Tuesday, March 26, 2024

A Chiding of Chinese (Wei Kingdom)

A Headless Body Production

Venue: An Undisclosed Community Center, in the land of the HAWKS.
Event: "Cold" Barrage! 
Players: Phil Gardocki, running Scots Isles
               Dan Hazelwood, running Three Kingdoms Chinese
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 15mm, 200 points per side.

It's round 3 of the great Cold Barrage L'Art de la Guerre tournament, and  I have a win and a losing draw, but somehow wound up on the top table against Dan <spoilers>, who would win this tourney.

When Cold Wars 2024 was canceled, the Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers, aka, the HAWKS group, stepped up and organized their own gaming event. 

We owe them a great deal of thanks.

Also an acknowledgement to the City of Harve de Grace's Community Center (ok, I guess it was disclosed) for their recent renovations. The Men's room was totally renewed with fresh tiles, and lighting that you could work on your tan with.

The next Barrage is Sept 27 and 28. Game master registration is in July, attendees in August.

The Forces:
The Scots, in the year 1182
Commanded by MacLeft, the Competent, MacCenter, the Competent, and MacRight, the Ordinary.
14 Islemen, Heavy Swordsmen, 2HW. Clan Ramsay, Clan Jordan, Clan MacLyre and the Boys from Aberdeen are Elite*. 2 are young isle-men and are Mediocre
2 Scouts, Light Infantry, Bow
2 Various townsmen serving as camp laborers as Levy
4 Hielandrs, Medium Sword, Bow
2 Irish Mercenaries, Medium Sword, 2HW
Breakpoint of 24

Three Kingdoms Chinese ("Wei").  No Guessing here, straight from Dan himself.
Cáo Cāo, pronounced "曹操", a Strategist
1 HC Bow (elite)
1 HC Bow
1 MC Bow
2 LH Bow
1 Crossbow
2 LI Crossbow
4 HI Polearm with missile support

Cao Hung Ordinary
1 Crossbow
1 LI Crossbow
4 HI Polearm with missile support

Cao Ren Ordinary included
1 HC Bow (elite)*
1 HC Bow
2 LH Bow
Breakpoint of 22

Display Conventions: When you see a word bubble like "Ouch!" or "tha sin a' goirteachadh!" or "آخ!", this implies a disorder 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.

Inappropriately capitalized words are used to highlight terms that are specific to the game. For example Brilliant, Competent and Ordinary have specific game values for the commanders.

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

Any inaccuracies and vagueness as to specific units is to be regarded as fog of war and should be considered as part of the fun. 

This battle report is a two-four, as Dan wrote up his version of the events as well.  It's right after the "What Went Wrong" section.

The Board:

The Wei win the initiative and elect to attack in the mountains.

<another spoiler> Translation Note, "重新加载!" means, "Send for more arrows"!


The politically appointed commander, Cao, Ren, was ordered to take the right flank.

Half of the Wei heavy foot is commanded by the under-endowed, but over stated, Cao Hung.  On the far right with a strong force of horse is the great Cáo Cāo, pronounced Tsao Chao.

MacRight with his Hielandrs and Irish dominate the terrain on the left.

MacCenter with his Isle-men the center.

On the right is MacLeft.  He will have to try to keep the Wei horse from getting around his flank.

After Dan introduced his army, I made a comment abut him testing you the updated PoleArms rules, which were released in the latest errata that very week.  You can find the Errata, dated Feb, 2022 here...

He admitted he picked his army for that very purpose just to see how they work out.  

Turn 1:

The Wei take the usual approach of advancing with all commands.

MacRight's archers advance as quick as able, but the hill is difficult going and is slowing down their advance.

MacCenter's Islemen advance.  His goal is to engage the Chinese foot as soon as he is able.  Even though the Polearms are effectively the same factor as the Islemen, I have more of them, and 4 Elites in my mix.

MacLeft advances in an oblique.  His Islemen can deal with cavalry frontally, but they cannot be allowed to get behind him.

Turn 2:
Wei archery proves very effective.

The Wei heavy foot advance slowly.  Each block of 4 Polearms has a crossbow armed unit and will stay at range for as long as possible.  Besides, at best, the polearms are equal to the Islemen's heavy weapons, and so they are not in a hurry to engage.

Especially when the horse archery is so effective.

The Hielandr archers advance, but haven't found their range yet.

The rest of the Isle-men advance as quickly as possible.  Running off Cao Ren's (upper left, red striped flag), personal guard.

MacLeft's foot charge the Wei cavalry, which evade with expert precision.

Turn 3:
Cao Ren returns with fresh arrows.

Cao Hung orders his bowmen back, and they retire through the polearm line.

Cáo Cāo returns with more arrows as well.

Hielandrs find their range.  Cao Ren continues to rack up disorders.  (he is 4 for 4 so far)

MacCenter's Islemen are now in charge reach.

MacRight's Islemen charge, running off the Wei horse, but opens a gap between his command and MacCenter's   Worse, he is still not in effective charge range of the Wei heavy foot.

Turn 4:

The Scots army is very much a melee army.   Favorable match-up or not, it needs to engage to win.  Effectively, it is losing every turn it is not engaged.

Cao Ren's command takes it's first loss.  But his archery continues to be excellent, now 5 for 5 shots.

The Wei heavy foot can no longer delay contact, and so advances for the most favorable match-up it can manage.

Cao Cao's command cants its line a bit going for an overlap.

MacRight starts the massive charge with his Irish.  Armed with cruel axes, chains, javelins and not an insignificant amount of profanity, they rout their Chinese horsemen on, and possibly before, contact.
MacCenter's Islemen charge.  Despite the advantage the Chinese have with Missile Support, they win 2 of 4 contacts.  But their left most warband has a disastrous result.  Coming in disordered from crossbow bolts, and rolling a '1' to the Chinese '6', they rout on contact.

MacLeft's troops are not yet ready to charge, but they advance to close the gap with MacCenter's command.

Turn 5:
This is not looking good.  The Scots have 13 points towards their demoralization level of 24.

The Wei are just at 6.

Cao Ren Disengages.

Cao Hung orders his men into the gap between the Scot's lines.

Cao Cao's Polearms mostly hold back.  One unit is released to engage the Scots townsmen Levy.

The view from the gods.

Their casualty count at 16, the Scots are only 8 away from breaking.

The Chinese are at a comfortable 7.

The Irish charge again.  The Hielandrs advance behind them to reposition on the center.

The center needs help.  As the gap twixt center and right is now two elements wide.

MacRight gives his left command the order to charge.  They win 2 of 4 engagements.

With fresh charges, the Chinese casualty count grows to 11, up from 7.

Turn 6:
Cao Ren successfully disengages again. 

The center commands trade routs

Cao Cao's horse rout another warband on the one side, and turn the flanks of the Islemen on the other.

The Irish smell loot.  And only Cao Ren stands in their way.

The Levied townsmen give way

The Scots are but 2 away from breaking

The Wei are a comfortable 8 away from their demoralization point.

Cao Ren calls for more arrows and disorders another units  (that makes 23)

In the center, Cao Hung orders a flank charge on Clan MacLyre.  Leading the charge, and with two supports, he barely makes a dent into the hardened warriors.  But it is enough, taking the score to 24 with for the win.

The Great Cao Cao orders another flank charge for the plus 1.

The final score for the Three Kingdoms Chinese was 16 of 22.

What Went Wrong?

It would be easy to point to the tremendously good archery of the Chinese.  Especially that of the personal body guard of Cao Ren, who scored at least 6 hits by himself.  But that isn't all of it.  Once the Scots got into contact, they started catching up with the Chinese, just not fast enough.

First problem was my left command was minimized by the tactics of  Chinese right flank.  MacRights command of 4 archers and 2 mercenaries totaled 50 points.  He was facing mainly Cao Ren's command of 4 units, 33 points.  Cao Ren kept them busy, along with 3 units of MacCenters command.  Cao Ren lost 2 units for 4 points, while destroying one of MacCenters Islemen units and disordering two others for 4 points.  So Cao Ren engaged a total of 76 points of Scots.  Giving his army a 43 point edge on the Scots center and right side commands.

The Chinese foot troops were in two commands as well, 4 heavy sword per, and that gave the Chinese some command control problems, but they were patient and were fairly coordinated in their march.  

While the Scots commands were separated, charged disjointed, and had to rely on the Levy to fill the gaps.

Which worked fairly well.  One Levy held for a while, and the other was able to flank charge a flank charge.  But this means the first flank charge had already happened, and again, I was just playing catch up.

So overall, Dan played better.  And then got lucky with the archery.  Without that, the game would have been closer, but probably still a win for him.

For anyone interested in the raw numbers I have a link for notes of combats involving Heavy Sword with Polearms.  The format isn't very refined.  It really is just a set of notes.

Now from the flip side perspective, a write up from Dan.  Stolen whole cloth without his permission.

Game three

Phil Gardocki and the Scots Gallowglass.

The Scots isles are a list I’ve looked at before. An infinite number of HI 2HW and plenty of highland MI sword with bow. The highlanders are internal and very cool, but they are vulnerable to aggressive play. I hoped to see all of them. But Phil went for what I consider a wiser approach and hired every John Scotsman with a big sharp axe and his cousin. Also, the Scots only have mountains so when I attacked, I had to risk a terrain mess.

Terrain fell heavily on one flank again and the Scots did not have a great anchor. They did have 12 HI widths (4 elite) plus some mediocre reserves and then 3-4 highlanders and some MI 2hw to hold the terrain wing.

Phil set the Gallowglass back a little to avoid getting in the 4UD to prevent a 2nd move but misjudged it. He kicked himself on this because it opened the possibility my CV wing could turn his flank. In reality Phil would still get the moves into to prevent his line being flanked but the price was he had to push forward in a way that partially kinked his battle like between the corps. His MI corps was off again too far and one of the big Scottish mountains was in the way. I understand why he was there, because there was a clear right hook that a fast moving small, mounted corps could take that would get into his rear if it was left wide open.  But the price was high in my view.

His 12+ 2hw and my 8 polearm meant that once armies closed the rolling up was going to get bloody very fast and even HI were going to take lots of hits and die fast. I was a bit horrified. Essentially, he had a HI width that offset more than my main two corps. And HC bow isn’t going to run down HI anytime soon…or so I believed. If he got his highlanders on line I was in trouble. So I viewed the clock as a dangerous thing for me.

I raced up the Cavalry to start shooting and pin the Scots, hoping to freeze the main line and get some CV past the flank to support the polearms striking. Phil’s move to shut that off wasn’t as parade ground as he hoped but it worked. What the Scots didn’t count on (And for five centuries the English would teach them) was missile fire. It was a bonnie blue clear day and our Chinese arrows fell with devastating effect. The very first full turn of volley fire saw 7 hits on the Scots. Phil gulped and shoved forward. Again he was required to close off the flank and chase off my skirmishers. But they returned and laid more shots. When the LI crossbow are doing hits to your HI elite you curse the lack of the Scottish wind. The missile fire just stayed devastating. I contemplated about facing my polearms and retiring to let the missile firm do more damage. I figured Phil would then halt not being under threat so I was still going to have to risk the close action. To say the missile fire died down would by a lie. Phil was good natured, but every shooting phase just was unfailingly brutal. Before the lines fully closed two of the Scots HI died from bow fire. A LI was also dead and the Scots had a further scattering of hits that put him on something like 12-13 cohesion losses. Phil knew he had to close and it was getting grim. To compound it the Scottish CP were thin. I am not sure he ever had more than a 3 roll, but if he did it was too little and the wrong time. He was left with a choice of mostly stand and get shot or charge (and get shot).

His MI highland wing tried to swing in but it was slow and he got some shots off at the small cavalry wing. But the mountain the fire and angle meant he just could not catch a break to build losses on me. My included general kept moving into the gallowglass and he was one that shot the HI dead. It is possible, we did not keep track, that the included elite general never missed inflicting a shooting hit. And when I stood to melee the 2nd wounded gallowglass my recollection was that went pretty well too. Cao Ren was indeed a major contributor to the tournament victory.

Now Phil’s lousy CP and the requirement to charge at an angle to protect his flank created a gap in the center. It wasn’t a yawning gap but enough. I leaped forward pinned his lines on either side and stuck a polearm in the gap to start flanking the line. Phil’s only reserve was levy that heroically were going to try and prevent this from getting real bad. Phil had to commit his reserve mediocre 2hw to replace the line where the units dropped from shooting.

Phil had to charge so my polearms, so I got the benefit of the missile support. But his shot up troops could not get enough advantages. His shot up HI charged the HC bow which  stood because zero to zero as he had hits and I needed time.

Finally, Phil’s highlanders started exerting dangerous pressure. They killed a LH and CV but the general Cao Ren disengaged and was dancing to survive and avoided getting caught. The gap in the center started to rip open in Phil’s line while my right-hand polearms finally start to evaporate as Phil’s dice were not all bad. Over on my left the shooting and the holes in the Scots line also got worse until the army collapsed.

From that first fusillade I think Phil had an ominous feeling but carried on as best as his army would let him.  The Scots Isle’s don’t have much of a fire brigade if the plan goes sideways.


MacRight starts the massive charge with his Irish.  Waving their axes while screaming in incomprehensible Gaelic, they rout their Chinese horsemen on, and possibly before, contact.

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