Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Dividing of Hosts

East meets West
(and no it doesn't look like they're about to play for Lord Grey's Cup even if their are lines painted on a flat green field)

When I resurrected my 25mm ancients after their long slumber, the plan was to reduce every thing to 2 armies of around 20 units totaling around 500 figures each. When I reduced that in 1/2, I added a 3rd army and was contemplating a 4th. Now that I have reduced the forces again to double Basic Impetus armies, or around 100 figures each. I just split the 3rd army into 2 and am adding a few more units to bring it up to scratch. Naturally, since I have all these figures kicking around, I started planning  more armies. Four became six then eight, then........laying out some figures and focusing helped. I'm back on track to finish converting 200 or so miscellaneous figures into opposing Bactrian armies, one Hellenistic in nature, raised primarily from Greek colonists (from RAFM) and formed around a phalanx, the other Iranian based on cavalry backed by mercenary and levied light infantry, (largely from Garrison). 

Antirossus rouses his men.

 The native Bactrian rebels, looking suspiciously Sassinid-ish. I don't have my peasants done yet so some Achamenid Persians are standing in for now.

There's only a half dozen new figures to paint, a dozen or so to fix up and a dozen or so more bases to cut and populate. Then I can start the campaign and also start planning the next pair!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back Tryin' (Bactrian) Again

Today my Greco-Bactrians regrouped and took the field again as the Chinese pushed farther West. The scenario this week was Reinforcements Off Table  from Scenarios for Wargames. Ron has loaded a list of scenarios into his PC with a random selector and as so often happens. the scenario rolled up seemed to carry on from the last one with the Bactrians trying to gather their forces to hold back the invader.

The  rules were once again a hex based adaptation of Basic Impetus. These are starting to come together nicely. After the last game, we decided to let go of the partial discipline rule which we had lifted from full impetus. The added complexity seemed to have slowed the game without really adding anything, actually for me, it detracted from it, making the more powerful units even more powerful. The game today using BI straight up, (apart from the hexes) seems to have confirmed this as a smart move.

We have also refined out "U"s (measurement units) to hexes conversion. In essence each hex is 5 "units". After some trial and error we have ended up rounding movement so that heavy infantry and missile troops move 1 hex and pretty well all others move 2 hexes with the skirmishers and light cavalry being much more mobile due to their ability to move in any direction. Javelins and slings have a 1 hex range, 2 hexes is close bow range and 4 hexes long bow range.

Units must face the corner of a hex and a straight move can be into either of the hexes to the front (these also being the ZOC) with the 2nd move bringing the unit into line (that is left then right or right then left). Two moves to the left would be considered an incline with requisite penalties. A wheel is one 60 degree rotation.

The variable moves have been a bug bear but we finally got them sorted out today. Taking the principle of needing to move more than 2.5 units to cross into the next hex and applying it to the charge bonus and retreat/pursuit moves, we calculated that infantry needed to roll 5 or 6 (halved to 2.5 or 3 as per the rules)  to move an extra hex while cavalry only needed to roll 3. However, for retreats after melee, we needed to know not only where the units end up but whether or not the retreater had broken contact. This meant comparing the the infantry 1/2 die to the cavalry full one. This is not difficult math but we found it bothersome, not to mention we kept forgetting the 1/2 so we ended up allowing the infantry a full die and cavalry 2 dice with both looking for a 5 or better to move an extra hex. This is not an accurate translation of the odds but its close enough, easy and intuitive.

Doing away with the Discipline value meant that the points values of the Beta and published lists became irrelevant. The full lists have more options than the Basic ones so we are using the guide lines to convert the Beta lists to Multi-Basic Impetus lists. The guidelines are for a single BI army but we are now playing  Multi Basic Impetus  so we need double sized armies. What we are now doing is drawing up double armies from the lists including just the options and troops that we have the troops for (or intended to paint shortly) this  will be our "campaign" roster. From this we will draw scenarios/TT Teasers at 1 unit per scenario unit or gun. If we don't have enough of an appropriate troop type in our list then we may substitute something we do have (eg if a scenario calls for 3 heavy infantry units Parthians may field horse archers or cataphracts or skirmishers ).  Not perfect but easy and it seems to give about the right size of game for us, usually in between 8 to 16 units.

I wish I had remembered  to take pictures today, other than the quick cell snap above. It was an interesting game with some gallant charges, some devastating shooting (not by me), some clever generalship and some solid generalship. There were also an amazing number of 5's rolled for reinforcements. (For those not familiar with the scenario, and unit rolling 5 or 6 is lost). Ron was nice enough to let the lost units roll again after a delay. 1/2 of the defaulters including my King rolled 5 again!  I smell a revolt in the air.

If you refer to the picture at the top of the page you will see my army hiding out on the open steppe, tucked down behind a low rise. Ron's army laid out with 6 units of infantry flanked by light cavalry and supported by 2 heavy chariots which were able to pass through. Four of these units are double units with crossbows in the rear and halbardiers in front. I had hoped that Ron would advance on a broad front, straight up the road with light cavalry on the flanks, and had deployed light troops on my far left and an elephant, pike block and cataphracts on my far right. I left the middle unoccupied, relying on reserves or on flanking and breaking his army. It almost worked, I came close to breaking his right hand cavalry but the dice refused to do me any special favours and eventually it was my light infantry that had the worst of it. Late in the game some of my heavy and light cavalry showed up here and finally broke his cavalry but took damage and were then shot to pieces  by massed crossbows before they could exploit.

On the far side, an early arrival of heavy cavalry drove back his lights and began to turn his flank. As his infantry topped the rise I sprang my trap and came forward with elephant, pikes and cataphract. I didn't have the speed to hit him in 1 move from hiding but I did manage to move last. If I had won the toss and moved first on the next move I might well have been able to catch him but the gamble didn't pay and he had just time to readjust his line. The ensuing fight was close and could have gone either way. If his chariots had broken, my heavy cavalry and elephant would have been let loose behind his line and I might well have carried the day but it was not to be and a hail of fire from the chariots broke up my attacks and then routed my infantry and elephant. At least my heavy cavalry survived to retreat off the table and fight again!

Call up more levies! We need to rebuild!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Other Side of the Pass

The Ron Emperor sent this picture of his army occupying the pass after the Bactrians had collected their dead and wounded and gone home and an account of the battle from the other side. He had actually had his camera to hand but the game we were both too "into" the game to think about pausing for pictures. 


The clever Graeco-Bactrians had laid out their position hiding most of their troops behind the crest line of the pass and in difficult ground. It was going to be up to the Chinese -Light Horse archers and the spear armed Light Cavalry to penetrate the Scythian Light Cavalry screen. The Chinese marched bravely down the road lead by the Light Horse archers (2 stands) and spear armed  Light Cavalry (2 stands). The order of march then had the Medium Cavalry (2 stands) and War Chariots (2 stands) behind them. This was the first command. The second command consisted of the infantry. Two stands of Spear & Sword armed light infantry, followed by two composite stands of spear and crossbow light infantry. These were followed by two stands of spear armed Heavy Infantry, then 2 more stands of spear & sword armed light infantry in the rear.

Unfortunately for the Chinese the units arrived on table and could not deploy off road until their second turn on the table. It would take about 6 turns before the Chinese had completely deployed into some semblance of order, in fact the Heavy Infantry were never to make it into contact with the enemy. On turn one only the Light Cavalry and the light Horse made it on table. In the following turns the rest of the troops arrived at 3 or 4 stands per turn on the road.

The Chinese managed to cover the deployment with the light cavalry to the fore. As they approached the Scythian scouts, the Scythians fell back tempting the Chinese to blindly go where no Chinese had gone before. But the Chinese maintained their discipline as they moved forward. The Chinese commander had studied the enemy Commander over many months and was well aware of his penchant for ambuscades, taking advantage of the terrain and sudden charges especially when faced with a larger enemy force.

As it turned a unit of skirmishing arches appeared at the northern edge of a wood that stretched half way across the battle field and opened fire. A second unit made an abortive attempt to leave the wood to get into archery range and revealed its position for little gain.

The Chinese troops continued to arrive, then deploy into multiple lines of infantry. Two units of Light spear & sword armed infantry headed towards the enemy archers in the aforesaid wood, supported by two composite units of spear & crossbow armed troops. The remainder infantry deployed as soon as possible off the road and advanced towards the pass.

Meanwhile the cavalry command had forced the enemy light horse back towards the crest line, actually the enemy light horse were feigning retreat yet again. The light cavalry finally crested the pass and got a clear view of the enemy line waiting patiently behind the crest. The cavalry was in contact with the enemy elephant and long bow men before they could react. The chariots plodded steadily forward followed by the medium cavalry. The cavalry and chariots managed to impede each other and get to close to the light horse screen to their front. But their was nothing for it but to go ahead, expecially as war chariots once moving have to move at least half a move a turn, even before declaring a stop.

As the southern wood was being cleared of the enemy skirmishing archers, the remaining infantry deployed in line behind the cavalry screen. The cavalry screen became embroiled in a bitter struggle for mastery of the crest line in the centre of the pass.

Finally the Chinese infantry on the broke into the long wood decimating the enemy skirmishing troops. But the Bactrian Cataphracts and cavalry then moved up to face them off. Meanwhile the massive fighting in the centre continued the elephant continuing to charge while the war chariots attempted to contact the elephants. The cavalry was in front, and even though not the best troops to face elephants (especially when the elephants are supported by long bow fire, they had no choice with the war chariots pressing continuously forward behind them.

Eventually the chariots managed to contact the elephant, and after a multi turn melee, defeat it. The end was finally approaching as the Chinese now moved forward in a steady line of infantry that stretched from north to south across the battlefield. But the cost to the cavalry had been high. The cavalry command was within one point of breaking. The infantry forces were desperately trying to cross the open ground of the pass and contact the enemy line which was holding the gap.

In the end the Chinese luck held while that of the enemy took a quick and downward spiral. The results the Chinese lost 2 stands of Light Horse archers, 2 stands of Light cavalry spears, and one stand of medium cavalry (7 out of the 16 morale points in the command), while the infantry command managed to retain all its stands they were highly damaged at the end of the battle. The Chinese were had lost 7 out of  the 17 morale break point.

The Chinese had cleared the pass, but lost the element of surprise  As the Chinese continue their push to control the trade routes across the middle of Asia the Graeco-Bactrians are preparing for another encounter as well, this time with full knowledge of the new enemy they face.

Preparing? Indeed!
And a closer view. Infantry and cavalry by Ral Partha. Chariots by Hincliffe if I'm not mistaken.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

They shall not pass, or well, ok, maybe this time.

Well, my Bactrian army has been bloodied, very bloodied as it turned out.   My cell phone battery gave out so no pictures I'm afraid.

The scenario was Pass Clearance from CS Grant's Programmed Wargame Scenarios. The rules were modified Basic Impetus on a hex grid. The enemy was Ron Dynasty Chinese (That's Han to you). I had a rough idea of what sorts of troops I might face since I'd seen them on the shelf over the last 20 years but I avoided looking at the army lists since I figured that a new arrival on the scene, an army they had never fought before, might have been a surprise to the Greeks, Bactrians and various others who made up my army. It turned out to be a bit more of a shock than a surprise!

Whoever wrote up the Beta Han List was very generous with VBU and Impetus factors and the superior firepower of their crossbows was staggering. To overcome this army I was going to need the get the best out of my motley crew. Unfortunately, since it was my first time fielding it, I really didn't have a good handle on its strengths and weaknesses.

The position I was defending had steep hills on either sides with several patches of woods. I deployed my upgraded skirmishers, from whom I expected much given how well their plain Jane cousins did for me in the last game, in an advanced wood on the left hand slopes with light cavalry filling the plain. My main battle line was posted just behind the crest of the pass, archers in the woods to the right, then elephant, pikes, Thracians and lastly cataphracts.  Initially the Thracians were supposed to accompany the elephant but I switched and decided to have them provide a link between the phalanx and the cataphracts.  Despite finding my javelin armed peltasts most useful in previous games,  I decided that I needed more high VBU troops so upgraded the Thracians from VBU 4 to 5 which seems to remove their javelins, presumably indicating Rhomphai armament. They are useful troops but not strong enough for 1 unit to launch attacks and to make matters, worse, I kept maneuvering them into positions where they could launch javelin assaults, only to remember that they didn't have any! ARGGHHH! Luckily Ron was generous enough to allow me to take back such moves several times. General, Know thy troops! Next time I'll field proper peltasts and  leave the shock charges to the big boys.

The game began with some harmless insults being traded between my light cavalry  and the Chinese. The game is unfriendly to missile fire at light cavalry and a close look at his shock light cavalry indicated that they had twice the combat value of my Arachosians so basically, after a few maneuvers to try to disrupt Rons's march and deployment and to draw him into my ambush, I started to fall back at full speed to get my light cavalry safely out of the way. The first shot of the game came from my foot archers, disrupting a chariot but neither harming it nor slowing it down (we had drafted the discipline rule in from Impetus and Ron's well disciplined troops only occasionally failed their rally).  Ron deployed a mass of light infantry to flush me out at which point I was close enough to have a look and discover that these were a combination of elite shock troops that made my Thracians look puny, and massed crossbows with devastating firepower. I made a new plan. Skeddadle all my out classed light troops to safety and launch an assault with elephant, pikes and cataphracts, once he was through the gap.

Unfortunately there was a wrinkle. Basic Impetus is a game  which calls for an initiative roll each turn to see who would move first. I had successfully rolled low and moved second so far, being able to react to enemy moves and scoot out of the way. On the turn of the ambush, that flipped, allowing me to get my shot in  but on the next turn it flipped again giving Ron a double move at just the wrong moment for me and allowing his aggressive light infantry to reach my skirmish line before it could pull back. At the same time his light shock cavalry was able to also sweep forward to catch my skirmishing ones.  This was unfortunate but not necessarily a disaster, protected by the woods, odds were that my skirmishers would take some damage but stood a good chance of escaping and might even get lucky and win some of the combats. By the end of the turn my skirmish line was wiped out and my light cavalry reduced to a single stand. Five units destroyed in the blink of an eye. Nearly 1/2 way to my break point and I hadn't put a single hit on him. It looked bleak.

 There was an awful jumble in the middle of the table as the war chariots rolled up the road and deployed flanked by cavalry. The supporting infantry was somewhat held up by the woods but they would be up soon with those deadly crossbows and  hard charging halbardiers. One of Ron's horse archers topped the crest and sounded the alarm. There before him was the main Bactrian army, bronze helmets and shields and iron horse armour gleaming in the sun. From the woods my Saka bowmen (using the mountain Indian stats) strode forward from ambush and opened a frightful barrage (who knew so many dice had 1 or 2 marked on them?).  The elephant, a 40 year veteran, trumpeted wildly and rushed forward, trampling panicking horses beneath her feet.  Charge followed counter charge as the chariots, unable to stop and without room to maneuver, rolled forward. On the left, my Cataphracts maneuvered for a clear charge at the Chinese infantry as they cleared the wood. Then the crossbows twanged and my nobles back peddled desperately while I searched for a new plan. The score now stood at 7 army morale points lost per side. (Ron could lose 17, I could lose 13)

With unlimited time and an array of machine guns, crossbows, facing me, it was just a matter of time before he shot me to pieces. At this point, the question arose of how long I needed to hold the pass in order to claim a victory. Initially Ron had said 11 turns, and 11 turns were done, but the table was 24 hexes across and even if I had retreated off table on turn 1, he couldn't have made it. I suggested we roll 2d6 to see how many additional turns he could have but with two "new" armies on the table (most figures on both sides were 20 to 40 years old), we decided to just play it through.  There was only way, to avoid destruction, rally my shot up phalanx and cavalry and charge! If the charge worked, there was a good chance I could blast a hole in his army but if the attack was repulsed, then it would be all up. Do or die!

Even having to make piecemeal attacks, my shock troops proved their potential, inflicting buckets full of hits on the enemy. Ron's troops proved that their morale was good. (Now he rolls a 1!)
His line was battered and within a pip or 2 of having broken but it had held and now the counter attack was coming through. Shock infantry charging into the phalanx, crossbow bolts following up my cavalry as they rallied back for another charge. Then the battered chariots whipped their  horses up to speed and rolled forward into my Thracians and a battered phalanx and both crumbled, bringing me to my break point.

A hard fought game and one which reinforced my choice of army. As Phil Barker once wrote, pick an army that you can love, even when it loses.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ready for the Fray

Sooner than expected, the combined armies of all the factions have pooled their troops to face a new threat. Tomorrow, weather permitting, they march East to confront an army of Ron Dynasty Chinese. 

Like the typical, closely related Seleucid wargame army , this army has a little bit of everything and not enough of anything: Cataphracts, light cavalry, pikemen, archers, skirmishers, light infantry, and an elephant.

Given any situation, it has at least 1 appropriate  unit. Thrown into battle, there are not quite enough core troops. Oh well, perfect for Table Top Teasers.  Its going to take a bit of getting used to after all those Greek hoplites! 

Next step is to cut a score more bases, refurbish a few more old units and add a few new ones from the lead pile to make two opposing armies, 1 Hellenistic based around the pike phalanx and mostly RAFM troops, the other more Kushan-like, cavalry heavy without any pikes, and based largely around Garrison Persians of various stripes. Then the contest for control of Syr Daria can commence!