Thursday, August 23, 2018

Pooltime Ponderings on Recent Italian Wars Game

It being summer I get my my regular exercise swimming laps in my local outdoor public pool.  I show up when it opens at 8am with a bunch of older and grumpier old farts and then head off to what ever office I'm haunting for the rest of the day.  This morning while getting my cardio in under clear blue Prairie skies I did some pondering about the recent game that I GM'd.  There were two problems encountered - slow deployment times and too much disruption - under the Pike and Shotte/Black Powder/Hail Caesar system.  Here's what my oxygen starved brain came up with.

Slow Deployment From Column of March
The issue here is that for the scenario I wanted to have the attacked deal with the issue of entering on in column of match and deploying on the go.  But with basic P&S movement rates this becomes a slow process, especially when the columns have to deploy. 

In this particular scenario had I let the attackers come on deployed they likely would have rolled over the defenders.  I also have issues with too perfect deployments when historically sub commands showed up early, late or in the wrong place on occasion. So incorporating some ideas filched from Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules, here's how I would approach this scenario next time under P&S/BP/HC.

I'll use this map as a reference.

  1. The attacker puts his units into divisions and gives an order of march for  the units within divisions and for the divisions themselves.
  2.  The defender plots his deployment up to line X on the map, keeping units in cover or dead ground (including everything behind line Z)  off board.
  3. The attacker then gives orders to each of his divisions subject to the restrictions of his deployment move below.  So given Curt's order of march we might have something like.  "The cavalry division advances and deploys on the front slope of the hill facing X on the map.  The main body deploys and advances to a position just north of the woods in the pass.  The rear division advances onto the northern hill and then deploys."
  4. The attacker then moves his divisions on one by one according to his order of march.  They get a special deployment move equal to X plus the number of moves indicated by a command roll.  So for this action I might make X=2 and then each division would have between 2-5 moves to make based on their command roll.  To avoid getting too cheesy I'd restrict these so that they couldn't close to withing musket range (16") of the enemy, so that the defender has a bit of a chance to react as they come on.
  5. Each deployment move would be a regular infantry move (8" for our P&S games).  Each column would enter in column of march and need to deploy, this taking one move to deploy a whole division.  Cavalry would be moving at a walk, but an all cavalry division could make a free deployment.
  6. The orders should note when deployment takes place.  Given the sample orders above a bad roll (i.e. 2 moves) would see the centre division deploy then move 8" on table.  On the same result the rear division would move two moves (16") without deploying.
  7. Blunders on a deployment could see a division be delayed, too far left or right or too far ahead depending on the result.
  8. The defender gets to go next and for each division can elect to either have one move without a command roll, or take their chances on a command roll.  This allows them to reposition as the enemy advances and possibly get some shooting in.
The same thing could be used with reinforcements arriving from off table, where the entry point is some distance away from the enemy.-

Too Many Disorders
Under the P&S/BP/HC any natural 6s on shooting cause a disorder, preventing the target unit from doing anything in their next move.  This seems to cause the attacker's a undue hardship in the recent game - Stacey rolled many 6s leaving the attackers effectively pinned in a fire zone at times.  I am thinking of letting the target unit taking an immediate save roll against disorder once all the shooting on the unit is completed.  This lets better troops more likely to shrug off disorder while inferior troops will be more likely to be disordered.  I think that there may be two exceptions when no save roll is permitted.  First, any units charging into contact are auto-disorder by fire.  Second, any unit taking two or more disorder results in shooting are also auto disordered.

Any that's what my brain came up to this morning, we'll see what a night's sleep does with these ideas.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Pike and Shotte Game - Pass Clearance

This Friday I GM'd an Italian Wars game at Curt's using Pike and Shotte.  Curt's Imperialists were tasked with clearing a pass defended by my Italian forces.  The Scenario was "Pass Clearance" from CS Grant's "Programmed War-games Scenarios".  Followers of Curt's AHPC blog will recognize many of the units from the past 3 challenges.  Curt and Jeremy took the attackers and Stacy the defenders, although he offered me the command of his reserve which I gladly took.

The defender's map - 16th century mapping skills being what they were, the actually terrain was somewhat different.  The attackers enter on the left, the defenders deploy on the centre and right sections.  The right hand section is dead ground until the attackers enter the middle section.

In the end the game was a bit of a disappointment, due to a combination of bad dice rolling and poor GMing on my part.   However it made good eye candy.

Defenders in the middle of the pass.  We used all of Curt's hills but could have used more. 

Defenders from the other flank.  The units placed in front of the village are occupying the buildings.

Curt's lead battalia of Cavalry enters.

Close up of Curt's superbly painted and based Gendarmes complete with mutts!

Stradiots make a charge of Italian men at arms.

And get repulsed.  Worth a gamble as it would have saved time.

The man in deep thought.  Cavalry splitting off to the flanks while the first pike block enters.

The hosts move forward.  Curt's pike block's are particularly impressive.  The red exclamation marks disorder caused by shooting, more on this later!

I'll own up to the first game issue.  I like the Table Top Teaser games especially when they include pre contact manoeuvre and wanted to get this on table so had the attackers enter in column of units from the board edge.  With the P&S command rolls movement is variable.  Curt and Jeremy managed a lot of "one move only rolls" which meant the pike columns plodded forward 6" per turn making for a loooong approach march.  Given the inflexible nature of these armies it would have been better to let them deploy on table or at least enter deployed.  But a couple of good rolls would have had the pike behemoths on top of the defenders and a very quick attacker victory.  In the end I'll chalk this up to a mix of rules quirks, bad dice and GM incompetence.

The lead Swiss pike block approaches the Italian MAAs, while the Italian reserve hustles up from the rear (I did get a 3 move roll!).  Note the blood chits marking shooting casualties which mounted quickly.
Shooting and especially disorder caused by shooting was another source of table top friction.  My Italian army is very shot heavy and their close fighting infantry is easy pickings for Swiss pikes.  Stacey had very,very good dice rolls consistently getting one or more hits plus disorder on two dice (in P&S 4+ causes a hit, 6 causes disorder).  With the slow approach slog and good shooting rolls, the casualties mounted quickly.  Worse still the disorder results stopped units in their tracks and prevent movement for a whole turn making the approach march even slower and giving the defenders more shots!  This was particularly a problem when the head of the column took the disorder.

It's finally coming up to a decision point.  The Swiss are about to steamroller the MAA while the other pikes deploy.  Note the disorder on the Gendarmes in front - this was rallied off at the end of every attacker turn only to come back when the defender's shot again!

Game end.  The Swiss vaporized the pole armed MAAs but took enough casualties to become shaken and then were charged by pikes.  The Swiss broke and Curt declared the game over!

Once the Swiss were gone, Curt had enough and called it a night.   It had been frustrating for him given the slow approach and the shooting results, but I think he quit too early.  He had several large pike blocks in excellent shape and the defenders were looking thin on the ground,  Their pole arms were gone, their pikes were worn down and they had nothing to stand up to Swiss and Lanschenkt pike blocks.

Scenario design wise there is an imbalance between our two armies that I'm struggling with.  Curt's is very strong in melee infantry - as it should be.  Mine is weak in melee infantry and strong in missile troops - as it should be.  When we fight a set piece, Curt rolls over my infantry line PDQ.  When we fight a manoeuvre battle, the shooting does Curt in before he gets to grips with my army.

For this scenario I should have let Curt deploy his first battalia on table and have the remaining battalias deployed behind them.   And if he ever let's me run a smilier Grant scenario again that's what I'll do.   Otherwise we'll do a set piece battle next time.  He'll steamroller me in 3 turns and then we can hit the Chianti big time!  It'll be great.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Travel Reading Pt 2

I picked this up in Waterstone's in Chichester.  It's a mark of how busy our trip was that we were in the UK for 18 days before setting foot in a bookshop!  Excellent stuff and tons of source material for gaming.  Grab your cup of mead and get ready for an adventure.

The cast of characters is truly epic.  Saints galore - Columba, Wilfrid, Cuthbert and plus Oswald himself.  Panda of Mercia and Sutton Hoo man himself also appear on the pages, and the Venerable Bede is a key source.  We're talking wild and wooly stories in the gray area between history and myth, the ear that inspired Tolkien.

There's source material for a fantasy series, an epic RPG campaign,  or wargaming on multiple scale -  Dux Brittarium, SAGA, Hail Caesar or old school WRG.  Speaking of WRG, if your recall Phil Barker's throw away comments in many of the dark age army lists - many of these occur in this story.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Travel Reading Pt 1

I picked this up at the Canterbury Cathedral shop.  Excellent read and food for thought with lots of gaming possibilities.  Ok knights hacking down un armed clergy doesn't make a great war-game, but the back story sure has possibilities!

The cast of characters is larger than life St Thomas, Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine.  It really calls out for Hollywood epics staring Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn (oh wait, they did that).  The author gives really good coverage of the 12th century - the reign of Henry I, the tragedy of the White Ship, the civil wars of Stephen and Matilda and then the Angevin empire.  The Cliff Notes histories focus on Becket the Archbishop and Martyr but he was much more before that.  Plus there's lots of potential for medieval warfare on both small and large scales.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Back From the UK and Back on The Blog

Gallo The Chicken Headed Man mosaic from Brading Villa

I hadn't realized until this morning but I'd been silent on the blogosphere since the end of April.  It's been a busy summer but in a good way.  Ive been traveling a lot - Halifax NS, Portland OR, Toronto and then the UK- and am looking forward to a few weeks at home before the start of the fall semester.

Our most recent travels were to the UK for three weeks.  We joke about this trip being the world's most expensive cheap beach vacation.  Every year my dad, step mother and step siblings plus kids and hangers on spend a week in caravans at the Isle of Wight in August - an inexpensive week away for a Briton.  But throw in three transatlantic flights at high season, a stay in London (because if we're going to the UK...), meals out and a rental car - ouch!  My wife, daughter and I used to go every second year but it had been 8 years since the last trip - looking at the credit card statements and I know why!

The trip was family centred so little of gaming note to report.  I think about trying to link up with British blogging/gaming contacts but didn't get my act in gear this year.  Highlights of the trip include.

  • Surviving the Trump protests in London.  We didn't see the Baby Blimp 😂but crossed Regent Street just in front of the crowds.  This was a particularly hot day in the City and the crowds plus Trump 'copter made it hotter.  Fortunately we found a friendly pub for lunch and a very nice Italian place before the theatre that night.
  • The Monet exhibit at the National Gallery - plus other cool stuff like Canalettos and the like.
  • Really, really good theatre.  The Book of Mormon in the West End - very funny, very off colour, done by the Southwark creators.  A play about English Quakers in the Georgian age at the Chichester Festival.  
  • Best theatre of all - Sir Ian (Gandalf) McKellan in King Lear in the West End.  Amazing stuff!  This was our last night in the UK before flying out - really nice dinner, great play then back to the restaurant for desert.  Best way to end off a trip.
  • A trip to Margate to visit my sister in law.  The train trip was really interesting taking us past the Medway, Chatham and Rochester Castle (which fell to the French in King John's day - stuff you don't often read in British history books).  Plus an ex-Soviet submarine in the Medway - yes I googled it it's ex-Soviet!  WTF?
  • Really really good food (yes in the UK!).  Best of all was the allergy knowledge and labelling.  I am coeliac and my wife has a dairy allergy so this was key.  We went three weeks without a food reaction and ate damn well the whole time.  Well done to the EU for proper food awareness.
  • Swimming in the ocean.  Three swims in the North Sea in Margate's retro tidal pool and three on the beaches on the Isle of Wight.  I did think about swimming in the Serpentine in Hyde Park - the facilities looked really good, but it opened late and there were too may waterfowl sharing the waters for my tastes.
  • A visit to Canterbury Cathedral - a first for both Lynne and I.  We didn't get to see the alter where Beckett was hacked down because they were using it for Convocations that week.  But the sound of the brass quartet and choir echoing through the Cathedral was wonderful.  Plus Dad had warned us not to be too disappointed that Beckett's blood had been washed up since the 12th century!
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road!  This was the first time I'd rented a car east of the pond in nearly 30 years and the last time was to drive around Ireland.  No damage done to vehicle of family mental states!
  • A visit to Brading Roman Villa on the Isle.  Out of the way unless your on the Isle but well worth a visit.  Had me think about Dux Brittanarium, the Barbarian Conspiracy and ogling the MDF Roman villas available via Sarissa, War Wases etc.