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...