The Viking Legal Team in Action

The Viking Legal Team in Action
Snorri is unhappy about your bar tab - VERY unhappy...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Neil Thomas "One - Hour Wargames" Thoughts: clarifications and small additions

Some clarifications on the Neil Thomas "One - Hour Wargames" rules, derived from play or the design notes,  followed by some thoughts and optional rules I've tried or will try out.

These are clarifications and confirmations of the RAW, based upon what is/isn't written and actual playing. Anything in italics is what I feel is a logical interpretation based upon gaming conventions and common sense.

Basing and Spacing.  The rules ask for Units to be 4-6" frontage.  As, figure size and number is left to the player(s) there is no prescribed depth.  My Units are all of two 60mm wide bases [WRG/DBx style].  In light of this and that interpenetration is only allowed by / thru Skirmishers, I permit my Units to move thru any space 60mm wide in a column of two bases, counting the change into "column of two bases" as a facing change.

Line of Sight [there are no LOS rules].  Measured from Unit's front center point.  It is blocked by any intervening Units, hills, woods, buildings, etc. that are scaled to figure height or higher.  Units may see into and out of woods, but not through two sides of a wood.

Units must have line of sight to shoot or charge enemy Units at the time of the shooting or charge.

Cover and LoS.  For a Unit to get the cover bonus from enemy shooting they must be entirely within the woods or town.  For them to get the Shieldwall bonus from shooting they must be fired upon their front or flank facing, not the rear.

Shooting.  May shoot into HtH.   Must have line of sight to a full facing [front, flank or rear] of the targeted Unit.

"Contact".  Contact is made by moving along the shortest line from the Charging Unit to the center of the Target Unit's side that is not already in a contact, maximizing the length / amount of the contact with all available movement.  It may be made to any Target Unit's facing that can be legally reached per the charge movement rules.  If no enemy Unit is in frontal contact  at the end of the enemy movement phase, the target Unit may [but does not have to] face a contacting enemy Unit(s).  This IS "free movement".  I'd restrict it to full 90 or 180 degree facing changes lest it become too 'gamey'.

"Closing the Door".  Also, once a Charging Unit makes the full legal contact described above, it stops moving.  The charging Unit does not conform to full edge/edge contact.  There is no "closing the door" with free additional movement as in so many other rules.   I assume the men are filling any gaps with fighters.

Inflicting Hits.  There is no dividing of the Hits a Unit inflicts upon multiple Units that may be attacking it [one enemy Unit may attack each facing; front, both flanks and rear].  Therefore, Units only fight melee combats to their front facing, and may only use their melee dice attacking a single enemy Unit engaging their front facing.  

Suggested Options from p.17, large final paragraph.  As NT has a focus on Dark Age Britain, he mentions some options for Continental Europe:  
  • Shock Cavalry.  They add +2 to HtH Hit rolls.  Could also be used as Alexander's Companians, et al.
  • Rabble Infantry.  Warband that only get d6 on HtH Hit rolls.
Implied Options from the Ancient Rules of preceding chapter:
  • Classical Infantry.  Take half Hits if armoured, get +2 on HtH Hit rolls.
  • Classical Bowmen.  Shoot and HtH with unmodified d6.  Could also be concentrated Gothic, Lombard or Viking archers.
  • Skirmishers w' Bows v. Javelins.  If your skirmishers are bow or sling armed, they fight RAW.  If you wish to differentiate Javelin armed give them a 9" range but then they melee d6-1 representing the use of a shield, improving their performance against other skirmishers.

Some ideas and small changes that add some play variety without significantly changing the RAW.

Variable Move Rates.  There is a predictable "gameyness" to always having the same amount of movement each turn.  I suggest and have used the following several times now.  

A Unit is declared and it's movement intent is stated, e.g. moving to a point, charging, etc.  It then rolls the below dice total and fulfills the intent it as fully as possible:
  • Infantry roll 2d6-1 [average 6" move],
  • Skirmishers and Warband roll 2d6+2 [average 9" move]
  • Cavalry roll 3d6+2 [average 12" move].
This worked well and occasionally broke up the IGO-UGO turn sequence by a Unit taking less or more turns to achieve something.  Or the opportunity disappeared!

Elite / Stubborn troops = 18 Casualties before routing.
Levy /Nervous troops etc = 12 Casualties then routing.

Skirmishing Horse Archers & Light Javelin Cavalry.  These shoot as skirmishers above, 12" for bows and slings and 9" for javelins but archers should melee at 1d6-2 and javelins at 1d6-1.  They still cannot move and shoot, however, note below.

Unshielded and Unprepared.  Note that there is no moving and shooting in the game!  The movement of shooters to throw the javelin or close for an effective bow shot is abstracted by lengthening their range.  To compensate for this somewhat, allow double casualties if the shooting is against the rear facing of a Target Unit.

Armored Javelin Cavalry can be given the above shooting ability but fight HtH with the full d6 value.  

They were probably used in Dark Age Britain, and would have been household followers with expensive luxuries like full shields, helmets or even some leather and metal armor. They would also represent trained Roman heavy cavalry types, Persians, etc. As the horses are unarmoured, they get no defensive bonus, the armor of the rider is assumed to make the rider more willing to fight effectively in HtH.

Shooting limits.  The Pike and Shot rules limit all shooting with an additional d6 rolled during shooting, and if it is a 1-2 they are "out of ammo" for the game.  

This seems a reasonable limit to put upon anyone who has to carry something as large as a javelin, which were also 'expensive' and heavy.  I don't think it necessary for true horse archers like Huns, Alans, etc, which also makes them more dangerous.  

One could use it and say that they have to leave the board for more arrows, etc. or go to a supply point for a full turn, etc.  In the short span of time and small scale of these scenarios, it seems unnecessary to have re-supply, however.

Throwing Weapons.  Many Dark Age fighters used a throwing weapon they hurled as a precursor to melee.  These were darts, francisca throwing axes, pilum, heavy javelins, etc.  This can be easily simulated by letting them throw ONCE a game in their first melee with a bonus d3 HtH dice.

Force Morale.  The 1HW rules provide for forces of 3, 4 or 6 Units per side, with 6 considered the "standard".  This conveniently comes to rolling a d6 each time a friendly Unit is destroyed, attempting to roll higher than the number of friendly Units destroyed to keeping fighting - if you roll equal or less your force routs and the game ends.  

In a campaign game, you may want to allow the opposing side to get one last free attack in as they rout.  

Note that this will also shorten the game length!  If you don't want to shorten it as much, roll TWO d6 and if EITHER rolls higher than the number of Units lost, your force keeps fighting.  For particularly desperate or stubborn forces, perhaps even 3d6 could be rolled and if ANY pass you keep fighting.  Easy to play around with!

For campaigns or more "period flavor", I am considering fun ways to gain a bonus point or two on the die roll, like winning a pre-game challenge, praying to God [or 'the gods'], fatigue from force marching to an objective, etc.

Personalities.  Leaders, Heroes, Banners and Priests.  For every three Units in a force, a player may have a suitable personality figure, such as a Barbarian Hero, trained Leader like a Centurion, Legate, etc, either of which may choose to be accompanied by a Banner that costs as one of the allowed Personalities, or a Christian Priest.  

All function only as a bonus to a Unit, but may switch Units at the end of all movement to another Unit within 6".  While attached, they suffer the same fate as a Unit, including routing from casualties.  
  • A Leader gives a 2" bonus to movement and +1 Hit in HtH.
  • A Hero gives a 1" bonus to movement and +2 Hits in HtH. If accompanied by a Banner [counting as one of the allowed Personalities] Leaders and Heroes may rally d2 Casualties off a Unit if the Unit neither moves, shoots nor fights HtH for a turn.
  • Christian Priest may be fielded, who has no move or HtH bonuses, but rallies d3 Casualties off [an improved Banner] since he has a suitable holy relic, standard, great exhortations, etc.
Initiative - roll off at start, or decide per scenario giving Initiative to red or blue, whoever seems to be the attacker. The Initiative Side goes first each turn.  Roll off at start of each turn with +3 for Initiative Side.  If the Initiative side loses the roll, Initiative changes to the other side and they go first.  Note this allows the side seizing initiative to go twice in a row as the turn order changes, which could be a critical moment in a game.
Additional variable.  Subtract '1' from the dice roll for each Unit that has routed.

Hope these provide some useful insights and some variety to the game.  I'm also considering some bigger options, but definitely want to playtest them first.  

Note that it is _always_ tricky to tweak rules unless you are a real master game designer.  Tweaking a simple set of rules like these is MORE difficult as they've already been very carefully balanced by the designer, Neil Thomas.  So "go forth with fear and trembling" you rule tweakers!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What Next? More NT, AD6, DBA 3.0, "Kings of War"?

Do this!  Do that!  No, the other set of rules!

Well, this series of posts generated hundreds of visits, and several questions.  It was interesting for me to do it, altho it required a lot of work!  Next time, I will take one pic at the end of each turn, only taking extra pics when a specific rule interpretation needs to be demonstrated.  This will make it easier for all of us to follow along!

Next up, I already have a second play of the 1HW rules, with a different scenario, #7 Flank Attack [played it twice] - can post that batrep also.  Some more options:

  1. "Kings of War" playtest with the same battles as above to show the differences btw the 1HW and KoW rules RAW.  They are very similar in most mechanics.
  2. Neil Thomas "Ancient and Medieval Rules" which are just a shade more complicated - not much - but a bit different and oriented "as written" for 15mm figs and measuring in metric.
  3. "DBA 3.0" was posted in review earlier with a promised playtest - should get to that battle report, shouldn't I?
  4. Finally, "Ancients D6" by John Acar and Andrew Damon is another free fast-play set of rules in the 1 Hour and 50-100 figures play range.  They are of the same approx. scale as DBA and are found here:
Any of these choices would be useful to someone trying to figure out which set of rules to get or use. While the KoW rules are not presented for historical armies, and would require a little thought and guidance to use for an historical period, I think they are the best written and most complete rules of the bunch thus far.  And it is actually FUN to adapt troop types from their lists to their historical counterparts.  So if you want my QUICK AND SHORT opinion, download the free rules from Mantic games website, especially if you know the troop types of your historical period / location.

If you are a true newbie, then I very much recommend both the above NT books as great intro to the gaming hobby.  Hmmm, perhaps the next review should be the NT "Ancient and Medieval Wargaming" book?  The natural comparisons to NTA&M is probably DBA 3.0 and "Ancients D6" as they are both a bit bigger in scale and lean heavily towards 15mm figures or smaller in base size and ranges.

Anyway, chime in on what you'd like to see - "Vote early, vote often"!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Part 3: Neil Thomas "One - Hour Wargames" Battle Report

This is the exciting finale!  The victory conditions should be remembered at this point - no North Welsh on this side of the river.  The bridgehead must be crushed!  I've tried to update all three posts as well as answer the questions that came in, and hopefully the batrep makes sense.  It takes longer than I thought to do and I will change my method for next time so it can go up more quickly.  Anyway, back to the fray!

Below - appears to be the end of Turn 8.  Inf1 has advanced into Wb4.  As only one Unit may contact per facing, this will cancel the engagement with the Skirmishers.  This is also the problem with not closing the door - there's a wide open front physically that the rules say you can't double-up on.  Something has to be interpreted, so this was mine.  Inf2 and Inf3 are positioning themselves to extend the line and contain the bridgehead.  Wb3 - which has casualties from Cav1 - has contacted Inf3 and Wb5 is racing to the right flank, but being opposed by Inf1 [Inf1 & 2 crossed paths].  Cav1 heads back to the pub, top of pic.

End of Turn 9 I think.  The slog in the middle continues, with the shieldwalls trading blows with the Warband Units.  I may have forgotten to halve the casualties, or lost track of what's happening in the pics.  The Infantry Units seem to have a lot of casualties for one turn, the max a Warband can inflict upon their front is 4 [d6 rolling '6' + 2 x 1/2].

One of my favorite figures is a heroic yelling fellow presently the commander of the unit below.  "Come and get some of this ya sheep grabbers!"

End of Turn 10.  Warband 5 made a flank contact on Inf3 [with another Unit close by, this felt a bit cheesy - perhaps some sort of "Barkered" rule is needed...]  Casualties piled up and it broke.  Inf3 is probably feeling lonely at this point with no middle to the line. The SW have fought hard, but don't have enough push at this point to finish off the damaged Warband Units.

End of Turn 11.  Inf1 broke Wb4, but was then broken by Wb3 who rolled the max.  Inf3 is now very lonely out there!  The Skirmish Unit won't be much help, altho it can hide in the woods, which would be a wise choice at this point!

End of Turn 12.  Sk1 isn't very smart - or is it?  The opposing Skirmishers could easily put them over the top with shooting, so retreating from the wood and trying to support the retreat path of Inf3 is perhaps a great idea!   Inf3 is holding out against Wb5, but trading casualties won't be enough at this point, with another Warband in the middle.

Looks like Turn 13 below.  The Skirmishers were routed by long-range shooting from their opposites, and the Warband 4 flanked Inf2, ending their day early. The hillmen are over the bridge!!

Hope this batrep was useful for all.  I found the rules quite simple, but a little more definition about contact would have been useful.  I'm thinking very carefully about clarifications and some changes, will post them next.  I feel that the spirit of the RAW should be adhered to - simplicity first, avoiding the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Part 2: Neil Thomas "One - Hour Wargames" Battle Report

The Rules.
The rules come in a series of nine, from ancients to WWII.  The second set are the Dark Ages rules.  NT chose Britain as a focus, and as with all the rules picked four representative unit types, in this case: Infantry [shieldwall-using sub-Romans], Skirmish [bow, jav, etc light infantry], Warband [ferocious attackers with a glass jaw] and Cavalry [somewhat weak skirmishing cavalry, similar to ancient cavalry].  

There is no morale system.  All units have 15 points of casualties they can take and then they are destroyed.  

The turn sequence for each side in one IGO-UGO Turn is: 
  1. Move [includes moves to contact, aka Charges], 
  2. Shooting
  3. Hand-to-Hand
  4. Eliminate Units.
Move.  Infantry 6", Skirmish & Warband 9", Cavalry 12".  Turns on the Unit center of any amount permitted at the beginning and end of the move.  Charges are just a move to contact, with up to a 45 degree turn at the start, none at the end.  Simple, and pretty much forces you to think a turn ahead with your charges.  There's no detailed explanation of contact - I have interpreted it as minimally as possible, ergo once a Unit makes legal contact, that Unit freezes.  There's no "closing of the door".

Shooting.  Skirmish only, 1d6-2, 12" range, 45 degrees off front, one target.  May not move and shoot.  Woods and shieldwall halve their casualties.  Note that 1d6-2 with no minimum means that Skirmish shooting inflicts zero casualties 1/3 of the time.

Terrain is a simple yes/no - Woods are only passable by Skirmish, the rest by everyone except for obvious things like rivers and marsh that no one can pass.

Interpenetration is only Skirmish passing thru anyone and vice-versa.

Hand-to-Hand.  Each side attacks during their player turn only.   A Unit rolls a dice and that many casualty points are inflicted.  Dice are: Skirmish at 1d6-2, Infantry and Cavalry at 1d6, and Warband attack at 1d6+2 - which makes a huge difference!  Warband can eliminate a Unit in two turns rolling well.  It takes at least three turns for Cav and Infantry to eliminate a Unit, while a Skirmish Unit might never do it rolling poorly [there's no minimum casualty inflicted, so if you roll a 1-2 you just impress the enemy with your gyrations, it seems].  Simple math, interesting results!  

Units may only be attacked by one unit per facing: front, rear, either flank.  Units defending an obstacle like hillside, woods, town or riverbank, or in a shieldwall [Infantry], take half casualties. Units may turn to face a flank/rear attack if not simultaneously engaged on another facing.   HtH ends with one side being eliminated.

That's pretty much it!

The Scenario.
There's thirty excellent choices here, from pitched battles, to rivers, to flank attacks, to delaying actions, pretty much any military situation.  These divide into five groups of six, so you can roll randomly with a d6 and just get to it.  Every one is a 3' x 3' board, and has 3-6 units per side.  There's also a random force generator for the entire gamut of periods, and short sections on campaigns and solo play.  Pretty impressive!

This scenario is #5 Bridgehead.  Basically, the Blue side has successfully taken a bridge with an advance force, and is getting reinforced up the road, while Red reacts from random location: from the left flank [A: 1-2/d6] the center road [B: 3-4/d6] or right flank [C: 5-6/d6].  Red is allowed to choose three forces of two units to dice their entry point on turns 1, 3, & 5.  Blue gets a steady stream of reinforcements, one chosen unit each turn from 2-6.Victory goes to the side that clears a bridgehead within 12" of the bridge on the North side of the river.  
And my interpretation of the battlefield:

In this playing, the Red defenders are Strathclyde Welsh riding their ponies and with Roman remnant Infantry using shieldwall and one Unit of Skirmish bow, Sk1:

The Blue side is North Welsh hillmen, all Warband w'a single skirmishing bow unit, SkA:

The Battle.
The battle opened up with the North Welsh hillmen [NW] in position with a Warband Unit [Wb1] w'in 6" of the bridge, representing the advance guard's sneaky seizure of the old Roman crossing at dawn.  I deployed them near the river to try and prevent being outflanked.  No Strathclyde Welsh [SW] are on the board, they're all wandering around looking for the reported incursion.  

On Turn 1 [T1] the SW enter their "response force", the teulu or family of the local warlord - two Cavalry Units [Cav1 & 2].   The random entry roll results in them entering at Point A, just the other side of the wood.  As they cannot enter the woods, they maneuver around it.  A Unit's turns are on the center point at the begin and/or end of the move.
The first cavalry Unit moves 12" in from the entry point at an angle and then turns 90 degrees to face the enemy Wb1.  The second cav unit follows, ending by turning at an angle that allows them to clear the wood next turn.  Wb1 turns to meet the threat but stays out of the 12" charge range which is the same as movement distance, there's no "charge bonus".  Below pic is the end of T1.
T2 begins.  Cav1 is outside of 12" move/charge range.  It may be bold but also foolish to advance alone, giving Wb1 the first blow with it's 9" move.  Why not await the help of the second cavalry and also try to maneuver Wb1 into a "hammer and anvil" where at least one of the cavalry units gets on a flank?

So instead, Cav1 moves 12" over, remaining >9" away, turning at the start and end of the move.  Note that turning on the center means the center moves 12" but the Unit's ends usually move a bit farther, gaining some ground, demonstrated in the above pic where the center has moved the measured 12" indicated and the second half of the unit is in original spot.  There's no restriction on the size of the turn, so Units can turn 180 if desired.

End of T2. The cavalry are trying to maximize the position advantage of two faster Units.  Note that with a 9" move, Wb1 isn't much slower!  Wb1 has re-positioned itself closer - threatening first contact w'Cav2 - but with its left flank secured by the wood, and the reinforcing Wb2 racing to protect its right flank.  It's actual front is 9" in where the turn dice is - the model bridge doesn't hold stands well!  I didn't give the 3" road bonus since the bridge has steps, and appears to be slick with dampness and mold.

Top of T3.  The SW Cav Units engage Wb1 - on the front Cav2.  Cav1 isn't allowed to also contact the front - only one unit may contact another on each facing, front/rear and each flank.  As the unit is engaged and has an open flank, I feel it's OK to engage the open flank with a measured move as shown.  The Hand to Hand [HtH] results in a total of nine to Wb1 thanks to the doubled casualties from the flank attack.  

Marching down the road are SW reinforcement units, an Infantry and a Skirmish Unit.  They rolled a '4' [red dice] and came in at Point B on the road, getting a 3" bonus from it but they can't get the road bonus if they contact enemy - it's assumed they're in march column.

Bottom of T3.  Wb2 charges over the bridge and hits Cav1, rolling a '3' +2 causing 5 Casualties [cas].  Note, there's no rules regarding conforming to the facing of a contacted Unit, nor from what angle one is permitted to strike the front / flank / rear.  Wb1 rolls a '5', with it's bonus of +2 it inflicts 7 cas on Cv2!  There's no rule saying if any casualties go on a flanking / rear attacking Unit, so I assume that a Unit engaged to the front will fight to the front only.  In the above case, the melee becomes two 1-on-1 fights since Wb2 attacked Cv1 on the front which takes priority - the flank attack is over.
Above is the end of T3, with the Cav Units trying to confine the Warband to the bridge as the SW reinforcements come down the road from the left.  With abuse like this, these Cav won't last long!  Note that Cavalry in the DA set of rules has reverted to the tactics and strength of ancient cavalry - it's basically a support unit.

End of T4 above.  The reinforcing Infantry Unit is in the center, ready to plug the gap when the first Cav Unit breaks.  The Skirmish Unit [SK1] is maneuvering towards the hemlock wood, where only it is allowed to enter.  Threatening a flank is about the most useful thing a Skirmish Unit can do, with 1d6-2 in both Shooting and HtH.  Cav1 - despite being the local lord's personal teulu, is consistently rolling some weak numbers - this time a '1'!  One Wb2 warrior now has a sprained pinky - "MEDIC TO FRONT!".  Both Cav and Wb1 are nearly spent.  And more Warbands are crossing the bridge!  Wb3 has taken up position behind Wb1, and Wb4 is halfway across.

Top of T5, as I demo the Sk1 move. It has 9" and must clear the corner of Cv2, so cuts the angle as close as possible then makes a >90 degree turn left for a clear outflanking position as shown in below pic.  

Cv2 breaks Wb1 with a hot roll, putting it to 18 casualties, well over the 15 limit.  You can see the advantage of first contact when casualties are only inflicted on one's own turn - with both units nearly spent, the Cav2 Unit broke the Wb1 and took no casualties back - I've no prob with this as my explanation is that they broke and ran and took casualties on the run, while the Cav are too spent to chase them.  

Inf1 has moved behind Cv2, which will definitely break as it is at 12 casualties.  Reinforcing are Inf2 & 3 are moving in from the left they rolled a '1' to enter from the same board point as the cavalry did.  This is not the most convenient spot due to the impenetrable woods!

Bottom end of T5 below, during the NW player turn, as Wb3 charges into combat against Cv2.  Wb3 had little choice but to advance - holding back would just result in their missing an attack round - plus they will break Cav2 on any roll, the lowest they can get is 3 cas!

Wb3 routs Cv2.  There's little progress on the right against Cv1 by Wb2.  They're clearly having a break, catching their breath while hurling the occasional spit and insult. Below is start of T6. NW Inf reinforcements moving, Wb 5 crossing and SkA preparing to shoot in support. Cav2 routs up, Wb1 routs down across the river.

Aha!  The SW commander IS taking a break.  Apparently, he's having a Manhatten!
Too much alcohol is bad for your performance - Cv1 has inflicted some casualties but is at 13 and will definitely break next turn.  Hopefully, he won't spill anything or break the tumbler as he rides off - Roman glass is hard to get these days!  

Turn 6 starts with the SW attacking.  Inf1 hits the front and Sk1 hits the flank of Wb3, causing significant casualties.  

Bottom of T6.  The only NW Unit that could enter the woods is stuck on the other side of the river.  It rolled a '3' and did 1 casualty from shooting against the Sk1 unit. Note that there's no rule against shooting into a melee.  I don't really have a problem with this in such a small-scale game, about 1/20 and 100-200 men per unit. Wb4 is in replacement position, with Wb 5 behind.  The advantage to the North Welsh situation is that they are close to their reinforcements - the disadvantage is that they are in a pretty tight space.  

Top of T7.  Wb3 routs across the river - they've had enough!

Bottom T7 below.  Wb4 advances to touch the front of Sk1.  Again, no explanation about how contact is done, so 'a touch is a touch' in these rules.  Cv1 rides off into the sunset with 15 casualties exactly, having made an impact but not done a lot of damage to Wb2.  There may be some spillage from the Strathclyde Welsh Gen's Manhatten, but such is the hell of war.  Wb4 rolls hot and inflicts 8 cas to Sk1, while SkA also rolls well and does two more for total of eight this turn and ten altogether.  Sk1 is nearly spent, dodging warband in the trees must be fatiguing!  

Next post - the dramatic finish in Part 3!