Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Be There or Besieged

The Germanic hordes (Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Hessians and one Highland battalion) have encircled the fortress of Essenratten and are constructing trenches and parallels, while their massive mortars pitch destruction at the defender's walls.

In the game the decision was made that the relieving force of Austrians and Russians have achieved a measure of strategic surprise.  The German army would start with two of six infantry brigades in the trenches and four resting in their tents.  The limited cavalry force (the rest were out doing a bad job of scouting) could be placed anywhere on their side of the river.  The level of surprise was determined by the roll of the German commander, Dan.  The Allies would get a free move on table and then the besiegers might start to mobilize.  On a d6 roll, 1-2 = one turn delay, 3-4 = two turns, and a 5-6 = 3 turns.  Dan of course rolled a "six."  Then another roll determined how long, once they emerged from camp, it would take them to go from a disordered mob to a coherent fighting force.  Dan this time rolled a "one" which meant that they could form the turn after emerging.  So in the end it sort of averaged out.  With a more experienced crew I would have had each brigade make its own roll, but for simplicity we did it at the army level.

On the Allied side of things, outside of the one stone bridge, they would have to approach the river to determine whether there was a practical crossing.  Again, a d6 roll for each 6" with 1-2 = fordable at no cost, 3-4 = fordable but disordered, and 5-6 = the banks are washed out, etc. so no crossing possible.  The dice were not kind to the Allies as only on the flanks were good crossings to be found.  This provided the Germans with the time to turn their army around and get it organized.

As the Russians and Austrians swept forward and began to vigorously compete for crossing points (another way of saying getting in each others way), the Hanoverian cavalry turned about and prepared to sacrifice themselves if need be to buy time.

After expending themselves in charges against the superior numbers of Allied cavalry, the Hanoverian cavalry could take satisfaction in the destruction of a fine Austrian Hussar regiment and one Russian battalion.  But they are severely mauled and only a light regiment remained intact.

On the Allied left the Brunswickers began to advance on the Austrians, despite a galling fire on the flank from Croats.  This happy position quickly became untentantable though when the Hanoverians found a fortuitously placed ford and crossed.

On the Allied right the heavy cavalry and infantry were sweeping away the German and Highland forces despite fierce resistance, while the Austrians on the left must withdraw or be flanked.  It appeared as though the battlefield was beginning to pivot on the center.

Troops rushed to shore up the German left while supply wagons replenished the hot firing cannons.  On the Allied right, German left there was little left to oppose them.  The way was open to Essenratten, but the Germanic army had not been defeated.

In the end the battle ended in a draw, in that the Allies had to drive the besiegers from the field to win.  As long as the besiegers kept some troops in the trenches, a sortie from the fortress would not occur.  They were just too weak to try against any opposition.  Given this we rolled off and the Allied commander lost his nerve (and the dice throw) and after throwing some supplies into the fortress withdrew in the face of superior numbers.  Or at least that is what his report will show.  And the digging went on...

Rules were Final Argument of Kings by Dean West, playtest version of 2nd edition, seven players of which one was totally new to miniatures, and played between 1:00 and 5:00pm last Sunday counting pick up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Impetus Game

Sunday six players and a referee to facilitate play gathered for another introductory game of Impetus.  The game would feature the impetuous French Normans against the missile-weapon heavy Byzantines.  Somewhere around 1055.  Since this was just my second Impetus game as a player (I'd watched a couple too.)  I'll give my reactions and review of the system as well as the game.

This was a big game with around 500 points a side, but was appropriate for six players, even if some of us were very inexperienced.
The Byzantine center and right wing.  The left was somewhat similar but lighter weight.  Our best troops, the double line of cataphracts, were here under my lucky command.
Here the impetuous French (literally) are advancing, eager to close with the Byzantines.  Being impetuous, such troops must attempt to close on any enemy within 30" of their front.  This makes timing important for both sides.
Especially when nasty horse archers await the ride by.  Note the gallant leader at the front of his knights.
Now note him enjoying the hospitality of the Byzantines after his unit was eliminated and he was captured.  An unlikely, but fun little option.
On the Byzantine left however, things were not going as well.  Here we see the dreaded "pick up" result from lose of cohesion and casualties.

As we ran out of time due to the need for an early departure, we had played about 8 turns in three or four hours with lots of time outs for explanations, and each army saw their left wing break and run.  I believe the Byzantines held the overall advantage since their super cataphracts were intact but anything could have happened.  The French were already poised to exploit our flank whereas the Byzantine right needed to move.

In the game system, each army was divided into a left, center and right division.  At each "pulse" we nominated a division or wing for action and diced off using the commanders modifiers.  The winner then selects one unit at a time, runs it until they are either satisfied or the unit has to stop, usually due to disorder.  You then go on to the next unit in your command until finished.  Now in most games the loser of the dice off would now get to go, but in Impetus each side again nominates a command and dices off.  So it is possible that one side completely goes before the other.  I understand an option is to dice off for army moves, but given the "one at a time" nature of moving units I don't think it would work well except for very small forces.

Combat is all six sided dice (d6) based.  You want to roll either sixes or pairs of fives.  For the impetuous knights, they had a base combat value of 6, plus 4 for their impetuous nature, so with no other modifiers rolled 10 dice looking for sixes and pairs of fives.  So a bit of luck could cause catastrophic losses in a hurry.  Archery is very effective, especially against cavalry.  It causes disorder as well as losses and for each disorder chit, figure lost and times you moved costs you a combat dice. 

Multiple moves for a single unit (remember you move them one at a time) is possible.  Unless you perform an automatically disordering move you can shoot and move, move and shoot, move ordinary, charge (d6 bonus), etc.  At the end of your move(s) you make a cohesion test to keep from falling into disorder.  So my highly disciplined Byzantine cataphracts offered me a lot of options.

I haven't played the game for two years and some good improvements have been made.  My basic criticism remains the same as two years ago.  When you are actively moving or fighting it is great fun.  But with moving by commands and one unit at a time, I spent a lot of time Sunday watching the Bears struggle on TV.  Granted it is not intended for multi-player games but rather tournament point games, but that isn't always possible. 

So I give Impetus one and a half thumbs up.  A good combat system that drags in the nature of our typical games.  There is a lot of difference between the basement weekend game and club games.  One on one or even two on two I think it would be a very good experience.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Through the haze generated by the rising heat of the barren landscape, the Cossacks of Hetman Taras Shevchenko ride on. 
"Why are we here again, friend?"  "The Tsar wants a warm water port."  "So why have we ridden south from Litharus when the Little Father already has troops on the border of Persia?"  "What, do I look like Oksana the Fortune Teller?  Ask him yourself!"  "Okay... but I wish you looked like Oksana..."
Suddenly, from a distant tower a signal flag is raised.
Firing breaks out from hidden irregulars and some Cossack saddles are emptied.

The rest of the advance guard marches on and prepares for battle.  A line and Pandour battalion with a light gun.  The latter shown in an open column of divisions.
The large group of irregulars that initially opened fire is quickly reinforced by a mass of cavalry and other irregulars that seem to appear as if from beneath the ground.
Line of battle for the Advance Guard is slowly formed.  On the far left a large mass of cavalry appears along with infantry, while a smaller group of cavalry arrives to our front.
Behind the Advance Guard, the main body reforms in response to the courier in the left foreground.  A general advance to disperse these rag-a-muffins will commence shortly.
The Cossacks, feeling a bit "elite" today, decide to ignore the larger numbers and cross sabres and lances with the enemy.  Despite finding the Persian cavalry to also be elite they manage to push them back in the first of a see-saw engagement.
The main body begins to move on table, confident of an easy victory.  Regular dragoons move to support the Cossacks still in melee.  The cards in the foreground determine in "Batailles des Ancien Regimes" the order of movement and firing per side.
The Dragoons cantor into the melee, adding their considerable weight.  However, fate is not kind and the Russians are forced back.  And as a regiment the Cossacks rout!
To the surprise of everyone though, the poor Dragoons (literally) held off the Persians, forced them back, and routed them!  Just as they were congratulating themselves, someone noticed the Persian regular infantry and new body of cavalry advancing.

As the main body in their summer dress continues to move on table, events take a sudden turn.
The dragoons are hit by a fresh body of cavalry, are routed, pursued, eliminated and lose their standard.  Our only consolation was that it seemed somehow appropriate to happen to poor cavalry.  Here some infantry face to the left to protect against a cavalry incursion while others press on.  Just disappearing over the hill is the battalion from the Advance Guard, pursuing a rapidly retreating enemy.
About this time the Rearguard and baggage train entered the main table.  The only remaining cavalry is with them and may be just in time.  Note the base of the tower on the back table, upper left.  Suspected of being a munitions depot our orders were to capture or destroy it.
Feeling safe, General Gruboaboyshichow and his staff advance to the initial Persian position and "supervise" the advance of a heavy gun.
At last we come to grips with the elusive enemy, who have fought a skillful delaying action while they grew stronger.  Here the bayonets and close order infantry of the Minsk grenadiers take a heavy toll on the enemy, despite their "poor" status.
Likewise the Jonava Musketeers engage the enemy regular infantry in a telling melee.

About this time the tower, which had taken a severe artillery pounding, collapsed.  With it went their hopes, such as they were.  The horse grenadiers saw off the last of the enemy cavalry and our infantry was solidly entrenched on the Persian back table.  The Persians had routed both battalions of the Advance Guard, along with most of our cavalry.  But in the end we held the field, so our dear old (really old) General Gruboaboyshichow will pen a glowing report to the Tsar and Arch-Duke.

My thanks and appreciation for the good-humored and gentlemanly behavior of the Persians, who were placed in a very challenging position.  Had we not rolled very poorly for troop quality it might have been worse.  Thanks too for John and Chris as the very capable fellow Russian players.  And of course thanks to Bill Protz for organizing and executing not one but three different games at his place last Saturday.

Iki kito karto mano draugai.  (Until next time my friends.)