Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Battle of Uruk 2271 BC using Ancient Warrior Battles (001)

I have written some fast play ancient rules to replay historical battles on 2'x2' tables.  Here is the link to the rules: Ancient Warrior Battles rules.  I have played a few games with them already but need more testing.  Since 2000, I have always wanted to play all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.  Marry the two together and we have a match! The link to a page for background and a list of the scenarios is here.

Observant readers will notice that the Battle of Uruk does not appear in the Peter Sides books.  I wanted to have a simple battle with Ancient Near East troops and I found this battle of Akkad Vs Sumer.  So I am going with this one before tackling Megiddo.  It is different to the other battles I will play as there is not a defined army composition or deployment map.  But I've always wanted to play a game in Ancient Mesopotamia.

Battle of Uruk aka Unification of Sumer
Sargon of Akkad defeats Lugal-zage-si of Umma leading a army collected from Sumerian provinces.  See the Battle of Uruk wikipedia article for some information.  More  information and a scenario can be found in the GMT Games Great Battles of History game Chariots of Fire (link to boardgamegeek entry).  I did not use the Chariots of Fire scenario for this game but the game still has good background information. Note that the date of the battle depends on the chronology used - I've gone with 2271BC from Wikipedia.

There is not much information on the Akkadian and Sumerian armies.  I have used guesses and composition from a number of different army lists (Milgamex, WRG Ancients, FOG, DBM, Ancient Warfare, Armati Warflute lists and Hail Caesar) and the WRG Armies of the Near East.  I have assumed that the onager carts are out of fashion for Akkad, but still used by Sumer.  Akkad army is also differentiated by more loose order archers and some household spearmen.

Army Type: Missile
Skilled general +1 (Sargon)
2 Household Spearmen -  Heavy Infantry, light armour, average fortitude, long spears
4 Spearmen - Heavy Infantry, light armour, low fortitude, long spears
4 Light Archers - Light Infantry, light armour, low fortitude, bow, archers
2 Javelineers - Skirmish Infantry, low fortitude, javelin
2 Skirmish archers - Skirmish Infantry, low fortitude, bow
Breakpoint: 8

Sumerian alliance
Army Type: Missile
Average general +0 (King Lugal-zage-si)
1 Onager cart - Light Chariot, light armour, low fortitude, javelins
6 Spearmen - Heavy Infantry, light armour, low fortitude, long spears
2 Light Archers - Light Infantry, light armour, low fortitude, bow, archers
2 Javelineers - Skirmish Infantry, low fortitude, javelin
4 Skirmish archers - Skirmish Infantry, low fortitude, bow
Breakpoint:  8

Note: Breakpoint is worked out as 50% of 2 points per heavy infantry and 1 point per light infantry (0 for skirmishers). An army breaks when reaching its breakpoint.

I will use the optional rule that you must deploy in a certain amount of groups.  Akkad can deploy in four groups of units, Sumer in three.  You can split groups after deployment, for a slight penalty to orders.

Terrain is a flat plain.

I rolled for random army deployment.  This is similar to the battle tactics in Rally Round the King.
Akkad will defend along the line and deploy at least 50% of the spearmen in a second line in the centre as a reserve.  This reserve did not play much of a part in the battle until too late.  Bad plan Sargon!

Akkadian deployment

Sumer will focus on their centre and right flank and use missiles to disorder the enemy before using the spearmen as a hammer.

Sumerian deployment

Akkad is the attacker (only advantage here is moving first).

Deployment, Sumer to the left.  Apologies for the shiny board - it glows in the flash but otherwise it very matt.  Ah well.

If you have sharp eyes you will not that a lot of the troops don't really look ancient Mesopotamian.  Some are, but the rest are Assyrian allies and a couple of Persian allies as well.  I got most of these as part of a larger lot of painted figures.  The onager battle cart is a light chariot.  I was not going to paint up special figures for this one-off battle. And the field is grass where should really be earth but I don't have any other surface to play on.

The Game
Akkadians cautiously advance with the left flank kept back in reserve. The Sumerian javelin-armed skirmishers advance with the other Sumerian bow-armed skirmishers and inflict 3 retreats (that covert into destruction) on the Akkadian skirmishers. This leaves the Akkadian leading spearmen a little exposed.

Sumerian javelineers (backed up by heavy spearmen) that routed opposing skirmshers
Low fortitude skirmishers really don't hang around long. 

The exposed Akkadian heavy spearmen after being stripped of their skirmishers

Sumerian troops continue to advance, except the chariot/onager cart keeps rolling a 1 for orders and does not move;  only a 1 will fail. The battlelines get a lot closer and finally the chariot moves.

Main battlelines get close (top centre right).  Akkadian reserve line is at bottom left.
 The Akkadian reserve line (on their right flank) finally moves up and forces the Sumerian skirmishers to evade.  As this reserve line was supposed to be in reserve, I did not move it until a few turns into the game. The Sumerians attempt to rally disorder from the evading skirmishers. Needs a 4+.  Both roll a 1. At least the Sumerians are getting the 1's out of the way early!

Akkadian reserve line (on right) has advanced and caused Sumerian skirmishers (at left) to evade.  Green maker indicates disorder.
Rather than advance the Sumerian spearmen battleline through their own skirmishers, the Sumerians will keep the skirmishers in front and try to inflict some disorder on the advancing skirmishers.  And possibly force some of the Akkadian spearmen to react by advancing and therefore breaking up their battleline.  The skirmishers fire.  The Akkadian spearmen all pass their test (so much for that idea!) and charge the skirmishers, who all fire again and retreat through the rear spearmen.  Retreat = destroyed for skirmish infantry interpenetrating close order infantry.  However, when firing again they did manage to disorder one average fortitude spearmen. The Akkadian spearmen pursue the retreating skirmishers and charge into the the Sumerian spearmen.

Battlelines meet.  Sumer to the bottom, Akkad to the top.  Sargon is top right, King Lugal-zage-si is at the bottom centre.

All the Sumerian spearmen stand to the charge and close combat ensues. Despite the better fortitude of the Akkadians, one routs, one retreats (forcing it to move 1/2 move or 4cm back) and one is pushed back.  The retreating spearmen is pursued for further combat. 

View post combat - note the Sumerian advance(due to pursuing) in the middle.

The pursued Akkadian spearmen unit is routed.  As is the attached Sargon.  Oops.  Well, I did design these rules to be fast!  Akkad has lost 6 breakpoints already (2 more until the army is broken), Sumer none.

State of play, Sumer to the left.  Note the breakthrough of the Sumerian troops in the centre, next to the disordered Sumerian skirmishers.
The chariot is in charge range, but fails its charge orders roll. The Akkadian archer facing the chariot fires and forces the chariot to retreat (archery is not great in this game but the chariots rolled a 1 for being fired on - the only score that would force a retreat).  In the centre, there is a lone Akkadian spearmen against the lone Sumerian spearmen and general.  An Akkadian roll of 1 and Sumerian roll of 6, even with a couple of modifiers for each side, guarantees the Akkadian spearmen are routed off the board.  Akkad has reached their breakpoint and have lost.

While an interesting and fun battle, I did not really get the sense I was replaying a historical battle.  It was a good run out for the rules, and cleared up some minor points.  The rules got a good run but it was a fairly familiar straight up battleline Vs battleline.  Compared to other historical battles I've done in the past, I did not get a feel for what the commanders were up against, nor why they did what they did.  But this is fair enough for the Battle of Uruk as it was a free form setup. The entire game took 5 or 6 turns and 1 hour including setup, writing it up as I went and taking the pictures. So maybe 30-40 minutes if I did not blog it.  This is the speed I am looking for, so good so far.  Onwards to some historical battles with the deployment taken out of my hands.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Heraclea replay with Hordes of the Things (HOTT)

I am in the process of replaying Heraclea with different rules on a 2'x2' table.  This is about number eight.  HOTT is not even on my list.  I have used DBA for some previous replays - Callinicum and Zama - and IMO they are OK but nothing great.  I did acquire a copy of HOTT a few years ago as I had read that some people use it for ancients.  But besides reading it and thinking they were similar to DBA, they have sat on the shelf.  But, with DBA 3.0 drafts out, and again reading on some forum about someone using HOTT for ancients, I dug out the rules again.  They are quite different to DBA, especially the combat outcomes.  I actually prefer the combat outcomes in HOTT.  Never fond of Psiloi rear support (which I note is gone in the current draft of DBA 3) and the various quick kills, HOTT is refreshing.  So I thought I would just do a quick game of Heraclea with HOTT to see if HOTT is for me, or at least better IMO, than DBA.  I added in some light troop types and also restricted non-light element movement to only group movement, so it is not strictly HOTT.

I usually have links to rules reviews etc but for HOTT (and DBA), go no further than fanaticus.org THE place to go for all your DBA and HOTT needs.  There is also an active yahoo group.

Rule changes - mostly adding light troop types
HOTT has no light horse (Raiders are the combined DBA equivalent Cavalry/Light horse) or Peltasts (no DBA Auxilia exact equivalent in HOTT) or Psiloi.  It also has no Pike (HOTT Spear represents DBA Pike and Spear). Rather than transpose the DBA troop definitions over, I will create three new troop types that are variations on HOTT troop types.

Treat the same as Warband, except: no unit quick killed by Warband is quick killed by Peltasts; Peltasts do not get a +1 for Peltast in rear support; Peltasts do not pursue after combat.

Light Cavalry
Move as per Riders. Combat factor +2. Combat outcome for less than, but more than half is "Destroyed if in bad going, otherwise flee 600p" - a combination of Rider with fleeing as benefits my perception of their skirmish role.
Move as per Sneaker, Combat factor +2.  No -1 for off-road or bad going.  Combat outcome for less than, but more than half is "Flee 600p". Very like sneakers, but an enemy cannot disregard a poor outcome versus a sneaker.

For the purposes of Heraclea, the AP value of each of these three units is 1. 

Other changes
  • Riders move 400p in good going.
  • Warband and Shooters are swapped on the movement table.  This seems to be a common change.
  • All elements and groups use group movement only, except this can include all about facing or a single element may rotate in place.  Light Horse, Skirmishers and Peltasts can still use single element movement. 
  • Rear support elements are fixed for the game i.e. the rear element cannot move of its own accord.
Note: I am content for pikes and spears to be the same, at least for Heraclea.
Another note: Tempted as I was to add in some factors such as inferior/superior to reflect the Hypaspists or Triarii, I resisted.

With all these changes, maybe I should say I am playing HOTT-ish.

Troop Definitions

Leves: 4 Skirmishers
Hastati/Principes: 4 Blade
Triarii: 4 Spear (2 in rear support), includes general in front rank
Light Infantry: 1 Peltast
Heavy Cavalry: 2 Riders
Light Cavalry: 1 Light Cavalry
Total AP: 26
Hypaspist: 2 Spear (1 in rear support)
Pikemen: 6 Spear (3 in rear support)
Hoplites: 1 Spear
Light Infantry: 1 Light Infantry
Skirmisher: 1 Skirmisher
Slingers: 1 Skirmisher
Agema: 1 Knight, including general.
Light cavalry: 1 Light Infantry
Elephant: 1 Behemoth
Total AP:28

See deployment description and here is a photo:

Deployment - Epirot to the left, Romans to the right.

The Game
Most of my Heraclea game reports are very detailed to assist in showing how a particular ruleset works.  HOTT is similar to DBA in it mechanisms and there is a lot of detail around the internet on  how DBA works.  This report will not be so detailed, but I will highlight some of the critical parts that I think warrant it.  It still will be reported turn by turn but just the good bits.

Turn 1-3
Low PIPs see not much happen - Romans get to moves forwards, Triarii turn to protect the left flank.  I do like  that there are only four cases for extra PIPs.  It does seem strange going back to movement rates that are the slowest, besides Justified Ancients, in the rulesets I have used so far.
End of turn 3 - Romans on the right

Turn 4
Leves contact the Epirot Skirmishers. One Leves flee, one Epirot Skirmisher flees.  The Epirots retaliate by moving up all the pikes and Hoplites into contact with the Leves.  The three Leves contacted are all doubled and destroyed (I treat Skirmishers as "Others" for less than half outcomes i.e. destroyed, in DBA the Psiloi would flee on this result).  Pyrrhus, the Agema and the Elephant are slowly moving down the flank to get to the Roman Heavy Cavalry. I am not enjoying Pyrrhus being so far away from the rest of the army.  The pike group is still within range for it to cost only one PIP to move, but everything else is 2 PIPs. Units further than 1200p (12") from the general cost +1 per PIP to move.

Battlelines are close - a lone Epirot skirmisher is in the centre.

Turn 5
Romans advance and rout a Epirot skirmisher. Pyrrhus, Agema and Elephant finally contact Roman Heavy Cavalry.

Agema and Elephant contact the Roman Cavalry

My 5 year old taking a break from Lego to roll some dice.

Agema and Pyrrhus recoil (a 1-5 die roll) and the Elephants force a recoil.

The Agema, Elephant and Cavalry situation after melee.

The battlelines should meet next turn, they are very close now.

So close, next tun will be the clash.

Turn 6
Elephant destroys the opposing Roman Heavy Cavalry (a 6-1 die roll).  Agema and Heavy Cavalry locked in melee (tied).  Pike line moves into melee with Hastati.  Pikes are at combat value 5 as they are a spear unit with one spear in support (Nice and easy, no caveats for the support except not applicable in bad going.  I much prefer this).  Hastati are at 5.  The first roll was for the Hastati-Pike combat with the Hoplite as flank support:

The last picture with the left most Hastati in it.

My 3-year old son rolled a 6-1 in Epirot favour.

My 3 year old rolled the 6 and the 1 that eliminated the Hastati.  Blue = Epirot, red = Roman (Society of Ancients dice)

Hastati gone.  Was not expecting that.  This could be bad for the rest of the line...but just some recoils on both sides.

Battleline at end of turn 6.

Turn 7
One PIP for Romans. The Triarii was going to move into the flank of the Elephant until I remembered that in DBA/HOTT, elements turn to face on a flank/rear attack if not already contacted on the front.  Unlike all the other rules I have been playing recently.  Damn.  That tactic is not going to work. A Triarii element instead goes into the Agema flank, but Agema still outscores on the combat (with the Roman Heavy Cavalry).
Pikes went in and were recoiled.

Turn 8One PIP for Romans.  Nothing happened.
A pike element moves to the flank of a Hastati and it is destroyed in the subsequent combat.

Pike block has flanked a Hastati in centre that is not in the picture as is was destroyed

Elephant turns to hit the Roman Heavy Cavalry in the flank and it is outscored (due to combat with the Agema to the front) and is destroyed. It was worthwhile, even if the Elephant is likely to be routed by the Triarii next turn -  Romans have lost 11AP, and 13AP is half the total, so only 2AP to go. Epirot is on 1AP lost at the moment.

Elephant flanks Roman Heavy cavalry and destroys them.  Elephant is destroyed by Triarii next turn.
Turn 9-12
Triarii surround elephant and see is destroyed.  Otherwise, lots of positioning and recoils.  The Triarii face-off the Agema:

Triarii and Agema.  The general figures are markers for the units with the general.
But in the Epirot phase of turn 12, this:

A Principes protecting the flank of the line.

became this:

Epirot move up for a +5 to +3 attack.

And a 6-1 roll guaranteed the Principes was destroyed.  Agema recoiled.  The Romans have lost half their AP and have lost.

Overview at game end - Agema and Triarii bottom left.

It was OK.  I do prefer HOTT to DBA. DBA 3.0 may change my mind.  Their were a few tactical mistakes I made - I could have shifted some of the Principes in the second line up a lot earlier to lengthen the Hastati line and get overlaps.  This would have made a big difference to the battleline outcome.  I did not mind the restricted moves but it did slow the game down.  Ah well.  If I played again, I think I would go back to vanilla HOTT moves.  Had a good time but still do not love HOTT or DBA. Admire them and like them, but not love.  Plenty of other rules out there for me!