Sunday, June 01, 2008

At Nick's Garage 30/05/08

Nick's on Friday

Nick had a fair attendance marred by late arrivals & early departures due to untrained wives. Jim & Craig started a FOG ancient battle. Craig had to leave half way through & was replaced by Carl. Nick & David started a FOW battle using an historical scenario from another rules system. David had to leave part way through, but Jim took over after finishing the ancients battle.

FOG Byzantines v, Sassanids

With one player totally unfamiliar with the rules & the other side having used them only once before, it was a slow bumbling afair. It ended in a draw when Carl belatedly realised that both armies had long failed the eqivalent of an Army Morale Test and we couldn't figure out who had failed first.

The Sassanids deployed their spearmen in the centre with elephants on their right. On the left of the spearmen were 2 Heavy Cav with a 3rd behind. There was Light Cav on the far left. The Byzantines had Infantry in centre, a Heavy Cav on each flank and Light Cav on their right. The Light Cav moved into range & exchanged fire. Eventually, the Sassanids routed, but the battle was over before the winners could influence the action again. The rest of the Sassanid line advanced with the Infantry held back a bit. The Byzantines sent their right flank Heavy Cav across their front to assist on the left rather than meet 3 cavalry with one on their right. But they were pinched between the two armies and charged in flank by spearmen & in rear by cavalry. They routed, but it seemed more due to bad dice than the seemingly benign combat factors imposed by a tactical blunder. The elephants fought heavy cavalry & lost quickly. No issue with that, but there wasn't much elephant flavour apparent. The cavalry charged on into the spearmen & were beaten off as you'd expect. The Byzantine infantry charged the Sassanid heavy cav in the centre and did pretty well for non-spear armed inf charging cavalry - routing a cavalry unit despite being outnumbered. That's when we discovered that the battle should have finished some time before.

Review of FOG rules:

I wasn't particularly impressed with the FOG rules, but I didn't like FOW the first time either, so I hesitate to condemn them on the basis of one battle - my impressions may be skewed by my ignorance of it's subtleties.

The turn sequence is complex - there is charge, then impact combat, then normal move, then fire by both sides & melee combat, then a rout/pursuit/commander move phase.
The move rates are glacial. There's not much scope of sweeping manoeures or dramatic cavalry charges - it appears that cunning manouvre isn't worth doing as the war will be over before you get into their flank.
There doesn't seem to be much in the way of command & control rules - you can move troops around on an ad-hoc basis subject only to some manouvre restrictions.
The combat resolution system is ok in principle (a variant of what most rules are doing these days), but the factors for combat and morale are set out in tables that make it easy to overlook items. I expect you'd get used to the tables, but the tactical factors seemed a bit lacking & sometimes a bit odd.
The designers seem to have no imperitive to make things easy for the players - for example they have two combat phases per turn - it's a clumsy way of having different parameters in the charge compared with subsequent melee. They don't seem to have adopted the one parameter dice at a time principle that makes FOW relatively easy to play by memory. They have the usual British habit of using strange terms. The game seems to plod along - not an uncommon thing for ancient rules - to a degree it's the nature of the beast.

In this battle the Sassanids clearly had the best tactics - they got their elephants fighting cavalry well clear of their own, they got their spearmen v. cavalry, they hit an enemy unit in flank & rear, they faced 3 good cavalry v. 2 infantry without spear. Yet they gained no clear advantage. It would be nice to have a set of Ancient rules with widespead acceptance like FOW in WWII, and these are beautifully presented and backed by a big company, but I don't thing they are going to be it.

FOW Historical Scenario

The Russians held a village surrounded by swamps with infantry & anti-tank guns. A lot of Germans (Panzers, Grenadiers & Panzergrens) were to come on, one platoon per turn, and had 12 turns to take the village. With a bit of advice from 15 centuries back on the next table, David did a credible job of deploying the Germans and softening up the Russians. Jim took over the final assault with no anti-tank guns to deal with. The Infantry stormed the village on turn 11 taking half of it. The Panzergrenadiers didn't unpin, so the Panzers joined in the assault in turn 12. They got 2 bogs in the rubble, but the village fell and a cordon of Panzers prevented any counterattack by the surviving Russians. It was interesting to do an historical scenario for a change. The Germans won with moderate losses but it was the last turn before they took the objective, so it was no walkover.

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