Saturday, 3 December 2016

Last Stand - First Time

Last night we gave Last Stand a playtest. Last Stand is a set of fantasy mass-battle rules which are being developed by one of our club members. They are designed to give an element-based DBM-sized battle, and whilst they owe their roots to the DBA/M system, they are different in many, many ways.

One person had played them before, whilst the other three of us hadn't even read them. Dave adjudicated, mostly from memory.

The game was a massive nostalgia-fest. Dave had set up a Middle Earth battle, and the figures were a wonderful mix of 25mm wonders from days gone by. Some of them were reckoned to be more than forty years old.

Pig-faced orcs!

And look at these minimalist ents.

Anyway, have fun looking through the pictures if you are into vintage miniatures.

As for the game, both sides spent the early stages wondering just what we were supposed to be doing. Last Stand is very detailed. It is, on the surface at least, quite complicated. It uses a whole range of mechanisms - different coloured dice drawn from a bag, a combat chart which looks like snakes and ladders designed by a sadist, a PIP system for movement, combat and rallying, multiple hits on elements and random events. There's no denying that this is a comprehensive game, but it's not an easy one to learn and, on a first play, ot an obvious one to get your head around just what you are supposed to do.

So here we were, set up and ready to go.

Unsure of how to initiate anything more complicated, Geoff and I (playing the Forces of Evil) just attacked. In the centre this went badly, with our Orc hordes hitting disciplined High Elf soldiers, and being repulsed along the line. It went pretty much as it would have done in HOTT.

We couldn't win there, even with dog-faced kobolds in our army.

It all looked spectacular.

Slowly we started to get an idea of how you managed attacks and supports, and from time to time all players were putting together moves which actually resembled the plan behind them.

After the first hour I stopped taking pictures, because it was hard enough trying to work out what we were doing, without trying to document it as well. The gist of the game was this. We attacked with our Forces of Evil in the centre, and it didn't go well. So the survivors just hung on grimly, and we attacked on the flanks instead. On our left, Saruman's Hillmen charged the Lakemen and in a spectacular round of combats and pursuits drove them back almost to their baseline before being halted by some dwarves. The Uruk Hai followed up to attempt to finish the job.

On the other flank, more orcs attack some wood elves and their Ent allies. We had some big monsters on that flank, and they smashed through the enemy line, with the breakthrough being supported by their Black Rider commander. The wood elves broke.

The Forces of God weren't idle. Both of our attacks had left our flank forces broken up, and they were quick to swing in reserves to exploit this. A disciplined line of Elven spears wheeled into the flank of the Uruk Hai, led by Gandalf himself. I managed to pull the half-orcs into a proper line in response, but it wasn't looking good.

So I threw Saruman into combat.

He defeated the spear-line opposing him, and broke through it. He attacked Gandalf.

He killed Gandalf.

A series of cascading morale tests on that flank saw the entire Good command rout and flee off the table.

This broke the army.

Evil triumphed.

It's very hard to judge a game on the first play. Last Stand is a fantastic labour of love, and when it's released into the wild for testing you'll see that it has one of the most outstanding sets of fantasy army lists I've ever seen, drawing from sources that I was not even aware of. But all of us felt that it could probaby do with streamlining in a few places. Difficult to see where, though, without radically changing some of the interlinked mechanisms.

One to keep your eye on.

And would we play it again? Dave admitted that what we played was a pretty large game, and was quite ambitious for novice players. I'd possibly be interested in a smaller battle with fewer troop-types, so that we could get a better feel for the interactions.

I want to play a big-battle HOTT game with those figures though.

I was so busy that I didn't get any pictures of the Team Yankee game, or even Gary and Peter's amazing Might and Reason battle. Peter took a couple though:

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Neil Thomas Pike and Shot

Ever since I bought Neil Thomas's 'Wargaming: An Introduction', I've been keen to try out the Pike and Shot rules and see how they compare to my own dubious attempts to put together English Civil War games. I've read mixed reviews of these rules on the 'net, but wanted to see how they played out. So this evening I sorted out two basic armies and gave them a go.

The Royalists had:

2 x Average Foot (3 Pike with light armour, 3 Shot with light armour)
1 x Elite Foot (3 Pike with medium armour, 3 Shot with light armour)
2 x Average Chevaliers (4 bases with light armour)
2 x Elite Chevaliers (4 bases with medium armour)
1 x Artillery

Their Parliamentarian opponents had:

3 x Average Foot (2 Pike with medium armour, 4 Shot with light armour)
1 x Elite Foot (2 x Pike with medium armour, 4 Shot with light armour)
3 x Levy Reiters (4 bases with medium armour)
1 x Artillery

I selected a few terrain pieces - two hills and some fields, then randomly placed them on a board, then randomly diced for sides and first move. This would be a straight encounter battle.

As you know, my ECW forces are paper figures with units on single bases, whereas the rules assume units made up of four or six bases. To track hits (actual bases lost) I drew up a roster for each side, but used small stones to mark the casualties scored.

Here are the forces of Parliament arrayed for battle.

And the Royalists.

I allowed the artillery to move at Pike speed. Deploying it used a whole movement, and once deployed it couldn't be moved again.

Parliament was strong in firepower, whereas the Royalists were better in melee, an edge offset a little by Parliament's better armour. But a bold push forward seemed to be the Royalist's best plan.

Royalist horse crested a hill, and came under pistol fire.

They charged.

I rather liked the initial stages of cavalry combat, with the Reiters being able to shoot properly and the Chevaliers being limited to using their pistols at the moment of contact. It forced an aggressive tactical doctrine on the Royalists.

The cavalry action expanded as more units joined in.

The infantry advanced. With cavalry in action near their flanks the Parliamentarians held their ground, but the Royalists were keen to close.

A unit of Parliamentarian horse broke, and the Royalists pursued.

The artillery was now in action as well.

The Royalist cavalry now turned onto the flank of the Parliamentarian infantry.

However the Royalists weren't having it all their own way; one unit of Parliamentarian cavalry was holding its own against and elite opponent.

The infantry melee in the centre became general. The Royalists had taken some shots as they advanced, but were still in good shape. Now pikes and armour would decide the day.

But with Royalist horse on their flank, the Parliamentarian foot needed to win quickly.

The Royalist artillery was lost to its Parliamentarian opposite number.

The push of pike in the centre was a long, hard slog for both sides, but with the flank advantage it was rapidly turning the Royalists' way.

And, indeed, they rolled up the last of the Parliamentarian foot on the same turn as their horse overran the artillery. The Royalists scored a fairly decisive victory, losing just their artillery and a unit of horse.

I rather enjoyed these rules, despite the oddities of how the mixed pike and shot units took casualties.

Of course they had the usual Neil Thomas issues. Basics such as how units turn, or how a flank attack is defined are left to experience or imagination. And they are delightfully random as well, but I rather like that in a game, especially when I'm playing solo. But if I persist with playing them then I will deal with the issues as I go along. For playing ECW games there's something to be said for writing out the rules to exclude weapons and troops not really in use, although I found that after a few turns I could remember most of the rules and factors anyway.

As I have stated before, this is not an era about which I have any kind of expertise, but I felt that I'd had a fun game, and that there was some good in these rules.

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Second Battle of Moytura

The Second Battle of Moytura is an epic struggle chronicled in the Irish mythological cycle, 'The Book of Invasions'. 'The Book of Invasions' purports to give a history of the various peoples that settled Ireland, their heroes and gods and their conflicts with each other. The battle was fought between the Tuatha De Danaan and what seem to be the villains of the cycle, the Formorians. 

I put together a couple of HOTT lists for the battle many years ago:

Tuatha De Danaan

Hero General @ 4AP
(Lugh Long-Arm in chariot)
Hero @ 4AP
(Nuada Silver-Hand in chariot)
Magician @ 4AP
(Sorcerors, witches, druids and satirists)
Knights @ 2AP
(Lesser heroes, such as Ogma in chariots)
Blades @ 2AP
(Lesser heroes on foot)
Hordes @ 1AP
(Other warriors)
Options: Behemoth @ 4AP (The Dagda)

The Tuatha De Danaan had more heroes in their army than can be adequately represented by a 24AP HOTT army. Lugh is classed as the general, as although not the king he seemed to inspire the army in battle. Nuada Silver-Hand was the king, so is included as the other Hero, although other named characters could be substituted instead. The Tuatha De Danaan made much use of offensive magic to disrupt the Formorian army, so include a Magician element. The ordinary warriors are classed as Hordes, as part of the De Danaan victory was attributed to the work of Diancecht, Credne and others in repairing weapons and healing the wounded. Thus, their warriors were able to return to the fray.
The Dagda perfromed prodigious feats, many of which were associated with his tremendous size. He may be included as a Behemoth if desired.


Magician General @ 4AP
Blades @ 2AP
(Formorian Heroes on foot)
Spears @ 2AP
(Formorian Warriors)
Warbands @ 2AP
(Islemen Mercenaries)
Options: Riders @ 2AP (Scythians), Hero @ 4AP (Bres)

The Formorian warriors are classified as Spears, rather than Warband or Hordes, as at one stage attacking their army is described as like hitting one's head against a cliff. Spears gives the army this 'immovable object' characteristic that other troop types lack. None of the Formorian heroes seem to have shone in this battle, indeed few are mentioned apart from Bres, so they are relegated to Blades. Bres may be upgraded as an option, but there is no mention of any battlefield prowess on his part in the account of the battle. There appears to be no reference to Formorian chariots, so none have been included. Balor led the Formorian army, and is described as having a single eye, the gaze of which could slay whole armies. The lid was so heavy that four men were needed to open it, using a pulley and handle system. He slew Nuada Silver-Hand with this eye, but was killed by Lugh with a sling-shot.

The Formorians marched with mercenaries from the Isles and beyond. These wilder, less civilised folk are classed as Warband. The account also mentions Skythians, so these are included as an option.

I put together the Tuatha De Danaan force as well, although experience in playing it over the years suggested that the Lesser Heroes were best represented by Warband rather than Blades, and that's how I run them now.

I took the Tuatha De Danaan away on my camping trip this weekend, along with a few other HOTT armies. When setting up a game for them I realised that I had the necessary bits to actually try a game based on the battle. For the Formorians I took a lot of artistic licence and used my Fishmen. The myths suggested they were monsters in some parts, so it wasn't too much of a stretch. For the Islemen mercenaries I used some of my wilder-looking Elves. Cthulhu stood in for the Formorian leader, Balor of the Evil Eye. In the above list he is a Magician, but these days I would be inclined to run him as a Behemoth instead  In fact I even considered Artillery.

So here are the Formorians: a Behemoth general, six Spears, two Blades and two Warband.

And the Tuatha De Danaan: Hero general, a Hero, two Warband, two Knights, one Magician and four Hordes.

The Tuatha De Danaan defended, and I ended up with the following terrain.

Opening moves; the armies advanced towards each other, Both forces had the generals out on a flank, and effectively opposing each other. As the lines closed there was some shuffling of troops, with the De Danaan Knights trying to avoid being matched against the Behemoth Balor. In the background the Islemen closed with the De Danaan lesser heroes.

And that was the first contact; Warband against Warband. For several bounds it was a shoving match, until the Islemen scored a 6-1 combat result and wiped out their foes.

On the other flank the De Danaan troops solved the problem of Balor by committing their Magicians to the fight.

Nuada of the Silver Hand swept out in his chariot to engage the Islemen.

Meanwhile Lugh led the De Danaan heroes in an attack on Balor and the Formorian heroes ...

... with mixed results. Balor fled, but so did one base of chariots.

The Islemen were out for blood, driving Nuada into some woods where the advantage of his chariot was nullified.

Balor returned to the fray.

Nuada died amongst the trees, and the Islemen charged towards the De Danaan stronghold.

Meanwhile the bulk of the Formorian army was advancing on the hill defended by De Danaan's warriors.

The Islemen attacked teh stronghold, but failed to take it.

The Formorian and De Danaan lines met ...

... but the hill was insufficient advantage and the De Danaan warriors were scattered, breaking the army.

A victory for Balor!

The armies seemed to match up nicely, and I enjoyed the game a lot. The Tuatha De Danaan had quite  run of bad luck; some 6-1 combats and low PIPs meant that they were on the back-foot for a lot of the game, trying to find an opening. But it could have so easily gone the other way.

Mollwitz With Maurice

The problem with going away for the weekend straight from work on a Friday is that I don't really have chance to write up a blog post for Thursday's game before I go. So here I am on a Sunday evening, soaked in wine and tired out after two days of camping fun, trying to make sense of a load of photographs of a game which is now a distant memory.

What I do remember is that we played a multiplayer game of Maurice, recreating the battle of Mollwitz. Pete, Caesar and I took the defending Austrians, whilst Ralph, Daniel and David took the Prussians. Here's the setup, with the Prussians at the top and Austrians at the bottom.

I had the bulk of the Austrian cavalry on our left. Facing me was Ralph, who had the best infantry Prussia could field, lined up between a wood and a town. Not really a position I fancied attacking with cavalry.

This is the main Austrian infantry force in the centre.

And the Prussian infantry, with their nifty marching skills and deadly volley-fire.

The game opened with a lot of ineffective artillery fire. Ralph pulled his cavalry round from the flank to support the Prussian infantry in the centre.

I exchanged artillery fire with the Prussians opposite me, but the hits we scored on each other were soon rallied.

Caesar had plenty of cavalry on our other flank, and advanced to engage the Prussian horse there, which were definitely of a much lower quality

However this is Maurice. As they closed they discovered a patch of boggy ground impeding their progress. Caesar launched them in anyway, but a combination of the boggy ground and some of the most appalling die-rolling we have ever seen on a Thursday evening saw the Austrians routed.

In the centre the Austrians under Peter had advanced, so I moved my cavalry to cover his flank from any counter-attack by Ralph.

Fighting now concentrated around Mollwitz itself, as the Prussians could win juts by capturing this objective. By now we were onto the second deck. In Maurice game time is determined by how many passes through the card-deck you have made; three passes is a full day, with the second pass having its length randomised by use of a reshuffle card. This came up very quickly, leaving the Prussians with little time to achieve their objective. All the Austrians had to do was hold on until nightfall.

Infantry lines shot it out in the centre.

I finally threw my cavalry in against the Prussian infantry facing our left, since it was now advancing to bring me under fire anyway. I've never found frontal cavalry attacks against undamaged infantry to be very effective in Maurice, but there was little room to do anything else.

As you would expect, it went badly for my cavalry, and I formed up my reserve conscript infantry to hold the Prussians for as long as I could. Time really was running out at this point, with only a handful of cards left in the deck.

Peter kept fighting in the centre as the Prussian cavalry moved forward.

And this was the end; one of my final cavalry units was lost, pushing our morale over the edge just as over half of the players involved had run out of cards in their hand. As night fell the Austrian army retired, defeated.

As seems to be the case with our multi-player Maurice, this one went to the wire, with victory only being clinched at the last minute.

Thanks to Gary for organising another great scenario.
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