Monday, June 14, 2010

DBR French Wars of Religion

Our gaming group got together to celebrate our fifth year anniversary and the birthday of Mark, the group's founder. Mark requested something Renaissance-era. I happened to have some figures put together for a demo scenario of a hypothetical Wars of Religion battle, so we ended up playing this using DBR.

The game highlighted some of the players' difficulties with DBR. I'd have to say that this rule set is not entirely my favorite. The period from 1500-1700 is difficult to cover with one set of rules, and the result is a little odd at times. Despite my concerns, I'd probably defend some of the odder problems we had. We saw two, in particular.

Overeffective Shot
There's no denying that in DBR, shot is king. Bruce, the player leading the Huguenot forces was feeling very frustrated watching his Swiss being held off and slowly destroyed by shot elements, most of whom were arquebusiers, for that matter. In general, I agree with the contention that the shot vs. foot factors are too powerful in DBR. Historically, shot could hold their own only if behind fortifications. I think this can be solved, perhaps by adjusting factors, or more likely be adjusting combat outcomes to make shot more fragile in the open against other foot.

Separation Anxiety
I'm not certain, but I think that members of our group actually first coined this term for this rule in DBR 2.0. Because the DB* system works with ad hoc groups of elements, and not predefined units, the rules had to come up with a way to avoid having individual elements spinning off in odd directions. In short, the rule says that it costs extra effort to separate any smaller group of elements from a larger group, unless the larger group is staying where it is or the smaller group is moving into combat.

The problem is that although we have been playing the rules since they were first released, we had been misreading the definition of "smaller group," allowing it to be a single element. In fact, it has to be two or more elements. This led to a lot of clumsy maneuvering and frustration, but here I'm willing to put up with the rules as is, without any modifications.

There are other problems with the rules. The game seems to be skewed to work better in Condensed Scale, which we don't normally use. It doesn't seem to scale up well to large battles. There are more issues. But after Friday's game, I may have been the only player coming away thinking that the system might still be salvageable.

Still, that won't stop me from trying out the anticipated Field of Glory Renaissance rules when they're released.

Monday, May 31, 2010

KublaCon 2010 - Saturday Night - Towton

Note to self - do not sign up for two nights in a row running games expected to last up to midnight.

As I've mentioned in the past, I like Field of Glory as a rules set for conventions, because the mechanics are easier to follow than DBMM or others for the average newcomer, while still providing something approaching a historically accurate game. Since I have a large collection of 15mm Wars of the Roses figures, I decided to try something large with the Battle of Towton. The first problem came up when I finally got around to gathering together all my figures and set them up.
"It's a little small for the largest battle ever fought in England, isn't it?" a friend asked.

And it was, since my collection was designed to provide two Big-Battle DBA-sized armies, and not a complete pair of oversized opponents. After begging, borrowing, and even stealing a few extra longbows (I think he'll forgive me once I return them), I was sort of able to put something together.

First thing I learned here - FoG scales up pretty nicely, but the player who has to try to keep track of everything going on is going to be a little confused. Also, in a large battle, it's likely that some players will be doing everything during one phase, such as the Melee phase, and will be sitting around waiting for everyone else to get through Impact, Maneuver, and Shooting before they can do their thing. Despite that, I liked the way the battle progressed, which caught the historical chaos without my creating special weather rules. (The historical battle involved heavy snow and wind that favored the Yorkists.)

 Somerset's longbowmen (bottom) look out at the Yorkist forces (top). Even with all the extra longbow figures, I had to use blank stands for the rear center of some of the battlegroups.

On the first turn, the Yorkists rolled for Norfolk's flank assault showing up early, only to discover that it had become lost and would not make it to the battle in time at all. This was a severe blow to the Yorkists, though not overwhelming. The player commanding Northumberland's forces on the Lancastrian left saw this as an opportunity to use his otherwise worthless Northern Border Horse to outflank the Yorkists and hit some of their troops in the rear. This was a good plan, if it hadn't turned into something of an obsession, but these things happen when playing unfamiliar rules late at night on the second day of a gaming convention . . . More on how that turned out later.

The Lancastrian mounted spear in ambush on their right did not fare well, being hit by heavy longbow fire before they could get into open ground. This did give the Lancastrians the slight advantage that it diverted a battlegroup of longbow and of men-at-arms for a while. In the center, the Yorkist forces under Edward advanced on Somerset's forces.

On the Lancastrian Right, a battlegroup of militia longbowmen were ordered to throw down their bows, draw swords, and charge into the liveried longbowmen in front of them, mainly to make room for the Border Horse's flanking maneuver. To their credit, the militia longbow caused one stand of damage and passed all of their cohesion tests before succumbing to autobreak. Then things got really weird.
 We had to stop briefly to determine whether longbowmen who had just won a melee would then pursue into fresh longbowmen rather than standing an shooting. The answer is apparently that they do. Now committed to a melee, the Yorkist player on that flank sent his bill forward to help the combat, about-facing the remaining longbow who weren't in combat to threaten the Border Horse who now had to turn around to catch up with the pursuing longbow. I'd need to draw a picture to explain it all. The photo gives some idea of how confused things got, without adding the Border Horse overshooting their mark.

At this point, the Yorkist center commander suffered from a terrible run of luck in shooting.
Taking advantage of the general confusion, the Lancastrian commander ordered all of his billmen to march through his longbow and engage the Yorkist forces. He routed the longbow, followed up into the men-at-arms and routed them. Compare the picture to the right to the picture of the center commands above. The red crystals were being used to mark routing forces.

Despite the fact that the Yorkists were winning on the two flanks, this was a serious setback. The Border Horse finally managed to make their charge into the rear of the advancing Lancastrian longbow, with devastating effects, though at the cost of losing all of his militia troops.

I'm afraid to say we ended the game there. Things looked grim for the Yorkists at that point, but the two forces were nearly equally close to breaking.

In the future, I'm going to refrain from running big games like this late at night.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

KublaCon 2010 - Friday Night - Chaeronea

OK, so I haven't been updating since the last convention. But here's the latest from KublaCon, where I just finished a Big Battle DBA scenario of Chaeronea (Macedonians vs. Greeks). I like to do something simple for a Friday night game, and DBA works well for that. One thing I did learn is that 25mm figures are MUCH better at gaining attention than 15s.

The Greek Commanders

The Macedonian Commanders
I was pleased with the way the game went. We had about half new players and half experienced DB* people. The scenario isn't even necessarily the most interesting, since it's mainly a contest between spear and pike. Despite that, there was enough interesting stuff going on, and it stayed exciting to the end.

I let the players set up their sides, but forced them to keep the relative positions of the commands.
The game started looking good for the Greeks. Alexander charged the Theban cavalry, and failed to break through. The Greek allied peltasts in the center managed to drive off the Agrianian slingers facing them. Philip sent his Thracians (they were supposed to be hypaspists, but I didn't get around to painting enough) on a flanking maneuver through the hills, and suffered initial setbacks against the Athenians.

Things went from bad to worse for Alexander's command, as some of the Companions were destroyed as Theban cavalry and skirmishers trapped them against the river. Alexander only barely managed to escape, withdrawing from the position. At this point, the Macedonian pike charged in.

There were some tense moments for Philip, as his Companions were in danger of getting surrounded by the Athenians. However, the pike managed to save the day, breaking first the Greek allied command, and then the Athenians, decisively winning the day for the Macedonians.

Definitely a fun game, and it's convinced me to focus on getting more 25mm lead painted. Incidentally, the figures are all true 25s. In fact, most of the hoplites are really 1/72nd plastic figures from HaT and Zvezda. 

DBA tournament tomorrow. (Just to be weird, I'm showing up with Ghurids.) Then I have a massive Field of Glory scenario for Towton in the evening.