Monday 31 December 2018

The king must die...

For the last outing of the year, my brave, bold and bronzed Bronze Age Cretans led by Minos the Younger took the field once more to raid and pillage the Egyptian delta. Against them were ranged the devious desert dogs of the Nile led by Andrewhotep and Leemose. The stage was set for another 
game of L'Art de la Guerre

The open field of the Egyptian Delta (must have been the height of summer as the ground was firm underfoot) was broken only by a narrow river, a small settlement so insignificant as to have had its name forgotten by the historians, and three plowed fields. Taking some learning points from their last battle, this time the Minoans undertook no flank marches. The snarling Myrmidon allied command took up position on the Minoan right, opposite a much larger but significantly softer command of Egyptian medium infantry. The Minoan heavy chariot division, supported by medium spearmen occupied the centre opposite Pharaoh's Sherdan mercenaries, while the slow Minoan heavy spearmen held the right flank against the fleet chariot archers of Egypt. 
 In the opening moves, the Egyptians threw forward a line of bowmen to the forward edge of the central field and advanced their chariots quickly towards the far left flank. As has come to be expected, the Egyptian asses carried their riders far ahead of the chariots, seeking to turn the Minoan flank. Minoan left and centre advanced cautiously. They neither wished to charge the archers in the field, nor stand around and get shot. The village held a potential ambush which slowed down any thoughts of desecrating its temple. The Minoan left held back not wanting to open the side gate to the Minoan line. The plan was to use the right hand field as an anchor for the line, but that meant not advancing too far from it.

The Myrmidons sent their skirmishing archers to investigate the village. They entered it unopposed, calling the Egyptian bluff and proving there was no ambush. However, they had barely the chance to empty their bowels in the sacred bits of the temple when they were chased out again by indignant Egyptian spearmen. The skirmishers passed back through their own lines having achieved their main aim. The Egyptian line had been triggered and was now advancing from a strong position into the move evenly matched plain.

The Myrmidons commenced their advance against the Egyptian spearmen. The chariots moved more slowly forward, while the spearmen on the Minoan right started fancy manoeuvres to secure the end of the line around the field.

By this stage, the Sherdana had also started to advance. Either they were concerned that the Egyptian spearmen had broken the master plan by advancing, or they didn't want the spearmen having all the fun. Through the fog of war, it was sometimes hard to tell what the opposition were doing... 

The Myrmidons rushed forward against the Egyptian spearmen holding the village, cut through them like.... a hot Myrmidon through butter, and pausing only long enough to defecate in the village kitchens, turned the Egyptian flank and started heading towards the centre. The only place the spearmen held was against the mediocre horsemen. I would have worried about their commitment to the battle had they fled there as well.

In the centre, Pharaoh's Sherdan mercenaries dashed in against the Minoan line, facing both heavy spearmen and heavy chariots. 

And then, in the first flush of youth and brimming with pride at the success of his first battle, young King Minos was slain. Again. I kill a lot of kings. Usually my own. Its kind of my thing. 

In the centre, the Sherdana were getting the better of the Minoan heavies, especially with the death of my general. However, the Myrmidons were slowly making their way in the help out.

Over on the Minoan right, the spearmen send to guard the flank were steadily making their way round the face the Egyptian flanking force. Unfortunately, the Minoan skirmishers who were holding the field were suffering under the continual archery of Pharaoh's chariots.

As the melee turned to bloody stalemate in the centre, the Egyptian chariots pulled back and their donkey-scouts charged across the open field, now empty of skirmishers. 

Having finished off the Egyptian speamen, axemen, and most of the archers, the Myrmidon commander in his heavy chariot finally reached the flank of the Sherdan guardsmen. The Minoans were hurting badly, but the Egyptian force was crumbling before the onslaught. Only blind stupidity could turn yet another glorious victory over Egypt into something worse.

"Hi, I don't know it we've me before? I'm Nic's recklesness. Mind if I make a few suggestions?" Yes Recklessness, we've met before. You killed my king, remember? "Oh yeah, that's right! Hey, why don't you charge his donkey scouts with your skirmishers?" Well, dear reader of this chronicle, the reason you can't see any skirmishers in the photo above, is because I engaged the damned donkeys in melee, and lost a six-one dice roll. The skirmishers went from being in fine fettle, to routing. Result at the end of the turn: Egyptians, 27 break points against the 26 needed to rout them; Minoans, 25 break points against the 25 needed for them to break. A bloody draw clutched from the jaws of victory. Well done to Andrew and Lee for another nail biting game!

Monday 24 December 2018

Into the sheepfold - Minos vs Gilgamesh

Staying on the Bronze Age wagon, this week we had another 6mm game of L'Art de la Guerre, this time ranging my yet-to-be-vanquished Minoans against Lee's Sumerians. This is the first time we've played a technically ahistorical game. However, as both armies are Bronze Age and chariot/pear based, what's a thousand years between friends? 

By the will of the gods - and a few dice rolls - my Minoans were defending again in a hilly area, this time with a river down one flank, a steep hill (behind which the Minoans stealthily hid their camp), two areas of brush and two ore gentle hills. 

The Minoans were deployed in a pretty linear formation, between the hills, using the steep hill to anchor their right flank, a line of heavy infantry, then heavy chariots, with medium infantry extending up towards the gentle hill on the left flank.
Ambush markers were deployed on both flanks and, in a ploy that was in equal parts ingenious, dubious and potentially drunken, I dispatched a grand sweeping (off table) flank march consisting of an allied commander embedded in a heavy chariot unit, and my mediocre medium cavalry. I have learnt in the past that flank marches can be really effective, but seldom are, and mostly turn up later than wanted. To mitigate that, I made this flank march tiny. As always with this army, I have a generous break point of 25. 

Leegamesh decided to mostly avoid the steep hill as he had no decent troops to take it, and instead deployed his Bedouin ally in the rough more or less in the centre of his deployment area, and squeezed the rest of his army over in the open ground to his right of the battlefield. Precisely where my glorious flank attack would hit home... provided all went to plan. Lee had a massive break point of 27.

In the opening moves, the Sumerians inclined their front to advance their right, anchoring their left on the Bedouin command which, as luck would have it (Praise be to Tyche!), were hesitant and would not advance toward the Minoan lines. On the one hand, this was perfect, because I really wasn't sure which trick I could pull out of my Cretan bag to defeat the massed camelry. However, the flip side to their hesitancy meant that now, and throughout the game, I held back on my right, not wanting to get within range to trigger the Bedouins to action. In the first few turns, my glorious flank march failed to arrive.

Because his line was so condensed, Lee had little room to manoeuvre and just threw his onager-drawn battlecars forward, unsupported, smack into the face of the Minoan heavy chariots. I was mildly confident because my chariots were all elite and one squadron included my embedded commander in chief, high king, priest king and all-round nice guy, King Minos. I didn't factor in that the Sumerians had impact, and presumably their donkeys smelt. The clash didn't quite go my way and three of my units were disordered. Only Minos' personal guard managed to draw their combat. 

Over on the Minoan left, the Myrmidon swordsmen slabbered their way forward and cut through the Sumerian bowmen opposite them.

Although the Myrmidons were proving their worth once again - they are always a wee bunch of savage murderers - the chariot battle was a bit one-sided... the other way. All the Minoan chariots were suffering badly. One squadron had been routed, and even the Minoan foot guard of medium spearmen were not making the fight much more even. Turns out medium spearmen don't much like heavy chariots.
The Minoan chariotry crumbles as their noble warriors fall in the savage melee. Minos himself is mortally wounded and, while his charioteer manages to bring his body away from the filed of battle for burial, the centre command is now leaderless.

Screened by his skirmishers, Prince Nikos, the only other Minoan commander on the table (did I mention the flank march wasn't anywhere to be seen?), brought the heavy spearmen to the left to try to turn back the onager wagons. In the background, the regular Sumerian spearmen can be seen engaging in some formation changes to march back and forwards a bit.

The successful Myrmidon medium swordsmen, now leaderless following the death of Minos, received a charge of mediocre Sumerian spearmen and one unit was disordered in the ensuing fight.
Prince Nikos' reinforcements managed to drive off the last of the Sumerian battle cars, but out on the Minoan left flank, the Libyan mercenary skirmishers were chased away and the Myrmidons were completely encircled and destroyed by the mediocre Sumerian foot and their supporters. In the background, the regular Sumerian foot have turn around to march back the other way again.

Eventually the Sumerian regulars found a part of the battlefield which felt right for them and turned back to face the Minoan centre. The Minoans at this stage were really struggling with lack of command options. The deceased Minos' remaining units did a lot of sitting around in disorder, managing - at their best- three CPs per turn, only enough to make one actual command. Still, as the (now unopposed) mediocre Sumerian foot came in and engaged the Minoan centre, the remaining elite heavy chariot managed to sweep into the the flank of the end unit, causing at least some disruption in the ensuing fight.

But not enough. The Minoan chariot squadron and the medium spear unit they were supporting both routed, and with that, the Minoan left was turned.  The Sumerian heavy foot finally made their way forward the take on their Minoan counterparts. The Minoan commander Nikos sent forward some skirmishers in a last ditch attempt to disrupt the Sumerians before contact was made. However, this brought them close enough to commit the Bedouin to the fight.

Hoards of camelry plodded forward, seeming to spit arrows with each step. The fate of the Minoan expeditionary force was sealed.  

What a bloody mess. The Minoans suffered terribly in the jaunt to Mesopotamia. By the end of the turn, they had reached 29 breakpoints, against their threshold of 25. Meanwhile the Sumerians were only at 20 breakpoints out of 27. It is a sad day when Minoans die so far from the sea. And for so many to die? A national tragedy.

Some sci-fi skirmishes

We played around with a couple of three player games this week, trying out Grimdark Future Firefight, followed by a game of Rogue Trader (1st ed.). Both were fun games, and it was great to see the wee toys out on the table. In general GFF is more my kind of game - more simple and easy to pick up and play - while RT is emminently more involved. Both produced good games, and I'd happily give either another run.

Saturday 15 December 2018

Another Bronze Age Clash

The crunch of thousands of tiny feet on the dry ground, and the rumble of a thousand chariot wheels, echoing down among the hills. It could only mean one thing. Bronze Age armies on the move again. Keen for a 6mm L'Art de la Guerre rematch after their last bruising defeat (one of those crushing defeats that would have seen a lesser commander sell their army), the New Kingdom Egyptians had crossed the Great Green to land their massed levies in the hallowed country of Minos, the Great Bull, Son of the Sea, Priest king of Knossos, High king of Crete, Lord of the Islands.

The two forces assembled. The Minoans had hoped to catch the Egyptians in the narrow defiles where the hills came down to the sea. Unfortunately, the Egyptians managed to deploy on the edge of a broad plain. Sweeping inland in what appeared to be a single line, Stevenhotep commanded the Sherdana mercenaries of the Egyptian right flank, while Andrewhotep took overall command of the centre, consisting of medium axemen and archers, and the left flank of massed chariotry. 

Opposite  them, the glorious sons of Crete and their almost-but-not-quite-as-glorious vassals assembled in three discrete commands. Nikos led the left flank allied command of northern Islanders, and also the central mass of heavy spearmen and associated swarm of skirmishes, while Prince Leemos took overall command and led the elite Minoan heavy chariots and their supporting infantry on the Cretan right. The Egyptian ass-riding scouts reported back that the Minoans may have laid an ambush in the small town off the Minoan right flank.

The two mortal foes advanced towards each other. On the inland flank (the Minoan right, 'Gypo left), the massed chariots face each other. The Egyptian line extended further out on both flanks, but the Minoans, on the whole, were doughtier warriors. 

Back on the coastal flank (Minoan left, 'Gyptian right), the Minoan's allied Islanders started to square off against a significantly more numerous Sherdana mercenaries. The Islander skirmishers moved off to fill the gap between the allied and centre commands, and act as a lure to force the slower moving, but impetuous Sherdana heavy guardsmen out of formation.

The first rank of Egyptian chariots fired off a couple of volleys of arrows as they charged forward, hitting the far end of the Minoan chariot line. At that moment, the Minoan medium spearmen hidden in the town sprang out of their ambush to charge the light Egyptian chariots.

The group of chariots at the end of the Egyptian line peeled away and evaded, while the Minoan chariots started to wheel around and outflank their opponents.
 As the 'Gypo line started to falter, the central command threw forward two regiments of axemen to return the favour and hit the Minoan chariots in their own flank. 

Destroying the lighter Egyptian chariots with the support of their own spearmen, the Minoan chariots turned to wipe away the axemen. However, in the background, the second line of Egyptian chariots prepared for a counter attack.

All the while, the Egyptian donkey-scouts had been skirting the town and making a broad sweeping maneuver towards the Minoan camp. In response, Leemos, Prince of Knossos, dispatched his Libyan mercenary skirmishers to cut them off. An initial barrage of javelins failed to dissuade them, however. After much jeering, the ass-men turned around and charged the skirmishers for some (very inconclusive) light-on-light action.

Unfortunately, back in the melee on the inland flank, the Egyptian counter attack was taking its toll. Two of the four elite Minoan heavy chariot squadrons had been routed, and the supporting medium spearmen were feeling the squeeze thanks to some deft command decisions of Andrewhotep. 

Not all the action was occurring in the inland flank however. In the centre, the Minoan heavy spearmen were making a very slow advance towards the 'Gypo axemen and archers, while the taunting ploy of the Islander skirmishers had worked and drawn the impetuous Sherdana guardsmen out of formation. In their absence, the remaining Sherdana medium infantry were assaulted by the main Islander force and suffered badly in the ensuing melee.

Having eviscerated the less well armed and trained Sherdana, the Islanders turned to take on the heavier Sherdana guardsmen. In the centre, the two lines crunched together. While the ends of the Minoan wall of heavy spearmen suffered from the overlapping Egyptian line, the overall outcome of the clash was a weakened Egyptian centre.
It was about that time that half the Sherdana guardsmen abandoned their position and routed, while the medium axemen fighting the last of the Minoan heavy chariots were destroyed, and their commander killed with them. The overall picture saw the Minoans winning on the coastal flank, but the Egyptians victorious on the inland flank. Both successful flanks were in the process of rolling up the centre where the melee continued. 

But at that point the Egyptian army broke. Once more the brave men of Crete could stand tall over their vanquished Egyptian foes. But it was much more of a near run thing this time than in their last fight. The Egyptians had reached their break point sure enough (23/23), but the Minoans were very close to breaking as well (23/25). The Egyptians had proven that they had learned from the first defeat and almost held their own this time. The Minoans knew that next time they met, there was going to be trouble...

Sunday 9 December 2018

The Titans are Coming!

At long last, Olympos has fallen. I have been working on Four Against the Titans (4AT) for a while now, and I'm delighted to see it released.

Although it is based on the highly acclaimed Four Against Darkness series of dungeon delving adventures by Andrea Sfiligoi, 4AT is a standalone pen and paper adventure game designed for solitaire or RPG-lite co-operative games.

Set in ancient Greece in a time of myths and legends, players choose heroes from ten different character types to complete mighty quests and battle creatures such as centaurs, harpies and maenads, all in an attempt to defeat the titans and forestall the destruction of Greece.

So far the rules are available as a pdf from the Ganesha Games Gumroad store, or in hardcopy from Lulu and Amazon