Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Roads and Swords Pt 2.

The bulk of the Midlish pikes bypass the town  to seize the road ahead.
The short summary of the game is that it was OK but not great.

This was the 3rd test game with armour saves and my bottom line is that despite their Old School heritage,  I still don't like them. They do help the games last longer but not by adding more decision points or added reslism,  they do it by nearly doubling the number of die rolls and sometimes reversing decisions. They do appear to allow more granularity in troop types but it is often a false one. What data is there for rating a jack vs a mail shirt?  Are tassets worth a 50% increase in your save? What if a unit has a mix of armour values? In short it goes against the big picture approach that I like about Morschauser.

As the Northern swordsmen assault the village the heavily  armoured reserve cavalry crashes into the Centaurs, sending the handful of survivors fleeing towards safety despite Preisages  presence. 
The switch to a series of 1 on 1 melees helped a bit but it was still too easy to pick off a wounded unit or to gang up. I revisited Morschauser's roster and realized I missed s key aspect. When 2 units do not have the same strength, the strong one uses the same number of dice ad the weakness. His extra strength gives him staying power but does not allow him to give more than he risks thus allowing the weaker side a better chance to even the playing field, especially if they have a higher Melee Point. This is how the heavies can beat lights with less risk when fighting multiple rounds.

Casualties are mounting on both sides but the Northmen have been able to save most of their wounded units while their light troops have managed to destroy several Midlish units with missile fire or by outmanouvering isolated units. 

This morning, after much thought, I decided to take the rules, which are a little closer to the latest version of Rough Wooing, and test them on 16thC French vs English instead of fantasy troops. I ditched the armour save and gave most units 4 hits but 2 dice regardless of remaining strength. I also brought in a control check if being without a commander. The result was just what I was trying to achieve. 

The rules are updated and posted here as a blog page. A post on today's game to follow.

The Northmen combine numbers and good luck to wipe out the garrison  of the town bringing the Midlish army to its breakpoint while taking the objectives from them.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Crossing paths and crossing swords Pt1

On Sunday I was ready to go when Rob's call came in on Google Hangout. Alas, as so often in military matters, things beyond our control intervened. (That's why we use dice right?) For some reason the video kept dropping to a very low resolution or else pixelating. This made it virtually impossible for Rob to make out what was happening. We've had the occasional issues during past games but never this prolonged. After trying various things including changing equipment, I gave up and blamed our broadband service which has been giving us some issues. Rob and I had a good chat and then later, I played the game solo.

The armies advance and flank guards clash as the main bodies rush towards the objectives.
The scenario was the first one from Stuart Asquith's guide to solo wargaming. Two forces are converging on a town with orders to garrison it and then march off the far end. One army has a preponderance of fast moving light troops while the other has more slow but well armoured heavy troops.

The armoured Midlish swordsmen expected to sweep the enemy skirmishers aside but the dice didn't favour them and they soon found themselves flanked and struggling. Eventually the skirmishers fellback and their shooting backed by a unit of archers made the newly painted swordsmen the first unit destroyed.   The Crabhen and the new unit of archers were the 2nd & 3rd units destroyed. Figures.

Each army had 22 units and 3 characters.
Lists, comments and more pictures to follow in Pt 2.

From the other side. There is some fighting in the village while the Knights and Bantha eye each other. Later, analysts would call this moment a lost opportunity for the Midlish cavalry. A swift commitment of knights and reserve into an attack around the enemy right and into their rear might have been decisive. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Preparing for another Go

Tomorrow Rob is going to do the Wizardy sort of thing and appear magically at my wargames table while his body remains 100's of km away. In preparation I have not only been painting and basing troops and selecting a scenario but also reviewing the test games so far. By and large I am happy with the direction the rules are going but I want to add a bit more "flavour" and distinction to various troop types without getting more complicated, or much more. This means as much as possible playing with unit stats and capabilities rather than new general rules. There are also one or two disconcerting things about multi-unit combat that have had me pondering since May.

The issues are threefold but related. It seems to be too easy to gang up on 1 enemy unit, too easy to flank it and it is often too easy to ignore supporting troops thus robbing formations of some of their value. This latter point particularly bothers me trying to maintain battle lines seems to have been a major feature of ancient warfare. No doubt to avoid the easy flanking mentioned above. 

Since I want to stay as close to the original as I can while developing a game I like better, I went back for a look. The issues are dealt with in the original in 3 ways. First, for a flanking attack, every part of the attacker's base must be behind the enemy's front. Secondly a unit may not pass within 3" of 1 unit to attack a different unit and lastly melees are fought 1 unit vs 1 unit so if you gang up 2 on 1 the melees are fought sequentially not simultaneously. There is a fourth rule that sort of affects the sort of overwhelming attack I have had problems with, in the original the attacks are carried out 1 die at a time until 1 side is eliminated. So if a 1 SP unit is attacked by a 4SP unit, it doesn't roll 1 die vs 4 hoping to survive as the best possible outcome, instead it fights a series of 1 vs 1 fights and if tough, might win all of the fights and wipe out the enemy. A unit may also fight back as often as it is attacked and if an attacker wins it may initiate melee against anther unit which is in range It is a less deterministic, more heroic approach. 

It occurred to me today that the abbreviated QRS version of the Engagement zone is rather less explicit one than the unwritten full one from HofT that I have been applying direct from memory and that the squares make this sort of thing Soooooo much easier. But I'm not going there yet so I'll just flush it out a bit while referring back to Joe.

Beyond that, I am going to try 2 tweaks for melee. Instead of every one rolling at once I am going to try having 2 pairs of units resolve combat, if they survive the next attacking unit will get a go and the defender will get to fight back again. I thought about trying the pushback rule in melee again but I'll let it slide for now.

Now on to more differentiation between troop types and tactics. 

Skirmishers. I'm still not happy with the difference between massed archers and skirmishers and horse archers. In the last game Rob fielded some skirmish units on each side that only had 2SP each. That's close to what I had been thinking about the first time I limited shooting and movement but really just makes them a weaker archer unit since otherwise they are the same, What I am going to try is to put massed archers back to shoot OR move but with 4SP while skirmishers and horse archers may shoot AND move but with a shorter range and only 2SP per unit. To avoid having them too vulnerable I will compensate  by giving them an evade rule in melee.

Armour and Cover.  During the last game Rob reversed the armour saves so that low is good. I grumbled but went along and in truth it does not make any difference (unless you are using loaded dice!).  However it does make sense to save a benefit increases your saving throw number. More importantly, he gave troops in cover a saving throw bonus rather than a modifier on their "to hit" throw and in retrospect that is simpler and more consistent. I'll leave it to any bored statisticians to work out the difference in final probability.

Unit Type Tactics.  One of the things I have been most unhappy with is that in the original Morschauser rules all troops are essentially the same in melee apart from some being stronger or faster. I have started introducing some differentiation and I want to go farther. 

Cavalry. Even medieval knights, are known more for repeated charges than for prolonged rugby scrum type melees so I will add a charge bonus hopefully encouraging them to occasionally rally back. 

Massed Infantry. I have been struggling to come up with a way to represent the solidity of massed infantry. A line of units should help protect individuals from being flanked thus providing a purpose for a phalanx but what about a deep phalanx or a pike square?  If I had a retreat result for melee then a second rank could counter it, or the rear rank they could maybe add 1 die to the unit in front? or soak up hits?  I haven't stumbled on just the right rule yet. 

Rather than hide yet another quick reference sheet here, I have added a page containing the short version of the rules and will correct it and slowly bulk it up as I go from here, including tips for playing it on a grid.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Shuffling and sorting

Reorganization and basing of opposing 40mm armies continues in anticipation of hosting a google hangout game with Rob ere long.

There are enough Elastolin and Merten figures with a handful of compatible odds and sods  to fill out the Midlish army and it is starting to take on its own character which is not quite the English Bills and Bows I planned. Instead, the rather larger Meisterzinn sized English will form the core of the Imperial army along with some colourful mercenary pike and shot.  I'll have a closer look at the knights, pikes and bows of the Midlish later.

Midlish City Militia Pikes, Elastolins with some minor conversions.

The opposition for the next game will be the mixed army of Vikings, Picts, and weird things which I was originally going to ally with the Huns to represent the Northern Confederation but had decided to switch to the West folk since that is where the bear was from. However, the deeper I get, the less they look like the West folk and the less Prince Michael and his Valdurians seem like barbarian Northerners. So I have reverted to the original plan and put the Valdurians back in the northwest whence they came 40 years ago.

Midlish swordsmen tackle Crabhen from the Northern mountains. Elastolin and a Perry Reiver vs some 28mm Footsore Miniatures Corvii.

More to come!

Crabhen scouts spy on a portion of the Midlish host as it gets its bases painted.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Earl of Belmont goes Waltzing With a Bear

I was thinking of writing a proper battle report on Saturday's game but to my dismay I seem to have only taken 2 sets of photos and having had a busy weekend of gaming, rules tinkering and video watching, the details are a bit vague.
A reprise from the previous post.
The scenario is #4 from CS Grant's Programmed Scenarios. I decided to run the Northmen as a programmed enemy. Their mission was to delay the enemy without taking heavy losses. A die roll decided that they could lose at most 3 units. I played the Midlanders myself with the mission of breaking through as quickly as possibly with victory to be decided by post game consensus rather than any nice clearcut predetermined conditions. (hate it when he does that!)

After rolling for deployment options for the Northmen I selected all the light and missile troops for the left flank backed by a few bands of infantry.  (gotta get casting armored vikings and saxons!)

A closer look at the hill just before the Lancers charge.
The first few turns saw some cautious manouvring and the occasional exchange of arrows. I wasn't keen to throw away my advance guards just yet and Helgin had rolled a passive defence. At last the main body arrived and I sent the lads in. 

Fortune was not favouring archery today and time being short, I sent in the lancers. To my chagrin my men rolled high when hitting and low on armour saves so that the centaurs and archers that I expected to slaughter, despite the hill, were hurt but lived to retreat while I lost 1 stand and most of the second. As heavier troops moved up, the enemy fell back all along the line which was fine by me. 

The bickering amongst the light troops continued as the Earl pressed forward and eventually the enemy was down 2 stands. Behind the line the Lady Vivian tended to the wounded by staring seductively into their eyes and muttering phrases in a strange tongue while they continued to die in droves. 

Eventually the knights caught up with the Northmen hearthguard and crashed into them, on the first round their armour helped but the infantry survived to fallback into the stream. The knights followed up wiping out 1 band and nearly taking the 2nd but the number of hits received in return was shocking. Perhaps it was the muddy streambank but the 3+ armour save was not enough to save the Earl's Pensioners, they were wiped out!  Helgin had also lost a stand though and would lose the game if he lost another.  The Earl joined the remaing lancers and  pressed forward into the stream.

That's when it appeared, the Great Bear! Rumbling forward he crashed into the lancers midstream. 4 dice, 4 hits, 4 armour saves for 4,5,6 and not a single save! Now it was the Earl's turn to roll for the 2 excess hits but his armour was strong. He was left alone with an enemy unit however (the Bear being a unit rather than a character) so had to dice to avoid capture. I'm not sure yet if the bear is a trained beast with a handler, enchanted, or an intelligent ally but I'm pretty sure you don't want to be captured by it!

The moment of drama as Mahan Mohr slays the Earl's horse with one swipe of his great paw, trapping the Earl underneath.
It seemed almost inevitable. Now what to do with the army commander captured? I rechecked the rules and remembered that I had included one of the example house rules from Morschauser. If the General is lost, roll for each unit with equal chances to fight on, fallback, or flee the field. Apparently the Earl's men loved him but not enough to die trying to rescue him. They fled the field in droves. Delay? Hell! Helgin held the pass!

What can I say? Fast, furious, some tricky tactical challenges to think about, some "shouldn't have done that" moments and never as predictable as one would expect. Now I need a big stack of 60mm squares of 1/4" mdf.

(Edited to correct Westfolk to Northmen)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Helgin Holds the Hills

Or tries to.

Sneak Preview

Scenario 4 from Programmed Scenarios.

UnitHits MoveMeleeFlankRangeSaveSpecial
Earl Helgin 2343-5General
Angus Mohr2352-4
Mathan Mor4452-5Not slowed by woods
Sea Folk4342-5
Farm Folk4333-6Hedgehog: spears count as cover in melee

UnitHits MoveMeleeFlankRangeSaveSpecial
Earl of Belmont1553-3General
Vivian142265Heal, Obscure,Confound,Stealth,Guile
City Bands4333-6Hedgehog: Pikes count as cover in melee

Friday, June 19, 2015

Implementation progressing, Planning to Follow

Did I mention the "Irregular B" aspect of my nature? (For those not up on the old 3rd ed WRG Ancients they are the impetuous barbarian noble types, Frankish knights and so on, liable to charge without orders.) Well exploration of the feasibility of  moving Prince Michael and my Rough Wooing forces to my fantasy setting is proceeding but not quite as expected. I have figured out how to place and explain the transition without disowning the 25mm games or disallowing them to continue and without disrupting the Adventures of Prince Michael, I have rediscovered the size/style issue that has left so many unpainted Elastolin, Merten and Perry figures in the cupboard and I've discovered that there were a couple more unpainted figures than I remembered, about 100 or so more.

Fresh off the painting table.
A Midlish Knight and archers of the 3rd Age.
Elastolin Gensdarme, Merten Archers
The last issue is the easiest. If I assign almost all the existing big clunky figures to the Empire that will give them some 60 stands of troops, somewhat more than the standard 35 but then the Empire rarely fights and the figures are the travelling portion of my Rough Wooing armies so its really just a place holder for them in case I want to use a few while the other armies are building over the next few years.

I hadn't completely forgotten the size/style issue but had suppressed it and forgotten why I hadn't finished so many of the smaller figures. The Meisterzinn figures aren't all big and tall, the semiflat ones are nicely sized and proportioned but some are big and many of the full round ones have HUGE heads. The 2 handed swordsman is probably the tallest of the lot, I chose one of them to make a Galloglach from 15 years ago. There are a few Elastolins and Perries etc mixed in with the bigger figures in my Rough Wooing armies and in a crowd they don't stand out but when there are whole armies of different sizes in a Fantasy setting or when disproportionate individuals meet in a duel well...... 

Prince Michael takes on Angus Mor, a Hill Giant from the West.
Elastolin vs a Meisterzinn conversion

There are enough unpainted Elastolin vikings left along with the Prince August Vikings to let me build the men of the west from Dearg Mor's "Picts" and "Helgin's "Saxons" (aka Elastolin vikings) and Prince August Vikings backed up by Great Beasts, witches, flying things and a few Giants and the like. The schiltrons have apparently disappeared under the increasing influence of the Men of the Sea.

The Midlands will get all the late Medieval types including Swiss pikemen to replace the Scots spearmen. Fashions change but it will be the same balanced mix of heavy cavalry backed by a few lights, infantry and archers.

To the East the Sultan who has replaced the Great King of Kings may encourage some of his wilder subjects to raid over the border, a few lizard men and the like, perhaps accompanied by some of the wilder brigands but it will be a while yet before his Spahis, Jannisaries, great cannon and masses of volunteers are ready to march.

That leaves the north. According to the Adventures of Prince Michael in the Days of King Arthur, the Prince hails from Valdur in the North. I have been portraying it as being in northern Britain (southern Scotland), from just beyond the wall but the name Valdur is the name of my old fantasy Kingdom. So be it. The wall was built in the Northwest then, to hold back the Picts or Westmen and the sea raiders and King Arthur obviously sits on the throne of the Midlands making the North and the Midlands as some sort of semi-allies at the moment. I had been planning the 25mm Northern armies as horsemen, including horse archers (Garrison Hyrkanians) and armoured lancers (Minfig and Heritage Rohirrim)  backed by peasant infantry (Garrison Fyrd and Prince August). I was about to reassign the Elastolin  Huns to the East but in his adventures, Prince Michael often fights beside Preisages the Sarmatian  so it looks like the Huns and remaining Elastolin Roman and early medieval troops will all be part of the Northern Confederation giving them their 35 stands once the cavalry kits and a few more infantry are finished.  

I have yet to write the details of the history anywhere but shortly after the last Ambush game and the return home of the Master of Secrets (released from captivity by the Witch Queen of the West), the King of the Midlands suddenly fell ill and while he did not die for another 20 years, the Kingdom fell into civil war after civil war. Twenty years after his death the Falcon of Light appeared with a young boy whom he proclaimed to be the son of the late King, conceived just before his death and raised in secrecy .....(OK not original but it just happens to fit the established story line). 

Our story now resumes 20 years after that or roughly 60 years later and 15mm taller than the last game.