Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Camp Cromwell 23/06/08

Ancients: Jim's Carthaginians v. Richard's Romans

We used about half the troops from last week's Zama - the actual Roman part of Scipio's army v. some spearmen, some vets, some heavy cav & some light troops. We did map deployment. The Carthaginans did a traditonal deployment, with vets in the centre, spearmen each side, then heavy cav and light cav on both flanks. The Romans put all their cav on one flank & the triari on the other.

The Romans charged forward with thier infantry while the Carthaginans held back their centre and tried to gain advantage on the flanks.
On their left the Carthaginians had 1 light & 1 heavy cav unit v. 2 heavies but won through manoeuvring the light into the enemy's rear.
On the right, the Numidian light horse tried to outflank the line but was caught by Tirai, failed to evade & dispatched. The Carthagian heavy cav tried to smash through the end of the Romans infantry line (avoiding the Triari), but they lucked out and were quickly defeated.
In the centre the Roman infantry eventually reached the line & hit ti hard. A bad run of dice saw the Carthaginan centre crumble. Lousy command dice prevented a counterstroke & Carthage failed army morale.

Both players had a good time. The Roman deployment gave them an initial advantage. The Carthagians used a mix of skill & luck to win agaisnt the odds on the left. Their cavalry attack on the right was almost a 50/50 chance & probably would have won the battle if it had suceeded, but it lucked out. The Romans always had an advantage in the centre, but the Carthaginians were hoping to play for time until the cavalry could wheel in from the flanks. But bad dice lost the centre too quickly.

Points of note re rules development: The combat system seemed too decisive tonight - most combats were over very quickly. This didn't seem to be so much the case last week, but it seems I might have switched from having the combats too indecisive to them being too quick. I'll have to analyse this. The orders activation system can be very frustrating when you use up all your dice in straight throws, but I still liked it. As did the battle the other night, this one developed piecemeal - it was far from being the charge-forward-&-throw-dice-at-each-other affair that many ancient rules (including our own old ones) cause battles to become.

FOW: Nick's Panthers v. Rich's Canadian Rifles in 1500 pts Encounter

Nick vs Rich. 1500 pt Encounter. Rich chose his list not knowing what Nick had bought. Rich chose a nice balanced force of Canadian Rifles, with some M10's, infantry (with Piats), artillery, recon, machine gunners, etc. Nick then revealed his force -- 8 panthers.
The Panthers were in a bit of difficulty, with one platoon on the table and two objectives to defend. So Rich launched an attack on both wings. Unfortunately, the panthers blunted one wing of the attack, and the reinforcements came on just in time and in just the right place to blunt the other attack. Rich then fell back and hid, and tried to whittle the panthers away with artillery. Meanwhile, the Panthers where whittling away the Canadian infantry -- and the Panthers were being more succesful at taking out infantry than the artillery was in taking out Panthers. Things looked grim, and in desperation Rich launched a combined attack of a recon platoon with a piat, M10's and artillery onto one platoon of Panthers. One Panther was knocked out, but the revenge was frightful. Two turns later the M10's and the recon were gone. On the other flank some machine gunners sneaking foward were wiped out. At this point the Canadian army was down to 1/2 its platoons, and those platoons left were in bad shape. The Panthers had lost one tank. Should have been easy, eh! The panthers went for the kill!!! But an assault on one flank resulted in one platoon of Panthers totally destroyed. And an assault on the other flank into infantry in woods resulted in 2 bogged Panthers and one Bailed. Suddenly the Canadians were below 1/2 strength, but the Panthers had one operating tank! There was a desperate counterattack by some Canadian infantry -- but they failed to take out the last tank. The Canadians failed army morale, and it was game over -- but by the closest of margins.

FOW: Maruiz's Polish Armour v. Leigh's Stug in 1500 pts Breakthrough

Both sides had armour & the dice made Maruiz the attacker. Breakthough is hard to defend with Armour & Leigh was duly defeated.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Zama 202 BC

At Zama 202 BC Hannibal was defeated by Scipio. This time it was MarkO's Romans v. Jim's Carthaginians using Camp Cromwell Rules. The scenario was tweaked a bit to make the armies equal in points - in the real think I beleive Hannibal was at a significant disadvantage.

Marcus Oaftavius deployed with his Roman cav on his left, then his allied infantry left centre, legions in the centre, Numidian heavy cav right centre & Numidian light cav on his right.

Hamilcar Ganda deployed his heavy cav on his right, elephants on his left with light cav behind & infantry in the centre in four lines - skirmishers, Spearmen, Italy Vets & mercenaries in the rear on each side.

On the Roman left, their cavalry intially gained the upper hand, but Carthage fought back and by the end had a small gain.

On the Romans right, their heavy cavalry met the elephants - about as good a situation as the Carthaginains could hope for. The elephants threw consistantly good dice and generally won. The front line of cavary lost heavily, but took advantage of a rare win to fall back and a fresh line took over, but it did no better and was routed. The Allied light cavalry went round the elephant fight and was met by the Carthaginan light cavalry. As on the other flank, the Romans won intitially, but were beaten by a counterattack.

In the centre the Carthagians attacked in echelon to get at the Roman allies first. The Allies were attacked by citizen spearman and eventually beaten. The Legion hit hard and broke the front line. The Italy vets then counterattacked with mixed results, but a couple routed maniples was all it needed to push the Roman army past its morale test.

So Carthage won this time. This time Hamilcar Ganda got real value out of his elphants which allowed him to win both flanks (instead of losing them as in the real thing) and he was able to take out the allied foot before the Legionaries could win the battle.

There are still a few items in the rules we haven't play-tested enough & still need some tweeking - but the core system works really well. It was a very enjoyable battle. Despite having 40+ stands a side we finished it in 2 hours.

I really like the new combat system - we use the old casualty counters as Combat Rating counters - so a Unit with a CR of 8 has an 8 counter riding on it. So you don't have to remember & you don't have to calculate in your old head - you just pick up that many dice in one hand, then add or subtract dice as you tick off the relevant combat factors - charge bonuses, casualties, extra stands, routers nearby, etc. Then you chuck the handfull & count out the 4+s (5+s if light v. heavy). Then you chuck a morale dice for each hit the enemy got on you & take the difference in fails. Ties or small differences are the norm, but wild results happen often enough to make it interesting & sufficiently unrpedicable.

The orders system skirts the risk of being gamey, but it does seem to give the right feel & do the job. This was a big battle for just 1 commander a side, even if they were both rated 4 dice generals. It took a while for both of us to get our armies moving, but it felt good - you had to prioritise what you were doing & the battle developed first on my right, then my left and finally in the centre - it wasn't just blow the whistle & all charge forward. When Mark got into a bit of bother on both flanks at once, he used up all his command dice on one flank and the Carthaginians exploited his inability to react on the other.

The double move - dead straight forward only, with severe penalties if you get charged or fired on in the enemy's next turn is a good innovation.

The legionary rules worked very well. Maniples move as light inf, but fight like heavy (confident veteran hast/princ, or fearless veteran triari). They can fight in checkerboard, or close up, as you wish. Mark picked up on the wave attack tactic - the first line hits with +3 for pilum charge, then next turn the second joins in in the gaps and they get the pilum charge bonus again. The Legion took out 10 stands for the loss of 3 - the Carthaginians really had to win on the flanks.

The attached pics are taken from behind the Carthaginian right - 1 near the start & 1 near the end.

Camp Cromwell 17/06/08

Maruiz's Polish Armour v. Jim's Grenadiers in 1500pt Cauldron

The Germans had some advantage of having lots of terrain on half the table with an enemy with no infantry or artillery, but there was still a lot of tanks with fearless crews to deal with. On turn 1 the Poles charged down the road into the village and a desperate struggle ensued between the tank platoon (with HQ attached) & a Grenadier platoon (with HQ nearby). With sides having re-rolls neither failed morale as Assault & Counterassault wore slowly both sides down. Finally the last Polish tank was bailed leaving the Grenadier commander & the Coy commander the only german survivors. But the Germans were more than happy to trade an Infanty Platoon for a large Tank Platoon. Particlarly so when the other Polish Tank Platoon was engaged in an unequal fight with 2 Tigers. The Poles got their 2 M10s on as reserves early, but they missed their shots & were soon dispatched. With no HQ, the Poles failed army morale about turn 3.

Maruiz's Polish Armour v. SteveJ's Grenadiers in 1500 pts Hold the Line - Germans defending

Steve had one of the funny Coys from one of the Normandy books that dripped panzerfausts, panzershreks & antitank guns. The terrain had a lot of clutter, but also some open space down the Polish right where Maruiz put an objective. The Poles advanced with a phalanx of tanks on their right with their M10s on the left. The forward objective was defended by an panzerfaust/schrek heavy platoon, supported by an ambush of 3 88s and soon after 2 Pak 40s from reserve, just in range at the edge of the table.

Most of the Polish armour engaged the antitank at long range, while some worked away at the infantry. Despite heavy losses & lousy dice, the Poles eventually got the 88s. The M10s took on the Nebelwerfers from reserve, got two, but the Pak 40 attached got them in return. The Poles were below half strength, but being fearless with re-rolls they continued to pass Coy Morale tests as they launched a desperate assault on the objective with their last surviving platoon. They took the objective and withstood the German anti-tank. The German infantry then failed tank terror to lauch a counterattack leaving the Poles in possession fo the objective. They once again passed morale to win a costly victory.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Camp Cromwell 10/06/08

FOW 2x1500 pts LW Free For All (8x6 table)

Germans: Barrie's Panzergrenadiers + SteveJ's Panzers
Maruiz's Polish Armour + Rich's Canadian Infantry

Barrie deployed for an advance on the German left but the Allies got first turn and the Canadians hit first - taking out the Maulier Neblewerfers with M10s before Barrie's Pak 40's hit back. Barrie then lost his 2 Tigers - one to Priests while the other got too close to Maruiz's Shermans & got flanked,& popped by a Firefly. The Shermans then returned their attention to Steve's flank & Barrie resumed his advance. But the Canadian Priests & Heavy Mortars steadily whittled away at Barrie's force & the attack petered out with Barrie below half strength surviving Coy Morale Tests.
Maruiz surprized everyone ): by relentlessly attacking SteveJ on the Allied left. They slugged it out until the Poles ran out of tanks & failed Coy Morale, by which time Steve had just 2 Panthers & a few grunts left surviving on passed platoon morale tests.
At this stage the Allies had only one Coy to the German's two, but the Canadians were the only Coy still fit to fight. Neither side was close to taking an objective so a draw was declared.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Camp Cromwell 03/06/08

Steve's Panzergrenadiers v. Rich & Jim's Canadian Inf (Monty's Meatgrinder)
1500 pts Encounter on 8x6 table.

Steve deployed 2 Inf + Neblewerfers with HMG + SPAA + Tigers (1 big 1 small) in reserve.
Rich deployed 2 Inf, HMG, Hvy Mortars with M10s, Inf, Priests, 6pdrs & Bugs in reserve.

The Germans advanced Inf on their right to sieze the beautiful French village. The Brits advanced a Rifle plat in the centre towards the RH objective. The 6 Neblewerfers dominated the early phase of the battle, killing 3 heavy mortars then destroying the Infantry in the centre.

All the German reserves came on on the right flank. The HMGs set up on their RH objective, the Tigers & SPAA moved aver to the centre. The Canadians concentrated their reserves on their right, double moving the platoons that didn't come on there across. The Priests commenced counterbattery fire on the Neblewerfers for the rest of the battle. They didn't do much killing but did keep them pinned a lot - which was fortunate because whenever they unpinned they caused mayhem - such as killing 3 6pdrs in a turn.

The M10s and the reserve rifles advanced behind hedges on the right as the Tigers moved over through a farm to take them on. Steve's Tiger shuffle came unstuck when the Tiger I bogged crossing a wall. The M10s got 3 sdie shots and popped it. Three of them survived the Tiger II's retubution and when it failed stormtrooper they rushed its flanks and popped it too. The Panzergrenadiers counterattacked and destroyed the Rifles, but the fire of the bugs, M10s & surviving 6pdrs destroyed them & the SPAA in turn. This left the German LH objective defended only by HQ teams. Troops from both sides now rushed across from the other flank. The 3rd rifles made a mess of the 2nd Panzergrenadiers before themselves being mauled by the HMGs, but the M10s took the objective, the HQ's counterattack failed and it was game over. A costly win for the Canadians.
Pic 1 is an overview from behind the Canadian left.
Pic 2 shows how to deal with 2xTigers. 1) Get Tiger I bogged crossing a wall. 2) Move up M10s for 4 side shots - 1 kill. 3) 3 shots from the top gun KingTiger gets just one M10. 4) KT fails stormtrooper. 5) Rush the KT - 3 shots - 1 kill. 6) No worries.

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.