Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, December 31, 2012

Work in Progress - Seleucid Cataphracts

I've finally started work on these Seleucid cataphracts I got from QRS in 2011.  I have 32 of them to do but am starting off with 16 as I hope to get a unit finished in time for my game on Friday.  They are lovely figures, but need quite a lot of flash removed to make them so, which is one reason it's taken me so long to get around to prepping them.  I have sussed out a system for the flash now though, so each one takes only three or four minutes of chopping and slicing instead of ten!

Anyway, enough grumbling.  Here they are:

You can see that they have some nice detail and I think they will be very nice to paint (even if they aren't much fun to prep!).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

More Ancients playtesting

After a quiet few weeks on the wargaming front (we had a Christmas party to organise for our English school...) I set up the board for a quick playtest of the basic elements of my 'January project' rules.

I wanted to test out the interactions between the various troop types to get an idea of what the imbalances might be, and to test out a few of the tweaks I've added in.  My small table (as the name would suggest!) is not very big; so I reduced the board and units by about a third to fit them in while still keeping a good cross-section of the troops that will be used on the day. 

Here's how it looked after deployment:

I didn't use any command and control rules, and am actually now starting to think that it may be better to allow all units to move and fight automatically, and to save command points for things like extra moves, combat bonuses, changing lines and so on and so forth.  I'm not sure yet.  It would certainly take out a degree of complexity, but may reduce player involvement too much.  It's something to think about, anyway.

The movement rules worked fine, but that's not a surprise, as they are lifted more or less directly from Lost Battles.  The rules for skirmishing (ie, distance firing) seem to need a little more work.  There needs to be some incentive to get skirmishers out of the way once the heavy lads start to get into the action.  I may introduce an automatic dispersal rule in open ground to encourage players to get them out of the line reasonably early in the piece.

To give you an example, in the picture above the skirmish line looks fine, but in the one below the rate of attrition is out of sync with the rest of the board. We can see that the cavalry combat on the flank in the foreground is quite far advanced, but the heavy infantry battle in the centre has not yet begun.

Another problem is with the scythed chariots and elephants.  I need to add a bit of flavour and (in the case of the chariots particularly) realism to the way they function.

The combat system itself I am pleased with.  I used dice rather than cards for this test, but as the range of results is still the same the test was still valid.  I do still need to sort out a few aspects of it, but it seems to be a good chassis to build upon.

The same cannot be said for the morale system, unfortunately.  It definitely needs some work.  I'm currently stealing from  Neil Thomas's AMW and Phil Sabin's Lost Battles systems, but I need to put things down in writing and think through the modifiers a bit more clearly.

It might help if I could finish a game though - I ended up heading to bed halfway through this!

Anyway, it was a good test and I was able to take a lot out of it.  Perhaps it did not quite provide a breakthrough like that which the Seleucid cavalry have effected in the picture below, but there is pleasing pressure being applied that may eventually lead to a similar end...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ancients rules - my design guidelines

I'm in the process of cobbling together rules for a game that I'm putting on in January, and thought I'd record my thoughts here as we go along. 

Due to the scenario and my own preferences, I've set myself three main guidelines to adhere to, these being that:

1) The rules must be suitable for new players.  In practice, they must be easy to explain and the concepts must be clear, easily grasped, and easily retained. 

I want players to focus on the broader aspects of command, movement, combat and morale rather than the minutiae.

- The command should be simple enough to explain in one minute and should function to limit what players can do, thereby forcing them to prioritize actions.  The command rules should not, however, limit players to the point that they become irritated.
- Movement rules should allow players to create, counter and exploit local superiority through clever manoeuvre.
- Players should not have to remember modifiers and exceptions in order to work out what the best tactics are.  Combat match ups will be clearly advantageous, disadvantageous or fair, but instead of manipulating modifiers to gain extra advantage players will have some ability to chose where and when to influence combat to benefit their cause or frustrate that of the enemy. 
- The rules must reflect the reality that the key to victory in ancient warfare was breaking the enemy's morale.

2) The rules must be suitable for a multi-player team game.  Within this structure, each player should feel that while their own individual actions impact on the game, planning and co-ordination with team-mates is required to win the entire battle.

- There should be a simple chain-of-command which governs the allotment of command resources and limits in-game communication between participants.
- Players should ideally be kept busy throughout so that they cannot pay close attention to what is going on elsewhere, but that when the chance to observe the action in other areas of the board does occur, that that action should make captivating viewing.

3) Players must feel that the choices they make in the game have a direct bearing on the success or failure of the enterprise. If they win they should be able to single out particular decisions as key; if they lose, the strength of the cause-and-effect relationship should ideally encourage them to consider what they could have done differently both individually and as a team.

- The rules must be simple and well illustrated prior to the game.
- Players must have direct influence in their own sectors but indirect influence elsewhere.
- The game should be fair, interesting, tense and thought-provoking.

So there we have it - a design prospectus. 

Now, if I manage to get half of this to come out in the rules I'll have done better than I expect!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Terrain board update

The basic terrain for my January game project has now been largely completed.  The boards don't look quite as good as I'd hoped; the squares show through, but so too do the joins.  I guess that's what you get for using cheapo materials!  Still, this is an experiment, so I don't mind too much, and once troops are on the table there should be plenty to distract viewers from such quibbles.

I'm quite pleased with how the squares show up under the flock.  They aren't overpowering, but are clearly visible from the right angle.  Thanks are due again to this tool.

Here you can see the beautiful joins in the foam mat... (yes, these mats are from the Japanese equivalent of the dollar shop!).

And with some jumbos for scale.

Despite the joins and the fact that one of the board warps a little, there's nothing that a few troops and a bit of tape shouldn't fix.  I think these should serve their purpose, and next time I make a terrain board I'll know what to do better.  Onwards and upwards, as they say!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Naval wargamer? You must have a look at this.

Pete at the Three by Two Tactics blog has put together a brilliant little online gameboard for use with simple hex-based pre-dreadnought naval rules, such as those by Bob Cordery.

Do yourself a favour and take a look at it here.

Well done that man!

A Very Useful Tool

The other day while browsing at the local hardware store* trying to find tools to aid my latest project I happened upon this humdinger pictured below.

The NT DRESSER Ever Grit Sander RS-310P (has ever a name tripped so easily off the tongue?) may not look like much, but I can assure you it is a little piece of grit-surfaced magic.

In the hands of a professional such as myself, this tool allows one to sand straight lines into foam mats, in about two or three runs through, with results that you can see in the next photograph.

As I am putting together a gridded gameboard for a miniatures battle in early January this tool is an absolute godsend.  I was imagining having to melt lines into the foam or, heaven forbid, draw squares in on the board.  Instead, two evenings after my little visit to the Kohnan I have a board comprised of 18 by 8 10cm squares delineated by subtle depressions that I will be able to flock over while still, to the watchful eye, revealing the artful geometry that underpins it.

Or that is the hope, at least...

To finish here is a view of two-thirds of the board, pre-flock:

* Don't tell the wife, but since I've got back into wargaming the local hardware store is a far more interesting place than it used to be...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Playtesting my ancients rules

Have been very quiet here of late for many reasons, mostly family related.  Still, I managed to playtest a rough draft of some ideas I have for simple, multiplayer, newbie-friendly, ancients rules.

I've borrowed ideas from from Lost Battles, Commands & Colors: Ancients, Unhappy King Charles, Friedrich and no doubt other places as well and tried to put them together into something that resembles an interactive card game using miniature and gridded terrain.

The first playtest showed that the building blocks work, but that there are plenty of improvements to be made and puzzles to be solved, so I'm pleased.  The test game was just looking, in isolation, at how combat between two lines of infantry might go.  Here are some shots of the test in progress, showing different stages of the turn.

1) Command phase.  Orders are sent out.

2) Attack phase.  Cards are played.

3) Combat phase.  Combats are resolved and hits allocated (only one in this example).

4) Reinforcement phase (further along in the game) where commands can be used to feed in fresh troops.

5)  And back to the start (this about eight turns in).

There we go.  It's all a bit messy at the moment, but hopefully things will improve as it gets more streamlined.

Anyway, time to go and watch the All Blacks play the red rose of England.

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