So, there I was, in the middle of what the estimable Mrs P describes as a ‘battle’. The said conflict was part of my shiny new Ancient Greek campaign, and had turned out, through a complex series of events, as a 29 base Spartan army against a 21 base Theban army, as part of a Spartan civil war (there was one Spartan base on the Theban side, and one of the Spartan kings, so it did make a little sense).
There had been some frantic terrain making just before the battle, as I realised that I needed a table width’s worth of ditches. These random terrain generators can throw up some awkward bits of terrain, and I rolled for ditches and did not have any. I had the resources to construct them, of course, but had never got around to it. So the day or two before the battle deadline were spend cutting out bits of foam, gluing, painting and sticking things to them and so on. I got them done the morning of the battle. I am now fully prepared for the next requirement of ditches.
Anyway, I do not want to give a blow by blow account of the battle, but it did throw up a few things with respect to the rules I was using (my own, naturally. The original purpose of the blog was to record ideas and progress on them).
Firstly, I discovered in myself an urgent urge to simplify. Perhaps I am just getting old and even less fit, but a two hour wargame left me exhausted both physically, from walking around the table (which is in fact my desk, so it is not that big) and mentally from trying to remember which bases were which and what had just happened. I think there is an issue here about markers. I have casualty bases (half size to normal ones) to record ‘shakenness’ in the rules, and I also have single officers mounted on little triangular bases to order indicators. These are, to me, intrinsically aesthetic and work nicely. I cannot abide painting little blobs on my carefully painted bases to indicate the morale or training level of the troops, nor do I like putting chits, blobs, caps or dice with the bases to indicate status.
However, I have discovered that in the rules there is a level of casualty below that of shaken (the recoil) which does have consequences beyond the current turn or phase. This is easily remembered when there are only a few combats, but in a bigger battle such as this one outside Corinth, something more is needed, and I need to think of what to record the recoil as having happened. Suggestions are welcome, but must not include off tables rostas, blobs, plastic caps, poker chits or anything that would not necessarily have appeared on an ancient battlefield.
Still, the next problem involved the infinite push-back. One pair of bases was locked in combat almost all battle, and the Thebans pushed the Spartans back half-way across the table. There were no casualties from this, the results were all recoils. When the Thebans retreated, they simply turned and walked off the edge of the table behind the rest of the Spartan army, as they were so far advanced.
Now this is all well and good, except it felt a little odd. All right, the possibility of getting a string of such results is fairly small, but it does happen. In terms of a phalanx of hoplites, of course, it does break the line (assuming that the bases are supposed to be in a line). I could prevent bases in a group and line from advancing to follow up, preserving the phalanx. Or I could insist on a limit to the number of times two bases can fight without a rest. This would need some accountancy, again, and
I am back to the problem of how to record it in an aesthetic, visual manner.
I am back to the problem of how to record it in an aesthetic, visual manner.
There was also a related matter over the ‘turning-in’ of successful hoplite bases. If a base routs its opponents, is it legitimate for it to turn onto the next enemy base along and take it in flank (which would usually defeat it)? Again, it seems to break the line of phalanx (I know that the bases would be articulated, so I might be worrying unnecessarily). This seems to be a problem related to the one discussed here a bit ago about ships. The individual can step into a gap in the phalanx and make a bigger hole. But can a whole unit turn onto the flank of another one and roll up the line? Something feels a little wrong.
The final thing I felt about the whole exercise was that the rules needed an awful lot of simplification. It has been about a year since I last looked at them from the point of view of the wargamer. Gone are all the twiddly bits. I felt, for example, that there were far too many command points about. Both armies were moving forward within two game turns. So a lot of CP generators, such as general’s ability, subgenerals CP rolls and so on have gone.
Gone too are the different values for offensive and defensive ranged and close combat. To those who rail against the idea that hoplites should have a vale for ranged combat, the answer is in the definitions: they cannot shoot. This seems an awful lot simpler than assigning them a zero offensive ranged combat factor. Mind you, re-reading Xenophon I realise that they ought to be permitted to skirmish.
Finally, I have also got rid of the factors for training and morale. I could not remember which was which and, as mentioned, do not want to paint blobs on bases to show the status (aside from the fact that it changes). I did, in this game, try out a long held idea that the morale and training of the troops should only be rolled on first combat. Even Cromwell’s Ironsides had off days. This would have worked if I could have found some way of recalling which was which. It has gone because the effects on the game were marginal, because my reading of ancient history suggests that the effects in real life were marginal, and my poor head cannot cope anyway. It seems to me that in the ancient world (I’m talking Ancient Greece until the early Successors, by the way) only the Spartans could really be described as ’trained’ anyway, and then only before Lecutra. So the complication has gone.
As for the battle, the Spartans won, quite handsomely as it turned out. The ditches were fought over, but the Spartan numbers enabled them to punch through the Theban centre and roll up the right. The Thebans did hold the ditch, however, but that only protected their left. As a campaign game, and considering that it was not really their war, the Thebans withdrew and the Spartans let them go, on the same basis.
Now, the next battle seems likely to be between the Persians and Thracians, and I need to paint up the rest of the latter. A wargamer’s work is never done….
As far as markers go, I also hate to clutter the table up with chits and what have you. I made these up, and they seem to blend in a bit better than coloured stones, poker chips etc.ReplyDelete
I like this idea. Simple quick and effective.Delete
I'm interested by the idea of markers with wire javelins in 6mm scale. Should avoid clutter, though.Delete
That's a good idea. I may have to borrow it.Delete
I have already appropriated the idea with plastic card, miliput and floral wire. I went for 6 - 8 foot spears; it remains to be seen what painting does to them...Delete
I was thinking of using 3 different markers: "deaders" to indicate casualty/permanent loss; loose "command" figures to indicate disorder; loose foot/horse soldier to indicate "shock"/lowered morale status.ReplyDelete
On the question of bases "turning in", isn't that just a feature of indivisible bases that you have to factor in? If one base of hoplites has seen off another then I presume that replicates a pretty major push back of a significant part of the opposing phalanx, so it's surely right that the successful block has an opportunity to either turn in and fight neighbouring sections or follow-up on the retreating portion?
In reality some would surge forward following-up the defeated foes and some would fight other nearby hoplites. So maybe just give a smallish bonus to the neighbouring bases in the next round? If the successful base represents very well trained troops who might be more likely to "turn-in" they could add a bigger bonus next turn.
Aesthetically I am in accord as to deploring clutter, though I haven't found an ideal solution to marker dice, chits, etc.ReplyDelete
While I always find your prose witty and clear, after this post, curiously, I find myself wishing for a picture or two, as your battle reports are quite rare and I would have liked to have seen the ditches you made.
I shall see if Mr Camera is charged up and willing, but the ditches are horridly simple. And straight.Delete
I'm with nundanket in using casualty markers where I can. The use of a single standard-bearer figure placed in front of a unit to indicate charging, or behind it to indicate retreat/recoil is a good visual clue as to status. I do use 5mm dice but still find them visually intrusive, even though they are also convenient.ReplyDelete
It is a balance between convenience and aesthetics, I think. And I tend to lose 5 mm dice, or pick them up to roll them in a fit of absence of mind.Delete
For some of my games I bought some dice frames from Minibits. Gluing the frame to the stand and placing the die in it tends to preclude absent-minded appropriation of the die for dice rolling purposes.Delete
There is certainly a balance to be found, but painting a few additional single 6mm figures is not a great inconvenience. Casualty figures tend to be more involved because I always need so many more than I already have. This probably says something about my skills as a wargame general though.
I base my 6mm figures on 60mm x 30mm bases. This always leaves a bit of space at the front and back of the base. I have been considering sticking a small rare earth magnet on the front and rear of the base. I could then easily attach status markers to the front and back of the base, making it easier to move all at the same time.
Another idea I wanted to try with my Wars of the Roses figures was to make casualty markers for each livery. The idea would be to place the casualty markers at the spot where they happened, giving me an easy way to track the flow of the battle by following the lines of miniature bodies. I would still need an easy way to keep track of each unit's status but it might add something to the visual effect of the game.
I have casualty markers and order markers, both of which work really well (in my humble opinion, of course) and are aesthetically pleasing. laving the casualty markers at the place of combat is a nice idea - you can then see the pile of bodies. i wish I had the industry to paint up a suitable number of casualty figures. In the PM rules, of course, while there can be push backs, routers are gone so the markers could stay there.Delete
The other problem I have is rolling my dice onto figures, but that is probably me, not anything to do with the aesthetics or process of wargaming generally.
Rolling dice onto figures can be a problem, but I have a dice tray and am making a dice tower to prevent that issue. As a gamer, any gaming related gadgets and gimmicks are clearly necessary and not merely a luxury. One thing I greatly feel the lack of is a lectern for my rule book so that I can pontificate about the rules from behind it during games. One day it shall be mine! Anything that helps keep clutter off the actual gaming surface is a Good Thing.Delete
Good heavens, I didn't even know that such things existed - dice trays, dice towers...Delete
Can we pay someone to roll them for us? please don't answer yes because then I'll start raving about the state of the hobby, and how it wasn't like this when I was a lad.....
Why would you pay someone, when you could get a post-grad to do the job for nothing? ;) Of course, you could certainly employ someone to roll the dice for you. I dream of a WW2-style war-room where I stand behind my lectern with my rules on it, directing the action from the mezzanine, while my trusty minions roll the dice and move the figures. Oh my, is it time for my pills already? Gosh!Delete
Now, about the Battle-Tern(tm), how many shall I sign you up for, and how would you like them themed? These delightful lecterns for your rules will give you all the gravitas you need when pronouncing on the rules. I think sir would prefer the Parthenon-Tern(tm), I believe it would suit sir's gaming. Suits you, sir, suits you.
Actually, I am a big fan of the dice tower and dice tray precisely because they stop sudden assaults on my figures by enemy dice. Now, if only I could devise a process for making my games proof from Feline On-Board Artillery while they are in progress.
A well-educated, low-waged dice roller. A wargaming intern?Delete
Precisely. In return for rolling your dice, they would learn about game theory, statistics, and possible strategy and tactics. They would also learn useful snippets of history. The role of wargaming intern could provide them with many transferable skills for the future.Delete
Perhaps they could also learn feline management skills?Delete
Of course, that assumes that there is such a thing. Mind you, the fact that there is not such thing does not appear to deter most managers I have had the misfortune to encounter....
The Vikings believed in feline management skills. Freya had a cart pulled by two cats. The fact that she could get two cats to pull in the same direction at the same time makes her the most powerful god or goddess ever. She also snorted fire from her nose apparently, although I have not tracked down that reference yet. Perhaps a wargaming intern could learn both of these skills.ReplyDelete