Monday, November 14, 2022

Battle Report: Men of Bronze - Solo-Play(?)


As many of you know, I have been working on a campaign booklet for Men of Bronze focused on the Persian forces and the Ionian Revolt.  As part of the book I have been working on some alternate scenarios including; sea battles, sieges, and solo/co-op play rules for the game.  Today will be a dry run of the Solo-play rules.  It is important to note, that the solo-play rules are not intended to replicate an actual opponent, but are designed to keep the player on their toes and dealing with mounting difficulties in completing their objective. 

The Spartan scouts returned to camp and let the Stratego know about the enemies approach.  The Spartans had camped up in the hills, at the edge of the river.  It seemed a good place, easy to defend, and accessible to water.  Knowing that the enemy was approaching, meant that the Spartans themselves needed to prepare themselves for battle.  They would sally out of the valley, and face the approaching foes on the river valley where they could divide and destroy them .  

I decided to use my Spartan army for this battle.  

2 Elite Hoplites  
1 Drilled Hoplite
2 Psiloi

I followed the rules found in the main rulebook for choosing a scenario and complications.  We rolled up Hungry and Thirsty, but all the Spartan units passed their check.  Essentially, there would be no further impact from the Hungry and Thirsty complication.  

The scenario was going to be a standard decisive battle.  Again this was essentially straight from the rulebook as well.  This battle will last 6 turns or until the Spartan collapse.

The solo rules have slightly modified rules for setting up terrain.  The side that I deploy on use the basic rules found in the Men of Bronze rulebook.  For that, I got a hill, a spring/pond/swamp, and another hill.  On the other side, there are slightly modified and randomized terrain set-up and placement.  However, it ended up being a Open terrain, spring/pond/swamp, and open terrain.  Instead of the spring I decided to swap it out for a river across the board with a ford in the middle.  The river was Dangerous, with the ford being difficult terrain. 

We then followed deployment per the new Solo rules.  Again, it was slightly modified.  I placed my first unit of Psiloi by the hill on the Spartan right on the opposite side of the river.  Then, a token was randomly deployed for the enemy, but not a unit.  We kept taking turns deploying until the enemy forces had 1 token deployed more than I had units.  

My deployment was Psiloi, river, Elites, Drilled, Elites, and Psiloi on the hill.  

Across from us on the left was a single token in the center, two in the middle grid coming up the center, and three on the left grid square deployed forward.  

Turn 1: 
The Enemy force will win initiative unless I big 1 Arete point, which I decide to do.  The opponent then rolls a d6, and that is how many units I can move before it will try to interrupt.  

I move my right flank Psiloi forward, using a Arete Point to skirmish.  I am close to getting the markers into Line-of-sight, but can not reveal them just yet.  The Psiloi on the other side also move up onto the hill on that side.  Then, my Spartiates start to march forward.  

Before the Perikoi can move forward, the Enemy attempts to interrupt but fails.  I finish moving up.

With all of my units moved.  My make-believe foe and rival moves all their tokens forward.  This reveals a Drilled Hoplite unit in phalanx approaching both hills on my flanks.  The one on my right is also supported by a Psiloi unit.  

The tokens I just revealed are recycled back to the baseline in a random location as they will be follow-on forces later.    

Turn 2: 
As the Spartans, I again decided to bid 1 Arete point to go first.  I started by moving my Perikoi drilled hoplites forward and formed into Phalanx, and they revealed two units of the enemy approaching me.  One was a unit of archers, and oddly a unit of Militia Hoplites was coming down the rive in Phalanx formation!  The enemy tried to seize the initiative, but failed!  Next, I moved up my Spartiates on the right flank near the hill, and also put them in Phalanx. 

This time, the enemy managed to seize the initiative and started to move forward.  The started on my left flank and moved across the board with revealed units first.  The Drilled Hoplites there pressed tot he base of the hill, still in formation.  The Militia Hoplites moved up into cover, still in the river.  So far, they had not lost any courage due to the terrain.  The Archers were not in range to shoot, so moved forward as well.  Finally, on the right side the Drilled Hoplites broke ranks as they started climbing the hill there.  

My Spartan Psiloi used Arete to seize the initiative and throw their Javelins with the last Arete point.  Despite being out of formation, the Drilled Hoplite shrugged it off.  The Psiloi fell back, but not very far as they did not have the Arete to skirmish.  

On the left flank, my psiloi also fell back and moved towards the river, looking to cross when they had more Arete points and to avoid the incoming Drilled Hoplites.  The last Elite Hoplite unit moved up towards the ford, but were not in formation yet! 

With the last unit moved, the Enemy took over again.  The last Psiloi unit moved forward to the base of the hill on the right.  Then, from left to right all the remaining "blips" moved forward.  Looking at the force arrayed against me, perhaps recycling blips was a tad too many foes?  

Turn 3: 
I again decide to use an Arete Point to go first.  I decide to get aggressive, and my Perikoi charge into the enemy archers!  This triggers the Militia Hoplites in the river, who counter-charge in to support the Archers.  The Perikoi have 8 attack dice vs the enemy 7!  However, since the primary unit was archers, the Perikoi easily blast through the enemy forces with the loss of 1 courage.  

The enemy forces are turned around, and this puts them in a position to reveal two new enemy units, which are more Militia Hoplites in Phalanx, and a unit of Greek cavalry.  

I then move my Elite Spartiates to the ford, and form Phalanx.  The Enemy steals the initiative from me at this point.  They begin by activating revealed units on my left.  The Drilled Hoplites clamber up the hill after the Psiloi.  The Cavalry and newly arrived Militia hoplites move forward.  

The Drilled Hoplites on the right hill start to move to attack the Spatraites at the foot, but they are far too slow.  The enemy Psiloi though easily clamber up on the hill, and toss Javelins at the Spartan Psiloi.  The Spartans lose 1 Courage.  

As additional follow-on forces begin to move up, a Peltast unit is revealed moving towards the ford.  In addition, on the far right, a unit of slingers is revealed nearing the hill.

Play reverts to me, as I decided not to interrupt.  I have 3 Arete left.  I spend one so the Psiloi on the left fall back to safety across the river with a skirmish move.  The ones on the right charge at the enemy Psiloi, who try to evade.  It is not enough, and the Enemy Psiloi and Drilled Hoplites get pulled into the fight! I roll 4 dice, and so does the enemy.  I get three hits, and use my last Arete point to re-roll.  It is enough to route the enemy Psiloi and Drilled Hoplite!  In return, I take 2 courage loss, and am reduced to 1.  However, I do not waver! 

With my flank now secured, I move up my last Spartiate unit.  

I remove 4 enemy units from the board.  This triggers a several wavering tests.  The Militia Phalanx and Cavalry begin to waver! 

Turn 4:
I again decide to hold the initiative by spending a precious Arete Point.  

My Psiloi on the right throw their Javelins at the Slingers, but fall just short.   Disappointed, I have the Elite Spartiates on my right charge the wavering Militia Hoplites, and the wavering cavalry snaps to their flank in support.  With 10 attack dice, I have a terrible roll and need to use 2 Arete Points to get 1 hit on the Enemy unit.  However, they push back the enemy far enough to reveal another unit of cavalry that immediately snaps into the melee!   

The Perikoi see  that the decisive action is swirling in front of them with the Spartiates and cavalry fighting up close.  They use the last two Arete points to break formation, re-align, form up and charge in.  The attack drives home, and causes the Militia to be reduced down to 1 Courage, with no loss in return.  However, the Militia holds on by passing their Wavering check.  

The last Elite Spartiate loses formation as they begin to move across the ford.  The left Psiloi follow along with them.  

Play turns over to the Enemy Greeks.  They always begin on their right (my left) and move across from there.  Drilled Hoplites who have successfully taken the hill, turn and begin the slow march towards the ford.  The Peltasts charge into the Spartans in the Ford, and catch them flat footed.  Since they all ready chose to move, they can not fight back.  However, thanks to the terrain, the Spartiates shrug off the attack.  

This leads to the Slingers on the right, who fire at the Psiloi on the hill and in cover. It is enough, and the Spartan forces there are routed!  

After all the revealed enemy units have gone, the blips move next.  A quick check shows that on of the blips on the Spartan right is revealed to be a Drilled Hoplite unit in Phalanx.  This causes another blip to be removed and recycled on that side of the board. The Spartans really need to shut that entry point down! 

My Spartan Psiloi flee the battle, but no one is around to see it.  They are not enough points to trigger any Collapse tests.  Thankfully.  

Turn 5:
I eagerly pay the 1 arete point to go first.  I need to clean up the center of the board fast!  I will have drilled hoplites coming onto my flank very soon.  Looks like the enemy will let me activate all my units before trying to interrupt this turn.  That is a relief! 

My remaining Psiloi are in a position to support my Elite Phalanx in the ford, however I instead decide to have them start going across the back of my lines to help on my collapsed right flank.  Maybe next turn they will be in a position to take some of the heat off.  

Next, I decide to resolve the huge melee in the center of the board with my Perikoi and Spartiates fighting two units of cavalry and some Militia Hoplites.  The wavering status of the enemy makes a big difference as the Perikoi are able to route the enemy with no losses of their own.  The pushback is strong enough to reveal the last two units on the right are another Drilled hoplite unit and an archer unit.  

In the Ford, the Elite Spartans manage to push back the Peltasts out of the river, but not enough for them to cross.  With the use of all the Spartan Arete points, they reduce the enemy to 2 Courage, but they do not start to waver.  They suffer no losses.  This also reveals the next enemy troops on their right, more peltasts.  It also recycles another blip! 

With the Spartan effort spent, play turns over to the Enemy.  

The Drilled Hoplites finally get off the hill, and form phalanx at its base.  The new Peltasts charge in to help their buddies at the Ford, and cause the Spartiates to lose 1 Courage from the unexpected ferocity of the enemy counter-attack.   

On the other flank, the newly arrived Enemy forces reform up on the Spartan flank and prepare to attack next turn.  However, they will be seeing a lot of their comrades fleeing in the End phase.  The last blip moves forward.

End: The Enemy Militia Hoplites, and two Cavalry units flee the field in full view of much of the Enemy army on my right flank.  However, they all pass their Discipline tests and stay firm.  

Turn 6- Final Turn
Well, I pretty much have to spend the Arete Point to seize the initiative or my goose is cooked. I do, leaving myself with only 3.  I have to use 1 in order to reshuffle my Spartans that are exposed in the center.  I then use another to charge.  The enemy is close, so they counter-charge with two units snapping into support.  Another huge melee kicks off!  A terrible roll gives the Spartiates 0 hits.  The counter-attack.  It sends the Spartans reeling back 3 MU and down to 2 Courage!  They also start to Waver! Ouch! 

The Enemy also tries to seize the Initiative! Thankfully, they fail!  I decide to countermand the Psiloi's previous orders and they rush back and begin to support their allies in the ford.  I use my last Arete Point so they can charge in to help.  This is the difference and the Peltasts are pushed out of the ford and routed! 

The enemy again tries to steal the Initiative, and succeeds this time.  The Drilled Hoplites at the foot of the hill near the Ford charge into the flank of the ongoing rout.  This is the last turn, and they will be routed in the End phase, but they are going to try to route the Spartans in the process.  Normally, the AI has to wait until the rout is over, but I made an exception for drama reasons!  As the player, I can do that!  The attack causes a momentary pause in the pursuit, and causes the Spartans to lose 1 Courage.  However, it is not enough not stop the rout.  

On the opposite flank, the slingers attack the exposed Spartans and pepper them with sling stones.  They also lose 1 Courage, and the Perikoi start to Waver from the attack! 

The last blip on my left moves up and is revealed to be Psiloi. 

The enemy forces on my left flank rout away.  The Psiloi see it, but do not waver.  

With that, the Enemy pipers and trumpeters sounded the retreat.  The day was waning, and the Greeks needed to withdraw with enough time to gather and mourn their dead, and allow the Spartans time to erect their trophy.  The Spartan forces were battered and exhausted, but they had held the field.  

Wow, I think I used just about every non-Macedonian Phalanx unit I had for this one.  I even had to dive into the Macedonians for some stand-in Hypaspists and Heavy Cavalry for Militia and Cavalry units respectively.  I guess I have an excuse to paint up some more regular Hoplites now, and a reason for why my Persian force is going to be so large!  

Well, it was nothing like a "real" game of Men of Bronze.  The AI was making decision that an experienced player of the game would not make.  The biggest example was when the Drilled Hoplites kept trying to climb hills, and supported a Psiloi unit.  That helped clear a flank of pressure early.  Their were also strange combinations of units and deployments players would not make.  

The Spartans plowed through a lot of enemy units, and only lost one.  However, if you look at the end table I started with 5 units but at the end; lost 1 unit, had 2 wavering, and had lost 10 of my starting 23 Courage points.  I was on the breaking point.      

However, the goal is not for a solo-game of Men of Bronze to play like a game against an opponent.  It is designed to keep the player of the game on their toes and surprised on the battlefield.  That was true for me.  I kept having to make decisions through out the game of how I was going to counter enemy positions, if I was going to push to seal of deployment zones, who was going to support and where, and how to get the best unit vs. unit combinations.  

The game taught me a lot, and I made I jotted down a few notes to update the rules and streamline game play.  You can expect the solo-play rules to come out with the release of the Ionian Revolt supplement on the Blood and Spectacles Wargame Vault page.  You might want to keep your eyes peeled.  


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1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this report. The solo rules seem to bring a lot of chaos to the battlefield; just as Ares would wish.