Monday, 29 November 2021

Another One Hour Encounter

I replayed the encounter game from yesterday. 

I didn't change any of the setup; I decided that I'd adopt the more cautious approach of allowing reinforcements to stack up before deciding when to advance. Here's the game a few moves in. The Swedes (left) had got three infantry units on, and advanced to the hill. The Russians had started with cavalry in play, and had sent them around the flank to threaten the Swedes but not, at this stage, engage. The Russians already had most of their infantry on as well - they got lucky with reinforcement rolls - and their commander was ready to bring them forward.

A few turns later. The Swedes had a third infantry unit in play. The Russians had simply advanced and assaulted the Swedish line. The plan had been for their cavalry to support the attack, but having moved into position it was now reluctant to charge.

In fact the Russian attack failed, but the Swedes were so beaten up that a second attack routed them. Meanwhile the cavalry finally attacked, but became stuck in a stationary melee with Swedish infantry that just wouldn't quit.

Final positions. The Swedes had finally got one unit of their horse on, too late to be of any use. Their foot was shaken and had been driven off the hill, which was now completely under Russian control. The Russians had won again.

I'm not aware of any errors I made this time. And it played out in well under an hour, although not having to teach the game to a twelve week old child helped.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

One Hour Black Powder

Continuing my exploration of Black Powder I set up one of the OHW scenarios, planing on running it with one commander on each side controlling the six units. The problem is that the OHW scenarios assume that you don't have commanders and limited activations - all units move all of the time - so they do tend to stretch the capabilities of a single commander somewhat. 

To make matters worse, I rolled the Encounter scenario, in which units appear randomly over multiple turns on their own side's baseline, whilst fighting for control of a hill in the centre. This was going to leave my poor commanders having to run back and forth collecting newly arrived units, whilst also trying to run the fight in the centre.

Anyway, here's the Russian commander exhorting his initial unit - some infantry, to advance.

The Swedes had a cavalry unit at the start. Their commander waved his hat and told them to get a move on.

The terrain. The Swedes were entering from the left and the Russians from the right. Both sides had three units of infantry, two of cavalry and one of artillery. The winner would be the side that held the hill at the end of 15 turns.

The Russians got the first move and no new unit, so their commander simply used a 'Follow Me' order to advance the infantry straight onto the objective. The Swedes responded by moving their cavalry to threaten the infantry's flank; I felt a frontal charge was possibly unsafe at this stage..

The Russians brought on some cavalry themselves, and a Follow Me order saw them able to charge straight into the flank of the Swedes.

Naturally the Swedes lost, and were driven back. The Russians pursued and the Swedes lost again, but surprisingly they didn't break.

At this point I was joined by a first-time player - my grandson Eli. We worked out the next few turns together, and he even had a go at rolling some dice, failing in this task because he wouldn't actually let go of them. Still, we had a pleasant time checking rules and moving figures together.

Eli was very excited when the Swedes were able to bring some cavalry on, and suggested that they swung round and charged the Russian horse in the flank. I was in full agreement with him.

In fact the Swedes were having a good time of it with their reinforcements, and had also got a couple of infantry units into play that had been steadily advancing towards the hill. Things weren't looking good for the Russians at this stage.

The Russians turned and reorganised. Their initial cavalry unit routed, but another appeared and took its place, driving back the Swedes. Meanwhile a firefight broke out for control of the hill.

With the odds in their favour, though, the Swedes charged. There's doesn't seem to be an uphill bonus for melee in Black Powder (that I could see), so the Russians didn't really have any advantage. However they fought the Swedes to a draw.

In the following round of combat they routed the Swedes.. And they had another unit coming up to bolster their defences.

The Swedes brought up another unit of infantry as well.

A command blunder saw the Russian reinforcements veer off to their left instead of advancing with best speed towards the hill. Their commander pointed out where they should be going.

The original defender of the hill was taking heavy casualties but was holding firm.

And the blunder worked to the Russians' advantage, as it left their infantry unit with a rapid advance onto the Swedish flank. Meanwhile more Russians were appearing in the distance. To the bottom left the Swedes were reorganising and rallying their cavalry.

The Swedish foot on their left was charged in the flank, whilst the Russians launched a bold charge against the opposing cavalry.

The Swedish foot were driven back, disrupting their line, and another unit was hit in the flank. This one held firm and was able to turn to face.

But the Russians had their blood up and kept charging. One Swedish infantry unit broke ...

... and seeing their friends rout the other broke as well.

The Russians had two infantry units on the hill, and other advancing to the fight. The Swedes were reduced to two battered cavalry units, and some artillery that hadn't even appeared yet.

On that basis I called the action a Russian victory.



I made a few mistakes, but probably not as many as the first game. I'm sure a couple of times I forgot the -1 command roll for being within 12" of the enemy. And early on I misunderstood the rules for Follow Me, assuming that a commander could order it so long as the unit was within his movement distance. This made it easy to bring up units from the baseline. In fact he has to be within 12" (4" on my board), which makes it a lot harder to do.

In fact that was a big issue in this scenario, as mentioned above. The poor commanders simply couldn't bring up their randomly arriving troops whilst trying to run a battle in the centre. I suspect that the answer is to allow the arriving reinforcements some kind of free move, so they at least get close to the action on their own initiative. Alternatively the tactics for the battle would be to hang around on your baseline until you feel you have enough troops in play to make a move on the hill, then hope you can bring up the remaining troops as they arrive. In some ways this might be more interesting, since the battle is on the clock and you can't necessarily afford to hang around too long.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Black Powder Solo

I've played Black Powder at the Gong Garage Gamers for many years, on and off (although mostly off more recently), but in those games I'd always had people who knew the game to run it, and I could just get on and play without worrying too much about the rules. So whilst I owned the rules, I hadn't read them in detail, and neither had I attempted to play them for myself.

But yesterday I felt nostalgic for a game so decided to set one up at home and see if I could puzzle the whole thing out.

I used my GNW figures, obviously, on 3" frontages, and worked out that reducing all distances to 1/3 would give me a game that was scaled right, making my 3' x 2-and-a-bit' table the equivalent of 9' x 6'. Still not Perry-sized, but adequate for my purposes. I used the basic infantry and cavalry profiles, but assumed that everything would operate either in line or march column, to keep things simple. For anyone who can't be bothered doing the arithmetic, this meant an infantry move of 4", cavalry of 6" and musketry range of 6"

I used the same forces as for my Simplicity in Practice game the other day - four foot, three horse and a gun on each side. I divided them into two brigades, one with the foot and the gun and the other with the horse. Each side had two brigadiers and a CinC. All commanders were rated at 7. I set up a simple terrain with a long ridge in the centre. This was flanked on one side by a marsh which slowed infantry and which was impassable to cavalry.

The objective was to control the hill.

Here's the Swedish foot brigade formed up.

And their horse. A wood on their right saw them forming up on the more open left. This had the marsh though, which would prevent them swinging straight up onto the hill.

The Russian horse faced them, or at least two units under their brigadier.

The Russian foot were a split up by a wood in their deployment area. On the Russian left was their third unit of horse, under the direct command of the CinC. This was to swing round rapidly and make the Swedish advance on the hill more difficult by threatening its flank.

The position after the first move. Both sides have advanced. On the left of the picture the cavalry were still eyeing each other up. They'd both tried to charge the enemy, but hadn't got the actions to make contact.

On their next turn the Swedes rolled a blunder on their first attempt to do anything. This was to send a single foot unit to screen the flank from the Russian cavalry. Instead the unit retreated behind its supports, intimidated by the fierce Russian horse, obviously.

The Russians formed up on the hill, as the Swedes failed to activate their foot again on the next turn.

However on their left the Swedes managed to charge with their cavalry. Naturally the Russians countercharged.

After a little bit of flipping through the rules I resolved the first close combat of the game! The Russians lost and retreated, the Swedes pursued with a sweeping advance and the Russians lost again and were routed.

The second cavalry action was a draw, and both units retired.

Again the Swedish infantry were content to watch the Russians consolidate their position in the hill.

The Swedish cavalry pushed forward and polished off the second Russian cavalry unit on their flank. The Russians, seeing the danger to their rear, detached an infantry unit from their line and positioned it to cover the gap between the woods and the marsh.

The Swedes finally managed to advance part of their infantry brigade. The others had been given separate orders to cover the flank and, once again, failed to comply.

Seeing an opportunity the Russian CinC ordered the cavalry that had been hovering on that flank to charge the Swedes!

The infantry was forced to retreat, and the Russians pursued. But in a staggering reversal of fortune they lost the next melee and were thrown back.

This left the Russian cavalry disordered and on front of a lot of Swedish muskets. It quickly routed. The disordered Swedish infantry was also in trouble, sat under the Russian guns, and also masking their own artillery.

On their left the Swedish horse were trying to reorganise. They'd got widely dispersed, and their commander was struggling to get them back into action. They also had worrying quantities of hits on them, and the lone Russian unit covering the gap was taking the odd pot-shot at any unit which strayed too close.

Both of the units from the cavalry attack in the centre had now routed, leaving the two lines facing each other. The Russians blazed away and the Swedes responded.

Another Swedish infantry unit routed, this time from casualties inflicted in the firefight.

On the other end of the hill a Russian unit had retreated. But the Swedish unit facing it failed to advance to occupy the position. Looking at the picture, though, they would have probably been close enough to the Russians to have done an initiative move, but I forgot.

At the top of the picture the Swedish cavalry, having got their act together, charged the Russian foot. The Russians retired into the marsh where the cavalry couldn't follow.

At the bottom of the picture a Swedish infantry unit had slid behind its artillery; the result of yet another command blunder.

Anyway, the Russians reoccupied their position on the hill.

It was getting late in the day now, both in the game and in real-time, so I was looking at wrapping things up. The Swedes tried another charge to get rid of the Russian foot covering the flank so that they could sweep into the rear of the hilltop position. They were driven off.

The artillery of both sides had battered each other and both had routed, leaving the final fight for the hill a simple infantry brawl. But it was inconclusive and, as the Swedish cavalry would have to spend time reorganising I decided to call the battle a draw. The Russians held the hill, so had an edge of sorts, but the Swedish horse still had enough fight left to cause problems if they could break through, so the Russian position wasn't overly stable.

I had to look a lot of stuff up as I played. I'd read the rules through during the day, but it's always the detail you need in the heat of battle that's hardest to find. As noted above I forgot the initiative rule a couple of times, and for the first couple of turns I forgot that units which retreat are also disordered. I needed to be more organised in removing disorders at the end of a side's turn as well. And I struggled with the movement limits for units in close proximity to the enemy. The latter I worked out again after asking questions on our club Facebook page and rereading some relevant sections of the rules.  I'll probably need to play again a few times to get the games playing smoothly before starting to introduce any special unit rules though. 

The command mechanism was the high-point of the game - being a solo venture it created all of the unpredictability I needed, and messed up the plans for both sides.
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