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.

Thursday 24 September 2020

Sharp Practice: Death and Disaster at Lawson Farm

After a short break to allow Andy to ponder on his recent run of Sharp Practice defeats, and no doubt reporting to Horse Guards for a sharp dressing down, we returned to the colonies (aka BIG) last night to see how much more of America I could liberate from the Tory oppressors!

We decided to play the Attack an Objective scenario again from the rulebook, our previous run out seeing a narrow British victory seized right at the death.

As the game begins Lieutenant Haddock marches his three groups of Redcoat Regulars down the road...

Supported by Ensign Harrow who commanded two groups of Light Infantry Skirmishers.

The brave Patriots enter the field, Captain Whitfield commanding three groups of Continental Line with Lieutenant Kraslow leading two groups of Light Infantry in Line. Ahead of them Sergeant Horowitz reconnoitres with a group of Continental Light Skirmishers armed with rifles.

Andy's redcoats had clearly been practising their shooting during the break (or maybe he had been practising his dice rolling) as in the first round of fire, Sergeant Russell with one group of Light Infantry Skirmishers hiding in the wood, kill two of the Continental Skirmishers in the cornfield!

Lieutenant Haddock decides to go on the offensive, moving the Lobsterbacks into Open Column and advancing towards the cornfield.

Two groups of Militia Skirmishers under Corporal Rowsick decide to join the fray and deploy in front of the Light Infantry screening their advance.

Ensign Harrow moves his troops down the edge of the field to form a barrier to the American advance.

Opening fire on the advancing Patriots, Harrow's Skirmishers inflict some Shock on the Light Infantry and kill two of the Militia Skirmishers - including Corporal Rowsick!

The compound matters three flags in a row are drawn after the Continental Lights move necessitating me rolling 2D6 on the movement events table. I roll a 3 - Lieutenant Kraslow has stood in something nasty resulting him reducing a command level until he finds some water to wash it off! 

I now have two units with one Level One commander in command range. Kraslow orders the Militia to fire at the British Skirmishers, but they fire high...

Lieutenant Haddock advances his Regulars into the the cornfield...

Whilst Captain Whitfield moves the Continental Line to oppose them, hoping to get the opportunity to fire first.

Unfortunately Haddock's token comes out first and he snaps his Regulars into Line...

And fires! 

All groups of the Continentals take shock and four fall dead - including Captain Whitfield!

To make matters worse, Sergeant Russell's Skirmishers flank the leaderless Continentals and let loose! Two more brave Patriots die and the Americans take Double Shock!

Meanwhile Lieutenant Kraslow rushes across to some water barrels to wash the offending mess off his boot and restore his command level...

Having ordered the Militia Skirmishers to shoot at the British Skirmishers - who miss once again!

Reaching the barrels, Kraslow washes the offending muck of his boots!

In an attempt to help the leaderless Continentals, Sergeant Horowitz runs to try and take command...

Unfortunately he doesn't reach them before another volley of British fire forces the Continentals back.

Having cleaned off his boot, Lieutenant Kraslow orders the Continental Lights to engage the British Skirmishers...

Before hoping the fence and attempting to reach his command. 

In a turn of good fortune a brave Militiamen, Private Petch, stands up to take command of the Militia Skirmishers (I eventually rolled a 6 when the appropriate command token was drawn). Unfortunately his Command Level was zero so I would need to expend a flag (if I had one) for him to order the Militia to do anything.

Elsewhere Lieutenant Roebuck stood up against the withering British fire to take command of the faltering Continentals Line.

Lieutenant Kraslow decides it is time to take to the offensive and orders his men across the rail fence towards the British Skirmishers, whilst ordering the Militia to keep firing on the enemy, at long last inflicting some casualties and Shock.

Despite the valiant attempts Lieutenant Roebuck, the badly shaken Continentals suddenly find themselves facing a charge from Haddock's Regulars!

The result was rather inevitable and the Continentals were pushed back off the field of play.

At this point the American Force Morale was somewhat on the low side!

With the Force Morale on life support and the Light Infantry and Militia Skirmishers engaged with Harrow's Skirmishers...

I decided to go with a Hail Mary approach and Sergeant Horowitz having rejoined his men orders them to run down the road as fast as they can to capture the unprotected objective!

The drawing of the order tokens suddenly went the way of the Americans and Horowitz and his boys run like hell towards the farmhouse!

It was hard to tell if Andy was looking worried under his mask, but he ordered Harrow to unsportingly shoot the Continental Skirmishers in the back but only inflicted one additional point of Shock whilst in turn being attacked by Kraslow's Light's to their rear (well he started it!).

Another fortunate drawing of the command tokens sees the Americans almost reach the building and snatch an extremely unlikely victory out of the jaws of defeat! 

Realising his predicament Andy orders Sergeant Russell to seize the American deployment point to reduce the Patriot Force Morale to zero. The battle had turned into a foot race!

Until Lieutenant Haddock ordered his Regulars to shoot the Militia in the back (Andy refused to believe they were civilians gone turkey hunting) inflicting enough Shock on them to break them, resulting in the American Force Morale to hit zero!

Well the gods of war(gaming) were not with me at all tonight. Having one Leader killed might be regarded as unfortunate, to have two killed? Well... On top of that Lieutenant Kraslow standing in something unpleasant and reducing his command ability added insult to injury. 

My main tactical regrets were not using the Lights in Line more aggressively and pushing them along the road with the Militia Skirmishers supporting their flank and not using the longer range firing of the Continental Skirmishers to better effect. Andy was on his game tonight only looking concerned when the Skirmishers ran down the road at speed towards the unprotected objective. It would have been funny if they had reached it, but it would have been an undeserved victory...