Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Return to the Retro

Nearly three months ago I got out my 28mm Crusaders & Turks for a one-off skirmish game. Well, now they're back for another fast paced hackfest.

I have observed on previous occasions and in other publications that the important thing with skirmish games is the scenario and the narrative. There are a lot of issues with 1:1 wargaming to do with how much ground someone can cover in a given time, reaction speeds and how detailed combat need to be. There are so many issues with this that you really need a good story for the players so they overlook all the other stuff that in't really quite right.

For this game two parties of Hospitallers had to go up a river valley and rescue something or someone from the Turkish village. The Turks had to protect this, and drive off the crusaders.

Here's Phil's party advancing carefully up the road, with a screen of crossbow men out front.

Tim had the other Crusaders and he took a wide sweep out right.

The cardboard markers are the potential locations of concealed Turks.

These are the Turks waiting to get on the board. The playing card numbers correspond with the markers on the table.

Phil's Crusaders are strung out along the road.

Suddenly some Turkish horse appears!

And then some short bow archers pop up and start to shoot at the Crusaders.

One of Phil's crossbowmen is ambushed, but he shoots the horse of one of his attackers first. The chap with the yellow base and hit ring should be mounted.

Phil counter attacks with his Mounted Knights. The results are mixed.

Then hordes of Turks emerge from hiding

The Crusaders take some casualties, but their foot sergeants are fast approaching.

Several Turks go down under the Crusader's onslaught.

The Turks in the middle of the board are shot at by Tim's crossbowmen, who inflict some damage.

Tim's men are making good progress, mostly unmolested. Phil is drawing the heat of the Turkish defensive forces.

Having defeated the Turks by the rock, but at the cost of his last horse, Phil's men head to the village. Richard is rushing his Turks to cut them off.

Some guards emerge in the village. You can't see it here, but Tim's men are quite close now.

The final melee on the road ends with the last Knight going down under multiple stab wounds.

As Phil's force was now leaderless we ended it there, and had a chat about what we liked and didn't like. The Crusader armour is still too weak, and the archery is too effective. I don't like how I'm doing shooting, so that needs looking at. The mounted Turks were too effective in hand to hand combat.

Some of the changes since the last game worked okay, so I'm going in the right direction, but I don't want to over complicate things. I'm happy to have a few loose ends and manage the players with more umpire intervention.

Looks nice enough tho'

Sunday, 28 October 2018

2nd Alamein - a confused overview

For the third session in a row Shedquarters hosted a SEG*. This was Chris Kemp's long in the planning, 2nd Alamein anniversary game. Due to size constraints we ended up only playing the Southern sector.

Even so it was a massive game, involving 7 players and an umpire, and a table groaning with units. I was proud to have provided two divisions for the table, made up from my SCW Italians. For this part of the battle the Axis forces were mostly Italians. Chris has given the orbats over on his blog "Not Quite Mechanised".

Here's a picture of the Axis defensive position, pre-attack.

Alas I don't have a similar one of the Allies, as they weren't all on the table when the game started due to the tardiness of one of the figure suppliers. This is the best I can do.

Not all of the players - in fact four out of five - were experienced NQM players.

Here's Chris explaining to Gary how the rules that he has downloaded and read might not tie up with what was going to happen on the day.

We were lucky to be joined by Commandate von Gow, all the way from Sheffield. He brought hats, Axis air support and mince pies. Other snacks were available as well.

The Allies had a lot of artillery.

Soon the Axis front line was enveloped in smoke as the opening barrage thundered out.

The attack begins. The white markers are lanes cut through the minefields. NB These were only an obstacle to vehicles, - infantry just stormed right through them.

We were soon in need of some serious pointing.

Then the air attacks started. At this stage the Axis forces had aircraft to oppose the bombings, but Chris allowed us single use of all of our models, whilst the Allies were able to recycle theirs. Something about supplies or some such nonsense.

You can now see the combined might of the allied attack, storming towards us. The Free French only attacked during the day, so their officers could skulk off for coffee and Gitanes in the evening in some ersatz pavement cafe.

The bombing started in earnest now, as our defensive air power waned. There was a danger I might run out of wine glasses.

Gary's thrust with 50th Div's armour support made a deep penetration. The ruling that you can get everything in a square that fits is a bit distorted by having steep sided terrain that doubles the ground area. The counter attack by the elite assault engineers is a spectacular failure. You can't call it "Snakes Eyes" with three dice, although there is a reptile called the Tuatara in New Zealand with three eyes.

As the allied attack gains in intensity, my Italians fall back steadily, drawing the enemy deep into the defensive position, so I can counter attack with the Ariete armoured division, as soon as they are released by von Gow.

Wave after wave of allied bombers sweep in pounding the desert.

The sand is a sea of bomb flashes. In the distance Monty oversees the attack (hand made bust by Gary).

Folgore in the centre have now been virtually obliterated by artillery and bombing. They had so many hits delivered in one turn that there was no way to reorganise to extend their life, as the normal halving of hits when converting to strength point losses would have resulted in them being taken off completely. It was better to leave them there and at least force the allies to close assault, and so delay them by a turn.

A similar fate was being dealt to Pavia in the south, who were being pushed back, despite rarely losing a fire fight. Not to worry, Ariete is waiting in reserve to turn the tide.

Which is good, as all of our air support was being used in the North of the table, to prevent 50th Div breaking through.

21st Panzer then counter attacked...

... and bundled the allies back about 10km (a square is 3km, and there are four small squares to each tile).

However the crisis in the North is deemed so serious, that Ariete is ordered out of reserve in the South, and told to drive North. Oh flippity flip.Time to write battlefield wills and a note to the wife at home if you are in Pavia. Abandoned by your colleagues and pounded from the air, all the French have to do is advance over the bodies.

In the North of our sector, British forces who have broken through in the south of the North sector (ie in the bit of the battle we aren't doing) arrive to threaten Commandante von Gow's troops. Hence the panic recall of Ariete.**

Pavia's HQ is finally surrounded, as the game draws to a close. We played six hours from 10am - 4pm with an half hour break for lunch. At c30 minutes a day we got in everything Chris wanted to do.

Very successful piece of game organisation. Well done Chris.

And then it was time for a group effort to put it all away...

... and pose for the Group Photo. Back row, L-R, Phil, Gary, Chris, Tim G, Richard, Steve. Front row L-R Trebian, Tim M.

Yes. An excellent way to spend a Saturday in October.

*Someone Else's Game
** I'm being unfair, it was programmed into the game. Apparently.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

So Pharsalus, So Good

We carried on with the 10mm Romans this week so here is another attempt to describe a DBA 3 game without being too misleading.

This was a refight of Pharsalus put on by Phil, using DBA 3 as the core mechanism, but fiddling around with the army sizes. As with Zama there are two armies on each side. The first set in front fight until one is broken. These are then both removed and the differential in number of destroyed elements is allowed to be carried forward to the second half of the game. Then the other two armies fight to determine who wins the total battle. Although you are allowed to use elements from the rear army in the first phase.

So this is Pharsalus, where Caesar displays his tactical genius to defeat Pompey the Great. Naturally I got to play Caesar. We had six (!) players. Will, Tim & Steve got Pompey, Scipio and Labienus, Richard, Chris K and I got Caesar and Mark Antony. Pompey's army is to the left of the picture, in front of his camp.

And a very nice camp it is too.

And here is Pompey in front of it...

.. and here is Caesar, plotting his brilliant tactics.

In the scenario Caesar's legions are allowed a double move in turn one, to close the gap. As we rolled 1 & 2 for our PIPs we didn't really move at all, except... Caesar before us we had a problem on our right wing, where we our mounted arm was heavily outnumbered by Pompey's cavalry. We brought up some legionaries from the main army to extend our frontage, to stop the overlap advantage.

And we were in danger of being flanked on our left as well, so we brought up some reserve cavalry to help out Mark Antony.

The Pompeians* charged our right flank. They killed our extreme right cavalry unit and drove everything else back. It was not a good round of combat for us.

We had to bring up more legionaries to bolster the wing.

The main lines then clashed, and there was little we could do to stop being overlapped by some of Pompey's reserve cavalry on our left, and completely flanked by some elite cavalry, masquerading as Knights on our right. Luckily the opponents to our front here are some foot bow.

But just when it looks really bleak, DBA throws up one of those freak results and our legionaries on the right of our centre line destroy the bowmen, and bounce the cavalry.  Elsewhere on this wing we hold on by virtue of a rule that says that as we are veteran legionaries, Pompey's men have to kill us twice to remove us from the board.

We got fairly comprehensively bounced on the left, but the fights in the middle were more mixed, and we have broken up Pompey's line, making it hard for him to make his extra numbers count as he won't have enough PIPs to go round. Hopefully..

Then we have a nightmare turn on our right, and not only lose but are doubled in three out of four combats. Our front army is teetering on the point of breaking. Can Caesar pull something out of the bag?

Well, yes he can. The destruction of the bowmen mentioned above enabled us to gamble on flanking the end legionary unit opposite us, despite exposing the rear of the flanking element to a potential attack next turn. Not a problem if we win this turn, which we do, enabling us to start to roll up the line

Pompey is held up by a PIP famine, in his turn (although he finishes off most of our right wing), but a death or glory charge into the "Knights" results in a tied outcome, which quick kills them when fighting blades (yes, - an apparently odd rule, but one based on probabilities).

The centre is still swaying backwards and forwards, we get another kill, but so does Pompey.

Both front armies are now at their break point, so next kill wins this stage.

Which is us, as we trash Pompey's centre, and drive back his cavalry wing on our left. Take that, Scipio. Not so hot as your great-great-great-whatever granddad are you?

 So the remnants of the frontal armies are removed, but we get to bring forward an element. We choose Mark Antony and his cavalry over on our left. The main worry for us, however, is that we've already lost two elements from the army that is now about to fight, with a 5 element break point.

Pompey's men start off this phase of the battle, and try to rush our line before it is fully formed.

To late! We got everyone in line...shame some of them are psiloi. Still, they are Caesar's psiloi, so clearly going to be super.

Out on the left wing we risk a one on one encounter...

Chris K was ON FIRE for this round of combat, winning all of them, and killing two bases in the process. IN YOUR FACE, POMPEY THE SO CALLED GREAT!!!

This freed up Mark Antony and our light horse to threaten the enemy's rear.

Everyone is stuck in now as the battle heads for its climax. That's a slightly fuzzy Caesar out there on the right, in the thick of the action.

Mark Antony delivers on the charge to the rear, and his light horse head into the end of their line. Victory is within our grasp.

We even have their cavalry pinned up against a marsh

Okay, so it doesn't all go to plan, and we get bounced pretty much everywhere. Curses.

Not to worry, - the next turn pays for us, and we run out winners by a margin of two or three elements.

Who's so great now, Pompey???

A thoroughly enjoyable scenario that kept us occupied for longer than it should have done, mainly due to the convivial atmosphere and the good-natured joshing between the players that did not try the umpire's patience one jot. Honest.

A super scenario and game, that worked really well. Excellent work from Phil.

And I'm not at all biased because we won.

* That is, followers of Pompey, not people from Pompei.