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.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Reader Responds

I got a great email from reader Simon Wright about my article on smoothing out activations in the Song of engine (from March 2011 … wow, was it that long ago?). Rather than keep the conversation in email, I thought I would post his original email, and my response. Simon wrote:
Hi Dale,

I've been reading your blog for the past few months, which I greatly enjoy. I've got some ideas I'd like to share. A year or so back you made a few posts about altering some of the Song of Blades and Heroes mechanics to allow for 'smoother' gameplay. In other words, tweaking the game slightly to avoid frustrating situations where the majority of a player's Warband (especially poor Quality models) do absolutely nothing for several turns (this can happen even when rolling only one die for activation, as an average Quality model still has a 50% chance of not getting an Action). While I (like many players) personally love the risk/reward concept behind the SoBH engine, like you I feel that it needs to somewhat less random so as not to lead to frustration due to randomization that's out of a player's control.

So here's my idea (well two, actually).

1) When a model activates, it can always perform one action. However, before this 'default' action is performed, the player can choose to 'gamble' for up to two more actions. To gamble, the player takes a Quality check on three dice. On two successes, the model gains a second action. On three successes, the model gains a third action. On two or more failures, the model gains no bonus actions, and after performing its default action, the player's turn ends.

2) Now I remember you were talking about how the turnover mechanic punishes the rest of a player's Warband, and not the model that caused the turnover. Well I was thinking, what about if the turnover just ends the model's activation, and not the player's? So when gambling for more actions as per above, if two failures are rolled, the model cannot perform any actions on that activation (not even the default action). Bear in mind that if the player wants to gamble for more actions, they would need to do so before they perform the model's default action.

I haven't done a whole lot of playtesting with the second idea. From what I have seen so far of the first idea though, it does the job of allowing low Quality models (like that Q5+ Troll that only ever seems to stand around and then suddenly bolt off the battlefield during a morale check) to actually do something without requiring constant Group Moves/Orders from a nearby Leader. This may make large hordes of low quality models too powerful though, and I'm working on coming up with something to fix this if it becomes a real issue. In the end this might change the game completely and require limitations on the amount of models in a Warband.

But that's it. I'm interested in hearing your opinion and criticism. Let me know what you think Dale, and keep blogging!

Kind regards from a new reader,

Simon
So, Simon brings up a really good point, that something really needs to be done to make lower Quality warbands more viable. It has been discussed a little bit on the Song of Blades and Heroes forum on Yahoo, but it seems like most people poo-poo the idea, or simply say "yeah, that is why I don't use low Quality warbands".

Let's Look at the Math

I can imagine some people has just skipped to the next blog …

Suppose you decide to always roll two dice, without fail, for every activation attempt with every figure in your warband. The chance of a turnover, by Quality, is as follows:

QualityChance to Turn Over
23%
311%
425%
544%
669%

As you can see, the odds do not go up linearly. It gets worse when you consider the number of times you roll for each quality level.

QualityChance 1 Can ActChance 2 Can ActChance 4 Can ActChance 6 Can Act
297%95%89%84%
389%79%62%49%
475%56%32%18%
556%31%10%3%
631%9%1%0%

Hopefully my math is not off that badly … just a lot of rounding in there.

You can see that larger, low quality warbands do not stand much of a chance of getting all of their models activated (at least with two or more actions) and smaller, high quality warbands really are not gambling all that much. I strongly suspect that the points system does not take these percentages into account, but in the end would it really matter? If you could buy 23 Quality 6 figures for every one Quality 2 figure (representing the ratio of turnover), you likely could not activate them enough to make those numbers count.

Option #1

Looking at Simon's option number one he is basically granting one action for free, but making it statistically harder to get a second or third action. I actually like that. With one free action Quality 6 archers will pin cushion a Quality 2 force. Hmmm … maybe that swings the pendulum too far the other way against Quality.

The problem is that the mechanism gets away from a core design concept of Andrea's that not everyone can act, even if they get to roll for activation. Even if you roll only one die, failure may not mean a turnover, but it does mean you cannot act. It seems like we need to keep that concept in.

What you need to do is describe the effect you would like to see, then develop the formula that creates those effects. So, if I were doing this, I would say that I want at least a 33% chance of performing one action, and the rest goes down from there. In order to accomplish this, I could roll one die of one color (let's say red for this example) and up to two dice of another color. If you add +1 to the red die's score you have increased the chance of the first success, but if the person gambles with the other dice, then so be it; they are at the normal Quality roll. Don't think it should be only 33% chance for one success? Fine, add +2. In all cases, a natural '1' always fails, even with the modifiers.

Option #2

The concept of applying the failure to the one that failed, rather than the rest of the warband, definitely changes the odds of the game because more people will mostly gamble with three dice for everything. Think about how many games where you automatically choose to roll three dice with the last figure in the warband for the turn. Why not? Even though you have increased the change of a turnover, who cares, because everyone else has moved.

The idea I had was to mark all units that "turned over" and they would forfeit their chance of activation the following turn. I think it is simple and elegant, but rather marker heavy, for those that don't like junk on the table. (I use a circle punched out of grass green colored foam sheet, so it tends to blend in pretty well, but not too much that you miss them.)

Well, I may have to try all of this out with a game. Give me a break from working on Mesoamerican Saga or playing BattleLore online.

Thanks again to Simon Wright for writing and the kind words. This is the kind of thought-provoking feedback that I enjoy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Draft Aztec Battle Board for Saga

New Reader

First off, let me welcome new reader James Brewerton to the blog. Glad to have you on board. I welcome and appreciate comments. Now that I have a forum for Saga, feel free to post and join in the conversation.

Saga Updates

The Search for a Larger Army

The Mesoamerican Saga variant is humming along. In fact, I am digging this so much that I went out and bought some of the Tin Soldier UK Aztec miniatures that I don't already have. (I bought a painted collection of 450+ Tin Soldier Aztecs.) Now I am on the hunt for compatibly-sized miniatures.
  • I bought some The Assault Group (TAG) Aztecs and Tlaxcallans (hey! that is what they call them Bowman) and although they are nice, they are 28mm and would be big lads in the unit. Maybe okay for a separate unit, but not for mixing.
  • I bought some Ral Partha Aztecs on eBay, but was later told that they are puny and will not mix well with Tin Soldier.
  • The sculptor of the Eureka Miniatures 28mm Aztecs told me that his figures would not mix with Tin Soldiers either; they are too tall. Too bad because the Caymen "Knights" look really nice.
  • Monday Knight Productions has some 25mm Aztecs and [Conquistador] Native Allies, and as they are relatively inexpensive and in the U.S. I decided to order a handful.
  • Outpost Miniatures have a really extensive Mesoamerican range, but are listed as 28mm. I am hoping someone will know how they compare before I order some from the U.K. They look pretty chunky, but then again, so are Tin Soldiers.
  • I was told that the Foundry Miniatures Aztec line, although about 2-3mm taller, have the same body proportions and so should mix well.
  • It looks like no one sells Naismith Designs 25mm Aztecs anymore. They are supposed to be "true 25mm", which means that may be a little thin for Tin Soldier, even if I could get my hands on some.
The problem with Tin Soldier's figures is that they are almost too "characterful". They often have exaggerated poses, and because each figure type has only a single pose, they look like units of dancers. Sort of like the old Airfix figures and when you tried to make a battalion out of those guys that are charging.

I know that "Saga" and "large army" sounds a little out of place, but what if I want an eight-point army of (almost) every variation? Okay, so it won't be that bad. Besides, I am re-painting some of the Tin Soldier figures to be Tlaxcaltecs, and adding bits and pieces to get some variety. I am not sure if I am going to try any head swaps, however.

The Aztecs

Ralph the "Bowman Stringer" (or just Bowman) and I have been working hard thinking up ideas for the Aztec battle board and faction rules. So far I have all but four Saga abilities defined, although Chili Fires may be dropped if it proves inadequate or unworkable after testing.

By the way, this Mesoamerican Saga "supplement" will include a pronunciation guide!

The Aztec Tlacatecatl (Warlord) is armed with melee weapon, shield and atlatl. It has the same statistics as the standard Saga warlord.

The Cuauhocelotl (Hearthguard) may be armed with one of the following combinations:
  • Melee weapon and shield
  • Melee weapon, shield, and atlatl
  • Two-handed melee weapon and shield
Like the Vikings, you can purchase one unit of Cuachiques/Otomitl (Hearthguard) and promote them to 'Berserkers'. These figures are armed with melee weapon and shield.

The Yaoquizqui (Warriors) can be armed with melee weapon and shield or two-handed melee weapon and shield.

The Macehualtin (Levy) can be armed with sling or bow.

Two-Handed Melee Weapons

These are exactly the same as Danish Axes, with the attendant advantages and penalties.

Atlatl

This weapon operates just like a javelin, in that the unit can take a Movement action and receive a free Shooting action on the same activation. How it differs from the standard javelin rules is as follows:
  • The unit may only take a Shooting action (whether combined with a Movement action or not) when the unit is activated with the ability Weapon of the Gods. This means that only one unit1 may fire per turn.
  • The weapon can be fired to M range, but if fired from VS range the target's Armour value is reduced by 1.
Chili Fires

When the Chili Fires ability is played, the designated Macehualtin (Levy) unit indicates a target within L of it and rolls a D6. If the roll is a '2' through '6', the target unit takes one FATIGUE must retreat away from the Macehualtin unit. If the roll is a '1' the Macehualtin unit takes one FATIGUE and must retreat S towards its board edge.

There was a bit of discussion about whether this ability is appropriate or not. The "Chili Fires" weapon represents a unit of Macehualtin throwing chilis onto a fire when the wind is blowing in the correct direction and "tear gassing" the enemy. The basic problem with this idea is the thought of walking around with a ready-made fire while you are out on a raid. Looked at from that angle, it does not really make sense to have this weapon (and attendant ability).

However, the concept of a Dark Ages skirmish is not really that viable in Aztec warfare either. If you come at this with visions of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto in mind – Mayan warriors on slave raids – it might make sense. Instead, I am trying to use the Saga rules to play out a small portion of a larger battle with larger forces. Rather than repeat it all here, you can read my concept on what the game models on the Saga Variants forum. If you come at it from that angle, then committing the Macehualtin (Levy) to your force means you may also have them bringing their fires and chilis with them. As it stands, the unit can either fire L for damage, or use an ability to force you to retreat (and take a FATIGUE) … maybe. I think most people will choose to damage, at least until the unit gets whittled down and cannot do any real damage with their missile weapons.

I still have four abilities to fill for the Aztecs. (Actually, probably five, because the more I ponder the "utility" of Chili Fires the more convinced I am it is not worth allocating dice to it.) So if you have any ideas, either comment on the blog or the forum.

More Walkerloo Figures

I used to be a strong advocate of paper figures, as their cost is just so low it is easy to test out a new period or set of rules by printing up an army. I pulled away from it largely because I moved out of living full-time in my RV and bought a house and land (and a guest house, taken over as my semi-permanent Game Room). Having all this space let me collect armies, rules, terrain, etc., etc. Gone was the need to minimize the storage space of figures (paper armies store flat in envelopes). Gone was the limitation of having no painting or gaming space. Gone was my primary reason for using paper figures.

Of course, no matter what I do I cannot seem to get my act together, either in figure scale or rules, when it comes to Napoleonics. For figure scale I have more 6mm than anything, but I cannot decide on a basing scheme. I have about three or four I am currently using, thus it is really hard to do anything with them. As for rules … forget it. I really liked Drums and Shakos Large Battles, but gaming buddy Don did not.

I saw Chris Walker's Walkerloo figures quite some time ago. They are 1/35th scale Napoleonic paper figures for the Battle of Waterloo, and they are pretty good. The problem was he was selling the actual paper figures, not the digital files so that you could print out your own forces. (He even had a fun name, "printfantry", but that was only a few select figures that you could print out yourself.)

Eventually he realized that his business model was off (he wrote on his blog that he lost money on the venture) and finally decided to sell PDF files on Wargame Vault. Not only were there French and British (and a single Prussian Silesian Landwehr unit), but the Russian government commissioned him to create Russian figures for some promotion about the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino (if I got the story right). Well today Walkerloo released not a Bavarian unit, but the Bavarian Corps. It includes line and light infantry, cavalry, artillery and commanders. All in one PDF file for $4.95.

Did I mention that I had already bought into the Walkerloo collection? Although I do not really have the same storage problems that I had in the past, it is still a great way to quickly get an army up and running if you want to try out a rule set. I own Lasalle and Napoleon at War and I have played neither, because the basing scheme for both is neither what I have, nor what I want to use (unless these rules turn out to be really good). Also, I still have this fantasy of playing someone using the Chef de Batallion rules.

Tournaments on Vassal

The BattleLore tournament on Vassal is still running. I have finished three of my six rounds, but have not been able to get anyone to play a tournament round all week. Everyone wants to play practice games or else they are people that are not in the tournament. This tournament has stimulated the online BattleLore on Vassal community, such as it is, and thus there are more people out there playing than in a long time. This week there were nine separate games, whereas before the tournament had started there were ten games the previous month, and Chris and I accounted for five of those!

I know, the numbers sound low, but we are talking about a "dead" game after all. Anyway, this has spurred other games to start tournaments on Vassal. I was originally signed up for a Command and Colors: Napoleonics on Vassal tournament, but due to an administrative error, ended up on the reserve roster (in case someone drops out). There is a signup sheet for Samurai Battles on Vassal and a second BattleLore on Vassal tournament also. I have signed up for the first, but am still thinking about the second. I need to make sure that the CCN tournament doesn't get me wrapped around an axle; they play two games per round.

Don owns Samurai Battles and although we have not played it, I have mixed feelings about it. First off, the figures are in pieces, literally. They are multi-part Zveda 1/76th plastic figures from their newly re-branded Samurai Battles line. Apparently once you put on the back banner (which identifies which side the unit is on, red or yellow) you are not going to get it off. (I have not looked closely at the figures, but my first thought was "magnets".) Secondly, I have heard of problems with missing cards and misprints. Richard Borg went online and published the corrected scenarios and has already posted an FAQ.

Interestingly, someone has posted a sheet to print stickers, so you can use wooden blocks for the units, just like GMT Games' Command and Colors series of games (Ancients and Napoleonics). I can see myself doing that, which means Don will never get his miniatures put together.

What draws me to Samurai Battles – other than a fascination with Samurai when I was young, compounded by my time spent in Japan while I was in the U.S. Marine Corps – is that it is very much like BattleLore. It has "Dragon" cards which are much like the Lore cards, only the effects are not so magic-oriented. More like dirty tricks, traps, events, and power-ups. I am reading the rules and will let you know what I think once I give it a try.

Well, that is about it for now. Good gaming!


1 If using the Weapon of the Gods ability on the Tlacatecatl (Warlord) it may also use its We Obey special rule to allow a Cuauhocelotl (Hearthguard) unit armed with atlatl to activate for a Movement action and also fire. This is the only exception to when more than one unit can use this ability in a single turn.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Updated Tlaxcaltec Battle Board for Saga

I have updated the Tlaxcaltec battle board (no longer Tlaxcalan – I have been convinced of the error of my ways) for Saga with a lot of input from Ralph "Bowman Stringer". We are working on an Aztec board. You can always see (and participate in) the discussion on the new forum.

The primary changes are:

  • The Heavy Arrows ability was removed as being ahistorical.
  • The Take Prisoner ability replaced Heavy Arrows. This increases the melee-to-missile abilities ratio slightly.
  • The Massed Volley fire has been re-worked and no longer looks anything like the Norman ability of the same name.
Take Prisoner

This is a cool new ability that most Meso-American peoples will have on their battle boards. Taking enemy warriors prisoner not only gave the priests more fodder for sacrifices and appeasing the gods, but conferred rank and privilege upon the warrior who made the capture.

If you play this ability and an enemy figure is removed during the course of a melee, it is considered captured and taken prisoner, as opposed to being killed. The figure is still removed1, but the player gains Prisoner points for the capture. The number of points awarded  depends upon the figure removed. Levy garner 1 point, Warriors 2 points, Elite Warriors 4 points, and Warlords 8 points.

This allows you to create a new set of scenario victory conditions centered around taking prisoners. You could, for example, play until one side reaches at least 20 Prisoner points.

Massed Volley

Ralph didn't like the "2 x L" range for bows, as per the Norman ability. The idea is that the unit lays down a barrage of arrows and thus is more likely to damage the enemy. In order to accomplish this, however, the unit cannot move either before or after the volley.

Due to the space limitations on the board, it is probably necessary to have some clarifying rules. By "no movement" it is intended that the player not have activated the unit for a Movement action prior to playing this ability and not activating for Movement after the ability. If the enemy plays an ability that forces a unit to move, that would not necessarily count.

That is how I am going to play it on this draft. I think the easiest route to take is that the unit cannot take any action other than Resting that turn when using this ability. This gets away from exceptions on moving, future abilities that move a unit without using Movement actions, etc. and also does not allow a unit a Shooting action either before or after the ability. As the intent is for the unit's entire turn to be taken up with delivering a barrage of arrows, represented as a single Shooting action at a single target, something cleaner like that might be better. But, I need to test it as it is first. The whole doubling of Attack dice might be too powerful as it is. Especially when combined with Aimed Volley (which allows you to re-roll missed Attack dice).

I think this faction is starting to look pretty characterful. It already means a change to my FSM program for playing the Tlaxcaltecs solo!

In Other News

The Russian expansion for Command and Colors: Napoleonics arrived yesterday. As always the GMT Games components look great. I have not looked over the rules yet, but I started adding stickers to the wooden blocks when I needed something mindless to do. If the Command and Colors: Napoleonics on Vassal tournament for North America ever gets off of the ground, I will start playing those rules again. I just need to keep the differences between those rules and those of BattleLore straight.

Speaking of BattleLore, I finished my third game in the six round BattleLore on Vassal tournament. I currently sit at 12 VP, or 4 VP per game, so unless I come back with three straight wins, it looks like I will not make the semi-finals. [cue The Gong Show music]

My BattleLore on Vassal gaming buddy and I played a game last night that was an absolute blast, however. It is the round six scenario and it was to be practice for both of us. In all honesty, I played that scenario solo three times before, and each time I got a worse result. My opening moves were just awful and I was still searching for a strategy for when it came time to play the actual tournament round.

But as the game progressed my vulnerable troops hung on and my card hand kept getting better. I was finally able to move my cavalry into position to charge – I had been holding a Mounted Charge card since the beginning of the game – when I drew a second Mounted Charge! I played the first and really hammered the enemy units, bringing us even in score. I then drew a Counter Attack card to replace my first Mounted Charge card and what should my opponent play but Counter Attack. This meant he got to pull off a Mounted Charge of his own (it duplicates the previous card played), but it now meant that I could use my own Counter Attack to get the equivalent of three successive Mounted Charge attacks. Given that I had two Red Lancer Knight units, that hit on 6 dice with Mounted Charge, I would be able to throw 36 dice over the course of three turns, just with those two units! Added to the fact that I also had two Blue Cavalry units also charging, that would have been 60 dice total in three turns! As it was, the enemy could not withstand even two turns of that kind of horsepower (pun intended), so I turned a 1-3 game around to a 5-3 win.

In case you are wondering what the image to the right was, that is an odds chart for BattleLore. It came in really handy for understanding the odds of success for any given attack. It has a table for each type of attack (hitting on one face, two faces, two faces but ignore one shield, and three faces), listing the number of attack dice and the percentage chance of getting a hit. What is interesting about the chart is seeing the difference between hitting on two face (banner color and sword-on-shield) and hitting on two faces but ignoring one shield. Given that most attacks are either three dice (Blue infantry or cavalry) the chance of obtaining any number of hits goes down from 70% to 48%, a substantial drop! Something to remember when groaning about your "bad dice" after you attacked with all that Blue infantry against the enemy cavalry and came up empty.

Also interesting is the Critical Hits chart, which shows you the chance of killing a creature. Let's see my charging Red Lancer Knights can kill a creature 29% of the time or wipe out an enemy unit with strength 3 32% of the time; hmmm, which should I do?

Feel free to pilfer it. It works for all Borg designs. (For example, for Memoir '44 hitting infantry uses the Hit on Three Faces table while hitting armor uses the Hit on Two Faces table.)


1 Prisoners are considered to be immediately removed. As capturing prisoners was a large part of Meso-American warfare they had it down to a science. People were assigned the specific task of binding, collaring, and escorting prisoners away when they were captured. So, no figures from the unit need be assigned to guard or move prisoner figures (which were often unconscious or wounded); they are simply removed and points awarded.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Added a Forum to the Blog

At the suggestion of Bowman, who has been emailing me about my Meso-American Saga variant (and coming up with great ideas and discussion), I have created a forum to discuss topics on the blog. Although I have long encouraged comments from readers, I have noted that sometimes people ask questions and their profile does not have an email address associated with it (for example, Jonathan Freitag, who posted a comment about my AWI adaptation to Neil Thomas' rules1), so I cannot really answer them directly, except through a blog post. But also, to a lesser extent, a blog is a medium for directing a message, whereas a forum can go in any direction (including towards spam, flame wars, etc.).

So, in the interest of enhancing a conversation about "A Meso-American Saga", and other variants of Saga that interest me (i.e. I already have figures for), I have created a Saga Variants forum on Nabble. (I am pretty sure you will need to create a Nabble account to post, but maybe it accepts other profiles like Yahoo and Google.) To make it easier to get to this forum, I have included a link to the Blogs and Forums Pages at the bottom of this blog, below the Blog Archive. Click on the Saga Variants Forum link and it will take you to the Nabble forum, embedded within the blog.

So, you can use the link at the bottom for a basic experience, or go to the Nabble forum directly and get a full-featured interface. In the meantime I will be transferring some of the comments and email exchanges to the forum so everyone else can see the conversation and join in, if they wish. If you do not want to create yet another account to keep track of, you can always read the discussion through either link without logging in and then comment on the blog. (I won't guarantee that I will transfer the comment to the forum, however.)

So, I hope you enjoy the forum. Right now it is an experiment to see its utility over a Yahoo forum. If it works out I may create a forum for the AWI and a general discussion about the blog. As I am considering focusing more on game and rules reviews, with battle reports to illustrate the points in the review, a forum to discuss future topics might be warranted.

As always, comments appreciated.


1 In answer to your question Jonathan, I have not played AWI much lately as I have been caught up in Saga. Whole unit removal is easy: use hit markers as you do with the base rules. For every four hits use one less base in firing and melee. On the 16th hit, remove the unit. This allows you to continue to use four bases per unit, if you want to show formations, or use one base per unit and use formation markers or just assume the best formation for the moment.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Tlaxcalan Battle Board for Saga

Reader Scott Mac has posted a few comments about my doing a Meso-American version of Saga. On a The Miniatures Page thread on using Saga in other periods another reader has been emailing me about my ideas for Meso-American gaming. All of this – and the fact that it snowed today here in sunny Arizona, USA – prompted me to finish one of the battle boards.

I am still stuck on what abilities to give the Aztecs, but I like the ideas from both readers about giving the Aztecs a "Capture" Saga ability. I am thinking that after the melee the opponent takes additional fatigue if they lost at least one figure in the melee, representing the stress of having a fellow unit member captured by the Aztecs. An interesting twist might be to play out the imprisonment, allowing the other side to rescue the victim. That may be too involved for general rules, however, and might be better for a "Flower Wars" scenario.

Tlaxcalan Battle Board
Here is the Tlaxcalan battle board I have come up with so far. Needless to say, they are heavily focused on bows!

Most of the abilities are duplicates of other factions, with no real modification to the ability or dice required. There are a few exceptions, however.

The Attack Pool was initially for Shooting only, but I later thought that they might be too crippled in melee, so added the ability to play it in Melee.

The Harassing Fire ability is modeled after the Welsh Holy Ground, except that you can slow enemy unit movement only if they could be fired upon. This represents using ranged weapons as a movement inhibitor, something I think is a clever idea. However, as I added a limitation I lowered the dice requirement from Uncommon to Common, which may end up being too powerful. (That is why this is a "draft"!)

The Show of Strength ability is stronger than the original of the same name. In the original you have to win a Challenge in order to trigger the ability. As this "just works" I decided to up the dice requirement from Uncommon to Rare.

The question becomes, are the abilities in total too powerful? Although they are almost all exactly the same as existing abilities, their combination is what can make something "broken". Another question might be is there too much focus on shooting? If the enemy gets within range to charge, are they too vulnerable?

The faction abilities are:

The Warlord is equipped with an atlatl and darts (acts as a Javelin-armed Warlord).

The Hearthguard are the Zoomorphic Suit wearers (crocodiles, jaguars, coyotes, etc.) and are armed with melee weapons and shields.

The Warriors are either armed with bows (Armour value of 3 instead of 4 against shooting only1) or melee weapons and shield.

The Levy are either armed with slings or bows.

I hope to get a four-point test game in today and answer some of those concerns. I will still be playing my Aztecs as Anglo-Danish, so I have access to two-handed weapons, but those Norse-Gaels are starting to look mighty interesting! Challenges seem like they might fit right in with Meso-American warfare. I may have to switch.

If you are a Saga buff and you have an opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of this battle board, feel free to comment. I also welcome comments from Meso-American buffs who have an idea on what should be modeled.

Speaking of the model, I consider using the Saga rules for this type of warfare not so such as representing skirmishes, but to represent a small slice of a large battle. This warfare was very much a battle line like the Dark Ages, where groups would surge forward and fight for 15 minutes or so before they would fall back and be replaced while they rested. A game of this represents one of those surges.

1 I realize that the Franks set a precedent that bow-armed Warriors have an Armour value of 3 against both shooting and melee, however they are shieldless troops. It also seems, to me, that it is unbalanced against the crossbow, which also has a reduced Armour value, but in turn reduces your opponent's Armour value. So it seems that bow-armed troops are penalized more than slingers or crossbows. As my troops have slung shields while they are firing (think something similar to Cretan archers, as shown to the right), I give them the Armour penalty against shooting only.

Friday, February 08, 2013

News from the rear

New Reader Welcome

Welcome to new readers Cesar Alfredo Paz and Natholeon. I hope you enjoy the blog. I welcome and appreciate comments.

Gaming News

I haven't written much on any of my blogs of late because I haven't been miniatures gaming in a while, although I have been gaming a lot. We just started a BattleLore tournament over Vassal and although I have only 1½ games done, there has been a renewed interest in BattleLore, so I have been getting a lot of practice games in. So much interest, in fact, that I played a game last Saturday, and one each night Monday through Thursday. (I am taking a well-deserved rest tonight.)

The games have been exciting, even those where I was teaching a new player both the BattleLore rules and how to use Vassal. (He picked up very quickly.) A recent play of the Neville's Cross scenario almost ended in a complete reversal of fortunes, as I alluded to in a past post. In this game my dice were extremely cold, resulting in only one hit the first half of the game. We were heading towards the end, with my opponent leading 4-1 (it is a 5 Victory Banner scenario), and I was desperately trying to find a Center card so my Knights could charge when I drew the necessary cards and my Knights quickly overran three units, bringing the score to 4-3. I drew a Mounted Charge and attacked with my two cavalry units. The Knights quickly overran their target, bringing the score to 4-4, but the other cavalry unit, with four dice and 33% chance to score a hit on each die could not get a single hit. Had I gotten that hit I would have won, coming behind from a 1-4 game. As it was, my opponent targeted a weak, stranded unit and picked it off the next turn, ending the game 5-4. It was a real nail biter, for sure.

What was disappointing about the game was that I had played it as a practice, as the scenario is one we all play in the third round of the tournament. Because my dice were so cold, and my cards so badly in the wrong section, I was always on my back foot and never able to put forward my own plan. So in the end I had no more of a clue about how to play the scenario than before. Sometimes games with such wildly bad then good luck skew your thinking about how you should play the scenario, when actually using those moves as a strategy is, well, a losing proposition. So, I played it solo (okay, so I did not take a break from BattleLore tonight…) and I think I have a lot better idea of what to do when it is time to play the real thing.

Basing

I have been painting up miniatures a bit lately, mostly my wooden soldiers, and as I was casting about for a certain color of paint the veil raised from my eyes and I noticed that all of the clutter was a number of un-based troops crowding my painting area. I had done a basing spree in order to get my Aztecs up and running for Saga, but I had more to do … a lot more. I think it was triggered by the arrival of painted 6mm Spanish troops from Thailand (DJD Miniatures painted them and they look gorgeous; pictures later). That and my wife complaining that I had too much stuff scattered about the house and not enough down in my gaming room (a guest house, really).

I started by hot gluing light metal sheets to the bottom of Sterilite storage boxes (I use the small and large clip boxes for 15mm and 28mm troops, and the deeper medium clip boxes for my 40mm wooden soldiers and tall troops in other scales). I then use business cards magnets on the bottoms of all my bases so the figures stay in place. I actually started going crazy with all of this and started magnetizing the bases of my BattleLore and Battles of Westeros figures so I could arrange and organize them, should I ever play a face-to-face game with those rules.

I did so much basing, in fact, that I ran out of bases and had to place an order with Litko for more. These days I pretty much stick to 40mm wide basing schemes for multi-figure basing and ½" wide bases for 15mm, 1" wide bases for 28mm and 40mm infantry, and 1½" wide bases for 40mm cavalry when basing singly. Speaking of which, I am getting to the point where, if it is not 6mm, I am strongly considering basing the figures singly. If I want to do a skirmish game I am all set with singly based figures, and for mass battle games, I can use metal movement trays (as my figures have magnets on the bottom). In fact, I found some interesting flanged steel movement trays from Shogun the other day. I may have to buy some and try them out. Of course, if I go this way, I will suddenly have a huge re-basing effort with my 15mm American Revolutionary troops, as most are based multiply on 40mm wide bases. (I will probably keep my DBA troops mounted as they are though, but who knows.)

Battle Reports

I hope to write up more soon, but I am not sure if anyone would care about me writing up a BattleLore battle report. I did one for the second round of the tournament, if anyone is interested. You can see my incredible luck!

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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").