Sunday, January 22, 2017

Medieval wargame pictures

These are from the solo Chainmail game, using the armies derived from the campaign system I have been working on.

Row after row of Poppenheim billmen - infantry with polearms

Men at Arms from Bombastia

Spearmen of Bombastia, arrayed between stone walls along a road

Bombastia Holy Order Knights - from the Church at Hofbrau Berg

Highland Pike from Bombastia, out in front of the main battleline

Thursday, January 19, 2017

War Cry - a review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

This review will be of War Cry, from Judgest Guild.  But first, a short description of why I am reviewing this ruleset, and why it means so much to me.

The rules, in shrinkwrap - old copies are still around

Why War Cry? - A reminiscence
My first exposure to miniature wargaming was through the purchase in the spring of 1980 of the Hinchliffe Guide to Wargaming (of which there is a complete scan available on the most excellent  Vintage Wargaming blog).  I had the version produced by Heritage in the US, with the color cover showing a wonderfully painted vignette of British redcoats fighting hand-to-hand with some inspired looking Zulu warriors.  The booklet had an overview of the miniature wargaming hobby (which I instantly fell in love with), and offered tips on building terrain, painting miniatures, setting up a table, and offered two sets of rules.  One was a set of rules for Napoleonic battles, and the other was a one page set of Medieval skirmish rules by John Sharples (also available at Vintage Wargaming).  I immediately began collecting Airfix figures from their Battle of Waterloo set, and wanted to try the Napoleonic rules.

But, alas, I had no opponent.  My brothers, and some friends, however, were keen to try medieval skirmish, so off we went.  The idea of bigger armies and bigger battles, however, appealed to me.  I found a few packs of 15mm Minifigs models from their Rome and the Barbarians line.  I purchased some and painted them, but they sat with my other early collection of random wargaming figures.

Fast forward a few years, to when I started hanging out in the Campaign Headquarters hobby shop in my first year of college (it was 1984).  I joined in with a group of guys who were going to play a large game of 15mm ancients.  The armies were fantastic - mostly they were the Minifigs figures I loved but never played with.  I still have extremely fond memories and feeling for those lines of figures, and that style of army building.  Almost every figure in a unit was identical.  Occasionally, there might be extra command figures (like for the Romans pictured above).  Regular units were all painted identically, but irregular units (barbarians, skirmishers, etc) had different color cloaks and shields, etc. It was all glorious and beautiful.  We set up a very dense pair of battle lines on a 12' long table, and began playing.

The armies were something-something-Late-Roman vs. something-something-Gothic.  It was sort of a blur, because the guys setting up the game all brought their figures, and we made up (sort of) armies for the occasion.  The rules used were War Cry.  This was the second edition of the rules, published in 1981 (I own both versions, although my 2nd edition copy is in much better shape).  This version of the rules had all the charts of the game printed on two "Giant Wall Charts" (as described on the cover of the rules).  They were 22"x34" posters, with all the charts of the game reproduced in large print.  We had several sets of them proudly tacked to the walls of the wargaming room, where everyone could see them during the game.  I was hooked, and thus began a lifelong love for 15mm ancients wargaming.  For that reason, I felt that my series on out-of-print miniature rules would not be complete without a review of War Cry.

War Cry - the rules
War Cry is a set of rules for fighting tabletop battles for armies of the ancient period, up through the medieval period.  Just about anything from the earliest armies of the ancient near east, up through just before the Renaissance is covered.  These were written by Dave Petrowsky (with credit also given to Jim Allen), and published by Judges Guild.  Like most Judges Guild products, which 90% of were roleplaying adventures and supplements, these were printed on inexpensive paper, just a grade or two above newsprint.  The first edition (published 1978, and called "War Cry and Battle Lust") was printed in mostly black and white, with some red ink embellishments.  The second edition had a color cover and a few color pictures in the interior.

Picture from Boardgame Geek
As mentioned, the charts were printed on poster sized paper, and are double sided.  The rules come with two such posters, so you can mount them on the wall during a game.  The rules themselves are pretty much complete, covering turn sequence, moving, shooting, fighting, morale, and some optional rules including topics such as ships, bombardment of fortifications, and so on.

Table of Contents
  1. Game Scale 
  2. Sequence of Play 
  3. Orders 
  4. Movement 
  5. Terrain 
  6. Reaction Moves 
  7. Evading Troops 
  8. Missile Fire 
  9. Arcs of Fire 
  10. Artillery 
  11. Melee Combat 
  12. Chariots 
  13. Cavalry Melee Rules and Chariot Melee Rules 
  14. Elephant Rules 
  15. Point Values 
  16. Regular and Irregular Troops 
  17. Fortifications 
  18. Melee Weapons 
  19. Disarray 
  20. Overlapping 
  21. Morale 
  22. Morale Charts 
  23. Percentage Loss Table 
  24. Organizing Your Army 
  25. Army Morale Chart 
  26. Battering with Artillery 
  27. Assault on Fortifications 
  28. Optional Rules 
  29. Questions and Answers
The game is suitable for 15mm and 25mm figures, and gives basing for both (it uses standard WRG basing sizes).  The standard troop types from WRG are also mentioned, and mostly relied on in the rules.  In fact, it has been remarked that War Cry is a cleaned and simplified version of pre-5th edition WRG (maybe an amalgam of 3rd or 4th, but with some different systems in the rules).

Turn Sequence and Orders
The sequence of play is as follows:
Phase I: Order writing (more on this later)
Phase II: Movement - two subphases, first are charge declarations (which might trigger certain orders or reactions), and then all movement (both sides, simultaneous, based on orders).  Reaction moves also happen here.
Phase III: Missile fire - some occurs during phase II, but most happens now
Phase IV: Melee (anyone in base-to-base contact with the enemy will fight)
Phase V: Morale Check phase

Order Writing - readers of this series of reviews will know that I am not a fan of rulesets that require the players to write orders.  However . . . here it seemed to work.  The game is pretty straight forward, so orders are mostly of the "unit X will move 8" oblique to the left" or "unit Y will charge the enemy archers".  I recall playing these rules using simple order markers (like the sort used in Johnny Reb), showing basic move orders (straight, left, right, re-order), or charge.  A simple unit roster with room for each turn could be used, such as the one pictured in the old Hinchliffe guide...

Hinchliffe idea for an Order Chart, from Vintage Wargaming
Moves, Reactions, Evades
Movement distances are given on the chart, based on troop type and given in inches for each troop type, for Normal moves, Charge moves, and March Column moves.  These range from 8" for most formed infantry (Armored Infantry move 6"), up to as much as 16" for Light Cavalry.  There is also a chart for how terrain affects movement.  Terrain types listed include:
  • Ford
  • River
  • Woods
  • Gentle Slope
  • Steep Slope
  • Abrupt Slope
Each of these will list a multiplier for that terrain type, vs a unit type.  For instance, Heavy and Armored Infantry are 4x in the woods (meaning that each inch crossed in the woods, takes 4" off the movement for that unit, for that turn).  The costs for doing formation changes, or turns of 45 degrees, are also given.  The game supports basically a line formation, and a column formation.  Change formation is done with the unit standing in place, and rotating about the center.  Wheeling is done by measuring the outer edge of the wheeling unit.  When a unit is performing a charge, it is at a higher movement value - and the difference between regular move (example: Heavy Infantry 8") and a charge move (Heavy Infantry 12") is the amount of the charge move that must be in a straight line (so the last 4" of a charge move by Heavy Infantry must be in a straight line, although the unit may have turned or wheeled before that point).

Reaction moves are a possibility, so that a unit that finds itself being charged, might alter it's ordered movement for the turn, in order to respond to the charging enemy.  The unit must follow it's movement orders for part of the turn (1/4 of the move for regular units, and 1/2 of the move for irregular units) before it can react (such as stand, or turn in place, etc).

Light Infantry and Light Cavalry can attempt to evade charging units.  Deep units may not evade at all, and others must pay the penalty for a Front-to-Rear evolution, then move away from the charger.  Pretty straight forward, especially when you check the chart and find that Light Infantry pay no cost to do a front-to-rear change, and Light Cavalry only pay a 3" penalty (from a regular 16" move).  So lights can move pretty far away from a charger.  Evaders can also dice (there is a basic chance based on training, and weapon) to see if they can fire before evading.  Firing by an evading unit is at a penalty.

Missile Fire
Shooting by units is pretty generous.  Stationary units can fire two ranks deep.  Most moving units can fire one rank deep, but some can fire 1 and a half ranks (the whole first rank, and half the figures from the second rank).  If missile troops are charged, and the chargers move over half their move to reach them, then they missile troops can fire, and also engage in melee.  Orders are not required to fire.  Mounted troops can split move and fire (move, shoot, and move again).  Very nice for mounted archer types like mongols...

There is a simple fire priority.  If more than one unit is in your firing arc, and range, you must fire (first choice) at a unit that can reach you for melee next turn.  Next choice would be an enemy missile unit (some restrictions here).  If there is a choice, or no priority targets, the shooter can choose whichever target they like.   Rules for how many missile hits a chariot can take are given.

The fire procedure is simple - calculate the number of figures that can fire (this is the number of "factors" on the firing chart).  Add or subtract situational modifiers to the number of figures (these are called "factor modifiers").  The modifiers to the number of figures is somewhat small (it is usually only -1 or -2 figures, from the total allowed to fire).  Here is a list:
Mounted Unit -1
Long Range -2
Foot Firing Unit Moved -2
Short Range +2

Now, against this, a single dice is rolled, and it has a number of dice modifiers.  Compare the two on the firing chart, and the number of enemy figures killed is given.  Dice modifiers are cumulative, and range from a +2 to a -4 depending on the modifier.  Here is a list:
Cataphracts or Plate Armor  -4
Other Metal Armor  -2
Other Armor  -1
Oversized Shield  -1
Unshielded  +1
Formation 3 or more Ranks Deep  +2
Non-Barded Cavalry or Camelry  +1
Defender in Light Cover  -2
Defender in Dense Cover  -4 
Fire at Moving Target   -1

So, the resulting dice roll can be modified by these factors, quite a bit.  Usually, there is a modifier for armor, less frequently there are cover modifiers, or a moving target modifier.   Cross matrix the number of figures ("factors") vs. the modified dice roll, and you get a number of dead enemy figures.

Ranges vary by weapon, from a maximum range of 4" for a heavy pilum, out to 26" for longbows, 30" for heavy crossbows,  and even 48" for ballistae.

Missile fire rules are completed with a section describing how various ancient and medieval artillery works in the rules.  Ballista type weapons, and catapult type weapons are covered.  The former are a simple point and shoot weapon, much like missile fire from a unit.  The latter are handled by the firer announcing a firing range, then dicing for over/under and shot drift.

Melee Combat
The rules for melee combat are, at their heart, very similar to missile combat.  You count up the eligible number of figures that can fight ("factors"), and then roll 1d6.  To that you add or subtract a number of modifiers, and then matrix the modified dice result with the factors number, to derive a number of enemy figures that are killed.

The basic dice modifiers come from a chart that cross-indexes all the troop types of the game, and the result is the first modifier for the dice roll (so for instance, Heavy Infantry fighting against a Medium Chariot is a -1).  The situational modifiers include the following:
Med, Hvy, A Inf Charging +1
Med Cav Charging +2
Hvy Cav Charging +3
E Hvy, S Hvy Cav Charging +4
Elephant Charging +5
Berserkers Charging (1st round) +2
Upslope from Opponent +1
Opponent has light cover -2
Opponent has Dense cover -4
Opponent in March Column +2
Against Opponent's Flank +5
Against Opponent's Rear +7
Opponent Shieldless +1
2H Chopping Weapon v. M H and A infantry +3
2H Chopping Weapon v. Cav, Camels, Chariots, Elephants +3
2H Chopping Weapon v. all others +2
Heavy Javelin or Pilum used in 1st Round +1
Lance, used in 1st round +1

Rules exist for Chariots (they can swerve or crash, when you attempt to charge home with them), Elephants (the can go berserk, and only die after taking a number of "casualties").  There are descriptions of how many ranks of troops can fight, based on weapons: for instance, pikes have the whole first rank, and half each of ranks 2 and 3.  Finally, there are rules determining things like Unit Disarray, Overlapping an enemy unit, and break-off moves.

The Morale system of War Cry is interesting, and I admit to liking it.  Each unit of troops has a starting morale value that is an indicator of it's training, physical courage, determination to fight, etc.  This ranges between 5 (extremely poor quality troops) and  13 (fanatic berserkers).  That number, or less, is rolled against with 2d6 for a morale check.  There are a few modifiers (not many) but one that is always in effect, is that you always get -1 to your morale value for every 10% of casualties that you take.  Considering you don't start taking tests until you are 30% down, you will start your first number as 3 less than your starting value.  So a good quality Roman Praetorian Guard unit is a MV of 11.  When it takes 30% casualties, and has to test morale, it is trying to roll 8 or less.

If you roll less than your modified MV, then you pass your morale test.  But if you roll more, then you use your unmodified dice roll to consult a chart and see what the effects are.  The effects chart is structured so that if you roll high, the results aren't too bad, but if you roll low, then they are terrible.  This works well with the overall morale test mechanism, since you only blow your test with a low number, if you have a modified (down) MV.

Calculating the 10% of casualties on a unit with 18, 24, or 36 figures can be a pain on the fly, so the rules suggest that you make an army roster, listing each unit, their base MV, along with how many figures they will be once they lost 30%, 50% and maybe 60 or 70%.  With that number, list their modified MV for the new level, so that it is a simple matter of looking up how many figures are remaining in a unit, then you get access to their current MV.

Example Morale Roster
Unit (Original Size/MV)30%50%60%
SizeMV SizeMV SizeMV
Greek Heavy Infantry 50/8 355 253 202
Creten Archers 20/7 144 102 81
Thracian Light Cav 10/6 73 51 40

So, looking at the above chart, we see a unit of Creten Archers, that starts the game with 20 figures.  When it gets down to 14 figures, it has taken 30% casualties and it's morale value drops to a 4-.  So if it has to take a morale test (ignoring, for now, any other modifiers), it has to roll 2d6, and score a 4 or less.  If it does not, then it looks at the morale results table to see what happens.

Setting up the chart takes some time, before the game, but it makes the game roll very nicely.

The rules include a points system, which also covers a Weapons Category system (a figure gets a hand weapon for free, and a weapon from one other category, all others are paid for).  There are guidelines for which historical armies were regular, irregular, or either. There are some short rules for including ships and boats, and how they behave (although, to me, the page with the boat rules looks like it came from another Judges Guild set of rules - "Sea Steeds and Wave Riders").  Finally, there is a section of optional rules.  These include pursuits of fleeing units; cohort relief (to emulate the Roman manipular system); Chivalry Honor for knights; caltrops; Normal Cavalry (those Norman horses bite, you know); Poison weapons; the effect of Camels and Elephants on cavalry (smell); Levy troops; the Elephant Graveyard (they respect other dead elephants); and finally Shield Wall and Testudo formations.

Thoughts on War Cry
War Cry is a nice adaptation of the basic WRG factors and table type system, but without using 20 casualties per figure - all casualty results are given in whole figures, which is nice and runs smoothly.

I have some problems with playing it.  As I remember, these where some complaints back in the day, but we ignored them in order to have a simple set of rules that gave good results.

Complaint 1: order writing. This could be remedied by having a variant turn sequence.
Complaint 2: combat and morale modifiers don't seem to be very well thought out. Just a thought.
Complaint 3: there is little reflection of morale grade differences in actual combat, only in the results of combat.  That is pedantic, but it does have an effect.

Otherwise it is a nice set of rules.  I have great memories of playing, with some of my best friends from college and my early wargaming years.  Sadly some of them have passed away since then (and my attendant melancholy which might add to my fondness of those games, I admit).  But it is a good adaption of the WRG system, and plays quickly.  It gives pretty good results, and some of the "chrome" rules (chariots, elephants) make it a lot of fun to play.

The rules in the game are clearly meant for 25mm figures, and the ground scale is given absent a figure scale (1 inch equals 10 yeards).  But the basing chart gives base sizes for 15mm and 25mm.  As I mentioned, way back in the 80s, we played these (out of the box, so to speak) with 15mm figures, with no modification to the ranges.  I think that still works, but a 15mm cavalry unit moving over 20 inches in a turn is a bit much for a small table.  Good thing my is 6'x10'.

We used it for some basic fantasy type wargaming as well (I recall a game of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, where the Oliphants made it up siege ramps to the top of the outer walls of Minas Tirith, then 1 of the beasts went berserk and ran down the whole length of the wall).  Since it was sold by Judges Guild, a company known for their support of fantasy roleplaying games, I am sure that many other groups did the same thing.

These days, I don't know how I would rank these rules against some of my other older favorites for the period (such as Might of Arms, Chainmail, Universal Soldier or others).  I think I might try a game of it soon, with a modified turn sequence that would support Solitaire play.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Wargaming Profession

There is indeed a professional side to hobby wargaming.  Designers, editors, and publishers of wargames are definitely all talented individuals.  But there is another side to professional wargaming, and that is wargaming for the Department of Defense (in whatever country you live - for me it is the U.S.).  And they are desperate for fresh talent and more talent.  Here is a very good article, about someone I know (and participated in a professional wargaming design session with, just a month ago).  A good article, read it even if you aren't interested in the profession, it is eye opening.

Wargaming Needs New Recruits

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Thanksgiving That Was

Thanksgiving was celebrated with great joy and thankfulness at GwCHQ (i.e. - our family home).  We had plenty of feasting, and a good friend spent the weekend with us (rather than at home, alone) and we had a parcel of other friends join us on Saturday for a game day.  There was supposed to be (perhaps) an RPG session - never happened.  There was supposed to be some miniatures gaming (Frostgrave, Chainmail, and maybe Lion Rampant) - also never happened.  Did that pose a problem?  No, we had a great time anyway!

The guy in the hat kept asking about King of Tokyo

We played a number of board games over the weekend (standard fare - Dominion, Catan, Lanterns, Ticket to Ride, etc), and we played a bunch of Legends of Andor.  Fun game, and it really scratched that "we would like to play an RPG but can't get the whole band together" sort of desire to go adventuring, fight monsters, and complete quests.  I don't know what the German version of the game is like (published by Kosmos), but the version we have (the Fantasy Flight English version from 2012) was fantastic.  One of the best things about the game was that artist Michael Menzel (who paints really stunning maps and images used in a lot of boardgames) was also the game designer.

Board showing the above ground map of Andor (reverse shows below ground)

The basic mechanic is one of using time slices to perform tasks (usually movement and combat against monsters).  This is very similar to the mechanic used in a lot of other games, but immediately Tinner's Trail and (to a lesser extent) Thebes spring to mind.  Also, the many Kramer boardgames that use action points to limit your moves.  But in the other examples, and in Legends of Andor, everyone is doing their actions interspersed, instead of the whole pool of action points all at one time.  Very clever, really gives a feel for doing your actions during a day of adventuring, and it makes the game flow well, and introduce some nice decision making for the players.

To end this recap on gaming over Thanksgiving, I thought I would share a few other game boards that were painted by the talented Mr. Menzel.  Below are boards for Pillars of the Earth, Stone Age, and Castle for all Seasons.  Other than each of them being stunningly beautiful abstract landscapes (showing the country side, and other features important for the game, but illustrating scenes of local activity and inhabitants, albeit out of scale to the countryside), are all also very informative and intuitive in indicating play areas, and active spots, on the board/map.

Pillars of the Earth


Stone Age

A Castle for All Seasons

So it was a lovely Thanksgiving - with Family, Feasting, Friends, and a bit of Faith.  The year has been very good to us, and we had a great time forgetting about our toils and jobs and school and cares for a while, and enjoying each others company over a gaming table (also, plenty of pie and coffee helped).  Now, on to Christmas!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Lord of the Manor - Sinews of War

(This is a continuation of my thoughts about a mapless Medieval campaign supporting tactical medieval rules, such as Chainmail.  This is the first version of the random generation of lands and troops.)

There is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls,
Doing more murder in this loathsome world,
Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell.
                          - William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

Several things are still left to do, in order to complete the Lord of the Manor medieval campaign rules.  At a minimum, these include rules for conducting campaign battles (what is at stake, terrain selection, etc.), their outcome, and how to spend the bezants that accrue to a player, as part of their demesne.  In addition, I think that a section on random characteristics (one each) that make a demesne unique, would be interesting.  This article, however, is about the many uses to which a Lord of a Manor could put the accumulated bezants of that domain.

A Lord may find himself in possession of a certain number of bezants, which he may wish to spend, in order to make his military ventures more likely to succeed.  This may include several things that are listed below, but in general include hiring more men, investing in armaments, the hire of mercenaries, and perhaps securing a marriage for an heir.

More Men
Hiring more men is quite easy to do.  Simply choose a unit that is already in the demesne army, and pay the amount indicated to add more figures to the unit.

  • Foot unit then the cost is 100 bezants to add an additional 6 men to the unit
  • Billmen can have 6 crossbow added to their unit for 200 bezants
  • Mounted unit, then the cost is 200 bezants to add an additional 3 men to the unit

Each unit can have this done a maximum of one time only (i.e. - Billmen can have 6 additional men, or 6 crossbow, but not both).  The additional money can be spent to upgrade mercenary units, as well.

Mercenaries can be hired, both domestic and foreign (foreign mercenaries only available to a Demesne that has a Port).  In both cases, they will return at the end of the campaign season they have been hired for.

Domestic Mercenaries
Villeins100bz18x light infantry,
mixed weapons (sword, axe, spear)
Routiers 200bz18x heavy infantry
Town Levy 200bz18x light infantry, pike, act as Levy
Yeomanry200bz12x English Longbow, light infantry
with archer stakes
Catapult Troupe 200bz4x crew, light catapult

Note that the demesne does not have to have a Town as part of its lands, in order to hire Town Levy.

Foreign Mercenaries
Swiss Pike300bz18x light infantry, pike
Landsknecht200bz18x heavy infantry, polearm
200bz12x light infantry,
heavy crossbow
Hansa Billmen100bz18x light infantry, polearm
Catalan Scouts100bz12x light infantry, javelin
Aragon Jinetes200bz9x light horse, javelin

Note, as mentioned above, in order to hire Foreign Mercenaries, the demesne must have a Port as part of its lands.

Money can be spent to upgrade the equipment of some units.  Each option below can only be applied to a unit once, although a unit may benefit from several options.  For example, a single Archer unit (12 figures, light infantry, Longbow) may be made into Armored Archers (Heavy Infantry), and given Archer Stakes.  Or a Sergeant unit may be upgraded with Lances, and being made into Knights (Heavy Horse).
  • Spearmen (Heavy Infantry), can be made into Billmen (Polearms) for 100bz.
  • Archers can be made into Armored Archers (Heavy Infantry, Longbow) for 100bz.
  • Archers can be given Archer Stakes, for 100bz.
  • A unit of Foot Men At Arms (Armored Infantry) can become a unit of Mounted Men At Arms (9 figures, Heavy Horse) for 200bz.
  • Billmen (Heavy Infantry) can be given plate armor (Armored Infantry) for 100bz.
  • Crossbow troops can be given Pavise, for 100bz.
  • A Light Catapult mercenary troupe can be upgraded to a Heavy Catapult for 100bz.
  • Sergeants or Mounted Men At Arms can be given Lance, for 100bz.
  • Sergeants (Medium Horse) can be upgraded to Knights (Heavy Horse) for 100bz.

A Lord may decide to secure a good marriage for his heir (either son or daughter), which may come with gifts of additional lands to the demesne.  A Lord may only benefit from this, once.  The Lord decides whether to invest in a Marriage (300bz) or a Diplomatic Marriage (500bz).

Marriage (300bz) - The Lord receives as a gift, a parcel of land.  Roll on the table to determine a new land to be added to the demesne.  The normal scutage for the lands - troops and/or money - will accrue as normal.

Diplomatic Marriage (500bz) - The Lord receives as a gift, his choice of a parcel of land.  Roll on the table twice, to determine two different lands to choose from (re-roll a double result)  The Lord chooses from among the two lands, and it is added to his demesne, as above.

In either case, the Lord now has secured an Alliance.  In the future, he may call for allied troops for any fight.  He will have to pay for the troops, but he gets the two following options.  Note that these are not mercenaries, and will behave as normal troops that are part of the army, but for one battle only. 
  • 100bz - Crossbow (12 figures, light infantry, Crossbow)
  • 200bz - Knights (9 figures, heavy horse, lance)
Note that the Lord may choose to hire one, or both, of these units. Also, they do not start on the battlefield with his regular army, but may arrive at anytime on turns 2,3, or 4.  The Lord makes a note before the game start whether they will arrive on his left or right flank, and what turn they will arrive.  They appear on the edge of the battlefield (within 6" of the center line), at the noted turn (the Lord should reveal his note to his opponent at this time), during the Lord's movement phase.  They may move normally next turn.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Koenig Krieg - review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

This review is a little bit different from some of the others, in that KK is a ruleset that is currently available, so it is not out of print (a great review by Mark Severin at Deep Fried Happy Mice makes a good read).  It is, however, in a very different format from the wonderful set by Barry Gray that I bought back in the mid 80s for about $3 or 4.

The version I have, (actually I have two versions, the one from 1982, and the one from 1986) does not have much information in it, as to publishing info, etc.  There is a cover page that mentions Barry Gray by name, and inside the back cover, there is an advert for Mike's Models. The advert mentions Austrians and Prussians, and offers them at $4.50 for 18 figures (or 9 cavalry).  The good old days.

Admittedly, in the 1980s, I was not too interested in the Seven Years War in Europe, but I was interested in the North American portion (the French and Indian War), and also the American War for Independence.  It was with that in mind that I first approached the rules.  Later I would become a fan of Seven Years War era warfare, in Europe, and learning more of the history went arm-in-arm with the wargaming.

So what is KK like?  First, it uses rectangle elements for basing the infantry, with 4 figures on a base, 2 each in 2 different ranks.  Other than Johnny Reb, from Adventure Gaming, I do not recall other rule sets using similar basing.  Cavalry and Artillery were mounted much like many other rulesets.  But it wasn't the basing that made (and still makes) KK a good ruleset.  It was the turn sequence.

The turn sequence has five phases in it, which the players execute through in order, and roughly simultaneously, each turn.  I say roughly simultaneously, because while each side will do their part of a phase before progressing to the next, within each phase where order matters, the two sides will determine initiative through an initiative test.  Here are the phases:

Command Phase
Movement/Fire Phase
Close Combat Phase
Melee Phase
Exploitation Phase

Going through these is a great way to explain KK.

The Command phase 
This is when you check to see which units will be "in command" or "out of command" during the turn.  Any units out of command will have to dice to see if they can act during the other phases - Infantry will only act on a 1-2 (on a d6), and Cavalry (being more independent?) can act on a 1-4.  Out of command units can always fire, but cannot change formation or facing (even if it can move)

The Movement/Fire Phase 
This is when units (you guessed it) move and fire.  This is done by alternating Brigades.  The Phase starts with determining Initiative.  The player with initiative activates the units within a brigade, then it passes to the other player, etc.

Now is a good time to bring up Operations (OP).  Each type of unit has a number of operations that it can use during each of the Three Main Phases (Move/Fire, Close Combat, and Exploitation).  If a unit is Moving, it simply decides how many of its OP for this phase to put towards movement. Each one generates 4" of movement.  An OP also allows for a formation change, or a backstep (of 1").  Cavalry, of course, have more operations than Infantry, especially in the Move/Fire phase, so can move further.  Depending on current formation, etc, some units have a +1" modifier, that they might use to add to the total move they will get (for instance, Foot Artillery has 1 OP in the Move/Fire Phase, but it also has +1" - so whatever else it does, it can also move a bonus of 1";  Horse Artillery is the same, but with 2 operation points, and +1"; etc.).

Firing also uses an OP.  So, Infantry in Line, has 1 OP in the Move/Fire phase.  That means it can move 4", or it can Fire.  It cannot do both. This is what gives the game it's very nice feel for Linear Warfare of this period.  You can extend a unit out by moving it away from it's friends, but it won't be able to do much, quickly, on it's own - so you better be supported.

Special Rules for strategic moves for units well away from the front exist, as well as rules for retreat moves (which don't require an operation point).

Firing is done during this phase, and is adjudicated by determining the number of dice per figure (roughly, 1 dice per two infantry firing; or 1 dice per artillery crew firing).  The chance to hit (on each d6 rolled) is based on a Fire Table, and is typically a 5+ or a 6, but in some cases can be as generous as a 3+ or 4+.

Losses are marked with casualty caps, and when a stand has accumulated enough, it is removed from the unit.

So to recap, the available OP a unit has in the Move/Fire phase can be used in the following way:
  • Move 4" (except Infantry in Square)
  • Change facing/formation
  • Fire (except cavalry)
  • Backstep 1"
All very reasonable, which is suitable for warfare in this Age of Reason.

The Close Combat Phase 
The next phase is the Close Combat phase, which allows for charges, in certain situations, that will result in melee combats.   Again, the phase starts with determining Initiative. Then alternate Brigades.

Units that are within 2" of the enemy may activate during this phase.  Again, each unit has a certain number of OP.  The allowable ways to spend OP in this phase are as follows;
  • Skirmishers (only) can move 4"
  • Any unit may Change Formation or Facing
  • Infantry can charge an enemy within 1"
  • Cavalry can charge an enemy within 2"
  • Infantry and Artillery can fire at a unit charging them
  • Cavalry can counter-charge a unit charging them.
Each of these costs 1 OP.

The Melee Phase
The next phase is to determine the outcome of Melee Combats that resulted from charges and contacts made in the previous phase.

Melee combat is done by adding a dice roll to the morale of the unit involved.  This produces a melee total for that side.  Then both sides are compared, and the lower total loses the difference in casualties.  If there are multiple units involved, then the average morale is used, but each unit gets to roll a dice to add to the total.  There are, of course, situational modifiers.  The losing side then retreats, and if the winner was the unit that charged, the loser loses another figure.  If the melee totals were a tie, then both sides lose a figure, and all units involved have to make a morale check.  Losers will retreat, if both pass, then fight another round.

The Exploitation Phase
Units that charged, and won a combat, may now execute OP during the Exploitation Phase.  This begins, again, with testing initiative, and then alternates, one brigade at a time.  Of course, only the brigades that have units doing an Exploitation can move this phase.  Infantry and Artillery may fire, even if they did not earn an Exploitation move.  So the actions allowed for OP to be spent on in this phase are:
  • Move 4" per OP (exploiting units only)
  • Change facing or Change formation (exploiting units only)
  • Infantry and Artillery can fire at a unit charging it
  • Cavalry can counter-charge a unit charging them
In this way, a successful charge in the Close Combat Phase, that is resolved successfully in the Melee Phase, can result in an Exploitation Move that generates another combat.  There is a chance for Cavalry to become unhinged (er. uncontrolled - sorry, my infantry bias is showing through).  If so, they begin a charge to glory that might take them off the board, or might take them through any enemy units in the way.

There are some rules for morale, army morale, and some optional rules (weather, dragoons, etc).  The beginning of the book has a good section on setting up a table, basing figures, and organizing brigades.  Finally, an appendix has great information on army contents, and information on building armies (how many units, what types, ratio of guns to infantry, etc).

A great set of rules - always fun to play, represents the combat of the time nicely, plays quickly, and has an easy set of rule systems.  As I mentioned I played these first with AWI armies, so we didn't have a lot of cavalry - which really cuts down on things like exploitation and charges, and focuses on fire combat.  So when I first played a large Seven Years War battle, it was like *Something Wonderful* had occurred, and the game took on a whole new dimension.  And it never even required me to get some sort of thing about flutes.

KK is fun, and I still like it.  It, to me, was always much more fun to play than Warfare in the Age of Reason, but maybe a bit less specific.  I'll take fun over specific. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Current Projects - Autumn Gaming

This Autumn has been a great time, and a tough time, from the perspective of my hobby. I have had lots of time to spend writing reviews and working on articles and rules, and also some painting activities, but I haven't gamed since September, and had to miss Fall In.  Here is a rundown on the projects I have been working on...

I have been keeping up my research and work on the Once and Future Rules project, with upcoming reviews on Koenig Krieg and Angriffe, and some more ECW rules (Protz and 1644). Many others on the stack.

Writing an article that reviews and compares three different board games on the American Revolutionary War.

Finishing up my campaign rules (Lord of the Manor) for Chainmail. This was instigated by my recent review series.

Finishing up a set of Viking age skirmish rules ("By the Runes!").

Not much with RPGs right now.

Planning some Thanksgiving Weekend gaming (Frostgrave, Lion Rampant, and board games).

On the painting table, some things have been happening...

About two-thirds done with reorganizing and re-basing a large (2000+ figures) 15mm High Medieval collection.

Re-basing some Renaissance 15mm figures.

Reorganizing my AWI figures (maybe on hold for now...)

Building 15mm stone walls. Also planning to paint some Baueda 15mm wattle walls.

Painting some buildings (finishing desert buildings in 15mm, and starting some half timbered medieval buildings).

Prepping some 28mm medieval figures (from my dormant WotR project, now un-dormant).

Sorting out some crossbow figures in 15mm that can be either late Medieval, or Italian wars.  This will probably be my next 15mm paint project.