Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Battle of Ilipa 206 BC

I always try to do a big ancient refight at the end/start of the year, and this time I went for Scipio's almost forgotten victory. I mean, everyone knows about Zama, but Ilipa doesn't always come to mind when you think of Scipio's battles. In many ways this was Scipio's masterpiece. It is a cleverly constructed victory that uses a Cannae-esque approach without the cynical destruction of your own army centre that mark's Hannibal's great victory.

I had a degree of agonising over the forces and the rule mods required. The two sources either say that Scipio was outnumbered 70,000 to 50,000 (Polybius) or at evens 50,000 to 50,000 (Livy). Sabin goes with Polybius' numbers and his model makes that work. Having played the game I'm more inclined to Livy's headcount. If Hasdrubal had such a preponderance in numbers why did he not attack on one of the earlier days?

Neil's army list for the Carthaginians isn't very good. In any event, for this game I fiddled about a fair bit to try and balance it all up to take into account all of the factors in the battle. Hasdrubal's warband allies lacked a bit of fizz in this battle, and his African Vets didn't really perform. I ended up with forces that looked like this:

Troops
Type
Armour
Qual
Number
Comment
African Infantry
Heavy
Light
Ave
6
Hoplites 3-6 hit until base loss
Allies
Auxiliary
Light
Ave
16

Skirmishers
Light
Light
Levy
2
Javelins
Spanish cavalry
Heavy
Light
Ave
1

Numidian cavalry
Light
Light
Ave
1
Javelins
Elephant

Extra Heavy

1


That's 27 units with a break level of 7.

The Romans looked like this:

Troops
Type
Armour
Qual
Number
Comment
Hastati/Principes
Heavy
Medium
Elite
8
Manipular support rule
Triarii
Heavy
Heavy
Elite
2
Manipular support rule
Velites
Light
Light
Ave
2
Javelins
Skirmishers
Light
Light
Levy
1
Javelins
Allies
Auxiliary
Light
Ave
4

Equites
Heavy
Medium
Elite
3


That's 20 units with a break level of 5.

I used my standard elephant rule, which almost neuters them (they're not the rampaging battle winner of Neil's original rules), and also allowed General re-rolls. Scipio was allowed selective re-rolls, the others were all or nothing.

For this game, played strangely enough on a Monday for the Monday Night Group, we had four players, Will, Chris K, Richard and Phil.


I set the figures up at the position after Scipio has started his flank advance. The Roman players were given a free redeploy with the legions on the wings, but declined to take it. They relied instead on bulldozing through, making use of the manipular support rules that improve the "to hit" and morale rolls.


Will had the Roman left wing, trusting Richard with the responsibility of being Scipio.


Chris took the Carthaginian right. He didn't fancy the look of facing off against Scipio, so I ran that side until Phil arrived.


I had elephants. Trouble was they were faced with Velites, and I didn't have enough room to get them round and into the heavy infantry.


Chris ordered a full on attack. I suspect we might have been better off refusing the flanks.


The cavalry melee on the Roman right got going fairly early on. It took forever to resolve.


The elephant was suffering at the hands of the Velites.


Scipio's cavalry was making good progress. I had initiated a move to turn the second line of infantry to face that flank to keep them off. Phil continued with it.


The elephants broke and fled, doing little damage. In the actual battle they caused equal damage to both sides and were not decisive, so not a problem really.


Phil & Chris try to work out how to keep Scipio at bay, whilst Richard & Will sit back and relax.


Will's legionaries are crashing into the Carthaginian right, but as they drive through they are enveloped by the Spanish, and start to take heavy casualties. Phil reckoned you needed about a 6:1 ratio to take on a Roman legion, but with flanks exposed 3:1 was more than enough.


The right wing is taking longer to develop. The legions face an easier task as the troops that would be surrounding them have been delegated to stop Scipio's cavalry from turning the flank entirely.


Richard is bringing up his Triarii to stop a break through in the centre from becoming overly problematic.


Will's legion is becoming increasingly beleaguered. His cavalry, despite having a general with re-roll capability, can't get the upper hand, as Chris' troops swarm all over him. The eagle eyed of you will have spotted some Assyrians in there making up the numbers, and some Thracians too.


The African heavy infantry in the centre finally makes contact, and the Romans lose a general. The Romans really need this fight to be delayed a bit longer, and probably should have held them back a bit.


Will's cavalry finally starts to get the upper hand, but Chris has found a spare unit to go and help his chaps out.


Richard is close to a breakthrough with Scipio. Phil is performing one of his famous rearguard actions, keeping his troops in being and a threat for as long as he can.


The light troops are finally out of the way, and the Africans are lining themselves up for a breakthrough (those troops ahead of them, are auxilia, not heavy infantry).


Chris' spare foot join the cavalry melee.


Will is finally fighting his way out of the pocket, but he has taken grievous casualties.


The battle is reaching its crisis point. Will ponders his next move. Chris nurses his tea and wonders who ate all the panettone.


Over on Scipio's wing Hasdrubal is cleverly tying up the two units of Equites whilst also keeping himself out of trouble.


Chris is throwing everything he has at Will to hold him up, whilst the centre is resolved.


The centre is resolving in the favour of the Carthaginians.


Richard has finally won the infantry battle on his wing, and is looking to break out and roll up the rest of Hasdrubal's forces.


It's all looking a bit thin on the ground, now, Phil by this point is convinced he can't win. He may have been trying for an umpire sympathy vote.


The cavalry under Scipio is still taking forever to turn in on the right flank. The Roman left is all over, pretty much, with nearly everyone dead.


The victorious African troops in the centre start to expand outwards. Phil is advocating forming a box to just hold on. Richard has sent in his Triarii to deliver the coup de grace.


Richard is running out of opponents, but he still can't get his cavalry free.


Contrary to expectations the Triarii crumble in the face of the ferocious onslaught of the Africans.


Another General dead! The Roman left wing was the graveyard of commanders as the third one bites the dust.


Finally Scipio's cavalry is free to sweep down on the Carthaginian flank. Is it too late?


What happened to those Triarii? Best troops on the board evaporate in a puff of failed morale rolls.


So it is 6pm, time to call the game over. Cathage is down to 8 units, just, and Rome, 5. So, as night falls it's a draw. Which is really a win for the Carthaginians

There was a suggestion, more than once or twice, that I'd stacked the game too heavily in the favour of the Romans. In the end that turned out not to be the case. I think the game probably turned on two decisions: the Romans should have deployed the legions wide to avoid being flanked, and held back the centre to draw the Africans on further.

As ever with these big games there's always something you could do to improve the set up. I don't normally get a chance to have a trial game to see if the balance is right. When I did the work on Parataikene in 2018 I had at least four goes at it, and changed a whole load of stuff from game to game.

What did I learn from this? Well, I'm inclined to the numbers being more evenly balanced than Polybius says, and accepted by Phil Sabin in "Lost Battles". Sabin's model is a bit more forgiving in the micro areas of troops finding flanks and exploiting them, so the way Will got overwhelmed can't happen in LB.

AMW is not a sophisticated set of rules. In keeping them down to about two pages of A4 there's a lot Neil doesn't say about how the game is supposed to be played. I spent a lot of time in "To Ur is Human" explaining how things that Neil just ignores work. How units wheel and manoeuvre is never explained properly. Over 10 years ago I wrote a detailed analysis of the geometry involved in what Neil appeared to say for Slingshot. Neil made nice noises about the analysis and never said I was wrong, although he never said I was right either. Phil has played a game with him, and tells me I'm completely out of line and that Neil pivots units on their centre and also lines units up in the style of DBA. I've tried that, and it makes somethings easier but it does look wrong in some ways as well.

Any how, I'm happy with how I play the game, and I think I'll stick with it. As we're using so many more units one or two little problems are bound to occur and in the great scheme of things don't really make a whole lot of difference.

Perhaps it would just be easier to put it all on squares? And allow light troops to interpenetrate? And some other things? But the it stops being AMW, so I probably won't.


Saturday, 28 December 2019

Summing Up 2019

Time for the annual review of games*. This is the third time I've done this, so it is always interesting to look back at what I've been up to. I'm pleased to say that the number of games is up again, and is comfortably over the one a week average I aim at. 17 periods is more, too, by 1, but rules sets at down by one. The Shedquarters effect, - the discipline of having a time and place to play every week - is the prime driver of this, although the uptick is also due in part to being retired.



For the third year in a row Ancients top the list, but that's because the period is so vast. What I wouldn't have predicted would have been the number of WOTR games and "Hail Caesar", although I probably should have, because of the Edgcote anniversary. At the end of last year I predicted more medieval skirmish and RCW. Neither of those happened in any great quantity. The main contributor of RCW games was Monday Night Richard, who gave us three goes at "Triumph and Tragedy."

The development/publication projects for the year feature towards the top of both lists, but not as many games as I thought I had played, - especially of "Va T'en Ecosse". There might be some solo stuff missing from the list. Of the games I thought I'd have played more, there's "Fighting Sail" (although there are mitigating circumstances, - there should have been at least two more of those), and there is no ECW at all, which is a major surprise to me, as is the absence of anything in the 19th century Sudan.

I've got some stuff in there I'd never have predicted, too. Cod Wars? What's all that about?

I need to have a think about 2020. "Taiping Era" is due for publication after "It's Getting a Bit Chile", so that'll need to get out on the table at some point. The current painting project is Montrose Scots (more bl**dy tartan) so some ECW might be on the cards as well. After "Taiping Era", I may want to publish either "Va T'en Guerre" or "Va t'en Ecosse". Perhaps in the same booklet? Not sure about that. SCW was down in 2019 as was my own RCW, so areas for investigation there. Oh, and I bought a load of industrial buildings to use with my Dr Who figures that haven't seen the tabletop yet. And I'm going to India on holiday next year, so goodness knows what that will trigger off.

Otherwise the shape of my wargaming year will most likely hang around COW in the summer, the SOSA conference in the autumn and the quarterly whole days alternating between Shedquarters and the West Country. We are thinking of doing some other shows as well, and I'm not sure if that'll make a difference. If we rest Edgcote then that'll reduce the number of WOTR/Hail Caesar games. That reminds me. I'm expecting to take my mini-Edgcote board to "Joy of Six", so I need a rules solution for that which isn't "Hail Caesar".

So, a Happy New Year to all of you out there, and keep an eye out for me at the various shows I end up at. It's always good to talk.

*This includes the game I'm playing next Monday, so I'm a little bit ahead of myself.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

The Vanity Project II part 3a

So I said that I'd sent off a request for a proof copy for "It's Getting a Bit Chile". Well, plans sort of got changed, as they are wont to do.

On the off chance I emailed Alan Curtis (who wrote the excellent "To The Last Cartridge!") via Outpost Wargame Services to ask if I could reproduce his painting guide as a part of the rules. He responded within an hour or so with an affirmative. I think he's quite excited that someone else is alsoexcited about what has been his pet project for many years.

Luckily I hadn't activated the "order your proof" link, so I was able to add in the extra pages as required. Of course, being me, it took longer than it should have done, as I felt the need to verify all of the information and also he'd put it into Word tables, which won't copy into my DTP. That meant I needed to re-type most of the data.

Any how, it's done now, and the proof has been ordered again. It should be with me by the 4th January, so if it only takes me a day or two to proof read and post corrections I hope to be published in the second week of January at the latest.

I put a taster advert out on TMP. So far 4 different people have commented, of which two have said they'll buy the rules. My expectation for these is about 6 copies, so I'm a third of the way there.


And as a side note, I've prepared a pdf for "To Ur is Human" suitable for  download, which I think I'll be releasing at about the same time as "IGABC", once I've worked out how to make the "Wargame Vault" website work.

Lots to look forwards to out there for the New Year!







Wednesday, 18 December 2019

The Vanity Project II - part 3

Well, I've finished the War of the Pacific rules up to proof copy stage. Finalised them this morning, and banged off the request to Amazon to do me a copy for checking.

If this goes to form it'll take at least a week for that to turn up, so it will certainly be January before the final version is released for sale.

The page count is looking like just under 80 pages. I have a query out with someone about using a document I found on line. If they okay me to use it then it'll be 80. If not it'll be a bit shorter, but not by much.

The page size will be the same as "To Ur", so that's "letter" or what we know as foolscap over here, with same font size. This set will have colour, as I've included a few battalions standards and other photos and illustrations that work better in colour. With all of that in the price looks like it'll be £14.99. I think that's in line with similar sized publications, if not a little bit cheaper. Again, hard copy only for now.

This set has been a lot harder work than "To Ur", which came as a bit of a surprise. I don't think I realised how much I was carrying in my head compared with what I'd written down, so there's been a lot of backwards and forwards to get it right. Some things I wanted to do haven't made it to the final version, but other things have so that seems fair. The draft looked okay when I checked it on the tablet, but I won't know for sure until I see the hard copy.

Fingers crossed.


Pre-Christmas Fun and Games

The last Monday Night Session before Christmas. Next week it's Christmas Eve, so I guessed everyone else will be busy on one thing or another. Possibly even me.

I put on an old ADG. Very old. I designed this when I was in my very early 20s. I took it to one of the first COWs. I wrote up an article for "Miniature Wargames", too, and it appeared in Issue 12. This would be about 1983, I would guess.

The game was one of a series of games I designed at that time about what soldiers do when not fighting battles, - i.e. most of the time. This one was called "Old Charlie". It was about fox hunting as a British Officer during the Napoleonic Wars, inspired by reading that The Iron Duke had a pack of foxhounds with him in Spain, and would hunt with them most days when he could. I think, as well, that this activity appears in one of the Brigadier Gerard stories by Arthur Conan-Doyle.

The aim is to ride after the pack of hounds, jumping fences and so on, generally impressing your colleagues with your prowess as a huntsman and skill as a horseman. Victory points are awarded fro being at the front at the end of each turn, and for jumping fences and other things as well.

It was designed as a 6-8 player game, with the aim that one of the challenges would be not riding in to each other. As it was we were thin on the ground, with only Phil & Steve, so they took two riders each.


I still have all the playing aids and so on from 37 years ago, as I've never "upgraded" them with PC generated out put. It's all there in my neatest of handwriting. The little green labels (only green card I could find at the time) show the fence or ground difficulty.


Here's the array of huntsmen. The cards have a short bio and their "Derring Do" and "Horsemanship" scores. The white "D" is a direction indicator for the hounds.


Off they go. The hounds head through a fence, with the riders in hot pursuit


One of Phil's riders refuses the fence to the left. Steve's white-coated German ADC attempts the fence, only to take a tumble the other side. Steve's other rider is out of the picture to the right, jumping fences.


Soon everyone is over the fence and shouting "View Halloo" and so on. The fox got killed at this point, and Phil's lead rider with the white plume - Sir Arthur Guinness - won that round.

I quickly reset the fences and we gave it another go.


The hounds set off to the left from the off.


Again Steve went off to the right, in search of points for jumping fences. He was moving at the gallop, and had to draw an event card. This caused him to be startled by a stray goat, but he succeeded in staying on his horse.


The hounds had swung back more centrally. One of Phil's chaps attempted to jump a fence, only to find an abandoned cart the other side. Meanwhile, Steve's German was making good ground. Sir Arthur was lagging behind a bit.


Phil came to grief in the cart. One of the other riders is heading off left, pursued by a wild boar. As the fox is caught, Steve is closest and wins the second hunt.

The mechanisms are simple, - it's basic attack v defence values. The first role is Derring Do against how the fence looks, the second is horsemanship against how it actually turns out. There isn't much more to it than that. Still, it looks okay. As you can see I bought pretty much every British staff officer from the Minifigs Napoleonic range to use in the game. The dogs were from Irregular. All my original fences and hedges have mostly dissolved into powder over time.

This really is a hark back to a very early time. I think it was the first game I put on solo at COW. Previously me and my chum Derek had collaborated. I couldn't find a post COW write up of the game. It was an ADG, after all, but I seem to recall Arthur Harman and Charles S Grant playing, but that might have been other games in other years.

It played well enough. I think there must have been something about how I used to lay out the fences. They all seemed to be a bit brutal, and several riders fell. And the table might have been too large, as we never got out of the second field. The lack of players reduced the need for people to gallop to get ahead, and a lot of the fence surprises in the box never came out.

Still, good to get it all out. Back in the box but probably not for nearly 40 years.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

More Pacific Playtesting

As I hurtle towards the publication of "It's Getting a Bit Chile", my rules for the 1879-1884 War in the Pacific, I thought I should squeeze in some more playtesting. This Tuesday, due to other commitments, the Monday Night Group was down to just me and Richard. That meant that I had to push lead rather than supervise players. Which is nice for a change.

I put out a simple scenario about an attack on a village occupied by two Chilean battalions by Alliance Forces, whilst a Chilean Division rushes to relieve them. I took the Alliance and Richard the Chileans.

I wanted to look again at how fighting in built up areas worked and also focus on the infantry action, so no cavalry and minimal artillery in this game. As I was playing the photographic record is a bit patchy.


There were three small Allied Divisions, two Bolivian and one Peruvian, together with a reserve of an artillery battery and Daza's personal cavalry guard. I've lined up one Bolivian Division on each of the two occupied buildings and sent the Peruvians out on a left hook.


Here's Richard's reinforcements rushing to relieve the buildings.


I've got my units lined up on the building on the right, but Richard's reserves are closing in on me more quickly than I intended.


I go in with three units against the right hand building. I've managed to shield my attack columns sufficiently that they are at full strength for the assault, and I've gone in at the front with an open order unit too, to draw fire. The building is defended by an infantry battalion and half an artillery battery.


The artillery make all the difference. A quick blast of shrapnel at close range and then resorting to carbines holds off one battalion, whilst the infantry drive off one of the others. The remaining attacking column is locked in a life and death struggle across the walled compound (BTW that detail on the artillery is abstracted in the game, but it plays in my head when it happens).


The following round the last column is driven off, but the attack on the yellow house goes in.


Meanwhile the Chilean left flank counter attack starts to bite, driving the Bolivians back.


The struggle for the yellow house is brief but bloody, as my brave Peruvians  storm in, mounting their standard on the roof of the building.


The Bolivians are having a less good day, and President Daza is  forced to hide behind his artillery with his bodyguard.


Up by the red house the Chileans launch a bayonet charge on the Amarillos.


The Amarillos come off worst in the encounter, and are tumbled backwards in Disorder.


The battle is a game of two halves. On my left I'm doing okay, having captured the yellow house, and caused a lot of damage to the units supporting it. Alas I'm unable to stem the troubles on my right...


...and before I know it the Amarillos have broken too, so the Bolivian forces start to stream to the rear.

I picked up a couple of slight tweaks to the mechanisms from the game, - but mostly identified one or two areas where I need to put in some extra fully worked examples. For example the sequence by which you move into and occupy a built up area and then fortify and defend it is logical to me, but needs to be laid out step by step.

Richard was pleased with the game, and made some nice comments. He likes the mechanisms he hadn't seen before, and he liked how the different infantry formations performed, each one having clear differences and purpose. He was also quite taken by the Commanders' ability cards and how each one is slightly different, depending upon who he is (if you click on some of thep ictures you can probably see them in close up).

I had uploaded the full rules onto my Kindle as a pdf to use as a reference, and that worked okay. I don't really want to print out another full set just yet, as it's getting up to 60+ pages, and I can read and annotate the pdf on the Kindle before typing the changes into the book text later. Yeah. Looking good. Might make it out just before Christmas, and if not, certainly in January.