great looking table, nice figs, nice guys - what it's all about!
The concept of the scenario is that an overwhelming Welsh attack has fallen upon and surrounded a small Norman force which has built an improvised hilltop redoubt and sent for help. The message does get thru and a strong Norman force is on its way. Unfortunately, the Welsh have surrounded them and are occupying all the fords between the Norman relief force and the encircled Normans. The Norman relief force must break thru the Welsh "Defense in Depth" before their comrades are wiped out in a "Last Stand".
This is another combination game of two "One-Hour Wargames" scenarios, #23 "Defense in Depth" and #30 "Last Stand". The scenarios work very well in pairs or more, and I've used as many as 3 together previously.
Scenario #23 Defense in Depth [the right card]
The attacking Normans arrive from "card North" and have a bridge and two fords to cross over. The Welsh occupy the "town" which is acting as a fortified camp in this instance. The distant ford to right is clear but the center one is obstructed on one side by woods, and therefore only usable by skirmishers [Brigans, as called in this game].
The Normans have a strong force of three Knights [one may dismount as Serjeants] two Bowmen [one may be switched for Brigans] and a Serjeant [heavy infantry, basically]. These enter anywhere on the North table edge turn 1.
Facing them, the Welsh have only a portion of their total force, 4 Units: a Serjeant [representing dismounted Welsh Cavalry, or Teulu], a Bowmen, a Brigans, and a Freemen Unit. They may set up anywhere South of the river, with one Unit North of the river.
Scenario #30 Last Stand [the left card, turned 90 clockwise].
Here, the Normans are hard-pressed with only 3 Units, but have a redoubt on a hill which provides protection from Shooting and an advantage in Melee and slows Melee attackers. Their Units are a Serjeant, a Bowmen [mercenary crossbows], and a Freemen.
The Welsh are making their main effort here to wipe out the hated Norman invaders and erstwhile overlords. They have a full 6 Unit force, and each Unit is replaced if destroyed - it reappears next turn at the left or "table West" edge from where the Welsh are deploying. The friction point is a 15-turn time limit, the success or failure of the Norman relief force, and the time delay for the "infinite" Welsh hordes as they re-enter the game. This would also make a great Gondor v. the Orcs scenario, wouldn't it?
The players were a very experienced game designer, publisher and retired infantry LTC as the Norman [with a Welsh wife...we probably shouldn't state his choice] opposed by a retired USAF pilot who was very comfortable with the gridded aspects of the game since he had just played some "To the Strongest" at a convention. Both are experienced wargamers, so things moved along quickly with only the occasional question / clarification.
Below, a couple turns into the game.
Table East, the Freedom-Fighting Welsh deployed with Serjeants in the camp with the Bowmen, the Brigans in the woods by the center ford, and the Freemen holding the distant Right ford. In the face of the superior Bowmen shooting, the Brigans begin to retreat across the ford next to their woods. All other Units are braced for impact!
The Norman Oppressor chose to dismount one Knight and with the Serjeants attack across the bridge against the camp, which is a tough mission. Far ford has two units of knights poised to crash across it into the unfortunate Freeman Unit. In the Center two Bowmen are poised to oppose the Brigans and offer support to the attacks on the left or right ford as necessary.
On Table West, the Norman Serjeants hold the redoubt while their archers engage in a duel with the Welsh Bowmen in the camp. A Freeman Unit holds the bridge at the town, which seems quite solid until the Welsh use support Shooting from their Bowmen. The other ford is unopposed and Welsh Cavalry and Freeman swiftly move across it.
Different angle, same turn...One Welsh freeman is attacking across the river, which is strongly held by a Norman Freeman Unit. However, they do have their archers helping out.
Several turn farther along the game.
The Welsh made quick work of the Normans holding the town at the bridge, and then move along the road as fast as they can to help their force hold off the Norman relief force. Two Freemen and a Bowmen are at top right moving to oppose the Norman Knights that forced the far ford against the Welsh Freemen. The Welsh are holding onto their camp and inflicting as good as they are getting there.
The Normans are also holding onto their redoubt, but are outnumbered 3-1. The Norman Bowmen on the hill were destroyed pretty quickly by a combination of Welsh shooting and a charge from the Cavalry. The last Unit surviving is the Serjeants in the redoubt - but will the relief force make it in time??
Below, same turn, different angle. At center top, one can see that the Brigans managed to destroy one Norman Bowmen Unit, but are having a tough time with the second. The Norman knights that crossed the river have tough choices to make between spending time to rally off Hits and get stuck in to help their friends.
Conclusion. In the end, some poor dice resulted in the Norman relief force being beaten off altho they broke into and contested the camp. The Welsh only used their "horde" rule for a couple of Units that were destroyed attacking the redoubt. This fell at the end of the game, the Welsh force being strong enough to inflict damage every turn.
As both commanders were experienced, the result rested mostly on dice and a couple of tactical choices. The Normans chose to fight the Brigans in the center, who then retreated from the woods onto the ford. When the Bowmen then switch to supporting the attacks on the left and right fords, the Brigans returned and managed to destroy a Bowmen before being destroyed themselves.
It probably would have been faster for the Normans to pick one Unit of Brigans to attack the opposing Brigans, while using one bowmen to help with the attack on the far ford, the easiest place to break thru. This would have gotten the Knights across the river faster and in better shape, which would have positioned them better to attack the camp from the flank / rear. Instead, the Welsh relieved their camp first.
There is always a tricky proposition in allowing the two scenarios to interact, or not. Generally, gamers have a larger view and more aggression than real life soldiers, so it is probably a better choice to only allow units to stay in their own game - just a little advice for those wishing to do double or treble scenario big games on their own.
An interesting alternative choice with the Norman mercenary Bowmen would be to put them in a supporting and distracting position behind the woods instead of on the hill. This would have held off at least one Unit from the attack on the redoubt as their shooting into the rear would be doubled, so they couldn't be ignored. With a little luck, they might take out a Unit and survive to keep shooting. As it was, they were quickly destroyed by the Welsh Bowmen in the camp and were unable to keep the redoubt from being overwhelmed at 3-1 odds. Granted, it still held out a long time, but that had more to do with poor dice on the part of the Welsh!
Overall, the gridded rules worked very well. Players were confined to clear and obvious maneuvering, which speeded the game along. The tactical choices were clear and in a re-play of the scenario, I think the Normans would have won.
An interesting by-product of the gridded game is that the mechanical choices are streamlined and sublimated to the larger tactical decisions. I think this allows players to concentrate on command decisions more, learn tactics faster and understand the military side of things instead of being distracted trying to figure out how the mechanics work.
So overall, a great playtest showing many positive aspects of playing "on the Grid"!