Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

AMW unit roster card

As a follow up to a recent experiment with Ancient and Medieval Wargaming, I decided to make a quick unit roster card template to cut down on the need for on-table markers.

The plan (obviously!) is to print these out on blank business cards, place them behind the table edge, and use them to keep track of hits, special rules, etc.

Eagle eyed viewers will note that this is very plain. I would like to pretend this was planned to save on printing ink, but the gruesome truth is that I'm very bad at getting things like this to look nice...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

AMW Dark Ages Bash

I've had a bit of a hankering to get some figures on the table so I decided to give Neil Thomas's Ancient and Medieval Wargaming another crack.

The rules have a big failing when playing a standard ancients type affair in that elephants are far too powerful and that there's no easy fix for this (so far that I've seen, anyway).

Partly for this reason and partly because I've been distracted by other things, I haven't played the rules as much as I'd intended to when I first bought them.

But they had something about them, and like the magic item beloved of fantasy novels, whose true purpose is fortuitously revealed at just the right moment, or the unopened letter from a deceased acquaintance that, finally read, gives vital plot direction to the heretofore wayward strivings of a hero or heroine, it seemed they might one day come in useful.

And so it has proved.

On browsing the shelf the eye alighted on AMW, and the timing seemed just about right.

The Saxons.

The Saxons, who would be defending a small hill, are made up of three different troop types. In the front we have the nobles. Classed as infantry with medium armour (5-6 saving throw), they get an integral missile bonus in the first round of any combat, and can form shieldwall. They are rated elite, so pass morale tests on a 3-6.

The middle row is made up of peasants (fyrd?), who are classed as infantry with light armour. They too can form shieldwall and get an integral missile bonus. Peasants (despite the name!) are average quality, and pass morale on a 4-6.

The back row is made up of archers. They are levy troops with light armour and bows and pass morale tests on a 5 or 6.

The Vikings.

The Vikings are a mirror image of the Saxons, except that they are warband infantry instead of shieldwall infantry.

In front are the huscarls, who have medium armour and are elite for morale purposes. Being warband, they get extra dice in the first round of combat.

The units in the middle row are bondi. They are also warband class, but have light armour, are average quality, and have the ability of fire off up to two arrow attacks on turns in which they are not engaged in melee. This is actually a pretty handy ability to have, especially against shieldwall infantry.

In the back is a unit of thralls; these being levy light infantry with javelins.

The Battlefield.

Stylised battlefield:
Unit key: 1s = nobles/huscarls; 3s = peasants/bondi; 6s = light infantry.

As mentioned, the Saxons set up on the hill to make good use of their shieldwall. The Vikings intersperse huscarls and bondi along their line to give themselves the best chance to turn the enemy's left flank while wearing down the centre and right with missile fire before engaging in melee.

Moving first, the Vikings move in as fast they can. On the far right they close the distance to the archers and aim to charge in against the light infantrymen to prevent their arrows from doing too much damage.

Archers picking off the bondi as they approach.

This plan is not completely successful - the archers score three hits early, and at the time of the above photo, they still had another volley to come. The archers would not be laughing when the bondi got into contact with them on the following turn, however!

As the Vikings come into bow range, they halt to let the bondi - with 'integral archers' of their own, if you recall - attempt to get some early hits on the shieldwall.

But if the northmen think these worthy fellows are going to be disconcerted by a few arrows, they are wrong...

While the left and centre holds back to fire off their speculative arrows, the bondi and huscarls on the Viking right immediately charge home. The defending archer light infantry is no match for the bondi warband, and they are soon destroyed, allowing the bondi to turn and outflank the endmost unit of peasants who are already in melee with the huscarls.

Observing this, the Saxons come under pressure to take action of their own. After some consideration they send forward the right to engage the Viking light infantry and leftmost bondi unit.

The picture below, using our previous scheme, shows a representation of the situation around turn eight. Note that the archers have been defeated and the Saxon left is outflanked.

The Saxon right engages; unfortunately, failed morale tests for coming out of shieldwall are catastrophic. This allows the Viking light infantry to gain an unforeseen advantage over the peasants on the far right.

Now that both wings are under threat, the centre of the Saxon line comes forward to attack the bondi and prevent any more losses to missile fire. But they wait to engage the huscarls.

The centres engage.
Surprisingly, the Saxon advance is a great success. They get the better of their opponents, and over the next couple of turns force morale checks which the Vikings fail.

But this does not yet make up for the situation on the wings, for the Viking left has now swept the enemy away there as well.

The Vikings break through on the left.

It is turning into an interesting inside-out battle: the Saxons are endeavouring to break the enemy centre while the Vikings are working their way inwards from the wings. The Vikings have got a significant advantage in unit numbers though, which in AMW can be hard to overcome.

This is what our scheme looks like after about fourteen turns. The three units of nobles in the centre are putting genuine pressure on the Viking line, but their wings have vanished, and they are running out of time to win.

As a quick rules aside, in AMW, if a 'heavy' unit (i.e., a non-light unit) exits the battlefield off the enemy's board edge, it eliminates the exiting unit but also forces the enemy to remove two units from the game. Once a side is reduced to two units, it has lost.

The obvious threat then to the Saxons is that the Vikings can send one of their units to exit the board and win the game, and the only way to stop them is to destroy four units themselves in the two or three turns it will take to get a Viking unit off the board.

The picture below shows how the Saxons have split the Viking centre and the fight has devolved into three fierce contests.

Returning to our scheme, it can be seen that the Saxons have expanded the opening they've made in the centre...

But in the end, they can only destroy two of the four units they need to claim victory.

A triumph then for Viking determination and guile as they exit a unit off the field and claim the win.

It was interesting to see how close it was in the end, and it was a really enjoyable game.

I did make a couple of errors. As one example, the Saxons did not need to go into shieldwall formation until they were under attack by the enemy. To go into shieldwall is automatic, but to come out causes a morale test, and a failure there causes significant damage. A number of units were obliged to charge out of a shieldwall formation they should not have been in, and this was costly in terms of Saxon resilience.

The upshot of such mistakes is I have seen there are more tactics to use here than in, say, Thomas's other popular set, One Hour Wargames, and I am satisfied that there is something here worth pursuing, for Dark Age warfare, at least. The rules have an old school feel which is close enough to other dicefest games such as WHFB that some extra ideas to add interest could be incorporated without too much trouble.

Anyway, if anyone has made it this far through, thank you for reading, and I hope it was worthwhile!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Stalled again

Three parts perfectionist and two parts procrastinator enveloped by relentless 35°C heat has recently made for a whole lot of nothing on the painting front.

As most wargamers do, I have a number of projects on the go. My latest, 1/3000 WWII naval, was going reasonably well. Unfortunately, after whacking a bunch of Navwar models with a light gray undercoat on Monday, my plan of wash, paint, highlight has stalled because the wash just doesn't want to look the part. Either it won't take to the semi-gloss surface (my special dip wash), it's too brown (Devlan Mud), or it's too dark (Tamiya Smoke).

It wouldn't be such a problem if I was confident about how I wanted things to look at the end, but I'm not. I'm vaguely intending something gray, with something tan or red brown for the decks, but that's about as far as I've got, so that vagueness combined with the wash falling flat has me stalled.

As you can see from the picture below, the IJN ships in the background (plastic, highly detailed, very dark) don't match at all well with the mix of British, German and Dutch (metal, less detailed, very light) in the foreground.

I sense a lot of tedious trial-and-error drybrushing will be needed on the Japanese, and much trawling the internet for ship photos and trial-and-error painting and repainting is going to be required for the others.

With all the research I'm having to do professionally at the moment, the thought of doing it for fun is, well, not much fun.

It might be time to take a break and go do something else for a bit...

...or maybe I just need to harden up and crack on with it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Boardgame: Budapest '45

It's been some time between wargaming drinks but I cracked open a new wine the other night, this being Budapest '45 from Command Magazine.

I'd played and enjoyed the chaotic Ukraine '44, and after being told on Consimworld that that MMP title was derived from the Budapest '45 game I hunted around and managed to locate a copy of its older sibling.

The thing I really like about the system is that it tracks combat losses right through. If you have a panzer division with 21 attack points, it will take 21 step losses to eliminate it. There's none of this "Oh, a six, you're dead and I'm fine" or "Damn a one! I'm dead, but you're okay". This is constantly and grimly attritional. Whether attacking or defending you're going to lose at least one step, and maybe up to five if the odds are bad or if someone's forced to retreat into an enemy zone of control. There's bookkeeping, but that's okay by me (I am a miniatures gamer, after all!).

Another thing about it is that you don't know what you are up against in turns of combat strength. The combat ratings are on rosters, not the counters, so you don't know what strength the enemy has there until you fight. You have to use a combination of intuition ("Hmm, a Guards mechanised unit has just come into the line. Will it be weak or strong?") and memory ("Ah, we had a 2:1 against those chaps last turn and they took a few hits. Let's whack them again!) in planning attacks.

These elements make for great solo play. The only rule change I have made is that I don't hide unit designations, and I allow myself to look up the attacking strengths but not the defending ones when planning attacks. So far it has worked out brilliantly. I've made foolish attacks once or twice after underestimating enemy strength while on other occasions I've avoided combat because I didn't know what the active side was up against.

An unexpected bonus is that I have so far avoided the analysis paralysis stage I seem to get to when soloing boardgames with full informatoin. I often reach a point where it just starts to become too much hard work when I can see the response to every move I will make and am trying not to let that affect the game.

It has made for excellent and refreshing solo gaming.

The situation is an interesting one as well. The Soviets have Budapest under siege well behind the front lines and the Germans are tasked with breaking through these front lines to relieve the city There is a quality versus quantity dynamic as well as competing cycles of manoeuvre-attack-reorganise and defend-retreat-outflank.

Anyway, enough chatter. Here's the board at set up, with separate rosters and turn record sheets for both sides.

To look more closely at the board, the Germans are aiming to pressure the Soviets all along the line and hopefully achieve a breakthrough in the north and the centre, while keeping enough force in the south to prevent the Soviets from being able to mount a strong southern counter-attack.

German plans.

By turn three (January 4-5), the Germans have made progress, but the Soviets have been able to pull back the line and avoid any catastrophic breakthrough.

By turn four the Germans in the north have pushed to within about 25 miles of Budapest, but the Soviets are still able to offer defense in depth.

Further south the German attacks are obliged to channel north or south of Lake Valense....

... which prevents the Germans from concentrating for a breakthrough at one point and allows Soviet reinforcements to threaten an outflanking movement against the weak flank guards.

Meanwhile, in Budapest, the Soviets are whittling the defenders down, helped by some fearsome artillery barrages.

And so to turn five. The defensive line is still holding, but it is running out of room to fall back.

Now it is decision time for the Soviets. Do they launch a counter-offensive in the south, pull units from the south and send them to reinforce the centre, or do a bit of both?

Enjoyable times in house Prufrock, and what solo wargaming is all about.

Time to pour a drink and get back into it!

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