Sunday, March 28, 2021

A Greatness of Greeks

A Headless Body Production
Venue: An Undisclosed Basement
Event: Playing a game for the camera , Early December, 2020
Players: Phil Gardocki running Classical Greek
Tom Worden running Late Imperial Roman
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 15mm, 200 points per side.

The Forces:
Classical Greek(list 235)
3 Ordinary Commanders, all Included with their Hoplites
18 Hoplites, Heavy Spearmen, 2 are Elite
6 Peltasts and Thracians, as Javelinmen
2 Cretans, Light Infantry, Bow, Elite
2 Slingers
Breakpoint of 28

Late Imperial Roman (List 86)
3 Ordinary Commanders, 2 Included in their respective cohorts.
8 Legionaries, Heavy Swordsmen, Impact, Armor, 2 are Elite
2 Auxilia Palatina, Medium Swordsmen, Impact, Elite
2 Cretans, Light Infantry Bow
2 Medium Artillery
2 Cataphracts, Elite
2 Equites, Heavy Cavalry, Impact
2 Equites Sagittarii, Light Cavalry, Bow
Breakpoint of 21

Since my last experiment worked so well, with a 28 to 14 loss to the Romans last week, I decided to try again.  Because a definition of insanity is to do the same thing again, and expect a different result.

When you see a word bubble "Ouch!", "Heus!", "Ωχ!", this implies a disorder hit from missiles. Letters in parenthesis represent some value change for the specific unit. For commanders it is s for strategist, b for Brilliant, c for Competent and o for Ordinary, u for unreliable. For troops it is e for Elite, and m for Mediocre. Other abbreviations, Hvy Heavy, XB Crossbow, LB, Longbow, Jav Javelin, 2HW 2 Handed Weapons, B Bow, Kn Knight, HKn Heavy Knight, HC Heavy Cavalry, Md Medium, Sgt Sergeants, LC Light Cavalry, Chr Chariot, Cat Cataphract, Pa Pavise, LI, Light Infantry, HG Hand Gun, FKn Foot Knight, Hvy Spear, Heavy Spearmen.

"XX" implies a unit killed in that location on that turn.

I am experimenting with maximum sized armies, trimming points where ever possible. This was heavily influenced by podcasts put out by Tim Porter, the Mad AxeMan. He invited his crew to come up with practical Hoplite armies that can actually win on the table. Most stressed mediocre troops and some included commanders, and got armies out there with 18 or more Hoplites and breakpoints over 25. His podcasts can be found here!

Heavy Spearmen are the Orcs of the game. Sure they are good against cavalry, which will then just drive on by onto the flanks. And they lose to Impact, Impetuous, Armored or 2HW infantry. Just about everyone. But 18 of them? With 6 ok supporting units. With a single piece of terrain on the edge, they don't have a flank to go around. You will have to go through them. No matter where you are, they will be there. Meanwhile, they will be finding your flanks, because they will be wider than you.

So I am breaking away from my smallish, but elite armies to give it a try. This list has 18 Hoplites, 6 Javelinmen, and 4 Skirmishers for a size of 28. By another measure, 90 cohesion hits. But the commanders are included and vulnerable, and when you commit to combat you have to commit big, because you will not have command points for anything else.

Losing a commander or two, as well as the camp, is not an option with this army, but a requirement! If I lose them all, that is only 13 points out of 28! I would like to see Scipio Africanis take that kind of damage.

But Tommy is also listening to the same podcasts, and his armies, while still armoring up and elited, also have included commanders as well, in an attempt to match the numbers.

The Board:

Greece, 250 BC, Tuesday.

Weather high of 72, low of 54, chance of 30 mina hail stones.

Overhead view of the lines. The Greeks are both longer 17-15, and deeper.
On the Roman right is their cavalry.
Two Legions with identical configurations. 4 elements of legionaries, and a cohort of Auxilla
One the end of the line is a 30 mina catapult.
The Greek deployment is unimaginative. When you only have two troop types, its not hard to guess where they are positioned.
Hoplites, Hoplites, and bears, oh my!
The Peltasts are looking at empty field and some have already planing the victory celebration.

 Turn 1:

The order is given, and the long march across the field begins.
The catapults are largely ignored. They are more of an environmental nuisance. And I couldn't avoid them if I tried.
Running ordinary commanders is also a nuisance Especially if your command is 7 wide.
Another view from on high
The Roman cavalry advances onto the hill
But the foot troops hold their ground

 Turn 2:

The Hoplites shift left and form up at the bottom of the hill.
The remaining foot advances as far as possible.
The Peltasts are told to hurry
The Roman horse knows their business. One cohort runs off a Peltast, the rest take up position to charge down hill.
The catapult operators are referring to their manuals, and ordering up more ammunition. While the Roman commander orders a measurement of the distance to the front lines. Just over 4 UD's
The Roman main line continues to hold their position

Turn 3:

The Roman cavalry may have higher ground, but the Greeks have taken one of the flanks.
The remaining hoplite line continues to advance.
But due to command control problems the line is saw toothed in it's advance.

But one piece of luck for the Greeks. Artillery is a legitimate charge target for Light Infantry. The Cretans charge, and roll the spots off the dice!

The Roman cavalry charge. They have armor, elite, hill and one flank. The Hoplites have the other flank, but their commander (the element with the white die on the stand) is now engaged, so they may not be able to exploit their advantage.
The Roman foot advance, locking (ZOCing) the Hoplites in place.
The catapults are now a sunk cost, so no effort is made to recoup their loss. The winning points for this game is with the Hoplites.

During the write up I realized that one of the Cretans was in an illegal position. This actually did affect the battle somewhat later in the game, but not enough to matter.

Turn 4:

The beleaguered Hoplite commander proves to be of steady mind and has able to issue multiple orders. A cataphract charged in the flank. Another Hoplite advances on the Catapult, and has turned the Roman legion line.
The center Hoplites hold. They are waiting for the the cavalry fight to mature, in their favor obviously, before committing.
The right flank Greeks charge. They also have a flank edge. But the dice are unkind and they lose 4 out of 4 fights.
Time to visit the Tree of Woe. The score is climbing quickly this turn.
The Roman commander is showing no fear on his compromised position. His lights have flanks to charge and charge they do.
The remaining Legions charge. This time the dice are a little more favorable to the Greeks, as they lose only 3 out of 5 fights. Much better.
But the right flank Hoplites prove very fragile. In only two rounds 2 units are destroyed. And their reserves were too close to the line and are routed through.
The Score is now 17 to 8
Turn 5:
Thracians are brought forward to bolster the flank
The grind in the middle continues
On the right, their commander slain, Greek options are limited.
Another view from the sky.
The score is 22 of 28 to 12 of 21
The left flank Greek commander is flank charged. But the Roman light horse are both destroyed as well.
A legion cohort is destroyed
Bring the score to a much tighter 25 (of 28) to 17 (of 21)
Another Greek commander falls
One thing to be aware of in this game. Especially if your commanders are included. Conforming does not require command points. An elite Hoplite defeated his foe, and was able to conform on the next one in line.
An Auxila is flanked and destroyed. But so to is another Hoplite.
Taking the score to 28 to 19. A win for the Romans.

So what went wrong?

First was hubris.  Spear beats cavalry, so my spearmen challenged the Roman horse giving the cavalry the hill advantage.  The horse also had armor and frankly it was enough for the win right there.  

The second was included commanders.  I have always thought they were not worth the 3 points saved and this game proved it.  Several opportunities for flank charges were lost due to commanders in combat.  That an two javelinmen on the far right were ineffective due to a lack of command points to put them anywhere else, like attacking the Roman camp.

Monday, March 22, 2021

On Making and Promoting a Blog Post


Since the question has been brought up, let me give you a peek behind the curtain.

I’ll spend 3-4 hours creating a Battle Report, sometimes referred to as an After Action Report (AAR).

This is down from 8 hours about 10 years ago due to better tools and more refined process.

I write it as a blog post, for several reasons.  The first is I am more in control on how it is viewed.  Different browsers, monitors, CPU settings can all distort the presentation in a way I do not anticipate.  Also, this gives me a count of how many visits I get, and from where they originate.  Both country, and from which site. In the end, that count is the only thing I have to judge how successful the blog is.  Because most readers, about 98%, do not comment. 

After publishing, I then make an effort to promote the blog post.  Because I only have about 12 followers who signed up that get a notification when I post something new.  A point to make, Ancient miniatures is the lunatic fringe of a subset (as in Miniature Wargamers), of a fragment (Wargamers), of a minority (Gamers) of society as a whole.  If I publish and do not promote, no one will see me.

As an experiment, I will post by not promote this missive, and that will give me an idea on the difference.

I promote to a number of facebook groups.  Which groups depend on the subject matter. 

He is a list of my Ancients groups and forums.  This will give you a measure of the scope of the problem, and other readers of this missive may discover a group they are interested in. 

Ambler Gaming Group:  Because I am associated with them.

NASAMW  Because they represent all things Ancients, but are mainly Warrior™ centric.

Berks-PA Gaming club:  Largely Warhammer 40K and Magic, but sometimes they invite me up for a demo

Historicon: Because they represent all things miniatures, but not necessarily Ancient and Medieval

Tabletop Wargames Network: Because they represent all things miniatures, but not necessarily Ancient and Medieval

Tabletop Commanders Forum: Because they represent all things miniatures, but not necessarily Ancient and Medieval

Providence Gamer’s Game Knight: Because I am a member

The Ancient & Medieval Wargamer: (obvious)

Medieval Miniature Wargames:  For the truly Medieval period games

Historical Miniatures Gaming: (obvious)

Bob’s L’Art De La Guerre Wargaming Group Page: Bob lives about 30 miles from me, so it is as a favor to him

Wagamers: (obvious)

Lead Pushers: Obvious

L’Art De La Guerre: Most of my Ancients and Medieval games are LADG

L’Art De La Guerre Hong Kong:  There are 6 followers there, and they seem to appreciate being included in the world

After Facebook I post to some forums:

TMP:  Both Ancient Battle Reports and Medieval Battle reports, depending.

L’Art De La Guerre: To let the Europeans know what the Yanks are doing.

Dakka Dakka: Mostly Warhamer 40K, but they have a Pre WWI section.

HMGS: Because not all members are on Facebook

BeBee: If I have a long story the game is set in, then BeBee will accept an AAR

SocDaisy: Mostly older men that refuse social media, but are otherwise pretty cool.

The Wargames Directory: Because the owner asked me to

There are a couple of forums/facebook groups I do not post to, because their owners specifically asked me not to.  Their site, their rules, and I will honor them.

Then I email my closest friends, people I can put a face to.

This takes about another hour.

There are some obvious overlaps, I am sure Bob’s  LADG page is totally enclosed within a Venn diagram of LADG.   






Sunday, March 21, 2021

Ambush in Vienna

A Headless Body Production

Venue: Another Undisclosed Downstairs
Event: Anno Domini 1666
Players: Phil Gardocki running Polish Nobles and their friends
               Steve Turn running the King's Musketeers
Game System: Anno Domini 1666 by Wargamer Games Studio, Warsaw, Poland

The Forces:

The King's Musketeers with Aramis, Athos, Porthos and D'Artagnan.

The Polish Nobles with Colonel Pan Wolodyjowski, Longinus, Zagloba and Skrzetuski.

While the Polish characters are virtually unknown in the west, they are house hold names in Poland, and since Anno Domini 1666 is made in Poland, they are dominant characters in this game.

It is the year of our Lord 1666. Emperor Leopold is dead. The election looms. European monarchs send their envoys to Vienna to participate. But the struggle for the Empire's future takes place not only at the noble courts. In Vienna's slums and alleys swashbucklers, musketeers and thugs wage a secret war on behalf of their powerful superiors.

Anno Domini 1666 is a swashbuckling adventure game set with characters based on real-world history and famous novels.

I cannot play this game without music from Robin Hood and Zorro playing out in my head. Everything plays out like the massive swordplay scenes wrapping up these movies. The only thing missing seems to be a chandelier.

The game starts with cards defining your characters skills and equipment. Most are taken from famous literature, like the Three Musketeers, and from lesser known, in the West, Polish literature, Pan Wołodyjowski. A lot of the skills are directly combat related, but some are not. The Polish character Zagloba, is a drunk and a scoundrel. But is so charismatic, everyone is his friend.

This scenario follows on from the previous scenario, where the Polish Envoy's have managed to acquire the MacGuffin, (aka the sigel ring) It starts with Zagloba and Skrzetuski lurking in a Vienna slum, trying to get the sigel ring to a back room of a bar to a waiting homing pigeon. The other heroes of the story are guarding the bar.

But Athos and a nameless musketeer lie in wait in the shadows for an ambush. Their allies are covering all the other approaches to the bar.

Zagloba and Skrzetuski stagger onto the board. Athos and a movie extra cover the approaches to the bar.

The Polish envoys have red rings around their bases, the Musketeers blue.

Zagloba has the ring. But Skrezetuski has a fake ring. The Musketeers do not know who has the real one.

An over exposed closeup of Zagloba and Skrezetuski doesn't do justice to Steve's paint job.
An example of the card. The cards are of high quality stock. The various numbers display their various combat skills. The text (in Polish) their other skills.

I like Zagloba, because of the skill "Call me Uncle" Which causes the other player to select a hero that was drinking with Zagloba the night before and is now his friend, and cannot attack or delay him. Worse, is still hung over and has a minus on his skills.

In this case, Porthos.

A better view of the board. Sir Wolodyjowski, and Longinus are having a drink at the bar, their Dragoons are outside, guarding the doors.
Athos leaps from the shadows! His rapier strikes the heart of Skrzetuski before he is even aware he is there. Zagloba dives into the nearby house, and excuses himself to the no-longer-sleeping family. His manner is courteous and delightful. This is not their first drunk to stagger in late at night.
Skrzetuski, however is very well armored, and Atho's rapier bends, but does not penetrate.
Athos and Skrzetuski now trade swords, saber on rapier. Zagloba apologizes to the family, gives a quick nod to Skrzetuski, a rude gesture to Athos, and departs into the shadows.
In response to Atho's messengers, Aramis and D'Artagnan arrive from their hiding spots. The Bar is surrounded.

There is a loud bang of a musket being fired. All the slum is now awakened. 

The number of turns in Anno Domini 1666 is variable. There are a series of counters about 16 from the looks of the pile. When the pile is depleted, the game is over, as this means the Viennese gendarmes are now alerted and investing the area in force, preventing an further mayhem. 

Shooting a musket removes a turn counter, killing a character removes another. And once counters start depleting, one per turn till games end.

The shot narrowly misses Skrzetuski and straightens left side curl of Athos' mustache.

Porthos arrives, ignoring his newest drinking buddy, and moves to attack Skrzetuski. The movie extra, desperate for face time in this movie, closes in as well.
But the Polish have the initiative this round, and Skretuski uses it to good effect. 

He savagely attacks Porthos with a pummel shot to the head (4 hits!) forcing him back. This gives Athos an opening, but Skrzetuski has a parry, then a riposte, and both characters are forced to retreat.

If you win and wound your opponent, he retreats, if neither are wounded, both retreat. If you cannot retreat, you test or fall. This comes up later.

Another shot in the dark from a Polish half musket (Polmuszkiet). Lightly wounding the nameless musketeer.

I like the Half Muskets, as they can reload faster. When you get a full troop of them, the difference is amazing at short range. At long range the true muskets have the advantage.

Aramis has a decision to make. Assist Athos, or assault the bar. He decides Athos can take care of himself and with the help of another musketeer, assault the bar.
Sir Wolodyjowski sends his friend Longinus to escort Zagloba to the bar, and exchanges swords with D'Artagnan.

An let the Errol Flynn music play. These are the finest swordsmen in the game.

Slash, miss, parry, riposte, stab and break. Both men now have a measure of their foe, and take a step back for a breather.
The Musketeer draws his sword, the Dragoon, his Waloon Sword. Until this is resolved, Zagloba cannot go forward.
Longinus approaches from behind the Dragoon, and the Musketeer is momentarily distracted. The Dragoon stabs, forcing the Musketeer back, and holding his side, flees down the alley.

The Musketeer had a minor wound earlier, and the Dragoon put another one on him. causing a morale check.

Skrzetuski and Athos continue their exchange, but now only halfheartedly.

In this game the randomizers are cards. And if you get a card of low value, you can add to them from cards in your hand. Steve realized by this time that the McGuffin wasn't on Skrzetuski, and Athos didn't need to win this fight, and wasn't going to waste good cards in his hand on the fight.

 Skrzetuski was so well armored, I didn't need to.

Aramis kicks in the door. Shots are exchanged.
D'Artagnan and Wolodyjowski continue their sword play.
Two more movie extras die, leaving the hero to enter the doorway unopposed.
Cue more Errol Flynn music.
In classic movie fashion, the hero leaves his one fight, to enter another! Sir Wolodyjowski now faces off with Aramis!
Giving Longinus a chance at D'Artagnan. It's 2 handed sword vs rapier.

Longinus is stabbed in the theigh, then crashes into the fence, tripping over the scattered wood.

A bleary eyed Porthos unsteadily approaches the nameless Dragoon. Who fails his reload attempt, and goes toe to toe with a hero. Miraculously he wins. Porthos flees.

His gun reloaded, the Dragoon chases Porthos into the alley and fires.
He came back bragging a kill, but at that point Porthos was just barfing his guts out, and was no longer a threat.
Athos retreats and Skrzetuski follows.
Aramis and Wolodyjowski hold the door.
Longinus gets up, and D'Artagnan continues his onslaught, wounding him again.

When Aramis retreated, Wolodyjowski realizes his mistake and engages D'Artagnan again.

But frantic police whistles are closing fast from all directions. The Gendarmes have arrived. Opponents realize their opportunities were lost and all retreat into the shadows towards the safety of their consulates. 

"This is the most fun I've had, since the world was young."

--Alan Swan, played by Peter O'Toole, acting as Errol Flynn