Monday, January 31, 2011

Thoughts on spicing up the pre-battle (setup) sequence for medieval/ancient games

We've all done it many times before (especially in Ancients/Medievals)- both sides setup their army on their side of the board (usually the longest side) and have at it with one another over the course of the battle in a meeting engagement. But, other than specialist scenarios (like an ambush), this is the commonest way to setup a battlefield.

But what if there were pre-battle turns that could influence the setup process or modify some of the command rules (assuming you do use some sort of command and control rules) ? As an extra bonus, this could be a good way to vary campaign battles between 2 armies.

I've used a number of systems to create "friction" in command and control, so maybe it is time to for me to use a system whereby setup "friction" can be modeled after. All of the ideas here are not original, I'm sure, but sometimes the best ideas are almost univeral. So if I am just re-inventing the wheel (or seem to be plagarizing) I am sorry.

I've decided to call the system Pre-Battle Stress. Without getting into the specifics of how it influences my minaiture rules (a home-brew set called "DSR Mass Battle"), I'll try to keep the descriptions as general as possible so you can apply it to your own ruleset.

In general, each army has a pool of 6 Army Initiative Cards. They consist of various amounts of Observe(O), Advance (A), Defend (D), and Flank (F) cards. Each side also has a Re-Organize (R) card.

A Byzantine army, for example might consist of 2 Observe, 1 Advance, 1 Defend and 1 Flank Card. A Seljuk Turkish army might consist of 2 Observe, 1 Advance, 0 Defend and 3 Flank Cards.

At the start of the campaign turn (or turn where 2 armies are fighting for an area) they each secretly pick one card and reveal it. Based on what they have chosen, the result may be no battle, one side with a setup advantage, command advantage, terrain advantage or some combination of these three.

If after 3 "No Battle" results, the campaign turn ends as both sides have successfully growled at each other but never came to blows. This may allow a side that was awaiting reinforcement to be able to recieve them.

Once a card is played, it cannot be used again. A Reorganize(R) card returns all the cards to a player's hand after the current battle (if any) is fought. This can result in something VERY bad if the other side elects to do something other than Reorganize (R) or Observe (O).. Or, in other words the more cards that are played without an (R), the less flexibility a side has.

Here's the chart that applies to my rules and includes all the armies I have:

The Chart (click to enlarge)
 The end result is create some interesting "at start" and setup conditions outside the normal. It also works well to vary up quick area campaign games (Armies fight over an area or zone, and if the winner gains that zone).

Of course, you will have to modify the results based on the ruleset you use. I'm thinking of expanding upon this more to include even more options.

As always, let me know what you think  !

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My new way of After Action Reporting

I'm trying an experiment in AAR (After Action Reporting) for my Ancients. I've come up with a different way of doing it with a simple Visio template and some elbow grease.

The Scenario is a Byzantine vs Seljuk rading force that has been brought to bay, using my DSR Mass Battle rules.

The Byzantines:
1 x Cataphract Cavalry (12 cavalry)
2 x Kaveleroi (24 cavalry)
2 x Spear Infantry (32 infantry)
4 x Skirmish Javelin (32 infantry in 8 subunits)

Seljuk Turks:
3 x Cavalry (36 cavalry)
2 x Sword Infantry (24 infantry)
2 x Spear Infantry (24 infantry)
3 x Skirmish Cavalry (24 figs in 6 subunits)

The Seljuk loot is just off the board to the North (top) of the map and is the reason they just can't run away.

Of course, each side has an army leader that is attached to a unit of that side's choice for the battle (indicated on the map by the name followed by an asterix).

Initial Dispositions

The Byzantine plan is to base its infantry on woods H6 and try to use missile fire to discomfit the Seljuk infantry (they are weaker than the Byzantine in armor and in numbers per unit). The cavalry is to stay alert for opportunities to counter the Seljuk Cavalry. The leader is present with the Cataphracts.

The Seljuk plan is try to overwhelm the Byzantine Left by taking 2 cavalry units around woods H6. The Cataphracts are better cavalry, and the Kaveleroi are equivalent to the Seljuk cavalry. The leader is positioned with the 3rd cavalry unit able to intervene on either flank as needed.

Both sides sent forth their skirmishers to little effect as the Seljuks swung around woods H6 and positioned themselves to start raining arrows down upon the cataphracts (who would reply in kind). The Byzantines managed to anchor their line on the woods, and the Seljuk infantry slogged forward.
The first clash

By turn 3, both sides came together. The Cataphracts shrug off the arrow storm (as expected) but do little damage to the Seljuks. The skirmisher screens set to on each other, neither side gaining the upper hand.
The Byzantines bend

The Seljuks close with the Cataphracts and he is forced to bring over one of the Kaveleroi for support. The plan is now to defeat the Seljuk cavalry flank attack as quick as possible. The Byzantine right flank is moved back. Meanwhile, the infantry comes into contact with each other, with the lighter Seljuks coming off the worse, but passing their morale checks with flying colors.
The Seljuk flank attack defeated

By turn 6, the Seljuk cavalry flank attack has been repulsed (albeit at a higher cost to the Cataphracts and Kaverleroi than desired) and they have to clean up the last Seljuk cavalry unit there before swinging back to the sagging Byzantine right flank. The Byzantine Spears are holding their own, but taking losses nonetheless as they are forced slowly back. The cavalry on the right flank holds back as the skirmishers go to work on each other.

End game approaching

The Seljuk cavalry on the flank and the Kaveleroi manage to run each other off, leaving the reduced Cataphracts to hurry off to help the Byzantine flank. And just in time, as the Seljuk cavalry (with the leader) have pressed the Kaveleroi on that flank and routed them. At this moment, fate intervenes, and a stray arrow catches the Byantine leader (with the Cataphracts) through his facemask, killing him. The Cataphracts scatter, taking with them the hard-pressed Kaveleroi. With this, the Byzantines reach their Army break point and lose.

All in all, it was an interesting game that came down to near the end (the Seljuks rolled well on their morale checks while the Byzantines rolled average otherwise the Byzantines should have won). The skirmisher screens were a wash until the end, when the Seljuks got lucky killing the Byzantine leader.

If there was one thing the Seljuks should've done was to put their leader with the flanking movement (he increases melee and morale checks). Byzantine Cataphracts can be a beast to bring down. Getting into a shooting match with them should've been a losing propostion, but was neccesary to allow the infantry time to close with the Byzantines. 

It took almost as long to create this post as it was to play the game (a little over an hour), as the upload time on blogger was very slow. I like reading AARs myself, and the clearer they are, the better.

Let me know what you think of the style !

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Counters for the dead



When I was a kid, when I'd wargame, I'd knock the (plastic) figures down to indicate it had become a casualty. Of course, knocking down 15mm painted metal figures (on bases no less) is not an option, and I  always felt something was missing from my skirmish battles.

The thing that was missing was body markers.

I mount all my figures on individual metal bases, so I can group them on larger magnet movement trays as needed for whatever rule-set I want to use. This also allows me to remove figures as casualties. This system is flexible enough to fit all my needs.

I used 3/4" magnet strips (magnetized on only 1 side) cut to the size of 1 figure. On the magnet side is a color (for which side the figure belongs to) and unit ID (to seperate the unit). The side color is important because a lot of figures (especially 15mm) look alot alike when all massed up and fighting one another. On the backside is a depiction of a  horse or man (dead of course).
With the small movement bases the figures stand up (the metal base is pretty small- I wanted as small a footprint as possible to allow maximum flexibility on my movement trays) easily, and the figure clings to the base. When the figure dies, I remove the figure and flip the base. Voila ! Instant casualty marker. 

After the battle, you can see the course of the action by the trail of casualty markers. It kind of adds a conversational centerpiece when cleaning up for the next battle !