Friday, May 17, 2013

Battle of Acragas 406BC using Ancient Battlelines Clash

This is game 8 in playtesting my ancient rules. Previous games used my rules called Ancient Warrior  Battles.  After game 6 I streamlined them and simplified the combat mechanism so renamed them Ancient Battlelines Clash (ABC).  The latest version is on its own blog page. I am playtesting the rules by replaying all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.  ABC is designed to finish in under an hour on 2'x2' tables.

Battle of Acragas

During the Peleponnesian War in 410, Carthage came to the aid of some Sicilian cities. In 407BC, Syracuse and Acragas aggravated the Carthaginians who laid siege to Acragas in 406.  A Syracusan lead relief party failed to dislodge the besiegers possibly, some say, because Acragas failed to sally out to help. This battle represents the relief party trying to dislodge the Carthaginians (which they did on the eastern side as portrayed here, but there was more of the army on the other side of the city).

Here are links of interest:

Wikipedia article
Diodorus account in Book 13 (see 86-87)

Changes to the Bill Banks Scenario
The scenario is designed to play on a 35"x28" board.  I reduced the forces by about a third to play on a 24"x24" board. I did halve the hoplites for both sides - the deployment map infers a second rank of spears for each side.  This infers a bonus in DBA but not in my rules so I left them out.

Early Carthaginian

3 Libyan Spearmen, HI, missile protection 0, phalanx
2 Chariot, HCH
2 Heavy Cavalry, HC
4 Light Infantry, LI
2 Skirmisher, SI, javelin
1 +1 General

Breakpoint: 9


3 Hoplites, HI, missile protection 0, phalanx
2 Hoplites, HI, missile protection 0, phalanx, low fortitude
2 Heavy Cavalry, HC
6 Light Infantry, LI
3 Skirmisher, SI, javelin
3 Skirmisher, SI, bow
1 General



Deployment, Carthaginians at the top between the two ramparts.  Hill represents the city.
 Note that the city walls are impassable, and the ditch is classed in DBA terms as difficult going.  Difficult going has quite an impact on combat effectiveness in DBA. In my rules, difficult going (rough) is really really bad e.g. cavalry cannot cross, so I will make it a hill (like a steep hill in Armati). This will halve movement for heavy and mounted units and also reduces the combat value of most cavalry and heavy infantry.

The Game
Syracusans move first. The lights of the flanks move to a position on the rampart, the hoplites move up in the centre and the left flank heavy cavalry fails to move (failed the order roll).  The Syracusan plan is to harass the flanks with the light stuff (backed up by the cavalry), and hopefully win on one or two of the flanks and use that flank to assist in the centre. The Carthaginians responded by attacking the flanks with the light infantry - otherwise they are going to sit there and take missile fire.

On the left flank, the Carthaginian LI managed to raise the ire of an opposing LI that repeatedly followed up combat.  The retreating Carthaginian LI finally routed when interpenetrating the cavalry (disordering them).  The Syracusan LI stopped just in front.

LI breaks thorugh on left.  Green markers are disorders.  The Carthaginian subgeneral is the two hoplites behind some LI.
The Syracusan right flank fares no better - the Syracusan skirmishers are swept away, but the remaining light infantry becomes a bit chaotic and mostly disrodered, Carthaginians coming off worst.

The Syracusan right flank (Syracuse on the left)

Continuing on the same flank, Syracusan LI against a Carthaginian chariot -anything but a 6 will cause the LI to retreat.  Rolled a 6 and both disordered and remain in melee.  This means the Heavy Chariot will not get a +2 charge bonus next turn.

Syracusan LI in combat with a Carthaginian Heavy chariot.  Lucky rolls see both disordered.

Syracusan hoplites cross the rampart.

The Syracusan hoplite line crosses the rampart but are not quite in contact.  The low fortitude hoplites are on the Syracusan flanks.
One of the LI turns 90 degrees to flank a poor Syracusan hoplite.  Movement in the rules is restrictive for HI but LI can wheel 90 and move.  But the LI rolled badly for melee and were routed as they were already disordered.  Worth a shot.

LI wheels onto the flank of a Syracusan hoplite but ends badly for the LI( it routs).

Syracusan Hoplites move into melee with Carthaginian hoplites. All hoplites in contact disordered. Bit of a bet to make a difference - while the Carthaginian flanks are being held by the LI, one the LI are gone, there Carthaginian's have the advantage of number son both flanks (2 heavy mounted Vs 1 on each flank).  But only so long the LI will hold.

Syracusan Cavalry charges opposing cavalry (it is disordered from previous brush with  a LI), but all that results is a disorder.

Syracusan Heavy Cavalry (bottom right) charges the opposing Carthaginian Heavy Cavalry (top right) while the chariot is engaged with a LI.
But the Heavy Chariot next to it routs the LI, pursues into the Cavalry but no effect.  Chariots will almost always pursue.

...but the LI routs, chariots advances into the heavy cavalry but the results sees them locked in melee.

Just about  every unit on the board is disordered!

Note about difficult going - makes the LI pretty tough as the Cavalry don't get a +2 shock bonus, and are also are at -2, so the LI have a very large advantage.  And no heavy units lost yet either.

Moved the sub-general over the the Heavy chariot and Heavy Cavalry and finally managed to destroy a heavy unit - the Syracusan Heavy cavalry.  The Syracusan left flank has gone.

The Syracusan left flank has collapsed - there is only one LI left on the rampart but the Carthaginians have two heavy mounted units that can just go around it.
Hoplite clash in the centre sees two Syracusans gone and one Carthaginian.  Low and high rolls!

What is left in the centre after a round of hoplite combat.  Both generals involved, but both survived leader death checks.

..and on a lucky roll of a 6, the Heavy Chariot destroys the Syracusan LI.  Syracusan has reached breakpoint of 10 and so the Carthaginians win.  A bloody victory.

The Syracusan LI to the lower right, just before it is routed in combat with the Chariot.

End game:

At the end, Syracusan forces to the bottom. 

An interesting battle.  While this one was finally decided in the centre, the flanks were vey important.  The Syracusans should win the centre with more hoplites but the flanks see them with more lights troops than the Carthaginians, but outnumbered in heavy troops.  This is what saw the Syracusans off in the end - the heavier flank units of the Carthaginians.

This game took a long time to play.  It did not help that I stopped playing it for about 8 weeks after the second turn.   Even then with the action on the flanks before the centre decided the battle, it was likely a hour to play - longer than I would have liked.  There was a lot of points of troops of the table - about 50% more than what would be a 'normal' game of ABC.   But it was interesting.  I thought the Syracusans would get slaughtered but they put up a really good fight and the game could have swung their way at any time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Battlegroup Kursk (BGK) first game and thoughts

Andy and I played our first game of Battlegroup Kursk (BGK) at the club in mid-April.  We both got the rules in December last year but this was the first opportunity to play it.  It was also the first time I had been at the local club since 1995 playing DBM, and the first time since, I think, 2005 that I have played a WW2 game face to face.  I am hoping that the time between trips to the club and face to face games gets shorter in the future!

It has taken a while to post this as I have been short of time to prioritise to gaming in the last month.
I will start by saying what I think of BGK and then a short description of the game.  I was too busy playing to take too many pictures!

Verdict on the rules
Are they good? Yes and no. No in that they are not THAT good. they are good, but did not set my world on fire.  But yes: it was an enjoyable game, I had fun, I think the rules are good at recreating what they are trying to portray and would more than happily play again.  Note that I do not think there is a perfect set of WW2 rules for me anywhere, including ones I have written, so it is unlikely any rules are going to get a pure yes anyway!  And it was an intro game on a same table so did not get the full impact of playing either, so I believe my opinion will go upwards when playing on a larger table.

We played on a small table (6'x4') and I can see it would shine on a 8'x6'. As the table was small and even though we only used a few forces, the depth meant there was not a lot of manoeuvre so the game was a line them up and go. And that was also as a result of poor tactics and focussing on trying to capture two objectives when concentration on one would have been a lot better.

It does play well, the mechanisms are well thought out and fairly smooth (although artillery fire has lots of steps and it was a little tedious for our first outing with it) and there was lots of book flicking for the first few hours. You are often throwing 7-10 dice for hits and I am not a bucket of dice person. The game does have the feeling of ww2 as units are pinned and it is trying to unpin them to move them into position to fire back before getting pinned again.

My only quibble on mechanics is that BGK has a unit choosing between Aimed fire (focussing on casualties) and pinning fire (focussing on preventing enemy actions). While I like the fact that casualties is differentiated from action limitations, I like to have them both rolled into one so that a unit does not have to chose (i.e. a unit fires and the result may be casualties, or pinning, or both). I prefer to think troops just fired for suppression/pinning and casualties were a bonus.

In summary, jury still out. I like it, do not love it (yet, but may never do). Need a few more bigger games to see how good it is . Again, the mechanisms are sound and the feeling it there. Is it worth the expense? Don't know but I am a rules junkie and the book is beautiful and the army lists are very extensive.

The game overview
We played the introductory scenario on page 170 on a 6'x4' table. Basically an engagement scenario with a  platoon of infantry, some armoured scouts and a tank each.  We were sparse with the terrain, just laying out the pieces as per the scenario map and using the painted game board  as a base.  We just wanted to get stuck in to learn.  The good news is that you do not seem to need as much terrain as in some other WW2 games.  Of course, more terrain always looks good.

I was the Russians with Andy the Germans.  As the Germans are outscouted in this scenario, the Germans have to pick out a battle counter.

Me: "I hope it is not an aircraft chit.  I haven't looked at the aircraft rules at all.  Have you?"
Andy: "Not really. By the way, if it is an aircraft chit, when do I show you?"
Me: "I think you would show me after we deploy and it takes effect next turn, which would be the first turn."

So, after deployment Andy shows me the Aircraft counter.  I think it took an hour to go through to resolution as we had never read them and you also need to go through the artillery rules (which both of us have only skimmed also!), which for the first time is interesting.  But this really helped...because the second counter that Andy was forced to draw aircraft!  This went a lot faster to resolve.

View of the board from one side after deploying scouts.  Russians on the left - BA-64 on the road; Germans to the left - a destroyed halftrack near the junction.  The red marker is an objective, but also very near the point of attack for the German aircraft bombs.
 After deployment of scout forces, The German halftracks were in sight of my BA-64 and T-70.  Russians win the initiative and two actions later, the Germans have lost their scout forces.  That was quick and unexpected.  Good in that it was easy to perform.  And now we know a bit more about how the rules work and initiative being important.

My T-70 that managed to control my left flank for a few turns, until destroyed a German reinforcement - a Panzer IV.
 We found we did a lot of firing to pin during the first 5 or so turns.

The view of most of the Russian infantry forces from the German end of the table. 

Another view of the forces but slightly to the left, just to give an idea where they are. The hill and the woods really put a stop to trying to press the advantage.
Neither of us had sufficient forces in a particular place to strike forward, and after unpinning, they just got pinned again.

A shot form the Russian side of two units =on ein the woods and one near the hill.  The one near the hill is pinned, the one in woods is about to be.

And this is what caused the pinning of the troops in the woods.  The PanzerIV came in on the right flank and promptly took out the only Russian armour - a T-34 and T-70, then pinned a unit of infantry on the the German right flank before turning towards the centre.

But then looking over the rules, I can see than  for aimed fire, scoring a casualty will result in a morale test that has a 1 in 3 chance of pinning most units.  So I started aimed fire to good effect.  But then so did Andy start using aimed fire with the Germans to good effect as well.  Eventually I went over my battle rating and lost the game.  I think all my units were pinned by this stage and Andy have about half of his pinned.  Neither of us had lost an infantry unit.  It was a game of attrition due to the terrain and limited board size, and I think Andy played the attrition game better than me, but only after I knocked out all his half-tracks on turn 1!