Tuesday, 23 August 2016

One Hour Wargames - Scenario 21 - Twin Objectives

Having now acquired the original version of Neil Thomas's Simplicity in Practice rules, I thought I'd give them a go in their almost basic form this evening. I say 'almost basic'; I still had far too many reservations about the melee system, where even a single advantage seemed to tip the odds so far in the holder's favour that, to some extent, for all the dice being rolled the results were ridiculously predictable. So I tweaked the melee rules. I kept the idea of rolling four dice, as this ties in with the firing. And I still added two dice for each factor listed, except for flank/rear attacks, which added four dice. But instead of adding up the total of the dice (which is, let's face it, a bit of an effort in what is otherwise a set with fast mechanisms), I simply read each die scoring 4 or more as a 'hit'. The side which scored the most hits won the melee, with ties going to the side which rolled the fewest dice; they win by virtue of getting the highest proportion of hits.

The rules were designed for fighting the Charles Grant Tabletop Teasers. So they struck me as a perfect set to use for a One Hour Wargames scenario, and looked like they'd be OK for the next one in my progressive refight - Twin Objectives. So I got out the paper Wars of Liberation armies, and set the game up ...

It's 1819. A column of Bolivar's army is moving towards the small settlement of Papel, on a curve of the Orinoco River, when it encounters a Royalist force blocking its line of march and holding the village. In addition the Royalist's local indian allies are lurking in the forested hills to the south west of the village. Both objectives must be cleared of the enemy before the advance can continue.

The Republicans had three units of infantry, one of light infantry and two of cavalry. The Royalists had three units of infantry and one of light infantry. This would be a tough one for Bolivar's troops, since neither objective was one that could be assaulted by the cavalry that made up a third of their force.

The Royalists deployed their infantry in and around the village.

Meanwhile their indian allies lurked in the woods.

The Republicans deployed the cavalry on their right, the infantry in the centre and their own light troop on the far left.

With the town looking  tricky prospect, the Republicans went for a risky strategy; they would assault the town with the bulk of their force, and hope that their light infantry would be sufficient to drive off the indians.

The light troops entered the woods, and a firefight ensued, muskets against arrows.

Bolivar's men advanced rapidly on the village.

Closing up, the cavalry was thrown straight into the attack. Frontally charging the enemy infantry was not a great plan, but the hope was that the second unit of cavalry's support would offset this disadvantage.

The cavalry was repulsed, in considerable disorder.

It fled at the next volley from the Royalists. The other unit of cavalry took shelter behind its infantry.

The infantry lines exchanged musketry for a couple of turns, but it didn't go well for the Republicans, who could make little impression on the infantry holed up in the village, and who lost a unit to fire from those troops deployed outside the village.

More boldness was required; the cavalry was hurled into a wild attack on the infantry outside of the village so that the Republican infantry would be supported in a sudden, desperate attack against the objective.

The fighting was fierce ...

... and the cavalry broke their opponents. In fact it was a draw, but since the cavalry were rolling fewer dice they won the tie. Unfortunately the infantry assault on the village itself was repulsed.

Meanwhile, in the woods, very little was happening. Both units had taken one 'hit', but a result was looking unlikely.

Back at he village the Republicans, with nothing to lose now, went in again.

This time they forced the Royalists back.

The cavalry threatened the other Royalist infantry unit, in order to prevent it reinforcing the village. The infantry responded by taking the horsemen under a steady fire.

With the village under threat, the Royalists needed to do something decisive. With the Republican light infantry now on two hits, the indians charged ...

... and massacred their opponents. They now had undisputed control of the objective, and the Republicans had no time, or spare units, with which to capture it. Their first move gamble had failed.

There was still a chance of taking the village, and salvaging some honour out of the engagement.  A mostly fresh Republican unit charged the Royalist defenders ...

... but they were driven off. With both infantry units close to breaking, and their cavalry unable to attack the objective, the Republicans fell back to lick their wounds.

So a victory to the Royalist defenders.

On the whole this wasn't that exciting a game, despite the write-up. There was little scope for manoeuvre, with the Royalists pretty much static for the whole battle, and the Republicans somewhat committed to a frontal assault. It's possible that they could have swung their infantry further towards the river, to concentrate their fire on the village alone, and used the cavalry to cover against a counter-attack by the other Royalist infantry. But firing is not that decisive in these rules, as the action in the woods showed. I have fought this scenario before, almost exactly a year ago, in fact, and it gave a great little game. I think the combinations of troops in this game didn't offer as much scope as that one did.

I'm reasonably impressed with Simplicity in Practice. After this game I played another, using one of the more conventional head to head scenarios, and it gave a close and interesting game. My changes to the melee system still make it decisive, and it's still worth stacking up as many advantages as you can, but fortune now swings the way of the underdog sometimes, which is how it should be.

Follow the rest of the scenario refights HERE

Monday, 22 August 2016

Return To Laguna Salada

Over the weekend I had another go at the Laguna Salada scenario I played last week. I changed some of the figures I'd used for it the last time,in order to better reflect the forces with my rather generic figures. The only change I made to the actual scenario was to downgrade one element of the Patriot force from regular to peasant.

Once again, this was the setup, with the Patriots on the left and the Royalists on the right. In the forest you can see the blinds on which the ambushing Royalist skirmishers can appear.

The main Patriot force held back, whilst their light troops moved cautiously into the woods.

They found a Royalist ambush.

The Royalist forces pushed forward, under fire from the Patriot artillery. Meanwhile the Patriot skirmishers charged the revealed ambush, routing the enemy.

The Royalist commander threw some of his cavalry forward, but a single cannon-shot caused them to scatter and flee.

The Patriots poured musketry onto the flanks of the advancing Royalist line, and more troops ran.

The Patriot left flank came under sudden attack from bow-armed indians in the woods. The terrified militia on that flank fled for cover.

The men of the Irish Legion were made of sterner stuff, and swinging their line toward the trees, drove off the indians with a single volley.

The rest of the Royalist cavalry pushed forward, threatening the Irish Legion ...

... but the swinging across to hit the artillery.

And that was the end. The guns held their fire to the last minute, and blew the horsemen away as they attempted to close. On the Royalist right more militia broke under musketry from the Irish Legion, and the whole army routed.

Having played this through three time it is obvious it needs some adjustments. It is still very hard for the Royalists to win. I think I need to give them more freedom in how the ambushes appear, as at present they can be forced into revealing themselves by the Patriots using the skirmishers. When I originally started adapting this scenario I considered something along the lines of lurkers in HOTT, and I may return to that idea, allowing them to appear anywhere in the woods at any time for a cost of 1 PIP per element if they are more than 200p from an enemy element, and 2 PIPs if they aren't. This can allow them to appear out of nowhere, even in an area previously traversed.

Secondly the Patriots can, to some extent, win by just sitting back and using their artillery, forcing the Royalists to attack them. I am considering some kind of ticking clock mechanism here, putting a time limit on how long the Patriots can just sit tight before attacking. After all, they were pretty much trapped in the town of Riohacha, whilst the Royalists seemed content to sit outside and annoy them. The Patriots had to drive them off. I am considering dropping their break-point by one f they haven't won in a certain time, perhaps when their PIPs reach a particular total. This should force them into a more aggressive stance.

Finally, John Fletcher's scenario does not have a straightforward 'break the other army' condition. The Patriots must break the Royalist army, yes, but the Royalists can win by breaking certain units in the Patriot army; specifically the elements of the Irish Legion. To this end I am considering making each regular infantry element be worth two elements for the purposes of breaking the Patriot army. With a break-point of only 3 this makes their army very fragile indeed. Combined with the facts that they must attack quickly, and that the enemy can ambush them without warning, this could make for a far closer game.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Simplicity In Practice

As most of you know since acquiring 'One Hour Wargames' about eighteen months ago I have been dabbling in games using Neil Thomas's rules, or variants thereof. On set I hadn't tried was 'Simplicity in Practice', which is a Horse and Musket set which appeared in Battlegames back in about 2010. Not I don't have an actual copy of them, but I found a summary sheet on the AMW Yahoo Group which seemed to cover all of the salient points, albeit that I think there may have been a few additions and changes by the author. However I decided, from reading other reports, that what was there was close enough to the original in order to get a feel for the game.

The rules were apparently designed to fight the Charles S Grant 'Tabletop Teasers', and as I found one I'd printed off a couple of years ago in a pie of paper the other day, I decided to fight that. The battlefield consists of two objectives in opposite corners, a bridge (or ford in my case) and a village. The two opposing armies have rushed advanced forces to the area, aiming to grab the village (in one case) or the bridge (in the other). Both armies are convinced that the other side already holds the other objective, Of course they both arrive and discover that this is not the case, and can therefore choose to try and take both.

Victory goes the side which holds their assigned objective at the end of the gaming day, with a bonus if you can take the opposing objective as well.

Apparently the rules are designed for units on a 6cm to 8cm frontage, and for tables about 3' x 2' up to 3' x 4'. I decided to use my South American Liberation paper figures on their 4cm frontages and on a 16" square board. I halved all distances and ranges. Here's the setup. The Royalist column is approaching the village from the north, whilst the Patriots are after the ford to the south.

The scenario wasn't clear if units entered along a particular area on the board edge, or specifically along the road, so I went for the latter.

Both sides had the following troops: two units of cavalry, three infantry, one light infantry and one artillery. The cavalry were specified as being one light and one heavy; I just made them both heavy for the purposes of this game in order to keep things simple.

The Royalists led with their cavalry. I made a die roll for each army to determine their basic plan. The Royalists decided to occupy the village with a small force and make a bold attack on the ford.

The Patriots also led with their cavalry. They had decided to attack less aggressively, and put a little more effort into defending their objective.

As the Royalists organised themselves in the village, the Patriot cavalry pushed ahead. Some of their infantry, and the light troops, moved out from the main column.

The Royalist cavalry also raced away from their main force, one unit moving to cover each approach to the village.

The Patriots were looking very organised at this stage.

The first clash happened to the north of the battlefield, as the advanced cavalry units charged each other.

The Patriots lost. Melee in these rules is very decisive; the losing unit suffers two 'hits', with a unit only being able to sustain four and no rallying of hits possible.

The Royalists now had a couple of units defending the village, and were moving the rest out, ready to organise a thrust towards the ford.

The Patriot cavalry charged its Royalist opposite numbers. Melee factors cover such things as support and proximity of generals, so there was some jostling for position before the charge went in. As it was the factors ended up about even.

Again the Patriot cavalry retreated, and the Royalists followed up by charging the Patriot light infantry. In the distance their other cavalry were attacking the Patriot infantry defending the ford, having now dispatched the retreating Patriot horse in that part of the field.

The light infantry fell back too. The Patriots now had serious hits on three of their seven units, and had lost one.

Hits don't affect firing, though, so the Patriot infantry  poured musketry into the Royalist horse. In the rules I have, units that have taken hits must take a test in order to move or charge. The Royalist horse milled around in confusion under fire, unable to extricate themselves and, more importantly, blocking their supporting infantry from moving up.

Eventually they escaped, and the Royalist infantry moved up. A firefight began. Firing seems very random, and a single unit can only ever inflict one hit per turn on an opposing one. To get decisive results with firing you need to concentrate your efforts and be prepared for it to take a few turns.

On the other flank the defender of the ford had been destroyed, but another infantry unit had moved up to cover the objective, inflicting a hit on the Royalist cavalry in the process. With no melee advantages, the Royalist horse pulled back. However the Royalist artillery was there to cover the retreat.

In the centre the Patriot light infantry had fled the field, leaving their infantry to face two enemy infantry units. However long-range fire from the Patriot artillery also added to the casualties.

At the ford the Patriot infantry and Royalist artillery exchanged fire, whilst their cavalry waited in support.

A Royalist infantry unit broke.

At this stage both sides got to roll for reinforcements. Both got unlucky, however, and none turned up.

With hits accumulating on the Patriot infantry at the ford, a bold attack was called for. The Royalist cavalry charged them, and they were swept away.

They ploughed into the supporting horse behind, destroying them as well.

At the same time, the sole surviving Patriot infantry unit broke under fire.

This left the Patriots with just a single artillery unit, and the Royalists with troops on both objectives. The game was a decisive Royalist victory.

I quite liked these rules. They are incredibly simple, but there's some interesting detail in the close combat factors which make planning your attacks essential. Firing is simply attritional. Aside from the benefits of concentrating it there's little you can do to influence its effect aside from just getting into range.

Close combat, whilst having a number of interesting factors in play, is not as random as it first appears. Both units roll four D6 and total the scores. Each tactical factor adds two more D6. You can see that a single advantage adds a fair amount to your total, making victory very likely. More than one advantage pretty much assures victory. As other players and reviewers have noted, there is no gradation in the advantages either; the differing weights of cavalry have the same effect as hitting a unit in the flank. I think if I played this again I'd try a different melee system, making the result less of a foregone conclusion and perhaps the results a little more variable. One that came to mind is as follows:

Both units roll 2D6. Add 1D6 for each tactical advantage on the list, except flank/rear attack, which adds 2D6. Both sides compare the highest score they have rolled on any of their D6. If one side's is greater than the other, compare the difference. The loser falls back 10cm, and takes 1DP for each point of difference between the scores. If the dice are tied, compare the next highest, and so on. If once side runs out of dice to compare against their opponent, then they are assumed to have a dice score of '0' for comparison purposes against the highest remaining dice of their opponent. If both sides roll the same number of dice and no result is achieved (equal scores all the way), then roll a D6 each until one player scores more than the other; the loser falls back 10cm, but does not take a DP.

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