Monday, April 11, 2011

The Combatants, and more

There was consternation in the two capitols (OO-31 and JJ-46), and not a little head-scratching. A border clash! War! Excuse me, WAR!!! Immediately both parliaments and Crown Councils sprang into action, levying horses to field the armies.

The head-scratching came as ministers poured over the accounts. Just who had ordered these military expeditions? And where had they fought? You see, the border between the two countries is a river, and yet if you reread the account of the battle you'll see not a single mention of a body of water (and what was in the casks in the Quartermaster Stores did not count as water). Well, there is a simple explanation, one that covers everything.

Map reading error.

See, I told you I consulted the great and good Prince Tedron of Methylonia. He specialized in these sorts of affairs, and he so arranged everything.

Cooler heads wanted to know where was this gold mine, where was the border clash, and where were the regiments that had taken part. Rumors flew of corruption, of misleading reports, and so on. All for naught. There would be war when Spring rolled around, and that was that.


Now after all of that talk about movement systems, just how did this all occur? I used Campaign Cartographer to create a hex-based map. I didn't have a river on there, my bad, but it added to the fun. I took my "away" kit of miniatures, rosters, rulers, and foot-sticks, and rounded up some Warhammer and RPG types at a local hobby store to fight the battle after a suitable mini-campaign. I even provided the dice! All they had to do was sit down and play.

I think there is a truism somewhere that low throws in movement are balanced by high throws in combat, and vice versa (at least that has been my experience). The armies squared off across the hex sheet, and both commanders threw a '1'. Both decided to "stay off the roads because the enemy would be expecting that", and both ignored whatever movement bonus the generals had, so both moved a hex.

Another pair of '1's. This was going to take all day. After a third move, one of the commanders decided to build a depot (that was the baking bread reference). He forgot to garrison it so it was inactive. The other side threw a '5' for movement, which is why he suddenly moved fast. But after five turns of map moving they finally sighted each other.

One side promptly deployed his entire army, and had all sorts of problems dealing with the terrain. The other stayed in march column just a little too long, and lost some men when contact was made. By the way, both sides had their genrals well out front, leading by example. But finally they squared off to fight.

I'd forgotten that I was dealing with people who played a lot of Ancients. They promptly tried to put every man in the front line, read the rules about shooting being two dice, but melee being four, and charged.

This is where the dice "made up" for their poor moving experience. This was Volley & Bayonet, so 6's hit. Both sides threw a lot of 6's. Whole battalions vanished in a blaze of musketry/melee. One side rolled over the other, pressed on, and ran into the second line (the troops who wouldn't fit in the first line). Which promptly returned the favor. Again a lot of 6's were thrown. Blood was flowing in quantities sufficent to over awe even a WW1 General. It really looked like whoever had a regiment left would win.

Both sides were disordered, and half of each army was in rout. Neither side could really advance on the other, so I declared the battle over. I collected all of the rosters and other impedimentia of war and retired to my game table to sort through it. The gamers were talking (as I left) about using V&B for an Ancients set of rules, though they would get rid of distant shooting by the infantry.

I've seen this sort of deployment before. Once at Enfilade! I put on a 6mm Napoleonics battle, just a couple of divisions on a side with open flanks so the light cavalry got sucked off to the flanks to protect them. I deployed both the Austrians and the French in two lines. Both sides promptly shoved all of their men into the front line with no reserves. I concluded that a halfway decent tactician would have these guys for lunch. Worse yet, some of them wouldn't understand why or how they lost!

I really regretted that these Ancients gamers wouldn't get a lesson in 18th Century tactics and strategy, but they're somewhat irregular in their gaming (well, so am I), and people who get too badly hammered don't always return. I'll think of something.


So the armies are mobilizing. One country is significantly smaller than the other, but they "enjoy" higher subsidies from their patron, and so the armies will work out about the same. The countries are open with rolling ground and a few roads, so that'll make for some interesting campaigning. And I'm going to recruit some map generals who have some idea of what they're doing. Have to come up with a die roll method as none of these people will meet face-to-face for a while.

In the meantime recruiting parties are sweeping up the ne'er-do-wells and the young nobility, the two groups that traditionally are only a drag on society, giving them uniforms, and otherwise mustering. As the Spring Thaw sets in and grass comes into the fields the initial deployments will get made, and then the moves.

Stay tuned.