specifically pull out those sorts of bits and put them together in a QRS. Plus the morale rules need a thorough re-read now I understand where they get used.

So, lots of period flavour but a bit frustrating for chaps getting older who don't have fingers as nimble as once were in respect of moving the counter stacks. And there are some lessons in it for my own designs, so not completely wasted.

Be nice to have been able to finish it properly, tho'.