The Viking Legal Team in Action

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

More Skirmish - A Night Action by Yorktown

OK, so these are in fact American Revolution figures, and yes, they are 54mm toy soldiers that are literally borrowed from a 7yo - but more on that later. Still, the rules are basically the same, and altho the period is much advanced, these are a totally RAW series of two playtests. More playtests and the rules - as best as I could understand them - are in previous posts HERE.

Today I'm using these toy soldiers b/c that's the project we're working on - skirmish gaming with toy soldiers in the NW Frontier, 1880-ish. But, because the work on the rules was previously done here with GW figs - both classic Warhammer and LOTR film - I figured this is the best place to follow up on more work with these rules.

The intent was to explore both how it looks and how it plays in a small space. For day-to-day gaming, I personally don't have a lot of space altho I can expand from the 4x3' table in my office to the 8x3' table in the dining room, fighting down the length. Also, I've been considering the turn sequence and mechanics quite a bit, and as is now my custom, decided I absolutely had to play the game RAW, since I've eaten so much humble pie tinkering with NT rules in the past. Note that this does not make me apologetic for my critique that key rule mechanics - including ones mentioned in the rules themselves - are insufficiently explained. But more on that later.

Today, the rules are RAW and the figs are 54mm toys from a plastic bag at the Cowpens battlefield. Let's see what we think of both, eh?

Yes, the battle is - once again - Scenario #12: An Unfortunate Oversight from Neil Thomas' excellent "One-Hour Wargames" book. Not only was it already set up, but it is a pretty challenging maneuver scenario that I've now played so many times I'm quite aware of the key decisions a player needs to make, so doesn't intrude into the evaluation process. I could've used #4 or #8 just as well, both attacks on a hill - but it's not set up. All I changed was to add a lot more scenery, per the rules, "Remember to use lots of terrain" on p. 117. As always, lots of very specific guidelines here for the player, British-style!

In any event, here is the setup for what I envision as "A Night Action by Yorktown". The British are making a sortie against their beseigers - the goal is to carry the hill, spike the mortar, blow the powder, and retreat to the lines. Musket range is 16", foot move is 6", troop quality is Levy shoot and pass morale on a 5+, have 2 Hits and roll one Melee dice. Each quality higher - Average, Elite, Hero - adds '1' or 1 dice to the number, so the Hero has a 2+ 5 Hits and 4 melee dice. The wood is dense and the trees just mark it. I consider LoS to be from the edge, or 6" if crossing one side of the wood. The rest of the terrain counts in game terms as it looks.

Americans stretch from the town to the hill, the most direct route. Brits are taking the flank route, crossing at a ford they discovered nearby and which the Cunning Colonists know nothing about...

For such an action, we have a picked force of grenadiers [below] clothed in, well, red, Red RED! The rules say forces of 55 points, but I've 49 here, with 6 Elite Grenadiers [3 advancing with bayonets leveled, 2 fixing bayonet, and 1 firing] led by a Hero Sergeant [hustling forward] and an Elite officer [looking, as you'd expect, like he was trying to remember where his sherry decanter is], all with muskets except the officer has pistol / sword. Apologies to the gentry, but after all, the Lt. purchased his commission while the Sgt EARNED his. Still, I think I'm being fair that even a new officer in the Grenadiers would pick up that Elite attitude. Perhaps he was the lead in Rackets in debter's prison, or something.

Below, the much larger - and poorer - Rebel force. Elite officer, mounted with pistol, and 8 Average light infantry [probably Hessian Fusilier figs, but whatever] with musket.

And on the objective hill, below, a siege mortar that is disturbing the Duke of Cornwallis' letters home to his sick wife - can't have that, can we? While they may be great gunners, here they are 4 Levy with Musket, led by an Average gun commander with sword / pistol.

Altogether the Americans make a force of 51 points, with 14 figures. Probably should've rid myself of one gunner, at two points [1 for Levy foot, 1 for a musket]. If they lose, the Brits can claim the odds were stacked against them, somewhat, eh?

Below, the setup. Americans must be within 12" of the town. They opt for half in the town, half behind in cover behind the slight hill, with the officer ready to lead the Quick Response Force from the rear. 

Below, Brits stacked up all at the ford to the right. I'm saying that the stream is rough so costs double to move through, or 3" a turn.Plan is to zip through the field using the hedge as cover, gain the small hill to right, and from there mount an attack on the objective after tearing up the Rebel force. Let's see how it unfolds - there's a bottle of sack in it for the winner! Leading off is the Hero Sgt with 5 Grenadiers. Tailing is the officer with his bodyguard, a Grenadier with aspirations.

Turn 3 below. The Brits are in the field, but the Yanks are forming up. The Race for the Hedge has resulted in a 2-2 tie for cover. Unfortunately, the majority of the force is in the field, on a moonlit night, with the Yank officer dashing to cut them off.

Turn 4, below. A hot action is occurring across the hedge - both have cover. The flanking force is in difficulty from the gunners' musket fire on the hill, but they did put 3 Hits on the Yank officer, causing him to take cover behind the rise. One Grenadier has 3 Hits, only 1 left, but casualties are light.

Turn 5, an ugly night action flares by the hedge gap, with bayonet thrusts through the branches and even the Grenadiers taking some Hits, albeit taking a couple of lives in the process. Below a successful melee defense holds the hedge for now.

Below, Brit Turn 5. The flanking force determinedly advances, while also trying to support their blocking force with a shot or two. Still, not looking good, with Rebels everywhere and Grenadiers taking Hits. Dice lined up show the Brits winning a melee with a high dice of '6' v. '4' for Yanks. The yellow '4' causes 2 Hits from the bayonet thrusts of the desperate Grenadier. The "roll many dice, win with highest single roll" is a quick mechanic that produces both probability and variation, works well if you're OK with your occasional bad roll.

Below, Yank Turn 5. counter-attack leads to victory against the odds. Yank '5' beats 6 dice of two Grenadiers - Bloody Lucky Yank! Grenadier goes down as the yellow '5' results in two more Hits on him, for 4 total, enough to take out even a Grenadier.

British Turn 6. Firing upon the Yank commander and one soldier leads to no hits. Did they buy their ammo from a Philadelphia Quaker? Hmmm....

Yank Turn 6. More help arrives, and they take out some more Grenadiers with Fire.

British Turn 7. Unloaded and under pressure? CHAAAAARGE! Over the top they go. Nice thing about Charging is you get to pick your fights.

Scads of dice later and the Yank commander goes down with 6 hits, only 4 needed to kill him, anyway.

Still, the counter-attack hurts. Grenadiers are going down and most of the survivors have Hits at this point. They are at or over 50% with 3 of 8 left, so have to check morale.

And all pass except the Hero Sgt! He rolls a '1' and takes off. Still, he has 4 out of 5 Hits, so if he's 80% dead, shouldn't we cut him some slack? Still, no mention in dispatches for him!

Well, to get into the eval, I should start by saying these are a very serviceable set of rules, with some very clean shoot, melee and morale mechanics. The IGO-UGO isn't too trying since you do have the opportunity to save an Action and "Ambush" on the opponent's turn. This uses the "make the opposing player stop while you react" mechanic, which I loath and detest, as it leads to so much broken ploys. I much prefer a "react upon the completion of an enemy Action" from MP's "Starship Troopers" [an ill-handled, excellent game]. In the excitement, I mostly forgot about the Ambush mechanic, and I nearly forgot about Force Morale, as well.

These are a solid set of rules that need a bit of fleshing out but any gamer with some experience, or who's willing to ask around, should be able to tweak them without completely hashing them up.

Cover / Deep Cover tactic is confusing, but very interesting.  Cover works how you think, giving the figure in cover a 4+ save on 1d6. Deep cover gives the figure a second d6 for a 4+ save, in effect, doubling his chance to save. But, using Deep Cover gives a Target Figure of that Figure's Fire a bonus d6 save, so if it's in the open it gets a 1d6 for 4+ save, and if in cover 2d6. If both are in Deep Cover, they can't fire, presumably b/c they've no LoS.

How this works is a bit vague - it just says that "Figures may choose to be in Partial or Deep Cover. Units [sic - Figures?] in deep cover enjoy greater protection, but their firing effectiveness is limited. Units in Deep Cover are denoted by laying them down on the table."  The last implies to me that they're "getting down" as well as being in cover, so are limiting their LoS. How they do this is not explained - seems like at any Fire Action, one has to pick which one you're doing, and it would last until your next Activation.

In Melee, a figure in Deep Cover still just gets the one saving dice, not two - the second is only for firing. I do like this because if everyone is fighting in the deep woods French and Indian War style, then there should be a lot fewer shooting Hits, and the fight becomes a scattered series of melees in rough terrain with some confusion. Unfortunately, I didn't have quite enough terrain set up for that, so really playtesting that mechanic will have to wait. Also, it seems to me that sometimes the "Deep Cover" should be forced upon soldiers not just voluntary.

I like the fact that muskets shoot every other turn, and have to be reloaded. This could be combined with Deep Cover so that Reload = Deep Cover automatically. There are very realistic choices about taking time to reload, charge, advance, retreat, fire, that give the game great feel for a very simple rule.

Overall, a solid game, albeit with a scenario grabbed from elsewhere, and equal forces by points that seem a bit tough on a small, elite force. Clearly, another playtest is in order to get into this!

As for the figures, I did enjoy the size, which was quite startlingly big! My terrain doesn't quite cut it, but that can be remedied. Despite some pronounced mold lines, they look OK, and with some cleaning would paint up just fine. As there aren't many needed for a 1:1 figure to man ratio, in addition to which each man is a "unit" unto himself, some time cleaning them up wouldn't be as bad as say cleaning up 50 25mm figures for a big unit of Gauls or something.

Overall, a positive experience and a positive impression!

Some rules tweaks upon which I've taken notes:
- Work on type and nature of Actions. As these will be for NW Frontier, I can eliminate some of the odd weapons [like Crossbows] and even repeaters if not revolvers. At present, Repeaters / Revolvers allow two shots a turn or a split Action of 1/2 Move and 1 Shot.
- add a generic Action for a success doing anything from throwing to climbing, dis/mounting, whatever. 
- clarify the Cover / Deep Cover mechanic. It seems obvious to me that if figures can choose one or the other, and it mainly affects how they fire and are fired upon, then the key moment for them to choose is when they Fire, and they have to stay in that Cover type until their next activation. Perhaps the clearest way to do this is to say that they "go prone", which would also give them 1d6 Save in "open" terrain, in essence a bonus d6 instead of just enhancing the Cover save. Also, there should be times when this is forced upon a figure, not just always being voluntary.

Lots to think about!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Contact? That's the question...

Yep, the Welsh Teulu's been contacted alright...
"Contact" feudal style...flank & rear on the Teulu, frontal on the Serjeants
from my Dark Ages blog, HERE

Interesting post query in the AMW yahoogroup: 
"How does one make contact in the NT rules - conform in full edge to edge contact, or stop at initial point of contact?"  NOTE: This would be a corner unless one started exactly parallel to the Charge Target Unit.

There are actually a number of interesting game design questions that orient around this issue.
1. What does melee represent in the game? in the earlier periods, it means actually getting up close and stabbing people - in the later periods, it means firing muskets up close and then charging a wavering opponent who promptly scampers off.
2. Do the mechanics have unintended consequences? as in does conforming result in a change of direction for a retreat from the melee, perhaps to the advantage of one side? Should they get this advantage?
3. How complex should this be to reflect reality as we understand it? as in do we need two pages of rules and 7 diagrams to explain it??
4. Can I explain this to a newbie / does it makes sense to a normal person?

It should be noted that none of NT's rules I have - and the only set I don't have is Napoleonic Wargaming - explain it or say anything besides "contact the enemy unit". It seems to me that it sometimes matters, and sometimes doesn’t, and the NT thing is probably to let players wing it! So what are some issues around it?
First, is the period Ancients through Pike and Shot where NT has melee being one of the primary means of resolving combat? Or is it a period where firepower is more dominant? In the former, I think one can make a good argument that it is more realistic looking to have them be in full contact, and that generally the attacker will conform to the defender as their object is to get fully into contact.
For the latter periods, “melee” is really more “getting threateningly close until the one side or the other blinks and scampers off”. In that case, I don’t conform them as I think they’re not really in physical hand-to-hand combat. However, if the defender was in a fixed position like a town or breastwork, then I’d conform them since I imagine the attacker having to get very very close to have any encroaching effect on the defender.
For One-Hour Wargames, the cavalry in Horse & Musket / Rifle and Saber charge and bounce if they fail to destroy their target. For that case, I think you can argue that the attacker can just choose as it’s up to the cavalry commander to decide to where he wants his squadron to rally back.  Also, it’s sorta realistic to give cavalry that extra movement and option to be very mobile. So there I’d let the player decide if he wanted to conform or not, and therefore set up a possible bounce to take him where he wants to go. It shouldn't get abused much as it's only 6" back, which is half shooting range, so using this as a move option for a unit that has a 12" move anyway doesn't seem tempting.
Presently, I’m playing a lot of the “Wargaming: An Introduction” ACW rules. There, I do NOT conform them as the detailed mechanics of charging just have it make a lot more sense to resolve the whole thing as more of a morale clash. Again, if they were attacking a fortification or breastworks, I’d probably force the attacker to conform.

My next venture will be Simplicity in Practice, his set of "generic" horse & musket rules, which I will most likely pursue as a “first corner or point of contact” and not conform them.