Saturday, 21 January 2017

Actium: A battle report, part 2

The second evening gaming this battle proved to be less interesting than the first. This was mostly due to the nagging suspicion that the rules were flawed. It soon became an evident truth.

There were a couple of great moments. Antony's decares flagship was sunk by a racing cataphracted trireme - it needed a 12 (on 2d6 +2) to sink it and got it, even though it was set on fire in its approach. Soon afterwards another cataphracted trireme performed a perfect 'anastrophe' (a rake followed by a fast turn around and a ram) on a quinquireme. A nice period special rule for the most manoeuvrable galleys.

There were a few more boarding actions than in the first week (largely due to better grappling rolls by galleys of Antony's fleet) and a couple of prizes actually changed hands but, most of the ramming attempts failed. There seemed to be far too much bumping about without any effect - a bit like dodgems at a fair, it was all good fun but pointless.

However, the biggest problem with the game was the missilery. There was simply far too much of it, making it a tedious process; it was far too effective. Although I didn't keep an accurate count, for each ship sunk by ramming two vessels went down in flames due to incendiary missiles. In fact, it actually occurred to Peter (playing Octavian's fleet) that a better way of sinking the enemy was to catch fire then grapple an enemy ship in the hope of the fire spreading to it. To his credit he didn't play this way, though given the rules he must have been sorely tempted. The game, more competitively played, could easily become like a battle using Elizabethan fire-ships rather than an ancient galley battle.

After the second nights play, with a clear victory looking impossible to achieve, I called an end to the experiment. On the night, thirteen galleys were sunk (about a third rammed), three more had been captured and were still afloat, and two more (the octares and a heptereme) were totally disabled (each having been raked twice).

I still think the GMT War Galley rules hold much promise. I just think they needed a bit of tinkering to suit our taste and style of play. I also thought the scenario needed a bit of tinkering for command and control purposes but more of that anon.

I am making the following experimental changes to the rules.

  • Some changes to the factors in my galley stats table. I am not of the opinion that very big ships were good rammers because they were not very manoeuvrable historically: They relied on boarding and shooting. I have, in consequence, made fives and sixes the best rammers (now with a ram factor 6 / 8) and down rated sevens and eights (to 5 / 7) and tens (to 5 / 6). I'm also going to down rate ram defence factors (for all galleys except tremiola, transport and lembi) by one level - 6 becomes 5, etc. This will, overall, increase the ram chances in the game by a considerable degree.
  • I am going to allow liburnian galleys to carry out an anastrophe attack. 
  • Any ship moving more hexes than cruise rate will get a flat +1 ramming DRM.
  • The negative grappling DRM for attacking a galley moving in the opposite direction has been changed to "attacking a galley moving at maximum speed". Half speed and fatigued have been added to the positive DRM for restricted movement.
  • I'm going to change the rule on galleys that have been rammed. I my view, allowing them to do anything at all is a waste of time. Rammed ships will immediately become total wrecks, replaced with beaded wreck markers. Rammed ships will sink on sixes as per usual except that: They DO NOT take down ships they are attached too. Instead, disengaging from a 'sunk' ship will get a -1 DRM and the wreck will sink properly when disengaged (to signify a sunk wreck that's being held up we'll remove its beads for 'sunk but held afloat'). 
Lastly, I am going to completely change to the shooting rules.

  • Ships require engines to shoot out to two hexes. They ONLY shoot in their squadron move phase as they are moved - shoot it or lose it, no reactive fire.
  • Decares have 4 engines and roll 4 dice; octares have 3 engines and roll three dice; hepteremes have 2 engines for two dice; sexteres have 1 engine for one dice, as do quinquiremes and quadriremes where applicable by period. Smaller galleys cannot shoot. Engines cannot be 'knocked out'. Captured ships can shoot 1 engine only, regardless of galley size.
  • There are no DRMs. When shooting each galley rolls its dice. Each roll of five and six causes one depletion. 
  • If incendiaries are available, and any number of sixes are rolled a single fire saving check is required. A fire will take hold on a failure to roll crew skill or lower. When a fire takes hold the ship must STOP. It will not move, shoot, grapple or launch a boarding action (it may repel) until the fire is out or the ship is abandoned. You can't use the buggers as Elizabethan fire-ships! 
  • The Firefighting phase in the turn sequence stays as is except: 1-2 fire out; 3-5 remain on fire, may spread; 6 fire out of control, abandon ship, the ship burns for the rest of the game and may spread. Fire spreads to grappled / fouled on DR 5+.
My next post will be the new Actium set up. I'm not sure if it will be played by the guys or by me solo.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

ACTIUM: A battle report, part 1

The action at the end of turn three.

Last night saw the fleets engage at Actium. We played at a fairly steady rate so that we didn't miss anything using rules with which we are still fairly unfamiliar. After a short briefing we played three full turns.

Agrippa was the first to engage. 

His squadron went for Antony's squadron head on whilst Drusus' squadron sailed further north into a position from which it could launch a periplus (flank attack). 

The first ship goes down, rammed after being raked. The raking ship, having come under heavy missilery, is on fire sailing east.
To the south, Lurius and Sosius engage. 

Lurius was successful at first sinking two quinquiremes with comparitive ease but, as can be seen in the photograph, the weight of enemy missilery caused fires on several of his ships. 

Fires caused by incendiary missiles were a feature of the evenings play (more anon).
Sosius' hepteremes grapple the enemy and board. 

The yellow bead indicates that the ship is captured. It's black fleet / squadron indicator bead has been replaced with the white bead (squadron 3) of it's captors.

Following the boarding action, Octavian's liburnians attempt to sink the heptereme and it's prize, but without success.
Meanwhile, back in the northern sector, honours were running about even for Agrippa and Antony with neither side gaining much of an edge as ships bumped and bashed into each other to little effect.
The action after turn three. 

Both flanks are heavily engaged; the centres are being held back;the wind has not yet picked up; Octavian has 27 VP; Antony has 33 VP.

Note that all of the fires are out. Two were put out by their crews. The others were put out by waves that washed over charred decks as the vessels went under.

At first glance the action looks like complete chaos. This is where the hexes come into their own. 

The two aerial shots below show that out of confusion comes clarity. With each ship occupying two hexes, the hexes are big enough to place the counters associated with each ship.

This is an aerial shot of the action between Sosius and Lurius and Octavian as it stands at the end of turn 3. 

The counters in this shot are of two types. The circular arrows show that the vessel has been in a collision and will move at half speed next turn. The crossed grappling hooks show vessels grappled together; the hooks point in the direction of the last boarding attack. It is the same counter with one symbol on the reverse of the other. 
The action in the northern sector at the end of turn three. Antony is heavily engaged with Agrippa and Drusus' lighter ships (top left) are moving around Antony's flank.

There are two different counters in this shot. The 'white speckled' marker indicates that the vessel is moving fast. The semi-circular arrow with the 'F' underneath indicates that the vessel has a fatigued crew and will move at half speed until it recovers. It's the same counter, it has one symbol on the reverse of the other.

The counters with bead spike (with black beads) show manpower depletion.

Two counters are not shown. One is brown pins (oars) to show a vessel is crippled; the other is a furled sail on a yard used to indicate ships are fouled (though this might be replaced by something else at some point - this counter might be better used as sail up).

This (staged) shot shows the self explanatory 'on fire' marker. 

Last night everything seemed to catch fire. This was due to the vast quantity of heavy missilery being thrown about. With ships being able to shoot up to twice a turn and with the manpower factors being so large, this was almost inevitable. 

I'm not sure it rang true and I'm thinking of allowing ships to only fire once per turn, but at any time. I think if I don't do something shooting, rather than ramming, boarding and raking will become the order of the day: I don't want my galley battles to become gunnery contests. We'll stick with the rule for now as it might be a statistical blip in dice results - next week should tell.

The new squadron activation mechanic worked a treat. Everyone found it easy to follow and its random element added just enough tension to proceedings (see last blog post). 

I think next week will see this battle drawing to a close. I'm not sure how the victory conditions (scaled from the GMT scenario book) will give a clear winner though: 90+ or 100+ VP and double the opponents VP seems unachievable to my mind - but you never know until the end, I suppose.

Monday, 9 January 2017

A Decisive Moment In History - ACTIUM 31 BC

There have been several battles that have changed the face of history, none more so than the Battle of Actium on 2nd Speptember 31 BC. It decided the fate of much of the 'western' world for the next 500 years, and even beyond that in the east. It decided that Rome would be ruled by Emperor's and, on that day day in September, the fate of three people in particular: Marcus Antonius, Cleopatra and Gaius Octavius.

The Battle of Actium has always fascinated me, partly because it is a reasonably well documented [for an] ancient naval battle, and partly because it is an asymmetrical contest between a fleet of big ships and a larger fleet of small ships. I've planned to do a re-fight of it for years. I've even set up versions of it (posted here) from time to time but, I've never actually seen it re-fought. That is about to change: My first historical re-fight of 2017 will be Actium and it will be started this coming Wednesday. I expect it to take two or three sessions to fight to a conclusion.

The history leading up to the battle is quite complex, so please forgive me for not potting it into a paragraph or two here. 

What follows are the scenario notes that will be used to re-fight the battle.

The notes are for use with my amended GMT War Galley rules.

Antony's fleet has exited the Gulf of Ambracia and formed up, facing west, in four squadrons. Octavian's fleet has sailed to block his escape and formed, facing east, in three two line divisions each of two squadrons.
Octavian's Fleet. I have used the names of the fleet commanders given in the GMT scenario book. I believe Drusus and Agricola are made up names. GMT uses a galley scale of 1:4 to re-fight this battle (wow!). I am using a scale of 1:9 because I don't have enough galleys to do it at 1:4 and the squadrons divide up better at 1:9 than 1:10 or 1:8.

AGRIPPA (Senior Admiral rated 6): 

  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 3), 
  • 3 Quadriremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x2), 
  • 2 Cataphracted Triremes (CR4 x2)

DRUSUS (Squadron Commander rated 4): 
  • 1 Quadrireme (CR4 x 1), 
  • 1 Cataphracted Trireme (CR4 x1)
  • 4 Liburnian Biremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 3)
ARUNTIUS (Senior Squadron Commander rated 5):
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3 x 2, CR4 x 2), 
  • 3 Quadriremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x2), 
  • 2 Cataphracted Triremes (CR4 x2)
AGRICOLA (Squadron Commander rated 4):
  • 1 Quadrireme (CR4 x 1), 
  • 2 Cataphracted Trireme (CR4 x2)
  • 3 Liburnian Biremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 2)
LURIUS (Squadron Commander 5):
  • 3 Quinquiremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 2), 
  • 4 Quadriremes (CR3 x 2, CR4 x2), 
  • 2 Cataphracted Triremes (CR4 x2)
OCTAVIAN (Senior Squadron Commander rated 4):
  • 1 Quinquireme (CR4 x 1), 
  • 1 Cataphracted Trireme (CR4 x1)
  • 4 Liburnian Biremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 3)
A note on command structure and the rules.

The Octavian fleet is divided into six squadrons but three have senior commanders. Senior commanders can be used to 'double activate' squadron commanders. Agrippa can 'double activate' any commander.

The picture shows the activation chips that will be put into the bag for random draw to activate squadrons. In the play test last week, I forgot about the fleet commanders initiative bonus (if any). However, we had already included a chip (the joker - wild - chip, which allows the player to choose a squadron not previously activated) into the draw and this has proved just dandy. Agrippa is a brilliant admiral with a +2 initiative rating - he gets two jokers added to the bag.

Antony's Fleet: The GMT scenario only includes galleys in this OOB. If Antony's intention was to escape (see victory conditions) I think it would be reasonable to assume he would have store vessels with him; I have added these to Cleopatra's squadron. I have also chosen to make more galleys 7s than is probable but done away with all of the 6s in compensation. 
ANTONY & PUBLICOLA (Senior Admiral rated 5 & Squadron Commander rated 5): 
  • 1 Decares (CR3)
  • 2 Hepteremes (CR3)
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3) 
INSTEIUS (Squadron Commander rated 5)
  • 1 Octares (CR3)
  • 1 Hepteremes (CR3)
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3) 
CLEOPATRA & ACCO (Senior Squadron Commander rated 5 & Squadron Commander rated 4)
  • 2 Hepteremes (CR3)
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3) 
  • 4 'Merchantmen' (CR3)
SOSIUS (Squadron Commander rated 4).
  • 2 Hepteremes (CR3)
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3) 
A note on command structure.

Antony's and Cleopatra's squadrons both have secondary commanders to whom Antony or Cleopatra can relinquish command. If either chooses to do so, they do so for the rest of the game. It gives them the option to flee, leaving their commands to cover their escape (see victory conditions). Until command is relinquished the secondary commanders serve no purpose.

As senior commanders, Antony and Cleopatra can double activate squadron commanders. Antony can double activate any commanders.

Antony has an initiative value of +1 so he gets one Joker chip added to the bag. I'm not that convinced by his naval abilities but I'll go with his GMT command marker.

Antony's fleet is carrying a vast amount of treasure. One vessel must be secretly designated the treasure ship (see victory conditions). 
Ignore the corvus! I'm going to use galleys with a corvus to distinguish quadriremes from quinquiremes for this scenario - if it has a corvus it's a quadrireme. At some point I'll have to come up with something better.

GMT has, in its scenario notes, has all galleys able to use incendiary missiles and carry towers. Whilst I'm OK with the former I'm not happy with the latter as it allows liburnians to have the same height advantages as decares. Therefore, in my scenario the following will apply.
  • All galleys have maximum marines.
  • All galleys are able to use incendiaries.
  • All Quinquiremes and above carry towers.
  • All Quadriremes and above carry engines.
For this scenario I will be using tremiola models to represent liburnian biremes. I intend converting ten trimiolas into liburnians in the future (as I have far too many of these blighters). 

The action starts with only the slightest breeze blowing from NE to SW. It has no effect on vessels carrying sail. At the Victory Phase of each turn, Antony's fleet rolls a die. On a result less than the current turn number the wind increases in strength to the point that it will effect any ship carrying sail. The strength and wind direction remain constant thereafter.

This is a close up of one of my converted Xyston Triremes. I have removed the oarmen's 'housing' and added new balsa wood decking / outriggers in their stead to make a cataphract trireme. I made eleven of them. You can clearly see the new side rail made from narrow lengths of plastic zip tie (although slightly too high, they do give a nice 'rail' effect).
  • If Antony's fleet has 100 VPs and double that of the enemy he wins. 
  • If Octavian has 90 VPs and double that of the enemy he wins. 
In addition to the usual VP awards:
  • If Antony and Cleopatra have escaped death or capture at the end of the battle they add 15 VP to their total (but if Octavian still has more VPs he still wins).
  • If Antony and Cleopatra's treasure ship has escaped they add 8 VP to their total.
  • If Octavian's fleet captures the treasure ship he adds 10 VP to his total.

Friday, 6 January 2017

That Post New Year Sinking Feeling

Well here we are in 2017 and, as the top row '6' key on my computer registers a '3' when pressed, I'm giving a quiet cheer.

Ancient galley warfare has always been a wargaming love of mine - not a close love, more a see you same time next week kind of love - but I've always struggled with the search for the best rules. I did write my own rules, Fleet of Battle, several years ago and they were, for a free release, lauded to some degree, winning the SOA's Paul Morris Memorial Prize for most innovative non-commercial rules in 2009, and were later published in Wargames Illustrated issue 278 (still available in a free to download ten page PDF format here). But, I still hanker for the perfect set.

Hexes make life much easier when it comes to galley warfare. Mostly because, even with them, it's complete chaos.

Last year, I painstakingly hexed my tabletop in preparation for using GMT's War Galley rules. Several aspects of the rules were very good. We liked the attention to detail, combat tables - especially the clean nature of the results, and several other aspects of the rules looked promising. However, we found the basic squadron move structure clunky in the extreme and a couple of other rules more trouble than they were worth. The move sequence put us all off to such an extent that the game was consigned to the upper reaches of the top shelf to get dusty.

After a pretty hectic Christmas and New Year, I needed to put a game together quite quickly. Given the general ease in setting up naval battles (and the fact that I had recently converted a load of aphract triremes into cataphract ones), I decided on a galleys game. My first thought was to convert Fleet of Battle to hex movement but that seemed like a lot of hard work so I reached up and took down War Galley one more time. I decided that it had so much going for it that it would be worth reinvestigating one more time, if I could only sort out the squadron move sequence. 

On Wednesday night we ran through a brief play test and that game proved that most of War Galley is a very sound set of rules and, with a few amendments, ran much better than our first try out.

The first major rule change was to put ships into fixed squadrons. The ships in each squadron being identified with a numbered bead - white or black denoting fleet, number denoting squadron. Flagships were marked with an extra heart bead (senior flagship) or hash bead (squadron flagship).

Note: Under the squadron bead a coloured bead denotes crew quality rating (red = 1, green = 2, blue = 3, purple = 4) with 1 being worst
The move sequence was then changed as follows. A token for each squadron in each fleet, plus a joker token for each fleet, was placed in a small cloth bag. A token was randomly drawn from the bag and this indicated which squadron became activated for movement and combat. All ships in that squadron, in command reach of their squadron flagship or not, was then moved pretty much as per the standard rules. Then the next token was drawn from the bag, and so on. When a joker was drawn the fleet commander could nominate a squadron, not already moved, to move or pass. Consequently, two whole stages of the War Galley move sequence (squadron determination and individual ship movement phase) were removed making the game move much more swiftly, and in a more organised way, whilst adding a random element to the squadron activation.

All ships are Xyston 1:600 though one or two are conversions. All triremes in shot are now cataphracted (oar stations removed, re-decked with balsa outriggers and with side rails made from lengths of very thin zip ties - zip side out so it looks like a kind of rail fencing). The big white decares is a lengthened, heightened and widened heptereme.

We changed the dice rolls versus crew ratings to D6 -1 requiring equal or less to succeed. This roll was especially important for fatigue determination. In my opinion the standard rule for fatigue in War Galley is too complex. I decided to speed it up, and after a play test I have decided that it should be D6 -1, +1 if ramming, +1 if moving more hexes than cruise rate. If the ship fails it is fatigued, not fatigued 2, 3 or 4, just fatigued. Fatigue is removed by rolling D6 -1 versus crew rating in the fatigue recovery segment of the move sequence. Ships can become fatigued and recover in the same game turn but, as squadron movement is now random, this doesn't matter so much and bad crews will still generally recover more slowly.

Lastly, I don't much care for the crippled rule as it takes no account of the possibility of oar transfer following a rake. Consequently, the counter for crippled is placed to the raked side of the ship until the galley recovery segment, at which point, oar transfer having automatically occurred at that point, it is moved to the rear of the ship. Whilst at the side of the ship it has normal effect; at the rear of the ship it counts as a permanent half speed marker.

It's been a long time since we played this set of rules, and it took the evening to remember how everything worked and to weave in the rule changes. Next week we will start a proper game with the above amendments.

I also blagged a copy of Poseidon's Warriors from the nice guys at Osprey (thanks Phil). These are very quick and simple rules that we'll try out in the near future. 

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Raid - A scenario for any period, originally designed by C S Grant

I have recently returned from another meeting of the League of Gentlemen Wargamers in Scotland. This meeting's games were themed on the French retreat from Moscow in 1812. The weekend's games comprised a series of one on one scenarios on Saturday, where each player played three of the six games on offer, followed by a big multi-player game on the Sunday.

Sunday's LOGW game. This scenario involved getting pontoons and bridging equipment to the river and building a bridge over which Napoleon could escape to safety. Napoleon started at the far end of the table. Between there and the river, various French and Russian forces battled for control of the route Napoleon and the bridging equipment would pass. Napoleon escaped and the French achieved a worthy victory. I (one of the six Russians) got trounced.

Napoleon (foreground), in his sledge, at the start of the game, about to go like a bat out of hell for the river over 20 feet up table.
The scenario that follows, even though I got trounced playing it, really took my fancy. It was originally devised by C. S. Grant, appearing as a Table-top Teaser Special and in an early edition of Battlegames. It was tailored for 1812 by Charlie Grant (pictured above, on the right), who devised all the games for the weekend. The rules used, BTW, were written by Kev Calder (pictured above, in the centre).

My version of the scenario is posted here by the kind permission of both of the Grants. I have tweaked the scenario for the SYW, adding one or two ideas of my own. The scenario is a raid into enemy territory. This version of the scenario was written for use with my amended Piquet rules.

The Raid

The Russians have decided to winter in the current area of operations but have insufficient supplies to do so. Consequently, they are undertaking raids in order to stock their magazines. 

Russian Force:

Aim: Steal supplies from settlements (numbered 1 - 6 on the map) west of the wide river, burn what cannot be carried away and escape off the western table edge before the Prussians can stop you.

Forces: One command group comprising:
1 Leader ranked as Skilled
1 unit of Dragoons (Ready)
2 units of Don Cossacks (Ready)
1 unit of Grenadiers (Eager)
3 units of Line Infantry (1 Eager, 2 Ready)
1 battery of light howitzers (Eager)
3 Wagons.

Initial Deployment: All troops enter the area of operations marching in column of route using one (not both) of the western roads marked with a red arrow.

Capturing supplies: Each settlement has three points of supplies. Each wagon can carry three points of supplies. Each cavalry unit can carry one point of supplies. Any type of unit can load supplies. To load supplies a unit must enter the settlement, have a wagon adjacent or be cavalry loading their mounts, and declare their intention to loot on Officer Check. It takes one activation, on a Pillage and Loot card (x3 in sequence deck), to load one point of supplies onto a wagon or onto cavalry mounts. Each point of supplies successfully escaping via the western table edge earns one victory point. 

Burning Settlements: A unit must be in a settlement and declare its intention to commence burning on Officer CheckIt takes three activations on Pillage and Loot cards to completely fire a settlement. Each burning activation on Pillage and Loot cards earns one victory point. A settlement cannot be looted and burnt at the same time, or be looted after burning has commenced. 

Note: Whilst looting and burning, units count as disordered and they cannot shoot or initiate a melee. If attacked, looters and burners can be automatically rallied into fighting trim on Officer Check cards. Likewise, troops can be ordered to recommence looting and burning on Officer Check cards.

Note: Cavalry loaded with supplies deduct 4" from their move rate.

Note: Wagons are captured or destroyed immediately they have a melee initiated against them on a Melee Resolution card. They cannot be destroyed by small arms fire but can be destroyed by artillery fire - they count as a single '3 hit stand'. Wagons move on Artillery Move cards at a rate of 12", adding 25% if moving on a road, but deducting 2" per point of supplies being transported.

Note: We play movement into and out of buildings on Move in Difficult Terrain cards rather than on Deploy cards (because there tends to be only one Deploy card in the sequence decks for SYW armies).

Prussian Force:

Aim: Prevent the Russians stealing supplies and denuding the territory under your protection. 

Sentry Force: One command group comprising:
1 Leader ranked as Average
1 unit of Dragoons (Ready)
2 units of Line Infantry (Ready)
1 battery of field artillery (Ready)

Initial Deployment: Two of the sentry units are billeted in the town east of the wide river (buildings marked 'G'). One unit (infantry or cavalry) is on patrol outside a random (Roll D6) settlement west of the wide river, marching in column of route. The artillery is deployed in a redoubt sited to defend the bridges and ford on the wide river; the redoubt allows a 360 degree arc of fire but because the guns are primarily sited to defend the bridges and the ford fire at other targets will be at Down 1; fire Vs targets on the bridges or ford is Up 1; the guns cannot be moved.

Sentries have alerted you to the presence of the enemy and you have called for reinforcements. 

Reserve Force (off table): One command group comprising:
1 Leader ranked as Skilled
1 unit of Dragoons (Eager)
2 units of Line Infantry (Ready)
1 unit of Grenadiers (Ready)

Initial Depolyment: The Reserve Force begins the game off table and is marching as fast as it can towards the area of operations. It will not arrive before turn 4. From turn 4, whenever the Special 'A' card (x2 in sequence deck) is turned. test for arrival by rolling D8 Vs D8. If the test is successful the Reserve force will begin to arrive in column of route on the next Infantry Move in the Open card. The force will arrive using one of the road exits marked with a blue arrow. If the test was successful on an even roll, the force arrives at the town; if odd, the force arrives using the northern route.

Victory Conditions: For the Russians to win they must successfully steal or burn 22 points worth of property. Any other result is a Prussian win.

Terrain Notes:

  • High ground is type I terrain, stop at contact full rate thereafter, and blocks LOS. 
  • The wide river is passable only at the bridges and the ford. Artillery can only cross at the bridges. 
  • The narrow river is passable with difficulty (Type IV terrain, requiring a standard difficulty check) to infantry and cavalry. Wagons and artillery can only cross it at the bridges. 
  • Buildings are type III terrain and they block LOS. 
  • Woods are type III terrain and they block LOS. 
  • Roads add 25% to movement rate for troops in column of route.
  • Fields are scenic only. 

Army Characterisation Deck Draw: Each side will draw 3 cards from the ACD. Any Stratagem cards involving reinforcements, ambushes and flank marches should be ignored. Each side should have a minimum of ten morale points.

Friday, 25 November 2016

TTS Trebbia (2nd game)

Well, I must admit, the changes that Simon has made with regards the Polybian Romans work a treat. 

In our latest game the Romans, even though fatigued (everything was difficult for activation), performed well.
The new rules definitely give an edge to the Roman player, so those wishing to do the earlier stuff might well wish to downgrade most of the Roman troops.
The result of this battle was a draw. The Romans succeeded in breaking through the centre before succumbing to a general army paralysis.

I think Graham knew a draw was on the cards quite early on because most of his attention seemed to be taken up with nocturnal central heating arrangements. Usually, he divides his attention in an attempt to score in all of his matches.
As said, the Romans did succeed in breaking through with their centre and, much against the odds, their cavalry held out on the flanks long enough to enable it.
I must tell you that I now have a particular fondness for TTS when it comes to the Punic Wars. 

I think the rules have the balance pretty much spot on. 

I'm still of a mind to allow the auto-change of principes and hastati on a disorder result, and I think that the 6/5 save should be downgraded in most circumstances for the bulk of Roman / Allied infantry for the pre-Scipio Punic Wars but, on the whole, the new rules are much better than the old ones.

At all points, this game was a good one. Penalising the Romans with the automatic difficulty to activate was a good way to represent Roman fatigue in the battle - it worked brilliantly. Sometimes you can try to be too clever, as in my previous attempt at this battle using TSS, when a very simple 'historical modifier' can be applied using just the basic rule mechanics.

Next week there is no game here, as I'm playing a WW1 game at Graham's, so I'm going to go quiet for a week. However, last weekend, I was at a League of Gentlemen Wargamers bash in Scotland and came away enthused. You can't beat a scenario devised by Charles S Grant and I came home with a beauty. If I can get permission from the 'Old Man' (I can hear him cursing - "If any of you sons of bitches calls me grandpa, I'll kill you." ) I will have a real treat for you with the next scenario game here. If he gives permission (and I think he might - "What are you a fucking weatherman now?"), you'll see it Olicana-ised for the Seven Years War here soon.

Here's hoping, because it's a proper, proper  belter.

EDIT: The game I played was a wonderfully designed scenario for the retreat from Moscow 1812 by Charlie Grant - that would be CSG Jnr (the 2nd, possibly 3rd, 4th, 5th) - who lifted it from grandpa. 

Heads down, incoming!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Trebbia using To The Strongest

The Romans advance and are met by the Carthaginians mid table

Last week we fought the battle of Trebbia using the set up described in the last post. The battle worked very well and gave a largely historical outcome but, and there is a big but, it wasn't much fun for the Roman player - I had hamstrung them to such an extent that a historic massacre was inevitable.

The battle begins, the Romans can't hit a barn door and the Carthaginians can't save the few that do.

One thing that did work much better than in previous games, is the way Roman maniples work. The new rules for Polybian Romans gave them much better staying power. I'm still not sure if its enough though. I wonder if the hastati and principes should change places automatically on a disorder result - the Romans seemed very adept at this - and just have a standard activation to rally. A few more games should tell (and I suppose it depends how pro-Republican Roman you are!). 

The Roman cavalry is vastly outnumbered and stands little chance

When I came to look at the set up in post mortem, I discovered a few things that I had set up in error. I had looked at the map, set up the figures in accordance with it, and as it looked right I decided quite arbitrarily that it would do. It was a very quickly set up game by someone not all that familiar with devising TTS scenarios.

At the first clash the hastati lead. They manage to change around with the principes a few times in the game.

I have gone back to the scenario and this time set it up using a little more mathematics. In doing so the numbers of troops has been altered, especially for the Carthaginians.

The Roman cavalry is all but finished and the Romans are soon to be surrounded, then Mago turns up in the Roman rear.

We will refight the wargame again this Wednesday. 

This time I think the Romans should fair better. I have penalised them in only two ways. The infantry and cavalry count all activations as difficult due to either fatigue (the cavalry had chased the lighter more agile Numudians around all morning) or cold and hunger (the infantry had not eaten and they had just crossed, a chest deep, freezing cold river). I have also downrated the Allied infantry to raw. In reality, the spread of training would be less ascribed to a specific element of the army but, as the centre did better on the day, this seems the easiest way to do it.

TREBBIA: A scenario for TTS

According to my Osprey, the Roman army comprised 36,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry. The Carthaginian army comprised 29,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry.

On the table I have 576 Roman and 520 Carthaginian infantry - which comes to an infantry figure scale of 1:55 for both. I have 64 Roman cavalry and 160 Carthaginian cavalry - which comes to a figure scale of 1:62.5 for both. Given the fact that the game does not count heads, the figure scales are close enough for me.

Using TSS 'hit points' (1 for lights, 2 for standard size, and 3 for large) the scales are, for infantry and cavalry, Romans 1:1028 and 1:500 ; Carthaginians 1:1115 and 1:500. This is probably where, in game terms, the figures are more important and again they are close enough for me. Cavalry points, being twice the value of infantry looks right in game terms but, for the life of me, outside of typical wargame convention, I don't know why that's so.

The order of battle below details the scenario notes. Otherwise, definitions are taken directly off the Army List sheet. I will not repeat the history of the battle which can be easily found elsewhere.

Roman (my TTS wargame) Order of Battle

Sempronius: Senoir commander. 4 Heroes to assign. No spare ammunition chits.

Left wing: 2 units of Latini cavalry. All activations are 'difficult' due to due to fatigue.

Centre left:  Consular Army infantry: 4 units of Velites, 4 units of Hastati, 4 units of Principes, 4 units of Triarii. Half are Roman half are Allied: The two triple acies in the centre are Roman, the two outer acies are Allied. The Allied infantry have been downgraded to raw. Both Romans and Allies count all activations as 'difficult' due to cold and hunger.

Centre right:  Consular Army infantry: 4 units of Velites, 4 units of Hastati, 4 units of Principes, 4 units of Triarii. Half are Roman half are Allied: The two triple acies in the centre are Roman, the two outer acies are Allied.Allied infantry have been downgraded to raw. Both Romans and Allies count all activations as 'difficult' due to cold and hunger.

Right Wing: 1 unit of Roman cavalry, 1 unit of Extraordinarii cavalry and 1 large unit of Gauls. Commander is Heroic (because Scipio, later Africanus, was here). All activations are 'difficult' due to due to cold and hunger or fatigue.

Note: I have place the Extraordinarii on the right wing. I have done this because although it is often stated that, as a rule, Roman cavalry was on the right and the Allied cavalry was on the left, I cannot find any examples where Rome's enemies matched / countered this deployment by weighting their right. Surely, if Rome habitually put three quarters of its cavalry on their left wing it would have caused pause for thought? 

When reading about Polybian Romans I came across two pieces of information that, put together, might equalise the deployment - 50% of the cavalry on each wing. Firstly, one third of the allied cavalry formed the Extraordinarii. Secondly, when states allied themselves to Rome they attracted lots of Roman immigrants who wished to increase their social standing by taking up positions that would be thought above them in Rome proper. In essence, they rose a civil rank or two, as a reward, for going to 'the provinces'; in return the allies gained Rome's trust, approval and kind regards. 

If you put these facts together, you might find a large proportion of the Extraordinarii were actually of Roman descent - nouveau 'Roman equites'? It's funny that one third of the cavalry would equalise the wings and that such a force actually existed and might be quite 'Roman' in composition. 

This is all a guess on my part, but such an unequal deployment, as a doctrine, doesn't make sense and I can't find any supporting evidence in my sources other than the statement that Roman equites were on the right - but, were they alone there?

Carthaginian (my TTS wargame) Order of Battle

Hannibal: Senior, Heroic, Brilliant commander. 6 Heroes to assign. No spare ammunition chits.

Left Wing: 1 unit of veteran Spanish cavalry, 1 unit of Spanish light cavalry, 2 units of Gallic cavalry, 2 units of Numidian light cavalry (one extra ammunition chit). Commander attached to Spanish cavalry.

Infantry Left: 1 unit of veteran African Spearmen, 1 unit of veteran Spanish Scutarii, 1 unit of escorted elephants, 1 unit of veteran Balearic slingers, 1 unit of Spanish Catratii, 1 unit of African javelinmen.

Infantry Centre: 1 large unit of Gallic warband, 2 units of Gallic Warband. Commander attached to large unit. Although two of the units are not deep (to give width of deployment) they still count difficult activations doubly difficult.

Infantry Right: Infantry left: 1 unit of veteran African Spearmen, 1 unit of veteran Spanish Scutarii, 1 unit of escorted elephants, 1 unit of veteran Balearic slingers, 1 unit of Spanish Catratii, 2 units of African javelinmen.

Right Wing: 1 unit of veteran Spanish cavalry, 1 unit of Spanish light cavalry, 2 units of Gallic cavalry, 2 units of Numidian light cavalry (one extra ammunition chit). Commander attached to Spanish cavalry.

Mago: 1 unit of veteran Spanish Scutarii, 1 unit of veteran Numidian light cavalry, 1 unit of veteran Carthaginian cavalry. Heroic commander. May arrive on the Roman baseline, anytime from the start of move four.

Note: I have chosen to give the flanking Numidian cavalry three ammunition chits each as 'almost veteran'. I think this works better than giving them all veteran status saving on 6s.