Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pompeians done.

Well, it can be done - even after all motivation seems to have been lost and all inspiration gone, something can for some mysterious reason click!  The quick pace was mainly due to the fact that all but 76 of these were already painted, and so most just needed touching up and bringing into line.

The basing is to allow 16 'average' units of 18 men for  Lost Battles. They will be matched for Civil War battles by Caesarians having 16 units of 'veteran' units of 12, with a few extras to top some up to 'average' size as needed for larger battles against a common foe.




Nice to have another army done.

The cavalry will be drawn from my Gauls, Republican Romans, Numidians and, once they are painted, my Greek/Eastern types.

I'm going to be away for a month after this and don't expect to be able to blog much in that time, so will probably see you all in November at some stage.

Until then, cheers, and many thanks for all the encouragement you chaps have provided as I try to get back into the swing of things again.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Outline of Bill Butler's Scutarii Rules

Scutarii 2nd Edition (2014) is a set of wargames rules for ancient battles written by William (Bill) Butler and published by Hoplite Research.



Disclaimer (or laying my cards on the table): I know Bill through the Lost Battles group, and when I heard that he had some rules coming out I offered to write up a battle report and post it here. Unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to put on a battle, but I thought I would do a quick outline of the rules in the meantime. The copy of the rules I have is the final play-test version, so there may be some changes between this and the published version.

Scale

One turn is equivalent to about 15 minutes, and when using 40mm frontage bases one inch on the table equates to 50 paces. Each base usually represents around 500 men, though this may go as low as 300 or as high as 600.

The game can be played using all figure scales and caters for the standard basing systems.

Unit classifications

Units can be in open or close order, and are classified by movement type (mounted, foot, naval), defense factor (based on armour), melee factor (based on weapons), missile factor (bow, sling or artillery), training (drilled, undrilled, fanatic and so on, rendered as a morale factor) and morale grade (elite, average, poor, Roman trained, which modify the melee factor).

A unit of triari might, for example, be classed as follows:

Move: 300 paces
Attack: 4
Defence: 6
Morale Factor: 10
Notes: drilled, elite

This means that the unit will move 6 inches, roll 4 d10 on attack, require enemy units to roll higher than 6 to score a hit on it, when fresh will successfully pass morale tests on a d10 score of 10 or less, can make formation changes, and will get a +1 on attack dice rolls.

Turn order

The turn order is fairly standard, though melee is simultaneous and conducted up to twice per turn. Morale checks are taken before movement, so this becomes an important consideration in deciding who will move first.


  • Initiative (decided by die roll or scenario rules). Winner decides whether to move first or second.


  • Army moving first conducts morale checks as needed.
  • Army moving first moves and conducts missile fire. Non-moving side conducts defensive fire.
  • Both sides resolve melee combat for units in contact with the enemy.

  • Army moving second conducts morale checks as needed.
  • Army moving second moves and conducts missile fire. Non-moving side conducts defensive fire.
  • Both sides resolve melee combat for units in contact.

  • Repeat the cycle.
Combat

In combat, units roll a number of d10s equal to their attack factor. Results higher than the target's defense factor cause a hit. As you might expect, there are modifiers that may apply here, either by adding or subtracting attack dice or by modifying the defense factor. Missile combat follows the same process but is less effective against some types of troops than others. For example, open order troops get a saving throw when hit.

When engaging multiple enemy units attack dice are apportioned as evenly as possible between those units.

Depending on the depth of the formation adopted, friendly units may be able to share out hits amongst troops behind the front line.

Roman units have certain advantages. They get a pila bonus when fighting other infantry, they are able to conduct line relief, and they do not get overlap bonuses against them. On the minus side, they may not distribute hits to the units behind.

Aside from usual outflanking tactics, key in-game tactics seems to be to get overlaps (ie, side support) against enemy units thereby allowing more dice to be brought to bear, and by exploiting disorganised units, which melee with only half their usual attack dice and cannot share out hits amongst other friendly units.

In defense, depth and mutually supporting units are rewarded.*

* Without playing the game it is difficult for me to properly assess combat, so I will need to return with more comments at a later time.

Morale

As units take hits or are put into stressful situations they will at various times be obliged to take morale tests against their morale factor. If the d10 score is higher than the morale factor, the test is failed. The morale factor is modified by various considerations such as the number of hits that the unit has taken, proximity to routers or, more positively, to a friendly commander.

A failed morale test causes a unit to become shaken or to rout immediately. If it fails a test while already shaken, the unit will certainly rout. Units do not recover from their shaken or routed state unless rallied by a general within 100 paces (20cms), and units may not recover hits, so a unit which has taken more hits than it has morale factor is destroyed.

In an interesting twist, units which score very low on their morale test can become enthusiastic. enthusiastic units, as the appellation suggests, have their blood up and are eager to get to grips to the enemy. This has both positive and negative aspects to it!

Disorganisation and recovery

As mentioned, disorganised units are far less effective in combat than fresh units. Disorganisation occurs as a result of being on bad terrain, being shaken, evading, being contacted by terrifying enemy or not charging and not making contact.

Units recover from disorganisation by remaining stationary and 100 paces or more fromenemy units.

Victory

An army wins by driving the other from the field or, where the field is shared, by a points system.

Units and formations

Most units will be comprised of four bases in double rank* of one base, but options exist for using more bases in a unit. The game supports some formations, but in most cases these will be open order or closed order.

* Thanks to the rules author for pointing out my error.

Points and scenarios

The game includes a points system and a number of scenarios for a few well known battles such as Bibracte and Asculum. There are no army lists, but the author includes suggestions on how to convert army lists from other rules systems.

Conclusion

These rules are for people who already know a reasonable amount about ancient warfare and who want a toolkit for devising their own scenarios for casual or convention play. The rules give scenario designers flexibility, support multi-player games, and with experience are said to play to conclusion in around three hours.

The interactions seem to be in line with those of other rule sets, with victory going to the side that can best exploit its advantages to wear down the enemy and then induce a final, contagious rout. Reports on the yahoo group suggest that turn order can be crucial as the game enters its final stages, and being able to force the enemy to test morale before one's own tests are due can make a big difference to the outcome of closely-fought contests.

My impression is that the rules come from a do-it-yourself mentality; that players who share this mentality will enjoy the rules and be able to use them to suit their own style of game; that if you want competition games and cast-iron interpretations this will probably not be the ruleset for you.

Regarding rules completeness, the play-test copy implies rather than spells out a couple of key points, namely how a unit is destroyed (the answer is by taking more hits than its morale factor and thus being unable to rally) and whether the d10 is valued at 0-9 or 1-10 (the answer is 1-10).

Given this, it is possible that other rules questions will come up during play, but Bill responds quickly and supports the game as best he can through the yahoo group and by email, so I don't think that gaps in the rules or errata will be much of a problem.

Availability

The rules can be bought in hardcopy from Lulu for US$30. At this stage they are not available in an e-publishing format.

In the US you can also order Scutarii from On Military Matters.

Support can be found on the yahoo group Domus Scutarii, where Bill will happily answer any questions you might have.

Want-to-play factor

I am keen to give these a go. All that I require is space, gaming motivation, an opponent and a duty free weekend!



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pompeians continue apace.

Am now a quarter of the way through the Pompeians (or, as required, the blue army). Still need to be flocked, obviously.



This is what's left to complete the blues. I hope to take advantage of my recent good run and get through them before I take off for NZ next week, but that may be a little optimistic. We'll have to see how the stocks of gin and soda water hold out!


And the Caesarians (or, as the case may be, the Red army) still to do. Pshaw! Almost finished ;-)


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Agreeable Clutter and Opportunistic Purchasing

The hobby table is still getting a bit of use and progress on the Caesarian & Pompeian hordes is being made. Nothing quite like painting clutter and the smell of thinner...



In other news, while picking up a pair of gifts for my brother and sister through The Book Depository I came across a couple of sets of rules, One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas and Dux Bellorum by Dan Mersey. Not quite sure what happened, but they seemed to find their way into the shopping cart as well.


Is this a prufrock thing or a wargamer thing? Do others go to buy a gift for someone else and end up with several purchases for yourselves as well? That sense that this is probably your only chance to get X, so get it now leads to, in myself at least, a certain opportunistic selfishness that I find almost impossible to resist.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Breaking the duck

Well, it's been a very long while, but I've actually got a bit of painting done. Nothing to get especially excited about, but it's a start.

These are from the first batch of my late Republican Romans made up of Old Glory figures bought some time ago already painted from a TMPer, touched up, with command figures from the Quick Reaction Force range added in, and (eventually) to be brought up to strength with a few more OG figures I'll paint myself.



As you can see, the effect is intended to be one of mass rather than of superbly skilled painting. I'd like to say that is by choice, but I must face facts: I'm more workman than artist!


They've been sitting in a box for a long time. This is what they looked like before:



There is actually quite a bit of work needed to get them ready for basing. They were roughly done originally, with most having some obvious flaw (eg, flesh not painted on the arms, bottom of the tunic not painted, cheek guards of the helmet flesh and so on), but with flaws different on each figure. Also the small details were not done (belts, boots, scabbards, sword handles etc) so to standardize them takes quite a lot of time spent checking, sorting and touching them up individually to make sure that they all end up looking similar enough to go in the same unit.

The good thing is that I don't have to worry about cleaning them up or undercoating them, so on the whole it was worth it getting them like this rather than starting completely from scratch.

And this is how many are left from the original batch.


It feels good to have made a (small) start on them!



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Alexander versus Hannibal

On TMP a while ago someone posited a what-if scenario pitting Hannibal's army from Cannae against Alexander's from Gaugamela.

Trebian from Wargaming for Grown-ups gamed out the battle using the AMW rules and I decided I'd like to try the same with Lost Battles.

The catch is that I don't really have the right cavalry or mercenary foot for Alexander's army, but I've decided that I may as well just do the battlet anyway. Who will really care if the Prodromoi are played by Thracian lights and the Companions are from another era? (don't answer that - it's a rhetorical question!)

I'm going to use Alexander's army as writ in Lost Battles, and have adjusted Hannibal's units to allow them to fit into a troop multiple of 6 rather than the multiple of 8 that is used at Cannae. In practice, this means that Hannibal's army gets three units more than it has in the Lost Battles roster for Cannae.

How do the forces stack up?  Let's take a look.

Both Alexander and Hannibal are 40,000 strong in infantry, but Hannibal has numerical superiority in the cavalry arm, fielding 10,000 to Alexander's 7,000.

Alexander has two units of Hypaspists, classed as veteran heavy infantry, and three units of foot companions, classed as average phalangites. The mercenary and Thracian foot become six units of average heavy infantry and the reluctant Greeks are classed as levy heavy infantry. The Agrianians and archers merge into one unit of veteran light infantry while the Cretans and Illyrians combine into one average unit.

The Thessalians and Companions become five units of veteran heavy cavalry, the Greeks Thracians and mercenaries make another average unit, and the Prodromoi and Paeonians make up a single unit of average light infantry.

Alexander joins the Companions as a brilliant leader and Parmenion controls the foot as an average commander.

Turning now to Hannibal, his Libyans are represented by five units of veteran heavy infantry, his Celts and Spanish by seven units of average heavy infantry, and his assorted light foot become two units of average light infantry.

The Spanish cavalry take the field as two units of veteran heavies, the Celts and remaining Spanish make up three units of average heavies and the Numidians provide two units of average lights (the cavalry numbers are a little fudged here - I've gone with three units of average heavy cavalry, but the third unit could equally well be classed as light cavalry).

Hasdrubal commands the cavalry as an average leader and Hannibal prowls the infantry line as a brilliant commander.

Both sides therefore have twelve units of heavy foot, two units of light foot and seven units of cavalry, with Hannibal fielding two as light cavalry to Alexander's one.

Both sides are exactly equal in fighting value with 94 points each. Hannibal has better quality in the infantry and Alexander the edge in cavalry.

My crystal ball tells me that Hannibal will deploy fairly symmetrically, as at Trebbia, whereas Alexander will refuse a flank and try to stack one wing.

It should be an almighty tussle!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A new approach to figures

This year has been pretty heavy going on the painting front. I really enjoy putting finished units and armies on the table, but I've not painted anything for months, and when I have sat down and tried to, I simply haven't been able to bring myself to put in the effort required.

I will, for example, pull out my three-quarters done Samnites and find I simply don't want to do the work. The paint jobs are uninspired, what I've done on the body armour looks shoddy, I hate to think about what approach to take for shields, there are areas that my block painting has missed, and the feeling that I'm not sure if I can get the figures looking as good as I want them to has become strangely insurmountable.

It's not usually my style to baulk at finishing figures off - starting them has always been more my problem - so I haven't been quite sure what to do.

And it's a similar story for all the other partly or nearly finished figures I have lying around - the 380 Caesarian Romans, the DBA Saxons, the extra cataphracts for Magnesia, the 6mm WWII armies, and a few other bits and pieces.

In short, as far as motivation and imagination go, I'm running on the smell of an oily rag.

Some of this stems from my last trip back to NZ, when it was brought home to me that I only have a limited time to make the most of work and self-improvement options, and spending the evenings locked away with a paint brush and mornings scouring the web for new figures is not a productive use of time and energy right at this moment.

So, what to do?

I want to be able to continue gaming, so it seems to me that the only thing for it is to send some of the things away to get painted.  I've found it hard to justify the expense in the past but I think that now it just has to be done.

To this end I've taken up a small extra job writing columns for a webzine and am going to use the income from that, and savings from halting all unnecessary hobby purchases, to pay to get the figures done.

Funnily enough I find it far easier putting together a 1000 word article than I do painting figures, so hopefully it will be a win-win situation.

Also, getting the bulk of the figures done professionally will ideally enable me to later attend to the partly-painted ones at my leisure and perhaps with a returning sense of enjoyment rather than a surfeit of subconscious guilt!

We'll see how it goes, anyway...




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