Friday, 16 December 2016

One Hour Wargames - Back to the Bronze Age

So overall the One Hour Wargames thing seems to be working out. When we started though there were two rules that I decided to miss out. I did not use bowmen as a troop type ( because not very punic wars) but also cutting out a troop type just made things simpler. Also, the rules recommend dicing at random for the composition of your armies. Now, with only six units of a maximum of four types this is not overly complex - but for a start was easier to let the boy play the same army composition.

This also meant a change of armies, wars, indeed epochs.  I needed something that had bows, and well,  I just wanted to give some different toys a run out. So enter the armies of Sumer in all their beginning of history, early bronze age, Uruk World System, I'm the King of Kish, we've got war donkey chariots of death! do you like my Ziggurat? How come we are all speaking Akkadian now?  glory.

For those people interested in such things, the figures you will see in the pictures are nearly all 20mm plastic figures from HaT, although I do believe that some Caesar miniatures have sneaked in as some tribal allies / auxiliaries and a very fine looking job they make of it to.

So new toys and the new rules, on we crack with dicing for army composition. We went with a pitched battle as the scenario as we were introducing some new elements, so it is a good idea to make sure everything else is familiar so you have confidence that the child understands it - stops them getting overwhelmed.  The boy throws and gets four units of heavy foot, one of skirmishers and one of bows. A good solid force with some shooting.

And here they are deployed. In a tight knot in the middle of the deployment zone. This is not to bad of an idea as the movement rates as compared to table size are quite large and it is not to much of a problem to get troops where you want them to go.

For my throw I received an army of three heavy foot, two mounted and one skirmishers - the same as I had been having with the Carthaginians. I am not over convinced by the effectiveness of mounted troops in these rules but at least it had the bonus of familiarity.

My gentlemen deployed. I went for as wide as a deployment as possible with a mounted unit on each flank (fear the war donkeys!).

The two armies facing each other. I put a small lake down as the reason for the fight (when the cities of Sumer had a punch up it was often over the control of an irrigation source). I also included a rather lonely looking field to add a bit of tactical interest.

My army throws itself forward. on the left the chariots tuck in behind the foot, which may seem odd. There was not a large amount of room to go on a wide outflanking and if they pushed forward or stayed in line it is possible that the bad guys from the city down the road that was into red might be able to push a unit of heavy foot into them frontally - not good. So they tucked in to await developments. On the right my chariots do push forward looking for a flank or at least diverting enemy resources to a flank.

The boy comes forward and spreads out. A weak point in his line is the bows, that although they can now shoot for a turn or two will get right royally tonked when the fighting is close quarters - win here, delay the chariots getting into action and attack a  flank if so presented, all to the good.

The boys next move. Instead of spreading his line wide he narrows it, pulling the tribesmen into reserve. Usually I would say having a reserve is a good thing but this time I think it is allowing room to pressure his flank with my mounted. The bow are now definitely a target - this will be a painful lesson for the boy but a good one for him to learn.

Or not. The clash of the heavy foot comes. His bows were hanging back. When I move into a position to hit them he responds with a comment of me having 'no chance' of getting at them, pulls them back and puts the tribesmen in the gap. So, he had a plan to get a couple of rounds shooting in before moving his heavy troops in to do the actual fighting. He really has been thinking this through..... and I am guilty of underestimating my opponent. This is however mixed with fatherly pride. The seemingly disembodied hand in this pictures by the way should not be a cause for concern, I can confirm that after the sweat band it is in fact attached to a full child in the normal way.

One consequence of the boys bait and switch is that it has left a hanging flank, which I readily exploit.

Boom! Flank charge. It does mean that my chariots will in turn be hit in the flank but this should already have caused enough disruption to tip the balance of the fight in my favour. 

Meanwhile. on the other flank, the bad guys have shoved a unit of heavy foot down the side of the field and my chariots have steadily given ground. Not to upset by this at the moment though, as it has taken his foot unit out of the fight for several turns as they walk around the side of the board. 

They do keep pushing though....... And the two units of skirmishers have managed to find a suitable venue for their traditional face off, where they can get on with not causing very much damage to each other without being disturbed by the big boys. 

My left hand heavy foot unit has polished off their opponents - due to the earlier flank charge and can now look for another opponent to put the pain on. My chariots from the right flank have now pulled fully back and the boy has a unit of heavy foot loose in my rear. I have presented the boy with a decision though, continue to close against the chariots or interfere with the rear of the main battle line.

He chooses to continue to put pressure on my chariots.

This may be because he knows that my other chariots were going to down to his bows - leading to my now free heavy foot clattering into them. Also, that he was about to win the central heavy foot fight anyhow and did not need the help.

Here his bows have been taken down and his heavy foot have moved to attack them. I have also won the fight against his tribal heavy foot.

An odd looking battle line. His troops in the middle seem doomed. However, they have the next move and therefore the next charge.

Which he uses to take down my now battered unit if heavy foot. His other unit on heavy foot have also eaten my chariots and can start to think about other things.

The other thing being the flank of my sole remaining unit of heavy foot. They charged their opponents in the rear and are well on the way to defeating them.

Which they do - but can you guess what happens next?

Yup, they get hit in the flank and taken down in turn. His skirmishers have also won the even odds dice fest against mine - handing the boy his second victory of the campaign!

Comments on the game - and rules

First thing to say, is that although I may not have brought my A game and was not fully focused on winning, I was not particularly going easy on the boy - I did not let him win and he was making his own decisions, the win was fully deserved. This is a good point in favour of the rules when considering if they are suitable for children, as the boy has now figured out how they work and is able to think through tactics and ideas and apply them.

Another thing in favour of the rules is that they did give some interesting maneuver before the fighting started. Decisions had to be made options weighed, which is as it should be.

Any down side? Well, the closing out of the game was a bit well odd - as units won a fight they queued up to take a turn to deliver a devastating flank / rear attack before suffering one in turn. This seems to be a function of the victory conditions - all units must be killed for the army to break and the lack of morale rules. This means that all units are at full effect and operate with no penalties, no matter what strength they have lost, or how bad their position is until they receive that final hit - then they are gone. This binary situation leads to an thrilling end game - all thrills and spills. However, from my position of questioning 'is this a satisfying end to a game', well no not really.

Still, one more game to go in the campaign before the winner and loser is declared and a full and considered view of the rules is given. The boy has also committed to giving his own full written review at the end of the campaign as well - so you will hear of the rules give a good game for a child from the horses (foals?) mouth.
The most fitting way to leave this game and consider the next one I feel is to consider the boys thoughts and questions about it. Which went something like this

'So, no matter what happens I can't lose the campaign can I dad? If I win the next game I win the campaign?'


'And even if the next game is a draw I win. And even if you win you can't really win.'

'That's right'

'So, you can't beat me then?'

'Well no, but I thought we were playing these games to have  fun and spend time together?'

'Oh no dad, I'm playing to beat you'.......

Thursday, 8 December 2016

One Hour Wargames - an unbalanced scenario

So, on with the testing of the One Hour Wargames Ancient rules for playing with a seven year old.The two games we have played so far have had fairly matching deployment and victory conditions. This I feel has made things simpler and has the added bonus of it being clear that it is 'fair', we are both trying to achieve the same conditions from the same starting point. Throwing in some asymmetric conditions I thought might be a challenge for the boy - lets see how he dealt with it.

The scenario chosen was number 6 'Flank Attack (1)'. I gave the boy a choice of what side he wanted to play after explaining the scenario - to my surprise he chose to be the force being ambushed stating that he would like a challenge - good lad. It also meant that as this was a Carthaginian force ambushing a Roman one it could count as a refight of Lake Trasimene, well sort of, and it's always good to get some history into the games.

Will describe the game briefly, mainly through pictures (being worth 1000 words and all that) to give context and illustrations for my comments before giving those comments on  how we enjoyed it and any problems with the rules. To win the Romans had to get three units of the table edge they are advancing towards - any other result being a victory for Carthage.

The scenario was that the Roman force was lined up one behind the other down the middle of the road, Carthage could have two units blocking the advance with the rest coming on from the side. As can be seen in the first picture, Carthage had two units of foot playing the role of blocking the Roman advance with another foot closest to the table edge then the more mobile troops further back. The basic plan was to pin the Romans in fights frontally before sweeping in from behind.

The Romans first turn was to advance with their first unit of foot, the velites halt to fire. The cav and the blue legion break right to try and get past the Carthaginians, with the other two units of foot turn to face the ambush and invite the Carthaginian horse to charge in.

The Cav decline the invite and look to sweep around the rear. An attempt to crunch the Triarii is made - a frontal attack with a flank charge being tee'd up. The Gauls in Carthage's service move left to block an easy charge off table.

Rome looks to defend the flank of the Triarii, as a rapid collapse would for them would probably mean game over. It does however mean two of the six Roman units are already committed to fighting in place.  They also look to gang up on the Gauls blocking the advance off table. The last unit is brought back but still facing rearward.

Gauls move to make sure they can not be hit in the flank by anything nasty and the rest of their army closes in.

The Roman velites move of table as it is a unit towards the victory conditions and they can not achieve to much anyhow. The Romans have decided the Gauls have to go if they have any chance of winning so charge the cav in to start that process and move a unit of foot for a flank charge next turn. The rear guard continues to fall back.

The trap is now closing in however. A rear charge sees off the Triarrii, the flank guard legion is in dire straights and the rearguard is engaged by the Numidians. A fight the Numidians can not win on their own but they are looking to pin the rear guard legion in place.

To win the Romans need to get two more units off table - if the Gauls can be dealt with this is possible - in goes the flank charge.

It takes two turns to destroy them however and in that time the Libyan spearman redeploy and get in a rear charge.

The Roman cav ride off for the second unit safe. The rear guard have also destroyed the Numidians but it has taken to long and they are hit in the flank by the Gallic cav.

The writing is on the wall now - two units safe but another needed for the win and the forces of Carthage are all over the remaining Romans.

No way back from this - leading to a Carthaginian victory - with the first victory for the forces of Dadduniam in the campaign!

Did the scenario work?

Yes it did, very simple but gave some interesting decisions to be made. It was complex enough to get the boy thinking but as it was still only six units it was simple enough for him to be able to mentally track. I did give some 'you my want to think about' type comments, which is all ok - as this is what I should be doing anyhow. But all the decisions were taken by him, so all good in the 'quest for a game to play with children' front. The main problem I had with playing this scenario is actually more an issue with the rules - so see below.

Are the rules still holding up?

Over all yes, still giving an enjoyable time for the both of us. The boy was not to unhappy with losing (a potential minefield when playing with children) and was engrossed in the game, with it seemingly close down to the wire. I say seemingly though, due to the IGOUGO (ah, for any non toy soldiery geek initiates this refers to a game style where one side moves all their forces (I go) and then the other does (UGO)). This combined with the simple combat meant that I felt that I could see the way the game would go from quite early on - barring any wild swings of luck. This was not a problem for the boy though and each twist and turn of the game was thrilling. In the future games I am going to have to try and make myself not think things through to much in advance I feel.

The other niggle I had was an echo of my earlier one of defining what a flank charge is. This broadens it out a bit more to look at unit placement and what their movement represents in general. This is illustrated by my early move to bring the Gallic foot out wide. I could have placed them in such a way as to block any possible exit from the table - with not enough room between the unit and the table edge on one side to get past  and on the other to small a gap between the Gauls and my spearmen. As they can only be attacked by one unit frontally this could have caused a severe (and somewhat unfair) roadblock. I decided not to do this. It could be argued a wider table would have negated this problem - true, but I was playing with the table width and deployment zones called for. As, due to there brevity the rules are silent on unusually troop placement I think it is possible that I could (if  I looked) find more ways to take advantage of this in the rules. The rules do seem to depend on the unwritten rule of 'play nicely children', which I am of course using as I am playing with my child. I dread to think of a scenario were the boy sees an advantage in an odd placement - that the rules allow and me trying to persuade him not to do it as it is 'not nice or fair'. Yung children can be very competitive....

Still, again another enjoyable fight and a good time was had by all. The campaign is now one game each and one draw with two games to go and all to play for.