Sunday, July 30, 2017

Historicon #4: Chariots of the Gods?, and some thoughts on To the Strongest!

I ran my final game of the convention at 7 PM on Saturday: Assyrians vs Egyptians with Canaanite Allies (the later courtesy of a large lead donation f\rom Ken Baggaley a year or so ago), with the excellent rules by Simon Miller, To the Strongest!

Overview of the table (16 x 5 feet), Assyrians to the left, Canaanites near right, Egyptians far right.

Canaanite forces.

Egyptian Left wing Chariots, and Division Ptah (green).

Divions Re (yellow), and Seti (Blue), posing with the Sphinx. The "arrow volley" markers are "reserve ammo".

Division Amun (Red) and the Right Flank Chariots. Coins are Victory medals, sacarbs are hit (disorder) markers.

Assyrian Left flank Chariots and Cavalry.

Several Assyrian infantry commands. The Towers are camps. 

Assyrian right Center.

Assyrian Right center cavalry and Chariots.

Asyrian Far Right wing - all "mounted".

Table overview from the opposite end.

Let the game begin!  wWe had 14 players for 16 commands. 3 decks per side.

Almost everyone got in to the action fairly quickly - except the Canaanite infantry command (far left).

Tod Kerschner commanded these Egyptian Light Chariots, and did fairly well with them. He probably needed to be more aggressive at threatening the Assyrian flank later in the game, though. They are not easy to use against the better armored Assyrians!  We chatted during the game, and we'd both love to be able to go back in time and see what Chariot warfare was really like, along with a Napoleonic Heavy Cavalry charge!  Victor had the supporting troops of Division Amun.

Action in the center; note the barely visible dark brown dots marking the "grid". 

A definite cat and mouse game on the Canaanite end of the table!

Light Chariots doing what they need to do - seeking he enemy's flank!

Speaking of flanks... Veteran Nubian bowmen shooting into the flank of a heavy chariot, with the attached general...   potentially up to 4 hit cards to be played, with a negative save adjustment for the target as well!

Egyptian Division Seti pushing the attack!

Light Chariots daringly maneuver across the Wadi to gain a flank. The wadi is made from WizardKraft "Dry river beds", with a new option, desert flocking. They were delivered just a few days before I departed for Fredeicksburg, as requested!

About 2/3 of the way through the game, a tap on the shoulder resulted in the receipt of a PELA award for the game, the presenter commenting that there weren't many people who could more chariots on the table than he did... but that I had done it!

I observed that it was more a tribute to the players, and the rules than anything else. 
On the other hand, from the first game with these armies with Barry a few years ago, each additional Egypt vs Assyria game resulted in some upgrade... the towers, the Sphinx, the scarabs, the Canaanites, more Assyrians, the dials, and so on. I had observed that Saturday night games had become thin (doubtless GM exhaustion!) in years past, and figured that would be the perfect time to run a big game like this - one with a lot of players, but also one that would conclude in a reasonable period of time  with rules that were easily picked up. As it was, the Assyrians were declared the victors with a little over 2.5 hour game play. Everyone seemed to enjoy the rules as well!

    Speaking of that, I have to sat that To the Strongest is one of those rare, special rules sets that reinvigorates my enthusiasm for our hobby. It has probably caused an at least 50% increase in the size of my Ancients to Medieval era armies, with  few more expansions yet to come. It is an ideal game for conventions, or any time you want a fun game with limited set up work that will finish in 3 hours or less. Simon has an English Civil War rules set using TtS principles which is due for publication later this year, and there are many ideas for applying the rules concepts to other conflicts, and genres to be found on the discussion board for the rules. Indeed, I plan to use them to create a new set of rules for my 15 mm Renaissance galleys. 

    I started in miniature wargaming at about age 13, as previously related. Napoleonics has always been my first love, and that remains unchanged after almost 50 years. My introduction to Ancient wargaming, as also previously related, came at the home of Charlie Sweet, in Bristol, CT. Charlie and Dave's Ancient Wargames Rules were probably my favorite of theirs... so much so that I later developed my own set using many of the same central ideas but very different combat mechanisms (see Legio Quaternarius).  To the Strongest! shares many core concepts with both of these sets.

    First and foremost, it uses a gridded board. I have long been a fan of gridded tabletop wargames; indeed, the original Napoleonic rules that my group used for 20+ years were hexagon based. As Charlie argued in an article in the original NEWA Courier (which may even have been reprinted from another, earlier journal), the one thing that you can to that speeds up play the most is to use a gridded board. Gone are any need for rulers or tape measures to measure ranges, moves, etc. Gone are any arguments over field of fire, angles of contact, and the like. Simon's concept of just marking the corners of the squares ("boxes") allows excellent visual appeal for those who find a traditional grid unattractive

    Second, it is basing independent. While both Charlie's rules and mine had standard basing conventions, there was really no reason the figures HAD to be based just so. In the case of To the Strongest!, this means that virtually any basing an be used, and it need not be similar for both armies. Thus troops based for almost any rules set can easily be used with To the Strongest!

    Third, the rules are relatively accessible to those without either much gaming experience, or much knowledge of the era or armies involved.  They can be taught and played with just a few minutes introduction to the key concepts. Combat is fairly decisive, as it takes only 1 to 3 steps to eliminate a unit. A wide variety of different troop types and ratings are accommodated without unduly overburdening the system. Once the troop ratings for an army are established and placed in some kind of digital file, setting up a game can be done quite swiftly. The game can be played with just a few figures per unit, or with hordes. It can be played with two players, or twenty. 

    To the Strongest! also shares a  number of concepts with the Piquet/Field of Battle family games that I love. The Victory Medals are pretty much the same as the Morale Chips of those systems. This gives the game a distinct ending point. It uses cards (albeit in a very different way) to determine the sequence of actions. It uses asymmetrical movement and opportunities to act. It requires a LOT of decisions from the player. The mechanics of the game keep both players engaged, regardless of whose turn it is. Combat is relatively non atritional. And most importantly, the game is fun to play!

    Is To the Strongest! the last word in simulating Ancient Warfare?  Well of course not!  Simon himself would be the first to disavow even attempting to accomplish that. Thus it may not tick the boxes for dyed in the wool players of any era. For the rest of us, it i a heck of a game, that "feels" right, and allows us to use a lot of different toys from across the sweep of history. It also seems to be to be a nearly ideal "gateway drug" for introducing newcomers to our hobby, somewhat akin to the Commands and Colors" family of games in that regard (as well as several others from the concepts cited above). 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Battle of Reichenberg at Historicon

Longtime wargames freind Eric Burgess from North Carolina ran this great looking Seven Year's War game, using he 2nd edition of the Cartouche supplement for Piquet. Eric used some house rules, most notably for this convention game, the looser of the impetus roll got half that of the winner, rounded down.

The battle field set up before the troops were laid out.

Now the troops are ready to go as well. I commanded the near half of the Prussian Infantry, a 12 lber battery struggling to make it's way forward to deploy, a Hussar Regiment and a Grenadier battalion in the far distance. We needed to assault and over throw the Austrian defensive position before their reinforcements could intervene. 

An old freind, Dave Sweet, commanded he Austrian Cavalry and reinforcements.

The opposing cavalry soon came to saber cuts.

We Prussians opted to make a somewhat Oblique attack upon the Austrian position, taking heavy casualties in the process.

Our other command closes with the Austrian defenses - the yellow chips indicate declared opportunity fire declared. 

The attack continues - note Austrian reinforcements coming up in the rear.  It seemed like most of the time when the Prussian Infantry was poised to close, the Austrians had an "Infantry Reload" card showing. Ouch!!!

The action becomes general! Don't Eric's figures (15 mm) look grand?

Top down view shows heavy Prussian loses.

The Cavalry action showed the Prussians and Austrians trading honors.Eric uses magnetized markers that attack the metallic bottoms of his stands for hits, dirosrder, rout, blown status (cavalry) and more. Very clever, no issue with the markers not staying with the unit that way!

I finally manage to get the lone Prussian battery in position to fire!

Aftermath of the cavalry clash... a lot of blown cavalry!

Still more Austrian reinforcements march onto the table, this time arriving on the Austrian Left. The presence of the nearby Prussian cavalry with the new arrivals in March column made it effectively impossible for the infantry to deploy without triggering an Opportunity Charge by the Cavalry. 

The Prussian infantry finally achieves several local breakthroughs!

Not all of Frederick's men have the stomach for trading repeated volleys at close range, however!

Somewhat to my surprise, we Prussians ultimately prevailed. 

Eric relaxes after his stint as GM.Note the shirt; I joked with Eric that Stark's Winter Ale was one of those products that was advertised but never delivered;  after all, everyone knows that "Winter is coming..." Turns out the shirts were made for fun by a freind of his - cool (literally) idea!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Historicon: Random shots

A 54mm WW2 game held in one of the club rooms. 

I took this shot because of the use of the "canopy of Trees" woods; doubtless there were some surprises hidden within during the game. 

Big ancients game with rolling terrain in a club room. 

The Aspern-Essling board (10mm); didn't get any pictures with the troops on it. 

The Gemende Au at Aspern

More Aspern-Essling. 

I think the work on this terrain board, as with his others, is superb. Hopefully he will run this game at a number of shows to make it worth the big investment of time and effort (or sell it off!).

La Petit Armee.

Nice terrain board. Don't expect these from me, though!  Just not very practical unless you use them many times. 

Magnificent Frostgrave set up. 

The Harbor. 

Long View

30mm Malburian?

Lovely figures!

Raid on an ? Indian compound

Nice Congo board. I have the rules but haven't even opened them!

Interesting setup, but not sure what it is!

Large Multi set up ? Pulp game. 

The Dungeon/catacombs/Labyrinth/Tomb end. 

"Definitive"  Seriously?

One of the great many extremely well done Flames of War Tournament boards. Not my era or rules, but they do a great job on presentation!

54 mm Ancients... presumably with Commands and Colors. 

Great looking board for ESR games... the yellow might be just a bit too bright for my tastes, but eh, if I could do something that nice myself, I would!

Taking down a game with a lot of depth to it ? Fallen timbers. 

Brian Cantwell's WW2 North Afrika game with FoB WW2. 

Overview - Pico armor. FoB stalwarts Tim, Andy, Sam, Hugh in attendance. 

Talk about Tiny!  Does give the grand sweep, though!

Close up of the village.


Some game markers.

Magnetized smoke markers (for hits, I think).