Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Wargaming: An Introduction - A Gallic Wars Ambush

I used pretty much the same scenario and set-up as in the previous battle, but this time used Neil Thomas' Wargaming: An Introduction ruleset.

Orders of Battle:

The Romans:

4 units of Legionaries (Elite, Heavy Armour)
1 unit of Skirmishers (Raw, Light Armour, Slings)
1 unit of Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Average, Medium Armour)

The Gauls:

4 units of Warriors (Average, Light Armour)
2 units of Skirmishers (Raw, Light Armour, Javelins)
2 units of Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Elite, Medium Armour)

The Set-Up: 

The Romans advancing into those woods again, again led by their skirmishers; Gallic warriors and skirmishers await them

And again, the balance of the Gauls lies in wait just out of sight to the flank

A plan view of the Romans entering the woods

The Battle:

This is actually a fair few turns in; mounting Roman casualties in the woods; the skirmishers took their toll and now the Gallic warriors are getting stuck in.  However, even in these circumstances, veteran Roman infantry take some beating.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the Gallic warriors and the Gallic cavalry come charging around the flank

Losses continue to mount on both sides in the wood, although Gallic morale has proved a little brittle and this has helped the Romans...

The Legionary line braces for impact...

CRASH! The lines meet. Some nifty manoeuvring by the Romans meant that they avoided being overlapped initially.  One of the Gallic warrior units in the centre has already taken a real pounding (one of its bases is about to be removed)

It is fairly even in the cavalry fight; but the superior Legionaries are doing very well against the Gallic warriors.

The Romans just held on to triumph in the woods.  This unit of legionaries supports an equally reduced unit of skirmishers in chasing off the last Gallic skirmishers

It is beginning to look pretty grim for the Gauls now...

The woods are nearly clear; but the Romans are still taking annoying casualties from those Gallic skirmishers!

Pursuing the javelinmen...

These Romans have just about forced their Gallic tormentors out of the woods

The last Gallic foot warriors have routed, but the Gallic cavalry is still hanging on...

Until it isn't!  The Gauls, although still just short of an automatic loss are really defeated at this point.

And the last of the wood is cleared.

Game Notes: As ever, a good game with Neil Thomas' rules and an interesting contrast with the previous SPQR game.  The game illustrated the differences well: the "no command" mechanic does speed up play and reduce brain workload, at the cost of some credibility - all the moves (on both sides) were a bit too co-ordinated.  As a contest, this doesn't matter too much, but obviously that is of no concern as a solo player; as a convincing narrative of how Roman and Gallic armies could fight, it doesn't really work so well.  The skirmishers are effective and their use is really easy and intuitive - this is a huge difference with SPQR (and DBA for that matter); because of the more attritional combat mechanics in Neil Thomas, those skirmishers really are annoying for the Roman general, in a way in which they really weren't in the previous SPQR game.
Those with the Neil Thomas rules might be wondering how the Romans managed to put up such a good show in the woods.  In truth, they were a little lucky, but the odds are much closer than you might imagine if you don't look past the extra effectiveness of Warbands in woods.  Essentially, Warbands get two attack dice per base in woods, Legionaries only get one.  BUT, the Roman armour is likely to avoid 50% of those hits, whilst the Gallic armour will reduce the expected Roman hits by only 16%; and on top of that, veteran legionaries have only a 1-in-3 chance of losing an extra base in a morale check, average warbands have a 50-50 chance.  The combination of this makes it quite an even fight really.
The difference in combat models between rulesets has a real effect on the timescale of melees;  they can often last quite a long time in Neil Thomas, as units become smaller and less effective, they tend to simultaneously dish out a lot less damage; this makes reserves and fresh troops realistically very valuable but one wonders if the long combats otherwise are quite convincing.  I am wondering about a couple of minor changes to the rules which might have some effect on this.  These are to take morale tests for bases losses as a result of missile fire as well as melee and to force another morale test for each failed morale test.  The latter would work like this:
Unit loses a base
Unit takes a morale check, fails, loses another base.
Because the unit lost another base it takes another check, loses another base.
And so on.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.

My review of Polemos: SPQR
My review of Wargaming: An Introduction

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Polemos SPQR: A Gallic Wars Ambush

Issue 91 of Miniature Wargames featured three scenarios for the Gallic Wars.  They weren't based upon real battles, but were more to give a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) flavor for the conflict:

I broke out Polemos:SPQR for this, since it is a while since I have played a game with it.  Part of the Polemos family, it is much closer to the ECW rules than the WSS and Napoleonic rules. 

The Scenario: A traditional standby of Romans vs Northern Europeans - the ambush in the woods.  A Roman column is escorting some wagons full of supplies/booty when it is ambushed by a large group of unhappy locals...The Romans are trying to fight off the attack and save the booty, the Gauls are trying to crush the Romans and recover the supplies.

Orders of Battle:

The Romans:

C-in-C: Maximus Vacillanus (Average)
6 bases of Legionaries (Veteran, Armoured)
2 bases of Skirmishers (Raw)
2 bases of Cavalry (Trained, Armoured)

The Gauls:

Warlord: Incompetix (Average)
9 bases of Warriors (Trained)
3 bases of Skirmishers (Raw)
3 bases of Cavalry (Veteran, 1 base is also Elite and Armoured) 

The Set-Up:

The Romans enter the woods behind a screen of skirmishers.  Gallic skirmishers meet them.

A view into the woods - Roman skirmishers approach from the left, Gallic skirmishers backed by warriors await them in the woods

The remainder of the Gallic Army wait outside the wood for the trap to be sprung

And the view from behind the position

 The Battle:

After a largely ineffectual skirmish exchange, the Gallic warriors push forward

The initial impact of the Gallic attack pushes the Roman legionaries backwards

The Roman Legionaries get a little support from some skirmishers

The Roman Legionaries have stooped the rot and are pushing back; tough Gallic warriors have the upper hand against the Roman skirmishers though

The wider position; the Gauls haven't gained the conclusive triumph they sought for in the woods, but their remaining foot warriors are moving around the woods

The Gallic warriors and the remaining legionaries advance towards each other

The Gallic Cavalry is riding forward to help

The Gallic infantry in the centre of the wood are beginning to be outfought and outmanoeuvred

The clash of sword, spear and shield; the red shaken marker indicating that here the Gauls are coming off worse

However one band of Gallic warriors is pushing on relentlessly towards the supply wagons

However another group of warriors has routed and the final group in the woods looks as if it is about to follow them

A closer-shot of the same

The last warriors are running, the Roman legionaries head towards the Gallic skirmishers behind

The Roman skirmishers are routed by the warriors careering through the forest

Shock of impact: the left-hand cohort is pushed back by the Gallic charge

Another shot

The Roman cohort is defeated and runs!  Luckily there is some Roman cavalry close by; the other Roman cohorts have withstood the initial assault and are now pushing the Gallic warriors back

The cavalry begin to move towards each other

The remaining Roman legionaries put their better equipment and greater experience to good use

Some quick action by the remaining Roman skirmishers works, flukily routing the Gallic warriors

The last Gallic foot warriors are defeated and in rout

Honours were even in the cavalry clash but as the remainder of the Gallic's army was in rout, the cavalry galloped for safety too.

Game Notes: I am currently trying Boardgamegeek's 10x10 Challenge, in which you commit to playing 10 games at least 10 times each during the course of a calendar year.  The idea is to really get to know the games one is playing, rather than a few plays of a cool game then move on.  The value of this was really brought home to me playing this game, since my lack of familiarity with the nuances of the rules allowed the Gallic ambush to misfire badly and the Romans to win (relatively) easily.  In these rules, the Gallic warriors need to be the ones to hit the Romans quickly before they have a chance to get their act together.  Skirmishing isn't very effective in Polemos:SPQR, possibly because it is a "shock"-based game rather than an "attrition"-based game.  One would expect skirmishing - the whole point of which is gradual attrition - to thus be more effective in other games.  As to which one reflects reality more...
In similar vein, although the tempo point system is easy enough, one does need a bit of familiarity to operate an army - particularly an irregular army - in the most efficient way.  Interestingly, this set breaks from other rules in the series and the DBx series in allowing continuous orders (i.e. once a group of bases is set in motion, they don't need additional tempo points to keep them moving).
Although these rules are different in many particulars to the ECW rules, there is enough in common to draw attention to some similarities - in particular, the increased use of "shaken" as a result of terrain, in addition to it being used as a combat modifier - feels a little clumsy, just as it does in the ECW games.  It is not that the mechanic is bad as such, just that for some reason the Polemos Napoleonics was more sparing in what deserved a combat modifier and what deserved a shaken penalty too; thus there is less stuff to "manage". 
The army morale mechanic is interesting, since it allows fluctuating morale; however, I find it a little fussy perhaps.  Armies are generally much harder than in say the Napoleonic rules: there, the sudden collapses are a definite possibility, this is much less likely in these games.
Anyway, an enjoyable enough game which should be easy enough to replicate for anyone with the basic Polemos army packs as an easy introduction scenario.

Figures from Baccus 6mm.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Battle of Benburb 1646 Redux - A Wargaming:An Introduction Refight

I gave the Benburb scenario published in MW085 from the last game another go, but used a different set of rules: this time, the Pike and Shot rules from Neil Thomas' Wargaming: An Introduction:

Orders of Battle:

Confederate Irish:

5 x Foot units (3 bases of Pike, 3 bases of Shot, all light armour, Average morale)
1 x Horse unit (4 bases of Reiters, light armour, Levy morale)

Ulster Protestant:

5 x Foot units (4 bases of Pike, 2 bases of Shot, all light armour, Average morale)
1 x Foot unit (6 bases of Shot, light armour, Average morale)
1 x Artillery unit - 1 base of light artillery, half-range of fire, may move upto 6cm per turn)
2 x Horse units (4 bases of Reiters, light armour, Levy morale)
To simulate their fatigue, the Protestant would count as one morale class lower from the second round of any melee onwards 

The Battle:

Straight into the action this time: O'Neill advances and starts taking fire from the Protestant musketeers and artillery

Losses mount for the advancing Confederates

A slightly wider shot

The Confederate Irish make contact; unfortunately the losses have mounted already and the attack doesn't seem to go in with the required force

The battle develops; the Confederacy still hasn't pushed the Protestants off the brow of the hill but losses have been high amongst the leading units

A wider shot; note the Protestant cavalry is outflanking (on the right); whereas on the opposite flank, the Protestant Horse has used the marsh to keep away from their Confederate opponents

The central melee rages unabated!  The Protestant cavalry has surrounded most of the attacking Irish infantry however

The Confederates in deep trouble: their left-flank infantry have been destroyed and they have been outflanked, but have not managed to achieve a breakthrough on the right

At last a little success!  The Irish capture the Protestant guns; unfortunately no picture, but they have also beaten off one of the Protestant Horse units with heavy losses

The Confederates in deep trouble; with their left flank caved in and outnumbered, there was little chance of success, and O'Neill threw in the towel at this point.
 Game Notes: For the second game, a reversal of fortune compared to real life and also one where the luck of the Irish seemed to desert them!  However, an interesting contrast with the Polemos rules.  Attrition and numbers count for a great deal in these rules, whereas in the Polemos rules, fire is generally ineffective so shock counts for a lot.  On the other hand, combat power exponentially declines for units in the Neil Thomas rules, so melee/close combat can continue for a long time; without very significant advantages, it is very difficult to achieve quick and decisive results.  This is staggeringly unlikely in the Polemos rules; most close combats are over in two phases (i.e. between 5-10 minutes).   The huge differences don't end there: the Horse vs Foot dynamic in the two rulesets is hugely different.  In Neil Thomas, cavalry are likely to have a very short and exciting life against infantry pikemen; in Polemos, equal numbers of Horse should finish off infantry pretty quickly, given a fair rub of the dice.  In Polemos, I think the "Dutch" style of cavalry tactics is better; in Neil Thomas, the "Swedish" style is definitely stronger (not a factor in this particular game though).  And of course, Polemos has its "marmite" tempo points command mechanic, whereas Neil Thomas has pretty much no command rules at all (I use the general can re-roll a failed morale check if present with a unit).

What do I make of all this?  I'm still not sure.  For the little that it's worth, since I don't think I have sufficient knowledge of the period:

Polemos seems absolutely correct on the duration of close combat

It is a matter of degree, but fire combat in Neil Thomas' is a little too effective, fire combat in Polemos marginally too ineffective

The cavalry effect...maybe slightly closer to  Neil Thomas?  I have mentioned it before, but the number of cavalry bases in Polemos has a synergy with the overlap rules - it is quite easy to get an overlap since there are so many cavalry bases as compared with infantry bases and that normally gives the advantage to the cavalry.  So in Neil Thomas the thing to do if you can get away with it is lock the infantry to the front then use the horse to hit the flanks.  Obviously you can do that in Polemos too, but you don't have to do it; don't be hit with pikemen in the frontal arc in Neil Thomas.

I think Polemos is the cleverer ruleset in dealing with the virtues of the difference in cavalry types - but I do wonder if the calibration is slightly wrong against Swedish tactics; Neil Thomas is straightforward, but perhaps slightly too much in favour of the Royalists.

There is also the generic difference between Neil Thomas' and Polemos rules: the first is easy on the brain, but probably allows too much freedom and you end up throwing a lot of dice (and having to remember scores because much close combat is simultaneous); the second is more taxing since you have the tempo points (i.e. command points/PIPs) to deal with, but they do seem to realistically limit activity.

However, I am very happy to hear the contrary arguments on any or all of these points!  (Except the first - that attritional close combat mechanic just can't be right...)  :-)

Figures by Baccus 6mm.  I used a single base to represent an entire foot unit and recorded loss with markers (pink for losses, red for lost bases); for the horse units, I simply used four bases.