Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What Am I Reading Now?

My Butterfly Brain is apparent in some of the books I've added to my reading list. I'm really looking forward to wading into Dr. Matthew's hefty book on the Macedonian pike phalanx. Also of "ancient" interest are new books on Rome and Syracusan tyrants, as well as a new set of fast-play wargame rules for classical naval battles from Osprey Publishing.

Here are a couple of new books on the French and Indian War. I highly recommend the new Osprey COMBAT  - it directly inspired my recent Black Powder game of La Belle Famille.

 Osprey just released a new Campaign book on the Gempei War, of course by Dr. Turnbull.

The recent wargaming "glossies" have relevant content, too. This one has a review of The Baron's Fistful of Lead rules by Lion and Dragon Rampant author Daniel Mersey, as well as a mention of his most excellent blog.

All have reviews of the new black-powder-era skirmish rules Sharp Practice 2 from Too Fat Lardies, which have a section devoted to the French and Indian War. The Norman Conquest issue features some Lion Rampant and Hail Caesar! articles to help scratch that Dark Ages itch.

See ya!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Big Battle DBA 3.0

Last weekend Bruce and I played our first official game of straight-up Big Battle DBA 3.0. I trotted out some of my 15mm Later Carthaginians to face Bruce's Pontics. Not quite contemporaries, but not too far off.

We played the rules as written, except we played on a larger-than-specified area; 6' x 4' instead of 4' x 2'. Since Bruce, as the defender, took the minimum amount of terrain possible and the battlefield quarters were larger than normal, we ended up with wide-open terrain.

I had two commands made up of two Later Carthaginian armies, plus a 12-element Numidian ally on the left flank. The two Carthaginian armies were divided into two commands, the center of Elephants and Psiloi and the larger right flank of Spear and Auxilia with some supporting light troops. I decided to assign the higher Pip dice roll each turn to the larger command of Spear and Auxilia, even though the elephant command required more Pips per Elephant. That decision would lead to some frustration soon enough.

Here are the armies deployed as seen from behind the Carthaginians; the Pontics have a large double-ranked command of Pikes in the center flanked by Knights and Light Horse facing the Numidians, and more Light Horse and Psiloi on the other side of the Pike.

I sent the Numidians charging forward to test the new Light Horse ability to fight with rear support. . . demoralizing the command but taking the Pontic right flank with it. The Elephant command refused to go forward, except in fits and starts, while the right flank skirmished with its Pontic counterparts.

I held the demoralized Numidians in place for a few bounds, until a low roll caused them to begin fleeing. Then the Pontic skirmishers on the right flank broke, so the Pontic pike were unleashed in the center against the Punic Spear. The new side support for spear allowed them to hold up the Pike long enough for the Elephants, who had finally managed enough Pips, to fall on the Pontic pike right flank while the Auxilia did the same on the left. Shades of Hannibal; and the Pontic army reached it's break point.

A fun game for the Carthaginians, while Bruce was a bit dismayed at his Pikes' inability to break through the Punic Spear and wondered if the new side/rear support rules in 3.0 have pulled the teeth of the Pikes.

Have a great Fourth of July! 


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Warlord Open Games Day: F&IW Game Three

We were surprised to have no "takers" for our third game of Black Powder on Saturday afternoon, so rather than tear down the table early, The Boy (aka Marshal) threw down the gauntlet. He said he'd seen the scenario played enough to have figured out how to win decisively as the French and would happily "show me." Game on!
Here are two previous posts for a refresher on the scenario, etc:   


Deployments remained the same. The French immediately shifted the two Coureur units, which were largely ineffective in the previous two games, to the flanks, headed for the woods. The French Marines and Regulars advanced up the road toward the British works and the main body of arriving British and Colonial Regulars.

The British rushed their Indian allies on their left flank through the woods 
to meet the advancing French-allied Indians and supporting Coureurs, then sent the Grenadiers into the woods on their right flank to counter the new French threat. 

The firefight began in earnest between the lines of Regulars. Both sides received casualties but several "disorders" slowed down the French advance. Though the British Indians on the left flank slowed the French Skirmishers' progress, the addition of the Coureurs to this action forced the Indians back and eventually broke the "brigade."

Recognizing the threat now on the left flank, the British shifted the Colonial Militia unit to the left behind the works, both to support the weakening defenses there and to be in position to defend on the flank when needed. This move had the added benefit of clearing the field of fire for the only large unit in the game, the main body of the British 44th Regulars. The fire from the 44th soon broke the French Regulars facing it, and though the French had moved a unit of Marines into the woods on the British right, when their brigade broke their advance subsequently halted.



Now both sides had a broken brigade, on opposite flanks. The British right flank seemed more secure but the left flank was in trouble, so the British sent the Colonials into the woods on the left. Though the Colonials had performed well in both previous games, as a "Freshly Raised" unit their abilities were in question right up to their first combat action. 

Luckily for the British, their firepower in the center caused another French brigade to break in the nick of time, so the Colonials weren't tested. 

Win for the British - the only one in the 3 games played - in a very tense and fast-moving game.

So how did Black Powder handle the French and Indian War? Here are some observations. Please note these are personal observations and not a review, per se.

I did not expect to "like" Black Powder. I'd read the rules previously, along with their ancients cousin, Hail Caesar, and had dismissed them. I really did not like the idea of "announcing" the intent of orders prior to testing for them and the support rules seemed overly complicated. In play, announcing intent did not unduly "tip your hand" as intent was obvious in almost all cases whether the unit followed orders or not, and the support rules worked just fine.

I set the units up mostly as small units and with attributes as suggested in the Last Arguments of Kings supplement that covers the F&IW period. This meant most units had a "Stamina" of 2, meaning they took two hits before becoming "Shaken," so leaders have to manage these hits aggressively to keep the units in the game. The command and control rules are simple and really fun.

Formations are limited; in this period basically Line, Column, Attack Column and Skirmish. It's pretty obvious when you should be in any particular formation.

In most skirmish rules for the black powder period, reloading after shooting is a key component of the game system. Other games I play treat reloading as an action, and the action either limits or precludes your ability to take other actions in a turn. Black Powder "simulates" the action of reloading with two period-specific rules:
1) First Fire is an attribute that permits trained units to fire with one extra die on their first fire of the game, recognizing the care that can be given to the first load, perhaps in camp, prior to the engagement; and
2) a unit can't fire in a turn if it moved more than one move segment, which recognizes if a unit takes time to load their muskets, it is either going to take time away from movement, or slow down that movement if they are capable of loading "on the run."
I thought I would miss an actual "reloading" rule, but as I like to play "small battles" as opposed to "squad-level" skirmishes, this abstraction worked really well in play, and the decision points related to movement vs. fire are still present.

There are additional "chrome" rules regarding commander profiles that could add even more flavor to the game if used, and some work needs to be done on your own to introduce scenario and deployment rules, but the actual framework "for fightin'" is solid and complete. And fun!

This Warlord Open Games Day experience has finally driven home the fact that reading isn't enough - you have to play a game a few times to really "get" it. I had a great time playing Black Powder. I'm pretty sure I will play it some more.



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Warlord Open Games Day: F&IW Game Two

Game two of Black Powder on Saturday morning started much the same as the previous Friday night game. We had 6 players again; I had command of the the three Light Infantry units manning the breastworks and The Boy (The Baron's son, Marshal) graciously accepted command of the same units he led in the Friday night game, the French left flank. 

Here are two previous posts for a refresher on the scenario, etc:  http://cluckamok.blogspot.com/2016/06/ready-to-roll.html  http://cluckamok.blogspot.com/2016/05/next-up-warlord-us-open-games-day.html

The French forces advanced all along the line, shifting their Regulars to the right and moving through the Coureur skirmishers to put pressure on the British breastworks. The ensuing fight for the breastworks became the focal point of this contest, while the British-allied Indians held off their French counterparts on the British left flank.

The British defenses staved off two waves of assaults, losing the Colonial skirmishers and rushing the Grenadiers to the vacated left side of the breastworks.

The game was so closely-run that both sides reached their break point at nearly the same time. . . the British lost only because the "broken" rule kicks in at the beginning of the next turn after break point is reached and it was the British turn!

Next up. . . Game Three.