Saturday, 26 February 2022

Portable ECW - Edgehill

 After all the 3x3 Portable Wargame excitement, here is a more traditional PW game. I missed the last playing of this, so I was pleased to be able to make it along to Johns game covering Edgehill using Alan Saunders ECW PW variant. I've run Edgehill myself twice (using Marston Less and the Neil Thomas Pike & Shot rules), and we've also played it using Johns old ECW rules from the 1980s, so it is a fairly familiar battle and a good ECW playtest scenario.

The game was an excuse to field an array of ridiculous hats. Tim C had dug out his old ECW re-enactment uniform. My hat is a charity shop find with a cloth band around the brim.

Diego was the Earl of Essex, I was the Parlimentarian cavalry commander and Tom was the infantry commander. Tim C was Charles, while Tim G was his infantry commander and Simon was Prince Rupert with the cavalry.

The action opened with a Royalist attack on our left. This duly achieved nothing at all in the time honoured PW way (a function of mainly needing 5+ to hit anything and only throwing a couple of dice a turn). We responded with a cavalry counterattack and a massive fusillade from our infantry, which was also completely ineffective.

Things got a bit more interesting when I finally managed to push back one of the Royalist cavalry. My other cavalry failed to overrun the handful of enemy dragoons standing around in the open however, and suffered the indignity losing an SP to their musketry.

The Royalists shuffled some of their units around to straighten their line, and the other wing of cavalry charged, again with no effect. One of our infantry brigades chose this moment to run away (special scenario rule).

Things started to look a bit more promising when we finally got rid of those pesky 1SP Dragoons. There was something of a gap around the Royalist northern flank. Time for a hell for leather cavalry charge!

In we went....

And in a glorious series of victories and pursuits, destroyed most of the Royalist cavalry and got as far as attacking the Royalists second infantry line. Well that all went very well. We came unstuck at that point however and were repulsed. When the smoke cleared I was left with a single 1SP cavalry unit, and the Royalists still had one behind our left rear. Oh dear.

In the south, our cavalry attack was defeated and the Royalist cavalry returned the favour and assaulted our infantry line. Oops. 

Fortunately the impudent cavalry were shot down, but not before the other Royalist cavalry (accompanied by Charles himself) had wiped out the last of the Parlimentarian foot. It was down to the footsloggers now, but our foot had already fallen back after a series of adverse fire results.

We broke for the evening at that point. Russell was due to take over from me the next day. At least I'd left him a pair of intact Dragoon units to command!

The next day opened with a very successful Royalist cavalry charge which drove the dragoons right back and finally destroyed them.

The cavalry then withdrew to the safety of an enclosure (perhaps not the best spot for horse soldiers) while the infantry battle resumed. Both sides tried to reform their infantry lines which were looking a bit ragged by now.

The isolated cavalry (and King Charles!) proved to be a bit tempting for Essex and three infantry units set off in their direction.

The cavalry were rapidly shot to bits (enclosures don't provide cover for people on horses) although the King survived and ran away.

The Royalists had reached their break point, and made a last ditch attempt to break the Parliamentarians too, but this failed. In this version, exhaustion isn't automatic, but you need to make a break test at 50% losses, which the Royalists duly failed, so they day belonged to Essex.

The game rattled along fairly well and I prefer this version to the standard PW, but as a group we all agreed that the narrative didn't flow brilliantly as a game of the period. I'm sure it works fine for solo play, but once again the ease with which units can just move around the battlefield willy nilly didn't feel right - perhaps it needs some more stringent wheeling restrictions on infantry units? There were some nice ideas in this variant though, and I'll look at working Alans activation system in to some other rules.   

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

3x3 1st Punic War Battle 5. Bagradas

 The last of my five experimental 3x3 Portable Wargame battles. Hot on the heels of Asculum, I thought I may as well do another engagement as that version of the PW 3x3 Ancients seemed to work quite well. I think I've got my head around how the facing in squares should work, and the ramifications of allowing units to advance after combat. So, off we go to the last battle in the 1st Punic War chapter of Lost Battles - Bagradas in 255BC. 

It was another featureless plain according to Polybius, but no-one knows quite where it was, just somewhere near Tunis which the Romans had recently captured. Bagradas is a river near the city.

The Carthaginians under the mercenary general Xanthippus. The Carthos had 1 x Average Heavy Cavalry, 1 x Average Light Horse, 3 x Average Heavy Infantry (Spears) and 1 x Average Elephant. Lets see how well Nellie does in this battle. As usual, the OB bathtubbed down from the 20+ elements in Lost Battles. 

The Romans under Regulus were a real bunch of hard nuts: 1 x Average Heavy Cavalry, 1 x Average Light Infantry (Velites) and 3 x Veteran Legionaries (Blades) plus 1 x Average Legionary. Ouch.

Vaguely based on the historical deployment in Lost Battles. The Carthos are leading with their cavalry and elephants, as they tended to do, with their infantry in support. Xanthippus is on the right. The Romans have got their Velites leading on the left flank, cavalry on the right and a  big blob of Legionaries in the middle. The Average Legionaries are in support in the centre, along with Regulus.

Another close initiative roll, but the Romans have it. 4:3

They roll forward on the flanks. The cunning Roman plan is to encourage the Carthos to put their elephant in the middle square to stomp all those crunchy Legionaries, but of course being outflanked on both sides will be a serious disadvantage. There is no combat as the Romans are either even odds or disadvantaged.

The Carthaginians take the bait and fighting breaks out along the front. I've just realised that they would have needed four PIPs to active both units in the centre and to attack on both flanks. Doh.

In the north the Carthos with a slight advantage inflict a hit on the Velites who stand their ground, but in the south they fail despite a much bigger advantage (supported flank and General). The Cavalry take a hit. That means that Nellie attacks with both flanks in the air against doubled ranked Legionaries with a General. The Elephant takes a hit but doesn't retreat (and stamp all over its friends).

Next turns initiative goes to the Romans, 4:3.

The Romans spring their Elephant trap in the centre, and it all goes horribly wrong and the attack fails on a draw. That was a bit unfortunate, +5 Blade, +1 support, +1 General vs +5 El +1 support, -2 for two open flanks. +7 vs +5 should have been a walkover, but such is life. Apologies for the rogue dice in the photo. 

In the continuing battle to the north, another shock reversal, this time the Velites rout the Numidian horse, and their supporting infantry promptly flee as well, leaving the Romans in control of the column. Is this going to be a re-run of Asculum and over in two turns?

Well, no. Using their 3 PIPs the Carthos take advantage of the more liberal movement regime and slip the supporting infantry from the elephant behind  the Romans meanwhile the Infantry in the reserve box lead the counterattack out. The Carthos now have a unit in each column again, and a third of the Roman Army is cut off.

The Velites flee from the Carthaginians and are destroyed. The supporting Legion fails its morale test and takes a hit as it can't retreat. Things are not looking good. Next time I'll leave the support unit behind to block stuff like this....

The last PIP is used to attack in the south and a hit is put on the Roman cavalry, leaving the Carthaginian centre held by the Elephant with 1SP. Next turns initiative 6:1 to the Romans. 

The Romans also indulge in some unit shuffling. The support Legion in the centre moves north to block the top row, while the isolated Legionaries at the top march south and turn to face the Elephants rear. Nellie is surrounded!

Sadly the attack on the surrounded elephants merely causes a retreat. Right over the top of the Legionaries in the way. The Legionaries take a hit and are destroyed. That went well then.

The battle lines have stabilised, but the Carthaginian centre looks very vulnerable. The Carthos still have two units in the reserve box though, which is a big advantage, but with only 1 PIP there isn't much they can do. The weakest unit is the Carthaginian spearmen in the centre top square. They are stuck in combat, facing away from the Roman Legion behind them.

The cavalry dashes forwards two squares to support them. At least if they are eliminated there will be a full strength unit left in the square.

The cavalry combat continues in the south. The Carthaginians have the advantage here and drive back the Roman cavalry. In the north the surrounded Carthaginian infantry are destroyed by the Legionaries. Carthage has lost 4SP, Rome has lost 5SP. Initiative for next turn is 3:2 to Carthage.

Xanthippus does some reorganisation. In the south the cavalry are  now disengaged so fall back through the infantry, who move up to take on the Legionaries (who have just lost their cavalry support). The other Carthaginian infantry unit moves up to support the Elephant in the centre.

The Elephant attack goes in an Regulus is killed! What a disaster! The Romans have now lost 6SP.

In the south though, the Carthaginian infantry attack fails and they lose 1SP.

The Romans move their cavalry across the support the Legionaries in the centre, but the attack on the elephants is a draw. In the south, the unsupported Legionaries get lucky and rout their opposite numbers. The Carthaginians have now lost 7SP and reach their Army break point. The will run on a '1' and roll a....'2'. Phew. The Romans are still hanging on having lost 6SP and their General.

Xanthippus hastily reorganises his support lines again. The cavalry sidestep to support the elephants along with the general. The Spearmen swap places with them and move south to hold the line and attack the Romans as they have a hanging flank.

Xanthippus leads the Elephants into the Legionaries and inflicts a hit. The Romans are now at their break point, and will run on a '1'. The roll a '2', however as Regulus is dead, it is subject to a -1, so the Romans break and run.

There is just the combat in the south left to resolve. The Carthaginian attack fails and they take a hit, so need to pass another break test. They have now lost 8SP so will run on a '2', but they manage to roll a '3' and hang on.

Well, that was a close run thing and it really could have gone either way. That all worked pretty well and I enjoyed doing the last two games. It takes longer ot write them up than to play them, but I'm not sure what longevity this has for me. I enjoyed getting out the Ancients stuff again, but as is my way, I've now become distracted by a couple of other projects, so who knows if I'll actually ever write these modified rules down. I've got Marks originals covered in my scribbled notes, and that will have to do for now. Well, that was fun!


Tuesday, 22 February 2022

3x3 1st Punic War Battle 4. Asculum

 OK, so I had a bit of a reflective time after Battle 3 in which I basically ended up playing DBA on a 6x6 grid. If I want to fight historical battles using DBA, then I should just play DBA. There were some aspects I liked though, the DBA troop types are well thought out and their interactions in terms of relative combat factors and combat outcomes work well. I just don't need all the unit micromanagement and general pratting about with when unit x can support unit y but can't retreat through unit z unless it is a Wednesday and it is raining.

So, for this one I went back to just two units in a square, I ignored all the fancy bonuses as when I revisited the number crunching and considered tactical overlaps, an extra unit basically gave a +1 (although for pikes it is a +3). Close enough for government work anyway. I did keep the negative modifiers for overlaps, but applied them at a whole square level, so if a unit was outflanked, it was an automatic -1 off their combat factor. I was also more generous with advance after combat and took out the wheeling restrictions. I kept the Army morale thing to avoid tedious slugfests (so start rolling for each SP loss over 50%) and I kept the DBA concept of quick kills, which became two hits on the affected units, one of which had to be an SP loss.

Righto, back to the killing fields of the pre-Christian Mediterranean, this time were are at Asculum in 279BC, where the Romans encountered Pyrrhus and later pretended they had won.

Thankfully Asculum is another featureless battlefield. As usual the OBs and terrain are based on those in Phil Sabins 'Lost Battles'.

The Romans. All looking a bit more professional than the guys at Sentium in the last game. This time they have got 1 x Average Heavy Cavalry, 1 x Levy Light Infantry and 4 x Average Legionaries (Blades in DBA terminology). The Legions fight at +5, ouch! This is a Republican Consular Army so has two consuls in command, Decius and Sulpicus, in this case represented by one General figure.

Pyrrhus has a nice Successor Greek army with 1 x Veteran Heavy Cavalry, 2 x Average Pikes, 2 x Average hoplites (Spears) and 1 x Average Elephant. It will be fun to play with Nellie the Elephant, just made for stomping all over those Legionaries. It just needs to look out for the enemy Velites as they can quick kill Elephants. Pyrrhus is the General.  The Hoplites fight at +4, while the Pikes fight at +3 but get +3 for rear support by another Pike unit. This is one mean army. 

Vaguely historical deployment based on Lost Battles. The Carthaginians liked to put their Elephants out front, but for some reason Pyrrhus has them supporting a hoplite unit at the top. Probably a good idea as the Roman Light Infantry are opposite them. In the centre the Greeks have more hoplites supported by the cavalry and the Pikes are doubled up in the bottom square. The Romans have gone for their drill book deployment, a bunch bunch of Legionaries in the middle, more Legionaries with Velites and Cavalry on the flanks.

Woo, very close on the initative roll. I've kept the opposed dice initiative mechanism after toying with alternate turns. Greeks go first.

With a six, it would be rude not to attack with absolutely everyone. The entire Greek army trundles forward. The sequence of combat will be vital here as the Greeks have a big advantage in the top square (Spears vs Velites) and the bottom square (double ranked Pikes plus General vs Legionaries). Pyrrhus has very wisely parked himself with the Pikes to extend their advantage. I've just realised that would need an extra PIP to get there, which he didn't have. Oh well.

Sadly fortune favours the Republic and the attack fails along the entire line! At the top the Hoplites take a hit and stand, but everyone else retreats, and the supporting units all fail their morale tests and retreat with them. (Roll as if they have taken a hit and they can opt to stand if they throw a 'retreat' result). The opposed dice DBA system sometimes produce wild swings of fortune, but I like that. Much more exciting than rolling endless 'miss' results. 

Faced with this great opportunity, the Romans use their 5 PIPs to advance along the entire front. The top square is already engaged. The plan is to just attack the Elephant square as it is outflanked.

Hmmm. I'm really not sure how to resolve this. Can units even face in different directions? In the end I resolved it as the flanking Legionaries leading the attack and I treated the engaged Velites as an unsupported flank. So Bd +5, +1 for General, no support (facing the wrong way). Sp +4, -1 for being outflanked, +1 for support. So +6 plays +4. 

The Romans won and the Greeks retreated as they already had a hit. The Elephants failed their morale test, but as they had been in support, and not in the lead, they didn't trample all over their pals.

The Romans advanced after combat, as did the Velites. Hmm, I'm really not sure about that. I think that probably everyone in a square should face the same way, and that a unit should only be subject to attack from one square in a turn. Well, at least the Greek line is nice and straight now. Next turn, the Romans rolled a 6 for initiative, 2 for the Greeks. 

Which basically let them shuffle their support units around as there were no continuing combats, so they ended up with an unbroken line of Legionaries in front and everything else in support. Decius (or Sulpicus) went to join the units at the top to extend the Roman advantage there.

At the top the Romans pushed the Greeks off the table (+7 vs +5). Once again the Elephants failed their morale test and ran away. This in turn outflanked the centre and the Romans won here (+5 +1 vs +4 +1 -1) and put a hit on the Hoplites opposing them. The Roman attack on the Pikes in the south was a draw however!

Now the Greeks had to use their 2 PIPs to counterattack, which limited their scope for manouvre. The Elephants led off from the reserve area to try and drive the Romans back in the north.

And the Pikes had a go in the south. The Pikes won a resounding success and pushed the Romans back, the Roman cavalry failed its morale and retreated too.

The Elephant counterattack failed though, despite the Romans having an unsupported flank. Elephant +5, +1 support, Romans +5, +1 support, +1 General, -1 open flank. +5 vs +6 overall, so the loss was  no unexpected. 

With that the Greeks lost as they had an unoccupied table column. Losses had been pretty light on both sides, so it wasn't exactly a Pyrrhic victory. In retrospect the Greeks should have taken a few more hits to hold their ground. Defending on the baseline is a mugs game, but I think I hadn't quite made the transition from the DBA-lite I'd played in the previous game. Overall that worked OK, although I need to sort out the square facing thing. 

I think I'm getting somewhere finally so, onto another battle while I've got things clear in my head. Next instalment in a couple of days.