The Viking Legal Team in Action

The Viking Legal Team in Action
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Monday, December 5, 2016

OHW: Scenario #12, "An Unfortunate Oversight"

The battle's T.12 climax - who will hold the hill, and therefore the river crossings??

Having done the most deliberate simplification of the rules in a while, it was time to playtest them. I changed all measurements to Base Widths [BW] and Base Depths [BD] which as I play them are 5" and 2.5" [a BD needs to be 1/2 of a BW].  Note that these are also the size of my single bases.  I shifted diced movement [which I quite like] to optional rules.

I'm quite pleased with them, the combination of a single base that is easy to handle, pleasant to look at [a little diorama] and simplifying a few things got some games down to 30-40 minutes.  This is about what I can squeeze in on a typical weeknight after the Little Man goes to bed and before it is my bedtime.

I've now played this scenario about 8 times. I played it once just like this so this is technically the second playtest of these rules and scenario; wanted to make certain that there was nothing seriously wrong before I spent all the time taking pics and such. This scenario presents a number of challenges to both sides. For Red:

  • holding the town and how best to use it as a flank support is important - the game is easily long enough to allow the Blue player to attack on the level ground,
  • to dismount the knights and where to put them - on the flat or the hill,
  • related decision - keeping one mounted knight in reserve or just a Freeman.
Blue has a few important game decisions as well:
  • how best to challenge the town and its river crossing. I've attacked with dismounted knights supported by a hero and banner, or just threatened with Brigans,
  • To attack the hill directly or screen the hill while attacking the level ground between the town and the hill instead,
  • placing the one Bowmen - shooting into the flat or crossing at the ford in support.
The combination of decisions and their interaction shaped all the previous 7 games I played. I tried numerous combinations, and have to say that how Red sets up shapes everything after - how Blue counters it and then attacks. Red then has a short opportunity to prepare for a response, and the rest comes down to some dice results and mid-game decisions. These boil down to Blue retreating Knights to rally v. Red advancing to threaten them while they do so. The scenario has never been dull and only one-sided a couple of times.

As always, my rules offer a choice between the D6 [more variable] and the D5 average die [2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5 sides] so I refer to the die rolls as "Dx". I choose the D5 as more average and rewarding skill and decisions more than luck, but that's my style.

The book's scenario 12 below. Red sets up first, Blue moves first but can't shoot on Turn 1. Length is 15 turns as always, with 6 Units per side.

Red Force. Rolled a '1' on my variation of NT's force dice. This resulted in only 2 Knights, but 2 Bowmen, and 2 Freemen. As they are outnumbered 2-1 in Knights, Red wisely chooses to dismount them as Serjeants. In these rules, that means they inflict melee Hits equal to Dx same as Freemen, but take 1/2 Hits due to armor and cohesion. The Bowmen shoot Dx but melee at Dx-2. Freemen are just plain average performers.

This force represents a quick mobilization with few mercenaries by a lord defending against a raider or invader. Hence it has some knights, bowmen from castle garrisons and the better of the freemen or continuously employed mercenaries, and then two units of local Freemen one might consider the best of the militia, or "select Fyrd". Figures are Old Glory Welsh archers and spearmen, with OG Swabians and Gripping Beast late Romans to front [some of you might recognize the banner of the Welsh Lord and his teulu!]. In my mind, this is a Welsh force trying to hold a river crossing against a raiding force of Anglo-Normans.

Blue Force. With a '5' they get 4 Knights, a Bowmen and a Brigan. I left the Knights mounted as they need the mobility and Dx+2 melee dice. This is a fast-moving force, perfect for this scenario as the Brigans move almost as fast as Knights. The Bowmen could be fielded as mercenary crossbow as depicted, shooting at a +1 and the lesser knights to left could melee at only Dx+1 to even it out, but I ended up just fighting them all straight up. 
The crossbowmen are Foundry, the rest Old Glory.

SETUP. Red must set up within 12" of the town - they've made "an unfortunate oversight" and missed the ford that flanks them. Red decides to defend the crossing with a Bowmen, defend the valley with a Freemen and a Bowmen supported by the second Freemen. The two Serjeants will take and hold the hill. Their armor and being uphill means they take 1/4 Hits, a pretty powerful help that will make them last a long time unless they're flanked. 

Blue threatens the town crossing with Brigans supported by Bowmen, who can also shoot across the river into the Red Freemen. Stacked at the flanking ford are all four Knights. There's no move penalty to cross the ford, but defenders on the riverbank take 1/2 Hits - this means the bowmen in the village take 1/4 melee Hits, 1/2 defending the ford, 1/2 defending the town. For shooting, the ford doesn't help, so they'll take 1/2 Hits. 

Turn 1. Blue shoots and does some damage, but the Bowmen run out of missiles. The Knights begin crossing. Red moves onto the hill, and advances both valley Units since the Blue Bowmen have no missiles. This allows them to threaten the crossing knights with missiles but at no danger to the Freemen being torn up by missiles. Small things can make a big difference when it comes to decisions!

Turn 1 Shooting. Ok, I forgot that Blue wasn't supposed to shoot at all. But if they'd done this in Turn 2, there wouldn't be much difference. Blue rolled a natural '5' and the Bowmen get 5 hits but run out of missiles - these are halved and rounded up due to the village cover and results in 3 Hits net. The Brigans throw some javelins and at Dx-2 get 2 Hits, halved to1 Hit. Red Bowmen inflict 3 Hits on the Brigans who are a bigger threat than Blue Bowmen with no missiles. Overall, this exchange was something of a waste for Blue.

Turn 2. Blue Knights continue to advance. They face the lead Knight to threaten the lead Red Serjeant with a charge. The other three are still maneuvering. Blue Bowmen start heading to the ford - without missiles, they aren't much use south of the river. Red occupies the hill and prepares in the valley, but Blue is still out of missile range.

Turn 3. Blue finished deploying into threat range. All four Knights can charge to contact. Welsh Bowmen inflict 4 Hits on opposing Knights - probably just angers them! The Welsh Bowmen in the town hit the Brigans for 4 then 5 Hits, going out of missiles also. This has encouraged the Brigans to depart bow range lest they be destroyed. As there's an option to recover 1-2 Hits a turn, they'll be using that on the South side of the river.

Turns 4-5. Calculated risks... Blue Knights 3 charges the Welsh Bowmen in the valley. Knights 1 & 2 support by threatening a flank charge on Red Serjeants 2 if they charge the flank of Knights 3. Tempting, but the victory condition is the hill, so Red Serjeants opt to advance a little into charge range, threatening to charge off the hill and get the first blow. The Bowmen do little damage in the melee, while the Freemen roll 4 Hits twice. Still, not enough to defeat the Knights, they will most likely die next turn. I'm now realizing that I should've already turned the Welsh Bowmen in the town to flank and positioned them on the edge of the town ready to move out. The Brigans sit still and rally some Hits off.

Turn 6 Blue. The Red Units in the valley are destroyed. Altho they've a second line of Freemen, the fact that there are two Knights available puts them in an awkward position; the choice is to charge in and get the first blow, which may allow them to destroy the Knights in front of them who have 6 Hits, or to pull back and protect their own flank. I choose to go after the Knights. This is where having the Bowmen ready to move would've helped!

Decision Point. Taking the Knights in the flank is NOT a good idea...when a unit of knights can charge your rear while the other your flank [Dx+2 x 2 x 1/2, still pretty bad]. The ruler shows the 10" [2xBW] move range of the Knights...just enough.

But a small, threatening advance IS. Again, threatening to charge off hill, get first blow.

Turn 7, Blue. The Red Welsh Bowmen don't make it into contact range. The Blue Knights hit the flank, roll a '4' +2 = 6 x 2 = 12 Hits. The Freemen are destroyed and the valley is looking pretty empty. A single Bowmen with no missiles isn't much use, really. Altho they can now charge since they're out of missiles, they're melee isn't very good and they're alone. For this game, the failure to switch the Red Bowmen to face the valley a turn sooner will be the critical failure of leadership for Red. The 5" Base Width charge is just out, shown by the position of the blank base.

Turn 7. Red moves Bowmen into flank charge range, but out of the Blue Knight's "charge to flank" range, which are 5" and 2.5" respectively [Base Width v. Base Depth illustrated by the blank base]. Running out of options, Red decides to hang onto the hill for dear life and Retreats a BD with both Serjeants who, after all, are sitting on a win at the moment. Anticipating all this, the somewhat recovered Brigans are moving to cross the river even as the crossbows cross the ford.

Turn 8. The weakened Knight 3 retreats to recover some Hits while Knight 4 faces the threatening Welsh Bowmen. Having lost three Units and with Blue closing in with additional Units, Red decides that it is time to get a bit offensive. Neither Serjeant can be hit in the flank, and they threaten to charge next turn. The weakened Knight 4 just may lose to the Bowmen in a straight up melee, depending on the dice - they've 8 Hits.

Turn 9 & Blue 10. Blue can't abide being goaded, and charges Knight 1 into the lead Serjeant, covering with the awkwardly positioned Knight 2. Knight 3 was supposed to spend time rallying. Red challenged this by going for the flank of knight 1, which necessitated that Knight 2 & 3 charge in support. Charges on the Serjeant are doubled for flank/rear, halved for armor, so they take 10 Hits but drive Knight 1 to 13, almost dead [15 Hits].

Red Turn 10. Red faces Serjeant 2 against Knight 3 and now only has one Knight to flank - he may survive - and rolls a '4' driving Knight 4 to 14 Hits. Serjeant 1 destroys Knight 1 with 3 more Hits. It's getting quite hairy in that center area, anything might happen.

Turn 11. Red cleared out the center and has gained some honors, but has to retreat to the hilltop and its defensive bonuses - note that the hill + armor - rear leaves them at a net halving of Hits, so it is worth getting up on the hill. Blue has Knight 3 almost dead, but knight 2 is pristine. The Welsh Bowmen and Knight 4 are in a standoff thus far. The Blue Bowmen aren't very dangerous, but their mere existence is a long-term threat to Red, so getting away from them is a good move.

Turn 12. Blue must charge, and does so, inflicting a net '5' Hits, while the Serjeants blow their roll and inflict '2' back. Knights 4 positions for the flank charge.

Turn 13 Blue, and Scenario End. Well, it was hard-fought. But even with hill bonuses, the flank charge results in the destruction of Serjeants 1.

Interestingly, the fundamental decision points that resulted in Red's loss came about early in the game. I should've moved the Bowmen to help in the valley sooner, and perhaps not tried to wipe out the Brigans with shooting [but it was too tempting, I got them to 12 Hits, only one more shot would've done it...] since they ran out of missiles and then weren't nearly as much help in the valley battle that determined the outcome.

Another great scenario, it proved interesting over many plays and the rules delivered just what I want - plenty of interesting decision points and lots of play in a short time, under one hour per the original intent of the "One-Hour Wargame" rules. Yet, my variation has both better defined mechanics and some additional historical nuance. Worth the effort!

Now that the rules are where they need to be, I'll have to finish drafting the optional rules and the army lists, which are leaning towards using the same matrix as NT does, with just a few more variations on the core Units.

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