Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Games in the classroom II

With the Japanese school year winding up and my classes winding down I thought that rather than finish my elementary school lessons with the usual couple of review lessons I might instead try a board game. Over the last two weeks then I've been bringing in Settlers of Catan for the older kids, dividing their classes into four or five teams, and letting them play out a simplified version of the game.

We don't use the robber or development cards, and to make team play more interesting each student is given a role (harvester, trader or builder), and they must represent the team in that particular phase of the turn. To encourage greater participation all teams take turns gathering produce (i.e. roll dice one after another), then all teams trade in a plural session, then all teams build.

It has gone down really well, and it has been educational to see how the Japanese kids adapt to the situation.

Social dynamics in Japan are quite interesting, and this game stretches some of the children's ideas about co-operation and competition. While team members must co-operate with one another to understand the game, their roles within in, and their team's overall strategy, each team must also co-operate with other teams to a certain extent. But this co-operation of course is actually fuelled by self-interest, and once the kids see this underlying tension they start to get into the play and enjoy themselves. The division of labour allows students to try out different roles throughout the game session, and the role-playing itself subverts the normal pecking order in each class.

It has been nice to see the quiet kids, the shy kids and the no-one-expects-much-of-me-so-I'll-daydream-or-be-disruptive kids actively participating in an activity and having their contributions valued.

One particular kid who has had a bad year turned out to be the leader in his group and it was good for him and perhaps for his homeroom teacher to see that established patterns of behaviour can be changed by taking different approaches.

Anyway, it has been a worthwhile experiment - even if there was not always a great deal of English being used - and I think I'll try something similar again.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Basing: a question of style

This morning while doing the tedious if ultimately rewarding job of applying white glue and flock to another 24 bases of 15mm troops I started to give some idle thought to the question of why I have not changed my basing style in any noticeable way in ten years.

Now, I am an admirer of many types of basing (and a silent dismisser of some others), but my own basing falls somewhere on the wrong side of middling. It's not attractive, scenic or dramatic in the way that many schemes are, but (he says defensively) it's not just a coat of paint, either.

It's been suggested that adding some tufts and clumps would help improve my armies, and I have to say that I agree.

So why haven't I yet done anything about it?

Well, the main reason is that early on when getting into wargaming I saw examples of various wonderful basing schemes - dry-brushed groundcover topped with different shades of flock cunningly applied to give the impression of highlighting; others of clumps, stalks, water features; hedges, bushes, flowers; snow; desert flora and fauna; rocky vistas - that look magnificent individually, but mismatched when paired on the table with another beautifully based army that uses an entirely different approach.

I saw that both basing styles might be awe-inspiring on their own, but if they did not match on the table it would be all for nothing.

Right from the beginning then I plumped for boring, easily replicated uniformity over the brilliant and unique. I wanted my Iberians, Gauls, Numidians and so on to blend in seamlessly whether they were fighting by the side of my Romans or my Carthaginians, and I wanted them to look okay with Osaka Luke's armies as well.

To be sure, I had a few false starts (and some of my early armies still have a few white stones that glare rather balefully from their bases, but these are slowly falling off, and given a little more time will be nothing but a memory...), but once I found what I wanted I stuck to it.

The other reason I haven't done anything is that my time is limited (i.e., I am lazy), and to add tufts and clumps to the many hundreds of bases I would need to to keep things uniform seems like a lot of extra work.

So there we are. For better or worse, simplicity is here to stay for the near future.


The drying continues...


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Spare us, oh Lord

With reports of a horde of Vikings having landed nearby, the local thane has called out heathguard and villagers to stand against the northern menace.

Here they come!

The archers on the Saxon right are quickly overcome.


In the centre the marauders cross the stream, to be hit by a hail of javelins.


The Saxon left is also assailed.



But the first northmen across the stream, undaunted, charge into the shieldwall.


And the rest follow.


The fighting is furious, and the lines begin to waver on both sides.



It seems for a moment that the Vikings may have had enough.



But it is not so.


Instead, it is the Saxons who begin to give way.


The fighting on the Saxon right is vicious.


The line may hold...


But the Vikings have come too far to give up.


In the confusion they cut down the Saxon thane, and the battle is won.


With the route to the village now open, we avert our eyes from the Vikings' rapacious appetites, and prepare instead for Wales vs England in the rugby...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Board game frustration

Despite my recent spate of Middle Ages (and middle aged) book buying, I recently became sidetracked reading U.S. Grant's memoirs, and decided to set up the Battle of the Wilderness scenario from the highly regarded Grant Takes Command, a board game in the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series.

I actually have four games from this particular stable, but had never played any of them.

I set up the board, admired the pieces, consulted a few sources to work out the historical troop movements, and started to play.

Opening moves.

Well, to cut a long story short, I got through four activations and then packed it all in. The interest wasn't there.

And this is what happens all the time when I set up a board game. 

I don't quite know why it is, but playing board wargames against myself is just not all that much fun. It's not a nice thing to admit given the contents of my game room, but there it is. There are exceptions, but basically, the action doesn't seem important and it's not enjoyable. 

I love board games against other people, and I enjoy games over VASSAL, but repeated experiments have shown that no matter how interested I am in a topic, there is hardly a game in my collection that two or three nights set up on the hobby table with only myself for company will not make me want to put away. 

One always lives in hope that next time it will be different, or that an enthusiast will move in just down the road, but the become excited, set up, leave a couple of days, take down pattern has become so ingrained it's almost Pavlovian.

With a big and expensive move coming up later this year I suspect I'm going to have to do some thinking about whether all of these games are really worth hanging onto or not.

On the plus side, there's no such problem with my miniatures collection!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book infusion

Well, the holidays are over and we are back at work, but what a fine set of holidays it was. Some cracking weather, six games played, one umpired, and good family time as well.

Hobbywise there is some painting to do but for the moment I need to be getting my work face back on.

Fortunately, the Christmas period brought in some good reading material, which I will smuggle in to read on short breaks and at lunchtimes.

Wargaming books.

Two I'd been looking out for and one that was opportunistic. These were purchased from a chap on TMP, and were kindly brought over from the USA for me by a friend.



Charge has real nostalgia value for me; I still remember borrowing it from the public library as a kid, being awed by the battle reports, writing out various sections by hand, and buying coloured pins and a cork board to play games on of my own.

WRG books.



These two were purchased via Abe Books following a tip off from Mike of Satrap Miniatures blog. I've been wanting these for yonks and was very happy to find them in good condition and at a price I could justify to myself.

Ospreys and a history.



I'd grabbed these (mostly) for my 100 Years War project before I found the WRG books. I probably wouldn't have got so many of them if I'd done things the other way around, but these will be quite useful, so I'm glad things worked out as they did. I might have to look at picking up a couple more of Seward's offerings - this one is almost finished already!

So, time to hit the books...



Monday, January 9, 2017

Five minute Punic War rules.

A friend and ex-workmate now living in the States has been over here visiting friends and in-laws for the last couple of weeks and having a good catch up. As it happens, since he last left Japan he has become a genuine, card-carrying wargamer, and was thus eager to hook up for a game of something. We hastily arranged that he and whoever else was interested could come over to the school yesterday after classes finished and I would have something organised to play.

Everything was a bit last minute, and as I wasn't quite sure how many people might turn up I prepared an easily-expandable Naval Thunder game and also readied my Dark Age figures just in case Dux Bellorum seemed like a better fit.

Naturally, such prep as I had done all went out the window when the two who turned up announced a firm desire to play Romans against Carthaginians!

Being caught short, I had to come up with rules off the top of my head. This is what I went with.

GROWN SLIGHTLY BALD: five minute Punic War rules.


Turn order.


Dice for initiative. Both sides roll a d6. Highest score chooses who moves first this turn. Ties are won by the Carthaginian player.

Active player moves and/or fights, one unit at a time. Two units activate for free, but from the third unit onwards player must roll 1 or better on a d10 (faces read 0-9, not 1-10) to activate, with the number needed increasing by 1 for such subsequent successful activation. Units may only be activated once per turn. When an activation roll is failed, play passes to the other player.

And repeat.

Movement. 


Units move in unit-width increments (8cms for my 15mm figures). Heavy infantry move 1, medium infantry, elephants and light infantry 2, heavy cavalry 3, light cavalry 4. May pivot up to 45 degrees before moving an increment. Pivots greater than 45 degrees use up a full unit width of movement.

Light troops can pivot as much as they like with no penalty; elephants use up a unit width if they pivot at all.

Light troops can move through other friendly troops if there is room for them to move through fully, but cannot be moved through themselves except by other lights.

Light troops can disengage from melee (one unit width is used to about face, the rest to move away from the melee) but cannot shoot or melee again on that turn. Heavy cavalry can disengage from combat with infantry in the same way.

Units cannot disengage if they are sandwiched by attacks to front and rear, or on both flanks.

Units attacked in flank can turn to face on their turn if not already engaged to their front.

Hit points.


Units have 4 bases, each with 4 hit points (lights have 4 bases each worth 2 hit points). When a base is lost, roll for morale. On a 5 or 6 another base is removed (4,5,6 for last base or if fighting elephants). Elephants only have one base and only take 4 hits. When all bases are gone, a victory star is given to the enemy.

Shooting.


Only medium infantry and lights can shoot. Range is 1 unit width. Roll 2 dice, hitting on 6s. Must have line of sight, and distance is measured from centre front of unit. Lights may shoot before or after movement; light cavalry may pause  to shoot during movement and then continue movement.

Melee.


Units fight to their front, and only on their own turn.

Heavy infantry roll 4 dice.
Medium infantry, allied infantry, heavy cavalry roll 3 dice.
Light infantry and light cavalry roll 2 dice.
Elephants roll the same number of dice as their opponents.

Hits are scored on rolls as given below.



Flank attacks: units attacking flank or rear add 1 die; heavy cavalry add 2 dice.
Elephant terror: elephants that roll and hit on a 4 count that hit and get to roll it again as well.
Elephant rampage: when an elephant takes a hit, all units within 1 unit width must roll 1d6. On a 6, they also take a hit.

If playing again I would have heavy cavalry attacking heavy infantry in flank or rear also count 5s as a hit. 

Units which charge into melee and destroy their opponents immediately may use any remaining movement to contact and fight a second melee if desired.

Generals.


Both sides have one general, and generals must be attached to a unit. General adds 1 to melee rolls, but takes a 2d6 leader death test if his unit is hit, dying on a double 6. Only roll once per melee for leader death. A dead general counts as a victory star for the enemy. If a general's unit is destroyed while he is attached to it, the general is counted as killed as well.

Generals may 'teleport' to another unit in their army but may not add combat bonuses in the same turn they move.

Terrain.


Units in hills or woods or meleeing into hills or woods use 2 dice maximum, but add extra for flanking or generals as normal.

Victory.


When you have 50% of the enemy unit total in victory stars, you win.

Sample Armies.


Rome: 4 units heavy infantry, 4 units, allied infantry, 2 units light infantry, 2 units heavy cavalry, 1 general.

Carthage: 2 units heavy infantry, 3 units medium infantry, 2 units light infantry, 1 unit elephants, 2 units heavy cavalry, 1 unit light cavalry, 1 general.

Deployment.


Put a screen down the middle of the table (table for our 15mm game was 150cmx90cm). Players deploy their armies secretly, up to 1 foot in from their respective board edges. When armies are revealed, Carthaginian player may have two units swap places if desired.

The game.


Slightly confused deployments!

Early game.

Late game chaos - units everywhere mixed up!

Both players enjoyed themselves and it was very hard fought. Carthage pulled away from a 4-4 victory star deadlock to finally win 6-4 (7-4 in fact, because Rome lost her general as well in the concluding melee).

The rules relied heavily on concepts from Neil Thomas's and the Commands and Colors: Ancients rules, but with a couple of little Prufrockian touches too. For something dreamed up and explained on the spot in real time, I was quite proud of them!





Monday, January 2, 2017

Lost Battles campaign day with Luke

Just before New Year Luke U-S popped down from his fastness in Osaka for a day of Lost Battles (his accounts are here and here and should be read as more comprehensive than mine). A little three-battle campaign was on the cards, in which his successor state would combat mine in an attempt to wrest control of a certain neutral territory. Whoever controlled this territory (and its trade routes) after the third game would win the war.

Battle of the Uexine Plains, 286 BC.


In our opening engagement the Sarlukid king crushed the Aronaics with a classic open-flank envelopment. The Sarlukid lancers defeated mine and then turned inwards to catch the phalanx in the flank and inflict a major defeat.

The fight in the centre was extremely close, and it was mainly due to the inspirational leadership of Sarlukis I that the line held long enough for the horse to fall upon the Aronaic flank.

The Aronaic right wing attempts to hold off the charge of Sarlukis I.


It was clear that the Sarlukids had a distinct advantage in horse, and that their Indian elephants were superior to the Aronaic breeds. It was also noted that the Aronaic phalanx could be relied upon to fight well provided that its flanks were secure.

Basic scheme of the battle: Sarlukids red; Aronaics blue.

Aroxus River, 274 BC.


Having added Uexine to their burgeoning empire, the Sarlukids bent to the task of embedding their rule. For ten years there was peace, but the death of Sarlukis I in an eating contest saw his headstrong son Sarlukis II assume the throne and take war into Aronaic territory.

Induced to fight on unfriendly terrain, Sarlukis II met the Aronaic army on the Aroxus River. Facing much improved cavalry and on ground which protected the Aronaic flanks, Sarlukis was forced to rely upon the elephant corps and his personal bravery to combat the superior Aronaic phalanx. The elephants did terrible damage, but the guard infantry of Arochus III Philomater held firm, the centre drove off the enemy and turned onto the Sarlukid right, Sarlukis was killed at the head of his cavalry, and eventually the northerners gave way.

The scene just prior to the surrounded Sarlukid left giving way.


Although Arochus was victorious, his casualties were heavy.

The shape of the battle: Sarlukids top; Aronaics bottom.


Sarkid Corridor, 262 BC.


Pride and prejudice made further attempts on Uexine inevitable, but it was not until 262 BC that Arochus III was able to spare the troops and treasure required to renew the war.

As it was, the aging king was soon met by his Sarlukid counterpart, Dylachius I, and brought to battle in unseasonably dry and parched conditions. Dylachius had trained more elephants and entrusted command of the lancers to his brother Dymenes. For his part, Arochus recruited more light cavalry and left most of his elephants at home.

On the day of battle Dylachius deployed first out of his camp. Arochus was thus able to react to the Sarlukid dispositions and ensure parity or superiority in key areas of the line. The kings deployed opposite each other, Dylachius with his household cavalry, Arochus with his guard phalangites, and it was here that the battle would be most fiercely contested.

Deployment. Sarlukids top; Aronaics bottom.


Dymenes led the right wing, but although his cavalry force was large, he could not bring all his troops to bear at once. Opposing him was the Aronaic veteran cavalry who, being a smaller and more select force, could better utilise their fighting capacity.

View from the Sarlukid left.


The fighting when battle commenced was again furious. The Indian elephants gave the advantage to the Sarlukids initially, but once the Aronaic veteran cavalry overcame Dymenes the battle swung in favour of Arochus. Dust and confusion allowed timely retreats and also concealed the progress of the Aronaic cavalry towards the enemy camp until it was almost too late. Seeing the banners of the enemy approaching, Dylachius himself was forced to come out of the front line (which he had been heroically propping up with successful rallies) to fend off the attack, but his troops were swept away - and him with them - to decide the affair.

Again, the Sarlukid elephants almost did enough to win the day, but the defeat of Dymenes, an unexpected breakdown in Sarlukid morale and the vagaries of the weather were too much to overcome.

It is said that after the third battle an agreement between the two kings granted the Aronaics the province of Uexine in return for the recipe for a particularly good beer. Peace was declared in perpetuity, and the result was a happy one for all concerned.

Many thanks to Luke for a great day of gaming. The battles were all incredibly close and both sides were often just a bad morale roll away from disaster, right up until the final decisive attack. Luke's play is always strong but in trying to find ways to counteract my phalanx (which was very effective in all three battles, elephant worries notwithstanding) he perhaps overly weakened his cavalry arm in the final battle, which meant he did not quite have the quality in horse he needed to carry the flank and ensure the win. His use of Indian elephants was impeccable, and I lost count of the number of times they caused double hits on my poor phalangites. Something for me to learn from there, I think. I was jittery all day after the mauling my personal morale took in the first game, and it never quite recovered. I'm still seeing those elephants in my sleep, just about!

It was a fantastic way to finish the hobby year, and I was quite pleasantly worn out by the end of it. Luke is shifting to a more spacious house in the near future, so our next game will hopefully take place in a new, shiny and fully equipped wargaming den!

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