Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A figure game (finally...)

In preparation for a C&C:A tournament game I recently set up and played through the Edessa scenario from the 4th Expansion, Imperial Rome. I have no figures suitable for that era, so transposed it back in time to Hispania, c. 210BC, with Sharpur's Sassanids masquerading as Carthaginians and Polybian Romans filling in for Valerian's men. Here are a couple of shots of the board prior to the battle, first looking from the Roman side:

And second looking smack down the middle. The shots were a bit limited, but my gaming/painting/storage room is embarrassingly cluttered, so I tried to avoid getting unnecessary muck in the shots!

And a third from closer in, showing the nasty array of cavalry facing the Roman left:

The Romans don't have much going for them in this scenario. They have only four cards against six and one leader against two; they are outclassed in cavalry and their heavy infantry units are opposed by elephants and subject to the 'Fright at First Sight' rule which makes said jumbos even more fearsome than usual. Good fun for the masochists :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Author of the month (March)

Author of the month for March is Thomas Hardy. As part of my bookshop browsing in NZ I was fortunate to turn up some excellent secondhand books that I'd never think to search for through Amazon. The Mayor of Casterbridge was one of those. I'd not read any Hardy since university days, when Tess of the D'Urbervilles made an appearance on my side table (or what passed for a side table in student flats), so I was curious to see what my reaction would be.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the book. After many years of reading Classical history in my spare time, interspersed with the odd historical or modern novel, it is wonderful to read something that has been structured so surely. I love seeing well-implemented literary devices at work: irony, foreshadowing, contrast, well-worked metaphor, litote and dialect are just some of the ones to be found in Hardy. I'd forgotten how rewarding 19th Century novels are, and I'm actually more at ease with this traditional style of novel than with the more modern forms.

To close, thank you Mr. Hardy, and thank you to the secondhand booksellers of Christchurch!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Commands & Colors: Ancients - teaser result

Following on from the earlier post, here is the result of the game featured in the Commands & Colors: Ancients - teaser. To recap, I'd been thrashed royally in the first leg of a tournament semi-final and had to win the second leg 5-0 to progress to the final. That is, I had to wipe out 5 of my opponent's units or leaders and lose none of my own.

After two card plays each, an opportunity to launch a potentially game-winning attack presented itself. The situation is outlined more fully in this post:

It was such an interesting and delicately balanced position that I thought other players might like to discuss what they would have done in this situation. Thankfully, some did! These ideas and the rationale behind them can be found in the comments section of the above link.

Here is the board again. I was the Othonians, holding the following cards: Double time, Order two units left, Order two units centre, Coordinated attack and Inspired center leadership + 4.

The suggestions took two broad turns: one was an attack on the Vitellian centre using the Double time card. If the dice were favourable, the attack should see the enemy medium infantry and heavy infantry units destroyed, and there would also be a 1 in 6 chance of killing the leader if the HI were indeed wiped out. The Othonian HI with the leader would possibly be able to momentum advance and hit the light bow infantry or the medium cavalry, forcing them to evade, while another unit would have been able to force the light infantry straddling the center/left line to evade back to the baseline. Next turn the Othonians would be able to use the centre leadership or order two centre to continue the attack, hopefully being able to push the light infantry, the light bow infantry and medium cavalry onto the baseline and destroy them, thereby gaining the five banners.

The other tack was to attack the enemy left - again with the double time card - focusing the attack on Vitellius and his heavy infantry in the first turn. Subsequent turns would see the Center leadership card and whatever else turned up to push through with the attack and get stuck into the auxiliary infantry.

Bigredbat also suggested going a bob each way, using double time to attack both Vitellius an the enemy left and the HI and the MI in the enemy centre.

All of these plans had something to commend them. The trick, of course, was to find which one was best!

The original plan had been to attack the centre with the double time card, but the preceding turn had seen the centre reinforced from the right (the second HI with leader and the MC). Even if we managed to wipe out the MI and the HI, we would most likely have to contend with a flank attack led by HI with a leader. There was also a medium cavalry there - probably now with a leader, if the HI were destroyed and the leader was forced to retreat - and with my opponent needing only one kill to win the match overall my the chances were not good that I'd get out of it.

In the end, I decided to attack the enemy left for reasons outlined well by Bigredbat - namely, that when the counter-attack comes, it's better if it's conducted by auxiliaries than heavy infantry! (see screenshot below)

Using the double time, the Praetorians and the medium infantry moved into contact with Vitellius. The Praetorians are able to hit on helmets due to their special unit status and can ignore one additional flag result. The medium infantry, by virtue of being adjacent to Titianus, will also score hits on helmets. This gives a total of 9 dice on Vitellius and his HI, with each dice a 50% chance of scoring a hit. Assuming the unit was destroyed, Vitellius would have to survive a leader check and then retreat away from the front line, meaning that my opponent would need to waste a command to get him back where he was needed to retaliate next turn.

We led off with the medium infantry against Vitellius. The result was three hits, causing a leader check. What do you know but Vitellius failed it (1 in 36 chance) and died! We experienced a great leap of confidence at this point. The heavy infantry battled back with 5 dice, but were now hitting only 2 in 6. Odds were he would kill only 1 or 2 blocks, and so it proved. The Praetorians took over the attack, scoring the single hit needed to eliminate the HI. Two banners to the good, and only one block down. It was a good start, but much depended on the Vitellian response. A strong move from the centre would force me to adjust my plans.

Fortunately, the Vittelian response was to play order three left, advance the auxiliary and heavy infantry into contact with the Praetorians, and go for gold. Unfortunately, with the leader dead, the dice were hitting only 2 out of 6 times. Although there were eight attacking dice to roll, the odds were that they would only score two or three hits, and would still have to endure the battlebacks of the Praetorians.

As it turned out, the attacks were disastrous: plenty of leader symbols rolled, but no leader to make them effective. Neither the auxiliary nor the heavy infantry scored any reds or swords on the dice, and the Praetorians scored three hits each time on battleback. They also forced the heavy infantry to retreat twice, which took them safely out of close combat range.

Here is the board following the Vitellian card play:

We now used Inspired centre leadership to activate Titianus and five other connected units, allowing us to contact the light infantry and the auxiliaries (see position after movement but prior to attacks):

The medium infantry attacked first, killing the auxiliaries. Now that they were no longer adjacent to the enemy, the Praetorians could throw their pila at the enemy HI. They had a 1-in-6 chance on 1 die. Yes, you guessed it - they got it. With only one kill now needed, the Vittelians were in dire straits, but still rather than advance in the centre they reorganised their auxiliaries on the left. Did they not have any centre cards, or did they simply prefer to steady the left?

This gave us the opportunity to play Coordinated attack. Trusting to luck, we used the warrior infantry to move 2 and attack the light infantry. Titianus used his 'Julian legion' ability to move the HI two hexes and give the warriors the advantage of a supporting leader, thereby upping their odds of scoring hits from 2 in 6 to 3 in 6. Also swinging things in the Othonians' favour was the fact that the light infantry were on the baseline. Any flag rolled against them (1 in 6 odds) would kill 2 blocks. Nevertheless, a failed attack here would give the Vitellians a chance to counterattack from the centre against the warriors, giving them a decent stab at picking up the kill they needed to win the game. Here was the position before the dice rolls:

And the roll? It came up hit, hit, miss, banner, giving a total of 4 hits - enough to eliminate the light infantry and score the winning kill.

It was a ridiculous turnaround and yet another example that one should never allowing oneself to admit defeat or claim victory in Commands & Colors until the last die has been rolled. I felt very sorry for my opponent. He took the vagaries of the dice with good grace.

For the commentators, BigredBat figured out my plan - and the reasoning behind it -pretty much exactly. Of course, the dice had to go the Othonian way, but there was a chance, and thanks to favourable dice and the Vitellian inability or unwillingness to move in the centre, we were able to take it.

I'll keep an eye out for similar conundrums, and if there is interest will post more teasers in future. However, in an effort to curb what could be perceived as unsporting triumphalism, I shall endeavour to present situations that do not go my way, as well!

A very big thank you to all who took the time to read through the situation, and an especially big thank you to those who posted comments both here and on TMP. It's much appreciated!

The scenario was 1st Bedriacum from the 4th (Imperial Rome) Expansion. The game was played in real time using Bill Bennett's wonderful VASSAL module, which can be found on this site: and the tournament was conducted under the auspices of the VASSAL C&CA yahoo group, which can be found here:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Commands & Colors: Ancients - teaser.

I thought I'd post something a bit different here and invite some reader participation. To give some background, I have been playing in an online C&C:A tournament for the last few months. On Sunday I was involved in a match with a chap who'd thrashed me 5 banners to 1 in the first leg. The second leg saw us switch sides and play again, with the player scoring most banners overall going through to final of the competition.

The scenario was 1st Bedriacum, 69AD from the 4th Expansion. I was controlling the Othonians while my opponent controlled the Vitellians. I had these cards in my hand:

The next screenshot shows the board position after two cards had been played. Bear in mind these special rules: the Praetorian unit hits on helmets and can ignore one flag rolled against it, and the Julian legions rule is in force. This means that medium and heavy infantry units can move two hexes and not battle, or move one hex and battle. MI and HI are also missile capable, but they only get to roll one die, and only if they hold or move only one hex. So here's the board (at last):

The next play was mine. My opponent's hand was six cards. Assuming standard section and leadership cards in his hand (ie, no first strike, no clash of shields, no I am Spartacus), how would you play the Othonians in order to win 5-0 in as few turns as possible? In your explanation, be as general or as specific as you'd like.
EDIT - here is a link to the post containing a report on what actually happened. Many thanks to all those who've read and contributed to this!

2nd Pharsalus, part 1

This is a report on the second refight of Pharsalus that John and I undertook using Phil Sabin's Lost Battles rules. We swapped sides and this time it was John's turn to play Caesar. As with the first battle, we used the historical deployments and played by email over VASSAL.

The action begins in turn two (turn one being taken up with deployment). Pompey orders Labienus in with the cavalry, and they score two hits on the Roman veterans. The light infantry move up to provide Labienus with more staying power, but half of the cavalry remains in reserve. A general advance is ordered in the central zones (see screenshot below).

Caesar responds by taking his 'flip-flop' (the ability to take two moves one after another to reflect his brilliance as a general). He himself leads two units of legionaries to the right flank to reinforce the cavalry, and in the central zones attacks are undertaken with only moderate success.

Pompey is encouraged by the Caesarians' slow start, and hopes to cause some early damage. Casualties are equal in the central zones, but Labienus scores another success on the left.

Caesar responds with purpose, inspiring his troops on the right to inflict three hits on Labienus' zone. Labienus elects to have the light infantry take the brunt of the attack, trusting that his cavalry will hold a little longer. Unfortunately for him, as the light infantry shatter, they carry one of the cavalry units off in rout. The Pompeian left is now in disarray!

In the central zones, the attacks are vigorous and the Pompeians begin to waver. Only Anthony fails to damage the enemy.

The Pompeian response is aggressive, with a strong attack from the left that weakens progressively as the assault moves along the line. All the Caesarians in the rightmost two zones are now spent, so any hits there will result in shatters. The obverse of the coin is that the units in Pompey's zone are also all spent, so it will be up to him to rally any hits.

After turn four the position favours Caesar slightly, as he has the next attack; yet a poor series of rolls on turn five would present Pompey with an opportunity to inflict some real damage on the Caesarian right and right-centre. The situation is becoming tense!

Note on tactics: The decision during turn 4 to allow the Pompeian light infantry to take two of the three hits scored on Pompey's left flank and shatter instead of spread the hits amongst all the units in the zone was a calculated risk. There was a one in three chance that the spent cavalry unit would run off in the morale test necessitated by the shatter, but I felt that having a fresh cavalry unit to lead off with on the following turn was worth the risk, given that we only needed two hits to shatter one of the opposing units. Unfortunately, the spent cavalry unit did run off, and what could have been a daring move became a foolish one!

More to follow...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

There and back again

Well, we have returned from our New Zealand trip somewhat browner and immeasurably more relaxed. Long may it last! It was lovely to catch up with friends and family again and also provided a good chance to take stock of our current situation and think about what the future may hold.

On the wargaming front I picked up some more ACW plastics for my Johnny Reb II project, succumbed to nostalgia in finally getting some basics to start off two small Warhammer Fantasy Battle armies, resupplied myself with Klear, picked up stacks of books and got in plenty of games of Commands & Colors with the old man and my brother. Good fun, and I have enough hobby and reading material to see me through the year...

But now we're back to real life :-)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...