Saturday, 20 May 2017

ECW Bridgehead

On my Six By Six Challenge list is 'Neil Thomas Pike and Shot'. When I drew up the list, I'd not long played the Pike and Shot rules from his 'Wargaming: An Introduction', and was keen to give them another try and explore how they played. And I probably still will. However the other day I was surprised to find that someone else was using the ECW rules I derived from his 'One Hour Wargames', and this inspired me to take the various notes and ideas I'd got for changes to them, and actually write everything up properly.

I did that during the week, and decided to try them out this afternoon. And, I thought, since I'm playing Pike and Shot, and the rules are nominally Neil Thomas, in style if not in content, it will count as one of my Six by Six games. Because it's my challenge, and I get to set the rules.

Here's some quiet English countryside, in 1643. I decided to do a scenario from One Hour Wargames, and got 'Bridgehead'. One side would start with a unit roughly in the centre of the board, whilst the rest of their force would trickle in from the right of the picture to cross the river and expand the bridgehead. The other side starts off table, and their six units appear in three groups of two over the first few turns, with their entry point being randomised.

The Parliamentarians. Their force consisted of four infantry units, one of horse and one of artillery. I decided that each side could have one infantry unit upgraded to elite but one also had to be raw. One of the additions I have made to the rules is for pike and shot ratio; units default to being 'balanced', but might be pike- or shot- heavy, which gives them a bonus in close combat and shooting respectively, whilst penalising the other form of combat. I decided that parliamentarian foot would either be balanced or shot-heavy and rolled for each infantry unit. The elite unit ended up balanced, whilst the others were all shot-heavy.

The Royalists. They had three foot, some dragoons, artillery and a unit of horse. Again, their elite unit ended up balanced, whilst the other two units were pike-heavy.

Both sides had a leader, who could rally off hits, change a unit's ammunition status or rally cavalry that had lost impetus.

I randomly determined which units would appear when for both sides. The Parliamentarians had the bridgehead, and their elite infantry was it.

The first Royalist units appeared to the east. Coincidentally it was their elite foot as well, supported by some artillery. The artillery was sent up onto the hill to cover the ford, whilst the two foot units closed.

First blood to Parliament. Red markers indicate hits; a normal unit can take five hits, and elite six and a raw one four.

The first Parliamentarian reinforcements arrived; the artillery. Rather than have it cross the river into what would e the centre of the action, it was sent further up the bank to harrass the Royalists as they deployed.

More Royalist reinforcements arrived, in the same lace as the first batch. This group consisted of the raw foot and some dragoons. The dragoons moved to screen the rest of the infantry from the Parliamentarian artillery.

Finally the Parliamentarians got some reinforcements, in the form of their raw foot. They rushed down the road to the ford

Outnumbered at the bridgehead, the Parliamentarians were fighting hard.

But the Royalists were massing. Ther thrid batch of reinforcements - the horse and the final foot unit - would enter from the same point.

Parliament now had two foot units across the river, and some horse moved u in support. But the defenders of the bridgehead were too close to the ford for any other units to cross and assist them.

Under these rues, units which shoot can run out of ammunition. In addition, those units cannot enter close combat unless they have run out of ammunition. So foot will trade fire for a while, before sending in the pikes. I allow leaders to change a unit's status, so a player can manage their foot's ability to charge or fire to a small degree. In this case both Royalist foot had run out of ammunition. Their leader failed to replenish it, so there was no choice but to charge into combat. In fact this was no bad thing; units remain locked in combat until one is destroyed, so whilst the melees were ongoing, the Parliamentarian couldn't move their units away from the ford in order to bring up reinforcements.

In the current iteration of the rules I only allow a one to one melee engagement, so the Parliamentarian horse couldn't cross the ford to support their infantry on the other side. This is something I'll probably change (the original rules allow one contact per face, which will work with a few adjustments to the combat rules). The elite Parliamentarian foot had now broken, but the Royalists which defeated them also couldn't turn onto the flank of the other Parliamentarian foot unit because of the one on one melee rule.

The Parliamentarians now had all of their foot up, and they lined the river-bank, to take the Royalist reserves under fire. The Royalists returned the favour. The dragoons had eliminated the Parliamentarian guns, but had taken hits themselves.

A firefight across the river.

The raw Parliamentarian foot was holding firm, but so were their opponents. And with both leaders rallying off hits, it would be a long fight. The ability of leaders to do this is something I need to review.

With the game into the last few turns, the Parliamentarian infantry broke. They now had nothing north of the river.

Their foot to the south kept firing, until the one at the ford was encouraged to charge.

In it went, with the horse moving into position behind it to carry on the fight if it broke.

A shoving match ensued, but the Royalists held firm. Again, the ability of a leader to rally off hits was key.

The parliamentarian foot couldn't force a crossing and broke. The only hope they had now was to force a draw by getting their horse into the bridgehead. This would require them to score plenty of hits, and for their opponent not to save any.

They charged, and scored two hits. But they needed three. The Royalists held the ford and won the day. Once again the attackers failed to open up the bridgehead, which I have regularly found to be the key to them winning this one. You have to take the fight away from the ford, if only to allow your reinforcements room to cross.

Although not dominating, the pike and shot ratios had a small effect, with the pike-heavy Royalist foot using it to score a winning series of hits in one melee, and the Parliamentarians using their shot advantage to gain an edge in the firefight over the river. As I wrote above, I'm not entirely sure about the ability of a leader to rally off hits. Neil Thomas games tend to be attritional, and I somehow feel that eliminating hits is against the spirit of them. Many of the One Hour Wargames scenarios tend to assume that units will be destroyed within a certain time-frame as well, and rallying makes this harder to achieve. I'm inclined to allow leaders to prevent hits on a unit, rather than take off ones already there. But I need to work out a mechanism I'm happy with.

The current version of the ECW rules can be found as a link on my Free Stuff page. At the time of writing, though, they aren't the version I used here.

6x6 - Game 2.1

Gong Rampant

The Gong Garage Gamers had a couple of games of Something Rampant on the go on Thursday. Firstly Victor and I played Dragon Rampant (the fantasy one). Rather than individual figures we used two 15mm HOTT elements per unit and a scale of 40mm (a base width) to 3" in the rules.

Army selection was pretty quick and simple, but we didn't go for any magic or unusual choices; just the basics. For my Elves I took a couple of units of heavy spearmen, some heavy archers, heavy cavalry and a heroic champion. Victor's Orcs had four lots of bellicose foot, some archers and some wolf-riding heavy cavalry.

Being a cavalry-charge sort of person, I went straight at it on the one flank. It's always a good way to try out the melee system.

My cavalry drove back his wolf-riders, but then fell to a coumter-attack by some blood-thirsty Orc hordes.

The Elf Hero entered the fray. In fact, once the Orcs got close enough he didn't have much choice, as he was wildly impetuous and had to charge things.

The Orc cavalry ran away.

Meanwhile everything else was getting to grips with each other. My archers kept failing to shoot as an Orc horde rushed towards them, and my spearmen would fight a round of combat and then fall back to tend to their wounds.

Both sides thinned out pretty quickly. This is a brutal game. At the top of the picture the Elf Hero had dealt with one unit of savage Orc infantry and was closing in on a second.

In he went. The small stones behind each unit show casualties; white for one hit, red for three hits. The Hero could take six hits, so was getting a bit close to dying at this stage.

As morale tests took their toll, the main field of battle was reduced to the Orc missile-batteries and some Elven spears. The Hero was down to his last hit, and still the Orcs facing him wouldn't break and run.

The Hero went down fighting. The Orcs passed another morale test against the odds.

The Elves advanced steadily towards the Orc missile-machines. And then the game ended.

We didn't use any special victory conditions in this game - the Quests - so victory was assessed purely on casualties inflicted. Because of Victor's Orcs failing to break, despite several chances to do so, he picked up a narrow win.

Meanwhile Caesar and Daniel were trying out Lion Rampant, with their 28mm Saga warbands. It looked spectacular, and was equally bloody.

All of us enjoyed the Rampant games. They have the feel of a skirmish rather than a battle, which is what they are designed for. The mechanisms didn't seem to difficult to use; we did have to keep looking up activation and to-hit numbers, but could see that after a couple of games they would be easily memorised (I still know people who forget and have to look up the HOTT combat factors, despite years of play, so it's not an issue). The activation system is frustrating, but gives an interesting to and fro. Somehow failing an activation, and handing initiative to your opponent, seems less deadly in this game than it does in, say, Blitzkrieg Commander, where it can often be fatal. We all had a turn where our side did nothing, after failing the first activation, but it didn't cost us the game.

I liked Dragon Rampant enough that I will certainly consider getting a copy.

Finally Gary and Ralph gave the new Travel Battle a go. Gary had bought a copy but wasn't sure about it, so left the sprues intact and set up the game using a gridded cloth, and his own terrain and figures.

His conclusion was that the rules were OK (although for such a simple set there were number of gaps), but that for the cost (over $100 in Australia) it wasn't worth the effort. His plan is to take a copy of the rules but sell on his set. So there will be a second-hand, unpunched Travel Battle game up for grabs here soon.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Carry On Follow That Camel

Last week I put together a handful of elements to rounds out my Arab Nomads for DBA 3.0. This weekend I fielded the army for the first time.

The army has a central core mixing blades and camels, supported by light horse and either archers of psiloi. It's notable because it is an opponent for a number of 'classic' Roman armies, but can field nearly twice as many blade elements as most of them (at the expense of their trademark camels, it's true).

In the first game they attacked the Parthians. The battlefield was dominated by ploughed fields, since the Parthians wanted plenty of open terrain for their mounted to operate on, but a sudden storm turned them to mud making things tricky for both sides.

Here are the Arab camels, massed on their right flank.

Opposing them were the Parthian horse-archers.

Initial advances were cautious.

But the fighting started fairly quickly. The Arab archers kept the cataphracts at bay.

Both lines were broken up, but the Arabs took losses.

On the other flank there was a minor skirmish between the Parthians' allied hill-men and the Arab scouts.

The Arabs reorganised, and so did the Parthians.

The Parthians then returned to the attack, again engaging the camels with their horse-archers, but supporting them with the cataphracts, who mounted a risky charge up the hill on which the Arab infantry stood.

The infantry stood, throwing back the cataphracts, but more camels were lost.

Close to defeat, the Arabs resorted to desperation, charging their infantry down the hill to catch the cataphracts on the lower slopes.

Success was mixed; one element of cataphracts was exchanged for one of infantry, but that was enough to push the Arabs to defeat.

The final position.

I set up a second game. This time the Arabs were defending their desert home.

This iteration of the army had more blades and fewer camels. To field it with all options I still need to make three more blade elements.

Against them, the might of Rome, supported on their right by their newly painted camel scouts.

Rome's left was dominated by dunes and a scrub-covered hill. Their auxiliary infantry was deployed their, tasked with turning the Arab right flank.

The Arabs took the initiative, though. A good PIP roll on the first turn allowed them to move their light horse onto the Roman right flank, whilst quickly bringing up the rest of their army in support.

Light troops engaged on the flank.

Meanwhile the bulk of the Arab forces charged the Romans.

The Romans fell back, losing their slingers.

The Arabs pressed their advantage, but the Romans held.

Beyond the camels, the infantry of both sides was now also engaged.

The Romans continued to be hard-pressed, and soon lost their camel-scouts as well.

However the Arabs lost some of their camels to a fierce counter-attack by the Roman general.

This enabled freed him up to support the rest of the Roman cavalry, and a second element of camels was lost.

The cavalry could now concentrate on defending the Roman flank.

Meanwhile the infantry shoved back and forth on the edge of the dunes.

The Roman cavalry held, and some Arab infantry was lost in the centre.

A final push against the now isolated Arab archers saw victory go to Rome.

This was a desperate fight, with the initial advantage going to the Arabs, but the Romans holding firm and breaking up successive attacks against them. The auxilia on the left never moved; there were never enough PIPs to consider it.

I rather like the Arabs; their camels look spectacular, and their infantry is usefully solid, whilst the light horse provide good support. I shall be repeating these matchups at some stage.

6x6 - Game 5.5
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