Friday, November 21, 2014

Mulling While I Gather

While laying out the troops for the last game I was reminded that I only had 3 out of the planned 4 Westmen spear units finished. Since the plan was to use 2 unit spearblocks this was a bit awkward but these things happen. The 8 new figures to finish the 4th spear unit are now primed and ready to go.

However, the shortage also led to another twist. In order to fill the table a bit more I had doubled the number of units. Before I put the game away, I went back and replayed it using the original smaller forces. To my dismay the game with fewer units was a little shorter but just as interesting. It would be easier to add depth to the rules without using rosters if the units were larger and using fewer larger units would keep the over all numbers the same.  However, bigger units would not fit inside the existing grid. It would call for multi square units or mega squares.   I had to stop and think a bit.

When I started working on the rules I was looking at classical ancient armies many of which had largish formal units. Now that I am looking at a fantasy medieval setting is that an appropriate approach? Looking at Robert E Howards novels it is, but looking at 12th to 15th C European armies, small companies grouped into large, hard to control blocks seem to be more typical. In either case the current version seems to allow too much tactical freedom.

I haven't  got much farther than that but rather than any fundamental changes I'm just going to add back some bonuses for large multi-unit infantry blocks and leave the cavalry and skirmishers alone. The hardcharging barbarian (sic) light infantry need more thought.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Awakening the Hosts

By the time I had 1/2 the units laid out on the table the main question was answered. The Great & Shiny War has not eclipsed all other hobby interests. Phew!

However, I can also confirm confidently that my days as an Historical Ancients Wargamer are over. Oh I'll still play when invited. As recently as Thursday I found myself playing a test game of DBA3 to my great surprise. They are as torturous and confusing to read as always but adapted to hexes, they provided an enjoyable game to my even greater surprise.  (There might be a future post on this) But playing when invited is not the same as building and maintaining armies and designing rules and scenarios.

Sir John Ravenswood and his Black Company led the column forward. At the sight of the somewhat disorganized Westlands army, he ordred the Van to deploy and led his knights forward in an attempt to sweep the enemy away before they could block the road with a solid hedge of spears. Unhorsed and wounded, his loyal knights covered him while his squire got him safely away to have his wounds treated. 

Nope, by the time I found myself Thursday knight painting Jupons onto some plate armoured early 16thC pikemen to help them fit in with the more usual 12th to 14th C ones to be found in a Midlish army, and found myself debating arms for what must be dismounted Lothian knights, it was clear that last year's decision was right. What I want is 1 fantasy/medieval setting for my  25mm Ancient/Medievals that I can explore and invent.

One outcome of this is that when rewriting the rules, I won't need generic potential troop types to cover 2,000 years, I can write troop capabilities and stats for a small/number of know units using the building blocks chosen. I am looking forward to this!

Both armies continue to deploy. The Earl of Cowcross decides on a push forward while the Woodland Queen leaves the Western spearmen to block the road while she sends her tribesmen to threaten the enemy's flank. 

Raids and counter raids are common on the Western Border of the Midlands so no backstory was required to replay this scenario with these armies. Since the advancing army is the only one with cavalry it seemed best to give that role to the Midlands. They are pressing forward intent on passing through the woods before dark. After all few Midlanders will willingly risk a night in a Western Wood. The westerners are gathering for a raid and with their cavalry off scouting, they have been caught napping. I made units roll an orders die to awaken but they were  up in a jiffy. The Midlish column on the other hand lagged.
The Earl took his time to organize the attack and ignored the flank threat beyond a minimal guard. The Westerners had few forces which could stand up to a frontal assault but honour demanded that they try. 

It was nip and tuck at times with the advantage shifting and I'm afraid I was guilty of neglecting duties by the time it was due but it was enough fun that I played again on Saturday. That game had a different start with the Black Company riding down 2 units of Spearmen but despite my midgame opinion that the Westerners had no hope, once again they held at the end. The turning point was the repeated refusal of the Lothian spearmen to advance. Since they made up 1/3 of the Midland army, it deprived the Earl of the men needed to exploit the lack of close combat troops in the enemy army. I wonder about potential political fall out.
The clash of spears was long and bloody as expected but when the Earl and his Household swept down the hill towards the Queen with her big cats and Amazon guards, he expected to sweep them aside. Instead, the heavy halbards of the burly guardswomen cut down the knights despite heavy losses due to their lack of armour (not to mention clothes). When the dust settled the wounded Earl was dragged back to his army  while the Queen's cat crouched spitting over her bloodied form. As soon as the Midlanders were well on the road, the Westmen faded back through the woods to bind their wounds and sing songs of victory about another invasion halted.  

The partially rewritten draft  is available but probably not worth looking at yet. To summarize, I have decided on dicing for initiative each turn with a sequence of A moves, B shoots, melee. reverse and repeat.  After an experiment with going back to counting noses for combat and casualties highlighted the non-viability of 4 man cavalry units I have gone back to stands having a set number of dice and hits. A bit Rough Wooing ish actually but it works. There should be a better and longer draft by the end of the month.

Before I end, this is the 2nd time that the late John Robertson's Amazons have appeared in a game on my table (see so here's a shout out to Tim and to  John's memory.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Border Suprise

A Midlands army hurries down the road, hoping to pass through the Forest before night.
Unbeknownst to the Midlanders, a force of Westmen has passed through the woods and is camped in a gulley.
It felt like time to get the 25mm Ancients/Medievals out. Since the table was all set with a suitable scenario, I went with it. The prescribed armies looked a little thin on the ground so I decided to double them only to find that I did not have enough Midland units refurbished and ready to go. A slight delay ensued but the game will continue on Saturday.