Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Ancient Campaign Turn 3 - Battle of Aternum 213 BC Game Report

The Battle of Aternum 213 BC is the second game in turn 3 of my solo ancients campaign. The setup for the game including: choice of terrain, order of battle, and deployment can be found on the previous post. As a quick reminder the battle is occurring in Southern Italy, and Carthage has the edge in terms of numbers of troops and with having Hannibal as the commander. These advantages are factored into the chance cards used by each army.

Deployed armies, Carthaginians on the left and Romans on the right. The buildings are considered impassible and light infantry can enter the woods (seen in the distance) on the other flank.

Plans

The Roman commander's battle plan was quite simple and used the available terrain. Having the town and woods on either flank reduced the width of the battle line and would constrain any Carthaginian flanking moves with their cavalry. Roman light infantry were placed on either flank and would contest the woods to protect the flanks at best, or at worst frustrate any flanking efforts. In the centre the heavy infantry would try and engage as quickly as possible using their greater heavy infantry numbers to inflict as many losses as possible.

Carthage's plan was to hang on in the centre and take any limited flanking opportunities. Some light infantry were positioned in the centre to frustrate and delay the Roman centre. Hannibal was attached to a unit of heavy cavalry.

Game Report

Rome gets the jump on the Carthaginians and pushes into the woods while in the centre an initiative chance card allows their heavy infantry to quickly get to grips and make short work on the light infantry. Carthage responds with the Gauls charging forward and contesting the woods with their own light infantry.

Roman heavy infantry push forward as quickly as possible to engage the Carthage's heavy infantry.

With little space to operate in, Carthage's heavy cavalry prepare to flank the first Roman line to support the centre which is under pressure. They will be placing themselves at risk from the second Roman line.

Both sides are losing units in the centre, but Rome has the edge with their heavy infantry numbers. Carthage's heavy cavalry proved useful, but suffered casualties from Rome's second line and had to quick retire before suffering too many hits.

The fighting in the centre is a grind and with little threat from the flanks the Roman commander's plan seems to be working as they gain the advantage.

In a last ditch attempt to avoid defeat Carthage's heavy cavalry having been rallied and reorganised once more enter the fray. Roman light infantry having routed their Carthaginian counterparts attack from the rear.

With the loss of their heavy cavalry and commander the Carthaginian forces flee the field of battle.

Summary

A Roman victory against the odds. The constrained flanks certainly did hamper the Carthaginian cavalry and they were not helped by a lack of rally cards in the earlier part of the game, those mercenaries can be unpredictable! Rome was aided by an initiative card on their first turn which caught Carthage's light infantry on the hop and they were quickly routed. Consistent combat dice rolls meant the pressure was maintained and they kept the initiative with Carthaginian attacks always seemingly in response to Romes attacks.

I was quite pleased to see a Roman victory from a campaign perspective. It now gives Rome a glimmer of hope as they try to build momentum and escape their dire campaign situation.

Possible Rule Changes

The rules which are heavily based on One-Hour Wargames rules, but adapted to use a D3 dice, have remained static for a good few games now. (There is a link to the rules at the top of the blog). I really do like the addition of chance cards to reflect the different army characteristics and force size. 

However, one rule I want to mess around with is the commander rule. Currently, heavy units (infantry or cavalry) with an assigned commander can re-roll their combat dice if unhappy with the score. This rule does not feel like a decisive move made by a commander, so I plan to allow a commander to join a heavy unit at any point in the game and double the number of hits on the turn they join. They will only be allowed to do this once, and must remain with the unit from that point until the end of the game.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Ancient Campaign Turn 3 - Battle of Aternum 213 BC setup

This game is the second land battle in turn three of my Ancients campaign. Earlier in the campaign turn Rome had finally secured a victory in Northern Italy. While they are still in a precarious position in the campaign the victory was most welcome and the attention now turns to Southern Italy where Hannibal is running amok with a strong Carthaginian force. Will Rome's recently found momentum continue, or will it come to an abrupt halt?

Campaign Map at for turn 3

The game preparation went through the usual three step process:

  1. Decide the terrain and prepare the tabletop
  2. Select the forces and prepare the chance card decks for each army
  3. Deployment of the armies

Terrain and prepare tabletop

The terrain was selected and the tabletop prepared for this weekend's gaming. As per usual terrain cards were used. Four terrain features are randomly selected from a shuffled deck of eight terrain features. These 4 cards are added to four open (blank) terrain cards and shuffled, then six cards selected and placed in two rows of three to represent a 6 by 4 foot tabletop.

If there are no opposing terrain features on the flank areas the terrain gets positioned equal distance from both table base edges. This adjustment does not occur in the centre to ensure the centre areas of the tabletop remains open terrain. The rocky terrain in this instance will be an impediment to any army deploying along that edge.


8 terrain features are shuffled together in a deck and 4 are selected. The selected 4 cards are added to 4 four open (blank) terrain cards and shuffled.

From the deck or 4 terrain and 4 open cards. 6 cards are randomly selected and placed to represent a 6x4 foot table top. Each card representing a 2x2 foot area.

If there are no opposing terrain features on the flank areas, as with the woods and town, the terrain gets positioned equal distance from both base edges. This adjustment does not occur in the centre so ensure the centre areas of the tabletop remains open terrain. 

Select forces and prepare chance cards

To select the order of battle for each army I use the approach from One Hour Wargames and have created two tables, one for the Romans and one for the Carthaginians. A D6 is rolled and the forces selected. Both armies will always have 7 units. Where one side has a larger army, as is the case with the Carthaginians here, then the army will have additional rally cards in their chance card deck.

Rome's order or battle generator table. I have been using the table during the campaign, but have yet to write it up.

Rome rolled a 3 and will have the following order of battle:
  • 4 x Heavy Infantry (HI) units (the Roman commander is assigned to one of the units)
  • 2 x Light Infantry (LI) units
  • 1 x Catapult (CAT) unit
Carthage's order of battle generator table.

Carthage rolled a 4 and will have the following order of battle:
  • 3 x Heavy Infantry (HI) units (one of the units will be Gauls who don't fare so well against missiles)
  • 2 x Light Infantry (LI) units
  • 1 x Heavy Cavalry (HC) unit (Hannibal is assigned to this unit)
  • 1 x Light Cavalry (LC)
No elephants (EL) in this game.

Next is the preparation of chance card decks for each army. There are differences between the cards used for Carthaginian and Roman armies. These differences are to reflect the experienced mercenaries used by Carthage and Rome with their well discipline legions and army organisation.

For this game Carthage will gain two additional cards: one initiative card for being commanded by Hannibal and one rally card because they have the larger force. These cards replace two no event cards in the deck.

Carthage's standard chance card deck.

A rally card for having a larger force and initiative card for having Hannibal as a commander are added, replacing two no event cards.

Rome has their standard deck.

Rome's standard chance card deck prepared for the game.

Army deployment

The deployment of units on the tabletop follows some simple rules. Players dice to see who begins the deployment and they alternate deploying their first, second and third rows. There are limitations to placing heavy infantry on the flanks.
The deployment rules

Rome did not only lose the dice-off to decide which side they are to deploy on, they also lost the second dice-off and will start deploying first. Here are a few photos of the deployed armies...

The Roman centre. Each unit has 3 bases and 27-36 foot figures depending upon unit type and 12-18 mounted figures.

Both armies are deployed. Rome in two lines and Carthage with three lines.

A view from behind the Carthaginians

Hannibal with his heavy cavalry.

A view from behind the Roman army with their catapults are closest in the second line.

The next post will be of the game.



Saturday, 16 October 2021

Remote ACW Game

This past Friday I was able to participate in a remote wargame with Jon of Palouse Wargaming Journal. Earlier in the month I had volunteered to a call put out by Jon for players to play the ACW battle of Brawner's farm (August 28, 1862). However, aligning time zones can make things at bit tricky as I live in Melbourne, Australia, and Jon kindly arranged for a second remote game of Brawner's Farm.

I took the CSA forces and Jon the Union forces. The game was played on a hex grid using a small subset of Jon's wonderful 10mm ACW collection.

A close up shot of the game in progress showing Jon's 10mm armies in battle.

The game was well organised by Jon who as preparation had sent through:

  • Photographs of the playing area.
  • A quick reference sheet of the rules (an ACW variation of "Fields of Honor" game).
  • Orders of battle
  • Overview of the battle. 

Not having played these rules before I played a couple of quick actions with 3 units a side prior to the game to get a feel on how they would work.

A quick overview of the game with screen shots...

The opening moves as Union forces rush from the road into the centre woods. Elsewhere, artillery began to exchange shots.

Both sides begin to move up their infantry which being to engage around Brawner's.

CSA artillery and infantry were able to eliminate all available Union artillery on the left flank, which aided their swift flanking movement. CSA forces were able to mount two assaults, one from Brawner's form into the woods and a second from the woods on the flank to counter the advancing Union forces.


The final phase of the battle sees CSA forces overwhelm Union forces in the centre woods. On the flank the assault proved less effective. The destruction of too many units in the woods resulted in a Union defeat.

Observations from the remote game...

The game board was about the right size (5x4 foot) to be seen by the cameras, and Jon has an excellent setup with camera on each side with a mobile camera for close shots. I found I stayed with just the one view for pretty much the whole game and it was perfectly fine.

I could easily see the troops and artillery, but could not make out any finer details, such as if some artillery was smoothbore or rifled. In the end the finer details did not matter, from my perspective I just cared whether the guns fired at their targets or not. Likewise with units and hit markers, if a unit was available they got thrown into the fray.

The hex grid was so useful when it came to units moving and shooting. We tended to activate units right to left in systematic way. Otherwise it is easy to forget about if a unit has moved or not. Communicating the moves was more like "head towards the buildings" or "move into the wood" and a pointer was used by Jon would indicate the intended point on the grid, to which a "yep" or "just one right" confirmed the move. This all worked very well.

The game took a tad over three hours and from my perspective time went really quickly, and I was quite surprised by the time when we finished up. A most enjoyable game indeed.




Sunday, 10 October 2021

Weather and fields

Yesterday I quickly made up a weather barometer as described in "With Pike and Musket" and "Practical Wargaming" both by C.F Wesencraft. I plan to introduce the effects of weather into the English Civil War games I am currently playing. A piece of wood was drilled so a matchstick can be held to show the current weather situation. A lick of paint was applied to show from the top: fog, light rain, fine, light rain, heavy rain, and stormy.

At the start or a game two D6 are rolled to decide the starting weather. Then each turn one D6 is rolled to decide if the weather stay as is or moves up of down. A change in weather may impact both movement and combat.

The wargaming weather barometer, starting at the top with fog, light rain, fair, light rain again, heavy rain, and finally stormy weather. 

I have in the past created a few fields for the tabletop, but I will need a few more so the ECW dragoons have some more areas which provide cover. I use a combination of material for creating fields, either a sandy yellow felt or a brown corduroy. This time I went with corduroy for the ploughed field look.

Corduroy material cut to shape.

The material is lightly brushed with a light sand colour.

Green dots are added to represent a crop (possibly cabbages) and also green is brushed on around the edges of the field.

I don't place hedges all around the field as this becomes awkward when fitting units into the space. If a unit is positioned on the field I consider it in cover. In the example above the dragoons would be considered to be using the fields for cover. 

Friday, 8 October 2021

English Civil War gaming and trying out rule changes

Since my last post much of my wargaming time has been spent on English Civil War (ECW) gaming. All this ECW activity was due to the recent arrival of the book "With Pike and Musket" by C.F. Wesencraft. The book has many ECW battles described for wargaming and I chose the Battle of Ripple Field to recreate on the tabletop.

The deployment for one of the Battle of Ripple Field games

I have played the game a few times this past week testing out a few rule modifications or tweaks to the D3 ECW rules I use, these are based upon the One Hour Wargaming rule set. I have yet to update the rules with my notes on the changes, but here is a quick summary of the changes I was trying out...

Activation Checks

I had used the activation check mechanism in some generic horse and musket rules a few weeks back (see here). I enjoyed how they added friction to the game as units accumulated more hits during the game. The changes below replaced the previous activation mechanism which was based upon the number of units within a certain distance of the commander.

The changed rule requires any unit trying to move, shoot, or melee to take an activation test to see if they are able to complete the order. In cases where a unit moves and shoots, or moves and melees, a unit will take multiple activation checks during a turn for each action. The activation check is quite straightforward, roll 2D6 and if the score is greater than the unit’s accumulated hits, the unit can complete the action. Otherwise, the unit cannot carry out the order, and in the case of a melee action a unit must retire half a move or rout in some cases (see below).

If a unit is within 12" of their commander they are allowed to re-roll a failed activation check. A commander is limited to attempting one re-roll every turn.

A score or 2 with the 2D6 will always be a failure, even if a unit has accumulated no hits.

A unit of dragoons with 4 hits successfully activates to shoot with a score of 7.

Artillery Shooting

This rule change comes from the book "Charge". One of the reasons for changing from the previous approach where artillery roll D3-1 for hits every other turn, was to have a slightly different mechanism and also because I kept losing track of when artillery could shoot.

The changed mechanism allows artillery to shoot every turn (so no tracking required). Units may only shoot at a single unit directly in line with their frontal facing. This will cause artillery to pivot to select their targets and as a pivot counts as a move they will not be able to shoot in that turn. To check the range roll a D6 and multiply the score by 6” to determine the range**. If within range, a unit takes 1 hit.

**When shooting at units in cover, roll a D6-2 to determine the range.

An artillery unit will require a score of 4 on a D6 to cause 1 hit to the target infantry unit.

Melee

The change to melee relates to the activation checks and in particular failed activation checks. All units that have moved into contact with an enemy unit, or are already engaged by an enemy unit, must engage in melee and must take an activation check first before checking for the number of hits inflicted.

A successful activation check allows a unit to engage in melee and determine the number of hits. When engaged with one enemy unit a failed activation check will cause the unit to retire half a move, still facing the enemy. If a unit is in melee with two enemy units and fails the activation check the unit routs and is eliminated.

With this rule, particularly the elimination when engaged with two enemy units, allows for the option to remove other flanking rule benefits. 

An infantry unit with 6 hits is in melee with two cavalry units. It requires a score of 7 or more to activate. It fails with a score of 3 and will rout and be removed from play. If there was only one enemy unit, then the infantry unit would have retired half a move. 

Chance Cards

While not specifically part of the rules I have introduced chance cards. So far I have been using a simple set which allows units to rally off two hits, attempt an extra move or shoot, ignore activation check, ammunition resupply, confusion (which requires units wanting to move to activate on a 8+ regardless of hits), and out of ammunition (which requires units wanting to shoot to activate on a 8+ regardless of hits).

I now plan to adjust the cards to differentiate between a Parliamentarian army and Royalist army, so each has their own specific deck.

All being well I will be writing up the ECW D3 rules in the coming weeks.


Thursday, 30 September 2021

The post delivers a pleasant surprise

This week the post finally delivered a secondhand copy of "With Pike and Musket" by C.F. Wesencraft to add to my growing collection of wargaming books. I have been keeping an eye out for this particular book for a while after having read some good reviews. At first glance the book contents are meeting my expectations and covers:

  • The weapons
  • Historical organisation
  • Preparation (setting up tabletop terrain and figures)
  • The weather (and construction of a weather gauge)
  • Game rules
  • Battle reconstructions (some 27 battles from mid-1500's to mid-1600's)
  • Summary of the rules of play
It is highly likely my ECW armies will be on the tabletop this weekend.

The latest secondhand book purchase.

A couple of months ago I decided to try my hand again at writing my second solo wargaming article for Lone Warrior (the journal of the Solo Wargamers Association). My previous article was about setting up a commando raid using some simple rules which determined the defender's actions, which built upon ideas from the St Nazaire game a played in January 2020 (here) - this seems a long time ago now. This time the short article published in LW216 was about using chance cards decks to represent army characteristics and campaign situations. Some of the chance card ideas I have been testing out in the 2nd Punic War campaign which I am currently playing.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Campaign turn 3 - Battle of Acelum 214 BC game report

The Battle of Acelum 214 BC is being played as part of the 2nd Punic War campaign turn 3. The setup details, deployment, and campaign context can be seen in the previous post. One item left to do before starting the game was to create the chance cards for each army. These differ slightly to reflect an armies characteristics and the Carthaginian chance deck also gain an additional rally card replacing a no effect card because their armies out number the Romans in the North Italy region.

The deployed armies

Chance card decks. The blue are for the Carthaginian army and red for the Roman army.

The opening moves had the Roman centre push forward to engage Carthaginian forces. While Carthaginian forces advance on the right flank. Seeing the risk to their flank the Roman commander moved his reserves to counter the flanking attempt on the hill.

Opening couple of moves as both forces action their battle plans.

Forces quickly came together and melees developed in the centre and on the hill. The reserve Roman heavy infantry arrived in the nick or time to stymie the attempted Carthaginian flanking move. On the river flank heavy cavalry from both sides are also engaged. 

Somewhat unusually both commanders and their attached units are involved early in the battle on opposite flanks. In the game the loss of a unit with an commander will mean any positive chance cards (rally and initiative) drawn are ignored and treated as no effect cards. Negative cards (no ammunition and confusion) however are still applied.

Melees occur in the centre and near flank. 

Carthage's flanking move is slowly gaining traction.

In the centre Roman heavy infantry start to overwhelm the opposing Carthaginian heavy infantry. While Carthaginian flanking attempts have been contained to this point. It is now a race to see if the Roman centre breaks through before their flanks are attacked.

Both commanders have to beat a hasty retreat as their attached units are lost. Any advantages from the chance cards drawn will now be ignored.

Roman forces were impacted by some negative chance cards but are able to breakthrough in the centre, then chase off the remaining Carthaginian forces to secure a minor victory.

The Roman centre is on the verge of breaking through.

Roman forces breakthrough in the centre and chase off the remaining Carthaginian forces.

A much needed Roman victory who are struggling in the campaign.