Monday, November 23, 2015

Rumble in post-Roman Britain

Steve, on the left, watches as the battlelines clash. Joel, Allen, and Keith -- our Saxon enemies -- let loose the dogs of war!
 Steve had a hankering to do a Dark Ages battle and get a chance to field all those 28mm Late Roman/Briton and Germanic troops he'd been collecting. He decided to use Might of Arms, despite the fact most of our recent games had been using Hail Caesar. He said he'd always liked the way the rules played, and wanted to see how they worked for a game he had in mind.
My command huddles in shield wall as we watch the Saxon hordes close from across the battlefield
The scenario was a Romano-British force plugging a valley to stop a force of Saxon raiders from returning home. Meanwhile, the Romano-British cavalry are attempting to circle around behind the Saxons and catch them in a hammer and anvil. The Saxons need to break through. Steve deployed the troops for us and they stretched completely across the 8' wide board. Hub-to-hub infantry would clash -- no maneuver! In addition, there was zero terrain. This was the proverbial billiard table. We were to envision steep hill on either flank blocking each side. I like to rib Steve about his scenarios like this, but I think this was more to test out how the rules worked for Dark Ages and less a final scenario for a convention.
Our army commander exhorts the troops in front of him as the first line of Saxons smash into our shieldwall
We had three Mikes in attendance, so decided to put all three of us on the same side. That way, we could claim Mike either won or lost the battle for us, and leave people wondering which. The Mikes would be the Romano-Brits, and I drew the left flank command of 4 infantry units -- one of nobles, there ordinary. Across from us was a wall of Saxon wedges and infantry units eager to close. Since time was on our side, I counseled my co-commanders to form shield wall and sit tight. Let them come to us. The longer we hold out, the better chance the cavalry would arrive and secure victory for us.
The initial clash had grim moments for Allen and Keith, as both were to lose their commanders fighting in the front rank
That seemed to set the tone -- at least on my flank. I stayed in shield wall as much as possible, excepting my one reserve unit, which danced this way and that in anticipation of filling the hole for whichever of my units would break first. I did not follow up victories, forcing the Saxons to wait a turn to charge back in to me. The rules meant our shield walls blunted their charges, so it did not matter who charged into combat.
Spears and swords thud on shields all up and down the battleline, and fatigue begins to pile up
I was faced off against Joel, while Allen was in the middle and Keith on the far flank. All three Saxon generals fought in the front rank -- urged on by Steve who said that was the way they would do it. Early on, both Allen and Keith's generals rolled the inevitable "1" on a d6 and died. Since generals count towards the five unit losses required before having to pass Army Morale checks, the Saxons were in trouble in a hurry. When they reached 5, we were still sitting at one lost unit (one of mine). As sole remaining commander, Joel proceeded to roll excellent Army Morale checks -- passing on three consecutive turns (one of which as a 5 or less on 2d6!). 
Many of the Saxons could fight in wedge formation, which was canceled out (for the most part) by our shield wall
Our losses continued to mount, and soon we needed to check, as well. I had lost my general, accounting for 40% of our required losses (no surprise...ha, ha!). However, Joel was down to needing a 3 or less because of the losses inflicted over and above the check point of five. Luckily for us, Joel failed his check and the Romano-Brits were victorious. The Saxons broke and ran back down the valley, where they would be met and ridden down by the thundering hooves of the cavalry.
The Saxons broke through our lines in one point (yes, sigh, it was mine), but our reserves immediately plugged the gap and soon drove them back, sealing the breach
I liked some of the mechanics of the game. It is less dice-intensive than Hail Caesar. The morale checks are important, but are rolled with 2d6 (one of my favorite dice combinations). One thing I noticed upon reflection is that with a single 1d6 combat roll to add to the tactical factors and combat modifiers, there isn't a lot of granularity of die rolls. The most you can outroll your opponent is by 5 pips. That may mean units who are at a disadvantage cannot win a battle mathematically. However, this is compensated by the morale check stage. Once units become "worn," they begin taking their 2d6 morale checks. Units with more damage test before lesser bloodied ones. Thus, the disadvantaged unit could pass its checks while the winning unit fails its checks. So, once you start to slide in a combat, it is not a mathematical certainty.

I would definitely be willing to play Might of Arms again. We thought of some other slight modifications to combat to try, as well. I really didn't see how maneuver worked, as we all simply marched forward. There was a little wheeling and turning among the reserves, but no real chance to see how the movement system worked. I told Steve I'd like to see a more open battlefield next time, with terrain and units having to do something besides march forward and roll dice for combat.

Either way, it was good to get Ancients out on the battlefield, again. Plus, Dark Ages Britain is one of my favorite time periods. So, anything set in that era is going to catch my interest!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Old School Naval Wargaming

Allen insisted, so we got down on my living room floor for some old school WW II Naval wargaming
It was a little time warp as we played General Quarters with Allen's 1/2400 scale WW II ships. The rules are a bit dated, but in their day were a "beer and pretzels" set. Now, some of the mechanics seem a bit cumbersome -- especially firing torpedoes. It gets harder each year to get down on the floor and move those ships...and even harder to get back up!

Allen cooked up a convoy raid scenario with a British force (Joel and Mike S) trying to jump a lightly-escorted merchant ship convoy (Steve), before the Italian surface elements can steam to the rescue (Tom and Mike D).

Both Steve and Mike S had deadly shooting in the first half of the game. Steve sunk two of Mike's destroyers with torpedoes. When Tom and I steamed into combat, Joel also entered. We traded shots back and forth, with the British getting the worst of it. Eventually, they decided to break off contact, as their cruisers were getting pounded. So, we decided to call it a victory for the Italian navy.

Hopefully, next time we get out the tiny ships, we'll be playing a different rules system...ha, ha!