Saturday, 17 October 2020

Sharp Practice: Crushed Hopes and Dreams at Wishbone Orchard...

A return to the rebellious fields of America this week at BIG as I tried to get my revenge on Andy for the crushing defeat I suffered a three weeks ago. Andy had picked up the Sharp Practice campaign system Dawns & Departures which contains several new scenarios, so we decided to try the All Out Attack from that, using the 'Hasty Attack' rule whereby even if a particular Leader's token is drawn in a turn, they still need to dice to see if their unit has reached the battlefield deployment point*.

As Defender I took a smaller force (66 points compared to Andy's 80) and decided to make up for my points deficiency by going with a largely militia based force which would give me some more muskets! Unfortunately it gave me a rather low starting Force Morale of 8...

The Patriots were the first to be able to deploy a unit, two groups of Militia Skirmishers, one under the command of Sergeant Upton, the other without a direct command (I had once again forgotten I could not make a formation combining two groups of Militia Skirmishers under one commander!)

Ensign Harrow was next to enter the field of battle with two groups of Light Infantry Skirmishers (being Regulars they could combine to create a Formation)...

They opened fire and with unerring accuracy killed two of the Rebels hiding behind the snake fence!

However the return fire from the brave Militia Skirmishers killed two Lobsterbacks and inflicted a modicum of Shock.

The next unit to enter the field were two units of Continental Line under the command of Captain Wisefield. 

With Andy's attempted rolls to have his units turn up failing, it meant we had a rather empty table with just two groups of Skirmishers shooting at each other and me not quite where to deploy my Continentals.

As the Skirmisher firefight continued...

Sergeant Banger and his Light Gun turn up!

The British Light Infantry Skirmishers begin to push forward inflicting some Shock on the Militia Skirmishers...

Whilst another Rebel unit arrive on the battlefield, two groups of Militia under the command of Lieutenant Turner.

Sergeant Banger's cannon opens fire!

Killing a Continental and inflicting some Shock on them.

Under Militia Skirmisher fire, Ensign Harrow is wounded!

Whilst a second formation of American Militia under the command of Lieutenant Upton arrive at the Patriot Deployment Point.

The wounded Harrow pushes his men forward, whilst Sergeant Powell takes one group of the Militia Skirmishers...

....and occupies the building.

On the other side of the battlefield Corporal Stringer and one group of British Light Skirmishers arrive on the battlefield...

And move menacingly forward towards the flank of the Militia Formation I had deployed along the snake fencing.

Opening fire they kill two of the Militia Line...

And then charge into the Militia, throwing tomahawks in as they do inflicting Shock on the Patriots.

However the brave Americans beat off Stringer's boys, wounding him in the process.

At long last Captain Haddock and his three groups of British Line arrive on the battlefield, deploying in the orchard...

And launching an Ambuscade with Andy using three flag tokens - this would double any Shock their firing would cause on the Militia to their front!

The Shock inflicted was not that bad for the Militia but five of them fell dead - including Lieutenant Turner, shot in the head!

With the Militia now Leaderless I detached Captain Wisefield from the Continentals in an attempt to bolster them, splitting his orders between the Militia and Continental Line - not an ideal situation!

Lieutenant Upton's Militia open fire on the British Line in the orchard but only inflict one point of Shock.

On the other side of the battlefield the British and American Skirmishers were still exchanging fire, the British suffering a number of casualties with the un-commanded Americans collecting an increasing amount of Shock which impacted their firing ability (I relied on a pre-Tiffin spare flag to keep them doing things) and reaching 6 put them in huge risk of being forced to fall back.

My force included a Padre, a once shot character who can remove D6 shock off a unit (as I didn't have a specific figure for a Padre I used Molly Pitcher who would berate the men in a similar fashion to a preacher). This worked well as I rolled a 5 and Molly reduced the Skirmishers Shock from 6 to 1.

An unfortunate Firing Event saw sparks set the building Powell and his unit where in catch fire. Whilst there was a risk of the building collapsing around them, the brave Militia Skirmishers decided to stay within as the flames flickered around them and continue to shoot out the windows at the British Skirmishers.

Back at the main battle Captain Wisefield continued to split his orders between the Militia and Continentals...

Bringing the latter up in support of the Militia Line who were taking more casualties and Shock from Captain Haddock's redcoats.

With the Militia position starting to look precarious the Continentals advanced across the rail fence in an attempt to give the British something to think about.

On the left flank, Corporal Stringer's Light Skirmishers moved into the woods along Lieutenant Upton's flank. Upton split his formation, sending one group into the wood to meet the redcoats.

Taking command of them Upton charges his rebel Militia group into the wounded Stringers skirmishers...

Routing them off the table, although being wounded in the process, reducing his command capability by one.

This setback for the British was short-lived as repeated volleys from the British Line eventually told on their Militia opponents who were pushed back...

And then broke!

Turning their attention to the Continentals, the British Line's fire wounded Captain Wisefield!

The wounding of the leaders and the breaking of the Militia had reduced the American Force Morale to a rather worrying 3, with the British maintaining a rather healthy 8.

Wisefield ordered one of the Continental Groups in on the flank of the Redcoats but they were beaten back with the American Force Morale dropping to 2...

At this point I was kind of saved by the bell as we had to call an end to the game as it was almost 10pm and BIG was closing, however it was clear how the cookie was crumbling and that Andy would be victorious.

Another enjoyable game I was undone by my losses of Command, whether that was (another) commander being killed outright, or the reductions due to two others being wounded. In retrospect I probably should not have pushed my force so far forward but formed up nearer my Deployment Point (Andy's objective) allowing me to bring all the Line formations fire to bear on Andy's redcoat line, but the line of snake fencing was such a tempting defensive position I felt I had to go for it.

* it was only when writing up the battle report I realised we had both read the delay rule incorrectly. We had been bringing units on with a roll of 4 to 6, whereas according to the rule book a 4 to 6 meant the unit was delayed. Given Andy's low dice rolls delaying his Line and second group of Skirmishers he'd probably swept the table before the rebels arrived if we'd played it properly!

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Ad Mare Bellum: Confrontation at Kolokythokeftedes

Following last week's run out of Ad Mare Bellum, George and I decided to have another battle down BIG with a couple of minor tweaks. 

Last week in the first turn we had pulled four of the six phase cards and as three of them had been mine George knew he had two phases in a row coming up and was able to position his ships through two moves in a way be would not have if he had not had that certainty. If the possibility existed of my ships having the opportunity to move he would not have exposed his flanks in his first phase move. Speaking with game designer David Manley he suggested we include a turn end card which ended the turn(!) but oif you had not had an Action Phase in the turn you automatically got one before the next turn started. Secondly in one boarding action we had a two ships on one situation with each scrap fought separately, tonight we were going to treat it as one action with the attacker combining their Boarding Factors.

Off the Greek island of Kolokythokeftedes, a Phoenician fleet has appeared and the Greeks have launched their triremes in response (as we did last week we treated the Pheonicians as being from the Manoeuvre school and the Greeks from the Boarding school.

The first card drawn gave George the Action Phase so he moved his fleet forward... The second card was for George, as was the third! :D This allowed the Phoenicians for close with the static Greeks and George make some comments about how lucky (or not)  I was in general! 

The next card was the Turn End one so not having had an Action Phase I was allowed one and moved the right flank of my fleet forward. At this point George decided we would be better served drawing dice to determine whose Action Phase it was given my card shuffling skills(!) so he went and bought a dice bag from the BIG shop! :D

The dice bag did not make a huge amount of difference as George pulled out dice giving him the next two Action Phases, pinning the left of my fleet to the shoreline (the table edge)...

And putting him in position to smash into my flank!

A first flurry of archery saw one of the Greek triremes suffer a Crew Casualty (we used the coins again to show vessels who had suffered a Crew Casualty).

Fortunately one of my dice was pulled next so it was my Action Phase. I attempted to pull back my left flank in some form of kyklos defensive formation... (not a very good one as it was to turn out)...

And pushed the Greek right flank forward in an attempt to overwhelm the Phoenician left and expose their right.

My defensive formation was not as well positioned as I tried to make it and the Phoenicians managed to ram one of the Greek galleys in the flank...

Completely wrecking it! (I bought a bag of craft matchsticks on the way to the game to use for Damaged and Wrecked ships).

The next Action Phase fell to the Greeks and being of the Boarding school, they launched a number of boarding attempts capturing two of the Phoenician raiders! (we used white dice to show captured ships).

On the Greek right a Phoenician trireme was Immobilised by a Greek ramming attack (signified by a Lardies shock marker).

The next Action Phase fell for the Greeks again and after softening up the enemy with bow fire, the Greek left launched boarding attacks on the Phoenicians capturing four more enemy triremes in just one phase following some excellent dice rolls!

With the Greek's trying to sail their captured prizes to safety, the Phoenicians decided to meet sword with sword and launched some boarding attempts of their own...

In a flurry of boarding actions the Phoenicians took a Greek galley, but lost another of their own.

On the Greek right flank the Phoenicians found themselves ganged up on losing two more triremes to enemy boarders as well as a galley in the centre. At this point the Phoenician admiral conceded the battle.

Having captured 11 enemy triremes and immobilised another for the loss of just one sunk and one captured this was a pretty decisive victory for the Greeks. 

Whilst George had joked about my luck early on as he had three Action Phases in a row (and five in total to my one initially), it did mean that my fleet was forced into a defensive position and George unable to use the advantages of Manoeuvre to any effect with the Phoenicians falling victim to the superior Greek Boarders. As he could not gain the advantage of turning the Greek flank George felt he should have been more decisive in Ramming the Greek triremes head on, despite the risks. Standing still handed the Greeks the initiative allowing them to board and capture the static vessels.

Our experiment in combining the Boarding Factors proved too powerful as the best the defenders could hope for was a drawn combat (and only a 1 in 10 chance of achieving that). We decided part way through to amend this to so that an Attacker could only add half the Boarding Factor of any supporting ship in a multiple combat. This worked much better and did allow the Phoenicians to capture one ship with some fortunate dice rolling.

We concluded the missile fire was too powerful for the actions we were fighting, with a 50% chance of a target suffering a Crew Casualty. The impact of that meant that in a subsequent Boarding Action the impacted vessel's own Boarding Factor is reduced by half (from 4 to 2) severely limiting their chances of not seeing their trireme captured and it became my tactic of choice in this battle. For our next game we are only going to allow a Crew Casualty to be caused by bow fire on a roll of 6.

Our minor tweaks are not a criticism of the rules which we really like, but they do cover a 3000 year period and we are making some small modifications to tailor them for the first twenty years on from 400 BC.