Saturday, September 26, 2020

Mair Picts Than Ye Kin Shoogle a Stick At

A Headless Body Production

Venue: An Undisclosed Basement
Event: Live
Players: Phil Gardocki running Germans
               Steve Turn running Picts
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, about 200 points per side.

The Forces:
The Germans, Commanders Larryious (Strategist), Darrylinius (competent) and Darrylinius (Ordinary).
12 Tribesmen, Heavy Swordsmen, impetuous, Elite
4 Small boys, Light Infantry Javelin
6 Horsemen, Medium Cavalry, Elite
Break point 22

The Picts, commanded by Angus (competent), Fergus (competent) and Brode (Ordinary).
4 Light Chariot, Elite
5 Light Cavalry, Javelin
16 Medium Spearman, Missile Support
Break point 25

The Picts win the initiative and elect to attack in the forest.

The Picts deploy pretty much board edge to board edge.  Their chariots ready to race around the wooded hill.

While in the meadows, hordes, supported by heroes on chariots.

Racing ower a protuberance in th' ground, mair picts.

So what is with the Scottish brogue?  The L' Art de la Guerre lists have Picts, Irish, Scots, Caledonian along with Atecotti, Saxon, Anglo-Saxon, Frisian and Jutes allies.  It's a French rule set, and while the Anglophiles know of the great differences between all these cultures, to the French, they are just Ancient Brits. 

So I picted one with a English to Scottish translator.

Just for the fun of it.

In the deep, foreboding woods, a secret is kept.

Odin's lightning reveals a massive German horde.

Stretching from almost woods to woods, they seem vastly outnumbered.

 Just two German commands.  But 3 ambushes.  Is the missing command on a flank march or hidden?

Turn 1:

Pict chariots race through the open areas.  Leaving some of their brethren in the dust.

Subtlety is never in the Scottish nature.  Race across the board it is, while they have the numbers.

Chatting on the nature of the topographical regularities. 

"Lets see whats behind the rocks."

The Germans show their aggressive nature and even though outnumbered, advance.

They know there are more of them than it appears.  More warbands charge from the forest.

Turn 2:
Another ambush is revealed.  A third was uncovered.
Ironically, the 3rd ambush marker was too well hidden.  Steve didn't notice it until I put a 4 UD stick on it.
The Picts are determined to destroy whatever is in the field.  Somd 6 warbands are dedicated to the effort.  But the main German battle is squared off against just a few chariots and light horse.

Fearless, and now outnumbered, and soon to be flanked, the Pictish left is determined to go down fighting.

The small boys in the woods have seen enough of the blue woad horror to last a lifetime.

The more seasoned warriors taunt their foes, and run off the "heros"

Their over confidence is bared for all to see.  They charge, and are repulsed by the Pict invaders.

Turn 3:

The woods are invested with Mair Picts Than Ye Kin Shoogle a Stick At

A massive horde begins their approach on the small German line.

On the Pict left, the Picts turn the German flank

Chariots may look cool, but they don't corner well.  The Germanic youth leave the woods and take a shot with their stick bows.  The picture is a bit deceptive.  The chariot the lights are next to is actually a commander, so they are not in contact with a unit.  And they are bow armed, so they could back up a pace or two.

With the chariots run off, a couple of warbands head for the exposed Pict flank.

Darrylinius (the Ordinary) arrives with his horsemen.  In coordination with Darrylinius (the Competent) they put the Picts in a vice and squeeze.

For all the goings on, you would think the score would be higher than 6 to 2.

Turn 4:
The German archers can be ignored, and so they are!  There is a camp to loot.

And warbands to overwhelm.  In L' Art de la Guerre terms, a game winning14 points if the Commander is captured!

The Pict left flank is down to 2 warbands, preparing for their final, forlorn hope.  Off in the distance, their heroes on chariots hope to slow down the mass of horsemen arriving.

German skirmishers split up.

Three warbands redress their lines to avoid flank charges, while two others chase away Pict light horse and threaten the flanks of the massive Pict horde.

Darrylinius(the ordinary) races his horse towards the Pict camp, leaving the cleanup for Darrylinius(the competent)'s warbands.

Turn 5:

The race is on, which camp will fall first?

With a fierce-some ululation, the Picts charge.  Not to be outdone, the Germans counter charge with greater ferocity.  Down the line pushing just a little bit more then they were pushed.

The great heroes of of yore, outnumbered 3 to 1 decide once again to flee from their foes.

Emboldened by their older brethren, the German archers return for another shot.

Two Pict Warbands are destroyed, the others hold on.

Desperate measures.  A Pict light horse attacks the rear of a German warband.  Oblivious to the German horse surrounding it.

Darrylinius(the competent) has naught to do but loot the bodies.

Two turns of intense action have proven very bad for the Picts.  The score is 16 to 3.

Turn 6:

The German camp is looted.  Pict Horse have wrapped up the German left flank.

Where warbands falter, horsemen can fill the gaps. Several German warbands are at the point of destruction.

An overview of the action so far.  Color coded by command.

At the top of the 6, the score is 17 of 25 for the Picts, 8 of 22 for the Germans.

One German warband cuts through his foes.  Another is taken in the flank

The Pict camp has fallen.  So to a Pict light horse unit.

Darrylinious has a choice.  Get a few of his troops into the battle, try to organize all of them and never back into the battle.  He chooses some.

However his efforts are for naught.  The Picts have had enough.  The score is 25 to 8.

Ending positions    

What went right?  The terrain selection went well for the Germans.  Even though the Picts fight better in the woods than the Germans, it slowed them down and prevented their superior numbers from coming into play.

The Germans played a good "Refused flank" stratagem.  First delaying substantial forces with lights in the woods, then with a small block of 3 warbands near the camp.

Four warbands in ambush in the right hand woods was a match for the Picts descending upon it.  Who only had to hold until the flank march arrived, and then the Picts were swept away.  In the center, the Picts distracted 3 warbands with their chariots, which also delayed the arrived German cavalry somewhat.  But in the end it was not enough.

But also, the Picts did not select their impetuous option, instead going for a bit more resistance when they lose an impact fight with "Missile Support".  An option that cost more points.  As far as this game goes, that would not have made a difference on the Pict left, because even though the Picts won the impact fights, furious charge does not count against other troops with furious charge.

In the center it would have made a difference, as the Germans won all the impacts and claimed furious charge bonus.  The Picts would have lasted longer until their numbers mattered.

The Odds:

Using the Visual Basic for Applications embedded in Excel, I have created combat simulator for L' Art de la Guerre.  It takes any two troop types and runs a thousand battles and displays the results.  It can take some situational modifiers like "Does the unit have support", and "Hits before Contact".

For this fight, the main troop types are Medium Spear vs Heavy Swordsmen, Impetuous (elite)

The Heavy Swordsmen (elite) will destroy the Medium Spear 85% of the time taking an average of 2.4 rounds to do so.  A very bad mismatch.

To be fair to Steve, I was expecting him to run impetuous troops as well.  That would cancel Furious charge (page 58) and then the odds are 75/25 in favor of the Germans and taking 3.5 rounds.  But on the ends of the battlegroups, I would expect the Picts to have an overlap advantage, wining 60% of the fights, taking 4 turns.  

Also, I did not run any of these specific cases until after the battle, and in response to a comment on the forums.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Battle for Jinshan

A Headless Body Production
Venue:   An Undisclosed Basement
Event:    Playing a game for the camera 
Players: Phil Gardocki running Korean
               Dave Ray running Tang Chinese.
Game System:
L'Art de la Guerre, 200 points per side

This game has it all, drama, character development, explosions, frequent bathroom breaks!

The Forces:
Tang Chinese (list 165)
Li Shimin, Brilliant, another Brilliant and Hsien-Pi, Competent
5 1/2 Heavy Spearmen 1/2 Bow
3 Light Horse, Bow
4 Nobles Heavy Cavalry, Impetuous
2 Nobles Heavy Cavalry, Impact, Elite
3 Heavy Cavalry, Bow
1 Medium Cavalry, Bow
2 Tribal Auxiliaries, Medium Sword, Impetuous
1 Light Infantry Bow
Breakpoint of 21

Koryo Korean (list 212)

The Koreans are commanded by Kim-Lar-Re, the Competent, his brother Kim-Dar-El, the Competent, and his other brother Kim-Dar-El, also Competent.
2 Guardsmen, Heavy Cavalry Impact, Elite
2 Horsemen, Heavy Cavalry Impact, Ordinary
2 Militia Horsemen, Medium Cavalry Impact, Mediocre.
6 Spearmen, 1/2 Heavy Spearmen, 1/2 Crossbow
1 Cataphract, Elite
2 Light Cavalry, Bow
2 War Wagons, Crossbow
1 Light Infantry, Bow
1 Hwacha, Heavy Artillery.
1 Guardsmen, Crossbow, Pavise, Elite
Breakpoint of 21

The Hwacha artillery is a multiple barrel launcher, where each piece is a rocket propelled arrow, and some explosive material.  Up to 200 rockets could be fired in a few seconds.  Think of it as throwing 200 Rocket Propelled Grenades down range in about 10 seconds.  Mythbusters made and tested one on their show.  

The Board:
The Tang win the initiative and elect to attack in the plains.
Near the town of Jinshan, on the Yalu river, the Tang invaders are met.
The Tang are at the top.

Since I am really bad with eyeballing the sizes, I started posting the commands from right to left, putting down the War Wagons first.
Which is probably why the Tang Horse command near the river was deployed sideways.  He probably had thoughts of charging over the hill and dispersing all in front of him.  But instead was looking at artillery and war wagons.

Turn 1:
Li Shimin boldly swings towards the Korean line from the right.  His counterpart on the left did not like the matchup and started shifting to the center.
Kim-Lar-Re sees an opportunity to take the hill with his fast moving cavalry.  Unfortunately, his talents were not up to his dreams and he only got part way. 
1 more command point would have put the lights on the hill.  2 more would have gotten the heavy horse to the base of it. 

Turn 2:
The Tang continue to push on their right.  Revealing an ambush in the plantation, while the other ambush reveals it self by firing their crossbows at the advancing cavalry.
Hsien-Pi, realizes vacating the hill was a mistake but is driving impetuous cavalry, which are "Unmaneuverable" in the game.  His only response available is to send his lights back to intercept.
But the infantry commander has this well in hand.  His missile troops project their power well across the board and tag one of the Korean Light Horse.

Kim-Lar-Re realizes his heavies are not going to make it to the hill and would lose a fight against bow armed heavy spearmen, and he with draws.  The Cataphracts charge the only light horse mid field, driving it away.
Turn 3:
On the Tang right, they focus their horse bow upon the Korean spearmen in the plantation, but withdraw their lancers for now.  No need to give the rest of the Korean shooters extra targets to shoot at.
On the hill, the Korean Light Horse are trapped against the river.  They cannot withdraw to their lines as the path is blocked by the War-Wagon.
Off in the distance there is the sound like many hives of bees.  The Hwacha have sent thousands of exploding arrows down range, disording one of the Tang infantry commands.
I know I am using "Boom!" to reference shooting the artillery, but portraying its firing as "Swish,Swish,Swish,Swish" would be annoying and take up too much landscape on the picture.

The Korean Cavalry reforms their ranks, nearly where they started.  Their Guards Crossbow advance to support the a War Wagon.
As an indicator, when you see "Ouch!" or "Crash!", that implies a missile hit.
Turn 4:
Not much changes this turn.  Light on Light fights on the hill.  The Koreans plan to sell their lives dearly and hold back their Tang counterparts.
On the left, the Koreans bring up more shooters.  In the center, the heavy horse threatens the Tang center.  On the right, one Korean light horse sees a chance to make a break for it and does, leaving his compatriots behind.
The score is 3 out of 21 for the Tang and 5 out of 21 for the Koreans.

Turn 5:
An ambush is revealed, Tribal foot soldiers desperate for a fight.  The Hwacha scores again, but his target has been steadily rallied over time.  On the hill, the desperate Koreans redouble their efforts, and push back their attackers!
So what's up with the Cataphracts?  Largely command control problems.  They belong to the infantry command, and he has been too busy to give them the 2 command points to get them to turn around an vacate.  So they have been sucking up missile fire like a shield of missile attraction.   Which with a protection of +2 and elite, they do a good job of.  I could charge them, but they would lose and die sooner.  Pretty heartless to just keep them there though. 

In the center, Kim-Lar-Re pulls another not-well-thought-through operation.  Heading for the gap between the heavy spear and the field.  He takes the pressure off of the Cataphracts but the rest of the cavalry command withdraws out of bow reach.
On the hill, the Korean Lights disperse one of their attackers!

Turn 6:
Seeing a dangling flank, the Tang lancers commit to the field, supported by their foot tribesmen.  This was a trap, as I plan on sending more foot spear into their path, while "ZOC'ing" their bow armed horse.  The fight on the hill is decided, and the other Tang Cavalry command pushes their horse forward.
On the left, the trap is sprung.  The Tang Heavy horse is both disordered and ZOC'ed by Heavy Spearmen.  The Korean Cavalry, ever mercurial, withdraws again from the fight.  However two of their lancers are now being deployed as a counter punch to the Chinese Tribesmen when they charge.
FYI:  The (5) next to the one Tang foot unit represents the number of times the Hwacha has hit it.  It's general's success rate at rallying it is quite good.
Turn 7:
Clashes and Crashes across the field!  Tribesmen press the Korean Spearmen.  But in the center, Korean Spearmen are pressing their Tang counterparts. 
There is a mistake in the direction arrows.  The Korean Cavalry moved last turn.  They are "Impact" and cannot evade.

The score is 10 out of 21 for the Tang and 10 out of 21 for the Koreans

After all the maneuvering the Korean Heavy Cavalry get into the action.  Rolling back the Tribesmen.  In the center, Chinese Heavy horse threaten the Korean spearmen, but have already picked up a disordering hit.  The remaining Tang Spearmen cannot really support the attack as they are faced by Korean Lancers, and being shot by a War Wagon.
The score is 16 out of 21 for the Tang and 6 out of 21 for the Koreans

We had been at it for 5 hours at this point and Dave surrendered.  While there was plenty of life left in the Tang army, there was no place where he had the advantage.  The Cavalry around the plantation was losing their missile exchange, his impetuous foot was disordered, and facing fresh foes.  His Impetuous cavalry was facing Heavy spearmen, and would be charging in at unfavorable odds.  His remaining spearmen were mainly disordered facing fresh shooters.

So what went wrong?
Poor inter unit cooperation.  My lights charged for position, and my war wagons shut the door behind them.  The Cataphracts charged, and only ran off a light horse for their troubles.  Then spent their rest of their miserable existence as a pin cushion.  The cavalry was indecisive until the end, and even then was mostly just pinning the enemy down.

I like having the cataphract with the foot troops.  It gives them a bit of flexibility, and hitting power, while protecting it from being preyed on by knights.  But I have to keep it in tight, as the commanders are all just competent, and don't have the 2 command points to spend on anything fancy.

The War Wagons performed well, and so did the Hwacha.

I was complaining a lot about my opponents incessant rallying.  But I really should have took that as a win.  The Hwacha scored 6 hits on his target, and it would have died, instead it ended the game with just 2 hits.  A waste of the artillery?  No.  Once deployed, that shooting and hitting cost me nothing in the game, while the rally efforts cost a precious resource, command points.  That is points needed to drive other units.  So it was a win, a frustrating win, but a win.

I should remind my self that missile fire cannot be expected to destroy a unit.  But just prepare it for hand to hand combat to take it out.  So effective missile fire in itself, is a losing game.  You have to be able to "close the deal".