Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, March 1, 2021

Pharsalus with Table Battles

Plans to play Triumph have not yet come to fruition, but in an effort to get a game or two in I decided to try the card, dice and sticks game Table Battles by Tom Russell, using figures in place of sticks to give a better sense of the battle.

Pharsalus seemed the obvious choice: I have the figures ready to hand and it is a battle I know well and always enjoy.

Game 1:

Pompey (pink and red cards) comes out of the blocks hard. Caesar (blue and light blue cards) is not able to get his fourth line into action and Pompey bursts through Antony to claim the victory.

Game 2: 

Pompey takes the initiative and never gives it up. Antony and the Cilicians mutually self destruct before Metellus Scipio wins in the centre. 

Game 3:

Some Story. Scipio breaks through in the centre. Battle over. By now I was starting to wonder if Caesar would ever win this. 

Game 4:

Pompey gets a little cocky: Labienus over-commits on attack and cleans up Caesar's cavalry, bringing the fourth line into play. Big mistake. It's close - Antony is almost knocked over again by the Cilicians - but it's a first win for Caesar.

Game 5:

A vicious fight. The fourth line is involved again but it's the infantry cleaning out the entire Pompeian line that wins it for Caesar. 

Game 6:

Pompey is back to winning ways. Caesar brings up the fourth line a touch too soon, which gives Pompey the opportunity to cease initiative, maintain pressure and defeat Caesar's command. 

Game 7:

In the least satisfying game so far Caesar wins again, this time because Pompey has no enemy left that he can legally attack. The troops left on the board (remember, Pompey is the red and pink cards) show what a travesty this result is!

So there we are. Seven games of Pharsalus, four to Pompey and three to Caesar. It's certainly possible to win with both sides once you get the flow of the battle, but if Pompey just concentrates on attacking with his infantry and screening (rather than attacking) with his cavalry (and gets the dice to allow this strategy), he stands a pretty good show of winning. Each Caesarian infantry command is worth two victory points, and running over one will win Pompey the game if Caesar hasn't been able to claim a point himself already.

Not all Table Battle scenarios are equal, and I got put off the game a bit after engaging with a disappointing Granicus scenario from the Alexander expansion which plays nothing like the historical battle and (as far as I can see) is almost unlosable for the Persians if they follow a particular strategy. The figures here though helped with the visuals and atmosphere and the scenario was interesting enough to make me want to keep playing. In so doing I found myself coming round to liking the game again.

All games were played solo, each taking about five to ten minutes from start to finish. It turned out to be an enjoyable way to spend a lazy rainy Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Triumph: Rules for Tabletop Battles Ancient and Medieval

Local wargamer Roundie has been generating some interest in the Washington Grand Company's DBA um, 'tribute', rules set, Triumph. I haven't been able to attend any of the game days/nights myself yet due to a busy social schedule (i.e., work), but I hope to get along at some point. In preparation, I made a visit to Wargame Vault and picked up a PDF copy. 

The DBA derivation is obvious, but while I do not know DBA well enough to be classed as anything more than a raw amateur, I do feel that there are enough changes in Triumph to take it from being merely DBA 4.0 into a game its own. 

For one thing, the troop type categories are more nuanced, and for another the introduction of a points system and battle cards allows armies of different sized forces to fight, and neatly introduces some strategems and augmented troop abilities. 

The terrain generation system and board sizes also bring something new to the table (quite literally), and even though it still uses the devil's own battle method (yes, that's you, opposed die rolls), I am determined to at least give the rules a chance. I haven't played wargames competitively since the old Commands & Colors: Ancients online VASSAL tournaments, and would like to see if I could get up to speed with these.

At any rate, it will be a good excuse to get off my backside, join in with some of the local gaming events, and perhaps even paint up a few more figures. We shall see!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Gettysburg, the first day.

Heth roars down the pike and deploys to assault Buford and his cavalry. I Corps arrives on Buford's right to offer support.

Heth moves to the left; Pender comes up on the right. The artillery commands the centre. The cavalry pull back to shorten the line and protect flanks while the rest of I Corps marches to the scene.

Pender assaults. Buford is quickly under immense pressure, but is unable to find the right time to pull back.

Heth continues to advance against I Corps. There are minor casualties on both sides.

Casualties may be light, but the Union position is being squeezed like a ripe cucumber.

Reynolds commences bringing up troops in force. Heth loses two brigades in the fight. Does Buford take this chance to pull back, or does he hold? 

He cannot safely pull back without exposing Reynold's flank, so he waits.

Rodes appears to heap more pressure on the Union line. 

XI Corps marches into Gettysburg. I Corps is readying itself to retreat to Seminary Ridge. 

The scene in the vicinity of the town. Rodes' flank is exposed. He will shortly move back to less dangerous ground.

It is time for Buford to pull out...

But he has left it too late. Waves of attack from Pender and Heth destroy his command.

Early advances onto Rodes's flank.

The Union position is imperilled. Rodes and Early have fixed XI Corps in position. Heth and Pender can choose where to strike on Seminary Ridge, while Early can move to outflank Howard's XI Corps if he wishes.

Heth and Pender attack the left of the Union line, with some success. Once again, the men wearing blue are being squeezed into a dangerously narrow area. 

Early extends his line to threaten the right of Howard's position in Gettysburg.

XII Corps marches onto the battlefield, up the Baltimore Pike towards Cemetery Hill. 

Heth crosses Seminary Ridge and drives in on Gettysburg itself. It is Union I Corps now in danger of being crushed. Casualties in this area are heavy.

But the lesson of Buford's destruction has been learned, and Reynolds pulls his men back as soon as opportunity allows. It is now Heth who risks being outflanked. 

The situation in the town is precarious. A determined push from Early would see the troops there trapped in the town but his troops are exhausted.

Anderson arrives too late to have any affect on the day's fighting.

Night falls with Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill safe for the Union, but only just.


This playthrough for the first day turned out to be a draw, but the board tells us that if the battle were to continue again tomorrow with the troops in their current positions, the Union would be at risk of catastrophic defeat.  As it was, the Confederates took 5700 casualties (19 strength points lost), mostly from Heth's division, while the Union took 7800 casualties (26 strength points lost), mainly from Buford's cavalry and I Corps.

The game was a lively affair. The chit pull activation was by turns cruel and kind to both sides.

There was one lovely moment in Early's activation late in the day when, knowing he needed to attack, I looked at the Union line, thought I don't like the look of that, and found all kinds of ways to appear as if he was preparing for a charge in against them while ensuring one didn't actually happen... 

It wasn't until later that the import of that sunk in!

So, a fun game of Battle for Gettysburg: the First Day. I'm glad I found my copy again, and am pleased I got to play it before getting the newly-arrived Battle Hymn to the table. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Matters small

I had some nice news from Japan recently. One of the little traditions that developed over my time there was to put on an annual game (usually around Christmas time) and invite along members of the local foreign community who might be interested in trying something different. We had a number of successful days and it was a good way for people to get to know others who weren't necessarily in their usual circle of acquaintances.

Anyway, I heard recently that a few of the lads had decided to start getting together to play Dungeons and Dragons. I am devoid of evangelical zeal when it comes to matters gaming (and am opposed to the idea that we should be out there flapping our arms in an attempt to draw others to the light) but it was nice to hear that they felt starting a game group was a worthwhile thing to do.

In other small matters, on one of the wargaming facebook pages there was a how-to video posted by a fellow who makes 2mm ancient armies from scratch. Well done that man!

Finally, leaving small matters behind, huge congratulations to the Argentine rugby team for yesterday defeating the All Blacks for the first time. As much as it pained me to watch it unfold, it was a victory thoroughly deserved! 

Monday, November 9, 2020

A spot of shopping

In the grand tradition of wargamers who haven't done very much recent wargaming, I went and placed an order with a favourite online wargames shop on the weekend.

The games I'd had my eye on for a while, but as they were both in stock and the prufrockian coffers had been slightly swelled due to a bit of overtime, it seemed as if the wargaming stars had aligned. 

Dien Bien Phu is by Legion Wargames, a newish company I've heard good things about but not yet played a game from. A tense siege - modern but not too modern - easily soloable, and an epic situation fixed in the mind by boyhood reading of those collectible magazine sets from the '80s on famous last stands or some such thing. I missed out on the first edition so it was happy chance that NWS had a second edition left in stock just when I was there browsing.

Battle Hymn Volume 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge is by the legendary Eric Lee Smith, building upon his Across Five Aprils system from many years ago, published by Compass Games, and enjoyed by our own Norm Smith whose review of this system I remember reading but cannot find. 

For some unknown reason Gettysburg is a particularly important battle for me. It causes a weird emptiness in the stomach. I've played it out with Summer Storm, Thunder at the Crossroads, and Battle for Gettysburg: the First Day. They all have an honoured place on my shelf (especially the last - as it was a desk top published game with actual paper maps I put it in a Very Safe Place and have not been able to find it since!), but I'm still looking for that game you can set up and play solo (or with a friend) over a couple of evenings with components attractive enough, end point visible enough and game system engaging enough to see it through to the end.

Whether the games live up to my anticipation remains to be seen. Going by previous experience the answer is likely to be 'no' - I'll likely open them up, have a look, put them on the shelf with satisfaction and then never get round to playing them - but we'll do our best to change the pattern!

Anyway, it's a pleasure to deal with NWS again, and I'm looking forward to trying out the new games when they arrive.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Wargaming on

It seems - looking around the blogosphere - that I am not alone in currently going through something of a down phase in the wargaming cycle. 

The aspects of wargaming I get the most enjoyment out of are (in no particular order) finishing up a painting programme, getting my teeth into a set of rules, seeing a game set up and ready to go, and writing about our little hobby.

At the moment however, none of those hold much appeal. I do set up the odd game, but blogging about it feels more like a chore than a joy right now.

Still, I am not closing up shop, and do look forward to adding to the post tally given time and rejuvenated interest.

Until then, take care all!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Pydna, 168 BC.

When Perseus succeeded Philip V as king of Macedon in 179 BC, Macedon was already partially incorporated into the Roman sphere as a subordinate ally kingdom, and had been since Philip's defeat at Cynoscephalae in 197 BC. Macedon had been largely left to run its own affairs, but over time, resentment at having to toe the Roman line and Roman suspicions about Macedonian policy combined to raise tensions. Convinced at last that Perseus was a boil needing lancing, Rome acted, and in 171 an army was raised and sent to confront the king.

Fast forwarding to three years later, Rome still had little to show for its efforts. Against a background of mounting frustration with the conduct of the war, the republic turned to Aemilius Paullus, a 60-year-old veteran who had served successfully in Spain and Liguria and been consul before in 182, to finish the affair.

In June of the year 168, Paullus and his army came upon Perseus deployed in a strong position behind a stream near the town of Pydna. Unwilling to attack prematurely, Paullus prepared to wait Perseus out. His troops however appeared to have other ideas, and a local clash between rival water-gathering parties became general.

We pick up the action in turn one. With both armies surprised by the onset of battle, only four units can be brought on table per turn. Each side starts the contest with a unit of cavalry and three units of light infantry deployed. 

Initial deployments
Initial deployment
'Oo are you then?

For Paullus, Scipio Nasica commands the cavalry, thwarting the disruptive efforts of the Macedonian horse with exemplary personal leadership.

His initial attacks unsuccessful, Perseus brings on four more units - the maximum allowed - these being his guard phalangites, a unit of Gauls, and a unit of Thracians. 

Paullus is likewise unsuccessful in his attack, but he orders four units of veteran legionaries forward to support the light infantry.

The next round of attacks are more effective, forcing both sides to rush in additional troops. Perseus, suffering from difficulties with his signalling, can only bring on three units of phalangites; Paullus brings on four more units of legionaries, two of which are veteran.

Perseus reinforces his left; Paullus matches this while also throwing troops into the centre.

The legionaries come up.

The commanders are faced with a stark choice: do they prosecute their attacks to the full extent of their ability, or do they prioritise bringing up reinforcements? Both choose the latter. 

More troops are thrown into the fray

The clash becomes general.

With both sides fully deployed, the battle takes shape. Both sides fight in earnest on the Roman right / Macedonian left and in the centre. On the other wing the fighting is less intense: the cavalry skirmishing prevents the heavy infantry from becoming involved. 

The fighting rages on.

By turn seven, the heavy infantry of both sides are now wholly committed. The phalanx proves irresistable in the centre, but on both wings the strength of the Roman challenge is obvious.

View from the Roman right around turn 8.

With the sun setting it is clear that time is running out. Both sides still stand their ground.

The armies as darkness falls.

The battle ends with the issue undecided. Given the disparity in the forces, Perseus has done remarkably well to hold the Romans off. The day is his.

The battle proved to be very interesting, and Lost Battles yet again showed itself to be a ruleset ideally suited to the solitaire gamer who wants to revisit historical clashes. 

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