Thursday, 16 November 2017

Danish Bacon versus Saxon Lamb - a 'To the Strongest' AAR

After my game with Keith earlier in the week, I decided to dig out my wooden blocks and have some trial games of To the Strongest, just to see how they compared to other ancient rules I play, namely 'Dux Bellorum' and 'Sword & Spear'. So after some very basic line up and advance to contact games, just to get a hang of the main mechanics, it was time to have a 'proper' game, with figures and some scenery.

To keep things simple and at a manageable size, I used an old 2' x 2' board, marked out with 2" squares and then put down some basic terrain features to break the board up a bit. In terms of forces involved, I went with my Late Romans/early Saxons and early Vikings, both of which were pretty 'vanilla', again to keep things simple.

I decided that the Vikings would be the attackers, mainly because I happened to sit down on that side of the table and it also made sense 'historically'. Again no notes were made, but the game was fast and furious, so hopefully the following annotated 'photos will help you follow the action.

The view from the Viking baseline. Both sides broadly deployed in a linear fashion, with skirmishers on the flanks.

The Saxon camp on the left with the 'Agnos Dei' and the cross and some light cavalry on the flank.

"If God is with us, who can stand against us?" or at least that was the hope of the Saxons.

The Danes had brought along their bacon and seer.

The Danes got off to a good start, with their skirmishers advancing smartly to take control of the wood and rough ground, whilst the centre moved forward a tad further than planned, as the supporting troops failed to follow up.

The Saxons in reply pushed forward in a pretty solid line, but had failed to deploy a reserve.
The view from the Saxon right flank.

The Danish left flank could be outflanked by the Saxon cavalry. Hopefully the archers in the rough ground would be able to slow them down.

The Danish line not exactly in line.

The Danes were able to realign their troops into a better formation, whilst the archers drew first blood as well as destroying a unit of Saxon light cavalry. On the Danish left flank, a Shieldwall unit had broken through the Saxon lines and pushed through the wood to threaten to turn their flank.

The threat from the Saxon flank has diminished somewhat.

The Danish right flank.

The sheep are getting nervous as the Danes have pushed past the Saxon right flank.

The Saxons are really taking a battering as the card gods are not with them today.

The Saxon light cavalry charged the skirmishing archers in the rough ground, which proved to be a big mistake. Lesson learnt.

The Danish right flank still holds firm.

 Saxon units threatened by lots of Danes. Not a good position to be in methinks.

The 'Gotterdammerung' moment. The Saxons are losing units left, right and centre.

There is little opposition left on the Danish left flank and in the centre.

The Danish right flank pushed forward as well.

Time for the sheep to exit the table as quickly as possible, as the Saxon position has become untenable.

The Saxon losses. The Danes had none.

Well that was certainly fast and furious and over much more quickly than I was expecting. So from my few games so far, I thought I'd jot down some thoughts:

  • The rulebook is incredibly well laid out. It is very easy to find things you want to refer to with minimal effort. If only all rules were like this. The ring binding makes it easy to leave the book open at the page you want, but I've found most of the time it is on the QRS page at the back, which I really should print out.
  • The rules so far have been incredibly easy to pick up. Using the grid system for movement and the cards to resolve activation, shooting and melee mean that you can understand the basics, very, very quickly. 
  • There is lots more detail contained in the rules, which I'm slowly adding to as my games progress. Danes versus Saxons is a good way to start, as you don't have too many fancy units to deal with. Next up I want to try adding in say chariots, elephants and heavy cavalry and it will be interesting to see how the game feels then.
  • To do the above, I really need to create a proper army list for each force, with their break points etc calculated. I also want to use the Strategems and maybe one of the scenarios, other than a simple line up and advance to contact. But I don't want to run before I can walk.
  • Shooting so far hasn't proved to be too effective. As these rules cover up to the Middle Ages, I'm not sure how they would work replaying Agincourt or Crecy. Not that I want to, but it's a good benchmark to see how they handle massed longbows.
  • Using playing cards rather than die seemed strange at first, but it certainly makes the game go along at a fair old lick. So far I reckon you could get a couple of games in an evening no trouble at all. 
  • I wasn't sure about how I'd feel with a grid based game, but based on my games so far, I'm a convert. It won't stop my playing 'Dux Bellorum' etc, but the ease and speed of game play as a result makes these probably 'my go' to rules for Ancients games.
  • Having played my games on a 2' x 2' table with a 2" grid, I plan to enlarge the table to a 3' x 2' and to use 3" grids. This will allow me to field chariots, elephants etc that currently would struggle to fit nicely in the 2" boxes. I still plan to base my foot on 40mm x 20mm bases, as then I can use them across other rulesets with ease.
  • Having enjoyed my games so far, I'm really looking forward to the release of 'For King & Parliament', the ECW variant of the game that is due out early next year. I'm tempted to go back to 2mm for these rules, but will wait and see. I'm not sure whether Keith would talk to me again if i did!

So far I'm very happy with these rules. They are also supported by a forum as well as loads of free army lists on the 'To the Strongest' home page along with updates to the existing rules. Once I've finished enough units for some games of 'The Pikemen's Lament', then I think it will be time to revisit my Ancients armies and get on with some painting.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Battle for the Temple

A couple of days ago I took the opportunity of some time off to meet up with my friend and gaming chum Keith. We decided to have a playtest of his Ancients rules, broadly based upon those used by Featherstone et al for the Battle of Trimsos. Details on how these have developed these can be found on Keith's Blog. A pleasant drive through the Cotswolds on a crisp Autumn morning saw me arrive mid morning, with the table and armies all arrayed for battle. So after the usual chatting away on a wide variety of subjects, we decided we had better get on with the game.

Keith had kindly sent me the latest version of his rules, so I had a good idea of the broad game mechanics, coupled with having read Featherstone's original rules. I made no notes at all during the game, so hopefully the following pics will give a good of idea of how things progressed. 

Both sides arrayed for battle. I was in command of the army with the elephants, which I was more than happy with. The objectives were to be in control of the ford and bridge over the river by the end of the game, or to break the enemy.

The elephants who, from right to left, were named Colonel Hathi, Nelly and Trump, much to Keith's chagrin. The looked fantastic, as did both armies.

My left flank, with light cavalry in front with my kontos armed cataphracts in support.

The enemy deployed with some lovely, but rather daunting looking chariots.

The view towards my lines, with light cavalry on the left flank and Celts lurking in the wood.

Both sides advance towards each other.

Throwing caution to the wind, I advanced my pachyderm brigades forward, unaware at this point how tough fighting Phalanxes would be.

My slingers unleash hell at Keith's light cavalry, almost causing them to take a break test. Somehow I think they must be related to David of Biblical fame.

Trump and Nelly at this point failed a morale test to charge those massed pikes. However Colonel Hathi pushed forward and caught the light infantry as they tried to evade.

Having seen the light cavalry being driven back by shooting from the chariots, the cataphracts charged in, supported by their commander.

My plan, if it could be called one, was to try and slow down the advance of the enemy units in the centre, so that I could move my heavy infantry to cover the bridge and hopefully the ford as well.

An battle of attrition develops on my left flank, as the chariots prove to be tough nuts to crack. 

Trump and Nelly are charged by the phalanxes...

... which dispatch them with ease.

Things get a bit complicated as multiple melees develop...

... but I come out of it in a better position.

My troops continue to cover the objectives as Keith advances in the centre.

Though Keith dominates the centre, my left flank looks to be moving towards turning his right flank if all goes to plan.

The decisive action could be between Keith's phalanxes and my heavy infantry.

The battle appears to be moving in my favour.

Keith's cavalry are in danger of being taken in the flank.

My heavy infantry await the attack.

My slingers still control the ford, but the Celts are out of the woods and want a fight.

Despite having two chariots left, Keith's right flank is pretty much hors de combat.

The phalanxes luckily can't quite reach my heavy infantry.

The Celts also can't quite reach the slingers.

The end of the battle. Time was against us, but I won a marginal victory on points, as well as having Colonel Hathis ready to wreak havoc in the rear as well as controlling the left side of the battlefield.

Well that was a fun game, full of action and the rules worked well, with Keith making notes of things that needed tweaking as we went along. As always, time for some post game thoughts:

  • It was fun to play an 'old school' type of wargame, which I've never done before. It felt very different to other games, but was still challenging and entertaining, which is what I want really from a game.
  • Keith's figures look really lovely and ImagiNations games allow you to choose units that you want to play with. Personally, in an Ancients game, I want chariots, elephants, camels and cataphracts. Not sure about phalanxes, but must admit that they look fantastic. This has rekindled my interests in Ancients gaming and so plan to dig out my troops at some point soon to remind me of exactly what I have.
  • With regards to the above, I want to have a go with 'To the Strongest' rules, which look to be good. When I've got a handle on these, we hope to be able to use Keith's figures once again, which shouldn't be a problem given that they use a grid based system.
  • During the game we talked a lot about how to try and reflect how chariots were used, how durable they would be etc. This is pretty tricky given that we have, as far as I know, very little useful information in this regards. A tough thing to get right as well as making them a viable choice for a player, but without being the Tiger II of the battlefield.

I hope to be able to get another game of some form or other in this week, whilst i've got some time off work. I'm torn between some more Ancients, WWII or ECW. Of course i could try and fit all three in but also need to get on with some figure painting. It's a hard life being a gamer...