Monday, April 30, 2018

Random: On the Painting Desk- Men of Bronze

I have been working heavily on Men of Bronze since my due date for the final manuscript and 30 Photos are May 31st.  That means I have been doing a few key things:

1.       Playtesting finally tweaks
2.       Painting Models for photos
3.       Editing the Manuscripts
4.       Finalizing diagrams and charts

Some of those things are more exciting than others for you to read about.  Today, I thought I would share some progress shots on the models that will be featured in the book.  Those of you who have followed this blog know I am not the world’s best painter.  Therefore, I am having a friend of mine do the heavy lifting in the painting department. 

Below you can see the results so far….

On the Painting Desk

You can see a closer look at some Psiloi- Javelin Men...

Then, the Macedonian Phalanx....

.... you can see the "leader" for this unit in front.  Leaders are important in Men of Bronze for determining movement, charges, and lining up assaults. 

Then we have some Spartan Hoplites in front of some Peltasts.....

These guys still need some shield decals of the famous Spartan Lambda.  The Peltast will also have some decals on their shields.       

Finally, some Greek Archers....

Men of Bronze core mechanics are around shock Phalanx on Phalanx combat.  However, Archers still have their role on the battlefield, and are present in the rules.

These are all models from Victric Limited.  I picked up the Macedonian Phalangites, Spartan Hoplites, Greek Archer, Greek Peltast, and Mercenary Hoplites boxes.  I also picked up enough models for three Men of Bronze armies for less than 1 Warhammer 40K army.  I love historicals!

I am using 28mm single based models.  However, the rules themselves are scale and basing agnostic.  You only need to know who the leader base is and if a unit is in or out of Phalanx formation.  I decided that single based 28mm allowed me to do that easily.  However, it can be done with multi-based models pretty easily too.  These rules would also be great with strip based 15mm or 6mm models too.   

Anyway, enough blabbing.  Now I have a question.  Does anyone recommend a good manufacturer of pre-made and pre-painted terrain?  I am interested in basic stuff like forest, vineyards, hills, and rivers/river fords.  Let me know in comments who you recommend.  Thanks in advance for the help!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Battle Report: Men of Bronze- Ravaging the Fieds of Pergamon- Ionian Revolt

Herodotus tells us a great deal about the Ionian Revolt.  Ionia was Greek colonies along the coast and edges of Turkey that had been captured and absorbed into the Persian Empire around 540 B.C.E.  In 499 B.C.E the Tyrant of Miletus, Aristagoras; failed to capture the island of Naxos.  This left him in a bad political position with his Persian overlords.  In a desperate bid, he decided to stir revolt amongst his people against the Persians.  This led many other local cities to cast off their Persian based Tyrants and replace them with Democracies. 

The Ionian Revolt had initial success in 498 B.C.E. when the allied Greek forces (including Athens, Eretria, and Ionians) managed to successfully attack Sardis.  Sardis was the seat of a Persian Satrap and one of the personal enemies of Aristagoras.  However, this minor victory was soon off-set by the Battle of Ephesus where Persian cavalry chased down and defeated the Greek forces. 

Despite the loss, the revolt spread further.  It spread to the Hellespont and Propontis.  The city of the Carians also joined the revolt.  In addition, Cyprus also revolted.  Persian rule was in danger across the region, it was only a matter of time before the might of the Persian army would respond. 

In 497 B.C.E., The Persian King had three generals appointed to put down the revolt.  The three Persians (Daurises, Hymaees, and Otanes) divided the area into three partitions and attacked.  Their attacks spread across the region.  The battles and sieges for this period are largely unknown, with only a few details of the battles coming down to us from archeology and Herodotus. 

Today’s battle will be one of those lost battles.  Hymaees marched to the Propontis and attacked the city of Cius.  Historically, he took the city.  After his victory there he turned his attention towards the Hellespont and marched towards the Aeolian cities there.  The Aeolian cities were 12 cities that formed a league.  No record remains of what happened at these cities,  only that Hymaees brought them back into the Persian fold.  There is some confusion over which Persian general and which Persian armies took over which cities.  However, for our purposes we will assume Hymaees was attacking the northern cities of the Aeolian League and the Troad and that these cities resisted with at least a token field force. 

As Hymaees’ armies marched towards the city of Pergamon the defenders wisely fled behind their walls.  However, the Persian general was wise to these tactics.  He ordered his vanguard troops to ravage the fields and vineyards around the city in full view of the citizens within.  Unsurprisingly, as his troops drew close to the precious fields the gates of Pergamon opened and their army came out to defend the fields.    

The Forces
Few details remain of Hymaees’ campaigns near the Hellespont and the Troad.  We only know that Hymaees re-took the Aeolian cities with his army while his fellow Persians attacked in other areas.  Therefore, I will be using some standard armies from the Greek and Persian lists.  The exact details of the true armies are not available. 

1 Drilled Hoplite
2 Militia Hoplites
3 Peltast

2 Archers
1 Drilled Infantry
2 Warband Infantry
1 Psiloi

The Greeks have 38 points, while the Persians have 30 points. 

This battle will be on a 6x4 board with both forces deployed on the long table edges.  It will be using the scenario called Ravage the Countryside.  In this scenario, the Greeks are trying to stop the Persians from destroying their fields and vineyards.  The Persians need to get a unit into the field terrain and stay there for 1d3 turns.  The Greeks must try to break the Persian force and keep them from the terrain.     
The Greeks Deployed
The Greeks on the North side with the Persians coming from the South.  The field is mostly flat, dusty plains with a few large boulders or rocky outcroppings.  The Greeks are deploying in the Northeast corner of the board.  The Persians are across the South, while the important fields are in the Northwest corner of the board. 
Persian Left Flank with Greeks in the distance
Turn 1:
Each side collects their Arête Points to begin.  The Greeks have 6 while the Persians also have 6.  The Persians bid 0 while the Greeks bid 3.  Greeks move out first. 

The Militia Phalanx moves from the deployment zone and forms Phalanx immediately for 1 Arête Point.  They are marching full speed towards the fields.  The Greek Peltasts move out towards the Persians forces, ready to try to intercept any Persian troops.  All Greeks have moved.   

The Persian troops surge forward.  The Archers move up to engage the Peltasts at range, and try to pin them as they can move quickly.  The Drilled Infantry in the center march forward to try to cut-off the Militia Phalanx, while the left flank Psiloi and Warband Infantry race towards the fields. 
Peltasts move to screen the Militia Hoplites advance
Turn 2:
Each side collects their 6 Arête Points a piece.  The Greeks bid 0 this time, as do the Persians.  Both sides seem willing to let the enemy move into missile range first.  This leads to a roll-off, which the Greeks wins. 

The rest of the Greek force manages to deploy onto the table. The initial Militia Phalanx moves towards the fields.  The first Peltast unit also approaches the Persian line, and then waits.  The Persian Archers do not try to steal the Initiative.  More Greek Peltasts leave the their deployment zone and back-up their comrades.  More Peltasts head towards the Persian line, but no response from the Persians. 

The Greek Drilled Phalanx moves out to support their Militia Phalanx, but stays in open order so they can wheel and react to Persian moves.  The second militia phalanx follows, but they stay in Phalanx formation. 

The Persian light troops rush forward.  It does not look like they can be stopped or halted in time.  Can the slower Greek Phalanx get to the fields in time to save them?  Meanwhile, the Persian Archers move to refuse their flank on the approaching Greek Peltasts, and ready their bows to fire next turn.  The Drilled Infantry in the center keep pace with the lighter Persian units and prepare to flank attack or charge as needed. 
Greek Peltast close on the Persian Archers
Turn 3
Both sides get their 6 Arête Points again, after spending none last turn.  This time, going first may matter.  The Greeks bid 2, and the Persians bid 0.  They are holding on to potentially interrupt instead. 

The Greeks start by moving their Hoplite units, free from interference by Persian troops.  A unit of Peltasts continues to screen their flank.  Now, it is decision time.  The supporting Greek Peltast unit decides to move forward.  They spend an Arête Point to Move and Shoot.  Sadly, they are still out of range of the closest Persian Archers.  The closest Peltast unit moves forward, and the Persians try to spend an Arête Point to interrupt.   

The Persians win the roll-off and take over the turn.  A group of Persian Archers let fly on the closing Peltasts and reduce them 3 Courage!  They Peltasts then fail a Discipline check and start to waver. 

The Greeks try to spend a point to take intiative back.  However, the Persians win the roll-off and continue to have the initiative.  The second Persian Archer unit fires on the wavering Peltasts, and use 3 Arête Points to re-roll some misses.  They pin-cushion the Greeks and force them to turn and flee. 

The rest of the Persian force moves forward, and the Warband infantry looks like they will get to the fields well before the Greek Militia Phalanx will arrive.  With all the Persian troops complete, the Greeks can complete any action they have left.  However, all their units moved and the Peltasts that were moving and shooting have been routed. 

In the End turn, two Peltast units and a Militia unit need to make a discipline check as their fellow Greeks flee the battlefield.  They are all passed…. For now. 

Turn 4
The Persians get 6 Arête Points to the Greek 5.  If the Greeks do not go first, they know they could lose a second Peltast unit, so bid 4 Arête Points.  However, the Persians bid 6.  No re-rolls for them this time. 

The first archer unit opens fire at the closing Peltasts and reduces them 3 Courage and cause them to waver.  The Greek player knows a second barrage will finish him.  He uses his final Arete point to try to interrupt.  However, the Persians win the roll-off. 

The second Persian archer unit draws and fires.  However, they are out of range and the arrows fall short into the ground in front of the Greek Peltasts. 

The rest of the Persian force moves forward.  It looks like the Persian Psiloi will be able to block off an easy approach to the fields, while the Persian Warband infantry gets into the fields and begins to tear them up.  Meanwhile, the Persian Drilled Infantry are threatening the flank of the Greek march.                   

The Militai Phalanx units keep marching towards their objective.  Meanwhile, the Peltasts try to screen the Drilled phalanx, while they move to attack the threatening Persian infantry. 

The last Peltast unit realizes they probably can not move into the Persian archers without an Arête Point to charge into close combat, and instead tries to shift with their allies and act as a flank screen.
Persian Warband Infantry enters the fields

Turn 5:
Arête Points are handed out, with 6 Persian and 5 Greek.  The Persians bid 2 points to the Greek 1. 

Persians go first by spending an Arete point ad declaring a charge with their Drilled Infantry into the Greek Peltasts on the Flank.  With a dazzling display of martial prowess, the Persians reduce the Peltasts to Courage 0 in a single charge! 

The Persian Archers try to shoot the Peltasts, but are out of range again.  Just barely.  The Persian warband infantry move into the fields and continue to wreck them.  The Psiloi move up on the Militia Phalanx and readies their javelins to throw.  However, the Greek tries to interrupt with an Arete Point, and does so successfully!

The Militia Phalanx then spends an Arête Point to charge into the Persian Psiloi.  There charge is very effective and the Persian Psiloi are scattered in the first charge!  They didn’t even slow the Greeks down. 

The Greek Peltasts that are left also declare a charge on the Persian Archers with an Arête point.  This charge would have routed the Persian archers…. Except the wavering status of the Peltasts made the charge completely ineffective!  The second Persian archer unit decides to support on the flank.      

The Drilled Phalanx uses an Arête Point and forms Phalanx.  That was the last Arête Point for the Greeks.  The last Militia unit moves forward. 

The Persians now finish their actions.  The second Drilled infantry unit moves up to threaten the flank or the Militia or Drilled phalanx.        

The Persian Archers launch their attack on the Greek Peltasts.  Working together they easily route the wavering Peltasts. 

At the End Turn, we see two Greek Peltast Units flee, and 1 Persian Psiloi unit flee.  All units in line of sight pass their Discipline checks.  However, the Greeks must make a Collapse Test.  The lead Militia and Drilled Hoplite units pass the Collapse test, but the second Militia unit fails.  They rout and run back to the city gates in terror. 
The Greeks are in a tough place
Turn 6
Things look rough for the Greeks!  Persian troops have entered the fields and many of the Greek Units have fled back to the city.  The Persians get 5 Arête points to the Greek 2.  The Persians bid 3 to go first, while the Greeks bid none. 

The Persian Drilled Infantry declare a flank charge on the leading Militia Hoplites using an Arête point.   Despite the flank charge, they only reduce them 1 Courage.  The Greeks now try to interrupt and successfully spend 1 Arête Point to roll-off.  They win and take over. 

The Drilled Hoplites spend the last Arête Point to charge into the Persian Drilled Infantry in front of them.  The Persians spend their last Arête point to counter-charge.  Crash!  The two units crash into each other with the Persians losing 2 courage to the Greeks 1.  The melee is pushed back 2 base widths. 
The Militia Hoplites fight back.  They reduce the Drilled Infantry they are fighting with down to 4 Courage.  It is an even fight so far. 

The Persian Archers move to support their Drilled Infantry next turn.  Meanwhile, 1 unit of Warband infantry leaves the fields to flank attack the Militia Hoplites fighting the Persian Drilled Infantry.

Despite the valiant efforts by the Greeks, the Persians have managed to ravage the fields of the city.  The Persians have won the battle.  Despite this, we decide to go one last turn to see what happens. 
Turn 7- The Greeks' Last Chance
The Persians take their 5 Arête Points to the Greek 2.  They again bid 3 to ensure first turn.  The Greeks hold on for Re-rolls.    

The Persian Warband infantry declares a flank charge on the Militia Hoplites.  Despite that, the Militia Hoplites are only reduced 1 courage. 

The Persian archers join the battle with the Drilled Phalanx, one with a flank charge, and the other as support.  Here, the Greeks are reduced to 2 Courage and forced to take a Discipline Check.  They fail and start to waver! 

The Greeks strike back! The Militia strike back and reduce their foes 1 Courage and the combat is again a draw!  The Drilled Phalanx also strikes back and uses 2 re-rolls, however it is not enough and the combat is lost by 1 courage.  They are pushed back 2 base widths. 
Pointless Bloodshed after the fields have been ravaged
The Persians successfully ravaged the fields of the rebellious Greeks! 

Pergamon was now under siege and at wily Hymaees’ mercy.  With much of their field force destroyed the elders of the city decided to sue for peace.  They soon surrendered to the Persian general who removed and executed the ring leaders of the revolt and replaced them with Tyrants loyal to Persia once more. 

From the Persian perspective, that went pretty much how I wanted it to go.  The Greeks tried to secure the fields with their better quality troops, but they never made it in time.  I think next time the Greek general will use the opposite strategy.  Use the heavy troops as the screen and the lighter and faster troops to secure the fields. 

My Persian units did what they needed to do, with the archers performing surprisingly well!  The objective made this game very different from the last clash between Persians and Greeks.  As an added bonus, the Collapse rules and Discipline rules actually impacted this game.  That was too bad for the Greeks as one unit fled the field, and a few others where wavering had a big impact in their performance. 

Overall, this was another fun game with another “historical” outcome.  The Persians can beat the Greeks with careful use of supporting units, flanking, and focus on the objectives as we saw in the Battle of Cius game and this game. The Greeks can also beat the Persians by forcing them into uneven match-ups as we saw in the Battle ofMarathon game.            

Monday, April 16, 2018

Wargame Design: Movement can be Cool?

Frequently, when I am designing or working on a game one of the least exciting of the 4Ms is movement.  I would spend a great deal of time thinking about the Melee, Morale, or Missiles but very little on Movement.  Most of my effort was put into activation and turn sequence.  However, now I see I may have been trying to use activation/turn sequence as a way to bypass a potential core issue with movement itself.    

I tend to take Movement for granted, and instead use the basic Movement stat and a measuring tape to call out the distance.  That is what I have grown up with and what I am most familiar with.  For years I took it as a no-brainer decisions and something I did not even think about.  However, my mind has been opened up on this subject recently, and I feel like Movement may now be the new hotness for everyone to explore and play around with. 

So, what caused this big change in my thinking?  I mean, I have done movement related gimmicks for games like Total CARnage, Green Army Men: Plastic Men, Steel Resolve, and Redline before.  However, the first two were for purpose built dexterity games, and the third still uses the base Movement stat and Measure as the base.  Instead, I tried to make movement interesting by tackling activation/turn sequence or looking at the interaction between maneuver and firepower.  I also tried to make movement interesting by using a “Unit Leader” mechanic similar to Chosen Men where the movement and measuring is all done form a leader model and the rest just kind of “fill in” from there.  What opened my eyes was going back and reassessing the FlightPath system from Wings of War and X-wing fame and looking at how other games have utilized similar ideas, and then diverged from it. 

The FlightPath system essentially allows the player to choose from a series of templates which then dictate the movement path that the models follow.  Besides X-wing you can see this mechanic in many other games, but especially Fantasy Flight Games miniature games.  They also used it in Rune Wars.  To me, this method makes sense for some flight and sailing ship games as those types of genres tend to use fixed turn radii and travel distances. 

However, how would such systems apply to other genres?  I had two places that I looked first.  Initially, I looked at a tutorial for the game Tanks!  A Tank also has limited turn radius and travel distances, but has more ability to back-up, traverse terrain, use a turret, etc.  How did they tackle it?  Well, the template was used to measure distance, and then at the end of the template, it could be adjusted, and the final position of the vehicle just had to touch the template somewhere on the tank. 

Then I looked at Mercs.  In this game, each model had a stat card, but the stat card also was a tool for movement as it had various arrows on the card that you could align the model with and move to the opposite arrow on the card.  A movement and a stat card in one. 

Curious, I then started to cast my gaze further afield.  I found a number of new and interesting approaches to moving beyond the movement stat and measure with ruler model.  I saw movement sticks- Of Gods and Mortals, Fistful of Kung Fu, and Song of Blades and Heroes- which essentially acted as templates for movement.  I also saw the use of playing cards as a measuring tool such as Kobolds and Cobblestones and Pirates of the Spanish Main. 

The biggest innovations I found were with Rogue Planet and Squad Leader.  In Rogue Planet everything either was not measured or was only measured with a few fingers.  Squad Leader had infinite move as long as you were going from cover to cover.  Squad Leader is not a new game by any means, but this method had eluded me for so long.

The most interesting aspect of Squad Leader is that your opponent can interrupt your movement as a form of Overwatch.  Thereby movement is a permissive aspect of the game where a player can move as much as they want between cover until an opponent stops them.  This reminded me a bit of Force-on-Force but even that had a measured movement range. 

These “Discoveries” rekindled my interest in Movement.  For many years, the basics of movement in my mind were static.  I never questioned my preference or even looked beyond it.  However, my base assumptions around movement as its own set of mechanics has been static.  I encourage you not to make the same mistake as me. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Random: Painting for 2018 Goals

Last year, my 2017 Goals for Painting were not met.  For 2018, I decided to scale back my painting goals to something more managable.  I really scaled it back since I did not expect to have much time to paint.  My peak painting season is typically Novemebr through March.  This year, that did not happen do to pesky "Real Life" commitments getting in the way.

This blog is primarily about designing and playing wargames.  However, part of what makes wargaming a unique experience is the tactile and visual spectacle elements.  That is what drew me to wargaming in the first place.  It is no secret, I am not a great painter and do not really enjoy it much.  I am not above using paper templates in place of miniatures.  However, when I do have models I typically do not play a game with unpainted models.  It is a wierd quirk.  I am fine using paper templates or toys, but if I am playing with wargaming models I want them painted!

So, to that end I have been doing a bit of painting.  Let's see my progress.

You may recall these two models that I picked up when I purchased Pulp AlleyThey are a Red Queen and D.A. Thompson model that I intended to use in Turf War, Mad Dogs with Guns, Pulp Alley, or even Strange Aeons

I managed to get paint on them.  Nothing spectacular, as I am not that good of a painter. However, they are now ready to hit the tabletop.

Besides these two, I also painted up some Mobile Artillery for All Quiet on the Martian Front.  These had been sitting in the silver and unassembled on my desk for sometime.  I think since late 2016!  They finally got a coat of paint.  

My main base coat of dark green went dry so I had to make do with some other colors.  However, you can see that they turned out just fine after some Dark Tone washes.

Finally, I also went back to some of my Crusader Gladiators.  I had been putting them off for sometime as I don't like painting horses.  The chariot horses did not turn out great, so I put off paintingthe Equites on horseback for a long, long time.  Probably longer than the Mobile Artillery even!  However, now that they are painted, I can use Equites Gladiators in The Games: Blood and Spectacle games.  That will be fun! 

They have a mounted and dismounted version now too.  I actually painted the dismounted guys a long time ago to act as Damnati and Noxi models too.  For Gladiator games they will prove versatile, plus I can use them as a Sons of Spartacus faction in Broken Legions.

I really need to stop taking iphone photos from my basement at night and expect them to come out!  These are a pair of Retarius and a Noxi for my Gladiators.  They are also from Crusader.  The Retarius with the iron mask... I actually have no idea what he is.  He doesn't have a net and he doesn;t have a trident... so I think he is something from the movie Gladiator with Russel Crowe i.e. some made-up Hollywood gladiator type.   

That actually sorts my 2018 Painting Goals plus a few models more!  Wow, anything else I paint is gravy!   


Monday, April 2, 2018

Random: Green Army Men- Kill'em All and Destroy the Objective

My daughter and I had some time to kill after work and we decideded to play Green Army Men: Plastic Men, Steel ResolveThe games is very simple to set-up and play and we managed to play 2 game sin about 20 minutes.  Then, it was time to go and our busy life was back in full swing!

I didn't keep careful notes of all the events, but I did keep track of some highlights.

Choosing armies was really easy.  I asked if she wanted to be green, grey, or tan soldiers.  She opted for grey and I opted for green.  We then reached into the bucket and pulled out 5 guys a piece and looked at what they were armed with.

Team Grey:
1 Sub-machine gun armed soldier
1 Grenade armed soldier
2 Rifle armed soldiers
1 kneeling rifle armed soldier

Team Green:
1 Sub-machine gun armed soldier
1 Bayonet and rifle armed soldier (Man I hate that pose!)
2 Rifle armed soldiers
1 Shotgun armed soldier

Overall, it was a good mix of weaponry types to try out.

We set-up in alternate corners of the table.  For terrain we placed a stapler, tape dispenser, a coffe mug, and a disposable coffee cup.  We were playing on a  standard sized table so probably 3 feet by 2.5 feet.

The Battles:
With that, we played a Kill'em All scenario first.  We just wanted to get familiar witht he game and the basic mechanics.  It took us very little time as the game is very intuitive.  One thing that happened a few times in this game is that the movement penny flick would hit a guy.  Per the rules, that would take out both players models!  It actually ended up as a draw because the two final guys ran into each other during movement!

The second battle was a Destroy the Objectie mission.  We used a big cardboard coffee cup for the objective.  I was the attacker and managed to reduce the Objective down 5 hits.  However, I ultimately lost as all of my guys were killed.  The final guy was taken out by a direct hit froma  grenade the knocked him over.  Ouch!

Here are a bunch of random pictures for that battle too.

Final Thoughts:
That was quick, brutal, and fun.  I look forward to playing it again, and I am sure it will be a hit with my family over Easter holiday.

You can pick up a copy for yourself at the Wargame Vault here!