Saturday, May 16, 2020

Battle of Strasbourg - a committee game

In order to make up some gaming time, while the whole world is shut down in a semi-quarantine state due to the Novel Corona Virus pandemic, I hosted and refereed a committee game based on the battle of Strasbourg, 357AD, where Caesar Julian (and a council of advisors) decided what to do in response to King Chnodomar, head of a Germanic horde (Franci, Burgundi, and Alamanni), crossing the Rhine river (at Argentoratum - modern day Strasbourg) into Gaul.

Below are the briefings, maps, etc, that I provided the players.

From the Battle of Strasbourg Wikipedia page

Julian - You are Caesar Julian responsible for the defence of Gaul.  You are new to military command and it is very important that you make a name for yourself with the troops and increase your reputation.  The Emperor Constantius has been successfully campaigning in the East.  He is jealous of you and has been undermining everything you have tried to do.  He has said that you are not capable of dealing with such a military problem as this and consequently has dispatched troops under one of his generals (Richomer) to deal with the barbarian incursion.  You have to decide whether you will wait for Constantius (and his main army), thereby risking losing credibility in the eyes of your soldiers, or attack now and secure fame for yourself.

You were raised in a Greek speaking household, and spent your youth at schools in Athens.  You were raised as a Christian, but your study of the ancient philosophers has convinced you that it would be better for the empire if it returned to it's Pagan Roman roots.  This position is not always popular with the men.

Your inclination is to attack now before Constantius' troops come and take all the glory.  But being a prudent man, you have called a council of your senior officers to ask their advice.  After you have listened all you want (at least three game turns), you will make your decision.  Remember, the only thing worse than losing glory to Constantius, would be to fight on your own, and lose.

What you know about your council:
Sebastian - Your best officer, although a German by birth.  One of the best officers in the Roman army.  An excellent tactician and very popular with the troops.  He has recently replace Trajan as Master of Infantry.

Victor - A Sarmatian by birth.  He is known for his cautious approach.  He is the Master of Cavalry.  He is responsible for scouting reports.

Richomer - Master of Offices.  German born.  He commands the Household Guard of Emperor Constantius, who have arrived to assist you.  He has come with a message telling you in part to share the danger and to not rashly commit yourself to the risks of decisive action, single handedly.

Trajan - Former Master of Infantry.  Born in Rome, proud of being a true Latin.  You had him replaced by Sebastian because Trajan is lazy, incompetent, and he was very critical of you in front of the men.  He is dangerous and probably has his own eye on the throne.  Be careful.  However, he has friends in the court of Constantius.

Equitius - A kinsman of yours, and Marshal of the Court (the Court of Constantinople, the capitol of the Empire).  He has a high sense of honour and you respect him.  Just like you he is very respectful of the old ways, and has high regard for the Senate.  He is the highest ranking Civillian Official present in all of Gaul, second only to you in most matters.  But he is a civillian without a military appreciation for things.

Potentius - A very highly regarded junior officer.  The young soldiers like him, the old soldiers respect him.  He is going to achieve great things.  He is the son of the former Caesar of the West, but you were not responsible for assasinating your predecessor.  You don't think Potentius has any ill will towards you.

Sebastian - You were born a German, but have been a loyal Roman soldier your whole life.  You are Master of Infantry of Julian's army (the field army of the Western Provinces).  The only infantry you do not command, are the garrison troops of the fortresses.  You are a capable, seasoned officer and very popular with the troops.  You are without a doubt the best commander on Julian's staff and what you say carries a lot of weight.  Many of the junior officers will support you, whatever you say.  Trajan is your enemy, as he was the previous Master of Infantry, but was removed from office by Julian and replaced by you.  He has connections with Constantius, however, so Julian retains him as a senior officer.

You, like many of your men, are a Christian.  You have nothing against Romans of other religions, but the one difference you have with Julian, is he wants to return back to the older Roman pagan ways.

Your aim is to get Julian to attack the barbarians now.  If he does, you will probably gain a great deal of credit for victory, as it is well known that you are his best general.  If he waits, Constantius' generals will certainly steal the glory.

What you know about the council:

Victor  - A Sarmatian by birth.  Master of the Cavalry.  Cautious.  He is very beloved by his horsemen, mostly because he kept all of them alive during the recent civil war.  He is very protective of his cavalry, but is still a good commander in battle.

Richomer  - Master of Offices.  German born.  He commands the Household Guard of Emperor Constantius.  A very good officer, with very good troops. 

Trajan  - Former Master of Infantry.  Born in Rome, proud of being a true Latin.  He hates you, you took his job.  He was not very good at his job, but blames Julian and You for losing it.  Be careful.  However, he has friends in the court of Constantius.

Equitius  - Marshal of the Court (the Court of Constantinople, the capitol of the Empire).  He is distantly related to Julian.  Very important, but not to the army.

Potentius - A very highly regarded junior officer.  He is the son of the former Caesar of the West.  You like him, but do not know where his loyalties are.

Victor - You were born a Sarmatian, but you have been a loyal Roman soldier your whole life.  You are Master of Cavalry and equal in rank with Sebastian.  Together you are the senior army commanders, although Trajan is along, out of respect.  You don't like this situation - you have spent the past decade very carefully keeping your cavalry alive and well, in spite of the bloody civil war fighting.  For that reason, many of them are seasoned veterans, and very loyal to you.  This coming fight that Sebastian and Julian are itching for will be very dangerous and could cost many lives.

You, like many of your men, are a Christian.  You have nothing against Romans of other religions, but the one difference you have with Julian, is he wants to return back to the older Roman pagan ways.

You are responsible for the border scouting along the Rhine river, and you think that the barbarians do not pose a pressing threat, and you would be better of waiting for reinforcements to make certain of victory.  Your aim is to convince Julian to wait.  If it is going to be a battle, your aim is to keep your cavalry safe.

What you know about the council:

Sebastian - A German by birth.  Master of the Infantry.  An excellent commander, and not afraid of a fight.  He is very loyal to Julian, and will see this battle as a way to make a name for the young Caesar.

Richomer - Master of Offices.  He commands the Household Guard of Emperor Constantius.  A very good officer, with very good troops.  He was born a German.

Trajan - Former Master of Infantry.  Born in Rome, and somewhat proud of being a true Latin.  He hates Sebastian, who took his job.  It is unsure what his feelings are towards Constantius.  He may not be the best battlefield commander.

Equitius - Marshal of the Court (the Court of Constantinople, the capitol of the Empire).  He is distantly related to Julian.  Very important, but not to the army.

Potentius - A very highly regarded junior officer.  He is the son of the former Caesar of the West.  You like him, but do not know where his loyalties are.

Richomer - You were born a German, but have been a loyal Roman your whole life.  You are Master of Officers, the commander of the Imperial Household Guard, sent by the Emperor Constantius to tell Julian that he should wait for reinforcements.

Personally, you think Constantius is just jealous of Julian as the barbarians don't seem so strong.  For political reasons you must convey Constantius' message and be cautious of contradicting him.  Your aim is to give Julian the best advice you can without damaging your standing with Constantius.  If there is to be a battle, your 2,000 household guards are the best troops in Julian's army.

What you know about the council:

Sebastian - Master of Infantry for Julian.  A very good commander.  Maybe the best in Gaul.  He was born a German.

Victor - Master of Cavalry for Julian.  Cautious, but good.  Has miraculously kept his cavalry alive during the recent, bloody civil wars.  He was born a Sarmatian.

Trajan- A senior officer.  You don't know much about him.  He was born in Rome, a true Latin.

Equitius - Marshal of the Court (the Court of Constantinople, the capitol of the Empire).  Supportive of the government, and that means the Emperor.  But you don't think he cares which Emperor.

Potentius - A very highly regarded junior officer.  You don't know why he is in the council, but he is likable.

Trajan -  You used to be the Commander of Infantry, until Constantius replaced the former Caesar of the West, with this young upstart Julian.  For some reason he doesn't like you, and replaced you with that popinjay Sebastian.  You have heard some ugly things about Sebastian's past, and when you spread rumors and spoke ill of him, you were replaced.  You were born in Rome, and represent one of the true Latins, who should hold all the real positions of power in the Empire. 

Your aim is to discredit Sebastian.  You don't really care who gets credit for the battle, Julian or Constantius.  In battle you will not command the main battle line, but probably the secondary infantry (auxilliaries, archers, etc.)

What you know about the rest of the council:

Sebastian - You don't like him. A German by birth. He has your old job. Not fair.

Victor - A good officer of Cavalry.  A Sarmatian by birth.  But what good has the Cavalry every done?  And he is a Sarmatian! Victor tried to stay out of the fight all during the civil wars, maybe he is a coward?

Richomer - The officer of the Household Guard.  A German by birth.  Here on Constantius' orders.  Maybe if you work well with him, on Constantius orders you may replace Sebastian?

Equitius  - A high ranking civilian.  He is a Greek by birth.  He controls the paychests of the soldiers, and also is very loyal to the capitol (Constantinople).

Potentius - Another cavalry officer.  For some reason the other officers (Sebastian and Victor) like him.

Equitius - You are Curator Palatii, Marshal of the Court.  You are the highest ranking official in Gaul, except for Caesar Julian.  Julian is a distant cousin.  You are Greek born.  You are a civilian with only limited military experience, however you control the paychests, and have been asked by Julian to keep the soldiers up to date on pay.  You are very conscious of your position and feel yourself above all this military riffraff, especially those who rose from the ranks of barbarians, like Sebastian, Richomer and Victor.  From your perspective, it seems more prudent to wait for reinforcements but you will advise whatever seems honourable for you to try and impress Julian.  You are very loyal to the capital at Constantinople, and to whomever is Emperor.  Is it possible that Julian will make a better Emperor than Constantius?  It might be good for the stability of the Empire to have a learned man in charge.

What you know about the rest of the council:

Sebastian: A senior officer, who was born as a German.  He is a good leader, or so the other military men tell you.

Victor:  A senior officer, who was born as a Sarmatian.  Also a good leader, but you understand that he is very cautious.  His men are responsible for scouting, and may be useful to try to get parlay messages out to the German leaders.

Trajan: A senior officer, who was born as a true Latin, in Rome.  He is currently out of favor, and was replaced by Sebastian in his job as leader of the Infantry.

Richomer: You have had dealings with Richomer before.  Although he was born a German, he has a taste for the finer things in life.  But he is also a first rate military man.  He commands Constantius' household guard, and will be sure to keep an eye open for those who are loyal to the Emperor, and those who are loyal rather to Julian.  Be careful of him.

Potentius: A young man.  Like all young men, he is more interested in women than he should be.  Perhaps that is a weakness?  The other military men like him, perhaps he shows promise that you just don't see.

Potentius: You are a junior officer, but from a very noble family which adds weight to your opinion.  Your father was the previous Caesar of the West, however, he was kiled by his own men at the end of the recent Civil War.

You have found a home in the army, and are a very skilled cavalry officer.  You hope to rise in the army, and want your record and achievements to recommend you to higher service in the Empire.  You admire successful senior officers like Sebastian and Victor.

You want to attack now and get the battle over with.  If you wait for reinforcements, the barbarians might do untold damage.

What you know about the council:

Sebastian: A senior officer, commander of the Infantry.  Very responsible, and very talented.  Your father and his men spoke of Sebastian as if he were the best general in Gaul.

Victor: Another senior officer, commander of the Cavalry. Also very responsible and beloved by his men.  The junior officers under him tell you that Victor is extremely popular with his men, because he kept them out of the recent Civil War battles, and kept most of them alive, when so many other Roman soldiers were killed on one side or the other.

Trajan: A senior officer, but one you want to be like.  He has a reputation for being lazy and incompetent, but for some reason, he served on your Father's staff, as his master of Infantry.

Equitius: A civilian.  He is very important at court, and is very loyal to the Empire.  You don't think he is a military man.  He seems to know many important women, and who knows?  A politically connected wife might be good for your military career.

Richomer: Another legendary senior officer.  He is the Master of Offices for Emperor Constantius, that means he is the commander of the Emperor's Household Guards.  He has brought 2,000 elite guardsmen here to help Julian.  He also has brought messages from the Emperor.

The idea for the game came from one of the Wargaming in History volumes - Goths, Huns and Romans by Simon McDowell.  As detailed in the book, the ideas for particulars in the scenario are based on Valens' battle of Adrianople, but using the terrain and historical persons from the Julian situation.  It was a lot of fun, and the players had a good time.  I think next time I try this, I will insert some more structure, as it was too easy for the more eager players to overshadow the less eager participants (that could have been a product of being online, though).

Thursday, March 19, 2020

NT Rules: Ancient Army Lists III - Punic Wars

The third period of armies covered for the Ancient Warfare rules in the Wargaming: An Introduction book is the Punic Wars.  This is a great period of history to study, and also a great topic for wargaming, and these armies are interesting.  Neil Thomas handles it well, by presenting two versions of the armies, one for the main part of the campaigning when Hannibal was in Italy.  Then he gives a second set reflecting the battle of Zama where we start to see some brilliance on the Roman side.

Hannibal was able to use his mixed army with great success for what I think are two reasons. First, he has a goo mixture of forces at his control, and second he was a military genius.  Years ago, I read Tony Bath's Hannibal's Campaigns, which is perfectly written for a wargamer, taking care to detail the armies and battles very nicely. Another great source is Warfare in the Classical World by John Warry. He has an informative chapter on the Punic Wars, but really there are a ton of references and resources out there on this rich period.  Both books, and a library of others, can be found at Amazon.

Thomas gives a good army list for Carthage, showing the variety of troops.  There is enough Infantry to have a battleline, supported by elephants, and a variety of cavalry and skirmish infantry.

1-3 units African Infantry (heavy infantry, light armor)     
1-3 units Gauls/Spaniards (Warband, light armor)               
1-2 units Skirmishers (light infantry, javelin, light armor, Levy)       
0-2 units Elephants                         
1-3 units Numidian Cavalry (light cavalry, javelin, light armor)    
1-2 units Gallic/Spanish Cavalry (heavy cavalry, light armor, Elite)

The Infantry is respectable, and the elephants present a choice. They are a tough foe for the Romans, but since they are one stand units, the crumble fast.  The skirmishers and Numidian are extremely useful, but won't win a battle on their own.  And the same goes for the Gallic horse.  This is a tough army to run, since we aren't all Hannibal Barca, but it does present some problems for the Roman player. 

The Roman army, however, makes up for a lack of diversity, by  having some heavier units.

4-7 units Hastati and Principes (heavy infantry, medium armor)
0-1 units Triarii (heavy infantry, heavy armor, Elite)      
1-2 units Velites (light infantry, javelin, light armor)    
0-1 units Roman Cavalry (heavy cavalry, medium armor)         

The Velites will one man-to-man and unit-to-unit vs the Carthaginian skirmishers, if he can close. The Roman Cavalry will probably fare poorly vs the Gallic Cavalry.  That leaves the impressive battleline Infantry. Can they withstand both elephants and possibly the warband?  The triarii are a luxury item, but taking them leaves little room for support troops.  It comes down to discipline Infantry, vs Carthaginian finesse.

As mentioned, there is a second version of each army(Carthage and Rome) representing the period of fighting where Rome grew much more aggressive, strategically.  This was under the command of Scipio, when he pushed the war out of Italy and back to North Africa.

At this time, the Gauls were beginning to lose some faith in their Carthage allies, so the list represents a situation where the Gallic (or Spanish/Iberian) soldiery was still willing to fight for Carthage (promises of pay or booty), the Gallic/Spanish Cavalry is no longer available. Perhaps the Nobles sensed a futile effort? They were willing to fight in Europe (Italy), but reluctant to go to Africa?

The second big change is that the majority of the Numidian now saw the situation as being allied to Rome, a better deal than Carthage.

Finally, to reflect the hardening of some of the African Infantry, there are now some proper veterans n the army, fighting as an elite cadre.

To reflect these changes, change the two cavalry lines on the Carthaginian army list, to the following two lines:

0-1 units Numidian Cavalry (light Cavalry, javelin, light armor)
0-1 units Carthaginian Citizen Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Medium Armor, Elite)
0-1 units Hannibal's veterans (heavy infantry, heavy armor, Elite)

The Romans, after years of fighting Hannibal now have a different mix of troops, which includes their new comrades the Numidian, these changes occur.

Reduce the number of Hastati and Prncipes units, to 3-6 units.
Numidian Cavalry are now available (light cavalry, javelin, light armor) 1-3 units

With these changes, the later battles of the war can be fought.

Friday, March 6, 2020

NT Rules: Ancient Army Lists II - Alexander the Great

The second period of armies for the Ancient Warfare rules in Wargaming: An Introduction, covers the army of Alexander the Great, and his chief foe - Persia under Darius III.

The army list in the book is listed as covering the period from 340-323BC.  Several of the major battles of the period are against the Persians - and indeed, the two army lists presented are for Macedonia (under Alexander), and the Achaemenid Empire (Persia, under Darius III).  There were other battles, other than against the Persians. 

In the beginning of the period, while Alexander is still just prince, under Phillip, he fights one of his most famous battles, Chaeronea (338BC). His foe at this engagement is a Greek style polis army, with Thebans and Athenians present.  In fact, the book suggests that for such an army, the Greek Army list from the previous period be used, with the modification that the hoplites be modified to having Medium Armor, instead of the Heavy Armor.

The other adversaries that Alexander faces, that are not represented here in this article, include the Scythians (light horse archers, from the Black Sea area) at the battle of Jaxartes 329BC.  Also, the Indian army of the Pauravas at the battle of the Hydaspes 326BC.  Both of these armies would be fascinating to see, and they are represented in Neil Thomas' later, more detailed treatment of ancient warfare, in Ancient and Medieval Wargaming.

Other than the battles listed above, the other non-Persian foes that Alexander faced, were always during sieges (and the campaign in the Swat valley region around the Khyber Pass - the battles fought against the locals were very one-sided).  And so armed with army lists for Alexander, and Darius, we can refight the famous battles of Granicus (334BC), Issus (333BC), and Gaugamala (331BC) and finally the battle of the Persian Gate (330BC).

Alexander's refinement of the Macedonian war machine is a great evolution over the earlier Greek Polis Hoplite army.  Several equipment and technique improvements occurred, and rather than just having a static battle line, the army in the hands of the Macedonians (Phillip and Alexander, and Alexander's successors) becomes a very dynamic and aggressive tool.  This comes about with great numbers of cavalry (heavy such as the Companions, and light such as the Thessalians), and more reliance on light infantry.  With these adaptations, the army can use the phalanx (the battle line of pike, or sarissa, wielding heavy infantry) as a strong central anvil, and the cavalry and light infantry can harass the flanks of the enemy until they crumble under the push of the phalanx. 

Phalangites (Heavy Infantry with medium armor)                                3-5 units
Hypaspists (elite Heavy Infantry with medium armor)                         0-1 units
Agrianians (Light infantry with javelin and light armor)                      1-2 units
Cretans (Light infantry with bow and light armor)                                0-1 units
Companions (elite Heavy Cavalry with light armor)                             1-2 units
Thessalians (elite Light Cavalry, with light armor and javelin)             0-1 units

The Hypaspists are the select, elite heavy infantry of the army.  They might be employed on one end of the Phalanx, and used for the "killing blow" against the enemy battle line.

Two options allow the players to represent some non-standard historical theories.  The first allows the Hypaspists to be fielded as Warband rather than Heavy Infantry.   I'm not sure I agree, but it is there.  Second the Thessalians could be reclassed as Heavy Cavalry. 

Against the army of Alexander, the army of Darius would face them multiple times (and many sieges).  This new Persian army differs from the model of Xerxes, 150 years earlier, now being based on a battle line that could be split between heavy archers, and heavy cavalry (which can make up more than half the army).  In an effort to face the Macedonian Phalanx, there are several examples of the Persians hiring Greek Mercenary heavy infantry.  These are good units, but not quite the level of the Phalanx.  In several of the battles under Darius III he would try to adopt a certain stratagem or element of surprise against the army of Alexander.  One of those is present in the army list - the Scythed Chariots.

Persian Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry with light armor)                                         3-5 units
Paphlagonian Cavalry (levy Light Cavalry with javelin and light armor)      1-2 units
Scythed Chariots                                                                                              0-1 unit
Kardakes (levy Heavy Archers with bow and light armor)                             2-4 units
Greek Mercenary Hoplites (Heavy Infantry with medium armor)                  0-2 units

With a minimum of four mounted units, (up to a maximum of six units), this army will lead the player commanding it to trying some interesting maneuvers against the army of Alexander.  Standing in the battle line, even with Mercenary Hoplites making up the core, winged on both sides by Kardakes, would be a risky toss of the dice vs the Macedonian phalanx.

Upon Alexander's death, the empire would of course be divided up into five successor states, and they would wage the wars of the Successor States on each other.  Each successor, or Diadochi, was a general or presumed family heirs of Alexander's.  These included Ptolemy, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Epirus.   I would suggest, without resorting to the army lists and rules from Ancient and Medieval Warfare, that a generic Successor Army might look like this:

Phalangites (Heavy Infantry with medium armor)                                3-4 units
Hypaspists (elite Heavy Infantry with medium armor)                         0-1 units
Agrianians (Light infantry with javelin and light armor)                      1-2 units
Cretans (Light infantry with bow and light armor)                                0-1 units
Companions (elite Heavy Cavalry with light armor)                             1-2 units
Thessalians (elite Light Cavalry, with light armor and javelin)             0-1 units
Elephants                                                                                                0-2 units

Thursday, March 5, 2020

NT Rules: Ancient Army Lists I - Persian Invasion

The Neil Thomas Ancient (and Medieval) rules that are found in his book Wargaming: An Introduction, were covered in a previous article on this blog.  This is an overview of the different army lists that are presented to go along with those rules.

First, let me preface another one of Neil's publications, the great book on Ancient and Medieval Wargaming.  That book presents a more in-depth treatment and greater coverage (both in terms of years/periods served, as well as some more nuance in the rules).  It also divides up the whole period, as does the current ruleset in discussion here, into different time periods.  In the later book, however, each time period has more army lists than presented here.  So, when I speak of additional army lists here, or the idea for more troop types to be covered, presented - that is done in the latter version of the rules, to a certain extent.

Supporting the current ruleset there are several tie periods, and two or three armies presented for each one of them, as examples.  Presumably, some clever gamers would take their knowledge of the period, plus the list of troop types in the rules, and could craft additional army lists for additional armies not covered in this introductory set of rules and lists.

This is further reinforced by the fact that there are troop types in the rules, that don't exist in any of the army lists (for instance, as mentioned in the article on the rules themselves, Heavy Chariots don't appear in any of the sample army lists).

Period 1

The first time period covered in the chapter on Ancient Army Lists in this current book, is the period from 490-480BC, the Persian invasions of Greece.  For an excellent overview of the history of this incredible decade, see the article at the Ancient History Enclopedia.  These are the wars detailed by Herodotus in his volume, 'The Histories'.  This period offers up two armies, the Ancient Greek army, and the Persian army of Xerxes.  The only other information given for this time period is a suggestion that the tabletop have no more than 0-3 pieces of terrain, and that should be either woods, hills or rivers.

The Ancient Greek Army here is a representation, for these rules, of what the army would look like on the Greek side at the battles of Marathon (490BC), Thermopylae (480BC), Mycale (479BC) or Plataea (479BC).  Marathon represented (according to Western history) the end of the first invasion by Persia.  The other battles were fought making up the land campaign of the second invasion by Persia.

For those interested in this history of this extremely interesting war, please take a look at the major Naval engagements that made it up as well - the battles of Salamis and Artemisium in 479BC.

The Greek army is of course built around a core battle line of Hoplites, supported by some other units.  Here is the breakdown:

City Hoplites (4-7 units)
Spartan Hoplites (0-2 units)
Javalinmen (1-2 units)
Cavalry (0-1 unit)

The City Hoplites are heavy infantry, with heavy armor, and average morale.  The Spartans are the same, but with elite morale.

The Javelinmen (Peltasts) are light infantry, with light army, and levy morale.  They are of course armed with javelins. 

The Cavalry are light cavalry, with light armor, and javelins.  They are average morale.

Between the javelinmen and the cavalry, these are the only missile troops in the army.  However, this army will win (or die) based on it's strong battle line of heavy infantry.

This list well represents the Athens' heavy army at Marathon (the Spartans did not make it, because they had a religious ceremony to venerate before crossing Greece to the battle site).  It also represents the pan-Hellenic alliance at Platea.  If you wanted to do Thermopylae, I would suggest an army something like this:

7 units of Spartan Hoplites (heavy infantry, heavy armor, elite morale)
1 unit of Allied Hoplites (heavy infantry, heavy armor, average morale)

The Ancient Persian army of Xerxes is also a good representation of the Persian Army, for these rules.  The army list grants the following troops:

Heavy Archers (3-5 units)
Levy Infantry (1-3 units)
Immortals (0-1 unit)
Persian Cavalry (1-2 units)
Scythian Cavalry (0-1 unit)

The Heavy Archers are the Persian core battleline units, however this army has a lot of different options.  The Archers are themselves Heavy Archer units, with bow and light armor and Average morale.

The Levy Infantry are light infantry, with bow, light armor, and Levy morale.

The Immortals are Heavy Archers, with bow and light armor, and Elite morale.

The Persian Cavalry are Heavy Cavalry, armed with bow, light armor, and Average morale.

The Scythian Cavalry are Light Cavalry, with bow, light armor, and Average morale.

This whole army is armed with bows!!  The Greeks will definitely appreciate their Heavy Armor before this period is all over!  As Herodotus informs us, the Persians informed the Spartans, prior to the engagement at Thermopylae, that they have so many archers in their army, that the arrows would darken the skies.  To this, the Spartan reply was, Then we shall fight in the shade!!

These armies will tend to show the warfare as (we think) it must have been during these engagements.  The Greek tendency to adopt the heavy infantry and heavy armor, from the many battles among the different Polis factions. Against this, the Persian reliance on archery is the nature of the contest.  It is a tough one.

To play the Spartans against the army of Xerxes, the attitude of the Spartans is certainly helpful to adopt.  It is best summed up in the monument to the Spartan dead at Thermopylae:

Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

NT Rules: Ancient Wargames

The first set of rules in the book Wargaming: An Introduction is called Ancient wargaming, but I never fact it covers Armies and subperiods, ranging from the fifth century BC up through the Middle Ages.  As with the other rulesets in this book, this one is presented over three different chapters. The first chapter introduce some the period, and discusses some of the peculiarities of warfare in this period. This includes mention of the troop types, and also any peculiar formations or weapons.

For the Ancient Wargaming set, the various troop types are these:
  • Heavy Infantry - examples include Greek hoplites and Roman legionnaires
  • Heavy Archers - examples include Persian Immortals, and English longbowmen
  • Warband- examples given include Gallic warriors, and Roman Auxiliaries
  • Light Infantry - no specific examples given, except to say that many armies rely on light, skirmishing missile troops
  • Heavy Cavalry - examples given are Macedonian Companions and Crusader Knights
  • Light Cavalry - examples include Numidian Cavalry Andrew Mongol horse archers
  • Heavy Chariots - examples here include Assyrian four-horse Chariots, and Hittite two-horse and three-horse Chariots
  • Light Chariots - examples include Egyptian and British two-horse Chariots
  • Scythed Chariots - the example given is the Persian use
  • Elephants - here the examples are the Indian and Carthaginian armies
  • Artillery - the example given of battlefield (i.e. Not in a siege) use is the Romans
Each of these units are portrayed with four stands per unit, except for the last three types. Scythed Chariots, Elephants, and Artillery each have only one stand in a unit.

Hannibal crossing the Rhone - Henri Paul Motte
Some interesting things are already apparent. Although the first sub period covers warfare in the early part of the fifth century BC (490-480 BC) with the wars between the Greeks and Persians, and moving forward.  This is already beyond the period of Assyria and the Hittites, and even the period of chariot use in Egypt, yet they are mentioned in the textile on unit types. Also, a quick look over the army lists provided shows no army in the book with heavy Chariots. Although not stated, what the author has done here's is presented a ruleset with broad applicability beyond the Armies and sub periods he discusses I need the third chapter on this period.

Another thing of note is that it states in the second chapter, on rules, that units take four hits per stand, regardless of the troop type. With some units having only one stand, that make sure them (quite so) very fragile and vulnerable. Since we are talking about Scythed Chariots, Elephants, and Artillery.

One thing mentioned near the end of chapter one, and unfortunately not mentioned again clearly in chapter two (but stated in the introduction to chapter three on army lists for these rules), is that the standard game is played between armies of eight units each.

An additional thing mentioned in chapter one, is the concept of armor, which applies to infantry and cavalry. Armor types are Extra Heavy, Heavy, Medium and Light.  These confer saving throws to avoid casualties in both shooting and hand-to-hand combat.  Crossbows reduce the effect of armor, and artillery hits ignore it entirely.

The second chapter contains the rules, in a well layed out outline format. 

Set up rules are not given, but victory conditions are. If an army is reduced to two units (25%) then it has lost.  In addition, if any of your units exits the map/board on the enemy's baseline, other than
Light Infantry, the enemy player must remove two of his own units.  Presumably this represents panic due to having the baggage looted, or a withdrawal route cut off.

The rules start off with giving the turn sequence.  This is a typical, old school version of I go/You go. The sequence given is:
  1. Charge Sequence
  2. Movement
  3. Shooting
  4. Hand-to-hand combat
  5. Morale tests
Once one player completes all five phases, then it is the other player's turn, until the game ends.  Nothing exotic here, and it gives a fairly good flow.

Charging is done in three steps.  First, prior to measuring, the player whose turn it is announces charges. Then they are measured. If the enemy is reached, move the unit. If the unit cannot reach it stays put with no other penalty. If the target unit is equipped with javelins, it may then fire at the charging unit, as long as the charging unit moved at least 8cm.  The third step I saw that combat will occur, but not until the hand-to-hand phase.

All other movement is next.  Artillery is immobile, all other units have a move,ent rate from 8cm for heavy infantry, up to 24cm for light cavalry.

Wheeling and turning are not defined, but if any unit other than Light Cavalry or Light Infantry wish to move in any direction other than a straight line ahead, they only move at half speed.  Presumably this also includes Light Chariots, as they are not listed with the other group.

About movement: when I use the rules to run games on a club night, or at a convention, it is the movement rules that causes the most difficulties for veteran players.  There are no rules for different formations, and no rules for various maneuvers found in many rulesets.  So, if you want to oblique, move at the wheel, turn a unit about, etc. then you are able to, as long as no part of the unit moves more than the allowed amount (full movement value for Light Cavalry or Light Infantry; half movement value for everyone else).  As there are not rules that (for instance) allow a unit to about face in place (rather than wheeling through 180 degrees; or spinning the unit with a forward wheel on one flank, and a rearward wheel on the opposite flank), it presumably cannot be done.  However we have found, as with most things, that reasonable house rules (or referee interpretations) can allow for certain things not expressly forbidden

The rules give instances for three classes of terrain.  Rivers take a unit a complete turn to cross (they start on one bank, and just move to the other bank is the implication).  Hills block line of sight, but otherwise don't affect movement.  Woods are immobile to some units (Cavalry, Chariots, Elephants), slow down other units to half speed (Heavy Infantry, and Heavy Archers),  but don't slow down light Infantry or Warbands.

Rules are given that allow Light troops (Infantry, Cavalry, Chariots) to fire on the move. Other units cannot do so.

Shooting rules are next. Weapons are defined by their maximum range, from 8cm for javelins, up to 48cm for artillery.  

Rolls to hit are based on rolling one dice per stand in the firing unit, and the target number is based on the weapon.  There are no modifiers to the hit number. Bows and Javelins need 4,5,6.  Crossbows need 5,6.  Units in the woods suffer only half the hits rolled. The rules don't state, but we round this up for the shooter's favor. (House Rule)

Next, the target unit gets to make saving rolls for each hit scored.  As mentioned, this chance is reduced versus crossbows.

Artillery fire is somewhat different. Rather than rolling one dice to hit for the artillery, the firing player first roll said one dice, to see how many to-hit dice he gets.  Then roll to hit, again halve hits vs targets in the woods.  There are no saving rolls vs artillery, every hit I see a kill.

Recall it takes four kills to eliminate a stand from a unit. Kills have to be marked, as they are persistent, until a stand is removed. We use plastic upholstery rings, hung on the miniature side killed. But any method works.

When an elephant receives four hits, since its only a one stand unit, it would normally be eliminated. Instead it rolls to go berserk.  It moves a full move in a direction based on a random chart, and if it strikes anunit, it immediately fights a round of combat.  Then the poor beast dies.

Next we get to hand to hand combat.  The rules give a set of priority considerations, to determine who strikes first..  Units then roll a number of d6 per stand in the unit, based on an striker/target matrix.  Hits are on a 4,5,6. Saving throws are allowed, and kills marked.  Both sides get to fight, but if a stand is lost to a foe who fight she first in priority, it does not get to roll.

Saving rolls are not allowed against Elephants or Scythed Chariots.

Special striker/target considerations apply to combat in the woods, making Warband twice as effective there.

Artillery units contacted for Hand-to-hand combat don't fight, they are immediately destroyed.

Finally, the morale phase occurs. If the unit lost any bases in the turn, it makes a d6 test for each lost base. The scores required are based on morale grade of the unit. If a dice test is failed, the unit loses an additional stand for each failure.
Those are the rules as presented. In the next article, I will discuss the Armies and sub periods.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Examining the rules of Neil Thomas

Since the publication of his first wargaming book (Wargaming:an Introduction) the various rule sets of Neil Thomas have provided wargamers with a number of very playable, simple rulesets for a variety of different time periods. I have played many of them, and I find them to be excellent in teaching wargaming to newcomers.  They lack many of the finer details and options found in longer rulesets, but they provide an enjoyable game, with good results, and have provided a great basis for tinkerers to adapt the format to a wide list of variants and options.

There are a number of good reviews of the rules, addressing their features and limits, found through the wargaming press (blogs, magazines, etc.). I thought it might be worth while to go through the different rulesets, and point out specific features and mechanics, and discuss what I have found to be useful and enjoyable, and what might be done differently.

His first book has no fewer than six different rulesets, all of which have slightly different mechanisms for their appropriate periods. These cover: Ancients (and medieval), Pike and Shot, Napoleonic, American Civil War, Skirmish Wargaming (multi period), and WWII.  Two of these have gotten much greater in depth treatment in later publications (Ancient and Medieval Wargaming, and Napoleonic Wargaming).  The American Civil War rules are very interesting, and might be thought of as a special case in his later book Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe but remain distinct enough, both in rules and in theater of action, that I consider the later book a stand alone, and not a refinement.

I'll follow this post up with a series of articles on each of the six rulesets in his first book, looking at the rules, the army lists, and give my thoughts.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

2019 Autumn Miniatures gaming

Not a lot to report on the miniatures front, although that is about to change.  Over the summer I played a half dozen different SAGA games, and at Call to Arms (the October wargaming convention in Williamsburg) I was able to play a game of SAGA.  That game, I was playing my friend Stephen from the ODMS club, and he was running Pagan Rus.  I was running (for the first time) plain old Vikings.  I managed to eke out a win, and I suspect my reliance on large units (a lesson I learned while running my Anglo-Saxons) helped -I had two 12 man units of Warriors.  Plus a 12 man unit of Levy, and a 4 man unit of Hearth Guard/Berserkers.

Saga at Call to Arms - me on the right, with Vikings
Previously I ran a game at Guns of August (at the Virginia War Museum in Newport News).  My game was a 28mm skirmish game of Romans vs. Germans, a follow on small skirmish after the Teutoburger Wald forest battle.  The figures were an assortment of different Foundry barbarian types, and the Romans were a mix of different manufactures.  The rules used were the Song of Blades and Heroes, using just historical troop types.  It wasn't my cup of tea, but I admit I should try the rules again.  I am inclined to think I would much rather play something like an adaptation of Lion Rampant, or even Warhammer historical.

Our club, which historically had been a Thursday night club, now has groups that meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Tuesday cadre has a dedicated group that plays Warrior 15mm ancients every week.  The other part of Tuesday nights are boardgamers - Settlers of Catan, and that sort of thing.

American Revolutionary War - Battle of Freeman's Farm

Now, coming up I have two miniatures games planned.  The  first will be a 15mm version of Freeman's Farm (part of the Saratoga Campaign, 1777).  I had thought of using Black Powder for this game, which I enjoy, but instead I am going to use the much easier Neil Thomas rules.  There is an excellent fan version of his rules (based on the Napoleonic version, but with more concentration on Linear Tactics), covering 18th century, with some lists of troop types for the American Revolutionary War.  I will use those rules, although there is a peculiar feature of them.  That is, formed infantry cannot charge other formed infantry, unless that target unit is smaller.  This rule exists in several of the horse and musket era Neil Thomas rule sets, in order to push the idea of the musketry firefight.  Two units that approach, have to stop and exchange firepower with each other, before one goes charging in.  Pretty historical, but different from what most wargamers expect.

For the scenario, I am consulting a couple of wargaming sources I have - the scenario guide for British Grenadier, and also the battle description in the 1st edition Black Powder rulebook.  For historical sources, I am looking at 'A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution' and some internet sources such as British Battles.

There is a Freeman's Farm scenario for Tricorne (the Commands & Colours variant for AWI), that I might play before I run the game (solo, probably). Just to get some more insights into the battle, but a Tricorne scenario is at a different level of abstraction/scale than a miniatures battle.

The portions of the battle I want to focus on are Fraser and Burgoyne on the British side, and Arnold, Morgan's minutemen, and Dearborn's lights on the American side.  I will probably omit Reidesel, although the Hessians would make an interesting part of the scenario, they don't show up until late in the day, and might present a balancing problem for the scenario.

Denbigh Fusiliers in the Sudan

The other game I have planned, is a game of The Sword and the Flame in 28mm.  This will be held on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. The battle is a company of British regulars (the Denbigh Fusiliers) moving through some territory where British and Egyptian friendly villages have raised a small makeshift militia to defend against the Mahdists that are overwhelming the region.  Almost like a "Magnificent Seven" or "Seven Samurai" type scenario - but instead of 7 heroes helping the villagers to defend themselves, here you have two platoons of Tommy regulars in Khaki helping to fight off the Dervish attack.  The scenario is called "Friendly Territory" and is the first battle of the "Denbigh Fusiliers" mini campaign.  It should be fun.  More as the game approaches.