Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Black Powder personality cards

Introduction

The Black Powder wargames rules are very popular - and rightly so in my opinion.  They're an excellent toolkit which can be easily adjusted to provide the type of "Horse and Musket" game that you want.

One of the optional blocks of rules in which I've been particularly interested can be found on pages 94-95 of the original rulebook, under the heading The Personal Qualities of Commanders.  Some may feel that this is edging into role-playing, but I've always been fascinated by the human effect in warfare and so I believe that these characteristics are entirely appropriate and desirable, even (say) in a large-scale Napoleonic battle.

So, why use cards?


Why indeed?  The rules in the Black Powder book give 3 characteristics (Aggression, Decisiveness and Independence), each of which has a 1 in 6 chance of being rated "high" and a 1 in 6 chance of being rated "low".  So we could just roll 3 dice for each commander at the start of the game and write down the results.

This approach will give us the mechanics perfectly well, but there's something not satisfying about it:
  1. If you're anything like me then the rolled-for characteristics would be written on rough scraps of paper.  These would invariably be ugly and we'd need to refer back to the main rulebook every time we needed to apply the effect of a general's characteristic(s).
  2. Writing the characteristics out like this is functionally correct, but they're just labels.  I need to get a better sense of the man to whom these characteristics apply.


Right, so a deck of cards with the characteristics on them can address all these issues: a single draw can replace 3 dice rolls, the card can have a quick-reference copy of the rule effects for the characteristic(s) on it and it can have a quote or a picture that helps to describe the commander as a person.

How are the cards designed?


If we ignore the trimmings, there are 2 functional parts to each of my card: the portrait and the rules summary.  Let's take a closer look at each of these in turn:

The Portraits

I was determined to use pictures for my Napoleonic officers, but this was a somewhat daunting task!  Collecting images of 54 period paintings wouldn't be too hard with the modern internet, but they'd almost certainly be quite varied in style and quality.  It might have worked, but would have taken a lot of effort to get the effect I desired.


Fortunately, very early in my search for suitable images I stumbled across replaceface.tumblr.com .  This is a godsend!  It's a site where a modern artist has taken a large collection of portraits of Napoleonic-period Russian Officers and has replaced their faces with those of modern celebrities.  Well, OK - I could have used the original portraits for my purposes if I could have found them, but that didn't matter: celebrities would work too.  Oh, by the way - I've used these portraits pretty much at random, so the association of certain characteristics with specific celebrities is just coincidence.  Mostly, at any rate.

The Attributes

Once again, there are 2 aspects to this functional part of the card.  Firstly, the presentation: I was determined to include a rule summary for each characteristic.  Sadly, in some cases with multiple characteristics this has resulted in quite a lot of text to fit into a small area.  Although this has been achieved, the result is that the rules are in a very small font and can be quite hard to read if your eyesight isn't good.  There's not a great deal I could have done different here, but at least the title of each characteristic is somewhat larger and the rules could therefore be looked up in the main rulebook if needed.

Next there's the distribution of the characteristics.  To remain truly faithful to the probabilities of rolling 3 6-sided dice, we'd need 216 cards (6 x 6 x 6).  However, a standard print-your-own, poker-sized deck has 54 cards (52 regular suit cards and 2 jokers).  This is exactly 1/4 of what would be needed.

For a single characteristic, that's easy.  9 of the 54 cards should have High aggression and 9 should have Low aggression; the remainder should be neutral as far as this characteristic is concerned.  But what are we to do when we add in more characteristics?  A general can have more than one characteristic that is not average, surely?

OK, first decision: I won't put 3 non-average characteristics on a single card.  That would make the card very full of text and hard to read and in any case the probability is quite low.

So, for our 9 High aggression cards, we should have 1.5 (i.e. 1/6 of 9) that also have High decisiveness, along with 1.5 that have Low decisiveness.  Similarly if we honour the probabilities in the rulebook then we need the same numbers for High and Low independence.  Awkward: they're not whole numbers.

This leads us on to my next decision, which is quite arbitrary but gives a reasonable distribution.  Of the 9 cards that have High aggression, we'll have 4 that also have another characteristic: 1 each of High/Low decisiveness/independence.  That works quite well: a card can have no exceptional attribute, sometimes one, or occasionally two.  Of course, the same formula applies to all the other characteristics as well: 5 cards with each aspect (high or low) of the characteristic on its own and 4 with the aspect plus another characteristic as well.  Excellent!

Can I try?

We've used these cards just once so far; you can read about it here: The Three Villages.  I'm certainly encouraged to use them again, though!

The master file for these cards is a PowerPoint document.  If you wish, you can view and download it freely here,   All I ask is that you don't use it for commercial purposes and that you give me due credit if you share this with anyone else.

If you prefer to obtain a professionally-printed deck of cards, such as I have shown in the pictures above, then here's a link to the design on Artscow.  I believe that you should be able to buy a deck by clicking the appropriate buttons on that page.  Note: I have no association, financial or otherwise, with artscow.com other than that of a satisfied customer.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Dreadball: the Men

Introduction

Once again, life (work, family &c) is getting a bit on top of me and I haven't been posting or commenting as much as I would like.  My apologies for that; I'd like to say that normal service will be resumed shortly, but I rather suspect that this is normal these days.  Need some more mojo - too much to do and not enough energy & time to do it...

OK, enough with the moaning.  Here are some Dreadball players for your delectation.  These are the 2nd squad from the boxed game: the humans.  Unlike the Ork squad that I showed previously, I haven't got my own name for this team yet, so for now they'll just have to be the official Trontek 29ers!

Strikers

3 of this squad are strikers.  These players have the lightest armour, but they're nimble and good at ball-handling.  Their job is to score points!

I've decided to make all the numbers for my players unique, no matter for which team they play.  Since there were 8 members in the Ork squad, this new group starts from 09 and carries on from there.  Note that should I expand the Ork team some day (with extra players or stars/MVPs), I'll just give them whatever numbers are next in the sequence without worrying about any discontinuities.

Jacks

As befits a team with no particular extremes, the 29ers have 3 jacks in the squad.  These are all-rounders; neither as good as the strikers at carrying or throwing the ball nor as good as the guards at pushing and shoving - but they can do either job moderately well.


Guards

The biggest, strongest human players are the guards; their job is to protect their own ball handlers and hit the opposition's equivalents.  They're reasonably good, though they'll never be able to match an Ork one-on-one.  Better double-team them, then!


Conclusion

I've tried my own colour scheme on this team, rather than using the "official" patterns.  It still uses the same basic palette of silver and mid-blue, though.  Personally, I'm not very happy with the way it has turned out; these were something of a rushed job.  Still, I suppose I could paint another human team in due course, if I find I really don't like them.

Actually, I do have another human team on the painting desk, but that's the all-female Void Sirens.  They'll look much better than this bunch, I promise - they're certainly taking much longer to paint!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Showcase: the Mean Green Team

Introduction

And now, for something completely different...

I've been thinking that it's about time I showed some more of my models, since that seems to be what people like.  I've had a few Dreadball models for quite a while now (a year?) and they've languished on my painting desk, undercoated and unloved.  However since my son and I played a few rushes in an exhibition game at Claymore 2014, I've been trying to finish off a couple of teams of my own so that we could explore the game properly.  Here is the first such squad - the orx and goblins of the Mean Green Team, just completed yesterday evening!

The Mean Green Team

First up: 3 guards.  Orx guards are the best available in Dreadball, which is hardly surprising since their role is basically to flatten anything which gets in their way.  These guys are plenty big enough to do that in style!

Obviously, these models all have the same pose.  Normally I wouldn't be happy about that, but for this game their role needs to be easily identifiable and having them similar will make this a bit easier.  In any case, I've varied the paint schemes a bit to help separate them.

The Mean Green Team doesn't have any strikers (specialised ball handlers), so it relies on its jacks instead.  A jack-of-all-trades can do anything that a striker or a guard can do, but the jack doesn't fulfil either role as effectively as the specialists.  In other words, these goblins are a bit clumsy.  Ah, well...

For the most part, I was reasonably happy with the hand-painted numbers on the players' armour.  However I can clearly see in this shot that I've made a right mess of 06 (in the centre).  Bother!

Final thought: this ref-bot is trying to tell off number 02 for some infringement.  I hope they have a spare referee handy; I don't think the player is taking it very well!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Robots in 28mm: Film, TV and beyond.

Introduction

Once again, I find that I'm falling behind in my intended schedule of blog posts.  To try to regain some lost ground, here's a relatively simple post about my robot models.

Didn't we already do robots recently?  Well, yes - here - but those were really mechs.  I'm not sure that I really understand the difference, but I know it when I see it.  Perhaps a mech has built-in tools/weapons appropriate to its function, whereas a robot is more general purpose and can use regular human devices?  Whether this is a reasonable distinction or not, in this post, you'll find real robots!

Robbie

Until Star Wars came along, I think that Robbie was possibly the best-known robot in science fiction.  He made his debut in Forbidden Planet, but has since appeared in a number of cameo roles in other films (such as Gremlins).

Of course, this model isn't really of Robbie.  Rather, it's the Classic Robot from Black Cat Bases.  The model does bear an uncanny similarity to Robbie, though...

Danger, Danger!

My next machine is also from Black Cat Bases.  This one looks remarkably like the Robinson family's machine from the original TV series of Lost in Space (not the more recent film with Gary Oldman as the villain).  It must be just a coincidence that it looks so similar, but nevertheless...

In homage to the TV show, I've added a young woman called "Penny" to this set.  However unlike the original Lost In Space, my version of Penny has a remote control for the robot, rather than the machine being completely autonomous.  Penny is a converted em4 plastic ganger.

Who?

Of all the robot models I have which portray a film or TV character, this is the only official one!  It's a servo robot from Black Tree Design's licensed Doctor Who range and it faithfully replicates the cutting edge special effects from a 1960's BBC TV show.  'Nuf said.

I'll be back!

Here are some more models from em-4, these bear a passing resemblance to the T-800 from The Terminator.  Of course, the idea of a skeletal, metallic robot isn't exactly unique, but I do like these ones a lot.  That doesn't mean I've ever used them in a game, of course...

Even 1 of these looks frightening, so I'm not sure what effect the entire range of 5 models would have on any players.  Very menacing!

The Elephant in the Room

There is, of course, a rather large manufacturer who have a range of robots amongst their products.  This is Games Workshop (as if you didn't know!); here are some examples of their basic Necron warriors.

Personally, I don't think that the bandy legs and oversize weapons do these models any favours.  Still, I suspect that I'm outnumbered in this by tens of thousands of teenage boys across the world.  Ah, well...

Conclusion

Of course, this collection doesn't even scratch the surface of all the robot models that are out there.  They do give me some options for games though: I could run a classic Terminator scenario, or add a robot as an impassive (& malfunctioning?) sidekick to any science fiction skirmish game.  One of these days I fancy running a game of All Things Zombie set in a science fiction convention (like Night of the Living Trekkies); a couple of home-built robots would be brilliant as props or accessories.  Of course, I'd need to build a convention centre model first, so this might have to remain a pipe dream for now!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Battle Report: Robin Hood and the Tournament

Introduction

Robin's men are underlined in red, the Sheriff's are in blue and the bystanders are in green.
There has been a tournament held on a grassy plain on the outskirts of Nottingham.  People have travelled from far and wide to attend; there are a lot of strangers around today.  As the afternoon draws to a close and the crowds start to disperse, someone shouts out "There's Robin Hood, the outlaw!  Seize him!".  Is it really Robin and the Merry Men?  Or is it just a case of mistaken identity?

The game will be played with the Song of Blades and Heroes rules; the outlaws have to escape back to the forest.

Forces Involved

Robin and the Merry Men

  • 300 points value, no limit on personalities.  This buys Robin Hood, Little John, Marion and 5 Merry Men [see here for my first cut at stats for these guys, though note that I've made slight adjustments to Little John since].  Note that Marion has the Inconvenient trait and is therefore given to the enemy band as a hindrance.  She was attached to Guy of Gisborne, who would therefore have to remain within "L" of her at all times.
  • The outlaws have to exit from the southern edge of the table into the forest, where it will be difficult to track them.

The Sheriff of Nottingham

  • 450 points value.  The forces of law and order consist of The Sheriff, Guy of Gisborne, Yorik the Jester, 2 lesser knights, 4 crossbowmen and 18 men at arms.  Note that the Sheriff's foot soldiers are mostly rabble, which means that they are brittle in combat.  It also means that they are very cheap, so he can field large numbers of them and outnumber the outlaws by 4:1 !
  • For a major victory, kill or capture Robin Hood and Little John.  If only one of them is apprehended then this is a minor victory for the Sheriff, while if they both escape then the outlaws win.

The Bystanders


  • There are a number of civilians milling about, getting in everyone's way and so on!  We used at least 12, though I didn't count and there may have been a few more than this.  The numbers aren't really critical.  All of them are Q5+
  • Roughly speaking, the civilians are ambivalent towards Robin and his band of Merry Men.  The townsfolk probably don't like his activities very much, but people from the surrounding villages are generally supportive.  However, neither farmer nor merchant is willing to risk life or limb in armed confrontation either for or against the outlaws.  Consequently they will not fight and may not be engaged in combat or targeted with missiles.
  • The bystanders act as if they were a 3rd, neutral warband.  Both Robin and the Sheriff may take a turn with the bystanders after their own warband has finished its actions.  This allows them to attempt to move some of the civilians into positions that will block line of sight for shooting or will impede the free movement of enemy combatants.  Remember that in Song of Blades and Heroes a model may not pass through another non-friendly model.  Also note that the bystanders don't fight, so there is no penalty for breaking off from contact with a civilian - but you still have to go around them!

The Game

The Sheriff's men moved first; a couple of men-at-arms moved forward hesitantly.  Neither was particularly keen to tackle the notorious outlaw band on his own, so both were waiting for backup.

However, a drunken civilian was much more forward.  He stumbled down from the stands and staggered over to the Merry Men.  "Well, if it ishn't my old friend, Robin Hood" he slurred.  "Hey look, everybody!  It's Robin Hood, my best pal!"

With difficulty, Robin managed to evade the embrace of the tipsy bystander.  He whipped an arrow to his bow and shot dead one of the approaching spear men in a particularly gruesome fashion.  This caused the Sheriff and his 2 guards to flee for 1 move from the covered stand.  When they paused for breath just a few paces away, the Sheriff promptly knifed both of his men for their cowardice (don't you just love the evil trait?)

Meanwhile, Little John stood nearby, doing nothing.

Back near the starting positions, the drunken bystander staggered onwards.  2 Merry Men had been a bit slow in realising that they were in danger and they now found their way obstructed by the crowd.  One of the outlaws was grabbed by a spear man and then cut down as Sir Stanley rushed into the fray from the nearby tents.

Robin and his remaining men shook themselves free from the crowd and started to run around the end of the tilt barrier.  Little John was in the lead, but was accosted by Sir Walter and a man at arms.  In the background, the Sheriff ran towards another group of soldiers, intending to order them into the pursuit.

Off screen to the left, Guy of Gisborne was trying to force his way through the crowd and catch up with Robin.  He kept looking over his shoulder at Maid Marion, to make sure that she was safe (she was promised to him as a bride, after all).  Between this distraction and the various citizens who clung to him demanding protection from the vicious outlaws, he didn't make much progress.


The outlaws sent a Merry Man in to assist Little John (though in truth, he was probably capable of fighting 2 men at once even on his own).  However, Robin found his way blocked by a priest and a lady in waiting.  "Is it true" the priest asked "that you give money to the poor and deserving?  I am - I mean my parish is very poor.  We could really use some cash".  The lady in waiting didn't say anything, but just simpered and giggled a little at the thought of being so close to such a dangerous outlaw - and him so handsome too...

While Robin was occupied with his fans, the Sheriff's squad approached from one side and Sir Stanley and Sir Guy came in from the other.  At this point, it didn't look as if any of the Merry Men would be able to escape!

By this time, the field was in an uproar!  The priest moved on to obstruct Sir Guy, ostensibly to discuss details for his hoped wedding to Lady Marion.  It was all the knight to do not to cuff the impudent churchman out of the way!  However his betrothed was watching and he knew that she disapproved of such behaviour, so he restrained himself.

Robin glimpsed the Sheriff skulking nearby, hiding behind one of the tournament heralds.  When the civilian moved aside, Robin took a quick shot at his enemy.  He missed, but the Sheriff was so taken aback by the audacious attack that he fell over in the mud.

Just at this moment, Little John gave his opponent an almighty whack with his quarterstaff.  Nobody present had ever seen a corpse fly so far before; many of them felt very unsettled by the event.  First to run was one of the men at arms: he fled right past the Sheriff.  The evil lord tripped up his minion and daggered him, proclaiming "Thus do all cowardly dogs die!".

Next, the sheriff took his own morale check for seeing the original gruesome death.  He failed miserably, scrambled to his feet and fled like a bunny rabbit.  2 further men at arms routed off in the same general direction to keep him company (though presumably keeping more than an arms length away from their boss, just in case).

Strangely, both players were happy to see the Sheriff depart (and both hoped that he'd trip and fall into a midden in his hasty flight).  Steve, playing the outlaws, was concerned in case the Sheriff managed to use his Leader skill to organise a concerted attack on Robin or Little John.  On the other hand, I (playing the authorities) was tired of the Sheriff's evil ways, especially the slaughtering of "cowards".  Honestly, the man's a menace!  He killed more of his own side than the outlaws had managed, at least up to that point in the game.

Finally, Sir Walter was fighting the Merry Man just beside Little John.  When he glanced sideways and saw the giant's fury, he also turned to run.  However, Sir Walter wasn't lucky: the Merry Man lunged at the knight's back and slid his long dagger through an unprotected armpit.  Sir Walter fell to his knees and died before he even knew what had happened.

Spectators mobbed Robin, showering him with complements or complaining about the spoiling of the tournament.  Swiftly, he found that he couldn't move in the crush.

Robin was having a hard time of it.  He untangled himself from the mob, but hadn't gone very much further before Sir Stanley charged at him.  Robin struck at the over-zealous knight with his sword and killed him, but this was all taking time and other enemies were closing in.

Now it was the time of Yorik, the jester.  He was partially hidden behind a couple of bystanders, but Robin could see that the little man was doing something terribly interesting.  His attention wavered as the jester cavorted, told half-heard jokes and played the fool.  Robin's attention wandered; he was torn between waiting for the punchline and fleeing his approaching enemies.

Towards the southern end of the tournament field, Little John had almost reached the edge of the forest.  The Merry Man behind him had fallen with a grunt and a crossbow bolt sticking out of the middle of his back.  The outlaw that was ahead of him was waylaid by a pair of men at arms and overwhelmed, so John was on his own!

By this time, Robin had been left far behind by the other outlaws.  Several spearmen tried to grab him, though he killed one of them with his sword.  Robin kept turning round to try to see what Yorik was doing and this lack of attention was his downfall.  Eventually, Guy of Gisborne joined the fight (having persuaded Marion to come close enough to permit him!).  Between them, Guy and the remaining 2 spearmen managed to drag Robin down, though whether he was dead or captured wasn't clear.

The last crossbowman contemplates tackling Little John all on his own
Little John was so close to freedom now!  One Merry Man had scampered past him and disappeared into the forest, but soldiers kept trying to subdue the giant.  At one point, a pair of them even managed to knock him to the ground, but this small victory was short-lived.  Bellowing furiously, the huge outlaw set about all and sundry with his quarterstaff.  Once they were all defeated, he strode off towards the trees, defying anyone else to try and stop him!

The only man left on the field who would have had much of a chance against the big man was Guy of Gisborne.  His forlorn pursuit was hampered by his need to stay close to Maid Marion and by the actions of the bystanders.  Firstly, "angry old man" gave the knight a lung full of invective and then "rock-throwing young boy" got in his way and taunted him!  With a sense of deep frustration and many unrepeatable words, Guy gave up the chase and went to seek the Sheriff.  At least he could report that they had captured the notorious bandit Robin Hood, if not his lieutenant as well...

Conclusion

I love "Song of Blades and Heroes"!  All through the game, both sides were left unable to carry out their plans just the way they wanted; much improvisation was needed to try to adapt to the changing circumstances.  There was plenty of high drama as the game swayed to and fro - also some good comic moments!

Possibly we gave the authorities a bit too much of an advantage in points.  The intention was to force the outlaws into running away rather than deciding to stay and fight it out - but maybe they didn't have much of a chance of escaping when there were so many enemies around?

In the end the game was a minor victory for the forces of law, although this was somewhat tainted by the fact that their leader smelled of sewage for a while afterwards.  Another game is clearly needed to rescue Robin from the executioner!

The "Man of the Match" award is a split decision; I cannot pick just one.  Candidates are:
  • Maid Marion, whose stubborn refusal to move for almost all of the game acted as a considerable anchor on Guy of Gisborne's movements and therefore prevented the authorities' best warrior from seeing much fighting.
  • Yorik: he distracted Robin for several turns in a row, thus requiring the outlaw chief to use up almost all of his own activations in just trying to clear his head.  This delay enabled various spearmen and knights to surround and ultimately take down Robin.
    Mind you, the game's setup was almost perfect for Yorik's special abilities.  The bystanders gave him a very convenient mobile shield (to prevent him being simply shot down) and the scenario was one where delaying the enemy would pay dividends.  Isn't hindsight wonderful?
  • The bystanders.  Although not all of them were close to the action, the crowd was a constant thorn in the sides of both players, impeding each in turn at several critical junctures!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Black Powder: The Three Villages!

Introduction

The battlefield after 1 move.  Mouse-over the image to see who is who...
So, last weekend Steve came round for a day's gaming.  This is something we're fortunate enough to be able to do every few months and since it's quite a long journey for poor Steve, we try at least to make it an activity-packed visit.  This time we managed to fit in 2 games.

As is customary, we started with a big game of Black Powder using our 6mm Napoleonic forces.  We also managed a game of Song of Blades and Heroes, using my Robin Hood-themed warbands.  More on that another time.

On with the show: here's a description of the Black Powder game...

The Scenario

In 1809, a large Russian force is approaching a plain which contains the 3 fictional, central European villages of Großrinderheim, Württemfeld and Tauberbischofsberg.  Help (?) is on its way to repel the invaders, in the shape of a mixed force of French and Confederation of the Rhine troops.  The Confederation troops are outnumbered but have a more flexible command structure.  Would that be enough to make a difference?  Oh, the allies also have a lot more artillery than the Russians...

Victory would be determined very simply: each of the 3 villages is an objective.  Whoever holds more villages at the end of the game would be declared the winner.  The game would end either when 1 side were all dead or ran away, or when we ran out of time or energy to continue!

In the past, we have found troops in buildings to be nearly invulnerable under the Black Powder rules.  Since we didn't want this game to stagnate, it had to be at least plausible to assault an occupied village.  To achieve this, we reduced the morale save modifier for troops in houses from +2 to +1 and the combat result bonus from 3 to 2.  Maybe these buildings are wooden rather than stone?  Or maybe our troops haven't read the manuals on the best way to defend such a position?  Who knows?

The Forces

Most of the troops we used in this battle were fairly standard, with few special rules employed.  However, we wanted to test out the optional rules for Personal Characteristics of Commanders.  We could just have rolled dice for the results and written them down on paper, but I like things to be a bit easier than that.  I've made a deck of cards with a reasonable distribution of these characteristics on them, so all we needed to do was draw one card for each general and brigadier.

Russians

The Russian force was made up of 3 identical brigades, each consisting of 4 infantry units, 1 battery of artillery and a unit of (unreliable) Cossacks.
When we assigned characteristics to the Russian commanders, we discovered that the corps commander, Generallieutenant Raevskii, was average but that his subordinates were anything but!  Generalmajor Rylieff was timid and hesitant (!), Generalmajor Pantzerbeiter was decisive (probably an emigre with something to prove, I think...) and Generalmajor Palitsyn was also timid.  OK, this could be interesting...
Totals: 12 infantry, 3 cavalry, 3 artillery units.

Confederation

The Confederation had 5 small brigades (1 Bavarian, 2 French, 1 Hesse-Darmstadt and 1 mixed light cavalry).  Each of these typically had 2 units of infantry or cavalry and 1 battery of artillery.
The commander (French general Saint Cyr) was decisive, but all 5 of his brigadiers (Cossons and Dalesme for the French infantry, the Hessian Schiner, Bavarian von Minucci and cavalry commander des Essarts) were all completely bland.  A bit disappointing, perhaps, but I suppose it simplified things.
Totals: 9 infantry (7 normal, 2 small), 2 cavalry, 5 artillery units.

The Game

The Russians moved first and immediately force-marched regiments of infantry into all 3 of the villages.  Some of their support forces were a bit slower off the mark, but they were well entrenched in the objectives before the Confederation forces got close.  As the armies approached each other there was an outbreak of firing all along the line, though most was relatively ineffective due to the use of skirmish screens.

The exceptions to this were in the centre, where the French General Cossons steadfastly kept his infantry in attack columns (without a screen!) and the otherwise professional Dalesme advanced the "Lucky 56th" Ligne into a storm of cannon and musket fire without any support.

The Musketry Exchanges

For most of the game, fire was given and taken all along the front line, with the Russian line anchored in the 3 villages and the Confederation just beyond them.  Rather than bore you with a turn by turn account, here are the highlights:
  • French Hussars tried to outflank in the north, but were met by Cossacks.  In an inconclusive skirmish, both sides withdrew behind their infantry supports.
  • In the south, a probe by Bavarian cavalry and light infantry was met by a Russian square.  Without any nearby artillery, the Bavarians were unable to advance any further and a stand-off developed.
  • First blood went to the concentrated French and Hessian artillery on the northern ridge.  One unlucky Russian regiment was decimated and then fled in rout.  There were still plenty more like them, though...
  • At the near end of the line, the Russians found themselves unable to make use of their superior numbers.  A combination of hesitant command and the occasional blunder led to a bunching of units with no room to deploy.
  • Meanwhile, the Russian front line took a pounding, especially from the Confederation artillery that was mostly placed along the ridges in their rear.  In particular, the Russian centre fell into disarray and had trouble reacting.

The Assault

Seeing the Russian centre apparently in disorder, General Cossons ordered his columns to attack.  With banners waving and shouts of "Vive L'Empereur!", the 24th Légère and 44th Ligne regiments marched in double time towards their enemies.  At the last moment, the columns broke into a run and crashed into the confused Russians.  At the same time, General Dalesme's 4th Ligne made a diversionary attack on the village of Württemfeld, fully expecting to withdraw after distracting the defenders from the fight to their flanks.

Disoriented the Russians may have been, but they were going nowhere!  2 of the attacks stalled and halted in stalemates, whilst the 44th Ligne was repulsed in disorder.  Oh, crumbs!

Near Tauberbischofsberg in the north, a single Russian regiment attempted to close with some of the artillery that had been galling them all through the game.  This was a small but bad mistake; the nearby French cavalry made several fake charges to force the attacking infantry into a square.  As soon as this happened, the Hessian artillery and skirmishers set about the poor Russians with a vengeance.
All the square could do was hold on and pray for deliverance; if they moved then the hussars would have been on them in a flash and if they didn't then they would be pummelled with cannister from the cannons.  A unit of Cossacks attempted to charge the guns to relieve their infantry, but these light cavalry refused to charge home and withdrew after taking a few losses.

The Turning Point

In a completely unexpected turn of events, the next round of the 4th Ligne's diversionary attack on the central village succeeded in eliminating the defenders with no real loss to the attacking regiment.  The French soldiers quickly occupied the objective and then poured a thunderous enfilading volley on the unsuspecting Russian regiment at the far side.

Seeing this, the nearby "Lucky 56th" Ligne charged at the wavering Russian unit.  In a tremendous crash, both regiments just disintegrated, leaving whoever was left alive streaming from the field.

Suddenly, it was all over.  The Russians had lost 3 regiments completely, but enough of their other units were shaken for 2 of the 3 brigades to now count as broken.  Since most of the brigades in the army were broken, the entire army was broken.  This came as a complete shock to both players, I think!

Rather than play out the rest of the game, we decided to allow the defeated Russian army to retire in (relatively) good order.  No doubt the small numbers of Confederation cavalry and the ever present Cossacks would have prevented a close pursuit and a total rout.

Conclusion

Well, that was unexpected!  Most of the Confederation units had taken some hits, but were still in good shape.  The Russian infantry never really got going; their superior numbers (especially in the south!) couldn't be brought to bear because of a mixture of hesitant leadership from General Rylieff and frequent disorder in the front lines.

Heroes of the hour were the Confederation artillery: the guns lined the ridges and pounded away on the masses of infantry below.  Some counter-battery fire from the few Russian cannons to get into action had done a lot of damage, but not enough to silence their enemies.

The cards for leaders' characteristics seemed to work well.  We found that most of the time the characteristics didn't have much influence on play, though just occasionally they made a critical moment more ... interesting!  That's as it should be.  Having the cards laid out made it easier to remember which commanders had these special rules.  It also brought a more personal touch to the game: the officers had both names and portraits (even if the pictures are technically all in Russian uniforms!)

Finally, next time I think the Confederation should take fewer brigades, but with more regiments in each one.  5 sub-commanders is really a bit too many!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Hospital (it's a part-work)

Once again, I've missed my self-imposed Wednesday deadline for a new article.  I'm annoyed with myself that this keeps happening recently; maybe I've got too many things going on simultaneously?

That being so, here's a quick description and a couple of pictures of my part-built Grekwood hospital.  I really need to complete this before I can continue with my ATZ campaign, as the last couple of episodes have clearly been leading up to a scenario set in a place of healing.  Please be patient; it may take me some time yet and I'm also finding this quite frustrating...

As you can see, I have made a start on the hospital!  So far I've completed 1 ward & day room, 1 corridor section and the entrance hall (less the steps and sign).  Also you can see the floor for a second hallway.

My vision is for a 2-storey affair with 4 "wards", though I'll probably only outfit 2 of them as real wards.  The remaining 2 should contain other hospital services, though I'm not sure what.  Perhaps a cafeteria and out-patient clinics?  Or an operating theatre?  Or administrative offices, a pharmacy, a laboratory or even an industrial laundry?  Ah, so many ideas; I know that I cannot realistically do them all.

At least the build is very modular, so this does leave open the possibility of expansion later.  It should also make the pieces a bit easier to store, I hope.

So far I've really only got the shells for these rooms.  I've done a little work on the roofs, but almost none on the furniture and fittings.  Hmm, perhaps this is all too ambitious and I should settle for a much smaller establishment?  Ah, but I have such dreams...