Friday, August 30, 2019

Crecy, a Joan of Arc Unboxing and Playing

 A Headless Body Production

Location:  Steve's winter home.
Event:       Providence Gamer's Game Knight
Scenario:  Battle of Crecy
Players:    Phil Gardocki, playing the high and noble English, then reversing to the artless, common-kissing French
                  Steve Turn, playing the impetuous and brave French, then reversing to the reeky, onion-eyed English
Game System: Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, Brand new, fresh out of the box!  Not available in stores!

The Forces:
If memory serves, 8 units of longbow, several dismounted men-at arms, several sergeants, 3 pikemen, Edward III, The Black Prince, and one other lord of noble birth. 

The French:
6 Knights, 4 Voulgiers(some kind of halberd), 3 pikemen, and peasants.  Led by King Phillip and two other nobles.

3 units representing the remain of the Genoese crossbowmen, dispersed on turn zero and a priest, blacksmith, peasant.

The Board
The board consists of about 6 inch hexagons.  Each hexagon may be split into 2 or 3 parts, or be a single area.  This effects stacking.  Each 3rd can only have up to 4 units in it, each half 6, and I assume a hex that is not split can have 12.  The board comes with 3D trees and buildings.  The English start with their stake lines deployed.
The view from the English side of the board.

Note: I do not own the game and am running on memory here.

The game has a lot of interesting concepts that are not totally intuitive.  But once you learn them, they are interesting, and the game was fun enough that we turned the table around and played again.

The first phase is more or less a reset of the pieces.  Then a card is drawn to determine the tempo of the game, and then another 3 cards are drawn which have conditions that each player can select one of.  

Example, the first card may have 2 to 4 grey stars.  This means each player gets 2-4 grey activation tokens.  A token when played on an area, activates all the units in an area.  When an area is activated, each unit can do what it does best.  Bowmen can shoot, while knights charge.  Most nobles have bonus actions and can do them as well as moving/fighting/charging. 

Then there are a second set of cards that have all kinds of things offered.  Like get another token, upgrade your token to a yellow(reactivate) , or blue(activate on your opponents turn).  Or draw a legendary token, or a intrigue token, or an experience point, or trade in a intrigue for something else.  There are lots of options requiring you to read them carefully.

If you  are older, bring your reading glasses, or turn up the lumens.  My only complaint is that some of these cards are written in mouse print.

After have you activation tokens, it is time to put your Machiavellian plans in motion.

The French move first, and Philip masses one of his nobles and 4 units of knights to charge across the field.  They run into a remanent of the Genoese crossbow, which they disperse.  Steve was going to take another activation, and he suggested I might want to take one of my blue activation tokens, which allows me to play in his turn.  
Philip and and one of his nobles mass wit 4 knights.

Good idea.  I activate an area with 2 longbow.
Seeing their doom approaching, 2 longbow in the church shoot.
Combat is resolved by adversarial die rolls.  There are four qualities of dice, in order of effectiveness, white, yellow, red and black.  The dice can be blank, shield, push, wound, and kill.

The longbow roll 2 yellows each when shooting.  But written on the card for longbow, they have a special ability where all the shields count as wounds.  Don't worry, everyone gets special abilities. You have to read the cards. Looking at the yellow dice, they are 50% blank, 1 shield, 1 wound and 1 push.  I aim for an area with only 2 knights, and roll 4 yellow dice.
For longbows shooting, shields count as wounds.  That's 4 wounds with the odds 81 - 1 against.
The defender rolls his defensive dice, for the knights, that is one black dice each.  Each shield negates a hit.  However the bowmen rolled too well, and even it both black dice are shields, both knights are going to be wounded.  

But this is not the end.  Wounded units are not automatically killed.  They go off board to await the decision of the "Doom Die".  Where they may rally next turn, or the turn after that, or expire.  Suffice it to say, losing 1/3 of our fast impact forces put a crimp in the French canard. 

Philip is undaunted, and decides to go for the flank.  The French knights invest a church on the far left, and is defended by 2 units of longbow.  The knights roll 2 reds each, while Philip and is nobleman just add more to the pile.  The longbowmen roll one white die each plus a bonus white for the church.  The battle was easily adjudicated with the longbowmen killed.  Not wounded awaiting a turn to rally, but dead.

But wait, there's more!  When you kill a unit, your side gets an experience point.  Killing a mounted unit is two experience points.  These points can be spent to raise the level of noblemen, improving their specials and adding more dice to fight with.

Edward was having a serious ut-oh moment, realizing that the next move for the French was to run around the stakes into his rear area.  But he has one more blue activation token and activates another area with two longbow units.
Activate the forward longbowmen. Target Philip's knights.
Deja-vu.  another 1 in 81 shot..
It looked bad, but the French defensive roll is 4 black dice plus a couple of yellows and whites.  But in the end, only 1 shield was rolled, giving the French 3 wounds.

Philip and his noble can take multiple wounds, so they each took one, while another knight left the field for a quick lie down.

Philip, his +1, and 3 knights charge behind the lines, where they are met by brave and honest men-at-arms and their sergeants.  The dice are compared and Philips knights are thrown back.

After that, Edward got his turn.  reinforcing his right flank,  sweeping the field with arrows. But Philip wasn't done. 

Philip's remaining knights charge up the center.
Clearing a land in front of them.
 Mustering that attack was all Philip could pull off.  It was Edwards turn to respond.
The Black Prince, his Men-at-arms, a sergeant and a pikeman.  (in order of effectiveness) 
Leaving the field empty of French knights and Philip by his lonesome.

But we didn't bring 6,000 longbow all the way from Wales to do naught but sit on their hands.  King Philip has a Leonidas moment, and with that, the game was over.

3 full turns and it was a lot of fun.  Despite the steep learning curve of this game we were done in 2 hours.  So we reset the board, and I took the French this time.

In the second game, I followed Steve's strategy for the French, and it was perfect.  I followed it and he had average luck for the English, and Edward was bleeding out on the ground by the top of turn 3.  About an hour and a half.

I can recommend this game, not just because I won two in a row, but there are a lot of intricacies and interplay's that make it interesting.  A good game is a game where decisions matter.  There are many places to make decisions.  There are card interactions I failed to mention because I don't know the names of the various decks or the tokens used to activate them.  There is interactions with NPC's on the board, of which I received a free wound removal due to superior equipment, and I go a free reroll from a special legendary card expenditure.  

Another blow by blow on YouTube can be found here.

More on the cards, as this came up on the forums,  If memory serves, there are 8 different card decks, some of the decks had similar mechanisms.  Others not.  Some cards are permanent, others once and done, others still cost some token to execute.  This provides a mechanism that allows choices to be made way beyond the normal wargame setup of lining up and shooting.  Without a long explanation, I think they add significantly to the game.

The Long Explanation:
For instance, the largest cards, a little bigger than standard playing cards, are for the Nobles.  They are a convenient way to present individualized characteristics to a single figure on the board.  There is a lot of room to add in a fair amount of descriptive text. By making them cards, it relieves the player of the wear and tear of flipping through a book, allows an easy way to “level up” by just flipping the card over, and a convenient “tray” to put your wound or equipment markers.

The unit cards are the size of standard playing cards. Once again, it provides an easy mechanism to evaluate your units.  The card has its offensive and defensive dice available, point cost, and special abilities all in one location, and doesn’t take up too much land cape on the table.

The council cards are smaller, but have less detail, which is fine, as they are flipped, acted on, and are done, you don’t have to refer to that card ever again.  I only saw them with 3 and 4 grey stars on them, meaning each player gets 3 or 4 activation's per turn.

Then there are these smaller cards, 3 are flipped per turn, and each offers from 1 to 4 choices of stuff.  That sounds vague, but they ranged from getting another, better activation token, trading a grey token (star) for a better token, getting or trading intrigue or legendary or experience tokens.  Each player can pick one choice from one card.  These cards are printed in mouse print and took some time to evaluate as you had to pick them up and look closely at them, and the variety of options required much consideration.

Then there are event cards.  I had a noble that allowed him to draw one a turn, and these covered a range of things to do, but they cost intrigue counters to used.

Each side also got a card with 2 or 3 permanent events that their side could execute, but at a cost of legendary tokens.
There are question and answer cards for interacting with NPC’s.  This takes an activation of by a noble and can be modified by the noble’s charisma.  There are rewards available for successful conversations with NPC’s

And lastly, there are equipment cards.  These can be scenario granted or received as a result of one of the event cards above, or by interacting with an NPC on the board.

While this may seem complicated, each set of cards is a simple mechanism in itself.  Most are just I have a card; do I activate it? Or I have a card I want to activate; how do I earn the token required to use it?  They do offer the player many more options to make a choice that matters, and their interaction can make the difference between the having a point of the spear, or a blunt stick.

For example, in the second game, which I did not go into detail, because I stopped taking pictures.  The Philip and his knights charged the flank of the English line.  They were repulsed, but not just repulsed, but spread out over the board, which normally would require many activation's to reform them together for another charge.  But with the cards I had many options to alleviate this.

Using acquired experience tokens, I was able to promote Philip to second level, this allowed him to activate 3 units, not in his area.  This also gave him an ability that reduced the cost of his event cards.  The French had two event cards, each costing 2 legendary points, of which the French had two, earned by one of the other French nobles on turn 1 by following up an impetuous charge.  By reducing the cost, both events were put into play.  One healed a wound of one of his nobles, the other activated a knight to “move towards the enemy”.

The end result was this knight charge was able to continue, at not quite the mass it had (3 vice 4) but there were other knights right behind them to make up for losses sustained in the 3rd charge, while healing the nobles allowing them to take more damage, saving the losses of more knights.  So the English, when they counterattacked, were facing a full raft of dice, and not a reduced set.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Battle of Emesa

 A Headless Body Production

Location:  Regency at Providence Community Center, Phoenixville, Pa
Event:       Providence Gamer's Game Knight
Scenario:  Battle of Emesa
Players:    Phil Gardocki, Mark McConnahay, Garth Parker, playing Queen Zenobia and General Zabdas.
                  Bruce Potter , Jenny Parker playing Emperor Aurelian

Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, about 200 points per side.

The Forces:
General Zabdas, the Brilliant, Queen Zenobia and Nothra, both Competent
      6 Cataphracts, 4 elite
      3 Medium Cavalry, Bow
      2 Light Cavalry, Javelin  
      8 Light Cavalry, Bow      
      3 Light Medium Infantry, Bow, mediocre
      3 Light Infantry, Bow
Breakpoint of 25

Middle Imperial Roman
Emperor Aurelian, a Strategist and Equestrius Celeritate Cursor, Competent, and Dux Agminis Latus*, Ordinary.
      6 Legionnaires, Heavy Swordsmen, Impact, Armor, Missile Support, elite.
      2 Auxiliaries, Medium Swordsmen, Armor, Impact
      2 Cataphracts, 4 elite
      4 Heavy Cavalry
      2 Light Cavalry, Bow 
      2 Light Infantry, Bow 
Breakpoint of 19

The Board
The Orontes river is on the left.  The road to Antioch crosses the Palmyran muster zone.  The Roman camp is fortified (natch...) The Palmyran camp is unfortified. 
The Palmyrans deploy rapidly without consideration of the Roman deployment. 
The Romans secure their flank against the Orontes (Horns) river, their other flank guarded by a large cavalry contingent.  Their third command cannot be seen. 
Nothra, a stable young nobleman of good bearing and family, is directing the skirmish command.  Zabdas, a seasoned veteran of many years is in charge of the main strike force.
The Queen, mounted astride her camel, "You Bastard", takes a position behind her peasant archers.
Turn 1: 
It's the bottom of turn 1, I missed pictures of the Roman advance.  Hobnailed sandals and iron shod hooves marched in perfect sync to reach the magical 4 UD line from the Palmyran skirmish line.  The only interesting thing was the laser pointer used to dress the lines afterward, and that the third Roman command remained unseen.

Why would you not want to be seen, a scholar from the 70's, Sir Monty Python, has a study on the subject posted here.
One of the advantages the Palmyrans have is the surplus of light horse.  They outnumber the Roman lights 2-1 on this flank, and, of course, lose the first missile exchange.
And surprisingly, the Romans match the Palmyran Heavy Cavalry, 1-1.  Zabdas's center command also has 5 light units.  The 3 foot approach and loose their arrows at the corner of the Roman cavalry command, and score.  The light horse, swings wide around the Roman flank.

Where Queen Zenobia's troops advance unchallenged.
Turn 2:
The Romans roll for their unseen command, and it is not revealed.

The Palmyran lights continue to lose the missile exchange.
The Roman cavalry command refuses it's left flank.  Where it covers the legions left flank, avoids being flanked itself, and to make a rally attempt for their disordered flank unit.  
FYI, the Roman General, Celeritate Cursor, is included with one of the Cataphract units.  Third from your left, next to the Heavy Cavalry with the banner.

The wheat in the field undulates gently in the breeze. 
The Palmyran front ranks withdraw to the rear for future rallying.  The rear ranks, now brought forward, seem to have trained better.

Zabdas decides not to go in piece meal, and lines up for one massive charge on turn 3.
This is the reason you buy the really heavy cavalry.  One massive charge.  It always looks glorious.  And I can get away with it because the middle two Roman units are also Cataphract (elite), so the command cannot evade without exposing it's center to being unsupported, and abandoning it's general.
Zabdas's lights have wins all round.  The Roman corner heavy cavalry is disordered again.  His light horse scout the wheat field and declare it empty of enemy troops.
Turn 3:
There is a dust cloud on the right.  Dux Agminis Latus has arrived with his troops.
Celeritate Cursor takes the initiative and charges first.
The emperor orders his legions to step lively.  Both the Palmyrans and the legions roll short.
By "rolling short", I mean both the chargers and the evaders did not go their full distance in the charge and evade.  This was critical for the Romans, as they hoped to be behind the Palmyran cataphract line with this charge.

The result of the massive cavalry charge was somewhat unimpressive.  2 wins for each side and 2 ties.  Only the fact that one Roman Heavy Cavalry had 2 hits on it made it interesting at all.

Nothra's cavalry get in the face of the legioniares. 

Zabdas recalls both his light horse for rear charges on the Roman cavalry line.

The queen goads her peasants forward.
While sending her lights to guard the road to Antioch, which leads to her camp.
Turn 4:
Aurelean orders another charge, and again his legions roll short.
He sends a couple of cohorts to bolster his struggling cavalry.
His camp prepares for the eventual inundation.
Despite the Palmyran's best efforts, there is about a 45mm gap that allowed Dux Agminis Latus's lights to slip by.
Nothra reforms his lines, rally's is lights and stands ready.

Celeritate Cursor's cataphracts are destroyed.  Leaving only two cohorts of Heavy Cavalry left.
One Roman Cavalry is caught, the other has a free charge on the Palmyran camp.
Zenobia has the Roman camp in her sights as well.
The score is 14 (out of 19) to 5 (out of 25)
Turn 5:

The Emperor advances into the firing line.
A cohort flanks and destroys a cataphract.
A turn of events, a major victory for the Romans.  The flanked Light Horse, destroys it's harassers, with two units in the rout path for a total of four points.  Add the Palmyran camp being sacked, that's 8 points total!.
To avoid being charged off the board in masse, Nothra gets in the face of Aurelian's legions.

Zabdas knows the Romans are about to turn the legions onto his flank, and starts to organize his cataphracts to receive them.

The Palmyrans take their revenge on the brave Roman Cavalry.
While the Roman camp holds off the initial assault.
The score is 18 (out of 19) for Rome to 14 (out of 25) for Palmyra
Turn 6:

With clever maneuvering and Legions now charging at a trot, the Palmyran Cavalry command is dispersed.  Some caught and destroyed, some run off the map, some on the map, but surrounded.
The score is 17 (out of 19) for Rome to 18 (out of 25) for Palmyra
Despite flank support another Roman Cavalry is destroyed.
The score is 18 (out of 19) for Rome to 14 (out of 25) for Palmyra
And for the WIN, Queen Zenobia takes the Roman Camp!

Final shots.

Final shots.
Final shots.

 * History is written by the winners, so I named the sub commanders of the Roman army Speed Racer and Flank March General respectively