Monday, June 1, 2020

Wargame Design: Solo-Wargaming Scenarios


Since the COVID-19 crisis is still ongoing as of this writing, it makes some sense to me to keep writing about Solo-warming.  So far in the series we have talked about gaming the opponent and deployment.  Today, we are going to talk a bit about the value of scenarios in solo-wargaming and how to make them work.  This is not the first time I have talked about scenarios, so you may also want to reference how to use them as a tool for balance, and how to go about designing a historical scenario

The key factor when trying to design a solo wargame is to create surprise for the player!  Typically, in a wargame surprise is created bu playing against another person with their own thoughts and ideas about how to achieve their objectives.  Obviously, in a solo-environment that type of surprise is not possible.  Therefore, the system itself needs to generate the surprise a game needs to be interesting for the solo player.

Scenarios are an excellent way to help add flavor and decision making to your solo wargames.  As the player, you need to balance completing the scenario objectives with killing off all your enemies.  Ideally, you will have to choose between (at minimum) three choices; killing enemies, protect your own forces, or achieve the objective.  These three points should be counter to each other.


Mission Matters
Let's consider the humble Space Hulk game.  There are a variety of missions, of forcing you to move between unknown points of the board while enemy gribblies close in on you from all sides.  This game demonstrates the decision making process for a solo-scenario very well.

1. There is very little chance you can kill all the enemies, since they consistently re-spawn.  Therefore, you need to focus on killing the ones that are a threat to you accomplishing your mission. 
2. There is little chance that all of your forces will survive.  Therefore, you have to decide when and where to sacrifice them for the most benefit.

3. The mission often forces you to go to X location and then Y location so you need to think through the best way to get from A to B with the least amount of distance, chance of encounter, etc. to get there.

You are always balancing the three main choice criteria during a game of Space Hulk.  You should either be killing enemies, protecting your forces, or accomplishing the mission.  There is a constant decision to be made from turn to turn, and decision making leads to fun and replayability.

As you can see, the scenario is the third pillar of the stool.  If there was no mission to accomplish in Space Hulk, you would just castle up in the easiest to defend room and kill genestealers until time ran out.  You can see the value of the mission to force movement and decision making.  However, the mission alone does not drive game play, as it is also impacted by factors such as enemy deployment style and how the enemies act.  Therefore, it is a challenge to think of scenario separate from the overall mechanics of the game.  They must be integrated together.

Anatomy of a Scenario
Here are some key things a scenario must do in a solo-wargame:

1. Force movement
A good scenario in a Solo-wargame must force movement from the solo-wargamer.  The natural tendency will be to castle up and let the enemy come to you.  The scenario will force a player to move, and therefore think about how they are moving and supporting their troops.


2. Time Restriction
Again, the idea here is to add tension to create "race against the clock" situation where you not only have to defeat the enemies, but also time itself.  This will help mitigate castling up, but also forces players to decide if they should detour to destroy a deployment zone or simply bypass it and hope they do not regret it later.  Decisions are the key, and adding time urgency forces decisions.

3. Provides an alternate win condition
Survival is a fine win condition, but that leads to cautious game play.  Alternate win conditions beyond survival is an effective way to force players to decide how much of a sacrifice is the right amount of sacrifice in order to accomplish the mission.

4. Complications
These are elements that make the mission more challenging as play progresses.  This could be as simple as where as enemies deploy, to special rules about terrain, or how players can interact with civilians.  These are little bits of Chrome or game hooks that add flavor but also friction for players to overcome.  They add replayability to the scenario as it won't always be the same mission even though the high level goals maybe the same.

There are a number of way to add complication to a scenario, they may be stated at the beginning of the mission, triggered by certain events, triggered by timing, or triggered by the players themselves.  No matter what type of complication is used, the goal is to add surprise, decision making, and replay factors to a solo-game.


5. Guidelines
Finally, a good scenario helps a player understand what is needed to be successful.  They offer broad guidelines for the player on what is needed to "win" the mission.  Get X number of troopers to Point Y in Z turns.  Now the player has some guidelines on what to do.

6. Opponents
Good scenarios also set-up good opponents.  How they deploy and act is a critical feature of making a strong scenario.  Too many opponents all attacking the same way may be overwhelming, while trickling opponents onto the field may not be challenging enough.  A good scenario creates a balance of enemies to objectives to make the scenario challenging but not impossible.


Conclusion
Scenarios are critical to a successful solo-wargaming experience.  They are necessary to create the proper conditions for game play.  A good scenario will force key decisions to be made, create added play value, and force the player themselves (You) into thinking about how to best balance the needs of the mission, survival of your force, and killing enemies!  Without a good mission, solo-play becomes stale and unrewarding very quickly.         




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Monday, May 25, 2020

Battle Report: Wars of the Republic- Anabasis of the Seleucids


Anabasis of the Seleucids

The Seleucid Empire was founded by the successor’s of Alexander the Great.  These successors fought a series of wars with each other for control of his empire.  Eventually, the Successors and their children were able to establish their own stable empires.  All though smaller than that of Alexander, they were regional power players. 

The Seleucid Empire covered much of the Middle East and Eastern parts of the known Ancient world.  They were a major player in the Hellenization of the Near East.  Their main power base was in Syria but their empire extended into the East and even came up against the Mauryan Empire of India. 

When Antiochus the III came to power, he went eastward and restored various vassal states back under Seleucid control.  This included Parthia and Greco-Bactria.  During this process, Antiochus defeated the leader of a Greco-Bactrian king named Euthydemus at the battle of Arius.  Interestingly, this man was also Greek and previously aligned with the Seleucids.

After the Battle of Arius, the Bactrians retreated back to their capital.  Antiochus III put the city under siege for three years before they came to a negotiated truce.   

Today’s battle will be using the Wars of the Republic rules, but again I am using the lists creatively to simulate other ancient combat to test what they can do.  Today will be the Seleucid successor list vs. the Lesser Satrapy list to represent the Bactrians.  We will be using a Scout the Area scenario to represent the advanced forces of both armies scouting out the geography. 

Forces

Seleucids
1 Heavy Cavalry
1 Bronze Shields- General
1 White Shields
1 Agema

Greco-Bactrians
1 Heavy Cavalry Cataphracts- General
1 Bronze Shields
2 Light Infantry
1 Archers

Seleucids will have 5 Commander’s Gaze, while the Bactrians will have 6

Mission
The Secure the Area scenario has 6 tokens scattered across the board, and is set-up by the defenders after terrain is set-up.  As a unit puts a token into their Zone of Control, they have scouted the terrain there and can put the token on their side of the board.  The side that uncovers the most tokens wins OR if they can force the enemy to collapse in 8 turns. 

Set-up
Today’s game is using 1 inch as an MU, and is being played on a 72 by 48 MU board.  

For terrain, we used the terrain placement rules straight from the rule book.  The Seleucids got to place terrain first.  In the center terrain on their side of the board a small wall was placed towards the left corner.  The Satrapy matched it on the opposite side with a grove of trees in the forward right corner.  This left the center a bit congested.  On the left corner in the Satrapy's side of the board the Seleucids placed a 1 level rocky hill in the center of it.  On the Satrapy's left flank grid space they placed another rocky, one level hill towards the front of it, again blocking up the center of the board.  The Seleucids placed a wall on their right flank grid space to act as a defensive location for the flank.  Finally, on the Seleucid left flank the Satrapy placed a small rock hill in the center of the grid space.  

The Exploration tokens were then placed in on these terrain pieces.  The battlefield was somewhat congested in the center of the board, and that would make capturing objectives there a bloody pushing match.  The Seleucid Phalanxes liked there chances there.


For Deployment, the Seleucids were the attackers and began to deploy first.  This was an alternate deployment process so the Defenders could react to where the Attackers were located.  Interestingly, the Seleucids decided to put their Phalanxes in the center, across from the enemy light infantry.  The Greco-Bactrian Phalanx and Archers were on the right, and facing the Agema.  The Cavalry forces were facing each other on the left flank.  Some interesting match-ups.  

Most of these two armies have miniatures EXCEPT the cataphracts are paper templates!  Boo!  Hiss!

Turn 1
Both sides collect their Commander's Gaze, and weigh their options.  The Seleucids gets 5 to the Greco-Bactrian 6.  The Seleucids opted to make their Phalanx unit their commander for extra resilience, while the Greco-Bactrians choose the Cataphracts for mobility and power.

The Greco-Bactrians choose to bid all of their Commander's Gaze to get initiative.  The Seleucids do not bid any, and decide to try to interrupt whenever they can.  However, none of the interrupts actual succeed, and the Greco-Bactrians move out undisturbed.  The Bronze Shields in Open Order move to the foot of the rock outcropping but can not claim the objective there yet.  The Cataphacts also fail to get to their objective as they are shy due to difficult terrain as well.  The middle troops move forward.


The Seleucids respond with the Heavy Cavalry able to reach their objective on the rocky hills.  The Center Phalanx formations march ahead.  The Agema stay in open order and make for the walls and their objective.

Objectives: Seleucids 1, Greco-Bactrians 0

Turn 2
Both sides pick up their Commander's Gaze and bid 2 for first go.  The roll-off has the Seleucids win.  The Agema rush forward and take a defensive position.


The Greco-Bactrians successfully interrupt.  The Bronze Shields secure their objective.


The Light Infantry move up supported by the Archers.  One unit uses Commander's gaze to Skirmish and grab an objective in the Grove.


The Seleucids interrupt successfully.  Now the White Shields go into open order and line up on the objective better as they approach.  The Bronze Shields also march ahead.


The Greco-Bactrians interrupt successfully and the Cataphracts secure their marker on the rocky hills.  The Seleucid Heavy cavalry moves forward as best they can, but judge that it is too early to change into a wedge formation or to successfully charge over the terrain.

Objectives: Seleucids 2, and Greco-Bactrians 3

Turn 3
Again, the Greco-Bactrians bid all their Commander's Gaze to go first.  They are gambling to grab the last objective and get a decisive lead by snagging the last objective.  Seleucids bid 2. 


The Greco-Bactrian plan backfires as the Light Infantry can not use Skirmisher to get over the walls to the objective.  They fall short of claiming it and are in front of the approaching White Shields.  The Archers give the Light Infantry some covering fire and reduce the White Shields 1 Courage due to being in Open Order.  However, the shouts of the Seleucid officers keep the native recruits steady.

The Light Infantry in the Grove stay put.  They are unable to move and shoot or Skirmish due to a lack of Commander's Gaze.  They are in no hurry to approach the Seleucid Bronze Shields closer.


The Greco-Bactrian Cataphracts fall back from their forward position to avoid an enemy charge, as they do not have enough Commander's Gaze to successsfully charge themselves.  They are trying to avoid the Seleucid Heavies getting the drop on them, and possibly get a flank charge on the White Shields.

Finally, the Greco-Bactrian Bronze Shields stumble off their rock pile, but they are still in Open Order.

The Seleucid commander waited patiently for the Greco-Bactrians to try and mitigate the coming battle before taking over initiative and getting ready to put the hurt on the upstarts.  The White Shields form up into Phalanx, and charge the enemy Light Infantry.  The Greco-Bactrian commander thinks for a few moments, and then decides to have the Archers support the Light Infantry.  Their reasoning seems sound as the White Shields have lost 1 Courage all ready, are a weaker unit, and the Greco-Bactrians will have the extra armor of being in cover.

Next, the Bronze Shields use Commander's Gaze to charge the Light Infantry in the Grove.  The Light Infantry can not try to Evade as they do not have any Commander's Gaze left!  However, they do have extra armor for being in Cover.  They might be able to hold out long enough for reinforcements to save them.... from..... somewhere.....

Melee:
The White Shields charge over the objective and reach over the old walls with their pikes towards the Light Infantry beyond.  There is a desperate struggle, with the Light Infantry supported by close range archer fire.  Both sides manage to reduce the enemy by 1 Courage.  Neither side seems willing to give ground or waver at this point.

The Seleucid Bronze Shields also charge into the Grove and a swirling battle erupts as terrain forces them into open order.  The battle is also fierce as the Pikes are hard to use amongst the trees, however the Phalanxes momentum drives the Light Infantry back 3 MU and causes 1 Courage loss for none in return.  The Light Infantry hold together and dig in for a long fight.


Objectives: Seleucids 3, Greco-Bactrians 3.  it know comes down to a traditional battle and who breaks first.   

Turn 4: 
Neither side has lost any units, so there is no change in Commander's Gaze tokens handed out.  The Seleucids bid 0 choosing to hold onto it for re-rolls in combat.  The Greco-Bactrians bid 1 so get to go first.

Despite going first, difficult terrain is hamstringing the Greco-bactrians ability to respond.  The Bronze Shields on the Greco-Bactrian Left are hung up on a rocky hill, and their large unit is having a tough time maneuvering off it.  They finally manage, and get into open ground.  The Cataphracts also have a similar problem.  The General decides that even with a charge, getting out of the rocky hills will not allow them to flank charge the Seleucid White Shields.  Instead, they again maneuver away and behind the melee for a better position.  The Greco-Bactrians have no more units to maneuver.

The Seleucids had managed to get their Heavy Cavalry out off terrain last turn.  They now form up into a Wedge and charge into the flank of the combat between the Greco-Bactrian Light Infantry and the White Shields.  The Melee phase is going to get rough.


The Agema hold their ground behind the wall, ready to throw Javelins at the Greco-Bactrian Bronze Shields or fight them off the edge of the wall if needed.

Melee:
The Greco-Bactrian player decides to complete the Melee in the Grove first, hoping to burn off some Seleucid re-rolls before the big battle at the wall.  Instead, the GB's use one of their re-rolls and both sides are reduced 1 Courage.  The Light Infantry starts to Waver as they are beginning to see that they can not win.  They are pushed back 1 inch this turn.


Now, the big battle at the Wall.  The Cavalry charge into the Flank is telling, as the Light Infantry is blasted down 3 Courage, to 1 remaining.  In addition, they are pushed back 3 MU from the wall and start to Waver.  They do not have enough Discipline to avoid Wavering.  In return, the White Shields also lose 1 Courage down to 2, but stay solid.


Objectives: Seleucids 3, Greco-Bactrians 3- The winner will be decided by who breaks first.

Turn 5: 
Both sides still have all their Units so they get their full Commander's Gaze, but the Greco-Bactrians look to be on the ropes for this battle.  Neither commander cares who goes first and save their Gaze for Re-rolls.  They were critical in the last turn.  The Seleucids win the roll-off.

The Agema uses skirmisher to get out from behind the wall and in front of the Greco-Bactrian Bronze Sheilds, they form a shield wall Phalanx and taunt them to come and get them.  The rest of the Seleucid army is tied up in Melee.


The Cataphracts realize that charging in and helping the melee at the wall is pointless and will only get them killed.  Instead, they wait to see who wins and then possibly pick off a weakened unit.  The Greco-Bactrian Pike Phalanx has a similar choice.  Do they support the wavering Light Infantry to try and turn the tide there, but at great risk, attack the Agema who are ready and at full Courage, or wait and try to pick off a weakened Seleucid Bronze Shield unit?

When you are a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.  The Bronze Shields form up and charge the Agema, who promptly Counter-charge.  Looks like another slug fest is forming on the Greco-Bactrian left flank.


Melee: The Seleucids decide to start at the battle for the wall.  The Seleucids look like they have scored enough hits to rout the Light Infantry with their White Shields and decides to hold onto re-rolls.  However, the Greco-Bactrians throw in all three re-rolls to try and break the White Shields and the heavy Cavalry in one swoop!  However, they only score 3 hits, which is 1 short of what they needed!  The White Shields are reduced to 1 Courage and are Wavering!  The Greco-Bactrian Light Infantry and Archers are routed.  They are turned around until the End phase for Collapse and Morale tests.

In the Grove, The Seleucid Bronze Shields use their re-rolls to good effect and route the Greco-Bactrian Light Infantry, and lose another Courage themselves, but do not Waver.  The Greco-Bactrian center has been routed.

On the Greco-Bactrian left, the Agema and Bronze Shields clash together with a dull roar.  The two sides are both reduced 1 Courage and stand firmly.  Now the shoving match will begin.....

End:
The Cataphracts pass their Morale test from seeing the Light Infantry flee.  The Bronze Shields and Cataphracts manage to pass their Collapse tests.... for now.

Turn 6:
The Seleucids collect 5 Commander's Gaze to the Greco-Bactrians 3.  The Seleucids bid 2 to go first.  The Greco-Bactrians hold onto theirs for re-rolls.  Looks like we might finally get that cavalry engagement that was being set-up all game!

The Seleucids form wedge, and charge.  The Cataphracts counter-charge.  The two meet in the plains and a fierce battle erupts.  Meanwhile, the Bronze Shields stay in Open Order, turn, and charge the Greco-Bactrian Bronze Shields in the flank to help finish off that Melee.


The White Shields move back behind the wall for cover.  They stay wavering and at 1 Courage as all the Seleucid Commander's Gaze has been spent.

Melee:
The Cataphracts prove their mettle as they smash the Seleucid Heavy Cavalry.  They are reduced 3 Courage, while the Cataphracts lose only 1.  The Seleucids start to Waver and are pushed back 1 inch. 

Even with the help of the Bronze Shields, the Agema start to lose ground to the Greco-Bactrian Bronze Shields.  They lose 2 Courage, reducing them to 2 while the Greco-Bactrians lose only 1 down to 3.  However, neither side starts to waver and pushed back into the walled area up to 3 inches.


Turn 7: 
The two forces get their Commander's Gaze, but everyone is in combat except the White Shields.  Neither side bids any Commander's Gaze.  The Greco-Bactrians go first via the roll-off.

They have no movement, and hold their Commander's Gaze for Re-rolls.  The Seleucids decide to use two Commander's Gaze to remove the Wavering from the White Shields and Harangue them up 1 Courage point.  This makes them 2 Courage.  They stay huddled behind their wall.

Melee:
The Greco-Bactrian Player starts with the Cataphracts, because a win there, might be good enough to cause a Collapse or open the road to the weakened White Shields in the final turn.  Re-rolls again play a key part in the battle, as they put both sides over the top to cause damage.  The Cataphracts are reduced a further 1 Courage to 3 total and avoid Wavering.  The Seleucid Heavy cavalry is routed from the field!  This will force some Discipline Checks in the End Phase.

Over on the Greco-Bactrian left, the push continued.  The pushing match continues as both sides are reduced 1 Courage.  Both sides start to Waver from the Brutal battle.  The Agema has 1 Courage, while the Bronze Shields have 2!  This will be a close battle.

End:
The White Shields pass their Wavering check as cavalry men stream but their position in a rout.  Being behind the wall gives them confidence.  The rest of the Seleucid force also passes their Collapse test.

Turn 8: Final Turn
This is it.  This is a close battle.  The Seleucids now have 4 Commander's Gaze, while the Greco-Bactrians have 3.  The White Shields need to get formed into Phalanx so the Seleucids bid 1 Gaze to 0.  They win initiative.

The Seleucid player forms the White Shields into Phalanx behind the wall, and spends 1 more Commander's Gaze to Harangue them once more for battle.  They are now Courage 3.  The Seleucids have no other movement.

The Greco-Bactrian Cataphracts predictably form Wedge and Charge into the White Shields.

Melee:
The Seleucids decide to start with the White Shields and the Cataphracts Melee.  The charge takes the White Shields down 1 Courage.  The Cataphracts lose 2 Courage and are reduced to 1 left.  Neither side Wavers.  The native phalangites held!

On the left, the two sides continue to smash against each other, swinging swords, slashing with spear, and pushing with their pikes.  Both sides are routed in the final push.... including the Seleucid general! 

End:
The White Shields see the Seleucid commander fleeing and they Collapse.  The Greco-Bactrian Commander holds his Cataphracts steady.  The added discipline of these troops allow the Greco-Bactrians to barley win the skirmish. 

Conclusion: 
Wow, that was a wild ride that went down to the last dice rolls.  Isn't that the way it is supposed to be?  Discipline is what won the day, just like an Ancient battle!

So, I got to try out a few different rules in this battle such as....

1. Using Commander's Gaze to Harangue a units' Courage
2. Supporting Troops going on the side (Archers and Light Infantry) rather than behind
3. Fighting in difficult terrain and pushing through and around it
4. New Scenario

I am not entirely satisfied with the scenario, as both sides ended up just being in a standard battle by Turn 4.  However, it did force us to deploy differently and break up the usual way we do things and that forced the eventual battle to turn out very different.

Unit wise, the Cataphracts did an amazing job against the enemy cavalry, and then faltered in a decisive battle.  Their lack of maneuverability was a disadvantage early but once they got stuck in.  They did just fine.  Their improved Discipline is what won me the match!

I was a bit surprised that the Light Infantry got spanked by the Bronze Shields in the Grove.  I expected that to be a tougher fight.  I also expected the Agema to do a bit better, especially with support from Open Order Bronze Shields, but it ended up backfiring spectacularly as the Seleucids fell into their own trap on the left flank!  That probably cost them the battle.

Overall, everything seemed to work as intended.  Next time, I need to get more Romans on the table and see how they fare.






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Monday, May 18, 2020

Battle Report: Broken Legions- Oracle of the Unknown Gods


The old tales told of an ancient temple high is the mountains above Dacia.  It was far away and a remote place.  For several days the party had scaled twisting mountain trails, crossed treacherous chasms, and scaled impossible slopes.  Then, eventually they stepped off a mountain trail and into a beautiful vista.  Perched aside a towering mountain, hidden from view below was a wonderful and grassy plateau.  How such a garden could exist here could only be explained as the will of the gods. 

 Exactly which gods held sway, no one could be certain.  However, there is no doubt that they made such an idyllic plateau possible.  Untended and ill-kept was a long forgotten temple.  That must be the sacred shrine.  Inside was rumored to be ancient and holy relics, power and wealthy, but so much more.  The party stepped off the mountain trail and into the plateau. 

On the far side, another group of men could be seen!  How was this possible?  Truly, the gods were trying to protect their secrets!  For only they could draw two parties of warriors to this place?  Perhaps it was not the paradise it appeared?  Perhaps it was a beautiful sepulcher instead? 

Broken Legions is a game set in a Fantastical Roman Empire of myth and legend.  The power of Rome is propped up by more than just the strength of her arms, but by the magic, mystical, power of the gods.  Various forces are vying to find the favor of the gods for their own ends, and to free themselves from the yoke of Rome. 

Today, a band of Greek Argonauts have been led to the ancient lost Oracle by the whispers of Hera and their own meticulous research.  The Sons of Spartacus have been drawn to the Oracle of the Unknown Gods by the whispers of the washer women, and local slaves who claim the oracle can help them reach their freedom. 

The Forces 


The Argonauts- The Archaeon League
Argonuat Hero- Aegis
Herculean Champion- Demetrius the Brazen
2 Argonauts- Xanthippus and Cleomones
5 Mercenary Holpites
3 Mercenary Archers

Sons of Spartacus- The House of Leptis Minoris
Arena Champion- Hector (mounted)
Doctore- Janus
1 Mounted Gladiator
4 Assorted Gladiators

Mission
The objective is the Oracle of the Unknown Gods located in the shrine at the center of the board.  In addition, there are two other objectives on the board to be discovered by the warbands.  The party with the most VPs at the end of 10 turns wins. 

Set-up
The table is a 4 by 4 foot table with the Oracle of the Unknown Gods set in the middle.  Also on the table is a sacred grove, a secondary temple complex, and some smaller ruins.  They are all overgrown with shrubs and have been long abandoned.  One objective is within the Sacred Grove, while another is outside one of the temple complexes entrances.

The warbands are coming from opposite sides of the table.  For the Argonauts, Aegis and Demetrius take up a westward position, while Xanthippus leads the Archers in the center, and Cleomenes takes the bulk of the Hoplites on the right.


The Sons of Spartacus have Hector and his fellow rider in the center.  Janus, a gladiator, and a bow armed gladiator cover the sacred grove, while two other gladiators move to toward the other objective.     


Turn 1:
The Sons of Spartacus win Initiative.

Hector and his companion ride bravely forward, right to the edge of the shrine.  The rest of the Gladiators move forward, but much slower than their leader.  Janus let's the Sagitarius (archer Gladiator) lead the way as he stays nearby ready to support.

The Argonuats are all on foot, like good Greeks should be.  They also move up.  They tend to hunker closer together, with the archers in the center ready to support in either direction.

Turn 2: 
The Sons win again.

The two sides again move forward, with the Sons of Spartacus horseman staying in cover by the main shrine.  The Argonauts move up much slower, but closer together for mutual support.

The Sons of Spartacus Sagitar takes a pair of long shots at the lead Mercenary Hoplite, but the shots fail to find their mark.

Turn 3: 
The Sons of Spartacus continue to win the Initiative.

The Sagitar moves into the grove to collect the half buried artifacts found there.  Janus had taken cover behind some brush.  Good thing, as several Greek Archers take pot shots at him, but miss.

Meanwhile, Aegis his companions move to acquire the artifacts at the foot of the secondary temple.  However, they are set upon by a duo of Gladiators, and Hector himself rides into the melee looking for Glory.

On the Other side, Cleomenes and his troops move to the entrance to the main grove, but there they are also set upon by Janus, Gladiator, and an Equis.  Whoever wins that combat will be able to enter the main sanctuary and locate the Oracle to the Unknown Gods.

Melee:
In the Melee phase, things start to heat up as general engagements are all around.  The Retarius attacks Aegis, who deftly avoids the enemies attacks and avoids becoming ensnared.  Aegis' return attackers are also fruitless.  Demetrius steps in to assist his Captain against his foe.  As a bodyguard, Demetrius can re-roll a failed attack with a successful presence test.  He succeeds and re-doubles his efforts, this time he manages to wound the Retarius.  Gladiators can take 2 wounds, while most models can only take 1. 

Hector charges down a mercenary Hoplite on his stead.  However, the Hoplites shield holds true against the Gladiators cavalry spear.  The Hoplites return thrust is easily parried by Hector's shield.  The remaining Gladiator and Hoplite also battle inconclusively with each other.

At the entrance to the Shrine, the Mercenary Hoplites try to fight off the Gladiator's led by Janus.     The fighting here is also inconclusive as the two sides clang sword and spear against shield.  It looks like both sides are settling in for a long slog.

Turn 4: 
The Sons of Spartacus have the initiative.

It begins with Janus trying to Challenge to face him one-on-one.  However, after scurrying through the rules, it is determined that Cleomenes as an Argonaut is only a Henchman after all, while Janus is a Hero.  No challenge can be made.  Hector however can Challenge Aegis and does to single combat!  The Greek accepts and the combatants make way for each other.   

Despite having the Initiative, most of the Sons are locked in Combat.  The Sagitar continues his duel with the Greek archers, but fails to find a mark.  Cleomenes the Mad (an Argonaut) runs up into the Oracle of the Unknown Gods and claims the objective.... for now.

Xanthippus (another Argonaut) moves away from the Greek archers and engages Janus the Doctore along with the Hoplite all ready fighting the Gladiator Hero.  One of the Greek Archers manages to hit the Sagitar and manages to wound the Gladiator.  The Sagitar is broken from the shot and turns to flee.

Melee:
Xanthippus' charge is successful.  He drives his spear into Janus' thigh.  The Doctore is momentarily stunned by the attack, and his will to fight is broken.  He jumps back from the melee to gain some distance and breathing room.  This leaves two Hoplites fighting the Equis. 

Meanwhile, Aegis and Hector battle in their clash of Champions.  This leaves the Secutor gladiator fighting two Mercenary Hoplites, while Demetrius takes on the Retarius.  The two champions battle to a stand still with blades bouncing off shields.  however, in the swirling melee, Aegis' gladius' tip slashes across Hector's spear bearing forearm drawing blood.  This causes Hector to break off from the fight and ride away.  He takes the time to start to bandage his wound and glare at the petulant Greek Hero.

(The Gladiator's seem prone to being Broken today!  It must be tough to have two wounds!)       

The Retarius manages to Ensnare Demetrius in his Net.  However, it isn't enough to stop the big brute from smashing the Retarius to the ground with a body block.  It looks like the Retarius is down for the count after that hit.

The Secutor has better luck and downs one of the Mercenary Hoplites with a well-placed sword thrust.  However, he must contend with his fellow still.  However, the Son of Spartacus has no trouble fending off the probing spear of his foe.

The Hoplomachus Gladiator at the foot of the temple grapples with his foe in a spear battle.  the Gladiator Crits and converts it into another successful attack.  The Mercenary saves two of the three hits, before the Galdiator's spear finds a weak point in the defense and strikes home.  The Hoplite is downed.

Likewise the Equis fights a Mercenary as well. This time, the height advantage from his mount is decisive and another Hoplite goes down.  however, his friend fills the gap quickly and attacks. This battle is another draw.

Hector and the Sagitar manage to rally themselves.  However, Janus continues to flee the battle.  The Gladiators lost 1 and have their Doctore fleeing, while the Argonauts lost 3 Hoplites. Ouch all around.

Turn 5: 
The Argonauts win the initiative

Prior to the Argonauts moving, the earth at the base of the shrine begins to shudder and shake.  With an unnatural crack skin to thunder, the floor itself rises up and shapes itself into the countenance of what could only be described as some sort of godling!  The great stone beast rumbles some oath like gravel across a mountainside and attacks Cleomenes with a swing of its mighty hammer!

The cagey Spartan manages to roll with much of the blow, but is still knocked into a nearby pillar.  The Spartan straightens his helmet and leaps at the beast with a bellow of his own!  His spear splinters as he sinks it into a weak spot between the stone giants rocky slabs.  The creature groans like two boulders smashing together!


Action Phase:
Hector decided not to re-engage with Aegis and Demetrius.  Instead, he begins to ride around towards the front of the Oracle, leaving the Secutor Gladiator to his fate.

Most of the other units are locked in melee.  Aegis and Denetrius with the support of a Mercenary Hoplite near the foot of the secondary temple versus the Secutor Gladiator.  In front of the Oracle, Xanthipus and a Mercenary Hoplite are battling a Hoplomachus and Equis gladiator to control the entrance to the Oracle.

Meanwhile, the Sagitar and the Greek archers continue their archery duel.  The Sagitar strikes first and takes down one of the Greeks.  However, the return fire is enough to take the bow armed gladiator out of the fight.  All is Lost tests are not taken until each warband is down to 25% or less.


Melee:
Aegis, Demetrius and the Secutor all continue their combat near the foot of the temple.  There, is some sacred inscriptions that will need to be copied and translated.  However, for now a fierce combat surges above them.  The competitors all jockey and dance for position, with blades, axes, shields, and spear tips swirling and dodging in the battle.  The Secutor is experienced in facing more than a single opponent, but eventually a shot powerful attack from Demetrius finds its mark and injures the Gladiator.  However, he gamely stays in the fight.

In the front of the shrine, the Hoplomachus and Equis continue their combat with the Mercenary Hoplite and Xanthippus.  The fight is a standstill as they all trade blows.


Recovery:
Janus rallies himself and turns to re-enter the fight.

Turn 6: 
Initiative is won by the Sons of Spartacus again.

The Shrine's Guardian again tries to smash Cleomenes.  However, the Spartan has gotten over his initial awe, and dodges around from the great beast.  His armor and shield protect him from several glancing blows, that send the Greek warrior bouncing from pillar to pillar.  However, the warrior manages to sink his Xyphos into the great monsters wrist during one of its passes.

Action:
Hector stays in reserve as Janus moves back up to the fighting at the front of the shrine.  Most of the rest of the combatants are locked in place.  Thanks to Cleomenes, the Greek Archers can not fire on the Guardian.  Their only target is Janus, but he is obscured behind the melee.  Their shots miss the Doctore.

Melee:
The Sons want to start the fighting at the front of the Shrine.

This time, the Hoplomachus manages to out fox the Merceanry Hoplite he is facing, and send shim sprawling with a swipe of his spear butt.  This puts the Greek out of the fight as he lands awkwardly.
The Equis manages to land a blow on Xanthipus that injures the Argonaut, and the Greek falls back from the fight with his allies down.  This leaves the Sons of Spartacus in control of the Shrine entrance.

With a flourish of swordsmanship, Aegis manages to take down the Secutor he and his companions were entangled with.  This leaves the foot of the temple firmly under Greek control.  Will they be able to get over to the Shrine in a timely manner?

Recovery:
Xanthipus quickly rallies now that he has created some distance from his foes.

Turn 7:
Greeks win the Initiative.

It was a tough turn for the Greeks, as Cleomenes is still locked in combat with the Shrine guardian.  Cleomenes continues to dodge desperately, but the monster gets a grip on the Sparta, raises him off his feet and smashes his stone head into the mad Spartan's Helmet.  The Argonaut falls limp from the blow, and the Guardian casually tosses him aside.

Action:
Hector and Janus move towards the shrine, preparing to attack the Guardian.  Aegis and Demetrius are also trying to circle around to the front of shrine.  The gladiator Equis moves to secure the objective in the Grove, and for his efforts gets shot with arrows from the Greek Archers.  This forces him to flee!  The Hoplomachus gladiator decides to charge the newly rallied Xanthippus. 

Melee:
The Hoplomachus charges into the remaining Argonaut, but the Greek stands firm behind his shield.  He responds with a push from his own shield and spear that manages to injure the Gladiator.  However, this Son of Spartacus is made of sterner stuff and stays in the fight!


Turn 8:
The Argonauts win Initiative.

The Guardian stands in the shrine, daring any to enter these sacred grounds.  His huge stone hammer held at the ready.

Action:
The Heroes of the two factions have a decision to make.  Do they fight each other first or do they team up and take out the Guardian of the Shrine?  Both of the Heroes of the Sons of Spartacus are all ready injured.  However, so is the Guardian!  If either side loses more men, they will have to start making All is Lost tests.

Aegis moves towards his archers, and uses the "Take it down!" heroic action.  Which he passes.  The Archers turn their attention on the Guardian.

With that, Hector decides to try to charge in and Support his last gladiator against Xanthippus.  Losing the Hoplomachus could have dire circumstances.  Demetrius also tries to charge into this melee and support his comrades.  Janus moves to cover ready to move in on the Guardian if the Archers injure it further.

The Archers fire.  However, the columns on the shrine thwart their shooting.

Melee:
Hector attacks Demetrius with his cavalry spear.  The large Greek manages to block the attack, that causes Hector to become unsteady in the saddle (a fumble).  Demetrius sees the moment of weakness and strikes, managing to injure the Gladiator Hero.  He is down to his last HP.


Xanthippus and the Hoplomachus fight each other to a draw as spear clashes against shield.

Recovery:
The Gladiator Equis rallies at the edge of the valley.  He turns his horse back around and surveys the situation.

Turn 9: 
The Argonauts maintain the initiative.

The Guardian is content to stay in the Shrine and await a challenger.  His gaze carries the anger of the devine as his eye sweep the battlefield.

Action:
Aegis joins Demetrius in the battle with Hector.  Janus moves up, but can not get their in time.  The Equis also rides back towards the shrine.

The archers again fire at the Guardian.  An arrow finds the mark, but splinters on the monster's stone skin.

Melee:
Aegis charges into the battle and strikes swiftly at Hector.  The Gladiator defies death as Greek heroes blade strikes and is deflected by Hector's gladiatorial medal of honor.  He survived thanks to a Fate point.  Hector's return attack with a flurry of Gladius blows on Demetrius fail to find a weak spot in the big man's armor.  The flurry of blows causes Demetrius to go on the defensive and miss his mark.   

Xanthippus and the Hoplomachus continue to be locked in combat, both with a single hit point left.

Turn 10: 
The Sons of Spartacus win the Initiative this round.

None dared enter the shrine, so the Guardian patiently awaits a challenger.

Janus manages to charge back into the combat and squares off against Aegis, then Demetrius against Hector, and Xanthippus vs. the Hoplomachus.  This will be the decisive combats.  However, Aegis challenges Hector with a Heroic Action.  Hector accepts and the two square off after all.  Janus and Demetrius pair off.


The second Equis moves to enter the shrine, but he is fired upon by the Greek archers.  One arrow manages to stick in the Equis armored sleeve, but does not injure him. 

Melee:
Janus gets to attack Demetrius first.  Demetrius takes a hit, and withdraws from the combat as he is broken.

Aegis and Hector square off.  The Gladiator hero fails to injure the Argonaut captain, and the gods forsake him.  Aegis manages to slip his blade past Hector's defense and take him out of the battle with a brutal wound.  The Gladiator falls from his horse dramatically.

Engrossed in their own battle, Xanthippus and the Hoplomachus continue to spar.  The Spartans heavy armor pays off again as his Hoplon absorbs the brunt of the gladiator's attacks.  However, the Argonaut can not capitalize and the Hoplomachus parries and dodges away from any counter-attack.


Recovery:
Demetrius remains broken as he falls back.

The remaining Sons of Spartacus begin to take All is Lost tests.  Seeing that their leader has fallen, Janus calls for the rest of his men to fall back.  This causes the remaining Sons of Spartacus to withdraw from the valley.

The Argonauts have claimed the Valley for themselves.  However, the Shrine to the Unknown Gods is still being protected by the Guardian of the Shrine.  They will have to satisfy themselves with the runes etched into the stairs of the adjacent temple, and the treasures of the grove.  Perhaps, with a suitable offering they can appease the Guardian and access the Shrine yet. 

Conclusion:
Argonaut victory!

Overall, a slaughter as the two sides battled relentlessly for access to the Oracle of the Unknown God.  The Gladiators all have 2 hits starting, as opposed to the Greeks that were mostly 1.  The Greeks had the numbers, but struggled to thin down the Sons of Spartacus.  However, the heavy armor of the Argonauts gave them the staying power they needed to press on.  The Sons horse also gave them great mobility, but it may not have gotten used appropriately as they got locked in combat.

Then, when the Greeks awakened the Guardian, things got real!  The Guardian was a nice added touch to the scenario.  We used the Minotaur stats, and I finally accomplished one of my long lived gaming goals to get a Skylander on the wargaming table.  It wasn't even a game of Dragon Rampant!       

Post-game, the Argonauts did okay.  Only 1 mercenary Hoplite dies.  Cleomenes the Mad recovered as did the archer.  On the Sons of Spartacus side, the Retarius died.  Hector was injured but was getting better, he had -1 Physique next game, removing some of his damage output.  The Sons earned nothing as the losers, while the Argonauts had a decent bounty of 8XP.  XP can be traded for advancements or coin to recruit.  The Greeks could easily replace their Merc Hoplite, but the Sons could not replace their Retarius.     

In my initial review of Broken Legions, I had some concerns about two elements.  The first was the crits/fumbles mechanics.  The second was how the weaponry, powers, stat lines, etc stacked to make resolving combats a bit fiddly.  In action, I can see some of my concerns were justified.  I definitely needed some cheat sheets for what my dudes were doing, and where I was rolling what.  I felt like a standard combat between two models took about 6 dice per side of the combat.  In addition, with alternate activation and a separate Melee phase some of who got to attack first, and the order of operations got a bit fiddly too.

The other issue is that I pretty much fought my warbands until they were dead due to how the All is Lost rules are written.  Models will turn away from a fight pretty easily, but warbands tend to fight until they are decimated and can not be rebuilt.  Then the losers in the campaign do not get enough to start to replace lost models.  If you lose a few games you are out of the campaign quick.

I love the idea and theme behind this game.  It has a lot of good flavor and concepts behind it. I think the mechanics still need another once over, but I can overlook some of that if the story I can tell on the tabletop is good.  Since I have forces I will probably play again!





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Monday, May 11, 2020

Wargame Design: Solo Gaming Deployment


As we talked about last time with Solo-wargaming we are all in a Brave New World!  No longer can we count on going down to the local shop, gathering with our buddies in the basement, or stopping by at the Club for a game.  Instead, we have to find alternate ways of doing things for the forseeable future.  That is going to involve figuring our how to do this Solo-wargaming thing!

Thankfully, this is a diverse and interesting hobby.  It is challenges like these that help me think and engage with it differently.  Lately, I have been thinking a lot more about solo wargaming.  Admittedly, I am late to the part.  There have been plenty of other games out that all ready tackle this ground.  I will outline a few below if you need them:


  • Horizon Wars: Zero Dark- Sci-fi
  • Rangers of ShadowDeep- Fantasy
  • The Walking Dead- Zombie
  • Chain Reaction - Sci-fi
  • The Men Who Would Be Kings- Colonial
  • 4 Against- Fantasy
  • Spellslingers and Sellswords- Fantasy
I am sure there are many more so feel free to add to my list in Comments or on the Messageboard.  Heck, I even took a stab at making one called Combat! Starring Vic Morrow!

Surprise Party!
Today, we are going to continue to talk about some of the unique aspects of Wargame Design that pertain particularly to designing Solo wargames.  One of the challenges of playing a solo wargame is that you have a bird's eye view of the battlefield.  As the commander, you can see everything.  When you are playing an actual opponent the advantage is mitigated by facing an actual, living, breathing, thinking, decision making opponent.  It is always a bit hard to predict what exactly they are going to do.   

In a solo-wargame, one of the key tenants that a design should strive for is "surprise".  In this case I am specifically refering to a situation that takes the player a bit off guard and that can derail their tactical plan.  In most wargames, this is provided by an actual opponent.  Solo wargames can not rely on such a luxury.  I am sure we have all heard the concept that "No plan survives contact with the enemy", and create "surprise" in a solo game is intended to force the player to "re-think" their approach and force them to make decisions. 

One way to set-up players with tactical surprise in a solo-wargame is to try and make deployment less obvious to the solo-player.  Enemies should be everywhere, and no corner of the board necessarily safe.  Therefore, solo-players are making decisions immediately once they deploy.  Here are a few ways to tackle this issue that I have seen: 
  • Blinds
  • Hot Spots
  • Random Deployment
  • Mixed Deployment

Blinds
Blinds are an old way of deploying in a way so that your opponent does not know exactly what you have deployed where.  This is a trick even used in traditional two-player wargames.  I have seen this executed in a number of different ways.  However, the idea if that there is a marker on the board that represents an enemy unit.  

When a Player's unit gets within a certain distance it forces the unit to be "revealed".  Once revealed, the Blind is replaced with the actual model/unit it represents.  As an added twist, not all Blinds need to correspond to a unit and instead maybe dumbies.  Typically, a blind can be revealed by moving too close to it, shooting at it, the blind acting, or some other type of reveal such as a drone sighting, off-board observation, etc.  The way a Blind can be revealed often helps fit the theme of the game you are playing. 


Some example Blinds are: 
1. Playing Cards that correspond to a particular unit/Dumbie by number
2. A Chit that once revealed is a roll for a random unit, including nothing
3. A single model that once revealed allows the unit actual location to be randomly determined within X radius of the model or none at all
4. A unit that looks like X can be replaced by Unit Y

There are many types of blinds that can be used to remove the certainty of where and who your enemy are.    

Game Examples: All Quiet on the Martian Front, Blucher, Zona Alfa

Hot Spots
Unlike a Blind, a Hot Spots will spawn enemy units from it at certain intervals.  Unlike Blinds, they do not correspond to a set unit on a 1 for 1 basis.  These units maybe respawn of killed units, new units, or even multiple enemy units.  Some games may have various Hot Spots spawn different types of units.     The key is that these units will appear at regular intervals.  The only way to stop new units from spawning is for the Player to "shut them down" by coming withing a certain distance, destroying them with firepower, investigating them, etc.  Once properly dealt with no new Units can be produced.  

Hot Spots allow a stream of enemies to come forth at the Player unless they specifically act to shut them down.  This may be part of their mission, or a distraction from their mission.  It depends on the game and the scenario being played. 

Game Examples:  Force-on-Force/Tomorrow's War, Space Hulk   


Random Deployment
In this scenario, the enemy forces are randomly deployed in both time and space.  This can be from random charts, set lists of options, based on timing, or any combination the designer can think of.  Here when  unit is "spawned" its placement is randomly determined.  This can be based on Hot Spots, Blinds, distance from the player's troops, or truly randomly from a cotton ball flick or something similar.  Many times, the game will dictate the method in which the random deployment occurs, but the player will not know when or where enemy forces will appear.

Game Examples:  The Men Who Would Be Kings

Mixed Deployment
A mixed deployment combines a couple of the above elements with a traditional wargame deployment in a deployment zone.  So, there will be obvious and present forces deployed per the scenario (such as within 12 inches of the Objective) and additional Deployment options for other units.  This forces a player to face some known enemy troops and objectives while having to plan for additional forces from an unknown source.  

Game Example:  Rangers of ShadowDeep, The Walking Dead


Final Thoughts
Where and when enemies Deploy is a great way to create "Surprise" in a solo-wargame.  Especially in games that encourage Tactical Gameplay, fresh troops appearing from unexpected locations can make the game much more challenging to accomplish objectives.  It is this "fog of War" that leads to Friction, and friction forces decision making.  The more decision making a solo-wargamer needs to make the more interesting and exciting the game.   





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Monday, May 4, 2020

Men of Bronze: Armies in the Field- Spartans, Corinthians, Macedonians

I have been slowly working on a few armies for Men of Bronze over the last 18 months.  My armies are all 28mm Victrix models based on 25mm bases.  Some of the bases are from Victrix while others are just washers.  My main paints for this project have been Army Painter, with a spattering of Big Box retail craft paints and brushes.

The armies were based on the sample armies found in the main Men of Bronze rule book.  Therefore, they are designed to fit standard point games, and use 1 inch as a base width.  Of course, the game itself is base and model agnostic, so you can do something totally different with your armies. 

First up is the Sample Spartan army from the book.  I think most people are familiar with the Spartans.  Hailing from Laconia they had a rigid and structured caste system.  Spartiates were the citizen soldiers of the city-state.  They were raised from a young age to be Hoplites, and many considered them the best soldiers of the ancient world.  The Spartiate hierarchy was held up by a slave caste called Helots and a network of nearby villages and towns called the Perikoi.  Helots were slaves while the Perikoi were free men.   

My Spartan army is composed of the following units:

2 Elite Hoplites- Spartiates
1 Drilled Hoplites- Perikoi
2 Psiloi- Helot Javelinmen


In the picture, the Perikoi are on the left, then the Spartiates with Psiloi behind them.  This army represents a more elite focused army where the Hoplites need to do all the heavy lifting of combat.  However, it is less mobile and less flexible as there are few Arete Points generated to spread around.

Next up is the Corinthian Army.  Corinth was a rival city-state to Sparta on the isthmus of Corinth.  Access to the Peloponnese and Lacodamia over land was over the isthmus.  Therefore, the area of Corinth frequently saw conflict with Sparta.  The most well know was probably the Corinthian War.  However, Corinth was also a well known Naval power and was often a rival to Athens as well.

The Corinthian Army is composed of the following units and match the sample army list in the book:

2 Drilled Hoplites- Corinthian citizen-soldiers
1 Militia Hoplites- Allied towns and villages
1 Archers- Naval troops
1 Peltast- Mercenaries
Psiloi- Low status citizens


From left to right we have the Peltasts, Drilled Hoplites, Militia Hoplites, Drilled Hoplites, and Archers.  The Psiloi are in front screening the force.  This force has more range and light troops to secure outlying objectives and to support the core of Drilled Hoplites.  The Militia Hoplites are good at supporting or driving off lighter enemy troops.  They are a more flexible force on the table.       

The Macedonians were based to the North of what is commonly considered "Classical Ancient Greece".  Many of the City-state based Greeks thought of the Macedonians as semi-barbarous.  The Macedonians had their own royal line and tended to be a Monarchy supported by a landed nobility.  Typically, their are two major military forms for Macedonia.  The first if often refereed to as Pre-Reform Macedonia.  The army lists and sample army in the book are from the Reformed Macedonian army based on the changes made by Phillip II.  These changes allowed him to grow in power and eventually subjugate much of mainland Greece.  This army was also used successfully by his son Alexander the Great to conqueror the Persian Empire and beyond.

The Men of Bronze rules have two lists that I tried to build my army for.  The first was in the Sample army list section.  It included the following units:

2 Macedonian Phalanxes- Professional soldiers
1 Light Hoplites- The Foot Companions
2 Peltasts- Mercenaries
1 Psiloi- Peasant militia     


You can see this list here.  You can see the Peltasts as a forward screen, then the two Macedonian style phalanxes, the light hoplites on the left, and then the Psiloi in the back.  This force is a hard hitting force, with enough light troops to keep the enemy lights at a distance, and handle rough terrain.  It is relatively flexible with a strong fighting core.

In addition to this list, the rules also have a historical scenario featuring the Macedonians.  The Battle of Chaeronae saw the Macedonians crush the last resistance of Mainland Greece and bring them under Macedonain control.  The list for his army in the booklet is:

2 Macedonian Phalanxes- Professional soldiers
1 Light Hoplites- Foot Companions/Hypaspists
1 Psiloi- Peasant militia
1 Heavy Cavalry- The Noble Companion Cavalry


This is the army that was used in the IF battle report.  It has few light troops and less flexibility, but adds another powerful striking arm that allows for Alexander's favorite hammer and anvil tactics.  However, this army has bigger challenges with rough terrain and Arete Points.

You can expect to see these guys showing up on the blog, Facebook, and Instagram a lot over the next few months.




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