My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Spring 479 B.C. - Spartan Move

Sparta moves its army from Naupactus to invade Chalcis. The Athenian army stands despite being outnumbered 12 to 9.

The Athenian Strategos Peridus furrows his brow. The Spartans have invaded early in the Spring - too early after Winter's pall - and Peridus suspect some cunning stratagem. "This early into the Spring - before the snows in the mountains have melted - what are the Spartans up to?" Peridus shakes off the feeling. He has to attend to the matter at hand. Athenian lands have been invaded and the Spartans must be made to pay. A smile slowly crosses his face. He knows where to make his stand against the Spartans...

The battle at Chaldis between Athens and Sparta was a three hour long affair with pictures at the end of every few turns (only when the positions started to change significantly). There were a number of errors that Ira and I made with regards to the rules - the killer nature of the river, how to count as defending a riverbank - so rather than write up and elaborate report, here are the highlights:
  • The Athenians setup the terrain, placing a BUA and a river to intersect the board, dividing it into two sections: one 1/3rd the width of the board and one 2/3rd the width of the board. There was a central steep hill to meet the Bad Going Terrain rules, but it played no part in the battle.
  • The Athenians ended up defending.
  • The Spartans ended up opposite the BUA (town) and having to cross the river.
  • The river turned out to be difficult (a roll of a '6' on the type of river).
  • The Spartans attempted to flank the Athenian defensive line and lost two Hoplite elements, but eventually flanked the Athenian position with the remaining two Hoplite elements, destroying the Athenian Hoplite element holding the flank on the last turn.
  • The Athenians lost one Hoplite element in the battles raging at the river banks.
  • The Spartans had the Athenian General flanked, but he valiantly fought free, destroying a Spartan Hoplite element and recoiling the Spartan General element.
  • The Athenian counter-attack eventually settled the matter when it flanked and destroyed the fourth Spartan Hoplite element.
The Athenians won 4-2, forcing the Spartans to retreat their army back to Naupactus.

Athens: 4 prestige; reserves: 3x4Sp, 1x2LH, 1x3Ax
Sparta: 7 prestige; reserves: 4x4Sp
Thessaly: 3 prestige; reserves: none
Thrace: 1 prestige; reserves: 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax, 1x2LH

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Spring 479 B.C.

In the Spring of 479 B.C. the armies can be found as shown in the map above. The order for the turn is: Thrace, Athens, Sparta, and Thessaly.

Thrace and Athens both pass for their turns.

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Winter 480-479 B.C.

All of the armies recruit, refit, and retrain, leaving the scores as:

Athens: 2 prestige; losses: 1x4Sp, 1x2LH, 1x3Ax; recruit: 3x4Sp, 1x2Ps
Sparta: 7 prestige; losses: none; recruit: 1x7Hd, 3x4Sp
Thessaly: 3 prestige; losses: none; recruit: 2x2Ps, 1x2LH
Thrace: 1 prestige; losses: 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax, 1x2LH; recruit: 1x2Ps, , 2x3Ax, 1x2LH

With both the Athenian and Thracian armies down 3 elements each, they are going to have to be very wary about offensives and losses.

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Autumn 480 B.C. - Thracian and Athenian Moves

Both Thrace and Athens pass their turns, licking their wounds in Potidaea and Chalcis, respectively. Winter is coming. Time to recruit, refit, and retrain.

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Autumn 480 B.C. - Thessalian Move

Thessaly, seeing the Athenian hoplites march off, sallies forth from the Shrines to again do battle against the now outnumbered Thracians. The Thracian army promptly retreats back to Potidaea.

The road to Pharsalus is still not complete.

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Autumn 480 B.C. - Spartan Move

Sparta continues to besiege Naupactus, forcing the return of the Athenian allied army at Mount Olympus. The remainder of the Athenian army stays at Chalcis and does not attempt to relieve the siege. The Spartans successfully capture the city, turning control over to them.

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Autumn 480 B.C.

The turn order is now: Sparta, Thessaly, Thrace, and Athens.

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Summer 480 B.C. - Thracian Move

The Thracians move back to Mount Olympus, but this time bring Athenian allies (3x4Sp hoplites) to try and take down the Thessalians. The Thessalians immediately move back into the shrines and await their fate. The Thracians unsuccessfully besiege the Thessalians and lose 1x3Ax to disease and desertion.

Athens: 2 prestige, losses: 4x4Sp, 1x2LH, 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax
Sparta: 7 prestige, losses: 1x7Hd, 3x4Sp
Thessaly: 3 prestige, losses: 2x2Ps, 1x2LH
Thrace: 1 prestige, losses: 2x2Ps, 3x3Ax, 2x2LH

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Summer 480 B.C. - Thessalian Move

Thessaly sallies forth from the Shrines of Mount Olympus in an attempt to break the siege. (I need to write up the battle report, but I am out of time at the moment.) Thessaly crushes the Thracians in a surprise attack, winning 4-1. Thrace retreats its army to Potidaea.

Athens: 2 prestige, losses: 4x4Sp, 1x2LH, 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax
Sparta: 7 prestige, losses: 1x7Hd, 3x4Sp
Thessaly: 3 prestige, losses: 2x2Ps, 1x2LH
Thrace: 1 prestige, losses: 2x2Ps, 2x3Ax, 2x2LH

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Summer 480 B.C. - Spartan Move

The Spartans move from Megara to Naupactus and lay siege. The Athenian garrison holds out for the season and the Spartans lose a 1x4Sp element to disease and desertion.

Athens: 2 prestige, losses: 4x4Sp, 1x2LH, 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax
Sparta: 7 prestige, losses: 1x7Hd, 3x4Sp
Thessaly: 0 prestige, losses: 1x2Ps, 1x2LH
Thrace: 1 prestige, losses: 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax

Sunday, December 20, 2009

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Summer 480 B.C. - Athenian Move

The Athenian army moves from Athens to Chalcis.

Please note that the road construction from Pharsalus to Mount Olympus has been started. At the end of every season, other than Winter, a die will be rolled to see if the road is complete.

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Summer 480 B.C.

Rolling off between the four powers the order for turns are: Athens, Sparta, Thessaly, and Thrace (the same as last season).

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Thrace Spring 480 B.C.

TheThracians move their army in Potidaea and attack to gain control of the shrines at Mount Olympus. The Thessalian army holes up in the shrines to wait out the siege rather than give battle. The remainder of the season is spent laying siege to the shrines. The Thracians lost a peltast unit (1x3Ax) to disease and desertion.

The score is as follows:

Athens: 2 prestige, losses: 4x4Sp, 1x2LH, 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax
Sparta: 7 prestige, losses: 1x7Hd, 2x4Sp
Thessaly: 0 prestige, losses: 1x2Ps, 1x2LH
Thrace: 1 prestige, losses: 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax

Saturday, December 19, 2009

DBA Hoplite Campaign - Maps and Moves

I finally finished the map. Found a good one on Wikipedia and between it and the game Athens and Sparta I was able to come up with some city and objective names. (The Thracian ones are dubious.)

You can see that this makes Chalcis and Naupactus strategic, as they are links between the allies. Unfortunately for Sparta, Athens controls both. Another anomoly - which I may later correct - is that Thessaly is intentionally linear. Maybe they will build an expressway from Pharsalus to Mount Olympus before the campaign ends. :)

Spring 480 B.C.

Athens and Thrace declare an alliance and both declare war on Thessaly and Sparta. Thessaly and Sparta in turn declare an alliance and both declare war on Athens and Thrace. The armies are positioned as indicated below.

The order for taking turns is decided as: Athens, Sparta, Thessaly, and Thrace.

Athens starts by sending its army from Megara to Corinth. That battle was documented here. The Athenians, having lost the battle, retreat back to Megara.

Sparta advances its army from Corinth to Megara, forcing the Athenian army to again retreat, back to Athens. The Spartans lay siege, as documented here.

The Thessalians, seeing that the Spartans have the Athenians well in hand, move their army through the passes of Mount Olympus and attack the port city of Potidaea. The battle is documented here. The Thessalian army retreats back to Mount Olympus.

It is finally the Thracian turn. They move their army in Potidaea and attack to gain control of the shrines at Mount Olympus.

Now that I have an opponent, I need to wait for his decision on whether he stands and fights (and dies!) or he retreats.

DBA Campaign No Longer a Solo Campaign

Ira has some time on his hand this Christmas season, and I am off for the rest of the year, so we decided it would be easy to split the campaign up into two alliances: Sparta & Thessaly versus Athens & Thrace. I will be playing the latter alliance.

Friday, December 18, 2009

DBA Solo Hoplite Campaign - Game 2

Thessaly versus Thrace

Thessaly's turn is spent attacking a frontier town in Thrace, who responds by sending out its field army in battle.


Thessaly ended up invading and attacking, so the Thracians setup a board with two small woods, and a steep central hill. The Thessalians changed their angle of attack so that the hill was horizontal rather than vertical. This meant that there would probably not be any command and control problems with commands being split by line of sight blocking terrain.

The Thracians (me) setup with four groups (see, I am already thinking about PIP management) with the rightmost still having line of sight to the General.

The Thracians setup shows extreme paranoia - probably due to my previous games with light horse - and has the Thessalian hoplites gloriously guarding the camp. The psiloi are on their left and the light horse are on their right. The woods block LOS and the psiloi are farther than 12", so the Thessalians already have command and control problems. Note: the Thessalian General is a light horse element, not a cavalry element.

Once the Thracians see the Thessalian setup they swap a light horse element on their right with a peltast unit in the center, putting more light horse on the left to face the Thessalian light horse horde. Their plan is simple: try to obtain the heights with their peltasts and pick off any psiloi or light horse foolish enough to come too close. The cavalry and light horse on the left are to guard against a flanking maneuver by the Thessalian light horse.

Turn 1

The Thessalians start off with a nice 4 PIP roll and discover their command and control problems (the psiloi are too far from the General). They spend all four PIPs moving the psiloi towards the hill, but do not gain the high ground.

The Thracians get 5 PIPs and advance the main battle line forward while throwing a single psiloi onto the high ground. The peltasts in the woods come out and form up while the flanking force on the right moves up.

I notice that I now have five groups because I threw the psiloi forward and broke the line. Damn, DK was right!

Thessaly: 0
Thrace: 0

Turn 2

The Thessalians move their light horse around the flank (as best as they can maneuver) using all of their PIPs. I get excited because it looks like there is not enough space behind the 2nd rank of light horse furthest on my left, so looking for a quick kill I throw forward the psiloi and two light horse. The Thessalian General recoils, but it turns out there was (just) enough space. Meanwhile my psiloi recoils.

On my right flank I move the light horse and peltast column hoping to draw PIPs that way next turn. I am now up to six separate groups! What is that saying about plans not surviving the point of contact?

Turn 3

The Thessalians get enough PIPs to straighten out their light horse battle lines, but not much else. It results in my psiloi being destroyed by two light horse elements, but one of his light horse supporting the general recoils off of the board. When my turn comes the general is so close to the board edge that it cannot stay on if it recoils. I take the chance: Charge!

You can barely see the final die roll: Thracians 6 (+2), Thessalians 3 (+2). The Thessalian General quits the field!

Thessaly: 1
Thrace: 2G

Battle Summary

Well, me pointing my light horse's rear to the board edge has happened to me before, so when I saw the enemy commander doing it, I knew I had to press him as hard as possible to get the quick victory points. His General really did roll very badly for every battle (he lost every roll, bar none). That said, the space was just too small to press home.

Personally, I would have pressed the spears through the pass, screened as best as possible by the psiloi, to try and get to my rear camp. I've just seen too many games of late where the light horse tries to sneak by and gets "ZOCed" against the board edge.If you don't have the PIPs to completely run through the pass, don't bother.

It was interesting in that it was a "battle of the +2 troops" with the light horse general weighing in at a hefty +3. Ironically, my opponent liked having a LH (Gen) and said he had to start looking at armies that allow them.

Campaign Follow-up

The Thessalians are driven out of the Thracian province back to their homeland.

My reading of the campaign rules indicates that the Thessalian losses come back as they recoiled off of the board, but still count towards the Thracian gain of prestige. However, the +2 prestige for the loss of the general indicates that they specifically have to be destroyed. However, I think the Thessalians lose two elements for demoralization of the "loss of a main protagonist's general". They did lose the general, just not permanently. I'll have to ask the Fanaticus Illuminati.

Athens: 2 prestige, losses: 4x4Sp, 1x2LH, 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax
Sparta: 7 prestige, losses: 1x7Hd, 2x4Sp
Thessaly: 0 prestige, losses: 1x2Ps, 1x2LH
Thrace: 1 prestige, losses: 1x2Ps

DBA Solo Campaign - Turn 1 Sparta

The Spartans smashed the Athenians on Athens turn 1, so Sparta takes its turn. It attacks the Athenian frontier city; Athens does not (cannot) respond. Sparta rolls a '4' for the siege, indicating the town withstood the Spartan assaults. Sparta loses one element.

Athens: 2 prestige, losses: 4x4Sp, 1x2LH, 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax
Sparta: 7 prestige, losses: 1x7Hd, 2x4Sp
Thessaly: 0 prestige, losses: none
Thrace: 0 prestige, losses: none

Monday, December 14, 2009

DBA Solo Hoplite Campaign - Game 1

Athens versus Sparta

The first battle of the campaign is Athens and Sparta with Athens invading Spartan territory.


The Spartans place a BUA, two Gentle Hills, and a Woods on the board. The Spartans deploy in a deep block behind the hill, with their single Horde on the left. Their plan is simple, move onto the hill and wait for the Athenians to charge up it. To keep the Athenian light troops off of their left flank, they assign the helots (Horde element) and two hoplite lochoi (elements) to guard it. The BUA is left to fend for itself.

The Athenians, seeing the Spartan setup, set their light troops on their right flank, hoping to slow the Spartan advance onto the hill and to delay them from moving off. The main hoplite force is in the center, with two hoplite lochoi on the Athenian left, detailed to attack and sack the BUA. (With only the BUA denizens there, The Spears should take care of it in short order.)

Phase 1

Rather than give a turn-by-turn blow-by-blow, I've decided to provide a narrative describing the different phases of the battle.

The Spartans execute their plan and move their Hoplites onto the hill, extending their frontage left and right. On their left flank move the helots, flanked by two hoplites.

The Athenians move the Thracian Light Horse to stop the advance of the helots, moving the Peltasts and Psiloi up to support their flank. The center hoplite taxis advances relentlessly, while the hoplite lochoi on the left flank steadily head towards the Spartan town.

Spartans: 0; Athenians: 0

Phase 2

The Spartans start to realize that the town will not hold for long and that will represent a loss of two VP for the game, and two elements for the campaign, so they send hoplite ekdromoi (hoplite skirmishers, or in this case, a single Spear element) out to intercept the Athenian lochoi. This in turn forces the Athenian Strategos (General) to send out the Psiloi to intercept the Spartan ekdromoi.

The Spartans hold on the hill while the left flank force continues to press the Athenian light troops.

Spartans: 0; Athenians: 0

Phase 3

The Spartans charge on the left flank, forcing the issue with the Thracian Light Horse and Athenian Peltasts. The Athenian Psiloi successfully intercept the Spartan Ekdromoi, but starts recoiling towards the Athenian battle line. The Athenians quickly assault the Spartan town and dispatch the denizens. However, the Athenians start sacking the town and are unable to retain control of their troops.

Spartans: 0; Athenians: 2B

Phase 4

The Spartans guarding the left flank destroy the Athenian Peltasts and force the Thracian Light Horse to flee. (The Thracians will never end up coming back as the Athenians need the PIPs elsewhere.) The two hoplite lochoi turn to catch the flank of the Athenian taxis, while the Spartan taxis, smelling blood, moves off of the hill to pin them.

The Spartan ekdromoi forces the Psiloi to flee after several rounds of combat, while one Athenian lochos prepares to give chase to the Spartan ekdromoi. The other Athenian lochos continues to sack the town. (In fact, they will never regain control before the game ends.)

Spartans: 1; Athenians: 2B

Phase 5

The Spartan left flank forces the Psiloi to flee then catches the right flank of the Athenian taxis. With a horrible roll, the Athenians quickly lose two Spears. When the Spartan taxis hits the remaining Athenians, another horrible roll takes out another two Spears, one of which is the Athenian Strategos. The battle is over.

Spartans: 5G; Athenians: 2B

Here was the final picture of the game.

Campaign Aftermath

This is definitely not a good way for the Athenians to start a campaign. They have lost five elements, one of which is the General, causing an additional two element loss, for a total of seven elements. That leaves a mere five elements for the remainder of the year!

The Spartans did not get off so lightly. Although they lost no element, having their town sacked came at a price: two elements are also lost (the Horde element and a Spears element). They should be able to attack Athens next season, however, and maybe put them out of the war.

Game Summary

Let me tell you, my impression of the Spartan army was poor. Basically an all-Spear army. It moves slow and is easy to flank, even if it does have strong hitting power. What I found is that for all its negatives, they are largely negated when your opponent has an army that is 2/3rds Spear also.

Although Spears have a horrible move (200 paces) compared to Psiloi (300 paces), they really are not so bad against a single Psiloi or Peltast (Auxilia) unit. Sure, they better not get into Bad Going, but when it is one-on-one, they can fit the ekdromoi role in a pinch.

The biggest eye opener is when Spears flank Spears. If the flanked Spears are double-ranked and they recoil after turning, both elements are destroyed. Pretty bad for a slightly unlucky roll (recoil). Lesson Learned: the Spears on the flanks better not be double-ranked unless your flank support is solid (and a single Psiloi element in Good Going is not solid against a flanking Spear).

Overall, I executed poorly with the Athenians. I let the light troops get sucked into close combat without adequate support, thereby losing them (destroyed and fleeing). I really only needed a single Spear element to sack the town, so sending the second wasted a resource. Overall, this was another case where the troops on the exterior line were beaten because they could not react fast enough.

DBA Solo Campaign

The guys at the club have decided to start a DBA campaign (meaning we have decided to think about how to start and what to ponder next), so I decided - with three weeks of vacation on my hands - to start a solo DBA campaign and see what snags I might run into.

The campaign will center around the Early Greek Hoplite armies (I/52) and will include four sides: I/52(b) Spartan, I/52(f) Athenian, I/52(c) Thessalian, and I/48 Thracian. I make up a map later, but Thrace and Sparta can both attack Athens and Thessaly directly but not each other, and Thessaly and Athens can each attack all three opponents. Athens has the extra city.

The first turn consisted of Athens declaring war on Sparta (and vice versa) and Thessaly declaring war on Thrace (and vice versa).

Monday, December 07, 2009

DBA Fun Day

Wow, what a day for DBA. First off Ira brought his new BUA and it looked great! I think it made every game too, which really stinks if you have a cavalry army (which I did when I finally faced it).

Also making their newly painted and based debut was Mark's Later Polish and they looked great too. Just need to finish that War Wagon and they'll be killers.

Finally, making a painted, but not based debut was Dale's New Kingdom Egyptians. I'll try and get some pictures up so you can see what kind of work Ira is doing (he painted them for me).

The first round games we had were:

Teutonic Order (Ira) versus Later Polish (Mark) 6-3?
Thracian (Dale) versus Gallic (James) 6-3

The second round games were:

Dacians (Jim) versus Polybian Romans (Pro-Consul, Aaron, and Plebeian Council, Dale) 4-0
Alexander Macedonians (Ira) versus Maccabean Jews (James) 4-3?

The final round game was:

Teutonic Order (Ira) versus Mongol Conquest (Dale) 4-3

I'll only describe the games I was involved in.

Thracians versus Gallic

The Gauls had the gall (sorry, I had to do it) to attack the hills of Thrace - which ended up mostly being woods - and it turned out to be a close and tense battle.

There was a steep hill on the Gallic side which played a role in PIP management for the Gauls; they had two of their LCh on the other side, so it was hard to move them without rolling lots of PIPs. In each of the other quarters were woods, straddling the left and right of a gap in the center.

Essentially the Thracians ran Auxilia up into the woods and ran LH around each flank, drawing troops away from the main battle line in the center. The Thracians quickly killed off two Gallic LCh and a Psiloi, starting with a grim 3-0 lead. Eventually the main warband line hit the Thracian line and quickly got a double on an Auxilia/Psiloi pair, bringing it to 3-2.

Right at the critical moment when the Thracians had the last LCh ready to fall, they rolled 1 PIP and needed to the flank! A desperate move was sought instead of pulling out the General and it failed! The following turn the Thracian General fell. (I thought the game was over - I even shook James hand in congratulation - but the General falling is an automatic loss only if I had lost more elements.) The game was now 3-3.

With each of my moves now costing two PIPs, I ran into a string of 6 PIP rolls and eventually caught the last Gallic LCh and a Warband with support in flanking charges, ending the game 6-3. It doesn't sound close, but it was.

Dacians versus Polybian Romans

The Romans were attacking the Dacians (of course), who threw out a Steep Hill, a woods, and a river. The river turned out to be raging, but the main effect was that it squeezed the Roman deployment to less than 1/2 of the board and force them to expand their frontage as they advanced.

The Dacians deployed in a battle line in front of the central woods, with their cavalry on the open flank. The Romans split their forces left and right of the woods.

The game moved slowly as both sides could not get the big moves - especially the Dacians run by Jim "Oh, Another One PIP" O'Neil (three 1 PIP rolls in a row, until he switched dice and got a 3).

Eventually the Dacian cavalry, always supported by the heroic Psiloi taking the enemy in a crucial flank, crushed the Romans by killing to Blade/Psiloi pairs. The game ended 4-0.

By the way, Pro-Consul Aaron is eight, and for the most part, he made his own decisions.

Teutonic Order versus Mongol Conquest

The damn BUA made its appearance again, but this time in my deployment zone. That REALLY cramped my style. I also did not read up enough on BUAs to do this game right, not that I think it would have played out any differently.

The main plan here was to draw in the Teutonic Knights until they were committed and then shift the force away to the opposite flank. This plan worked exactly as expected, but the problem was that I lost too many LH too early, so I felt like the initiative was taken away. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The Mongols were invading so the Order set up the damnable Lodge (BUA), two steep hills (each sides right corner), and a central woods. This left a two element gap between the woods and steep hills on both sides, so everything was very cramped.

The Order moved left around the woods, sending in the lights into it, and the Bows and LH to the right of it. A single Cav ended up stuck on the top of the Order's steep hill on lookout. Not sure of his plan.

The Mongols sent two LH and a Cav towards the Knights, drawing them into the valley. Once they were committed, they rode out and shifted completely to the left flank on a good PIP roll. On the left flank the LH pinned the Cav in place on turn 1 and he never moved until the turn he died, surrounded on three sides.

In the center, to the left of the woods (right for the Order) is where the action took place. Two LH met two LH in the gap and a 1-6 roll enabled the Order to kill one, then the other Mongol LH, making the score 2-0. When the Mongols shifted from the right to the left flank, they quickly overran the two Order LH, making the game 2-2.

Shortly thereafter, another Mongol LH went down to an Order crossbowman and it was 3-2. Continual movement on the Mongol left flank allowed the LH to get into the rear of the Cav on the hill and, hit from all sides, he went down. The game was now 3-3.

Finally, the Knights broke out into the rear area of the Mongols, where the artillery had all day been bombarding the Order's Lodge to no effect and a Knight charged into a LH unit. It survived two melees, but the third took it down, making the score 4-3 in favor of the Order.

What was significant about this game was that all Bad Going terrain was less than one base width's distance from all board edges, so the Mongols had no way of getting around the rear without going through two sets of Bad Going. This really hurt its ability to maneuver.

I am glad Ira said that this game was probably the most tactically interesting of all the games he has played of late. With a different LH army - one with just a little more diversity, like the Alans or Albanians (Blades backed by Psiloi will help crack that Spear guarding the BUA) - I would have had a few more choices while still being able to execute the same basic plan (draw into one
flank then LH move to the other).

At the very least, Ira now knows how mobile a LH army can be. I just wish I had a LH Quick Kill one of his Knights... :)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

DB-AWI Version 2 - Battle Report

I've developed a new version of DB-AWI, which is based on DBA 2.2. Unlike the previous version, I am trying to stay true to the DBA element characteristics, so basically only Rifles (Bows) and Artillery have a shooting range; all other musket shooting is modeled as Close Combat. Much of this is influenced by my recent reading of With Zeal and With Bayonets Only.

This game is fictional and the terrain board is much rougher than any I have played before in a DBA variant. All hills are gentle, all green blobs are woods. Brown straight lines are roads.

Game Setup:

The Patriots (on left, in blue) have a lot of small groups, which is not great for PIP management. Rifles are on the flanks, with the State Line (Loose Order elements) coming up over the hills. Note in this period defending uphill is usually disadvantageous for infantry, so the Patriots have to get over the first set of hills and at the base of the second before the British get up and over the first. (Already it sounds like a bad plan!) The Continentals (Close Order elements in column on the road) want to get around he woods and extend the line before the British get too far also.

The British (on right, in red) have 1/2 Shock, 1/2 Loose Order elements in the battle line. As Shock elements get an advantage to being uphill (unlike all other infantry types), they are not as concerned about getting up and over the first hill and to the base of the second. If they fight from uphill, 1/2 of the line will be disadvantaged, but the will have overlaps. If they fight on flat terrain, they have advantages from overlaps. If they fight from downhill, again 1/2 the line will be disadvantaged (Shock don't like charging uphill), but again they have overlaps to compensate. Put simply, as long as they can maintain their overlap advantage, they can fight anywhere in front of the battle line.

Turns 1 through British Turn 3:

Both forces moved steadily forward, but the British ended up meeting the Patriots at the base of the first set of hills. The Patriots had gotten close to their goal, but missed by less than a 1/4 inch.

Through Patriot Turn 4:

The Patriots make their first attempt at killing an element by ambushing the impetuous British Light Infantry on the British right flank. One State Line unit attacks frontally while the second attacks on the flank.

The units roll off and ... a push! Meanwhile the Continental Light Dragoons are destroyed by the British Commander leading the Grenadiers (Shock). 1 VP to the British.

Through British Turn 5:

A British Fusiliers element (Shock) advances forward to take the State Line taking the British Light Infantry in flank and quickly dispatches it. 2 VP for the British.

Through Patriot Turn 7:

The Patriots have had their battle line driven back, but the Continental Line (Close Order) has finally pulled up to support the left of the line. Meanwhile, the British Light Infantry smelling blood like a pack of wild beasts, continue to drive back the State Line on the right flank. The Rifles on both flanks are poised to pounce and let loose some shot.

Through British Turn 8:

The entire British battle line moves forward to engage the retreating Patriots. On the British left, the British Legion cavalry, supported by British Light Infantry, move forward to engage the Rifles.

Unfortunately, the Rifles were deadly shots: Patriots 1, British 2.

Through Patriots Turn 8:

The Patriots score a big 6 PIPs and move as many units up to overlap the British battle line. (Note the Continental Line on the left are in the woods, as are the British Fusiliers. With the -2 tactical factors, someone is going to get hurt!) The Rifles on the left spring forward and take a shot at the British Light Infantry pursuing the State Line.

The trap was successful! The ends of the British battle line collapse! Patriots 3, British 2.

Through British Turn 10:

The British quickly pull back the remnants of their battle line, having lost two units so quickly. Meanwhile, the Highlanders on the right flank chase down the Rifles and teach them to come out of the woods without support. Patriots 3, British 3.

Through Patriot Turn 10:

With only two PIPs available, part of the Patriot battle line surges forward, unwilling to let the British escape to the safety of the hills behind them. Outnumbered and overlapped another British unit falls.

Finally, the State Line on the left flank having fended off the British Light Infantry for several rounds, reorder and deliver a murderous volley at point blank range.

Patriots 5 VP to British 3 VP.

Here is a final tally of the destroyed elements.


The game played very well, with no real problems. The only changes to the modifiers were the uphill/downhill ones, and although there were hills everywhere, they really didn't cause confusion.

Having the Patriots State Line as Loose Order (Auxilia) and the Continental Line as Close Order (Spears), while the British were Warbands (the Light Infantry), Blades (British infantry), and Auxilia (Loyalist infantry), with a couple of Psiloi thrown in for both sides and Rifles (Bows) for the Patriots, gave an interesting tactical mix to the gameplay. Also, I don't feel that sort of mix is unreasonable, especially for the late war in the South.

If anyone reading this is interested in the new DB-AWI rules (version 2), let me know.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Playing Vassal Online

Started gaming with Vassal as a way to play some board games in the hotel at night I have when I travel (which I have been doing increasingly). The intent was to play the games solitaire. Instead, I discovered an experience reminiscent of the 80's singles scene: people meeting strangers for brief encounters.

Oh sure, some people make friends through these venues, just like some people got married after meeting someone in a bar, but the process is still the same: find the right bar (which game do you want to play?), look for prospects (who is signed on), approach them with your best come-on line ("Hey, want to play the Stalingrad Tractor Factory scenario?"), have your fun, then make your escape. I always wonder if you have to stay and chat for awhile after the game ends or whether you can simply go. If you do stay and chat, how long before you start to sound desperate for attention?

Mind you, this is all intended to be very tongue-in-cheek, but it is the sort of thing that got me out of gaming the very popular rules sets (Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, Warmachine, etc.). What I used to call the "tournament mentality" is very much the same way: meet someone, decide points, random terrain setup, fight it out, repeat. No connectivity between games. How well you were doing was a statistic only you kept. No one wanted to play pre-set scenarios and God forbid you suggest an uneven point game. A steady dose of this type of gaming, for me, got boring quickly. (Must be why I have collections of figures for those games sitting wrapped in storage.)

So, realizing playing Vassal Online would be the same sort of experience, I avoided it. Or, I did until recently. I started delving into games where I had more interest than others in my club (primarily AWI miniatures and Battlelore) and they started gaming more in another "tournament mentality" game - "Flames of War". So, despite being in a community with a small but healthy set of gamers, I was suddenly without opponents (for what I wanted to do). So, I decided to try Vassal Online and see how long I could go before being bored.

Mind you, Battlelore, Memoir 44, and other board games of that ilk, are very much about playing unconnected scenarios. So, I really wasn't getting a much different gaming experience. But, because the scenario forces are set for you, there is less of a tournament mentality and the gamers are more open to the concept of uneven forces, as presumably the designers have weighed in the value of the terrain the attacker will be crossing and the defending will be occupying. So, switching to online versions of it was not going to be materially different - or so I thought.

Overall, the gaming experience is very good. Makes you want a bigger monitor, of course, but most everything is easy to find and use and acceptably readable. There is a whole etiquette to gaming in Vassal, and a separate terse language ("BRB" is not "bathroom break" exactly, though it fits), but I think it adds clarity to what is happening and actually leads to sharper play, as your opponent's mind must stay engaged during your turn and theirs. One thing though: the gamers I have found on Vassal tend to be sharper and much more careful in their play.

I'll keep working with it and report back occasionally.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Finished reading some AWI books

I finally finished reading With Bayonets and With Zeal Only and A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens and I must say: if you want a look at the true tactical level of AWI warfare, you must read those books. You may not agree with them (I have no reason not to, but some say they are revisionist), but they get down to the powder and smoke.

With Bayonets and With Zeal Only: This book lays the foundation that although the British were known as a firepower-oriented army in Europe, due to the nature of the American terrain and how the Patriots (the author always refers to them as "rebels") exploited it, the British switched to shock tactics and open order. This book goes into great detail about maneuvering, firing, bayonet charges, and finally looks at the battles the British won and lost, and the real effects of each. (Hint: the victories were largely "hollow" at best and the losses disastrous).

A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens: First off, Cowpens is my favorite battle in the AWI. I had read some of Babits' work on the web, but had never read the complete book. All of my readings of Cowpens largely came from other books on the Southern campaign, where it got a treatment of several pages, but most of the discussion centered around the aftermath.

This book is awesome. It is what I was hoping for on some of the other periods I read about. Here Babits has broken down the battle into phases and describes, in meticulous detail, every aspect of it that he could find or figure out. There are estimated casualty rates at each phase and how that affected redeployment. There are marching rates and estimated time it took to cross a section of the battlefield, and thus how much fire they could take.

What was shocking to me - and something I had not read in any other source - was that Morgan had placed the Militia line on a reverse slope of a rise and this is why the militia fire was both highly destructive, and so short (i.e. only one of five companies was able to get off a second shot, all the others only got off one). It also goes into great detail about some elements of the battle that were previously confusing (Tarleton's comment about Newmarsh having to post his officers causing a delay, the circumstances of the militia reforming and coming back into battle, how the 71st started to flank the Continentals yet ended up flanked itself, Howard wheeling back the Continental line, etc.).

All in all a great book that I simply blitzed through as it is exactly the type of material I love. Both books are highly recommended.

Needless to say, they are having an effect on how I want to game the AWI now. Some of those ideas will be coming out in following posts.


Slight switch today (I'll get back to AWI soon): talking about Days of Wonder's/Fantasy Flight Games' Battlelore (BL). This is another Richard Borg design that has a lot in common with Command & Colors: Ancients (CCA). However, there are a few subtle changes that I think makes BL superior to CCA.
  1. Battle Back: This is the same mechanism as in CCA, however you only get to do it under certain circumstances. By exploiting when a unit can and cannot Battle Back, you can chip away at the enemy with increased safety.
  2. Support: If a unit has friendly units in two of the adjacent hexes, it is considered supported, and thus is Bold in morale. Being Bold allows you to ignore one Retreat more than you normally would and it allows you to Battle Back.
The Support rule is really the key. By keeping a solid line, you can ensure everyone gets to Battle Back when attacked (assuming they don't retreat or are killed, of course). However, if you can force a retreat in the middle of the line, you get the effect of breaking the Support in the middle. This provides an effective representation of a breakthrough. Also, rolling up the flanks actually works if the end of the line does not have proper Support. Finally, cavalry have to think a little before charging off alone or pursuing, as they do so without other units available to provide Support.

I am working my way through the scenarios again, thinking about a campaign game so I can link the battles together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

HOTT Sneakers and HOTR Update

Had to chuckle with this blog title.

Sneakers in HOTT: Sneakers are 3 AP elements that basically assassinate Generals and capture Strongholds. I have excluded them from HOTR as I did not see a need for them. However, the more I read the more I realize that there is a place for them.

Many of the contemporary writers indicated how barbaric the Americans were (not just the Patriot side, by the way) because they had no compunction against shooting the enemy officers, to include the Generals. Because that is essentially the function of a Sneaker, I started thinking that every time I read a reference to "riflemen" shooting the enemy commander, I would allow that side a "Sharpshooter" element that was essentially a Sneaker.

HOTR Update: Fellow Fanaticus member Ragnar pointed out that I did not have a combat outcome for Light Infantry. Now HOTR does (it is the same line as Rifles and Mounted Partisans).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Updates to HOTR and HOTR Scenarios

I've updated the main HOTR notes and the HOTR scenarios.

Grasshoppers: This is a new element type representing 3 pounder (Grasshopper) artillery. It has a 2 AP cost, fires like a HOTT Shooter, and moves at the speed of Shock Infantry.

I created this element as I was finding too many historical skirmishes and battles that had 3 pounder guns present, but because of the 3 AP cost for artillery, I had to match it with purchasing a 1 AP element like Militia or Bushwhackers. Generally that is not a problem for the Patriot side, but for the British, I sometimes had to fudge. So, it made sense to create a lightweight artillery element and cost it at 2 AP, removing the need to fudge.

Darkness: I've added rules for fighting in darkness. This allows me to use some of the night attack and dawn attack skirmishes and battles.

Dawn Breaks: I've added rules for determining when dawn breaks, thus nullifying the darkness rules.

Originally, all of these rules were in the Scenarios document and now they are pulled out and in the HOTR Notes document.

Finally, I've added some basing options and suggestions. Militia should be more like Horde and Shock Infantry and Line Infantry should be more like Blades and Spears in their basing.

Friday, October 09, 2009

New HOTR Scenario - Heron Bridge

I decided to stay up late and finish the work on the Heron Bridge scenario (see links above). I will playtest it later, but for now it looks pretty good. I've added a suggested map (the first), along with rules to represent the effects of darkness, surprise attacks, and dawn breaking.

Heron Bridge

I am currently going through Nothing but Blood and Slaught - The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas - Volume Three 1781 by Patrick O'Kelley pulling out the skirmishes and battles and making them into HOTR scenarios. (See links above for more information.) When I ran upon the skirmish Heron Bridge (Jan 30, 1781), it game a description of the area as:
The position consisted of a bridge with a narrow causeway at one end. A deep marsh a quarter of a mile wide was located beside the hill that the militia had camped on.
From that basic description I started to try and define what the board would look like. The problem was, I could not envision it. Although I have tried using Google Maps for American Revolutionary battles in the past, with little success, I decided to try once more. The first clue was:
The combined forces fortified a position at Heron Bridge, ten miles northeast of Wilmington...
Of course, looking at Wilmington today, it has sprawled much farther than it was in 1781, so ten miles from Wilmington then is likely within the city today.

I decided to use search for Heron Bridge on Google and found several pieces on the skirmishes there - there were actually several, and the bridge played an important role in resupply to Cornwallis' army. The more I found, the more intrigued I was about this little-known aspect of Revolutionary War history. Google Books is such an amazing wargaming resource, as is Google itself.

I guess this is why I like wargaming so much: it feeds my interest in history. I am still working on the scenario, and when I am done I hope its' game value is worthy of the effort that went into researching it. For now, I am still trying to draw a map that has some semblance of what it might have looked like in 1781 (it is near where Interstate 40 crosses the Northeast (Cape Fear) River), but now I have a much better idea of not just the terrain, but why the skirmish was fought in the first place.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New HOTR Scenario

Time to go to bed... %)

I added a new scenario to the HOTR Scenarios document (see link at the top of the blog): Georgetown, SC. This is a "what if" scenario as what really happened was the Loyalists hid in their bunker while they let their (unpopular) commander get captured by the Patriots. The Patriots, seeing the strength of the defenses, and with no battering rams or scaling ladders, decided to withdraw.

Not a very fun scenario, so the brick redoubt is toned down in order to force the Loyalists to fight.


More Work on HOTR

Just a quick update. I've added the HOTR rules and some HOTR scenarios to my area on Google Documents. The links are at the top of the blog (along with our gaming group's Yahoo forum).

If you looked at the HOTR rules in the last few hours :) the HOTR scenarios there now are basically the same, but formatted better, and with a few more options. I will continue to plow through the Nothing but Blood and Slaughter volumes, extracting battles and skirmishes for the scenarios document.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

First HOTR Game

I played my first game of Heroes of the Revolution (HOTR), AWI battles using Hordes of the Things (HOTT). Basically I used all of the items indicated in the last blog post.

What I Liked: The militia coming back to "life" was funny. On one hand you might say you don't like the result; it gives militia too much staying power. On the other hand, it allows you to ignore militia casualties as long as you spend the PIPs bringing them back to life. In historical terms I can see that as similar to Daniel Morgan rallying the militia at Cowpens and then bringing them back into the battle. Overall, I liked it.

I also liked the differences between Shock and Line Infantry. The latter, if in two ranks, has the same combat factors as the former, but if it is destroyed, two elements go. You can lower the loss by taking not double-ranking them. This produces a similar effect I was trying to achieve with my Close, Open, and Extended Orders with DB-AWI, but with less complications.

What I Did Not Like: Really only one thing: Light Infantry not used in a Shock Infantry role was ill defined. My new rules (see the link at the top of the blog in the Links section) create a new troop type similar to Shooters in stats, but without the Distant Shooting capability.

Oh yes, the Patriots got their butts handed to them, but it was still a really interesting game.

New Rules
I wrote up the changes to HOTT for HOTR and posted them on the web. I would like to hear what you think. Unlike DB-AWI, I am not going to write up a full set of rules, so if you want to try them you are going to have to have HOTT.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Heroes of the Revolution

So, the new set of AWI rules are based on Hordes of the Things (HOTT), so I can see the variant being named Heroes of the Revolution (HOTR). (Actually, this was the name of a set of AWI rules I wrote earlier, based on the Warrior Heroes game system.)

Here is how I see the AWI troops being translated:

Forts, Redoubts, and Trenches: A Stronghold. Personally I do not like a stronghold appearing in every game on the defender's side, so I would include it only on a special scenario.

Hero: A HOTT Hero. I see this as heroic figures like Daniel Morgan at Cowpens, Benedict Arnold (only when on the Patriot side), Banastre Tarleton (but not at Cowpens or later), Johann Ewald, etc.

Artillery: An Artillery element. Nothing to change there. It can only fire on your bound, and only if you did not move.

Light Dragoons: A Riders element.

Shock Infantry: A Blades element. In this period shock infantry would be grenadiers, guards, fusiliers, highlanders, and (formed) light infantry. Elite Continentals, especially light infantry, would also qualify for the Patriot side.

Line Infantry: A Spears element. This would include most Germans, French, British, Continental, and Patriot State Line troops. The rear rank support represents a second supporting line behind the first, not a column.

Rifles: A Shooter element. This would apply to long rifle units (Patriot and Loyalist), German Jagers, and [sigh] Ferguson's Rifles.

Militia: A Hordes element. This fits well in that it allows the militia to run away and return (by redeploying lost Hordes), as was seen at Cowpens, for example.

Bushwhackers: A Land Lurker element. This represents the partisans - Patriot and Loyalist - and Indian raiders that lied in wait and ambushed the enemy. Their ability to leave the battlefield and return in another terrain piece fits well with the motif.

Warbands: A Warband element. This could be Indian warbands, but could also represent whites disguised as Indians in frontier raids, North Carolina Highlander broadswordsmen, and even some of the Over-the-Mountain Men.

Partisans: A Beasts element. The higher speed and ability to move through bad going represents those partisans and Over-the-Mountain-Men that were mounted, could quickly mount and dismount, and fire and reload while mounted and on the move.

Let me know what you think. I will try and get a game going and detail it in the blog.

Flames of War and (Re-)Learning the Basics

Okay, so I admit it. I have mostly been playing Memoir '44 and Flames of War of late, and that is one reason why I have not played any AWI of late. Just played a FOW game last night - US Armored Rifle (450 points) versus German Grenadier (340 points), both late war - and it was an interesting little game. I learned a lot.

My opponent was the US and he was attacking. We were playing a modified form of Hold the Line (no Ambush or Reserves) and we had a small board (4' deep by 3' wide). It was interesting because I assumed he would attack one way - what seemed logical to me - and he attacked another.

As I say, it was a real learning experience because he would not dismount his infantry (he wanted to retain his mobility in order to get to the objectives) and I ended up coming out of the foxholes to assault his half-tracks (largely because I had no other way of stopping him).

All in all an interesting little game. It reminds me of when I was young and trying to learn how to play Column, Line, and Square (CLS) Napoleonics well. My friend, who was a really good player (i.e. he beat me all the time), showed me the secret to playing games like this: you start with a simple force - a unit or two - and attack a single terrain feature with a single unit defending. Sounds like a boring game, and to be honest a steady diet of it would be, but his point was that if you could not figure out how to win this basic tactical set piece, you would only do worse when you had six or more units with all of the different types (infantry, artillery, and cavalry or armor) and a whole board of terrain features to deal with.

And my friend was right. A battle is really composed of these simple, interconnected tactical set pieces. Sure, sometimes the tactical situation is my unit attacks yours, but for one or two turns I get support from another unit from afar, but for the most part it is these simple tactical battles. If you don't know how to approach a platoon of infantry dug in with your infantry in half-tracks, or conversely how to defend with that dug in infantry, having armor, artillery, air, anti-air, anti-armor, transport, etc. elements will only add to your confusion. You will ultimately play worse.

So, what did I learn? For starters, I saw the odds that an infantry platoon without anti-tank weapons has against even half-tracks with just rifles and MGs. On the other hand, I saw that half-tracks cannot simply drive through the infantry with impunity: those grenades (assault) really hurt.

I hope to do more of those scenarios - and maybe some write-ups - in the future. One thing is for sure: you need completely different scenarios for "battles" that small. The standard FOW scenarios assume you are using 1500 points and have at least four platoons.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time for a change

Wow! No blog post since March. Shame on me!

Believe it or not, I have played a game or two since then, I just haven't been good in documenting it.

DB-AWI: I actually played a long game (20 turns) of it right after the last blog post. As I was playing it solo, and could keep the game set up, it was actually played over the course of several months. With it lasting 20 turns, I needed it to stay set up.

Maybe it was the game that took so long to go to conclusion. Maybe it was that the seeming "sameness" to the games despite the scenarios. I don't know. But I sort of lost interest. Also somewhere along the way I decided the game was more complex than it needed to be. I bought Hordes of the Things (HOTT) and saw people turn historical armies into fantasy ones and liked some of the ideas. I also re-read HOTT Lead (French & Indian War using HOTT) and Hordes in the Trenches (World War I using HOTT) and started to better understand the beauty of simplicity.

So, that is where I am: converting DB-AWI to HOTT. That means throwing away the Elite, Regular, and Militia concepts, order, and other ideas. I will probably keep the Commander as a separate element (a Rider?).

So what went wrong with the original rules?

Too many factors: I knew them by heart, but no one else did.

Too many modifiers: They made sense, of a sort, but added little to the game. It made the game too tactical perhaps.

Multiple basing: It was possible to have a unit represented three ways - close order (4 figures), loose order (3 figures), and open order (2 figures). Okay that is only nine figures, but it got away from the "low figure count" rule of thumb for DBA. Just because I had a lot of AWI figures did not mean anyone else would want to do the same thing.

Some Ideas

The close combat oriented infantry (shock infantry, such as Guards, Fusiliers, Highlanders, Grenadiers, and early Light Infantry) would be Blades for Elites; the Regulars (French, British, German, and Loyalist) would be Spears. The Continentals would be Spears with the Elites (e.g. Marylanders and Delawares in the Southern campaign) as Blades to simulate that the Continentals were trying to fight European style. All of these would be four figures to a base. (I wince at thinking of all the rebasing to be done.)

For interest, the Rifles, Jagers, etc. can be shooters. I would still use fewer figures to represent them, however. In some cases, these units can also be Lurkers. No reason to change the basing.

The cavalry would be Riders and mounted infantry would be Beasts, perhaps. Over the Mountain Men would definitely be beasts. :) Artillery, of course, would be artillery.

Militia, for the most part, would be Hordes. The ability of Hordes to "come back from the dead" is actually a good way to represent their falling back and sometimes re-engaging (such as at Cowpens).

I am still stuck on Commanders and Generals, however. Some would obviously be Heroes, but for the non-heroic ones (such as Gates) I am not sure if I should represent them as Riders (mounted staff) or as Blades (infantry escort).

I need to give it a try - even before I remount - and see how I like it. Tell me what you think (if there is anyone left out there).

Sunday, March 01, 2009

New Version (0.6) of DB-AWI

I have uploaded a new version of DB-AWI to Google Documents (see the link above). Lots of changes, such as:

1. A Commander is now more like a DBA LH (Gen) element, rather than a DBN Commander.

2. Changing a lot of the terms, names, and acronyms.

3. Mounted Infantry and dismounting!

4. Light Cavalry push through and retreat.

5. Defining victory conditions.

Still to do (which I am trying out in my current game):

1. Changing the element's order (to and from Close to Loose, and to and from Loose to Open).

2. Scenarios (currently playing Videau's Bridge).

3. Army Lists.

Check out the new rules and tell me what you think.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blogging from Email

Well, I finally searched the Blogger help section and found what I have been wanting to do for awhile: how to create blog entries from email.

While I am on certain networks - okay, you got me, at work - I cannot access the website, which is where you post and edit blogs. (Ironically, I can access the website, which is where you read the blogs. You would think they would not want you reading, more than writing. Go figure.) But, I can access Yahoo mail without a problem. So, now that I can create entries by email, I can post ideas more frequently. (I'll still post battle reports from home, when I can get my spotty connection.)

I hope to get a game of DB-AWI in today, so I have to find the camera so I can do another battle report. I have a lot more AWI troops mounted up, in various stages of completion.

For my bases I typically super-glue the figures to a steel base, add white glue and fine, black volcanic gravel, cover that with artist's matte medium (it partially fills in the cracks between the gravel), paint it brown, dry-brush it two different light shades (yellows, tans, and grays), then put several colors of flock and grass on in patches. I used to not like the patchy look, but I finally tried it and it has grown on me.

My 6mm Napoleonics were done by painting the base a grass green color, flocking completely with a base color, then flocking patches with two or three other colors. Although it looks nice, I like the patchy ground look, described above, better.

Friday, February 27, 2009

New Concept for AWI Formation Order

I know this concept may not be popular, as it requires more figures, but I thought I would pass it out there and see who responds. Given that DBA-type armies are small, I thought it might play...

The more I read, the better the vision of DB-AWI gets in my mind (i.e. I am changing the concept as I figure out how they really fought), and now that I am reading With Bayonet and With Zeal Only I can see that a unit really did not stick in one order (close, loose, open, extended, etc.) from beginning to end in a battle. I really suspected as such, but I thought that it might work keeping a unit in the same order and simplify the game.

However, I am reading of more instances where these changes occurred fairly often - often enough to model - and decided to try and include it in the game. The basic idea is to replace one stand for another. If the unit is in close order, use the stand with four figures; if in loose, use the three figure stand. Granted, this creates two concerns:

1. I need seven figures for a unit! Okay, so maybe this is the Rich Man's Variant of DB-AWI.

2. Where did the other figure go? I don't worry about that; neither should you. The figure count on the stand is an abstraction and a visual marker of the order, nothing more.

Another way to represent this is to take two loose order stands and put one behind the other, representing a doubling of the line density, but this also represents a column. Which is it? In the end, I felt that swapping figures out was better.

Now, how to accomplish it? Same as DBA dismounting: it costs an extra pip to extend or contract, but you can still move afterwards.

Another advantage of this mechanism is that it allows you to differentiate close and loose in Bad Going: don't allow close to go in. So, what you would see is a unit in close order go loose, move through the woods, and then form up on the other side. If you read detailed accounts of Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk's Hill, and such, you will read descriptions of that very sequence every so often. Not just for the British and Hessians, but for the Continentals too. (I have not read about militia doing it, however.)

Tell me what you think.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

DB-AWI: Some Suggestions from Jim

Jim sent me some suggestions for DB-AWI and I thought I would share them, along with my answers, on the blog. These comments concern the latest version of DB-AWI (version 0.6), which is almost ready for update on Google Documents (see my link).

To start, Jim added in pretty much all of the content from the WADBAG guide. I was reluctant to incorporate their text as I hear the WADBAG text irritates PB and I thought the WADBAG people would be irritated in turn. I guess I need to find out who to contact first.

* Four Letter Codes - Jim commented that I should change all of my troop designations from three to four characters. As the fourth character was always "O" (for "Order") I feel it is superfluous, and therefore just takes up too much space in the tables.

* Passing through elements - Jim commented that the Interpenetraing Friendly Troops table is too complicated:

"With the small unit sizes you keep mentioning and I have read about, I think that any LO or OO element can pass through any LO or OO element, in any direction for any reason. The units were very small and in two ranks or maybe three at most. CO were CO for a reason, so no CO element can pass through or be passed through by any element in any direction for any reason."

Sounds like a good idea. I agree that Close-Order cannot pass through anything, but in DBA Psiloi can pass through a Hoplite wall, so shouldn't open-order also?

* Recoiling through elements - Jim comments:

"With the small unit sizes you keep mentioning and I have read about, I think that any LO or OO element can pass through any LO or OO element, in any direction for any reason. The units were very small and in two ranks or maybe three at most. CO were CO for a reason, so no CO element can pass through or be passed through by any element in any direction for any reason."

Recoiling or fleeing through an element is different from passing through, hence a separate table. If you look at the original DBA rules, you will see that Psiloi pass through anything, but Psiloi do NOT recoil through other Psiloi, they push them back. If you think about it, it is not a matter of can they go through, but whether or not the recoiling Psiloi pass through them or push them back. I think it is the latter. OO not being passed through reflect their lack of morale at standing when a unit breaks in front of it.

* Pursuit - Jim's comments:

"I don’t understand this pursuit rule. I think it should be ANY CAVALRY and ONLY CAVALRY must pursue."

In DBA both Knights and Warband pursue recoiling or fleeing elements. In DB-AWI, it is Open-Order Light Cavalry and Shock troops (heavy infantry in close order). Read the commentary of the day and you see that British infantry frequently got out of hand as they charged into close combat and tried to give the Americans "cold steel" (Camden, Guilford Courthouse). The light cavalry also seemed to lose control more when they were spread out, as opposed to formed.

I may change the units to British regulars and elites in close order, Hessian elites in close order, and the British Legion cavalry, but haven't really gotten that far. There was definitely an incident at Videau's Bridge (see my scenario) in which the Patriot Light Cavalry lost control and pursued to their detriment.

* Push Through - Jim's comment was that I forgot to write the actual rule! It appears that I stopped at that section one night and picked up somewhere else the next. The idea is that the light cavalry moves through and ends in rear edge contact with the rear edge of the enemy element it drew in combat with. The problem is writing the rule such that you cover:

** When a element is in contact with the enemy element being pushed through.

** When an element is behind, but not in contact with the enemy element being pushed through, and there is not enough space for the light cavalry element.

The simplest thing might be to cancel the push through and force the cavalry to retreat. What do you think?

Any comments on this, or the rules, would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another DB-AWI Game

I played a modified version of the scenario I listed several entries ago entitled Videau's Bridge, SC: 3 Jan 1782. I say modified, because I am still painting the troops for the scenario and used proxies for some of the units. For others I simply replaced units of one type for another. (Mostly I did not have enough mounted infantry for the Patriots.)

The goal of this game was to:

1. Test out the changes to the Shooting ranges (100 paces for muskets, 200 paces for German Rifles, and 300 paces for American Rifles). I will not be keeping those rules! It radically changes play because units can enter into close combat without taking fire.

2. Removing all of the disorder rules. (See more below on why.) I think I will discard them unless I can think up a better mechanism that does not affect game play in the wrong way.

3. Getting rid of the concept of a Commander non-element. Just decided to make them super, open-order, light cavalry with a bigger base.

4. Tested out the mounted infantry rules. It is still a work in progress.

5. Determine if an all-militia force can stand up to a regular force. (It can.)

The scenario may need more work, but I think it went poorly against the British because the river turned out to be the worst type (#6), they came at the Patriots piecemeal, and could not extricate themselves when things turned against them. I'll have to play it more to ensure it wasn't a fluke.

Sorry, no pictures, because of the large number of proxies with unfinished bases. But, I am merrily re-writing the rules to post on Google Documents.

Removing Disorder

It just goes to show you that some rule mechanisms seem like a good idea on paper, but can have completely unintended effects. The Disorder rules was one of those ideas.

The effect that I was going for was a sort of attritional effect with shooting. By that I mean that shooting would wear down you opponent until they got to the breaking point and then you would go in with the bayonet.

What I was searching for was a gradual degradation from shooting with close combat being decisive. I thought I had achieved that by using lower factors for close combat (it is easier to double your opponent if you use lower factors than higher ones) and creating a disordering effect from fire.

Disorder was a side effect of a recoil or a flee result, requiring your opponent to spend a pip to remove the disorder (the element still got to move and fire, etc. for that pip). Until you did so, that unit remained in disorder and could not move or fire. Not being able to fire (or return fire) means that your opponent has no consequence to firing at you. However, in close combat, they would fight back. The result of that meant that firing was more decisive than close combat, not less.

At first, the games looked exactly like I envisioned: as more units got disordered, more pips were spent recovering from the chaos until you got to the point where the enemy commander consistently gets less pips than they have disordered units. Then you go into close combat. Given the -1 for being disordered, it usually allowed the attacker to defeat or double the disordered defender.

But, it did not always happen. In fact, the disordered element could win. That is when it hit me that disorder made shooting more effective than close combat as the attacker could not be hurt. Granted, the shooter had less chance of doubling their target, but there was no consequence.

In hindsight, making the disordered element unable to hurt the attacker in either fire or close combat would equalize the value. I could get rid of the disorder -1 combat modifier too, as I can see that it makes it a bit of overkill. But, I still hope to get to a game without markers, like DBA.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Tightening the Focus of DB-AWI?

One of the things that I have been doing with the rules is playing scenarios that represent smaller actions, for example, Cowpens, Hobkirk's Hill, etc. As I read more and devise scenarios I find my interest goes more towards the Southern Campaign. Naturally, this leads toward lowering the scale of the game more than when gaming the the Philadelphia, New York, Saratoga, or New Jersey campaigns.

Thus, I think more about tightening the focus of DB-AWI to the War in the Carolinas (of which the series Nothing but Blood and Slaughter is an excellent reference) and scaling down to actions with less than 1,000 men per side. Although there is much less hard information on those skirmishes (especially in the area of maps), it has a more "adventure gaming" aspect without getting down into the skirmish gaming weeds.

What does that mean for DB-AWI? Probably a real name for the rules, for one! :) (I have had several sets of rules for the AWI that have borne the name One More Volley.) Also, a change from one element equals one regiment. Definitely an increase in troop types. Other than that, I am not yet sure.

DB-AWI Scenario

Here is the first scenario I am developing for DB-AWI. It is a skirmish from the book Nothing but Blood and Slaughter, The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas, Volume Four: 1782 by Patrick O'Kelley (an excellent series of books, by the way).

Videau's Bridge, SC: 3 Jan 1782

400 (Patriot) SC Militia and a detachment of Maham's Light Dragoons versus 360 British Light Infantry and Grenadiers, NY Volunteers, SC Royalists, Volunteers of Ireland, and Independent Troop of Black Dragoons.

As the British were holed up in Charlestown, SC they started running low on supplies. Major General Alexander Leslie had reports that Marion's partisans were vulnerable and ordered Major William Brereton on a cattle raid and foraging expedition into St. Thomas's Parish.

While the British rested their troops at Brabant Plantation (also known as Smith's Plantation), they posted troops at Videau's Bridge to guard the approaches. The Patriots circled around and came at the bridge from the north. This skirmish took place north of the bridge and consisted of the Patriot advance guard being chased back by the Loyalists until they hit the main Patriot line, who in turn chased the Loyalists back to the main British lines, who in turn stopped the Patriot pursuit, who in turn fled. [whew]

Historically, the British won this, but the casualties were light on both sides.

In DB-AWI terms, the forces are as follows:

Patriots: Commander (Colonel Richardson), one Militia Cavalry element (Maham's Light Dragoons), one Militia Mounted Infantry elements, two Militia Mounted Partisan elements, two Militia Mounted Ranger elements, two Militia Rifle elements, and six Militia Infantry elements. Not counting the Commander element, this comes to 14 elements for a total of 7 points.

British: Commander (Major Brereton), one British Grenadier element, one British Light Infantry element, one Provincial Mounted Infantry element (New York Volunteers), three Provincial Line elements (South Carolina Royalists, three Provincial Line elements (Volunteers of Ireland), two Loyalist Militia Line elements, and one Loyalist Militia Cavalry element (Independent Troop of Black Dragoons). Not counting the Commander element, this comes to 12 elements for a total of 11.5 AP.

Militia Cavalry elements are LOC (by the current definition of the DB-AWI rules).

Mounted Infantry (Loose Order Mounted Infantry or LMI) are elements based like LOC, but dismount to LOI. The combat factors for LOM will be worse than LOC and like LOC, cannot fire. I am still thinking about whether to force a dismount on an outcome move. (Send me an email or comment on the blog if you have any ideas on the subject.)

Mounted Light Infantry (Open Order Mounted Light Infantry or OML) are elements based like OOC, but dismount to OOL. The combat factors for LMI will be worse than OOC.

Mounted Partisans (Open Order Mounted Partisans or OMP) are the same as OML, but they can fire while mounted. Like Rifles, the fire only on their own turn or if returning fire.

Mounted Rangers (Open Order Mounted Rifles or OMR) are elements based like OOC, but dismount to ARI. The combat factors for OMR will be worse than OOC, but they can fire while mounted. Like Artillery, they fire only on their own turn and if they have not moved, or if returning fire.

I've completed the gameboard; it will be one of my standard 20" by 30" foamcore boards colored with markers and with hills, woods, buildings, and crops glued on to give a slight 3D effect. Although it is non-standard, I will play this scenario lengthwise (i.e. a 20" wide playing area) to try and get more vertical maneuvering, which is what happened at this skirmish. Next blog will contain pictures of the board.

Due to the large numbers of militia on both sides, I will either have to proxy the figures or wait until I can get everything painted (not many) and mounted (a lot). If I proxy the battle, it will be to test the scenario; I probably will not take photos. I am curious as to how the quantity versus quality aspect plays out. Although I don't expect the Patriots to win, I expect they should be able to hold their own.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

DBA Game: Early Libyans (I/7b) versus Early Bedouin (I/6c)

One of the two DBA games I played in the last two weeks, this was not written up. (Jesse wrote up our game of Mongols versus Medieval Germans and posted it on Fanaticus and the SVHG forum.)

Although not a historical match-up, the armies are the same year and area (North African Biblicals between 999 BC and 660 BC). The Libyans are proxies from Ira's collection.

To minimize on pictures we snapped one at the end of every turn (not bound), so you see the effects of both sides movement, combat, and outcome moves. Don't blink, as it goes so fast you might miss something!

Libyans (my command) are the light blue arrows; Bedouins (Ira's command) are the green arrows.

Turn 1

What is hard to discern from the photograph is the exact nature of the terrain. At the top left is a steep hill running along board edge. In the center is a large patch of rough terrain that does not block LOS. This area would become key as the game went on. In the lower right is another steep hill.

The Libyans are defending and the Bedouins attacking. The Bedouins have placed their commander on the other side of their hill, limiting his command effectiveness (Ira is a little rusty at DBA). The Libyans setup their bows on their steep hill. You'll notice that we both forgot to place camps. (I guess we both are making mistakes now.)

I can't speak to Ira's plan, but I just finished playing a game with Jesse in which I used the terrain to isolate a portion of Jesse's command, thus killing it off, before moving to the next objective. My goal was to use the rough terrain to perform the same function. If the camels could be drawn forward, I might be able to slice them off with the Psiloi and Bows. As there were four elements there, that could win me the game.

The first turn sees the Bedouins, with few pips available and stuck on a steep hill, sending three columns down the length of the steep hill. If I have any hope of making a dent against that force, I need to get them off of that hill. I send my right wing tentatively forward, while the bows stay in place. The problem is: I rolled six pips and I hate not using them. The problem I can see with my plan is that if Ira moves his General behind the hill, his Camels will require too many pips to move, so he will never move forward (especially against bows). Even though I have tried this before, unsuccessfully in DBA 1.2, I throw the Psiloi into the rough terrain, deep into his territory, burning five pips to get into position.

Turn 2

(Sorry for the shift in angle for the picture. Ira had to deal with the baby and came back and snapped it from a different view.)

The Bedouins send another column to deal with the pesky Psiloi that appeared on their flank. They are starved for pips, so there is not much they can do. Meanwhile the Libyans prepare some defenses in the rough while sending one out to threaten the flank. (Gutsy, some may say "stupid" move to make, given that the element is in the open and has camels to its rear, but Ira has realized the problem with having the General guarding the extreme left flank. I am gambling on the Bedouins not having enough pips to do everything they want.)

Turn 3

(Again, a shift in the angle. Ira has to deal with the baby, so I grab the camera. All remaining shots are from the angle of the Libyan rear.)

The Bedouin camels start to move out from the flank, threatening the third Psiloi. Meanwhile the original two Psiloi are unceremoniously destroyed.

Libyans 0-2.

Turn 4

The Bedouins tried finishing off the last Libyan Psiloi, but it kept running. Their General finally commits and decides to try an munch the Psiloi on the Libyan right flank.

Meanwhile, the Libyan warbands bounded forward and flanked a Bedouin Ax/Ps pair and destroyed them.

Libyans 2-2.

Turn 5

The Bedouins end up with few pips and end up burning them on the camels to finally pin the last Libyan Psiloi.

The Libyans spend their time recovering their positions. The warbands pull back and join the battle line, while the right flank Psiloi fan out. It now appears that the Bedouins are committing to the attack; I just need to pull them off of the steep hill so they don't have the advantage.

Libyans 2-3.

Turn 6

The Bedouins start pushing the Libyan psiloi, while they in turn pull back, hoping to draw them farther off of the hill.

Turn 7

The Bedouins continue to pursue the Libyan psiloi, finally coming off of the steep hill. The Libyans quickly swoop in, hitting another Ax/Ps pair in front and flank with a warband and the General in the chariot. The Bedouins recoil and the battle is over.

Libyans 4-3.

Ira made an interesting comment in that my move with the three psiloi elements put him on the defensive from turn 2 onwards. Myself, I felt that in hindsight I had made a big mistake with the move.

1. I had committed too many elements to the move. Losing two elements on turn 3 and the third element on turn 5 meant I was on the defensive.

2. The effect of the move was that it kept the Bedouins back towards their baseline, in the heavy terrain, when I wanted them out of it and into the open. So the move was counter-productive.

3. The Libyan army is too slow to come up and rescue elements holding out like that. The warbands do allow a double-move that can surprise others, however.

Although I won, the psiloi move was not a "gutsy" move as much as a stupid one. Moving the psiloi out into the open, even if it was to flank the Ax/Ps pair (which would have resulted in the the Aux destruction), it assured that I lost that critical third element realtively easily. Had my opponent not made a mistake with his General being out of LOS with his camels, I would probably lost very quickly.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").