Friday, August 31, 2007

I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!

Yesterday I picked up (PDF) copies of "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!" and its "Gottterdammerung" supplement. IABSM is a set of rules for playing WWII company level wargames. The rules are the brainchild of Too Fat Lardies, "a vibrant wargames development partnership that produces an ever growing range of rule sets for what we think are discerning wargamers".

I think I first heard of IABSM sometime in 2004 from fellow gamer Dennis Cunningham. After reading a lot of positive reviews and after action reports I was intrigued enough to give them a try. A quick read through revealed several nice features. These include variable length turns, "blinds" and dummy units, deemphasis on charts and modifiers and potential for creative umpiring. As our players have always liked creative umpiring the last feature is particularly appealing.

Ravi and I are planning to do some "detailed reading" followed by play testing sometime this weekend. We plan to play one of the easier scenarios from the TFL scenario archive.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Battle of Longewala, 5 Dec 1971 (Played at the Historicon, 27th July 2007)

I played on the Indian side at Game Master Dan McDonagh's table, where we re-created the Battle of Longewala, which saw the clash between the Indian and Pakistani forces at the border post of Longewala in Rajasthan, India. The formidable Pakistani force comprised of 65 tanks (T-59s and Shermans), Field guns and mounted Infantry against entrenched Indians who had nothing but mortars and recoiless rifles. Later in the game, the heavily out-numbered Indians also received support from their centurion tanks and mech infantry.
The major difference between the real battle and this game was the Pakistani Airforce. In the real battle the Pakistani tanks were laid to waste by the Indian Airforce. In our game both sides had air support. There were plenty of dog fights and loss of aircrafts. I wasn't too lucky with my fighters which required a roll of 1 using a D10 to score a hit.
"Ground War" is a simple rule set (I believe it was designed by Dan himself), easy to understand and with very few complications. What I did not particularly like was the treatment of ambushes - they were all put on the table right from the beginning and hence the enemy clearly knew which route to avoid. The justification for this treatment was the presence of surveillance aircrafts which could give advance warning to the attackers- I somehow couldn't accept that. Hence, with the enemy clearly avoiding the ambushes and tank traps right from the offset, the Indians were forced to fall back and fight for their lives till their centurion tanks and armoured carriers arrived.
The battle ended in a draw with both sides failing to accomplish their objectives in the given time. The Pakistanis failed to cut a wide (2 ft on the table) secure path through the Indian side and the Indians failed to drive the Pakistanis back.All said and done, it gives me goose bumps to think of the Indian Soldiers who fought that decisive battle. Heavily out-numbered and without enough resources to thwart a tank attack of such proportions, they managed to hold on till the fighters arrived at dawn. The result which in my opinion may have had a lot to do with Pakistani stupidity and incompetence, takes nothing away from those jawans who stood their ground. Hats off to Major Chandpuri !!
On a lighter note, I should have prepared for the battle by watching J.P. Dutta's film - Border. It may have given me a lot of ideas like engaging my enemy commander in a verbal duel before the battle or asking my soldiers to walk towards the Pakistani tanks with anti-tank mines in their hands and thereby forcing them to retreat. Bollywood ! S I G H !!!

- Sarath
Trench War !

On saturday the 28th of July 2007, I led a WWI German unit towards well fortified Allied positions under heavy fire :-) . The rule set we used was Trench Wars and the Game master was Steve Robinson.There is no major strategy that you can follow while attacking such a well entrenched enemy as shown above - just get your men across the killing field as soon as possible and use your tanks well. Tanks have to pass a "break down test" every round which requires a roll of 5 or higher using a D20. My tank made no more than 3 moves and before it could recover, it was destroyed by artillery fire. A similar game was played the day before and the Germans were completely wiped out before a single soul could reach the trenches. Our fate wasn't that bad. We took around 80 % casualties getting to the trenches ( A blood bath was predicted by Steve, given the fact that the attackers had no air support or cover. ) A great amount of luck is involved when you rush towards the enemy under relentless machine gun fire and artillery bombardment. There were 10 German units in all and only two tanks found their burial ground across the trenches, the remaining 8 were busted well before they could reach anywhere close. With the tanks destroyed, the attackers had to rush towards the enemy to avoid being sitting ducks. Artillery fire aimed at the defenders needed to land inside the trench to kill the enemy (Dice are rolled to check for Scatter and hitting soldiers inside the trench wasn't as easy as killing them in the open.)

I did the best I could - Kept my troops dispersed while advancing, moved my tank as fast as possible with my Infantry under its cover (but there was no escape from the enemy artillery), with the tank gone I moved my men to the trenches as fast as possible (Retreat was not an option) . I could get my flame throwers up to the trenches, but were destroyed before they could use their weapon. Braving the enemy barrage, a couple of my soldiers entered the trenches only to die at the hands of the enemy trench fighters.

How would I play it next time?? ... Hmmmm.....Not sure how I can do it without air support. But if air support were available, I would try softening the enemy with aerial bombardment while my troops dash across the killing field.

- Sarath

Sunday, July 8, 2007

"MSM" discovers the India Wargamers

Today's edition of' The Economic Times contains an article about India Wargamers, which, among other things, describes us as "battling all odds" :) :) Three of our players, Ravi Mohan, Mridul Jain and yours truly have been (mis)quoted in the article. Fame, here we come!!!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Volley Fire in Piquet/Band of Brothers II

I have been going through BoBII rules in detail as part of the "specialization" program. According to BoBII some bow armed units may opt to fire overhead. This is called 'Volley Fire' and can be undertaken by any unit designated with 'VF' capability in the army listing. Volley fire dramatically increases the long range band from 6-12" to 6-24" but reduces the fire modifiers.

I was not sure if a unit could switch between volley fire and "normal" direct fire during the course of a game. For instance, consider this example:

An unit of English Retinue Longbowmen (Hundred Years' War) in Chevron formation declare and conduct VF at (extended) long range when a missile reload card appears. The unit then reloads using this card. When the next card appears in the same turn, they opt to conduct direct fire instead.

Is this scenario valid under the rules?

Here is Peter's answer:

Certainly. The operative term is "may", not "must". Volley fire is high angle fire used to increase the range of he archery at the cost of a decrease in penetrating power.

Online Army Generator for Piquet/Band of Brothers II Edition

Peter 'Gonsalvo' Anderson's Piquet/Band Of Brothers II Edition rules are noteworthy for several reasons. Besides significantly revising and refining the original rules for Renaissance warfare, BoBII also offers 'Beat the Drum', an easy-to-use mechanism to generate armies.

BTD addresses one of the rather tedious aspects of Piquet - namely, its army selection mechanism. BTD offers a variety of different ways to select your forces for a given battle. BTD makes uses of the greatly expanded army listings included in BoBII under fourteen different "Campaign Musters." Using BTD, you can select an army in about 30 minutes, as compared to a couple of hours or so before.

We really liked BoBII and BTD. So much so, that we decided to make it a little more easier by automating the army selection procedure and making it available as an online application. You can read more about the application and Beat the Drum here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Playing Ottoman Turks

Ottoman Turks (Manu) vs Venetian Republic (Manoj)

Manoj played the Venetians vs Manu's Ottoman Turks.

The Turkish Janissaries can be really effective if given proper protection and support. In my first game I made the mistake of keeping them on my flank where there was not much space to manoeuvre. When I tried manoeuvre one of my units to close the gap I effectively opened the unit's flank to enemy fire. Fortunately one of my other Janissary units in the middle had done enough damage to keep the enemy busy. Being a "cavalry man" myself I was using these elite infantry troops as cavalry.

In the revenge match I had my objectives clear. I decided to not wait for the enemy to move. To attack whenever I had the initiative. It had to be a full frontal attack by the Janissaries supported by cavalry. Throw in some cavalry units in the left to hold off any flank attack. It worked.

From my experience playing Ottoman Turks, the main battle line should be made up of Janissaries covered by skirmishers. Attach a General if one can be spared. Protect the flanks using heavy and medium cavalry. Aim to concentrate on a single point. I would also recommend to keep a swirling mass of light cavalry ready to disorient the enemy line. It is futile to wait for the opponent's move. Attack the enemy on the designated point as soon as possible. The Janissaries are most effective in attacking and in Piquet you do not know how long you will have the initiative.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Early Seljuk Turk army for Iron Bow II

We have been working through 'Iron Bow II', the Perfect Captain's rules for playing the Early Crusades. We decided to start our pursuit of 'Iron Bow' with an opening game between Early Seljuk Turks and Crusaders. Here is the roster for the Early Seljuk Turks.

Mustafa İsmet Kadri
, the Sipah Salar
Prestige: 4, Aggression: 0, Prowess: 0;
  1. 8 stands of Ghulams
Kemal Beyar, the Amir of Umara
Prestige: 2, Aggression: 4, Prowess: -1;
  1. 8 stands of Turkoman Askars
Kemal Seyydin Pasha
Prestige: 2, Aggression: 1, Prowess: 0;
  1. 8 stands of Ahdath
Amir Mustafa Korutürk
Prestige: 1, Aggression: 3, Prowess: 0;
  1. 12 stands of Turkoman Askars
Ali Iltumish Kherra
Prestige: 1, Aggression: 2, Prowess: 0;
  1. 4 stands Saracen Archers
Raiz Salim Bin Murad
Prestige: 1, Aggression: 3, Prowess: 0;
  1. 8 stands Saracen Archers
Nikos Konstantinokis
Prestige: 3, Aggression: 1, Prowess: 1;
  1. 8 stands Skythikon
  2. 4 stands Levantine Knights
Said Pir Mastani
Prestige: 3, Aggression: 3, Prowess: 1;
  1. 6 stands Bedouin
  2. 2 stands of Saracen Askars

Selecting an Army with IronBow2 - Crusaders (The First Crusade)

Step 0: Get the IronbowII rules (totally free thanks to the Perfect Captain)

(Hint: If you want to save your sanity get all the rules, handbook, army cards, unit cards etc. printed and bound into one volume. There are so many directories and files in the distribution that you'll go crazy trying to find particular pieces of information. There is an A4 version of the rules available in the distribution, which is a mercy. Use that for printing. The default "pdf booklet" format will drive you nuts in no time flat. )

We need two armies - one for the Crusaders and another for the Turks. We'll deal with the Crusaders first.

First decide the year of the battle. I chose 1099 AD, the year Jerusalem was captured.

Turn to page 10 of the IB2 **handbook** (NOT the rulebook) and read the description for the Crusader Army List.

From the description, we note that
  1. The First Crusade can be considered "Rich" (in resources)

  2. All peers and the Papal Legate should be limited to 3 prestige points (does this mean that the C-in-C doesn't get a prestige rating of 4?)

  3. Expedition and Muster sized armies should have at least 30 % of their knights dismounted.

Having noted down all the relevant 'army notes' we now turn to page 39 of the handbook for the army generation procedure.

We also need to find the Army Card for this army . This is the "IBlists1stC-MinTk.pdf" file in the "ListsPDF" folder (I told you to get everything printed out :-P). The Army generation details (not the process .This is in the handbook :-P) are in the "IBlistsGenerators.pdf" file in the same folder. you **also** need the "IBlistsIrr.pdf" file from the same folder. OK with all those pieces of paper printed out, we are ready to create a Crusader Army.

First, decide the size of the war chest. The army card (the "IBlists1stC-MinTk.pdf" file) indicates that crusaders were "Rich" in resources for the year 1099 (the middle entry on the top portion of the Army Card) and that the command structure is "Allied" with "plentiful" commanders.

So now we take the Army Generation tables (the "IBlistsGenerators.pdf" file) and roll a D6 for the war chest size on the "Rich Resource Table" against the "expedition" row. We get a 4 which gives us a war chest of 200 Bezants.

Then we roll another D6 on the "Commanders -Plentiful" table (same file, to the botoom and right of the "Rich resource Table") and get another 4 which indicates a 7 (in Red). This means that the Army will have 7 commanders.

The constraints on these commanders are as follows.
  1. At least one command must be "Irregular" (from the colour Red in the die throw)

  2. Since the Army Card indicates that the Command Structure is "Allied", one in 3 commanders must be a Peer. All peers are considered Allied.

  3. Since the command structure is Allied, one in 3 commanders must be a peer (upto the limit available for the Army) and the minor and major commanders must be distributed "under" these peers (This is very different from the monarchial command structure as we'll see when we select the Seljuk Army).
Thus of the 7 commanders, one is irregular. The other 6 are two groups of 1 peer + 1 major + 1 minor commanders.

OK so now back to the army card.

The Irregular is an "Armenian Hill Chief" (the first option available). From the "IBlistsIrr.pdf", a roll of 2 (on a D6) on the Anatolian Hill Chieftain table gets a chieftain with 4 stands of Armenian Hill Men. That's the irregular command.

We'll have one peer be a Papal Legate (with a Holy Standard - The True Cross? :-) and another be a "normal" Peer).

So let's have the commander lists and the results of rolling for prowess (using dummy names for now and using "IBlistsGenerators.pdf")
  1. His Grace Peter Sibelius, Papal Legate, Bishop of Nice(carrying the Holy Standard; Aggression: 4, Prowess: 2) with subordinates:
    1. Baron Paul de Bussy (Major Commander; Aggression: 3, Prowess: 2)
    2. Sieur Tomas Legrand (Minor Commander; Aggression: 4, Prowess: 2)

  2. Lord Mathieu Backwater, Duke of Leicester (Aggression: 3, Prowess: 1) with
    1. Lord Mark of Stanton (Major Commander; Aggression: 3, Prowess : 0)
    2. Sir John Uppers (Minor Commander; Aggression: 3, Prowess: 1)

  3. The irregular contingent led by Reuben of Armenia (Aggression: 1, Prowess: 2)
Thus the commander selection is complete.

Now for allocation of troops.
  1. Bishop Peter Sibelius: 4 stands of European Knights costing 24Bezants. Sub commanders:
    1. Baron Paul de Bussy: 4 stands Knight/European costing 24 Bezants.
    2. Sieur Tomas Legrand: 8 stands Foot/archer, 8 stands Pigrim Mob costing 24 + 8 = 32 Bezants (For a total of 80 Bezants)
  2. Lord Mathieu Backwater: with 4 stands of European Knights costing 24 Bezants
    1. Lord Mark of Stanton with 4 stands Knight/European costing 24 Bezants.
    2. Sir John Uppers with 8 stands Foot/Seargeant, 12 stands Archer s costing 76Bezants (For a total of 104 Bezants)
  3. Reuben the Armenian with 4 stand of Armenian Hill men.
Grand total 204 bezants.


Impressions about the army selection process - (very) comprehensive but "fiddly", with multiple table look ups and pieces of paper taking about an hour or so. Just like PK before Peter "Gonsalvo"Anderson derived a playing card driven approch in BoB2. (hmm maybe something like that might work for IB2 too? )

On the other hand we can automate this, just as we automated the Bob2 Army Selection process, Then it should take about 10 seconds to generate this army :-)

The army, once selected, feels "just right". The focus on commanders makes itself felt because the player is now forced to select tactics *which depend on the characteristics of the commanders* which is as it should be.

One suggestion I have for improving the army selection process is that the leeway fro choosing armies be somewhat restricted.

[Alert -DETOUR into BoB 2 armyselection procedure. Please skip if not interesting

Again the BoB 2 rules are a good example . For the uninitiated, BoB2 starts with a 'typical' budget of about 60 florins. A pack of playing cards is used with each suite representing a different effect - clubs represent "standard" army units, diamonds represent limited (and thus rare) troops, hearts represent special (and thus even rarer) troops and spades represent a variety of effects from diplomacy to training.

The keys to the system are (a) turning a card costs one florin (b) if the card turned a is a clubs (representing a "standard" unit) you *have to* accept that unit (and pay its cost in florins, reducing the money you have left). The troops represented by the other suites (diamonds and clubs) *may* be taken (but you pay the one florin cost for turning a card anyway). I'll ask Manoj to write up a worked example of the system.

The whole process takes about 5 minutes and you get a army typical of the period but you can never have *exactly* the army you want. The system is NOT repeat NOT the typical PK army selection procedure but was custom designed by Dr Peter Anderson for BoB2 to ensure period feel). In our experience it works remarkable well. In Peter's own words "The player will have only limited control over the composition of their armies. This reflects the historical shortage of both monies and troops available to monarchs during the era covered). Bob2 ALSO has a more conventional points based system but we use the former all the time. We love anything which increases uncertainty. :-)

DETOUR into BoB2 army selection ends ]

I am sure the Pilgrim Mobs or Ahdath weren't necessarily the commanders' favorite units, but they would probably turn up for a muster anyway! Handling the weak units of your army to maximize their potential is what makes a good commander (imo). We threw in some pilgrim mobs and Ahdath even though we could have used the points to select stronger units.

Questions for the Captain
  1. Is it legal to select a peer + 2 minor commanders only ? (or a peer + two major commanders only with no minor commanders) .

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Piquet/Band Of Brothers 2nd Ed. Questions

Three of us met last weekend and played a couple of games using BoB2. We found that our knowledge of the rules had grown rusty and had to refer to the rule book several times during the course of the game. The following questions remained unanswered nevertheless. So we consulted Peter "Gonsalvo" Anderson, who was in charge of developing the rules, Piquet/Band Of Brothers 2nd Edition. Our questions and his answers follow.

  1. A missile armed unit is charged by a non-missile armed unit(the attacker). The former manages to (opportunity) fire at the attackerand causes 1 stand loss. The attacker moves into contact, the playerimmediately turns a melee resolution card and initiates melee. Doesthe "-1 stand" melee resolution modifier apply for the attacker? Ordoes it only apply for subsequent rounds of melee?

    Absolutely the "one stand difference" would apply if the other unit was at full strength. Why wouldn't it? The losses to fire happened first before the melee resolution process started.

  2. IIRC, according to PK master rules a unit contacted in theflank/rear becomes disordered and may be meleed immediately without anMR card. It seems that the attacker in this case would be eligible forthe UP2 modifier for contacting the target in the flank. However, doesthe target suffer the DN2 penalty for "disordered"? The cumulativedifference of 4 seems a bit excessive.

    Yes, all of the above Bad Things apply. Being hit in flank in Piquet will usually result in routing your opponent unless he is *very* lucky. Of course, even a "win" just allows you to turn to face the attack, disordered (PB is an exception, of course).

  3. A non-missile armed attacker moves into contact with a missilearmed defender during the attacking player's turn. The defender doesnot opportunity fire. The attacking player's phase ends but he winsthe impetus for the next phase. No MR card has yet been turned and thedefending player now decides to opportunity fire. Will the defender beconsidered to be firing at Point Blank range?

    There are several subtle points here. As it is the *opposing* player's phase, the defending unit can only issue *opportunity* fire. Opp fire can only be issued in response to an enemy action - Move, change in formation/facing, or fire. It can't be issued otherwise, *especially* NOT in response to a Melee Resolution card. So, that presents the player with an interesting choice, especially if the defending unit is Militia and the enemy will run out of impetus. Take the Opp fire now, probably at Long or Medium Range, OR hope you win the impetus and can fire at PB *before* the enemy turns a Melee Resolution Card. This is not made clear in the Master rules, but I think you'll see that it makes sense and solves the problem you identify above - plus in typical Piquet fashion it involves making a tough choice. It's inferred a bit but still not clearly in BoB2 page 19.

  4. The problem here is thatif this were so, no missile armed unit can be engaged in melee withoutreceiving point blank fire.

    Agreed; See the above.

  5. A missile armed unit fires at and eliminates all stands of an enemyunit. Is the enemy unit removed from table or is it considered to berouting? In the latter case, is a token figure or stand placed on thetable and moved away appropriately?

    The unit is dispersed and removed from the table. It hasn't routed (no morale loss), just ceased tom exist as an effective fighting force. Having said that, some Piquet players play it as you describe. I don't.

[report] Ottoman Turks (Manu) vs Venetian Republic (Manoj)

Rules: - Piquet Master Rules + Band Of Brothers (Late Medieval and Renaissance) supplement

Manoj played the
Venetians vs Manu's Ottoman Turks.

In the first game, the Turkish Sipahis charged the line of venetian
arquebusiers and routed them off the board, thus
blowing a hole in the Venetian lines.There were no reserves to close
the gap but the Turks didn't have anything to follow up this attack
either. So there was frantic maneouvering on both sides, with Manoj
swinging around some cavalry units from his flanks to cover the gap
and Manu trying to advance his Janissaries into the gap. Manu tried to bring over
another Sipahi unit from his left flank to charge into the gap but got
severely mauled by another unit of Venetian Arqubusiers who poured
flank fire into the Sipahis from cover of a forest. The mauled Sipahi
unit was then meleed by Venetian pike men, ably supported by
determined arquebus armed skirmishers and after a valiant melee the
Sipahi unit was wiped out, and unfortunately the Turkish CinC
was part of this unit. The death of the CinC sealed the fate of the Turks.

In the revenge match, The Turks did much better. Manoj's move to use a
command composed fully of Skirmish cavalry to turn the Turkish left
flank backfired due to lack of impetus and "cavalry in open" cards not
turning up frequently enough. The Turkish main line advanced, with
Janissaries in the middle and the cavalry on the right flank. The
cavalry on the Turkish right engaged furiously with the Venetian
cavalry and got a "locked in combat" through out the line which lasted
for almost 3 turns(!). With the cavalry thus engaged, the Janissaries
advanced and forced back the Venetian arquebusiers with massive fire
power , followed by "fearsome" effects caused by "courage" cards.
However the Venetians fell back disordered (vs fleeing
precipitately like ine the previous battle) so the Turks couldn't quite follow through.

another Janissary unit blew massive holes in the Venetian Caracole
cavalry (who had managed to run off the Sipahis by then, but were
disordered as a result of the long melee) and they promptly routed ,
allowing the Janissary unit to get on the Venetian flanks. At this
point we declared a marginal victory for the Turks.