Friday, March 30, 2012

Hexy Blocking Position

Today saw Game 4 and the end of the Sino-Bactrian Campaign. Strictly speaking the game should have been the Swamp land  scenario but it didn't look appetizing for either side so we opted for Hasty Blocking position which allowed me to field all but one of my units.

The Chinese blocking force arrives.

I swore to myself that I would take some proper pictures this time. I ended up taking one cell phone snap on about turn 2 and 1/2 way through picking up troops I suddenly remembered  about pictures and hastily faked the shot below. Oh well.

Essentially the Greco-Bactrian cavalry swept aside the Chinese cavalry (should I mentioned my routed Companion unit? nah why confuse things) and then, supported by an elephant crashed into a line of Chinese heavy infantry. These put up a fight and eventually brought the elephant down but the Cataphracts smashed through the line and then, after a long struggle pushed back and eventually routed the Chinese reserve of Heavy Chariots which had charged into them.   That brought the game to an end after about 14 action packed turns. The victory conditions are more than a little vague on this one so whether I had been slowed sufficiently could only be left as an open question while we proceeded to discuss our hex based adaptation of Basic Impetus.

   An artist's conception of what a confrontation between Chinese and Greco-Bactrian heavy infantry might have looked at.

Over all the hex based version works well but there have been a couple of niggley bits where it has been hard to translate the game to a grid. We made two decisions today, one was to worry less about being consistent and adapt things to make the hexes easier. Many of the issues revolve around melees where the rules are based on units not lining up, something the grid forces as well as restrictions on movement.

We have also found that our adoption of 1 hex = 5 units of distance has been less than satisfying with 25mm figures and Table Top teasers and gave us headaches tracking which adjacent units were in contact and which were just in javelin range. The proposed solution is to move to 1 hex=2.5 units of distance which will essentially double movement and ranges and allow us to count adjacent units as being in melee. Movement will be 2 hexes for heavy and missile infantry, 3 for light infantry, skirmishers and heavy cavalry and 3 for medium or light cavalry. Javelins will have a 2 hex range and most bows  a 4 hex range. That should open things up.

Of course this means we need to play another game. I'll probably put the Greco-Bactrians away. The next game is likely to be 13thC Scots vs English but possibly Pontics or Thracians vs Caeser.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

There's Hold (ing) In Them Thar Hills!

The next game saw the Greco-Bactrians pushing forward in pursuit of the Chinese "bandits".

POP! Oh, there they are! Are those crossbows? Thunk Thunk thunk! yup. 
 The game was Holding Action (1) from Scenarios for Wargames.  My troops diced for which of 2 roads  they would enter on. I had 3 heavy cavalry units (1 cataphract), 2 horse archers, 3 units of pike  phalanx, 2 of peltasts, an elephant and 1 each of archers and javelin men. Breakpoint of 13 with heavy cavalry and pikes each worth 3 pts and the others each worth 1. As an experiment in simplification I fielded my pikes as single VBU 6 units rather than as double units made up of 2 VBU 4 units. Same dice in combat vs infantry and about the right effect as far as I can tell and simpler to follow.

The Chinese had, well, no army at all as far as I could see. But eventually the hills turned out to be hiding 2 units of massed crossbowmen mixed with spears, 4 units of shock light infantry swordsmen, a light cavalry lancer and a skirmish crossbow unit.

The scenario calls for the attacker to advance quickly to clear the pass. It doesn't actually say that you can't break column until you spot the enemy but that seemed like the spirit. And so it was then, that my horse archers were the first into the pass and the first to spot some crossbowmen. I had of course won the initiative that turn so the crossbows were able to advance and shoot. Ron then deftly flipped the initiative on the next turn getting to shoot again, and bringing forward another crossbow unit from his left which shot up my  horse archers.

As I tried desperately to deploy, peltasts and cavalry on the flanks, pikes in the center screened by skirmishers, Ron's crossbows took out my archers and helped by his light cavalry broke my Companions.
At this point 2 units of swordsmen showed up and charged into my peltasts before they could escape.  Suddenly I was down 5 army morale points, and was 1 hit away from losing my horse archers, my column was just deploying and there was nothing to screen them but a single unit of elite Euzoni javelin skirmishers. Ron had a slight scratch on his light cavalry. It didn't look good, especially as the rest of his army emerged on my open right flank.

The ambush is sprung! Chinese crossbows shooting from behind a wall of spears.  
The lack of pictures beyond this point does not reflect reluctance on my part but worried concentration on the excitement in hand!  

No point in going home early (although given the ice pellets and slush I met when I did go, I probably should have), so I brought up the pikes, elephants and remaining cavalry for an assault uphill against crossbows and tough infantry. But as my javelinmen nimbly flanked his crossbows, I suddenly got a break, a hit by the javelins (needing a 6)  followed by a catastrophic cohesion failure on his part, (also a 6) resulting in the crossbowmen routing. OK I was on the board! and the pressure was off, I had room to deploy. As his infantry came up, we proceeded to repeat the skirmish attack 6 to hit, 6 to fail cohesion, not once but TWICE!  These infantry were tougher and didn't rout but they had lost their shock value. I tried hard to catch them with my cataphracts but while they chewed up my 2nd peltast unit, I held on and javelins eventually cleared that flank.  
In the center, my pikes charged up hill, driving back the crossbows but shock infantry caught them in the flank and they crumbled. I was now only 2 units away from breaking, but so was Ron! There was nothing to do but push forward and hope. Forward the pikes! Ready the Heffalump! Charge with the cavalry! As Ron's army morale crumbled he launched a last desperate gamble.
The Chinese cavalry make a last desperate attempt to break the pikes but these guys don't carry long pointy sticks for nothing. 

Army morale is assessed at the end of  a turn and Ron was moving 2nd, he knew he was going down but it was close enough that it was just possible that a suicide attack could work, I'd have to miss with all dice, he'd have to hit with a couple then I'd need to roll one of those 6's on a cohesion test, get caught by the pursuit and do it again. A long shot but possible and it would change the game to a draw. Well, my pikes missed on all 6 dice but his cavalry also missed on their 4. A drawn melee! I WON!!  (By a nose)

You'll just have to imagine the extra 7 Chinese units which crowned the hills in a ring around my army a turn earlier. The troops in the center right background, crowning the hill, are my proud javelinmen who practically won the battle single handedly, with a little help.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Corvus Thracian Mercenary Thureophorai escort a motley supply train.
(Trivia, the horse pulling the supply cart is  a hard plastic Marx horse whose 1st job was pulling a WWI artillery piece in the Over The Top playset.)

The next game in the Sino-Bactrian Border War Mini-Campaign has been fought. Thanks to a split decision double feature game last time,   a draw was declared and Wagon Train selected as the next game.

A familiar site to Scenarios for Wargames fans.
We tossed for sides with the result tasking the troops of the King of Bactria with safely escorting a convoy through hills filled with Chinese bandits, sorry, I mean  the advance guard of an Imperial Chinese expedition.  My force was composed of 2 units of mercenary Thureophorai, a unit each of javelin men and archers, a unit of horse archers and a unit of Macedonian style Heavy Cavalry Lancers. In the fort was a bolt thrower, some pikemen and a the important part, a unit of heavy cavalry and one of light javelin cavalry.
Ral Partha Chinese.

The Chinese eventually fielded 1 medium cavalry, 1 light shock cavalry, 2 crossbow & spear units, 3 swordsmen units and a unit of crossbow skirmishers.

Now that the crisis is nearly past, the war artist comes out.
There were some sticky moments early on as Ron's cavalry arrived on either flank and rode over the skirmishers that I had deployed to guard the flanks of the train. They did their job though  and held up the Chinese cavalry long enough for the Thureophorai to earn their pay. By turn 8, after some nervous fighting, Ron and I were both down 2 units (2 skirmisher for me, a light cavalry and crosswbow unit for Ron with a hurting medium cavalry unit facing off with a damaged Thureophorai ) but the wagons were in sight of the fort with no enemy in between.

Alexander the Minifig orders the Companions  to wheel and ride down a unit of spear and crossbow armed Chinese infantry. Yee Haw!

At this point, fortune favoured me. The bulk of the Chinese infantry now came on behind the convoy. Unless someone could get in front of the convoy and stop it, they would not be able to intervene before it reached the fort. Unbeknownst to me, another light infantry sword unit arrived late through the big wood near the fort. By the time they found their way to the open, the convoy was past. A unit of skirmishers did manage to  almost get close enough for a shot but they couldn't get past the cavalry that had sortied out. 

    "Honey, I'm home!"
Minifig Ox Cart with prince August driver.

This is a scenario where the arrival times and places can make a huge difference. Would it had made a difference if Ron had moved his crossbows to an intervening position instead of moving up to support the cavalry? Who knows? What is sure is that I would have been in a world of hurt had the mercenaries not won their fights with the Chinese cavalry! A fun little game. Took about 2 hours of actual plying time to make it through to a conclusion in 11 or 12 turns.

CRACK!! "Move your Ass into that fort!.....and your Camel"
RAFM cavalry, garrison chariot driver come wagoneer, Ral Partha fantasy baggage animals.