Monday, February 27, 2017

Pikeman's Lament


I received my copy of Pikeman's Lament in the mail and looked it over. Of course, I had an eye towards how close 'Pikes Rampant!', my homebrewed variant of Lion Rampant, was to Pikeman's Lament.  The answer is... sorta?  Some quick impressions...

·         There is now a 1" zone of control with friendly units instead of 3" like in LR, although the 3"  is maintained for enemy units (this is what I 'house-ruled' in my Clontarf game just a few weeks ago!)

·        A unit receives a +1 to activation result if within 12" of commander. This is funny to me because since new LR players recall that its a +1 for morale checks if the commander within 12", and they always assume that it's a +1 for activations as well (and are then disappointed). Since people just intuitively believe that the rule must be +1 for morale and activations its nice that this set has added this in.

·        On top of that, pretty much all the move activation scores needed are 5+ (in LR a 6+ was more typical).  The percentage chance of rolling 5+ on 2d6 is 83%. If leader is within 12" that's a 4+ and odds go to 92%. So moving should now be statistically much easier.

·        The better move scores appear countered by more difficult attack or shooting activation scores needed. Lots of 6+ and even 7+ out there (72% and 58% respectively).

·        There's some fun new stuff where you role on a blunder table if you role double sixes on an activation and roll on a "something good happens" if you roll snake eyes.

·         My galloper/trotter 'Pikes Rampant' variant rules were not too far off from what they did.

·        Their pikemen rules make pikes more dynamic (they form 'close order' and their attack and defense 'to hit' #s increase by my 'Pikes Rampant' variant, which was really just a "moving shieldwall, butwith pikes".

·         My cannon rules were way overpowered. New rules are very sensible.  Shorter range and a lot of punch (hits on a 4+) but needs a 8+ to shoot! (42%)

·         Some of the scenarios look neat. I like the assault on an outer redoubt one a lot and will probably make some "earthworks" terrain pieces for that one!


[blurry pictures are from a 'Pikes Rampant' playtest in June of last year]

Monday, February 20, 2017

More Sudan 1898

Over the weekend I based my entire collection of Sudan 54s on 3"x3" basswood squares. I have not flocked them yet but I think they look much better ranked up and "the business" than before. Of course this led me to wanting to run them in a game again so dusted of the ol' All The King's Men rules (which are specifically for 54s, after all) and tinkered with the unit profiles a bit, so I guess this qualifies as a playtest.

Six Sudanese units consisting of 3 Beja tribesmen units (no ranged attack, moves 18", always roll 4+ when attacking in melee, gets +2 bonus dice in melee) and 3 Ansar units (18" ranged attack, 12" move, otherwise same as Beja).  Most of these stats were borrowed from the 'woodland Indians' rules from the AWI optional rules portion of the rulebook. Opposite are five British units consisting of 3 infantry and 2 guns. Infantry have 24" range and gain +2 bonus dice if not doing anything else other than firing with their activation. This is lifted from the ACW "repeater rifle" rule in the rulebook.

The arc of the game was basically the British right moved into the wadi pictured above.

Where from they chased off an Ansar unit with blistering rifle fire.

But were then charged by fierce and fleet-footed Beja...

...resulting in the shattering of both units.  The Sudanese then crept closer on the left and right, keeping out of the line of fire of the British guns.

At which point Turn 1 ended because we ran out of playing cards.  All markers were reset to green and the deck reshuffled. Below you can see the calm before Turn 2, both sides prepared for the final assaults.- first one to lose another unit loses the game. Two units of Beja tribesmen massed on the right and ready to charge!

In a nutshell, the Beja on the right completed the charge into the British left, which fell back but did not break, and then on the next activation the British gun enfiladed into the flank of the already melee-weakened Beja, shattering them and winning the game for the British side by a thread.

The number one adjustment I would make after this playtest is add more units, honestly. Playtime was barely an hour, simply because of lack of units, I think. Other than that, the breakpoints on the Sudanese units might be too low.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sudan 1898

At Ambuscade! last December I ran a four-player  The Men Who Would Be Kings game in 54mm.  Prior to that we play tested the same scenario (called 'To the Last Bullet') to get a feel for the rules and the scenario's playability and enjoy-ability.

The game involves 36 points of British regular infantry (two forces of 18 points each, for players A and B) clustered in the middle of the board. On one side of them is 48 points of Beja warriors assisted by some Ansar riflemen (again, two identical forces of 24 points each, for players C and D).  The game objective is for the British to go five consecutive turns without taking a casualty.

Now, regular infantry in  The Men Who Would Be Kings can do a thing called 'close order', and once they are in close order they can do a thing called 'volley fire'.  Volley fire lowers their 'to hit' roll from a 4+ to a 3+.  Regular infantry can also fire without activating to do so - its a free action.  On the board edge opposite the approaching Beja are two buildings.  The British way to victory is to hightail into or around the buildings, form close order, and begin concentrate volley fire on the attackers close in.


At least, that's the winning strategy as far as we can figure it.  Both during this playtest and at Ambuscade! the British were thoroughly thrashed.  One or two units may have broken and ran but rest were killed to the last man. Reviewing the historical unit profiles provided in the rulebook, it dawns on me that the Beja tribal infantry are quite frankly the toughest, meanest sonuvaguns available in the rules.  Not only are they quite fleet footed, being able to attack using an 'on the double' action (add 1d6 to your regular movement), but their base 'to hit' in melee when attacking is 3+! 

Add to this their numerical superiority and the fact the British are backpedaling the entire game to try and create the open ground needed to form close order and get a steady flow of volley fire going and you can see how the margin for error for the British is nil.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Somewhere in 9th Century Ireland

We pooled our collections and ran a six-player Irish vs. viking Lion Rampant game at Guardian Games (very roughly based on the battle of Clontarf in 1014, if only in that it involved Irish and vikings).  Each side had about 18-20 points of units and a little over 100 figures. The 3" proximity rule for friendly units was reduced to 1" but retained for enemy units.  The first side to slay or route over half of the opposing sides' figures was the winner.  Each player had the 'commanding' rule for their leader, and could re-roll one missed activation per turn if the unit was within 12".  I believe all players were able to move all their units in their turn except the miserably unlucky Irish right, which stood rock-solid still for two consecutive turns.

The game involved next-to-none ranged weaponry (the vikings has one bow unit classed as mixed-weapons yeomen) and one mounted unit (the Irish had some mounted sergeants), Othrewise it was loads of shieldwall warriors (foot sergeants) with a few fierce foot and some expert warriors mixed in. Leader units were reduced model foot men at arms.

For a game that consisted exclusively of medium infantry with little else, it was surprising how much tactical planning the players (myself included) put into play, while in the end everything just ended up being sloppy melee which accelerated towards the end as both sides came in striking distance of hitting the breakpoint of the other side.

The Irish carried the day in the end when a relatively healthy Viking warrior unit broke and routed. However the winning blow was dealt by the aforementioned Irish right which was finally advancing into melee, so there you go, see? It all works out in the end. Total play time was about two hours. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Border Clash - Northumberland, early 1644

We played a Pike & Shotte English Civil War game on Friday, featuring 539 points of Scots Covenanter vs. 531 of Royalists.
*There is no "frame gun" profile in the P&S rulebook.  Classed as a light gun, but figured that two frame guns could be a "unit".
*Royalists had to muster up twelve "old school" (early '80s Garrison figs, I think) painted-by-someone-else ECW cavalry to get 6 units of cavalry.
*Scots Lancers are armed with lances.  The 'Lance' special rule (!) says that when you charge or counter charge, enemy must make any resulting morale save (i.e. saving throw) at -1 if cavalry and -2 if infantry!  Note that average infantry morale is 4+ so infantry's gonna need to toss 6s to shrug off Lancer hits!
Overall commander: 40pts
Battalia of Horse:
Cavalry Commander: 40pts
4 lancer units @38 each = 152 pts
Two Battalias of Foote:
Infantry commander: 40pts
2 pike unit @34pts = 68pts
4 musketeer units @27pts each = 108pts
Battery of Ordnance:
Artillery Commander: 40pts
2 light guns @ 17pts each = 34pts
1 frame gun unit (consisting of 2 frame guns, count entire unit as one light gun?) @ 17pts
TOTAL: 499 points
Overall commander: 40pts
Two Battalias of Horse:
Cavalry Commander: 40pts
6 cavalry units @41 each, -2 each for Galloper rule (must countercharge, must making sweeping advance, move 12" instead of 9"), so @39s pts each =  234pts
Battalia of Foote:
Infantry commander: 40pts
1 pike unit @34pts
2 musketeer units @27pts each = 54pts
1 Commanded Shotte unit @34pts
Battery of Ordnance:
Artillery Commander: 40pts
2 light guns @ 17pts each = 34pts
1 medium gun @ 21 pts  
TOTAL: 491 points
We diced to see if overall commanders were exceptional or unexceptional at all.  A '1' meant command rating was lowered to 7, and a '6' meant it was raised to 9.  The Royalists diced lucky and were commanded by a dashing dapper brilliant cavalier with a  9 command rating.
The board was kept simple, with no buildings, bordered by some hills to the "south" and some woods to the "north, and a shallow river running through the middle (counting as an obstacle to cross, deduct 3" from movement to cross). We diced to see who went first and the Scots Covenanters won and immediately commenced a game of who would blink first. 
Both sides moved their lines forward a bit and exchanged some rudimentary long-range artillery fire but generally waited to see who would commit first, which turned out to be the Royalist left, where Royalist cavaliers advanced on the Scottish left, which was unprotected by the Scottish lancers who were on the other side of the field. The first squadron of cavaliers' charge came up short, however, and was broken by hailshot.

Meanwhile, the mass of Scots lancers began to move behind their own infantry. The Royalist cavalry on the Royalist left continued their assault and overran a Scots falconet crew, then turned and charged a unit of musketeers.  The resulting melee lasted an impressive 3 rounds but effectively tied up the entire Scots' left.  Concurrently, the Scots' lancers charged en masse at the Royalist foote but came up short and were shot to pieces, then counter charged by the other battalia of Royalist horse, who preceded to route the entirely of the lancers piecemeal.

On the Scottish left, the unit of musketeers finally succumbed to the cavaliers' onslaught.  Left with two units pike and 3 shotte, and almost all already a little bloodied, and faced with Royalist cavalry closing in on both flanks, the Scots decided to yield the field and call the game in favor of the Royalists.


Some melee involving cavalry was not done correct per the rules.  There were several "draw" results and the rules say in a draw situation the cavalry unit must make a retire move and the combatants do not stay "locked" like infantry do.  This could have altered the outcome of the musketeer-cavalry fight on the Scottish left.

Additionally, if a unit is broken in melee, any supporting units of the broken unit must also take a break test.  This was not done during the game.