"English Dog!" "Welsh Cur!"
Feudal times were full of courtesies...and feuding.
As stated in previous big-battle posts, playtesting is very helpful. It lets you see the pitfalls of your force configurations and also to design some different fights for different types of people. Generally speaking, there's the Infantry Fight, and the Cavalry Fight [era doesn't matter, Armor acts just like real cav...big bang, then it's all over]. I decided I wanted to have one of each, and that the below combo offered some interesting terrain and a role for the Brigans to shine, which seemed like a Welsh thing to do. One-Hour Wargames #4 & #2.
Scenario #4 is a quick-escalating attack on a hill. Turn 1 has Attacker entering with entire force on the bottom, and Defender has two Units on Hlil with rest of force entering Turn 2. Scenario #2 has Defender setting up entire force first within 6" of North edge, and Attacker doing the same within 6" of South edge second. Red goes first in both games.
Interesting to note, is that the central wood is now a very important piece of terrain, and even one Brigan in it has lots of options [unless the opponent has Brigans, also]. For the playtest, I wanted to see what would happen if the #4 Attacker put just one Brigan straight into the Woods, but used it against the #2 Defender. Ergo, I played Scenario #2 twice BUT with the wood sitting on the left edge of the board, leaving off the other 2.5' of Scenario #4. I Found that the Woods can be a very useful pivot point and a Brigans threaten the hill in the Defender's rear, tying up a unit or two. Below is the third play, when I had made some decisions about how to conduct the Defense.
Defender deploys first. I put the Serjeants on the left to hold the hill, perhaps strike off it in support of the Knight next to them. The Crossbows [Bowmen] are supposed to soften up any defenders before the stacked Knight Units in center [the front has the leader and his banner, the second a priest...well, monk actually], and the last two Knights are supposed to get out and smash up anything they can, supported by the Crossbows next to them.
Below, Attacker deploys second. Note, the scenario edge is normally between the hill and the wood - the wood is Scenario #4 intruding. On left is a Brigan from Scenario #4's force - it will immediately move forwards and use the Wood as a strongpoint to harass the Red Flank. Next is a unit of Mounted Brigans [light cav] with a Cavalry behind, a Bowmen, a Serjeant, and a Bowmen. I want this Infantry force to advance and mass fire on likely Targets, with the mounted to their left advancing to exploit it.
On the right rear, I've more Mounted Brigans and a Cavalry, I want them to hold the right flank best they can. The Cavalry in the middle rear has a Welsh warlord and standard [unfortunately from an earlier era]. The priest was busy saying matins and arrived late [I forgot to put the priest out, but he will appear!]. Leaders add a Melee dice to any Unit they are in, while the priests may be used once to attempt a triple-rally, then are removed.
Turn 1. Red Advances, farther on the right than the left. The Crossbows are moving up fast as they can. The knights to right are moving the fastest, to threaten the Welsh right.
Turn 1. Blue advances on the left and center, while holding back on the right. Both flank Brigans rolled poorly and failed to advance very far.
Turn 2. Initiative is still solidly held by the Normans, who continue their advance, planning to shoot up some Welsh then slam knights into damaged Units, gaining a big edge. Both Crossbows are now in range of likely targets. The plan seems fine so far, but things are about to go South very quickly due to inattentiveness on my part [distracted by the kids].
Turn 2 below. Welsh continue to settle in, and it looks a bit dodgy with the right flank being wrapped, and a left held down by Brigans. However...The Bowmen deliver a stunning treble-hit on the Norman knights before them. The Mounted Brigans decide to help and toss Javelins hitting a double the usual ratio! They then stay put hoping to distract the Norman Serjeents in front of them. This puts the Norman Knights at 5/7 Hits, so the only thing left to do is charge with the Cavalry down the gap in the middle, hoping to wipe them out! Unfortunately, they only get in one more Hit, leaving them at '6' and on the table.
That was quite a show! Moving to the center doesn't look as good, but the Welsh Serjeants roll a '6' to move and are able to charge into the mercenary Crossbows to their front - I fight they should easily win! The right also looked dodgy, but leading off with the Welsh Bowmen, they also inflict three Hits on an English Knight, so the Welsh Cavalry charge them next! The Mounted Brigans find a space in which to insert themselves near the other knight, then throw Javelins to no avail [forgot to take the rubber tips off??].
Overall, a great Welsh turn thanks to amazing support from the bowmen. Needing a 4+ to hit with 3 Dice, they inflict 1-2 Hits a turn, depending on if they roll up or down. To have both roll up [2 Hits] is a pleasure, but to have both roll 3 Hits each is just fantastic, providing some opportunities for the lighter armed but fierce Welsh nobles to get involved. Surely things can't get much better, can they???
Turn 3 Initiative. They can! The Welsh roll over 2 better so seize the Initiative from the Normans. They decide to take the first Action Phase, and go again immediately.
Turn 3 Welsh right. More excellent Shooting. The Bowmen put two Hits on the Norman Lord's retinue, and the Mtd. Brigans roll three dice 5+ to inflict startling casualties on the Knights nearby! The Cavalry make up for it a bit my missing entirely.
Turn 3 Welsh Left. But wait, there's more great things to go...The shooting is again great, with the Bowmen finishing off the Knights in melee with the Cavalry [freeing them up]. The Mtd. Brigans pop thru the gap inexcusably left between the Serjeants and the Woods, ending behind the Serjeants and pelting them with Javelins [they rolled 13" of movement, and easily fit through the gap, needing a Base Depth...I should really know better...and got one hit, doubled to 2 Hits as it is on the rear]. The Serjeants await the onslaught...
As the Welsh Cavalry is only a Base Depth away from the Serjeants, they can charge them off their Flank Arc, and of course they do...
But manage to entirely miss! Both shooting and melee attacks lose a dice to an Armored defender, so the Brigans throw 2 Dice of Javelins and the Cavalry melee 2 dice.
Finally, the Leader shows he's not much of a leader. With an opportunity to get the jump on the Norman Knights before him, he rolls a '2', getting a measly 7" total movement so can't reach anyone. He settles for aligning with the Bowmen in mutual support - if the Cavalry are charged, the Bowmen can shoot into the flank of the attacker. If the Bowmen are charged, the Cavalry can charge the flank of the attacker - and there's only one Knight available.
Welsh Turn 3 ends with the Welsh having the Initiative across the field thanks to having Units in mutually supporting positions, rolling great in shooting and then seizing the Initiative from the advancing Normans. Clearly, the onslaught of arrows thru them off their advance, causing confustion, and the Welsh were ready to take advantage of the...advantage.
Ok, so what's _good_ about this? Well, I know better than to advance the Normans as sloppy as I did - I was more concerned with setting up my attack then preventing a counter-attack, and I left gaps on the end of each flank that I shouldn't have. The Welsh have twice as many Units that shoot, and I underestimated them based on mediocre performance in the previous two playtests [altho the Welsh didn't manage to squeak out both as wins].
I have had to make lots of design decisions about how I think this level of battle is fought, and my overall opinion is that it has a lot of flowing and swirling melees with opportunities that appear and can be grabbed if you're ready. The formations are not rigid nor the soldiers themselves disciplined. Only the foot Units feel "slow and solid" and that also means they've trouble exploiting gaps that appear in the line because they can't move clear through them in one move. This makes weak Brigans actually useful - but not until the melees start getting settled into. Until then, they are a fast-moving but weak hitting shooting unit.
This can all be a bit disconcerting if you're expecting a big-battle feel, but this is more of a Unit-based skirmish, which I think evokes the Feudal period much better than a big-battle game. Save that for the Romans, eh? They can afford to move and feed 50,000 men!
Turn 3, Normans have some hard fighting ahead to turn this around. They shoot their Crossbows at the Welsh Lord's Cavalry then hit them with their Lord's Knights. They advance the other knight right behind, ready to charge the Welsh Bowmen or the rear of the other Cavalry, or threaten the Mtd. Brigans with destruction - they 're somewhat backed into a corner at present. Elsewhere they slug it out putting some hurt on the Welsh.
Turn 4, Welsh keep Initiative and of course choose to go first. With Victory in their grasp on the left, they need to keep the pressure up on the right. The Bowmen shoot the Norman Lord's retinue, weakening it enough that the Welsh Lord finishes it off in Melee. Their Serjeants are slowing grinding down the Mercenary Crossbowmen in the center who are showing themselves a tougher challenge than originally predicted. On the Right, they charge the Brigans into the rear of the far right Knights but to no effect - they miss. On the left, they surround the Serjeants by the Hill inflicting more losses from javelins on their flank and rear while their Cavalry fight them from the front.
Turn 4, the Normans try to turn things around. On the right, their Knights destroy the Cavalry and face the Brigans. In the Center, the other Crossbow Unit puts some Hurt on the Welsh Lord's Cavalry, and then their Knights slam into the Welsh Bowmen hoping for easy pickings [they inflict hits at a 2-1 ratio...they should have an easy time of it].
The center Crossbow inflict two Hits on the Serjeants - take that! But are still getting the worst of it. Their Serjeants miss completely, not the right time to do so...overall, it's still a bit grim but there are three Units of Knights on the right that have some hurt to spare if they can free up, rally a bit and reposition themselves. One problem is that there's still plenty of Welsh shooting on the board - this can cancel the effects of rally efforts.
Turn 5, the Welsh clean things up a bit. They withdraw their Leader's Cavalry to rally as they've 6 Hits. The Priest dashes over. The Serjeants are wiped out finally, so the Mtd. Brigans move to the rear of the Crossbows but miss. The Bowmen holding the center are doing OK thanks to their shooting friedns - they put 3 Hits on the Norman Knights. On the far right, the Mtd. Brigans manage a Hit, getting the Knights to 5.
Turn 5, Normans put more Hurt on the Bowmen, but not enough. They rally the far Knight with the help of a priest, removing 3 Hits - with 2 Hits, they are a viable Unit. The Knights put two Hits on the Mtd. Brigans, but it could go either way at this point. After last turn's excitement, the Crosbowmen whiff, so it averages out. Everything rests on the Knights...
Turn 6, Welsh dash Norman hopes. The Welsh Bowmen single-handedly inflict 3 Hits, rolling 5-5-6 and wiping out the Knights fighting the Brigans. They in turn are free to roll 6-6-5 shooting the knight that just rallied, taking them from 2 to 5 Hits!
Turn 6 continues, but it only gets worse as numerous free Welsh Units move to the right, ready to make trouble. For the Normans, the Crossbows are fighting tough, and inflict two Hits on the advancing Serjeants! However, their Knights are disappointing, only putting one Hit on the Bowmen, who survive. The far Knight rallies again, but only gets off one Hit.
Turn 7, the end draweth nie! The Welsh put the Norman Knights in the center to flight, and the Brigans do the same to the Knight attempting to rally nearby. The only bright spot is that the Norman Crossbows are earning their pay - they inflict two Hits on the Serjeants in melee [needing a 5+] and see them off! It won't matter in the end, as witnessed by the many knights fleeing behind them...!! Still, we can all respect a gallant stand, can't we? If the Welsh loot the Norman baggage, maybe they can afford to hire them?
Turn 8, The Welsh Mtd. Brigans strike the Crossbows from the rear, getting one Hit, doubled to 2, putting them to 7 and they flee. Still, they stayed longer than the knights!
Final tally, was 2 Welsh Units destroyed, and two others put to the brink [one rescued by a priest who took off 5 Hits]. The Normans were wiped out, despite their priest rallying 3 Hits off a knight. With the Welsh in control of the hill and the crossroads, they will be able to continue their invasion of Norman lands, seizing or razing castles as they go.
Whew, what a debacle! But it was great fun to play and a great example of why it is fun to play at this level - this "battle" involved 800 Welsh against 880 Normans. But they managed to pull it out because I attacked in a clumsy fashion and then luck SHINED on them, clearly "Deus lo volt". It was still a wild blur of battle, and could've gone the other way had the Normans regained the Initiative or the Welsh just stopped shooting so darn well! These are NOT massed Longbows! And the Javelin-toting Brigans accounted for 2-3 Units with their efforts. They are dangerous in the second phase of battle, altho merely a nuisance in the first phase.
So very happy with how this game has developed. It needs to have the rules written in full, the Force Matrix cleaned up a bit, and the character rules re-done to match the new mechanics. Still, I think I will be painting up more from the pile of lead, especially characters, and returning to Wales for a campaign as soon as I can. Meanwhile, confident that the rules are solid for tomorrow's Big Battle Game - Crug Mawr!