Sunday, October 25, 2015

30 games in 30 days - game 30 in detail and reflection

This is game 30! 30 days ago I set out to play 30 ancient games in 30 days using my own small table fast play rules to test out a programmed opponent.  A few more details at this introductory post.
Game 1 to 5 here.
Games 6 to 12 here.
Game 13 to 18 here.
Games 19 to 23 here.
Game 24 to 29 here.

The other games are a bit of a dry read, just highlighting start and end with some notes on lessons learnt.  This game 30 report is different - a decent battle report and a focus on how the programmed opponent works. but is is very long with lots of detail.

You would think I would be relieved to finish but not really - it was gaming and did not take *that* much effort, and so it is more like the passing of something interesting.  There are lots of other projects to keep me going!

Game 30  Early Britain Vs Early Imperial Rome  (Day 30 - Sunday)
At last I can get out the early Imperial Rome figures I thought I was going to use back in Game 1.  I acquired this DBM army  about 3 years ago and have not managed to get around to using them.  So at least a few of them will get out of the cupboard for a little while.


I will briefly go through the deployment.  I have written a ugly spreadsheet that automatically generates each side and their deployment. Just hit the button and this is was is generated.

I have noticed another error in that the Roman Auxiliary Archers should have a Combat value of 1, not 2.  Another error in the army list spreadsheet to fix.

The top is the units for each army and the overall army tactics that influences deployment.

Unit types
Aux Chariot = Medium Chariot
Aux Cavalry = Heavy Cavalry
Bat Inf = Heavy Infantry
Aux Inf = Medium/Peltast infantry
Sk anything - Skirmishers

At this scale of the game, slings act like bows and so that is why the Slingers have "bow" next to them.  The army lists don't differentiate between slings and bows, other than the name of the unit type. One day I may fix this...

The one pager also shows the army command rating (0 to 2, the default being 0). Both at r+1 meaning the general has a greater command distance, and each side is a little harder to break.

In thee army tactics case, the British have Envelop Flanks and the Romans have Centre. From the rules:

Envelop flanks
Attack with both flanks at high speed while holding the centre.

Deployment guidelines
40% in the centre
30% on each flank

Initial zone orders
Centre: Probe (optionally Wait on a die roll of 5-6)
Flanks: Attack

For armies with less than 11 units, may optionally decrease the centre to 20-30% and fill flanks equally (die roll of 1-4).

The army’s faster units, e.g. mounted, should be deployed on the flanks.

Attack with the centre units with the aim to break the enemy’s centre.  Flank units are held back to protect the forward flanks of the centre units.  Centre will advance at high speed.  Flanks advance and only engage to protect the centre.

Deployment guidelines
60% in centre including over two-thirds of non-light units and a skirmish screen (if available)
20% on each flank

Initial zone orders
Centre: Attack
Flanks: Probe

For armies with less than 11 units, may optionally not fill a flank with units (die roll of 1-2) and put all on the major flank (non-terrain side if there is one).

Setting up for battle
The defender chooses a table edge to deploy and the terrain is randomly determined based on the defender's terrain type.  The attacker moves first.

The bottom left of the random game sheet is the table split into 9 squares.  There is a stream (the == ) that has a 1 in 6 chance of appearing.

The 2'x2' table in the map drawer. British will deploy on the left, Romans on the right.

The bottom right is the deployment options with the Attacker (A) and Defender (D) deployment zone and the percentage of units in each grid square (%) as per the army tactics.  It also has the initial zone order (listed next in order of most aggressive to least) - Rush (R), Attack (A), Probe (P), Wait (W), Hold (H), Delay (D). Or  It also shows if the general in the zone is cautious (c) or rash (r).  Cautious generals are more likely to go to less risky orders, while rash generals will tend to increase to more aggressive orders. There is about a 1/12 chance per turn of a zone changing orders.  However, no cautious or rash generals were generated (about a 1 in 6 chance for each deployment zone)..

Besides the army tactics description there are some general guidelines for where to place units but at this stage it is really up to the player to place units subject to the constraints of the army tactics.

There is no process to deploy a specific unit into a specific place.  It could be done specifically on a army by army basis, using the army tactics as a guide but that is a lot of work!  I may do it sometime for some of my favourite armies (emphasis on the *may*).

British deployment
14 units equates to about 4 on each flank and 6 in the centre. With envelop flanks I will have each flank with 1 Aux Chariot (Medium chariot), 1 Skirmisher Cavalry, a warband and a skirmisher.  I will put the general attribute (who should be placed in an attacking square) on the left flank on the warband as I have a general unit I have not used for awhile. The rest go into the centre.  The fanatics will go closer to the general, just to make that half of the deployment a bit stronger.
The +1 command means they can deploy in 4 groups but their is not much reason to do so with the heavier units so the 2 unit skirmish line in the centre is the 4th group.
Note that the warband units are all 3 figures to a base (like DBM Warband(O)) but my rules recommend 4 to a base.  It does not really matter, and I have not got these 3 figures to a base warbands out in this 30 game series.

The British deployed.

Roman deployment
The Romans only have a few units compared to the British but with a centre attack they still have enough frontage to cover three squares, with only really 1 unit in each of the flanks.  So I place the Aux Cavalry on the right flank with the auxiliaries next to them, the four legionaries in the centre and the archers and Light auxiliaries on the left centre and left flank.  Again, I could deploy in 4 groups but do not.  Legionaries are drilled so can wheel and move and so do not really need the smaller groups for manoeuvre.  The centre goes in front of the Woods as it is not a great place for them to be in.

The Romans deployed

Zone orders
In this game, there are only two starting zone orders - (A) Attack and (P) Probe for each deployment square.  Again, from the rules:


Applies to all units except does not need to apply to a reserve that is not under distinct turn orders. 
  • Impetuous and non-bow shock troops must charge, otherwise advance towards the enemy. Units with general or disciplined may roll mandatory charge.
  • Non-missile armed units must charge if within 4cm into a favourable melee; otherwise advance to within 4cm of the enemy if against a favourable combat possibility; or full distance if end 4cm or further; or to 4cm if cannot get within 4cm or unfavourable combat.
  • Missile units and skirmishers attempt to advance to within range of enemy or fire if in range.  Missile units will charge if within 4cm (8cm shock missile) into favourable melees.


  • Impetuous troops must charge but must roll for mandatory charge, otherwise advance at least ½ towards the enemy the enemy.
  • Non-bow shock act as non-missile units with Attack zone orders.
  • Other Non-missile armed units otherwise advance to within 4cm of the enemy if within 8cm else advance to  greater than 8cm from enemy if greater than 8cm from enemy..
  • Missile units and skirmishers advance to within range of enemy or fire if in range; battle infantry charge into favourable melees within 4cm.
Probe is similar to Attack except that probe is a little more cautionary.

Note there are some guidelines that may limit a unit advances such as they can advance to support other units, may stay together to advance as a line, limit advance to not overshoot main attack zone etc.

The table with the deployed armies

Playing the game
Possible change in zone orders is optional.  I am still uncertain of it value add to the game.  I am leaning to not using it anymore in my games but have been using it to playtest so will do so for this game.  While rolling each zone as groups activate would lend some uncertainty, I so each sides three zones all at once.  No change of orders (there is roughly a 1 in 12 chance per zone per turn)

Game starts with the group on the attacker's - Roman's in this case - right. The Romans will try and smash the centre while delaying the flanks.  The Romans are unlikely to win on the flanks so the best they can hope for it\s to tie the flanks up.

The British have a zone order change for the centre zone from PROBE to HOLD.  In this case, HOLD slows down the centre advance to a maximum of 1/2 speed.  Not so bad.

The flanks advance as fast as they can and split off the skirmishers to operate independently.

After the Romans and then the British turn.

Romans continue the advance but on the left flank, with an exchange of missiles, manage to make the skirmish cavalry retreat.

British skirmisher retreats behind the rise after losing the missile contest with the slingers. The grey javelins indicate disorder.

The British turn sees their right flank orders change from ATTACK to RUSH (rush is advance as fast as possible and engage in melee where possible) that is what they do.

The reamining British right flank charge in and force the Romans to retreat.

Chariots have the up hill advantage and both the auxiliaries retreat.  The chariot does not pursue (rolled badly here).

On the British left flank, the chariots engage the cavalry.

The British left flank melee sees only disorder on both sides

Both are disordered (they have equal combat values).

Skirmish cavalry moves to the rear.  Not sure what it can do other than fire into the rear of the legionaries.

The Roman turn and they continue to advance the centre.

Right flank Roman cavalry rills a 6 that destroys the opposing British chariot.

The Roman cavalry rout the British chariot.

They pursue in the skirmishers that fire and then retreat through the warband, cavalry continues and in the subsequent melee the warband with the general retreats (Cavalry rolled a 6).  This also requires a general check but he is OK. Cavalry pursue again but they roll a 1 and retreat and are destroyed (previously the cavalry was supported by the Auxilia but after pursuit was not and so could suffer a bad result from a 1, which they did). Warband pursues but not enough to reach the Auxilia.
Note all of the above is generated by the reactions in the rules and die rolls.

Cavalry end up in combat with the British warlord

Roman centre charges the skirmishers, who fire for no effect, and retreat.

Legionary batteline advances to be very close

Three legionary units continue to advance (the 4th was not fired on and so dies not react).  Good rolling for the Romans sees 1 warband routed, the rest disordered.  The warband will be at a disadvantage next melee as they will not get the shock bonus.

Ancient battlelines clash :-) and one warband routed. 

It is here I stop worrying about zone orders and just play the best I can as most will be driven by reaction and local situation.

The British right flanks charges in off the rise.

The British right flank charge into the Auxilia again, and rout them both

Both disordered Auxilia are routed by the charging chariot, the latter also pursues.

The British Chariot pursues the routed Romans

The centre sees one warband routed, the general pursues, the skirmisher takes a shot for no effect.

Another warband routed and the general pursues.

British general charges into the Auxilia  but both disordered and melee continuation.

The British warlord charges the Auxiliaries and both are disordered.

In the centre, combat sees off the fanatics, and the other legionary unit finally gets to move into battle and routs the warband.

The blue shields advance into combat with the last warband and routs them.
This causes the British to reach their army breakpoint and they lose.  The Romans had lost 4 points (8 required to break the Romans).

The flanks were won by the British, but they lost completely in the centre and this was enough to see them lose.

End game.  Romans won.  The remaining Romans are circled.

Lessons (for this game)
I note in general that any woods generated always ends up on a deployment edge and not in the flank middle zone.  For warband armies, they would possibly choose an edge that allows them to advance into the woods where they have a combat advantage.  I will need to change the programmed opponent deployment rules for defender selection for warband armies that will select a defensive edge that is more likely to puts woods (if existing) in the centre three zones.  I am not going to playtest how well it works for warband armies to fight with woods on the table- I will wait for some historical battles to test combat in woods.  I have previously tested warbands fighting in woods and that was fine.

Lessons (for the 30 games)
I really enjoyed the play-testing. The rules hang together very well (my opinion of course!).  I cannot see much change to them in the future.  I do need to think about play-testing them for the period after 1000AD.  I do want to write some extended designer notes and also how to convert army lists from other rules. One day I may even convert the ugly spreadsheet into a database driven form solution (don't hold your breadth - I likely have spent hundreds of hours over the last 4 years on the excel spreadsheet and I can imagine it may be one hundred hours required to learn Access/Calc to implement).

I will do a last pass through the rules, tidy them up a little and move them from draft to a final version.  Not saying there will be changes in the future, but not for a while.

30 games in 30 days.  I think there were three days I did not play a game, and therefore three days I played two.  Although this is not strictly true, as about 25 of the games were not played in one sitting and so some carried over to the next day. Even though each game is about 30 minutes to play, most times it would be 5 or 10 mins here and there in an evening, and sometime a few minutes in the morning.  This did mean I missed taking some pictures, particularly around games 15-18 where I simply forgot to take pictures - I would deploy and then go off to make dinner or whatever.

I managed to get into a groove with the system of packing up the figures, putting them away and getting out the new ones, deploying, then playing the game and cycling back.  The stuff outside the actual playing I got down to about 30 minutes (setup and putting away, taking pictures, writing up some notes, looking up some references - especially for the Early medieval armies that are not very familiar to me).  What this means is that I found at least 30 hours in 30 days to do some wargaming.  Some stuff did slide - I have some blogs and emails to catch up on, housework and garden work suffered.  Time with my wife, Children time, socialising, my TV shows etc. did not slide at all.  So I can see where gaming fits into my priorities!  What I have learnt is I need to not procrastinate and play some of the Peter Side's ancient scenarios and other games I have wanted to play.  I should be able to manage one a week but more likely one a fortnight. so years of more gaming to come!

Revised rules timeline
Revised rules will be up within the week and the expanded army lists at the same time or maybe up to a week after.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

30 games in 30 days - games 24 to 29

Attempting to play 30 ancient games in 30 days using my own small table fast play rules to test out a programmed opponent.  A few more details at this introductory post.
Game 1 to 5 here.
Games 6 to 12 here.
Game 13 to 18 here.
Games 19 to 23 here.

Note this may be a bit of a dry read - there are only few pictures of each game and a lot of the text is about playtesting lessons learnt.

Game 24  Spanish/Italian Goths Vs Late Goths  (Day 24 - Monday)

Later Goths Vs Spanish Goths

Near end game, both sides are one unit from breaking and the Spanish goths have the edge.  The lone Spanish foot troops charges the remaining disordered warband in the centre.  So long as he does not roll a 1, all will be fine.  Rolls a 1 and retreats onto the steep hill.  Warband pursues - warbands are slightly better in rough and so long as a 6 is not rolled, the melee will continue. Warbands rolls a 6 and and the Spanish Goths units is routed and the Spanish Goths lose.   That 1 in 36 chance.

Warband on the left that eventually routs the Spanish Goth foot on the right.

Later Goths won in a close game.

Another great game!  Full of tension.  The Later goths won their right flank but lost the left flank.  this was predictable from the deployment.  but the skirmishers in the middle managed to rout 3 of the Warbands.  Quite incredible.  Very unlikely and it requires lots of 1s, that the later Goths rolled. So rare.  The breakpoints for both armies are quite different (due the the Later Goths high army command value and larger number of poorer units.

None but I have forgotten to mention that in reality I only roll for possible changes to zone order for about the first 3 turns.  Once the zones are in melee, zone orders don't mean much.  Zone orders are really important for the first 2-3 turns but not much after that. Possible changes to zone orders is optional anyway and I may drop it for the games I play as it is extra rolls per turn for only a little narrative benefit.  Not moving it already covered by having to roll for movement.  Strangely enough, the WRG 7th rules that the orders are derived from also have zone orders not applying after 3 turns too, and likely for similar reasons.

Game 25  Spanish/Italian Goths Vs Lombards  (Day 26 - Wednesday)

The list for the Spanish/Italian Goths may need to be split between Spanish and Italian.  I have not changed it and it really needs more research.
The rise in the centre will not be placed as the stream runs though it (I have not done the excel formulas required to remove terrain from squares with a stream).

I started the game and realised I had not taken a picture but did take one after turn 1

Spanish Goths (left) Vs Lombards after turn 1 for each side

Lombards walk over the Goths
Each side won the cavalry dominant flank.  The Lombards did their flank faster, and cleaned up the centre as well.  this left them free to move over to the other flank and rout a unit to win the game.  The Goths only managed to rout one of the Lombard cavalry units.  They (ok, me) should have redeployed some of the cavalry on their right flank earlier than I did.

Game 26  Celts Vs Early German  (Day 26 - Wednesday)

Light warbands Vs heavy warbands, With same orders.  The trick will be for the Gauls to get local superiority over the Germans to get the +1 advantage.  It will be a bit of a slogging match  I think.

Celts (left) Vs Germans (right)

The Celtic general that I have wanted to get onto the table for awhile.

end game
Germans won but it a close thing.

Game 27  Later Imperial Romans Vs Vandals  (Day 27/28 - Thursday/Friday)

Another game where I forget to take a picture at the start and so the first picture is after the first Roman turn.

Rome (left) Vs Vandals after Roman first move

End game with a Vandal victory.
Vandals won.  The Roman right flank was ineffective and just could not engage as fast as the Vandal right flank.  I tried putting the Auxilia in front on the Legionaries to disrupt the Vandal Heavy Cavalry and this worked - two Vandal cavalry were routed in the centre. 

My 8yo daughter helped me roll some dice.  So here is the picture to prove it and the mapdrawers I am playing the game in.  Three other drawers have games setup in them, and many other drawers have gaming stuff.

The map drawers, the game and the helpful 8yo daughter.

Game 28  Sea PeoplesVs New Kingdom Egyptian  (Day 28 - Friday)
Skirmisher should not be impetuous - error in the lists.

New Kingdom Egyptians (left) Vs Sea Peoples (right)

Sea Peoples won
Sea Peoples won.  The Egyptians did not use the chariots effectively.  I keep forgetting that ancient near east infantry is not the same quality as later units - the archers are 1 less combat value.  It was still a close game.  The Egyptians lost their general that caused them to lose.  It could have gone either way, although the Sea Peoples had won the centre clash.

Game 29  Early Roman Vs Gaul  (Day 29 - Saturday)

Celts (left) Vs Early republican Roman (right)

Celts won, despite losing their general.
The Gauls won, despite the Gallic general fell in the centre.  The two generals met in the centre.  A lot of the Gallic army was disordered as a result and a few routed.  The Gauls just kept rolling really well and all the two-on-one combats took their toll on the Romans and they were defeated.

Thoughts near the end
Well, another week another seven games.  I had a head cold most of this week but it did not slow me down,although at game 24 I did have a brief moment when I was ready to give it all up.  Then I got better. I am one away from achieving 30 games in 30 days.  The last game -game 30 - I will write up as a decent battle report with some highlighting on how the programmed opponent works.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

30 games in 30 days - games 19 to 23

Attempting to play 30 ancient games in 30 days using my own small table fast play rules to test out a programmed opponent.  A few more details at this introductory post.  Game 1 to 5 are here; Games 6 to 12 are here. Game 13 to 18 here.

Note this may be a bit of a dry read - there are only few pictures of each game and a lot of the text is about playtesting lessons learnt.

Game 19  Visigoths Vs Late Romans  (Day 20 - Thursday)

Romans 9left)  Vs Visigoths (right)
Not that happy with the deployment but could not think of a much better one.   There are a lot of skirmishers on the roman side.  I did a few more random force generation with them.  The first one had 1 foot skirmishers.  I think it was just an extreme randomisation to get 5 foot skirmishers.

End positions - Visigoths won by breaking the roman centre.
Well, the Visigoths managed to fairly easily beat the Romans by routing the centre.  The high fortitude warbands charged into the roman line and beat them.  Not their forefathers Romans!  Even though the Romans are armed with bows, they did use them effectively, so it was my fault they lost by not playing with their strengths.

Game 20 - Picts Vs Later Britain/Gaul (Day 21/22 - Friday/Saturday)

British (left) Vs Picts (right)

Centre much reduced of units.

British cavalry cleaned up the Pict left flank.

British wins, just at game end.
A bit of a slogging match - the two lines of infantry warriors have the same CV, and so did the cavalry against the other infantry warriors on the Pict left flank (post first clash).  So there was a few rounds of melee where no much happened, then a string of 6's saw the British centre break, and a string of 1's saw the Picts break. However, the Pictish general rolled a 1 in melee, signifying a leader killed check.  Subsequent roll of a 1 sees the general killed and the Pict army break.  It was another close game as the British were 2 units away from breaking as well.

Game 21 - Ptolemaic Vs Early Selucid (Day 22 - Saturday)

Attacker randomises terrain (based on Defender's terrain type), Defender chooses board edge to deploy and attacker moved first. Deployment is simultaneous and hidden from each side (a little irrelevant for solo play).  The programmed opponent takes care of all of this for you.  If both sides are defenders and so will not really attack one another, the attackers tactics become centre attack, as shown above.

Interesting deployment - almost a mirror image.  The Selucid better fortitude phalanxes and better army command has led to them having less other units.  It will be interesting to see how the game goes.

Selucids (left) Vs Ptolemaic (right)

The generals got locked into combat early on and stayed this way for the entire game (about 6 melees).

Generals in combat from turn 1 on.

Never have I seen so many 1's!  The Ptolemaic army rolled a 1 just about every time they were in melee.  This disordered them and subsequently routed them, and 4 units later they reached their breakpoint.  The Selucids lost some skirmishers and that was it.

End game. Selucid win due to Ptolemaic string of bad dice rolls.

Game 22 - Republican Rome Vs Later Carthage (Day 22/23 - Saturday/Sunday)

Six units for the Romans - the smallest force yet.  But with an army command of +2, it requires the Carthaginians to rout most of them.
Also noticed that I have previously made Triarii drilled (may wheel and move) but it is not showing up on this list.  Fixed it here and for other drilled troops.

Carthaginians (left) Vs Romans (right)
First zone order roll sees the entire Roman force go on the attack and rush for the centre.  No good as this will force them to advance quickly to engage, rather than advancing with the centre and protecting the flanks.  Luckily  the next turn they roll and are less excited - back to start orders.

Romans win, just.
Interesting battle. a close game that the Romans won, themselves only one unit from breaking. The legions won in the centre against the Libyans, but then the Carthaginian Veterans rolled up the centre legions.  finally the citizen infantry succumbed to the Triarii and the game was won by the Romans.  While I thought it would be hard for the Romans, quality does count a lot in the game (as designed).

Game 23 - Archemenid Persia Vs Lydian (Day 23 - Sunday)
I have caught up and now back on track - game 23 on the 23rd day.

Persia (left) Vs Lydia (right)

The unlucky Lydian general - a great move but unlucky and killed.
So unlucky!  Lydian General attacks the end unit of the battleline (ignoring the peltasts as they are unlikely to do much damage to the general unit).  It is Combat value 2 + 1(high fortitude) +2 Gerneral) +2 hock impact) - 1 single unit = 6 Vs 3 for the Sparabara. so a difference of 3.  Rolls a 1, gernal killed check - rolls a 1 - killed.  first combat of the game, General gone already!  so the unit survives, the the general ability is gone and each unit undergoes a morale check.

Lydians lose.
It was going to be hard for Lydia with te general gone.  And in fact they lost and Persia lost no units.  Losing a general early on hinders being able to move units and concentration of effort (the general's +2 bonus). The Lydians never recovered and the Persians controlled the game..

Really enjoying these battles and the rules are holding up very well.  I think so I far I have made 2 minor changes to the rules (last time was Game 7) and a few tweaks to the programmed opponent.  Hopefully after the last 8 games the rules can be considered by me stable and won't require much, if any, change from here on in. i feel a bit more confident reaching 30 games in 30 days.  Game 23 was on day 23 and the next 8 days are not very busy (yet!).