The Viking Legal Team in Action

The Viking Legal Team in Action
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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!

17 comments:

  1. This is a great series of posts, Sir - I look forward to the finale!

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  2. A great report with lots of detail on how the mechanics work, just how I like it!

    re: firing into melee - It came up in the one game I have played and i did look in the rules and, as you have discovered, there is no rule stating you cannot fire into melee. But I ruled you could not fire into melee. Just my take on it!

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    1. sure! I figured out the scale of the rules based upon the shooting distances, so to me each Unit is about 100-120 men, or about a 1/20 ratio. I feel that at that scale of engagement archers can get away with shooting into an unengaged facing of a unit if they can see the entire side. So full view of the front, flank or rear = can shoot.

      This assumes that the skirmishers are some sort of woodsmen / hunters and use aimed fire, which is my understanding of these dark ages tribal units - they aren't trained big-battle army archers, they are woodsmen and such who get put together to act as a Unit under a captain. So it seems OK to me to let them shoot into a melee.

      In a true "big battle" I wouldn't let them do it, relegating them instead to skirmishing on the flanks in rough terrain or something.

      Hope that makes sense!

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  3. Very, very useful and interesting series of posts.
    I have some doubts regarding game mechanics:
    On Top turn 3: Did Cv1 turned at the end of their move and "closed the door" to attack Wb1 on the flank?
    On bottom T3: Wb2 charge and hit Cv1. Did they do it on the flank? The picture shows them fighting front to front so: Did Cv1 turned to face the attack upon their flank? When?
    Thanks in advance,
    Cesar.

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  4. Hello Cesar Paz, thanks for your question. I'll answer your questions as best I can - I played a couple weeks ago and took notes. This detailed a batrep I've never done before! Hopefully my answers will make sense and be correct.

    Top Turn 3 - no, Cav 1 [with standard] contacted the flank of Wb1 from a front position. I felt this was OK since Wb1 was already pinned by Cv2 on the front. The pic of this measured out is the one with the ruler showing contact from Cv1 to the right flank of Wb1 at about the 10" point. This is against most gaming conventions. However, I think that many gaming conventions are quite circumstantial. "Realistically" speaking, if I've pinned you to the front with one cav unit, is there any reason another fast-moving maneuverable light cav unit can't swing around your open flank? Not at all! In fact, I think they'd move faster and be more eager to do it than engage to the front. It's a classic "you distract them while we ambush them" technique, would've been second nature to these small armies.

    The next pic with a green dice '5' behind Cav1 and white dice '3' behind Wb2 shows both the flank contact "as moved" and Wb2 coming into frontal contact.

    Bottom Turn 3: No. From the pic referenced above, you can see that Cav1 did not "close the door" and was therefore in front to flank contact from the exact way, angle and point of contact. And it was there that Wb2 charged them. As noted in the pic's remarks, I felt this terminated the flank contact as there should be a priority of fighting directly to the front over fighting to the flank. Also, there's no provision in the rules for multiple-unit combat.

    Hope this helps! best, Alex

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    1. Thank you very much for your kind and fast answer Alex.
      Please, let me see if I understood you: You only need to hit, touch or contact one point of any of the enemy unit to get into melee (or hand to hand combat). Depending which side you hit, you are in frontal, flank or rear contact.
      So in this case, it was not necessary to Cv1 to expose his flank to Wb2 in order to attack the flank of Wb1.

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  5. Exactly. Cav1 moved down the line of the ruler in that pic, touching the flank of the unit at about the 10" mark, and got in one turn of "flank attack" before Warband 2 moved into frontal contact with Cav1.

    My Interpretations were:
    1) that if the closest facing is already in contact [in this case the front] a Unit may contact a different facing if it can reach it according to the movement rules for charges, which is one 45 degree facing change at the start of the move. As Cav2 had engaged the front facing with a legal contact, and Cav1 was able to contact the flank facing [shown with the ruler] I gave them a flank attack on this "open" flank.

    2) If another contact is made with the front of a flanking Unit, that Unit no longer is flanking and forced to fight a straight front to front contact. If the contact was a flank or rear then the flanking Unit would turn to face [per the NT rules] and lose contact completely with the Unit is attacked on the flank. So if Warband 2 had struck the flank or rear of Cav1, then I would have turned it to face Warband 2 frontally, and they would have had a totally separate, unconnected melee front to front. As it was, the frontal contact didn't require I move Cav1, so I just stopped attacking the flank of Warband 1.

    Note that there is no provision in the rules for splitting casualties against 2+ Units attacking yours. So I assumed that Units only fight to the front, and that's where all casualties go. The flank attack - or rear - isn't responded to at all.

    The interesting question raised is quite simple - how long does it take to flank a Unit against which you are overlapping? The real issue is time since movement speed on the table and the rules to contact a flank determine how fast one outflanks.

    The Kings of War rules use the front center of a charging Unit to determine what facing the charging Unit MUST hit of its target. If the center is in the front arc, it has to attack the front. If the flank or rear, the same. All arcs are 45 degrees off the side of a target Unit. As these NT rules don't have that 45 degree rule, the application of the NT charge rules means that a flanking Unit has to start entirely across a 180 degree line drawn along the side, as Cav1 did.

    Hope that all makes sense! Now that I've played them several times, I am certain my interpretation makes sense. But it would still be better if NT had spent a short paragraph explaining it!

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    1. Many thanks for your detailed explanation.
      I have another doubt regarding flank and rear attacks:
      Hand to Hand rule allows units to turn to face an attack upon their flank or rear if they are not simultaneously being engaged frontally. When? At moment it is contacted or in its own turn to move?

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  6. I felt that at the end of the enemy movement phase would be best. Then all enemy contacts are settled. If there's none to the front, then the Unit will face the flank / rear contacted as desired. It could be more suspenseful to do it at the moment it is contacted, however, and it seems the choice is left to us!

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    1. O.K.
      So, in your opinion: the attacker do not receive flank bonus attack, because the unit attacked is allowed to turn before the attacker hand to hand combat phase.

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    2. I am of the same opinion after re-reading the rules - while it is move within combat, I think it should happen after the enemy move; so you will not get in a flank combat prior to the turn to face.

      As I commented on my blog post to your question - I was playing it wrong!

      The rules are not clear on when the move to face actually happens in the combat phase though - it is before the enemy rolls for combat, or after? I fall into the former camp, as you could argue combat is over once the attack is resolved, so movement within combat can no longer apply. but this is just getting picky with grammar. The intent of move to face before of after a combat is not really stated.

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    3. yes, NT could explain it a little better - and the rules would still be only 3 pages! The intent as he presents it _seems_ to me that a single Unit cannot make a flank attack alone. It must have a second Unit pinning the victim Unit from the front facing for the flank / rear attack to succeed. Therefore my _deduction_ is that the simplest way to do it is to have the victim Unit's facing move be at the end of the enemy movement phase, before shooting and melee.

      Reading his explanations of the rule's design concepts, that's what I think is most in line with them.

      Essentially, he's saying that an enemy Unit isn't in reality confined to moving only sequentially against an enemy - there's an element of response even as the enemy's intentions become clear.

      So all my interpretations are attempts to keep the simplicity of the rules intact while playing them out successfully.

      For anyone reading these posts, I STRONGLY advise you to read his own commentary, it will help you understand his rules.

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    4. Alex and Shaun, your detailed battle reports and answers really helped me to understand the rule mechanics.
      I can not understand why the authors of wargames rules do not include samples game in their books or in some website (if there is not enough space in the books). I really think this alone, would prevent a huge amount of queries.

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    5. my honest opinion is that the best of the authors do exactly that - if not in the book, then on their blogs and websites. Some however rely on their fans / playtesters to do it instead.

      I think that any good set of rules at a full price should have plenty of examples and battlereports, instead of quite so many glamour shots, but times have changed!

      Extra credit to you for persevering on learning and gaming in another language!

      cheers, alex

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    6. Thanks Cesar, and Tanks to Alex for posting such detailed reports! I have found examples are invaluable for rules, and help clear up a lot of ambiguity that may be in the rules themselves.

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  7. The rules say that there is only one contact allowed per facing.
    Units may turn to face a flank or rear attack if they are not simultaneously being engaged frontally. So basically one Unit cannot get a flank/rear attack at all, there has to be another unit "pinning" the target in place frontally while the flank/rear is attacked.

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    1. Thanks again Alex for your answer.
      Now I rush to read the 3rd. part of this series!

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