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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Orsha 1944 - Part Two - the map

After going to a funeral in the afternoon from a frustrating morning designing reports in Microsoft Access (ouch!) I've settled to some re-basing. Bored with removing figures from tatty bases I thought it a nice break to think a little more about the Orsha scenario. It seemed sensible to start with the battlefield, especially as Osprey provided a nice map diagram:
I thought it might be useful to take a look at Google Earth, just to see how the map compared, and quite surprisingly not much has changed:
What was needed next was to create a grid to place suitable terrain into. It seems that nowadays I do everything, by choice, on an IPad and leave the laptop alone. Whilst the iPad is good for lots of things, it has been a little fiddly creating the map. The main features that needed to be included were the dense woods to the North, the city of Orsha in the central Southern sector, and the main Minsk highway - the key objective of the Russian attack. I also included the lake, as it was the location of a localized German counterattack on the second day of the battle. Here's the map:
Rommel is played on a gridded area, with each square being about one kilometer in size. The map in the Osprey book lacked a scale, which I thought was quite poor, however the terrain features seemed to fit quite nicely onto the grid. The Minsk highway runs nicely through the middle of the map giving a clear direction and set of objectives for the Russian player to play for. Likewise, the German defensive lines sit nicely astride the map, for three German divisions to defend. Next job is to think about the forces involved.

First attempt at designing a historical scenario; the breakthrough at Orsha, June 1944

  For a long time now I have been looking to scratch the itch of a higher level, operational World War Two wargame. So much so, that I have been designing my own rules to fill the gap. And then came along Sam Mustafa...He is rapidly turning into my favourite rules writer who has a keen eye for period flavour, workable mechanics, and above all fun! Well, he is publishing a suitable tickling stick for me in the form of 'Rommel'...
So I've been thinking, why spend too much energy of my own, when somebody else has created (and to a far greater quality) a set of rules. Looking at the sample materials Sam has provided I have already considered suitable base sizes, and made a starting 'KG' from Sam's complimentary army lists.  
Now, the rules are'nt released until later this year, however that is no reason to not prepare. I'm going to revamp my 6mm WWII troops...that's another set of blogposts...  
    Several years ago, (when there was more money than time), I invested in a bi-monthly delivery of the Osprey series on major campaigns of World War Two. Whilst interesting, with particular campaigns catching my interest, they have mostly remained on the shelves, now I can see another use...  
Ed is revamping his collection of mothballed 6mm Soviets too. As my interest lies mostly in the Eastern Front, it seems sensible to design a scenario from here. Flicking through the book, there is enough information on formations involved, maps and events to design scenarios from.  
  My normal blogging instincts are to publish complete 'articles' with a beginning, middle and end (having to live by my own teaching standards). This time though. I'm going to take my foot off the gas and blog how and when the mood takes me, and let you all know where I have got to with this scenario. With that, that's it!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Piercing the Cissa Line - The battle of Cissa 218 BC

The third battle in our series, we seem to be doing well, three consecutive, planned, linked scenarios; what's happening! We settled down to two games of this on Tuesday. The player arrangement was a little different with myself playing the Carthaginians both times, and Ed and Daz each taking a turn as the Romans. Here's the background to the scenario... As the Second Punic War began (218 BC), Hannibal first conquered northern Spain. Before heading to Italy, he left his brother Hasdrubal with about 15,000 men in southern Spain and Hanno with 11,000 men in the north. The consul Publius Scipio had been assigned an army of 24,000 with which to invade Spain and defeat Hannibal. However, when Scipio arrived at Massilia, he vvas shocked to discover Hannibal's army vvas headed to the Alps. Publius returned to defend Italy, but he sent his army on to Spain under his elder brother Gnaeus. The Romans were not expected so late in the year, and quickly overran northern Spain and then advanced on Hanno's camp at Cissa. Hanno had been reinforced with a few thousand Illergete warriors under Indibilis. Although stili heavily outnumbered, Hanno decided to occupy a strong position on high ground rather than retreat to join Hasdrubal. Gnaeus Scipio did not hesitate and charged his army up the heights in a frontal assault. The fighting was brutal, but the outnumbered Carthaginians were eventually driven off the heights in flight. Reportedly, Carthage lost 6,000 killed and 2,000 captured, including both Hanno and Indibilis. Despite suffering heavy losses, the Romans had the victory. The Romans had established a foothold in Spain. Indibilis was later released, an act of clemency Gnaeus Scipio soon carne to regret. Publius finally arrived a year later, bringing a third legion of 8,000 reinforcements. Each of the Scipio brothers could now command his own army in Spain.    

Anth' thoughts

  This scenario felt like it was going to be pretty straightforward in the way it played out. The Romans would win or lose based upon their ability to pierce the Carthaginian hill line.  The Romans had stronger troop types, however the presence of the hills for the Carthaginians meant that the combat results would be fairly even.  The fact that the Carthaginians would be battling with three dice downhill and the Romans two dice up hill meant literally that it was going to be an uphill struggle for the Romans to gain a foothold. Even though the Carthaginian auxilia were weaker troops, they would take maximum advantage of their hill disposition.  Even when the slow Roman front lines reached the hills they still had the problem of causing enemy retreats due to only rolling two combat dice and the Carthaginians being supported by their fellow troops to ignore one flag.  The surprising part of the game for me was the Carthaginian ability to lay down hails of fire disrupting the Roman front line.  In the first game I was lucky enough to choose several line command cards which allowed the light troops and auxilia to continually fire missiles at the Roman medium foot, causing casualties and broken lines.  The Romans were further hindered by the fact that they had very few light troops of their own to be able to win a prolonged shooting match.  I was also considerably helped in the first game by some very accurate slinger fire on the right flank; the Romans were unable to breach the wall of shields presented to them.  Off the genuine victory of six banners to three banners.  The second game had a similar start with accurate missile fire disrupting the Roman lines.  This time however the Roman general attacked the Carthaginian right flank and gained a foothold onto the hill line.  The Carthaginians tried to react by moving their battleline more towards the right.  The presence of generals certainly helped staunch the flow of Roman attacks. ultimately however this was not enough to stop the Romans from wearing down the defenders. A close, hard fought Roman victory of 6 banners to five banners.  Looking at the scenario from the Roman perspective maybe a little patience in managing the command cards would help the Romans climb the hills to the flanks of the Carthaginian battleline.  Then with some line command or leadership cards the Romans could engage the Carthaginians from both the front and flanks,  allowing their superior numbers to tell.  Patience however can be difficult when faced with the frustration of continual missile fire from the heights above.  


 Ed's thoughts

 This evening it was the turn of the Battle of Cissa. The Romans are in a pretty good position for this one, they have better troops, more of them and more Command cards. The Carthaginians, however, hold the high ground. Historically, this was a win for the Romans. This really didn't go well for me. The cards weren't kind at all, which meant that I couldn't get a coordinated assault together on any part of the line. Anth's dice also seemed to be on fire whereas mine seemed to be lukewarm at best. It was, literally, an uphill struggle. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and what I should have done here is wait. With the Carthaginians on the hill (and out of bow range), I should have just played my rubbish cards and done nothing, building up a decent hand for when I do attack. The Carthaginians could move down from the hill to attack, but that would be giving up their key advantage. Waiting would have made for many dull turns though. By the end of our 2nd Punic War battles I'll hopefully have put some of the things I've learnt into practice.

Daz's thoughts (and a sneak mention of our other project)

  Never really played ancients or much of command & colours,the idea of blocks never appealed to me as I couldn't really see the forces, so too speak. So when Anth decided to use figures it appealed to me. I used Ed's Romans. And not being a tactician of ancient battle tactics,and being abit unconventional. I dived in. What I did find is that a well shuffled deck and getting the right cards and using them well is a must. Anth & Ed eased me into the game,with help and advice as how best to use what cards. The battle was a close fought affair, with the action moving back and forth, until the Romans gained a foothold on the heights.the light troops harried the flanks, allowing the medium & heavy troops to attack the centre. It was 5 all, until a couple of well drawn cards and lucky dice rolls secured a Roman victory. It's always enjoyable to win,for a change. But ,the game of "to the strongest" proved to be a totally different affair,with the Roman force being all but annihilated. I think the figure element that's been added to this boardgame works well and adds a better and more interesting dimension to what could be a drab looking boardgame. I'm looking forward to playing more games with this system, as I'm gradually building a Macedonian Successor army.  
  Here's the current state of play with a little fudging of the league table 
 Finally, in an effort to remove clutter from the board, I made some figure markers to show hits on units, and also firing markers to show how many dice are to be rolled from missile fire

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Trebbia 218 B.C. Command Colors report

    Round two of our league was fought on Tuesday night. The battle was played twice, with Daz making a guest appearance, fighting as Carthage for one of the games. As with history, the Romans found tough times on this one. Here's our thoughts...    

Ed's thoughts

  Being a sticker for historical accuracy I opted to lose the battle of Trebbia playing as the Romans and let the Carthaginians take the win. To be slightly more truthful about it I was rash early on and was punished by Mago's ambush. I threw my two Warrior units forward early, hoping to crush the Carthaginian Light Infantry against its own battleline. This worked on left flank but only resulted in me losing my warriors in the right. I had begun to move my main Infantry line forward when disaster struck in the shape of Mago. The ambushers came in behind my right flank and quickly engaged my Medium Cavalry and Auxilia in combat, crushing my flank in a couple of turns. Hannibal and his heavy infantry then came crashing into my Medium Infantry, finishing me off.   I preferred this game to the previous one at Ticinus River, a greater mix of troops offered greater challenges and opportunities.  

Anth' thoughts

  Mago is the play maker in this scenario, with his ambushing force just waiting to pounce on a vulnerable Roman flank. That means the key to the scenario is when the Carthaginian player draws a leadership command card into his hand. These cards allow Mago's force to enter the board on the rear of the Roman line. As the arriving troops are fast moving (2 hex minimum charge distance), if the right command card is drawn early, the ambushing force can get stuck in really early. The only dilemma to this is if the ambush is sprung too soon, the on board Carthaginian forces may not arrive in time to stop the ambushers being isolated and destroyed piecemeal. The other consideration is on which part of the board to enter; the ambush party must arrive on the section of the field specified by the command card. So a ,'right' or 'central' leadership card brings Mago on or behind the river. This could be beneficial to stop Roman retreats, but also gives the Romans something to defend and reduce the amount of combat dice being rolled, thereby giving the Romans more time to win elsewhere on the battlefield. The open left flank seemed more suitable as there is plenty of ground to manouvre within, as happened in both of our games.   If the ambush force is removed from consideration, the battle seems a stand up fight with equal chances of both sides scooping the win. Again though, limited Roman generalship (1 onboard general to two Carthaginian ones) limits the affect and breadth of the leadership command cards in the deck. Poor old Consul Sempronius cannot be all over the battlefield! Certainly the elephants are a thorny proposition for the Romans to bring their foot troops to bear against the Carthaginian battleline. In both games the Samnite 'warriors' valiantly lead the charge forward; sometimes supported, sometimes not, either way their presence was certainly felt.   In both games Mago's ambushes were the trump card played to lead to victory. In the second game this was slightly reduced with Mago falling at the first clash of arms (2 helmets rolled for a leader loss check - the equivalent of a double six - ouch!). In the end, the collapse of the Roman right flank lead to too many casualties/lost banners for the remaining force to steal a victory...although it was very close in the second game (six banners to five).    
    Here are the current standings:    
  Not surprising ingot, it's a strong lead for the Carthaginians, however the final game has brought some respectability back to the Roman cause. The next battle is Cissa, personally I have no knowledge of the battle as it has come from the Command colors net website, so will make a nice change from the usual scenarios found in the main gamebox...let's see if Mago can keep his head (in more ways than one), the next time he swings a sword in anger on the cardboard battlefield!

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Ticinus River - dressing room analysis

This is a slightly new venture for the Blog. As myself, Ed and now Daz are playing our own version of an 'Ancient League - Punic War division', we thought we would share the post match feelings about the performance of the teams and the stadiums in which the match up occurred. Today, it's an away match with the Carthaginians talking the long journey to mainland Italy for an initial clash. Here's the findings of the Battle of Ticinus River...  
Anth' s post match analysis
On the face of it, this feels like an uphill battle for the Romans. One less command card and two less generals already cut down the variety and impact of the relative commands. As a Carthaginian, there feels plenty of options with having lots of mobile units, high firepower and hitting power, a singular weakness is a lack of medium troops for some of the command cards available.
A problem for both sides is the large distances most of the troops retreat from combat, therefore there is an imperative to move troops off of their starting baselines, as a single, unopposed flag result from combat or shooting can see units leave the battlefield quickly. In the worst of circumstances several units can be lost if the attacking units are mounted, with their additional opportunities for attack.
So the central battlefield is where the action is. For the Romans this gives them a strength in the centre, with the Carthaginians enjoying firepower on the flanks with their Numidian light cavalry. Advancing forward also gives those light troops the chance to evade when required. It's here where the battle is won or lost. If the Carthaginian light cavalry can get around the rear of the Roman light verities infantry, evasion and combat power is reduced. So for the Romans, their own medium cavalry holds the key. If they can maintain the pressure on the light cavalry, it gives the velites an opportunity to whittle down the Carthaginian heavy cavalry. If the Carthaginians can cause some shooting casualties against their mounted foes, this leaves the heavy cavalry to mop up the remnants.
In the first game the Carthaginians were faced with an early foray by the Roman cavalry which forced back the light cavalry. This enforced withdrawal brought the Numidians in line with their Heavy cavalry compatriots, which in the end, whittled down the Roman cavalry before the velites could support the attack. A Carthaginian victory.
The second game saw a rapid punch in the centre from the Carthaginian heavy cavalry, encouraged by two mounted charge cards in the hand. The Romans played into this ploy by spreading their light foot out to the flanks to screen the cavalry. This had near devastating results. With the Romans, encouraged by their general, hanging onto their own board edge. As the Roman foot were on the flanks, they were able to fold in on the Carthaginian cavalry where a hard fought melee reduced the fighting capacity of both sides. The game ended with the Romans consolidating their lines and engaging in a ranged conflict with the Numidian light cavalry, with the Romans claiming the last few banners needed to win. A lucky Roman win...
Ed' s post match analysis
This was our opening shot in playing through the 2nd Punic War using miniatures with Command & Colors.
Ah, Ticinus River how I hate thee. I've played this scenario three times and have never won with Romans, tonight was no different, clearly I, like the Romans didn't learn much from my experiences.
I started with an assault with my Medium Cavalry on my right flank, pushing four units forward. With a Cavalry Charge in my hand I was confident of success. Unfortunately the Carthaginians played their Cavalry Charge first. That put paid to my assault and placed me in the back foot for the rest of the game.
I need to be a bit less impetuous I think. My tendency is to push heavily in one place, this often leaves me unprepared in other sections of the battlefield.
Finally, playing Command & Colors with miniatures was a really positive experience. Movement was quick and I felt that I could see what was going more easily. Bring on Trebbia.
Here is the league standings after the first match of the season  
Next match...Trebbia!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Photo log of battle of Ticinus River

A quick photo log of tonight's game.our thoughts on the scenario later..A Carthaginian victory; 6 banners to 2

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Some small changes in a long time

It's been quite a challenging time since my last postings with some considerable changes to my working life. Whilst that is not important for here, it certainly explains the lack of enthusiasm for making posts. So here's trying to get back into some good blogging habits.  
  Myself and a friend, Ed, have been planning to turn a wargame into a boardgame to bring the best of both hobbies together. I've been a long time player of command and colors and used large scale figures to game it on Hexon terrain. I have had a passion to make a 6mm version which replaces the blocks with figures, but retains the feeling of a boardgame.    
  So myself and Ed have decided to do the Second Punic War together, fighting each of the available scenarios in turn. If the passion continues, we hope to upscale to using a base as a block to give a grand visual appeal. For the moment we are building our starting forces; I'm doing Carthaginians whilst Ed creates a Republican Roman army. We hope to give some battle reports as we go. So, in preparation, here are some photos of my work to date...