2010-03-31

BBDBA: Later Achaemenid Persians vs. Ghaznavids

(Updated below.  Discussion of my choices is happening here.)

Steve, JM, and I played BBDBA at Legions on Saturday, before the Miniature Warfare event.  Steve brought III/63(b) Ghaznavid, (1002-1186AD), and I played my II/7 Later Achaemenid Persians (420-329BC) again.  With almost 1500 years between these armies' historical dates, this battle is more anachronistic than the Ghaznavids fighting against Rommel's 7th Panzer Division.  Let's hear it for fantasy gaming!

In my previous BBDBA battle, the C-in-C (me) was demoralized immediately after deployment.  This time I wanted to be more prepared, so I thought a bit more about dividing my commands and initial deployment.  The Persians' low aggression means they usually set up terrain and deploy first. My goal was to find a flexible way to divide my commands, and to have a plan for setting up terrain and deploying my first two commands against an army with superior cavalry.

My army composition was the same as last game: 6x2LH, 7x3Cv, 2xLCh, 9x4Sp, 3x3Ax, and 9x2Ps.  That time I divided my troops into heavy foot, light foot, and mounted. However, with one huge psiloi backed spear command, I had few deployment options if I wanted to protect its flanks.  I could only protect one flank with bad going troops, which either left the other flank open or left the deployment of my third command too obvious.

This time, I used more combined arms in my commands.  My high PIP command had 3x4Sp, 3x3Ax, 2x2Ps, 2xLCh (gen), and 6x3Cv. Mid PIP was 6x4Sp (gen), 7x2Ps.  Low PIP was 6x2LH (gen), 1x3Cv.

With more light infantry along with the spears, they can anchor one or both flanks in bad going or against another command.  The combined arms high PIP command gave a lot more options in one location on the board, and is better at dealing with unpredictable threats. This is important when you deploy first.  The low PIP light horse command may seem foolish; in fact the evidence suggests it was foolish since it didn't live long enough for me to see if it could be effective. But my thought was that this command could act as an independent flanking force or bolster my high PIP cavalry force, whichever I needed most.

For deployment, I wanted a plan that would allow me to avoid what happened last time: the enemy's superior cavalry in two separate commands ganged up on my single cavalry command and took it apart.  I decided that to counter this, I'd use a deployment that led the enemy to believe they could use this tactic easily, but then deny its effectiveness.

The first image shows our initial deployment.  I'm on the bottom of the board.  I deployed a steep hill and a wood on one side of the board, to effectively split it in half.  On the other side I used a central wood to anchor my flank.  The road played no part in the battle or my plan.
I deployed my two rightmost commands first.  My psiloi-supported spear line has a block of psiloi on the left flank to take the wood and protect that flank, and three psiloi-supported auxilia on the right.  I deployed my cavalry behind, in a position meant to entice a cavalry attack and suggest I might place my third command on that side as well.

If I remember correctly, Steve's army had 5 elephants, 6 bows, 3 auxilia, 6 spear, 3 light horse and 3 psiloi; that would leave 10 cavalry.  Steve and JM's deployment went mostly according to my plan.  They placed the bulk of their cavalry (most importantly their elephants) on the far side of the wall of bad going.  This allowed me to more effectively avoid and pester them.  Their bows and auxilia were set up to take the steep hill, and their right flank was primarily foot with some linking cavalry.

I placed my light horse command on my far left flank, in position to harrass their relatively unprotected spear line on that flank.  My plan was working so far, but it hadn't survived contact with the enemy yet.  I intended to win on the left flank, and not lose on the right flank by denying it.  It felt inefficient to "not lose" with my high PIP command, and this might have been a mistake.

As an aside: In many tactical discussions in the Fanaticus forums, it is emphasized that you need a clear plan, simply stated; and that in BBDBA each command should have a clear mission it is capable of achieving.  However, my understanding of what such a plan looks like has been elusive.  In this battle I formed a clear plan, so as an example I'll state it:
The Plan: My overall plan was to deny the enemy on my right flank using the terrain to delay and confuse, and to attack on my left flank and turn the enemy's line.  The high PIP command's mission was to delay the enemy and prevent their passage through the wall of bad going.  The mid PIP command's mission was to advance towards the enemy in good going, secure the woods on the left flank, and attack.  The low PIP command's mission was to turn the enemy's flank.
My first moves on the right flank were to consolidate my position.  I pulled my dangling cavalry back to deny the flank, while advancing my Auxilia into the woods, intending to fill the line with my cavalry from the rear.  Here, it turns out I made a mistake: according to a recent thread on the Fanaticus forums, you can't form a column with elements that are currently in bad going.  Oops!  But Larry disagrees with that assessment, so I can probably get away with it in Pittsburgh... besides, I think my poor maneuvering in the woods caused me to use more PIPs than I would with single element moves anyway.
In the center I advanced my spear, and I was aggressive on the left flank. I advanced my psiloi to control the woods, and ran my light horse around them.

Unfortunately, my right flank became messy quickly.  I was able to avoid the elephants, but my decision to bolster the front line with cavalry turned out to be a bad idea against Steve's bows.  I lost the cavalry in front of my C-in-C, which was also blocking reinforcements from coming in from behind.  Luckily Steve was also split into several groups, and had a hard time maneuvering his mounted columns through and between the bad going.

The center was somewhat split up by my spear trying to cover for the lost cavalry, but it was advancing steadily on the left. On my left flank I was doing much better. I got around JM's flank and forced them to redeploy their psiloi, and put my general into position for a 3-3 quick kill against JM's spear. Unfortunately, not only did I not kill the spear, I also didn't recoil!  Cue ironic foreshadowing soundtrack.  Now you see it...

... and now you don't.  With his one PIP command roll, JM flanked my 2LH (gen) and killed it.  Doh!  This decisive die roll demoralized my low PIP command.  The only part it played for the rest of the game was for the lead 2LH element to ZOC one psiloi and keep it out of trouble for a few turns.

I managed to survive a lot longer than I expected after this, and actually felt like I had a chance for a while, but it ended up being a battle of attrition.  I made some progress on the left flank, but it wasn't killing as fast as my right flank was dying. 



On the right, most of my losses were my light troops in the woods.  This allowed some of Steve's cavalry through the wall, where it helped JM's cavalry against my spear. He finally got around the southern end of the wood with some of his elephants, but as you can see here he had a real command nightmare: elephants in 4 separate groups, with at least one group of elephants and two groups of cavalry out of command range due to the terrain.  Although this is what I hoped would happen, I didn't plan on spending as many elements to do it.

In the end, my high PIP command broke due to the loss of its sixth element, and the game was over.  I had killed 3 elements in their low PIP command (breakpoint 4), 3 in their mid PIP (breakpoint 5), and 3 in their high PIP (breakpoint 5).

Overall I had a lot of fun, it was a tense and tricky game throughout.  I consider it a success even though I lost, because:
  1. I was able to formulate a clear, well defined plan
  2. My terrain placement and deployment effectively supported the plan
  3. My feint on the right flank worked, in its basic principle
  4. I didn't think I was going to lose immediately after deployment was finished
On the other hand, I made the same mistake several times, and suffered heavily for it: I am not very good at ensuring that I have space to recoil when I make an attack (as evidenced by the Ax and Ps in the woods in the last image: the psiloi was my last element lost, killed by a simple recoil result).  I'm good at seeing when other players are poorly positioned, and I know when to take advantage of it... but I can't seem to protect myself adequately.

I'm more excited to play BBDBA than I was after my previous game, but I clearly need a lot more practice with single DBA tactics as well.

Thanks for the great game!

Update: Some caveats and thoughts after some of Steve's feedback:
  1. I had a plan, but I don't claim it was a good one.  I did lose, after all.
  2. Steve and JM deployed mostly as I hoped they would, but I don't know what my response would have been if they hadn't.
  3. I don't think my Cavalry deployment was very good.  I think my high PIP Ax/Sp line could've been done better as well.
  4. I may be better off with more 4Sp and less 3Ax.  I may be better off with one or two SCh instead of 2Ps.

2010-03-29

Game Review: Small World

After hearing the Small World review on the d6 Generation Podcast, I picked up a copy. This is a solid, interesting game.  But since there are better choices to play on game night, I expect I'll usually end up playing this one with the kids.

I would definitely recommend listening to the d6 Generation review for more details, but I'll summarize the game play here. Small World is a basic area-control game with a humorous fantasy theme. The world is populated by elves, dwarves, giants, and other fantasy creatures, but there just isn't enough room for everyone to live side by side in peace. 

The game uses a different map depending on how many people are playing, so the world is the correct size for any number of players from 2 to 5.  Game play is simple: collect your troop tokens, leaving one in each territory you control; and then place them on new territories to take control of them. Each territory requires 2 tokens for the space plus one for each troop or passive fortification on the space.  If another player's tokens are removed, they lose one and replace the rest as reinforcements at the end of the turn.  This population displacement mechanic makes it clear that this is a civilization-building game, and not a wargame.  At the end of each turn, you gain victory points based on how many territories you control.

There is no randomness during game play. The only randomness is in the mechanic that also generates the game's replayability: the races and special abilities.  At the start of the game, 5 races are turned up, along with a special ability for each.  Both the race and the special ability affect the number of troops required to capture a territory, the availability of passive defenses, and the number of victory points awarded for each space.  For example, Commando Wizards have the "Commando" special ability, which reduces the number of troops required to take each space by one; and the "Wizard" special ability, which gives an extra victory point for controlling magic spots on the board.

There are quite a few different races and special abilities, and they're randomly combined.  This produces many different combinations of game effects to choose from each time you play.

The game mechanics are simple, there is no randomness to speak of, and no hidden information is used during game play.  The current VP total is hidden, but best left secret until the end of the game anyway.  There is minimal reading required, mainly to figure out what each race and special ability does, but even if not all players can read, it's fine to have one person explain things to the others.   And the game only lasts about an hour, plus or minus 20 minutes.

For all of these reasons, this makes an unexpectedly good game for youngsters.  The recommended age range is 8+, but Martine and her friend Levi have played with no problems at age 6+ (first grade).

I expect there's a bit more strategy to explore in multiple plays with adult opponents and higher player counts, but I think this game will come out more often with the kids except as a short duration filler game with adults.

Canned Monk's Blood

I picked up an interesting case of beer this weekend: Monk's Blood, by 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. This is the first time in years I've bought beer in a can, but it would be totally unfair to judge this beer by its packaging.

This is a "Belgian Dark Ale" with a laundry list of interesting ingredients: Belgian candi sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and dried figs.  The flavor definitely fits my profile for an enjoyable beer.  It's not very hoppy.  It's sweet and malty enough to hide they 8.3% alcohol content, but it doesn't bowl you over as much as a barley wine does.  The yeast doesn't seem to add much character: it has neither the sour nor "musty" profile of many Belgian yeasts. 

None of the special additions overpower the flavor; it still tastes like beer, not cake.  If I tasted the beer without knowing its ingredients I might notice it was slightly spicy, but I doubt I'd be able to identify the vanilla or cinnamon flavors. Everything else is fermented by the time I get to drink it anyway.

I was a bit surprised how similar the brew is to Dogfish Head's Midas Touch. As implied by its name, Monk's Blood is much darker and reddish in color. The only odd taste I had in the first can was a bit of metallic bitterness, possibly from the figs?  It wasn't noticeable after the first few sips in any case.

Unlike most craft brews, this beer comes in cans.  I blame Pabst Blue Ribbon and the impression it's been making on the hipster crowd in recent years. 

Overall I'm very happy with my purchase and I'd get it again, despite the silly price of beer in Pennsylvania.

2010-03-28

Miniature Warfare 2010 at Legions

On Saturday, there was a historical miniature wargaming event at Legions: Miniature Warfare. 

The organizers had about 5 games scheduled before the event, which were available for anyone to walk up and play. There were two or three Flames of War events, a Sharpe Practice scenario in the Napoleonic period, an American Civil War scenario using Brother Against Brother, and a Sword and the Flame game.  At the last minute they added Jim Naughton's game, a Battles of Napoleon scenario; and a modern Disposable Heroes game.

Unfortunately the organization and publicity wasn't ideal.  Many folks came out and played pick-up games, including the normal Saturday gaming crowd, but the scheduled games didn't seem to have a lot of attendance; some weren't even run due to lack of players.   

Steve, JM, and I got there before the event started, and started playing BBDBA (battle reports are forthcoming for the DBA/BBDBA games). After that, Steve and JM played a small game of DBN while I checked out some of the other games, but I wasn't as interested in some of them as I thought I might be.

I wanted to see what Sharpe Practice looked like, since it's billed as a skirmish scale game.  It was still a lot more figures than I'd want to paint for Napoleonics, and they were 28mm.  I think in this case "skirmish" means it has a 1 man to 1 figure scale, but you still need a lot of figures/men to play a game.

The Sword and the Flame scenario looked really interesting, but not enough players showed up to actually run the game, and I was there long after it should've started anyway.

I pushed lead for a few turns in Jim's Battles of Napoleon game, but there wasn't much action on my end of the board, and I was planning to stop when JM and Steve were finished.  Unfortunately for all the Napoleonics players looking for new opponents, I'm still not very interested in this period.  I'd play a DBN event because I like those rules, but I still have no interest in painting for the period.

When the DBN game was finished, Steve left.  I played DBA with JM: my Spartans vs. his Athenians.  Next was a slow game of DBA with John: his Nikephorian Byzantines slowly extracted my Mountain Indians from their fortified positions in the woods and steep hills.

Then, John and JM played DBA with Byzantines vs. Alexander the Great. I looked around at games and products for a while, and when Jim was finished with Napoleon's Battles, I played DBA with him.  Our second game was cut short when I needed to leave.

I feel like I might have forgotten one of the games I played; it seems like not enough games to fill the space.  Unfortunately much of the day there were 3 players for DBx games, so one of us just hung around during many of the games.

Overall it was a fine day of DBA, but unfortuantely we didn't participate in the non-DBx games very much.   I suppose that's not a downside if we weren't interested in the games, though.  I think the best result was getting more historical gamers in the same room at the same time.  For future events, I think in order to succeed the event may need to be more strictly separated from the open pick-up gaming going on at the store concurrently.

2010-03-23

Battle of Five Armies: The Good Guys

I've finished with the humanoid armies from my Battle of Five Armies box, and started with the leaders, eagles, and bear.  These were all a lot more fun than the Goblins, but I don't feel a need to paint any more of them.

2010-03-20

DBA at Legions... on a Friday??

I met JM at Legions this Friday, to play some DBA, and discovered a latent desire to play DBA in several other Legions gamers as well. They should really get out on a First Monday of the Month, since the Stooge crowd has other plans on Friday nights.

I arrived shortly after 9pm and waited for JM to finish up his Flames of War game while I tried to wake up... I really could've used a nap. I brought 5 armies so there would be plenty of different opponents, and ended up playing 4 games total.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures while I was playing...  I'm writing down my thoughts primarily so I'll remember them.

In the first game, JM played II/12: Alexandrian Macedonians with the 4Ax option, against my II/7: Later Achaemenid Persians. I took my now-standard mix of 3x4Sp, 1x3Ax and 1x2Ps.

At this point I hadn't waken up yet, and I don't remember much of the game. But I do remember it was fairly tight, and I remember the pivotal event: I had my mounted force on my right flank, and I was able to surround Alexander (3Kn) on the front, one flank, and rear, for a +2 (or +3?) to +3 quick kill. Of course, it ended up 1-6 against me: I lost an element and the rest of my mounted fled in all directions. Alexander easily picked off one last element for the win... pretty much a historical match up the whole way.

In retrospect, the one error I know I made but failed to correct was to deploy three woods instead of two woods and a steep hill, for arable terrain. Oops! It obviously didn't help me much...

During the first game, John ran home to get his DBA army, which he had never played yet: III/64, Nikephorian Byzantine. This is a bit of an oddball with its large base elements: 1x6Kn, 3x8Bw. In the second game I played against John, once again with my Later Achaemenid Persians. I tend to use them when teaching the game since it's a fairly straightforward force from a rules perspective (if not a tactical perspective).

John had read the rules but never played the game, but despite the Byzantine general's inexperience, my Persians remembered their recent defeat by superior Yuan cavalry and were fearful. I deployed two woods and one steep hill at three points of a triangle, 6-7" from the edges. John won the edge with the steep hill, which I had planned for, but that left me with the two woods on my flanks, and not quite enough room to deploy my full force as widely as I'd prefer.

I deployed my spear block between the woods with my General in reserve, my bad going troops on the right flank, and my cavalry on the left. My 2x3Cv snuck in next to the woods, and my 2x2LH were in column behind my line, faced left to sweep out around the flank.

John deployed his bow elements on the hill (as I hoped), his cavalry facing my left flank with a rear line in reserve, and his light horse on my right flank in position to threaten my camp. He had a lot more room to deploy than the space between the woods, so he was cramped when trying to move in on my left flank.

On my right, he threatened my camp with his light horse. In response, I directed my psiloi through the woods towards his light horse and also redeployed my two light horse elements to the opposite (right) flank behind my main line. The psiloi forced his horse to retreat, gaining advantage on that flank.

Meanwhile, in the center he walked down from the steep hill as I wheeled my spear to reduce the room for his cavalry even more. Eventually the light infantry on my right flank joined in the battle against his bows while my light horse prevented his light horse from threatening my camp. In the end I killed some of his bows, while he punched a hole in my spear line with his Knight, leaving him with 2 kills and me with 3. But my spear line was now vulnerable, so I needed to get one more kill...

I advanced out of the woods toward his remaining bows, and flanked his light horse with my two light horse. I killed his light horse with mine and ended the game, but the bow fight was fruitless.

But wait! I think my light horse were out of command range and I didn't have enough PIPs to move them both... but I'm not sure. We decided it was a Pyhrric victory at best, since we couldn't determine the initial element positions closely enough to be sure of the command radius, and we were both glad we learned from that game.

In the third game, JM played Warring States Chao Chinese (II/4c) against my Skythians (I/43a). While he went to the rest room, I swapped out the 24" board for a 30" board so I'd stand a chance. I ended up being the attacker (no surprise), and he deployed with two woods on one side and an empty board on the other.  I got my preferred board edge and he got no terrain on his side at all.  If I were him I'd probably have used more terrain to ensure the Skythians had to attack a defensible position.

He deployed with all his bow on my left flank near the board edge, with the line extending to his cavalry near the center of the board. Wow, 30" boards look a lot bigger, there's plenty of room to get around the sides.

In response, I deployed my light horse in two columns of four with my general between them, and my bad going troops on my right flank in case he swapped some bow over to that side. My plan was to outnumber his cavalry on the right flank, possibly using my bad going troops to screen his bow if he swapped it to that side (he didn't), and to ignore his slow-walking foot on my left.

This worked as planned, with a little help from JM. In the first turn, he launched his LH far out into my field, isolated and alone, and I picked them off. I don't think this was the best move for his LH, since it's easy to kill elements when you outnumber and surround them.

This initial Light Horse battle reminded me a bit of my very limited understanding of the tactics used in Go. JM used a PIP to move into a disadvantageous combat, despite my warning against it: he had a plan. I told him it may be better to force me to use my PIPs instead. This is similar to how I understand Go should be played. Technically, the rules say that you use stones to surround your opponent and capture their stones, but in reality good players use only the stones required to demonstrate that it is inevitable that you will eventually surround your opponent, and no more. If they force the issue you prove it to them, but there's no use in either side expending any resources on a foregone conclusion.

Similarly, in DBA if you know the outcome of a situation is inevitable, then force the other player to spend PIPs to resolve it. Since DBA has randomness (unlike Go), they might not have the PIPs required, and may not be able to complete the attack. It may not be the most important way for your enemy to spend PIPs, especially if you can use other troops to increase the threat somewhere else. At the very least, making the enemy spend 1 PIP instead of you incurs a 2 PIP advantage overall.

This realization begins to show me how to see DBA primarily as a PIP management game, rather than a combat result game. 

After his second LH was inevitably destroyed, I moved on to the rest of his flank and faced his 3xKn (gen), though I thought it was a non-general knight. Oops! He killed a light horse or two while I surrounded his flank, but I never doubted the outcome: my concentrated forces eventually took out his general and I won.

In the last game, I played II/4c Warring States Chinese (Chao) against JM with II/12 Alexandrian Macedonian. Apparently we met in India somewhere, judging by the palm trees we used for terrain.

I was defending and once again, laid out 3 large terrain pieces: two woods and one steep hill in a triangle, directly in the deployment zone. This time I got the steep hill on my right flank and a wood on my left, and JM got a central wood opposite me. It was a very tight deployment for me between the bad going, with barely enough room for my 4x4Sp. I deployed my spear line centrally with 2x4Cb in the woods to the left, 1x4Cb on the hill to the right, my chariots behind the main line, and my light horse on my far right flank to the right of the steep hill.

He deployed everything on my left flank, with his artillery and bad going troops centrally in the wood. He advanced, and I brought my LH around the flank to threaten his Artillery if he left the woods. On the left flank, he wheeled in to line up his pike block between the bad going, and send his light horse around my flank to my camp. I responded by sending my bow through the woods to ZoC his pike block's flank, and by sending my reserve HCh to protect the camp.

He shot one of my LH with his artillery, while my spear block moved up to take on his bad going troops. On the left flank, my two bow units successfully delayed the advance of the Pike block to meet my spear's advance.

I ended up killing his 2LH, a few pike with my bows, and enough elements in the center to seal a victory.

I think JM put up a good defense, especially with his use of the artillery, but he was really trying to shove too many units into too small a space on my left flank, without any bad going support on his flank.

Update:  Oops!  We made a mistake: artillery can't enter bad going off-road.  That would have changed things significantly on that flank.  

During my last games with JM, John coached Mike through his first game of DBA with some help from JM and I. Mike borrowed my Persians to face John's Nikephorian Byzantines again, but they didn't fare as well this time: John deployed as the attacker to set up some very good matchups, and wore down Mike's cavalry with his bows.  It was a fine demonstration of the game mechanics, and Mike is also interested in playing again.

I managed to get out of the store at around 1:30am after paying my "play at the local game store" tax.

Overall, we all seemed to enjoy these games and learn from them. Playing with relatively new players fooled me into thinking I knew what I was doing... sometimes. And I really do enjoy the 30" board more than 24". Maybe Friday can be 30" DBA night and first Monday of the Month can be reserved for 24" boards?

Thanks for the great games! I'm inspired to paint more armies now so we can have more unique opponents.

2010-03-15

More Skythian Pictures

Here are some better, less day-glo pictures of my Skythians.
Here is one element of Camp Followers, and two Psiloi.  I painted the CF more recently, and I much prefer the slightly less intense colors I chose for them.  These are all Falcon figures, 15mm.
Two Auxilia.  The army list includes only one, but I painted the element on the right for the Battle at the Crossroads 2010, where Skythians were allowed a 13th element in their army.  Essex figures.

The back side of the cavalry general (Falcon) and two elements of 2LH (Essex).  Apparently those skins on the light horse are the flayed skins of their enemies.
Same elements, front view.
3x2LH, Falcon.
3 more 2LH, Falcon.
The last 4x2LH, Falcon.

Eureka 15mm Tlingit figures










I ordered enough Eureka 15mm Tlingit figures to build DBA army IV/11: North-Western American.  The elements are: 1x3Bw (Gen), 9x3Bw, 2x2Ps; and the army is Littoral, so sometimes it can drop some of the bow in the rear or flank of the enemy.  Shooting entirely on the rear edge, anyone?

I am inspired to build this army mainly because my sister Sarah fled to Alaska after college and never looked back.  Now, she's living in Sitka, where the Battle of Sitka took place in 1804 between Tlingit warriors and Russian traders with the help of the Russian navy.  That time period is well outside the scope of the DBA rule set, but the Tlingit lived in the area long before the Russians ever arrived.

These warriors were equipped in a very unique way, with wooden helmets in the form of animal heads, and wooden slat armor.  I'd like to do a reasonable job painting them accurately, with the understanding that I'm not capable of reproducing much detail on masks that are only 3-4mm high. 

The figures come in several different combinations of weapons and armor.  I'm not sure if all of the sculpts are accurate or not, or if the DBA army list (primarily massed bowmen) represents the actual fighting style used by the Tlingit in the 12-14th centuries.  Unfortunately, this selection of figures and army list definition are the only choice I have right now.  If there are any major problems, I'm sure Slingshot, the publication of the Society of Ancients, would publish an article containing any better information that is available.

The main features I need to know how to color correctly are:
  • I think the wooden slat armor is natural wood colored.
  • The skin armor/clothing seems to either have the fur on the inside, or to be scraped clean; some have fur edges on the bottom.  I don't know whether these would be "natural" skin color, or whether they'd have designs painted on them.
  • There are several wooden masks in animal forms, and an odd one (in the image TLI 03) that looks a bit like an upturned colander or medieval great helm.  I understand these are typically painted in a light blue (turquoise? copper oxide?), black, and red (iron oxide?), but I'm not sure what patterns should be used (or whether I can pull them off in 15mm scale anyway). I'm also not sure if the hemet in TLI 03 is accurate or not.
  • The conical wooden hats seem to be almost the correct shape compared to pictures I've seen, but I don't know if they'd be worn in battle or what color they should be.
  • What material would knives and spear points be made of, prior to European contact?  Or would they be unavailable that early?
  • I presume the sword-like implement is actually a wooden club?
  • I'm not sure whether bows, clubs, and spear shafts would be plain wood, or painted.  My initial inclination is to use my standard ochre yellow "wood-like color" for all of them.
So, Sarah: Please tell me if these pictures are any better than the ones already available on Eureka's web site.  I don't have a great photo setup, and I tend to have problems with getting proper focus in macro mode.  Unpainted miniatures, especially this small, are notoriously difficult to photograph well unless you give them a black wash to bring out the highlights.

The dime is here for scale comparison purposes, for those unfamiliar with the diminutive size of 15mm figures.

Thanks!

Edit: One more thing: how are an army's leaders distinguished from its "rank and file" soldiers, so to speak?  In DBA, the army's "general" (or army-appropriate leader) must be visually different from other similar elements.

2010-03-12

Too Many Goblins!

I'm glad I only bought one box of Battle of the Five Armies for now, because I am totally sick of painting these tiny goblins!

This is 8 units of goblins, with 3 stands per unit and 2 rows of figures per stand, or 48 rows total.  These 8 units are also a bit under 1/3 of all of the figures in the box.

As I mentioned in the Fanaticus forum: there are always too many goblins, they're almost as bad as Romans!  At least these are in 10mm scale, I don't think I could handle painting many of these in 28mm.

2010-03-02

BBDBA at Legions, March 2010

Tonight at Legions DBA night, we played BBDBA.  It was my first time playing a "proper" BBDBA game by the Rules As Written.  I brought my Later Achaemenid Persians (II/7), and we decided by a roll of the dice that my Persians would face Jim's Yuan Chinese (IV/48).  Another roll of the dice put Rich on Jim's team, and Steve on mine.

I put some thought into this game before I got there, but not a lot.  I anticipated the possibility of facing Steve's Hundred Years War English, which would present a vast array of new tactical problems: lots of artillery and bows.  It was different enough from anything I've faced so far that I felt I'd have no chance of winning (but many opportunities for learning from my mistakes).

That turned out not to matter, but the Yuan Chinese presented another challenge: even more cavalry than my Persians. My main pre-planning went into how to split my army into commands that had optimal break points and well-defined tactical purposes.  I settled on a 16 element high-pip command consisting of 8 cavalry (and light chariot), 6 light horse, and 2 psiloi; a 13 element low-pip command consisting of 9 spear, 3 psiloi for rear support, and the C-in-C (cavalry); and a 7 element mid-pip command with 3 Auxilia and 4 Psiloi in an active role.

When it came to playing the game, 7 elements seemed small for a mid-pip command, and I was convinced it was better to put 2 psiloi back from the high pip command into the mid pip.  Jim broke his side's command into a high pip command consisting primarily mounted but with a bit of bad going support; a low pip all-mounted command; and a mid pip foot command with a bit of mounted support.  The aggression roll made us the defender, and I placed terrain as seen in the accompanying pictures.  I left a wide open space for my spear wall, with enough bad going to anchor its flanks and room for the cavalry to play on the sides.

Next came deployment.  We deployed the spear wall in the obvious open space in the middle, and the bad going troops to the left, with our cavalry in reserve.  In retrospect, there was only one good place to put the cavalry, so we should've placed that first, instead. It's also fastest, so if we had placed it incorrectly it'd be easier to move than the foot.  If we placed the bad going troops last, they could have reinforced either of the spear's flanks as necessary.
The first picture shows the board after the first turn, which is very similar to our initial deployment (our side on the bottom).  At this point, I basically knew I was screwed and should just immediately give up.  My cavalry was far outnumbered on my right flank, both in number elements and in number of pips, since he had two commands playing against one of mine.  Another major concern was the fact that I attempted to anchor my spear's right flank on the woods, but I didn't provide any bad going troops to secure it.  The gap between my cavalry and spear was wide, and a huge problem, since it was big enough for the enemy foot to flank my spear, and my horse could do almost nothing to help.

I'd hope that a Real general in my position would mount an orderly retreat and return to fight another day. But historically, Darius III only ever routed in a very disorderly fashion after Alexander turned his flank, so we decided to let the Yuan play the part of Alex this time around.

From here on out, the battle went very predictably, but it was accelerated by Jim's excellent die rolling skills.  He had multiple turns in a row where the low-pip command had 4 pips, and was consistently rolling 5's and 6's in combat as I rolled 1's.  Blame it on the dice, I always say!  No, it's better to learn from my mistakes, instead.  "Oh no, not another learning experience."

The beginning of the end came on the right flank.  I advanced in an attempt to isolate individual cavalry elements before they left the steep hill and regrouped, and wheeled to the left to defensively increase my frontage against Jim's line.  It didn't work: he punched a hole in my light horse with his cavalry general, and was able to exploit it.

The big mistake I made here was deploying my light horse too far to the flank and leaving my stronger cavalry on the left where it did no good.  I also should've thrown my general into the fray, since he wasn't the commander in chief.

In the mean time, Steve was doing better on the opposite flank.   His bad going troops and my spear in the middle outnumbered the enemy's mid-pip command.  He had control of the flank to the extent that a coordinated attack between the spear and his auxilia could fold the flank easily.

But there were a few problems. One was bad die rolling on our part, of course.  Another was the fact that even if we did turn that flank, it didn't contain Jim's commander-in-chief, so it wouldn't be enough to win the game.  But most importantly, time was running out.  My right flank mission should have been to delay the larger commands, but my impatience got me into trouble and didn't give Steve the time required to win on his side.

The final image here shows the Middle of the End.  I do think bad die rolls had a disproportionate effect against us on our left flank; we were in a pretty good position overall.

On the right, we had no chance.  By retreating I was able to close the gaps in my line somewhat, but my line was stretched thin and Jim's had plenty in reserve.  I eventually lost my 5th element there (it wasn't love), and the command was demoralized.

We were still in the game, but not for long.  We had one turn for me to make an effort not to run away before the spear command was also demoralized and we lost.

I learned a lot, and had a good time despite losing.  In order to fix the game, I think I'd have to change almost everything I did: splitting the commands, deploying terrain, and deploying the army.

In retrospect, my initial split that included 2 psiloi with my cavalry might have helped a lot.  Those two psiloi would have done a good job in the bad going, delaying Jim's auxilia and protecting my spear's flank.

But if I had 2 Scythed Chariots instead of psiloi, those would also have helped in my cavalry command, by giving me a bit of punch and increasing the size of the command without a penalty for losing them.

I wonder if the other two commands would've worked better if I had given 3 spear and a psiloi to the bad going command.  Steve could've used the spear in the good going, and helped the situation overall by reducing pip demands on the central spear command.

That would leave an 11 element mid-pip command consisting of 3xAx, 3xSp, and 5xPs; a 9 element low-pip command consisting of 6xSp, 2xPs, and 1xCv (gen); and a 16 element high-pip command with 8xCv/LCh, 6xLH, and 2xSCh.

One more tweak and it looks even better: give one more Psiloi to the low-pip command to link with the cavalry, and I'd have a 10/10/16 split, which is ideal for break points.   Then, the main problem would be deploying two of those commands without either giving away too much information, or compromising one of the low pip command's flanks.

I think in order to have any chance of sucess with BBDBA I'll need a lot more practice with single-army games.  But I enjoy the game even if I fail at it, which is always a good sign.

Thanks for another good night of gaming at Legions, everyone!

2010-03-01

The Battle of Five Armies: The Dogs

I've started painting figures from GW's Battle of the Five Armies boxed game. I started with the Wolves and Goblin Warg Riders because I like dogs, and find them easy to paint.  The four units of Wolves and four units of Goblin Warg Rider cavalry represent just under 1/3 of the figures in the Battle of Five Armies box.

These are 10mm miniatures, quite a bit smaller than my 15mm DBA armies.  This is the scale where sane people stop shading anything and resort to block colors with black lining between them.  The results are quite reasonable at normal playing distance (arm's length), but as seen in the pictures here, they're not meant for closeups.

These are plastic figures, and the shape of the wolves is exactly the same as the 28mm Warhammer wolves.  All of the plastics are modelled at 4x scale or larger, and then they somehow shrink them down when making the molds.  The figures lose some detail on the top and bottom, since there can't be any undercuts in the mold, but leaving black primer there hides the defect well enough.

The main complaint I have about the figures themselves is the fact that the poses are all identical.  They're packed tightly onto the bases and you can't get much variation in their position.  As far as accuracy goes: the wolves and wargs are the same models, unfortunately.

I've heard a theory that Tolkien's Wargs are actually Andrewsarchus Mongoliensis.  This makes sense from a morphological perspective, and I enjoy the idea and its possible implications. Although it's hard to interpret the intent of the author when it comes to fictional works, I think that once a book is written, the interpretation of the reader is far more important than the intent of the author.  Stories that stand the test of time will inevitably suffer no end of interpretations inconsistent with the author's designs, but they will survive them all.

However, I've also decided that I don't really enjoy painting these 10mm guys.  It's not hard, despite how small they seem, and it's impressive how little paint it takes to make a figure look painted if you're leaving black lines between the block colors.  But it's a very tedious, repetitive process.  Watching (listening to?) the olympics helped a lot, but that's over now.

I've finished painting the goblin infantry as well, but they aren't all based yet, because I ran out of metal 40mm x 20mm bases until I got more tonight at Legions. That leaves "the good guys" and leaders.  I've started the elves, but haven't gotten very far on them yet.