The Viking Legal Team in Action

The Viking Legal Team in Action
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Monday, November 27, 2017

"Inspired by OHW" - Medievals, Scenarios #4 and #28

Yet another dispute is settled the old-fashioned way... with blood, not paper. This saves trees, if not lives.

Well, it's time to start flapping and leave the nest. Neil Thomas' "One-Hour Wargames" has had quite an impact locally here for quite some time. However, with both respect and adoption of many of the principles he espouses, we tend to rules that have a bit more complexity as long as the complexity shapes historical tactics instead of just adds chrome.

For example, the a-historical yet well-loved wargamer pastime of making medieval units homogeneous with weapons and armor [a rare thing]. Sure, it is a bit more fun to think of a unit as armed with swords, spears and shields, but the reality is often quite different, so abstraction is both simpler AND more realistic in such cases. So no "Chrome for Chrome's Sake" in our take on the rules. We hope that the evasive Mr. Thomas would approve.

So, there are a few things here that are pretty different.
- 6-hit units, which allows one dice to track Hits.
- 3d6 attacks, said method put forward by John HERE
- a combo method of varying the number of dice and the Hit number
- rallying off of hits, in a simple, limited way.
- a partially diced move system [pure genius...well, I did think it up]
- A combo of Actions and fixed phases
And of course, all the needed bits like Line of Sight and terrain definitions is in here, also, so that the "What's Missing in One-Hour Wargames" aspect is taken care of.

The scenario was an "old reliable", #4 "Take the High Ground", a popular one for me as it is tactically interesting but the battle development doesn't obscure the play of the rules. Below is the book setup.

And below is the close-up of an easy and faithful reproduction of it.

The most important thing about today's play is that it would be with a local hero of the gaming world, a retired colonel who has been gaming since rocks were units and sand was a board. He's published several sets of rules over the years, and who knows how many he's developed. Most importantly, he has the right mind for playtesting and a great grasp of miniature mechanics [the physicality of how the stands move, fight and contact one another on the table] and how they impact design and vice-versa.  So getting his full attention for a while is quite a privilege.

We did a run-thru of the QRS I brought as well as getting caught up. As many of the mechanics are not novel he had them figured quickly and we jumped straight into the scenario. He had two Knights, two Bowmen, a Serjeants and a Freemen [the last two are the same except the Serjeants are Armored and reduce Hits inflicted upon them]. Attacking him I had three knights, a Serjeant, a Bowmen and a Freemen. He deployed the Bowmen and the Serjeants on the hill, with the two Knights, a Bowmen and the Freemen entering as reinforcements.

I quickly developed an attack on the hill with a Knight supported by the Bowmen and the Freemen, while jamming my knights down the road to hold off his reinforcements. This crushed his Bowmen on the hill quickly, and I bogged down his Serjeants fighting my Freemen, then moved my Knights and Serjeants to support the attack down the road. Due to dice and decisions, I ended up with the below situation after 4 or 5 turns:

My Knights are not doing well, and his Bowmen are providing a steady support against my left knights who look to be losing the melee. I withdraw the Serjeants from the road and prepare to defend the hill.

Broader view of the same turn - I think my Bowmen are just off camera at bottom. Well, I managed to just barely lose, as my knights were defeated due to not quite enough support, and his Bowmen managed to put in some telling blows from a distance.

The best part was that he was clearly pleased with the play. I made some quick notes to myself on the parts that he seemed to have trouble remembering, but generally speaking he knew how to play halfway through, and was grasping the subtleties of tactics. 

We had time, so we played again with my scratch Goths v. Byzantine forces, he taking the role of the attacking Goths and I that of the defending Byzantines. This time, I clearly had the game in hand for much of it, but he persisted and somehow eeked out a victory at the end. He made a few - very few but useful - suggestions and pronounced the rules ready for prime time, so I'll be running a large game of it at his house in February.

Very encouraged, I set about the make the few changes he suggested and I noted, and play them out. I chose the unusual scenario #28 "Botched Relief" from One-Hour Wargames. This was a very interested scenario I'd meant to play for a long time. The defender holds the town with two units in the field, and four on the hill. The catch is the four on the hill are immobile, except for one that can activate. So the battle starts as a 4 on 3 attack, but the defender has another 3 in reserve! When a unit from the hill is destroyed, another one is able to be activated as a replacement. So part of the goal I found is to NOT destroy the unit from the hill, while the defender is trying to get it committed as quickly as possible.

I played this several times, the nuances of the scenario took a while to get under my belt. Once I felt that I knew what I was doing and the risks I was taking, I set about to attack the Barbarian Goths with a surprise attack by that paragon of civilization, Imperial Byzantines.

On the hill were my four Gothic units [clockwise]: a Bowmen, a Warband, a Brigan [skirmisher] and a Mounted Brigan [light cavalry]. The first off would be the Bowmen - the shooting would make them hard to ignore, and if they were destroyed the Warband would be unleashed! The last two units would be the skirmishers as they could move fast and shoot, giving them good reach if poor hitting power.

On the field are a Serjeants [in the town] and a Warband in the open, covering them. I want them within their strike range but not too far forward lest they get shot up by Bowmen. The Serjeants are purposefully positioned so they cover the front and the left side of the town - they can only see the a few inches out the right side as they aren't on the edge [red marker].

Attacking them are a small strike force of Byzantines: one Skutatoi - Serjeants - two Cavalry and a Bowmen. They need to move fast and be careful who they antagonize!

Turn 1 Below. Thanks to some great dice rolling, the Cavalry pound in against the heavies first turn, hoping to get in some Hits or lure the Warband into a flank charge [shown by the blank base] but the other Cavalry is covering [shown by the 45 arc template] so not a good idea. The Warband is not replaced with a Unit from the hill if destroyed.

More Turn 1. The Serjeants advance up the road and the Bowmen plod behind, Cavalry inflict a Hit on the Serjeants in the town. Goth Warband  pushes up a bit and covers the flank while the Bowmen threaten the Cavalry - a problem since if they are destroyed they'll be replaced by a Warband from the hill.

Turn 2. Byzantines retain the Initiative [blue die] and charge the Warband. The support with their Bowmen who're getting into range, and the heavy Spearmen - Serjeants. Unfortunately, the dice go down bad and the Cavalry have little impact while taking a smack in the jaw on both Units - 4/6 of their Hits are gone! Time to think smarter?

Turn 3. Not smart enough. The Cavalry pull back while the Goths go on the offensive! They charge the Bowmen with the Warband and their Serjeants charge out of the town against the Byzantine Serjeants. The Bowmen won't last long, but few Hits are inflicted on the heavies. Still, it is going to be hard to have time to rally Hits off the Cavalry, and they are half the force, as well as its most mobile element!

Turn 4. Byzantines retain game Initiative, but have lost the combat Initiative! The Byzantine Bowmen are destroyed and removed thanks to the hard-hitting Warband and supporting Bowmen. The Byz spearmen get a good push against the Goth Serjeants, inflicting two Hits and taking none, but only the far Cavalry Unit rallies off a hit, and there's marauding Warbanders behind them!

Turn 5. Thanks to fate, things balance out a bit for Byzantium. They charge the Warband [despite being out of front arc, they are so close that arc doesn't matter]. They max out at inflicting three Hits on the Warband. The heavies continue to bring a little hope, inflicting a Hit and taking none, while the other Cavalry fail to rally more [phbbbb!].

Turn 6. Things are clearing out a bit in the center. The Cavalry finish off the Warband, but are wiped out by the Gothic Bowmen. In turn, the push of heavies in the center continues in the slow favor of civilization. The Cavalry rally off another Hit - yay!

Turn 7. Luck may be running low - the Byzantines retain Initiative but do nothing to the Gothic Serjeants but take a hit. The Goth Bowmen move up to be a real threat.

Turn 8. Initiative retained, the Byzantines knock out the Goths with thrown spears, then their heavies march into the town and its protection. Goth Archers let loose and inflict max three hits on Cavalry, bringing them a hit from destruction.

Turn 9. The Skutatoi position themselves within the town - they can't be seen unless the Goth bowmen enter charge range, also. The Cavalry dash off to rally elsewhere. With no additional reinforcements coming off the hill, the lone Goth bowmen has to call it quits.

Whew! A wild and woolly confrontation. This was the seventh or eighth time I played this, and it was a hum-dinger each time. The trick of not destroying - or getting destroyed - the reinforcement Unit from the hill is key here. While I generally found that a shooting Unit was the best immediate threat, I also played this several times with the Goths as the marauding force and used the Cavalry to get off the hill, and that made it easier to get them committed to a melee where they had to die or win - both are good for them at that point!

Another good example of an interesting scenario provoking tactical thought.

Very pleased with the rules. I used a couple tweaks from my playtest with the colonel, and it was a grand success. I just couldn't get this posted before Thanksgiving!

You may be wondering where the rules are - I actually won't be posting them here at this time. I'm going to do a proper write-up and then send them out for blind playtesting. If you are interested, do let me know and we'll talk about the parameters of that.

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