Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, February 27, 2017

Messing about with hoplites and legionaries

Following a recent discussion on the Lost Battles yahoo group I've spent the last week or so with a test game set up in the hobby room pitting the Spartan army of 2nd Coronea against the Roman legions from the battle of Sentinum.

The hypothesis on the yahoo group (advanced by Patrick Waterson) was that the hoplite system as represented in Lost Battles is actually tactically superior to the legionary system in the same.

It's just the kind of 'how many angels can fit on the head of a pin' wargaming argument that rings my bell, so I've been enjoying exploring it on the table.

I won't bore readers with details, but as hoplites can use depth to greater effect and  legionaries have greater staying power, the answer, unsurprisingly, is that any such clash would depend on the terrain and the exact composition of the armies.

In the real world no such clash of systems occurred, but in my hypothetical battles the Greeks won three out of four despite having a lower fighting value. Veteran hoplites tended to chew through the legionaries very quickly, but where average quality hoplites were fighting average quality legionaries, the Roman cavalry generally had enough time to outflank the Greeks and gain the advantage.

It was another interesting Lost Battles experiment and, incidentally, the first chance I've had to field my Xyston hoplites.

'Hoplites, Sah. A few dozen of 'em!'

Diceless variant by Patrick Waterson - requiring lots of note-keeping and markers.

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...

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