Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dux Bellorum Playtest 2

Second playtest game of Dux Bellorum, this time depicting the Norman incursion into Wales.

I kept the Norman list as it was, and drew up a Welsh list using, well, the Welsh list.

A lack of figures forced me to field a smallish army of seven units, but this meant the Welsh Leader had a whopping 9 Inspiration Points to spend each turn; this proved to be useful as we shall soon see...

I used the terrain set-up rules from the rulebook for this game. The Welsh player as the defender had 3 pieces of terrain to place, and decided to narrow the battlefield by placing a woods on one flank, and then to ensure he had a hill to place his Companions unit on, placed a hill on both base edges of the table. The river with the bridge demarcates the edge of the game-board and is not in play.

Once again the defender placed the Companion unit in the centre, and anchored both flanks with Noble units, this time Warriors instead of Shieldwall. In addition, the Welsh player placed two units of Foot Skirmishers on the left flank, hoping to capture and then infiltrate through the woods to snipe at any Norman unit coming that way.

The Norman player planned to stall the Welsh left wing with skirmishers of his own, while attacking the Welsh right with his Bows and Knights.

Both armies start at about 6 Base Widths (BWs) apart. The photos are taken with the camera on a tripod, so you can see the progress of the units.

The Welsh begin their advance on both flanks, as do the Normans

With little terrain in their way the Welsh Warriors soon make it into charge range, where their 3 BW movement brought them into melee with the Normans despite the fact that the latter would have preferred to weaken the former with some shooting first.

The right-most unit of Noble Warriors rout the Norman Bows, and carry on their advance into the Norman rear, while on the Welsh left the Norman Skirmishers are similarly despatched, allowing the Welsh Skirmishers to snipe at the Norman right flank. I used the Follow-up optional rule here, which meant Warrior and Mounted units that win their melee must follow-up by 1 BW where possible. This meant that once committed these troops tend to continue forward.

The Norman general now decided to throw in his reserve to try to tip the melee on his left flank to his favour, prompting the Welsh general to come down from the hill to prevent that.

The Norman's loss of two units means they have fewer IPs to spend, while conversely on the Welsh side the fact that most of the Norman units are already engaged in melee meant the Welsh player could pick and choose where exactly to spend his IPs.

Nevertheless the high Protection values (5 and 6) of the units involved meant that melees tended to last a few rounds, allowing reserves to be fed into them.

Eventually the Norman's lack of IP meant that the Welsh player could add additional dice for attack at the melees, eventually routing enough units to cause the Normans to test for Morale - the Mounted Companions and one unit of Spears broke, leaving just two units of Spears with their flanks dangerously exposed.

This game produced a very different flavour from the previous one.

The opposing armies not being Shieldwall-heavy armies, the battle was more fluid. The mobility of the Warriors units meant that a slow battle of attrition against them wasn't really an option.

One reason why the Normans do so poorly so far may be because of my tendency to throw the mounted units too far forward without supporting them with the slower-moving Spears units. While they do not do so badly against Warriors units, if outnumbered they can get into trouble and be routed before support arrives.

In my next game I may try a Welsh vs. English battle to see how Warriors match up against Shieldwalls.

Welsh Warrios meet Norman Knights and Spears in the open.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dux Bellorum Playtest 1

I finally found the time to play my first game of Dux Bellorum.

Playing solo and for the first time, it took me less than 2 hours to play the game to a reasonable conclusion.

As mentioned in the previous posts I played Hastings using the Romano-British list for the Normans and the Saxon list for the English. The Normans had more units and a higher Leadership Rating, so I was rather confident of them winning the game. I decided to use the standard game length of 16 turns, and assumed that the two armies started 8 Base Widths apart.

The first photo shows the Normans moving in for their attack. The English have placed their Companion unit (Harold and his huscarls) in the centre, and anchored the two flanks of their line with the Select Fyrd (Noble Shieldwall) units. The skirmishers have moved within their shooting range (as you can see by my home-made range stick - a dowel marked with coloured tape in 80mm bands). My plan was to chip away at the English with shooting before attacking with my Knights. However, I soon found out that it was impossible to inflict enough number of hits to cause any permanent damage as I only had three units with missile capabilities, and since missile isn't particularly powerful in this game (and era) the English could always cancel the effect of my shooting with their Inspiration Points!

I realised I needed to do two things: on my left the bowmen moved to close range, and on my right my skirmishers likewise moved to close range and combined firepower on a single Fyrd unit.

This strategy worked, and I caused one hit to each of the unit, which caused Harold enough concern to order the shieldwall units on his left to move forward to push the skirmishers back. However, this did not bring them off the hill (more than 1/2 of the bases are still on the hill), and the English are not rated as Warriors in this scenario, so they were not prone to impetuous charges or pursuit, much to my dismay.

With the clock running down fast (it took 5 turns just to move the missile troops into position), I decided to launch a charge with my Knights against both ends of the line. This was when I realised that ALL shieldwall units have a Protection of 6, meaning that I needed a 6 on a d6 to cause a hit! Add to that they were uphill of me and the fact that I had given them the Hurled Weapons special rule (in lieu of more units or a higher Leadership Rating) it meant my attacks were unsuccessful! Any hit I was able to score were negated by the placement of Inspiration Points by Harold.

By now we have reached Turn 16, but I decided to play on to see how the battle would end.
The English counter-attacked, prompting me to throw William into the melee. Their adjacent Fyrd units joined the melee, while my Norman Spears were too far away to support my attacks.
In the ensuing melee my Knights and Breton Cavalry on my right were repelled, while the unit of Knight on my left was routed. I decided to call the game a victory for the English.

William and Harold meet in melee at the climax of the battle!

Overall I found the rules easy to learn and to remember after the first few turns.

The placing of Inspiration Points was a nice game mechanism, which I suspect will be more interesting when playing against a real opponent instead of solo.

Terrain placement had a lot to do with the outcome of the game - I used a historical placement rather than per the game rules, which meant the English had a great advantage. The narrow front meant that the Normans could not bring their numerical superiority to bear - in fact the three Norman Spears units did not fight at all.

So far I like the rules - they are definitely much less paperwork than Glutter of Ravens, and melee is faster to resolve than in Warmaster Ancients, my default set of Ancients rules.

I initially had some problem accepting the Inspiration Points concept, which seemed to me to gives a player too much control over his army, and his opponent too much insight into what he was planning. The optional rule that made it costlier to inspire units far away from the commander helps, and I suppose the "visibility" of the placement of Insipration Points can be seen as the enemy observing the movement of messengers and amount of activity in various parts of the enemy line.

In my next game I will use an army with Warrior units, and go for a less lopsided terrain placement.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dux Bellorum playtest 0 cont'd

I still haven't read all the rules, but I did manage to draw up the Saxon list and deploy them on-table. You can see them here, from the Norman side of the table.

I've decide to go for an all-Shieldwall army: one unit Foot Companion representing Harold, his Huscarls and the thegns, two units of Noble Shieldwall representing the select Fyrd, and four of Ordinary Shieldwall representing the Great Fyrd.

I've chosen to give the army "Hurled Weapons" to reflect what little missile power the Saxons might have had - this does not actually give them a ranged attack, but gives them an advantage in melee when charged from front; this, coupled with the advantage of being uphill, will give the Normans a real challenge.

The Saxon strategy here will be simple: sit on top of the ridge and wait for the Normans to dash themselves to piece. This makes it easy for me as a solo playtester as I don't have to figure out what to do for both sides.

I hope to get the first turns in on Thursday, time permitting.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dux Bellorum playtest 0

I've been offered a spot on the playtesting group for "Dux Bellorum", the upcoming Dark Age Britain wargame rules by Dan Mersey to be published in 2012 by Osprey.

The rules are to my mind a revamp of "Glutter of Ravens", which has a lot of period flavour but involve quite a bit of status-tracking for each unit. With "Dux Bellorum", you only need to track one unit stat, which is easily accomplished by the use of a single die per unit.

"Dux Bellorum" utilises single-based units, and a "standard" 32-point army has around 10 units. This means you can easily use your DBA army, or use multiple DBX bases as single units, as I have done here. Impetus players will no doubt love how they can simply port their big bases over.

As you will no doubt notice, these are not Dark Age (367 - 793 AD) troops but Normans from a few centuries down the road; fact is I first got GoR with the intent of using them for a 1066 campaign - I reckon they should be close enough to give the right flavour, with what it being essentially the same peoples from the same region doing essentially the same things...

The battlefield is based on the Battle of Hastings. For the Normans I used the Romano-British list, mainly for the large proportion of Noble Riders it allows. I have chosen to use four DBX stands in a 2 x 2 configuration for each unit (organised on movement trays from Zvezda, which are just the right size), with the exception of close-order foot ("Shieldwall" in "Dux Bellorum"), which I think look good in three ranks. So from foreground to background you see three units of Ordinary Shieldwall, Mounted Skirmishers (the Breton cavalry), the Mounted Companions plus Leader flanked by two units of Noble Riders, then one unit of Bow and one unit of Foot Skirmisher.

I hope to get the Saxons (yes, Anglo-Danish, I know) set up tomorrow.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Franco-Prussian War Game 0

A test-run of the new rules, this was an exciting game that showed the potential of the square/grid based ruleset over conventional "measure and move" rules.

The boards need a bit more dressing up, but on the whole, we were quite pleased with the way this game looked.

Since this was the test-run for the campaign, I'm calling this Game Zero, so we number them right =)