How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Poodle attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Monday, December 14, 2015

1st Playtest: Neil Thomas "One-Hour Wargames" Pike & Shot rules in Scenario #4, Take the High Ground

Altho I am still fuddling around with the figures, I decided I HAD to try out the rules, at least to help me get a feel for basing, unit size, etc, which will help inform my next round of purchases. Also, I've been doing a bunch of reading and have a lot of rules ideas in my head. Still, I want to obey my maxim with Neil Thomas rules - "play them RAW, first!"

I've had numerous humbling episodes of botching up the modifications and having to go back and simplify again.  This is more easily avoided by playing the rules as written and starting with how little needs to be changed to improve the historicity and playability of the rules. During the read-through, I immediately had some things I didn't like the sound of, but again, stuck to my maxim!  So please excuse the lack of figures.

Above is the table set for the first turn.  I think it adequately presents the book's diagram, Below, altho the hill is twice the size it is supposed to be:
This is actually quite important, as the scenario states that the defending Red player must set up two units on the hill.With the smaller hill this puts the two units in the "zone of death" as 5/6 of the attacking Blue player's units shoot.  As all may shoot after movement, and all end up in range, the first playtest resulted in the two units being handily wiped out on Turn 1, and losing possession of the hill that is the objective.  On T2, the rest of team Red arrived to find their friends wiped out and the hill in enemy hands!  Needless to say, they lost playtest 1.  So I had to make some amends and let the hill be larger, and keep the two units back on the hill so they were only in range of three of the attacking Blue units.

In the foreground, Blue units are lined up on the base edge.  All horse have a small base sitting on top of the big base, while all infantry have a small base next to the big base.  The three Infantry in the center are numbered 1-3 with black dice and white pips.  The two Reiter horse have black dice and red pips.  The Cavalry unit has '1' white pip on black. 

In the background, behind the hill is the Red sacrificial lambs.  They are behind the hill because I saw that as their only chance to survive after playtest 1.  However, I put them on the hill when play started as I wanted to respect the scenario and play it RAW, also!  They are numbered 1 and 2 in red.  The red squares mark the crossing of the 1' squares, so as you can see there are nine squares of a foot, or nine square feet for this board.  Easily played out on my IKEA folding table within my home office!

Basically, the rules give a good feel for the period, which includes late renaissance through the ECW and 30YW.  "Infantry" are mixed pike and shot, and shoot 1d6 - even after their 6" move - and melee 1d6.  "Swordsmen" include rabid highlanders and sword-and-buckler men; they can enter woods and melee at d6+2.  "Reiters" shoot 1d6 - even after their 10" move - and melee 1d6.  "Cavalry" melee 1d6+2.  Both Infantry and Reiters run out of ammo if they roll a 1-2 on d6 when they shoot [so a 1/3 chance] after which they are allowed to charge enemy units.  Both Cavalry and Swordsmen melee well against their respective types and can always charge.  All cavalry melee Infantry at 1/2 effect due to the pikes, and Swordsmen melee cavalry at 1/2 effect due to the lack of longer weapons and their loose formation.  While dragoons and commanded shotte are not present, I feel like all the main units have been covered, along with all the most important effects.  So how do they play out RAW?

Below is the end of Blue T1.  I just realized that Red is supposed to go first each turn, which would help with them getting off the hill and behind it, but wouldn't help with the problem of taking and holding the hill which is the victory condition.  In any event...
The rulers show the entry distance of the Blue force, with Cavalry on left going 12", the Reiters next at 10" and within range of both Red Infantry, the two Infantry plodding along at 6", the second Reiter at 10" and in range of either Red Unit, and the final Blue Infantry 3 going 9" on the road with the 3" bonus.  
*There's no rule saying that you can't shoot using the road bonus, but you can't enter melee using the road bonus.  Red Infantry 2 is wiped out from Blue shooting - Not that hard since there's 
*no targeting rules so I was able to concentrate fire on Red 2, as well as 
*shoot sequentially until I got the result I wanted. 
Red Infantry 1 hits with a measly '1' and goes out of ammo.  Clearly, someone forgot to supply this force!  Blue 3 goes out of ammo.  The white dice are the ammo dice [out on a 1-2] and the green dice at the Hits inflicted, which are also marked on the target Units.  Blue Cavalry took the 1 Hit.

Below is the end of Red T1.  Things aren't looking good.  Note that if I had the turn sequence right, I could've moved both Red Units behind the hill and out of LoS, so they couldn't be shot.  
*This also brings up the ease with which units move - they can turn both before and after they move, up to 180 degrees.  
Altho this cedes the hill temporarily, it would've kept the Units alive for a couple of turns and they could've counter-attacked.  Goes to show that you always make some sort of mistake and you can't worry too much about results when playtesting - there's a lot to think about just with learning new rules!

Below is the end of Turn 2.  The destruction of Red Infantry 2 has left Infantry 1 in dire straights and being overrun.  Since Blue Infantry 1 & 2 can't charge until they're out of ammo, it has repositioned itself facing the Blue left flank horse, the most immediate threat.  Blue's left flank horse continue their envelopment of the hill and threaten to charge the flank.  Blue Infantry 3 and Reiters 2 advance up the road to protect the right flank by anchoring a position between the hill and wood [there are no units that can move through wood, so it's effectively an obstacle], note that they've switched positions and Reiters 2 is now on the outside.  Red Cavalry [big red '1' dice] and Reiters [red dice, black pip] lead the way, followed by Infantry 3 while 4 is advancing up the road. Shooting from Red Reiters and Infantry 4 against Blue Infantry 3 is poor - the Infantry go out of ammo and both roll a '2'.  It's bad enough to have a poor situation, but rolling badly on top of it...?  C'mon lads!  

End of Blue Turn 3 below.  Infantry 1 & 2 massacre Red Infantry 1 with another 9 Hits. Knowing this was likely, the two flanks have moved on to the reinforcements racing to the rescue.  Blue Reiters score a '5' and '6' wanging Red Cavalry and Infantry 4 respectively. This support was needed to help Blue Infantry 3 who took 4 Hits.  Reiters are pretty dangerous, overall, with their 10" move and shooting as well as Infantry.

End of Red Turn 3 below.  The lack of Red power on hill has resulted in their remaining four Units charging forward in attempt to overwhelm some Blue Units and get an edge somewhere.  With dice varying from 1 to 6 this is possible with just a bit of rolling up.  
As units have 15 Hits, it takes a minimum of three turns to destroy a Unit if you attack with a d6, possibly as little as two with a d6+2 [8 and 7 would be 15].  So both the Cavalry and Swordsmen are dangerous Units when they roll up.  Neither shoot, however.  
Anyway, Red Cavalry charge Blue Cavalry, equaling the '5' Hits they have.  Red Reiters square off against Blue Reiter 1, while Red Infantry 3 and 4 hold the line against the rest of Blue's force.  The advanced wings of Blue's force threaten Red's maneuvering yet weaken the mutual support of Blue Units - if a couple Units get knocked out, they may be in trouble. Not that they would lose the hill and the victory, but they'd certainly lose more Units.  Red Infantry 3 puts a solid '4' Hits on Blue Infantry 3.

Below, end of Turn 4.  Red Cavalry have caught up to Blue Cavalry, and the dice will decide who wins this 11 to 9 Hit contest. Similar situation between Red Infantry 4 and Blue 3, with a 10 to 14 contest and Blue's turn to attack next. The Reiters are chalking up slow but steady Hits, while Blue Infantry 1 & 2 perform low and put 5 Hits total on Red Reiters. At this point, a little luck with Red could have two Blue Units break equaling things a lot, altho the hill would still be in Blue's hands. But we are looking for defeat with dignity for Red, at least, aren't we??

Below, end of Blue Turn 5.  The Cavalry inflict 7 Hits with a 5+2 and send Red Cavalry packing. Mutual destruction is occurring between Red 4 and Blue 3 altho I seem to have forgotten to mark it. The center is peppering away, with 2 Hits to the Reiters and 7 to Infantry 3.  Blue Reiters is looking weak at 10 Hits.  Lots of problems for both sides, but Blue is still strongest.

End of Red Turn 5 below. Red managed to take out Blue 3 but lost Red 4.  The Cavalry loss was disheartening to say the least.  It would've helped a lot to have won that and threatened Blue Reiter 1. As it stands, with only two Units left to five and a weak position, Red tries to retreat with dignity.

As I seem to say so often, "The rules play a lot better than I thought".  The differences between the Units is very expressive of the period altho not reflecting the details of the ECW all the time.  The general scheme of maneuver, firepower and charges makes a lot of sense and encourages one to think like a pike'n shotte commander.  I botched the turn sequence so that's a good reminder to "always read the scenario rules carefully".  Still, the game was quite engaging and there were lots of interesting decisions to make each turn for both sides no matter how well/bad things were going.

The lack of specific rules about melee contact leave the experienced gamer to fill in the holes and the newbie to guess or dice off.  Either "system" would work fine, but I think a little effort spent in that direction would be welcome and take up very little space. Same for a target priority rule, and the turning / shooting while using road movement.  The downward spiral of Hits leaves me wanting even just a minimal ability to rally off Hits.  I can live with the historicity and suspense of running out of ammo on the first shot while rolling a '1', or never running out of ammo while continuously rolling 6s.  Some days some Units are on while others are off, fair enough.  There is a tendency for things to even out, with dice values but timing can really matter.

Overall, these are a decent set straight from the go, and won't need a lot of changes to be fun and flavorful, as well as tactical.  I do have a few changes in mind, however, that are more expressive of the choices an ECW commander would be making.  Those will be for another post!

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