2010-07-20

Tlingit Preview

I've finished painting my Tlingit helmets, and I'm excited to share some initial results.  The pictures aren't great, and the figures aren't based yet, but I'm quite happy with these guys. Most of the helmets are patterned after Tlingit artifact images I found online, or helmets carved and painted by Tommy Joseph.  Thanks for the excellent inspiration, Tommy!  I apologize for my inferior work and any errors my ignorance of the subject material have produced.







2010-07-17

Historicon 2010: DBA

I followed my DBA plans quite closely.  I'll describe my overall impressions first, with my personal results later so I'll remember them (but not because I think anyone else cares).

I definitely enjoyed playing DBA at Historicon.  The last time I went to an HMGS convention I was alone, and decided it wasn't fun enough for me to go again without a travelling companion; but I was only playing GM'd games and not DBA.  This time, I played DBA with folks I've met online, and some I've played with in person, and it made the convention a lot more enjoyable.  I definitely plan to attend more cons just for the DBA, and I'll be more likely than I was this time to dedicate an entire day to BBDBA doubles or other longer tournaments.

It was good to finally associate faces and personalities to their online counterparts.  I think this is important to provide context for interpreting peoples' forum posts (especially all the taunting).  I was as shy as I usually am in person, but opened up somewhat as the weekend progressed.

I really enjoyed playing against new opponents and against armies I've never faced or even seen before.  The themes helped with this.  In particular, the Assyrian Dominance and Fall theme increased my interest in book I armies significantly.

My goal for the convention was to win one game in every tournament except Midnite Madness, which I would lose so I could get to bed earlier.  I won the right number of games, but in the wrong events: I won the first round of Midnite Madness, but didn't win any games in the Baltic Crusades event.

In the Splendor of Persia event, first round(s) were matched by army year as usual, resulting in several civil wars.  My Arab Conquest army faced Tony Aguilar's Arab Conquest, the four Ghaznavid players all fought each other for the first two rounds, and the Fatamid players duked it out.  Tony beat me 4-2.  In the next two rounds I lost to David Schlanger's Fatamids, 5-2, and Ron Giampapa's Fatamids, 2g-1.  Finally, in the last round I pulled off a 4-1 win against Rob Torres and his Ghaznavids.

Immediately following the Persian event was Midnite Madness.  I continued to use my Arab Conquest army, and beat Jim Kasper's Thematic Byzantines in the first round, 4g-1.  In the next round, David Bostwick beat me 5-1 with his Leidangs.  This was the most interesting Viking-ish battle I've ever fought or seen.  The Leidang light foot helped, and Leidang have a much lower aggression than Vikings.  But he didn't just deploy in a long line and walk forward.  Vikings have options?  Who knew.

On Friday, my only DBA event was the Assyrian Dominance and Fall theme.  Unfortunately, the tournament only had 3 rounds, so I was unable to collect a full set of 4 Bostwicks. In the first round, I beat Jason Bostwick's Early Bedouins with my Early Bedouins, 4-2.  Next I lost 4-1 against David Bostwick's Philistines: despite two or three rounds of combat with his general completely surrounded, I just couldn't kill it, and he ended up totally turning the tables. Finally, I lost 1g-0 against Alex Bostwick's Philistines in a very short game; but not the shortest.  Someone else lost their general to a psiloi rush in the first or second turn in that round.

The first event on Saturday was Not The NICT: matched pairs for everyone who didn't qualify for the championships.  There were 6 of us, and we ended up playing 3 rounds to find a best player in the A and B groups.  In the first round we used my armies.  Mike Guth chose Early Bedouins against my Later Achaemenid Persians, and beat me 4-1.  In the next round, I chose Alex Halkiadakis's ("Greek Alex") Hittite Empire (a) list against his Mitanni, and won 4-2.  It was enjoyable to "test drive" this army since I have it unpainted in a box.  I managed to repel his light foot in the woods successfully with my spears, with the help of some good die rolls.  In the last round, Hank Drapalski chose to play Later Achaemenid Persians against my Bedouins, and beat me 4-3 in a close match.  The tactical situation was very stressful for Hank, but I enjoyed the interesting battle.

I was afraid that bringing light foot armies to a matched pair would result in longer games that might have to be called due to time, but this was an incorrect assessment.  Light foot vs. heavy foot can be slow due to all the posturing and maneuvering required to find good matchups and avoid bad ones.  In an all-light-foot battle, face to face battles in open ground are viable and resolve much more quickly than spear lines with their higher combat factors.  I enjoyed the maneuvering that happened in these battles.

My final event for the con was the Baltic Crusades theme campaign.  I expect a full report of the campaign to be posted on the Fanaticus forum in due time, so I'll give my impression of the rule changes that affected me, and summarize my games the best I can from memory.

The basic campaign rules work as I expected based on reading about other Two Davids campaigns.  Each campaign round, players draw numbered tiles from a bag.  Players act in ascending order, to choose where to attack.  Attacker's aggression is the distance moved plus one, and defender's aggression is zero.  You can move over battles but not over opponents who aren't locked in battle yet.

There were a few rules that affected the Mongols.  First, their aggression was 0 plus the number of regions moved instead of 1, to represent their superior scouting.  This had only a minor effect on my games, since the attacker alway has higher aggression anyway.  Mongols who won an attack (not a defensive combat) could move their home region, but that didn't affect anyone in this tournament.

Finally, Mongols were allowed to flank march.  This worked exactly as a littoral landing on a sea of grass, except you could only deploy to the sides, not the rear.  It provided additional tactical options, but it was risky.  On a 30" board you were virtually guaranteed to be out of command radius if you made anything but a very conservative landing.  The light horse can catch up with their multiple moves, if you get enough PIPs, but you're definitely at risk on early turns until you roll high.

In the first round, I drew a high number but was still able to attack.  I attacked Jim Kasper's Russians, one of the few remaining targets. All I'll say about this game is: always remember to deploy all twelve elements before you start the game.  Oh yeah, also: a lot of the board can be outside command range on a 30" board.

Next round, I was attacked by David Kuijt, playing Volga Bulgars.  I placed terrain (not particularly well) and put up a good fight, but he beat me.  I had a handle on command radius by then, but the whole tournament I was trying to figure out what to do with my artillery.  I was able to get a few shots off, but mostly it got in my way a lot.  After the game, DK showed me a better terrain deployment for my situation: if I had placed one central piece of bad going, it would provide only one place for his bows to hide.  That gives me one obvious target for my artillery, which makes it easier to know where to point it.

In the third round, I faced David Schlanger's Russians; I don't remember whether I attacked or not.  This was my first attempt at a flank march, and it almost worked really well.  He didn't deploy to counter it, and ended up moving a huge force to face the threat to his flank.  This ate a lot of PIPs, and although a few of my light horse died, the rest was able to retreat with multiple moves when he was at his weakest.  This allowed my main force to attack frontally, and I almost beat him.  It was a tight 3-3 bout that hinged on very few die rolls, but eventually he took my general and won.  I really enjoyed that game, and again, I learned a lot.

My final match was against David Bostwick's Cumans: he had even more light horse than me.  He deployed to counter a flank march, but I attempted one anyway.  It didn't work out as well, but I was able to retreat without significant losses.  In that situation in the future, I think it would've been better to skip the flank attack and swarm him frontally, hoping he couldn't redeploy his flanks in time.  I remember this also being a fairly close match, but I may not be remembering correctly.

In the end, I got no points for winning games or any other bonus VP, but I lost one for losing my general.  I ended up in last place, the only player with a negative score.  Oh well, better luck next time. Overall, the campaign was dominated by the stronger Western armies, but I never faced any of them so I have no good reason to have lost so much.

I had a great time at Historicon.  My sincere thanks go to the event coordinators for organizing these events, and to my opponents for teaching me valuable lessons.  I definitely hope to go to more HMGS cons in the future, and to eventually start winning a few more games.

2010-07-16

Falcon Figures: War Wagon

Here are some pictures I took at Historicon of the Falcon Figures Hussite/Polish war wagon.  It is quite small, and looks small enough to put on a DBA base.  The wagon is available with either oxen or horses to pull it, and a crew of either 4 men (ELM21, a single casting) or 3 men and a gun (shown on the wagon).


Historicon 2010: Duke's Jubilee

Duke Siefried has gained a reputation over the years for running large, impressive games at the conventions.  He decided to retire from this and clear out his collection, presumably so his kids wouldn't have to. But first, one last bash: Uncle Duke's Diamond Jubilee!

For his last year at Historicon, Duke brought 14 games and ran them (with the help of numerous volunteers) throughout the weekend.  There was a special area set aside just for these games, and they were all always full of players.  After the show, everything was available for sale (I didn't check the prices: "if you have to ask...")

Here are some pictures I took of the highlights.  It's hard to convey the scale of these games in pictures.  They are simultaneously really big and highly detailed at a small scale.  The miniatures were definitely painted to "convention gaming" standard, but when you put this many 25mm figures on a table at the same time, it looks impressive even with a basic paint job.

Most of the games were large, but his Jolly Roger game was played in a very innovative way.  Large scale pirate ships with 25mm crews were mounted on waist-high movement stands, and the game was played on the floor.  This provided for a much bigger game than a table allows (due to arm length limitations) without having to sit down.  There were floating islands and ports around the edges of the play area as well.  The game used Duke's Jolly Roger home rules.


I think this game is Zulu! with Isandlwana Mountain in the distance.  It stood taller than me, and the table was probably 15-20 feet long. The rules were a variant of The Sword and the Flame.

I didn't take notes on which game was which, but this one is most likely Fire & Sword in the Sudan, using Duke's Fire & Sword home rules (not to be confused with The Sword and the Flame rules for the same period).  The table used real sand scattered over the terrain for a very realistic effect.






This one is Babylon I, with the hanging gardens just out of frame to the right.  This Babylonian vs Assyrian game was played with 25mm figures and a variant of DBA called De Bellis Extravaganza.  Talk on the Fanaticus forums suggests the rule changes were minor, and related to the specifics of this battle: some combat factors were modified, and some troops that ordinarily don't have ranged shooting could shoot.



Finally, Azteca!   Set in Tenochtitlan (Mexico City in the time of the Aztecs), this battle between Aztecs and Conquistadors was played with another of Duke's home rules: Aztec! The Game. 

2010-07-15

Historicon 2010: Games Except DBA

Since DBA took up the bulk of my Historicon experience, I'll go over "everything else" first.

There was "much ado about nothing" this year, w.r.t. Historicon changing locations. My two second synopsis of the Valley Forge location is that it was just fine, and I'd go back again. The only downside I could see was that the club rooms were far away from the rest of the gaming, but that's not a big problem for me.  It certainly wasn't substantially worse than what I remember about Lancaster.

I stayed in a campground in my parents' RV. This reduced lodging costs, but the extra driving wasn't ideal. For future conventions I'd consider committing more completely to "con as vacation" or maybe just a long weekend.

My big mistake was missing the online preregistration period. A smaller mistake that ended up being a major pain was choosing the wrong line to stand in during walk-in registration. The other line moved, mine didn't: I was there for hours longer than I would've been in the other line. This ruined our evening, but at least it was before the convention started.

The game selection this year emphasized periods I'm not interested in, probably due to this year's theme (Pike and Shot). The changes between the Priliminary Event List available online in May and the program seemed minimal. Luckily I only needed to find a few games to fill my schedule.

The first of my three non-DBA games was a Battlestar Galactica space battle. The rules aren't published yet, but the working title seems to be Picon Military Academy.  It's based on the Colonial Battlefleet rules that were played last year and published in a lincense-free generic form.

The Iron Wind BSG figures are beautiful! They have a lot of detail and look like they'll paint up easily while providing excellent results.  Unfortunately the gamemaster didn't have any missiles or torpedos, so we ended up with a lot of markers on the board.

The rules are IGO-UGO.  Ships have a current speed, maximum speed, and can change their speed by a certain amount each turn.  They are also very maneuverable, and can make one or more 30 degree turns each movement.  Fighters go wherever they want.  Shooting is done per weapon system using a range system: the gun's range (including a die roll) must be greater than the target's distance to hit.  Hits roll penetration, and penetrating hits do damage.

Our scenario was very straightforward, and quickly turned into a shoot-em-up. I think it was a bit too early for the gamemaster to be "all there" yet.

I'd play the game again, and I was very tempted to buy the figures; but I'd really like to wait until the rules come out so I can figure out what to buy first.  These ships are definitely on my "to buy" list once I know what I want.

My second game was Celluloid Heroes of the West," a Wild West skirmish game pitting television heroes against movie heroes using the High Noon ruleset and 25-28mm figures.

The basis of the scenario was the Wild West portion of the Back to the Future series of movies: Marty McFly and Doc Brown had to get their time machine onto the train tracks and get it up to speed to travel back to the future.  Most scenario gameplay was character-based: each player got victory points for doing the sorts of things their characters did in their movie or TV show.

They had a long table set up with very dense terrain, and multiple games going on along its length over the weekend.  The tables were connected with specially built gulleys with bridges and rivers.  All the buildings opened up so you could put figures in, on, and around every floor.  The end we played on had the towns, and at the other end was desert.  We had about 8-10 feet worth of table to work with for our scenario.

This was a great convention game, but nothing I'd try to do at home.  The game would fail without the flavor of the scenario.  Our particular game was greatly improved by the boyfriend-girlfriend combination on opposite teams constantly trying to foil each others plans' while maintaining consistency with their characters' typical behavior ("Does the Lone Ranger really push Silver in front of the train?"

These High Noon rules seem to be the older set published in the 90's, and not the modern version available on the Internet. Activation is IGO-UGO; every figure can move, but they need to pass an activation test to do something else such as shoot or melee. The stats have enough details that each player can run only two figures effectively.  It uses a percentile system with a long list of combat modifiers.

I'd play this game again at a convention, but I'm not inspired to paint Wild West figures or attempt to find or play these rules.  It's just not a great game for only a small number of players without a game master.

On Friday, I got into a game of Disposable Heroes that ended up being almost empty.  This was my first experience playing in the Pacific theater of World War II (New Guinea, in this case).

I played two platoons of Japanese infantry, with a tank in support of each, as well as a mule train.  My objective was to get the mules to boats on the coast, retrieve supplies, and transport them back past a river; the US Marines across the board from me had different ideas.

The whole board except the beach and road was dense jungle (light cover) and visibility was reduced to 10".  The Marines with their Garands and BARs (I think that's more appropriate for the Army, who got all the good guns) totally outgunned the Japanese and had essentially no move-and-fire penalty.

The Marines were fast and deadly. In the end, my opponent crushed me utterly, leaving only the mules, the tanks (one disabled), and about 3 infantry.  I claim victory, because with everyone dead I no longer needed the supplies.

I was the only player who had played Disposable Heroes previously.  It's definitely not my favorite WWII ruleset at a similar figure scale, but it's fast, "good enough," and easy to remember if you haven't played in a while.  The terrain and figures were nice enough that I'm inspired to paint up some Japanese and/or 20/25mm figures, but it's low on my list.

The rest of the time I ate expensive food and went shopping.  Amazingly, this year I didn't buy any new rule sets or figures for new periods or scales I don't already own (except for a box of 1/32 scale plastic Vikings for Martine).

The Flea Market did suck me in: I bought a painted Carthaginian army... well, actually it would make four DBA armies or a good start at a DBM army.  This force has definitely seen better days, and will make a good "beater" army.  I'll put minimal effort into rehabbing it: I already rebased it so the base sizes are correct, and I'll be touching up and dipping it all.  After that it's the road to glory: either I'll get crushed by Romans as they expect, or my victory will be all the sweeter for beating them with an army that looks as bad as this.

2010-07-05

BBDBA: About JM's plans

Since JM didn't have commenting turned on for his blog, I'll post my thoughts about his plan here.

It's easy to find flaws with a plan after it has failed, so I'll try not to restate anything obvious. Instead I'll describe my reaction to what JM planned and did.

JM anticipated my command structure correctly, except for expecting all the pike in one command. I decided I wanted to field my pike in three blocks of four, with psiloi linking them. This worked well to improve maneuverability and provide flank support and anti-psiloi support.

9x Cav, 3x LH, 3x Sp, 1x Ps (= 1x Sp quad)
The mounted will run forward towards the pike and hope to get overlaps
using the light horse.

In the planning stages, I feared JM's LH would quick kill my pike, but a little calculation told me that it wasn't a big concern. I wasn't worried about a head to head match with his Cavalry (partially because I forgot the Pike didn't get rear support against Cav). The big danger for me was if JM could turn my pike's flank.

The thing I'll have to watch out for is contacting him too soon, or making it too obvious what this command's mission is. If I contact him too soon, I'll be unsupported and he'll probably still be in more or less a nice line.

In gameplay, I wheeled my pike in separate blocks. I wonder if my disorganized line encouraged JM to contact me sooner? He hit me in good order before I had a well-formed line, but my pikes survived anyway.

When I deploy, I'll put the high command favoring a far flank, but not out of reach of the center. If he chooses to deploy opposite me, so be it: I'll be able to go after him without him having the benefit of support on either side. If he puts the pike in the expected middle, fine, I can catch him before he can get out of trouble.

I deployed in reaction to JM's setup, so it's best for me not to deploy myself into trouble to begin with. If you want to cause trouble as the defender, your best bet is your final command placement.

At the time, I regretted putting my camp to the right. I wanted to deploy my pike in a long line with their left flank right next to the waterway and my mounted command next to it. I would deny JM's slow heavy foot on the opposite flank. But he had a bit of light horse over there: just enough to take my camps if I left them unprotected.

Instead, my pike command deployed to delay contact with JM's mounted wing, allowing me to wheel and protect the pike's flanks. I considered advancing in echelon instead, but in retrospect I think my wheel was the better move.

The mid command:
3x Lh, 3x Aux, 4x Ps

This was a reasonable command, but assuming I could move my Kn/El into first contact, I wasn't very afraid of it: the Knights would crush the auxilia most of the time, providing overlaps for the elephants. If he contacted first he could combat the elephants and hopefully kill one, leaving my knights exposed. Instead, he wheeled parts of his line to protect his flank, and I wasn't about to move my elephants into overlaps.

What, a waterway, are you crazy?

The waterway ended up being irrelevant. The pike are so narrow, you'd have to cut the board in half with a river to give them much advantage. I expected JM to use the waterway to anchor one of his flanks by deploying directly next to the waterway instead of 3" away from the board edge. With the bad going on the other end of the board, he could've fought entirely in the open.

Remember when I said I wanted the bad going to tempt Alan? Well that's why there's a road in there! Let's hope it's too much for him to resist.

This was, in fact, too much to resist. There was at least a 50% chance that I'd have enough PIPs on the first bound to send my Auxilia all the way to JM's deployment zone. I like those odds and I'd bet on them again. I probably would've gone into the bad going even without a road, if he deployed the same way he did this time.

JM deployed his mid-PIP command in front of his spears. That hampered their ability to move and contribute to the battle, and disrupted his plan for that command. I wonder if it would have worked better to put the light foot in the center to harass the flanks of both my mounted and pike commands.

... I hope he sees my reserved deployment as a sign that he can get to the bad going.

I didn't notice that the spears had space in front of them until he deployed the light foot there. Watching my Elephants' enemy transform from Spears to Auxilia was an unwelcome surprise.

I'll conveniently put down as little bad going as possible.

Unfortunately, that terrain placement was a perfect highway for the auxilia. The road made it way too fast. It may have been better to place two tiny woods in the corners opposite the waterway, and do away with the gentle hill he ended up having to use in the center.

The heavier Alex block will be the one to avoid. Either Alan is afraid that I'm going to chose to ignore his pike, or he's being sneaky in his pre-game e-mails and actually wants me to think that's a good idea...

I don't remember what I was thinking in pre-game e-mail. My basic opinion of pike is that they're very tough, but their lack of maneuverability makes it hard to choose where (or if) you meet your enemy.

One strategy against pike is to take advantage of their lack of maneuverability. A few small groups of psiloi can delay a pike block for "a long time" (in pike years). That's another reason I included some light foot along with my pikes.

I think the mere fact that I've bothered to think through this all will help my chances.

I read a quote by Randy Pausch erecently that I like a lot: "You can always change your plan, but only if you have one."

I think having a plan can also accelerate learning from your mistakes. It's easier to learn which of your decisions turned out to be bad if you know what your decisions were. Or: "You can make your plan better next time, but only if you have one this time."

2010-07-03

BBDBA After-Action Report: Alexander vs. Darius

... in which Alexander learns the value of a good road.

I made plans and predictions about how this game would go in my last post; how accurate was I?  Well, my summary prediction was wrong... but at least Darius III didn't flee off the table. We played the game on a 5'x2' board using NASAMW standard rules, since this seems to be standard these days.

JM was the defender (no surprise), and placed minimal terrain: a waterway along one short edge, and a large wood in the center of the opposite short edge with a road running through it.  A single gentle hill in the center of my board edge fulfilled his terrain requirements while leaving most of the board empty.  He deployed his camp in the center of his edge, and I deployed my camps slightly to the right of the gentle hill.

Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the deployment, I only have an image after the first turn, so use your imagination.

The Persians deployed their high PIP command first, in the center of his right flank: 9x3Cv/LCh (gen), 3x2LH, 3x4Sp, 1x2Ps.  The low PIP command was next: 6x4Sp, 4x2Ps on the center of the left flank.  I wasn't expecting a board as devoid of terrain as this, and it threw me off: there was nowhere I could funnel his troops to face my narrow pikes.  He deployed his commands with gaps on all sides, which would allow his third command to be placed anywhere: either in the center or on either extreme flank, giving him lots of options.

The only place I could use terrain to my advantage was the one big wood on my right flank, so I decided to deploy my Mountain Indian allies there.  I placed the command in columns: 5x3Ax on the road, 4x2Ps parallel to the road, and 3x2LH outside the wood.

My command structure was as I planned yesterday: 4x4Pk, 3x3Kn, 2xEl, 2x2LH in the high PIP command; 8x4Pk, 2x2Ps, 2x4Ax in the low PIP command.  But where should I put them?  It seemed clear that I should scrunch into my right side of the board so I could protect my camp, but which command should face his mounted wing and which should face his spears?

I can't win against his cavarly with my pikes, and his light horse would quick kill my pikes or flank them easily.  So I placed my mounted command facing his cavalry, and deployed my pikes facing his spears.

No, wait.  I changed my mind.  The pikes face his cavalry and my mounted face his spears.  Done.  As the game progressed, I concluded this was the better choice, as it fit my commands' missions better.  I shouldn't try to deny a flank with troops I also intend to win with.  The pikes wouldn't kill his cavalry quickly, but they also wouldn't lose quickly; this would give my right flank time to start winning.

A problem I had in planning was that I never formally decided what my commands' missions would be.  This would have been easy and obvious: the mounted command is there to win in the open; the Mountain Indians were there to win in bad going or flank and enter his backfield; the pikes were there to hold the line and "not lose" while everyone else won.  If I had noted this explicitly, the proper deployment would have been more obvious.

JM's third command deployment was a surprise: he left space in front of his spear line to place his Auxilia.  Now my elephants were facing Auxilia instead of spears: not ideal.

On the first turn, my Indians got 6 PIPs and plowed through the woods: my psiloi took their first turn multiple move, and the Auxilia took the road.  Wow, roads can be really useful!  This is the best use I've ever had for a road.  My mounted command advanced steadily while my pikes wheeled in two psiloi-separated blocks to face the flanking threat from the Persian mounted wing.

This set the stage for the next few turns.  On my right flank, my Indians formed up on the flank of his double line, as my mounted advanced towards him.   On the left, I deployed my pikes into a line and got my auxilia out to protect the extreme left flank from an impending light horse maneuver.

Unfortunately, I forgot that Pike don't get a rank bonus against cavalry.   But, I also forgot they were +4 against mounted, so in the end I managed to live (since +3 can't double +4). 

JM wheeled his light infantry against my elephants and knights, and threatened their flank somewhat with his light horse. I was able to maneuver my light horse into place to face his, but I refused to attack his Auxilia line.  Instead, I advanced the Indians against his flank, since I knew that would have a great chance of success.

On my right flank, I ended up having my high PIP and allied commands combining forces against his single mid-PIP command, while his low PIP command stagnated behind the lines.  That gave me a big edge on that side of the board.  In the mean time, his "must win" flank was still a few turns away from contact.

In the middle of the game I held onto my initiative on my right flank, and JM proceeded against my left flank.  JM's mid-pip command was the first to be demoralized, after I destroyed a few of his light horse and light infantry.  We eventually realized he never assigned a general for that command, but many of his elements never saw combat anyway so it might not have mattered.

On my left, I was very nearly undone by his light horse flanking maneuver, but my auxilia managed to pull their ass out of the fire for a few turns until I could maneuver into a better position.  Unfortunately for JM, he let his high PIP command's spear block fall behind, as I was hoping would happen.  He needed to rush his cavalry into contact in order to have a hope of winning there quickly enough, but this also left him with too few troops in combat and the rest left behind.  At that point he had to spend so many PIPs redressing his lines that he couldn't advance his spears.

Once enough of his light foot command died or fled out of the way, I could finally start facing his spears on my right flank.  I had already killed some supporting Psiloi, and after facing off with my knights and elephants, he lost a spear with psiloi support and that command was demoralized as well.  At this point it was only a matter of time; but I still feared for my left flank.  In retrospect I shouldn't have worried: I could win even after losing that entire command.

In the end, JM lost 18 elements as two of his commands were demoralized and fleeing off the board.  I lost 3 elements: two Mountain Indians and one from my pike command (or was it the other way around?).  This was a total sweep, but definitely not in the direction I expected.

Although my plans were not well defined, were very direct instead of subtle, and were primarily a reaction to JM's deployment, they ended up working.  Some of this was luck: early on, I got the PIPs I needed to push out of the woods on my right flank, and I won several crucial combats that could have turned the tables if I had lost.

On the other hand, my deployment and maneuvering supported my plan.  I never felt like I was in a hurry on my right flank: I had the time I needed to turn his flank instead of walking into his angled line and splitting my elephants up, and I was confident that flanking would be the better maneuver.

I enjoyed seeing how the "grand battle" unfolded in this game, as it usually does in BBDBA.  I liked this army composition a lot more than I expected.  I've been sick of playing with or against Alexander in normal DBA lately, and I previously considered the Mountain Indian ally to be a compromise based on what I had on hand instead of a useful complement to fill Alexander's deficiencies.

Thanks for a great game, JM!  I'm sorry you lost, but someone had to do it.  But since you lost, you probably learned more than I did, so I expect you to start beating me soon.

2010-07-01

BBDBA Before-Action Report: Alexander vs. Darius

 JM and I have a BBDBA game tomorrow night. He'll be playing my triple Later Achaemenid Persian (II/7) army, and I'll be playing double Alexandrian Imperial (II/15) with Mountain Indian ally (II/2).  He has written up his plans in a blog post, only to be revealed after we play, so I suppose it's only fair that I should do the same.

My prediction is that my pike block will walk forward slowly while my elephants mill around without enough PIPs to move, and JM's large cavalry wing will flank me and roll up my line.  What a way to think positively, eh?

I told JM my army selection ahead of time.  Alexander will bring elephants and auxilia, giving a total of: 4xKn (gen), 2xLH, 2xEl, 12xPk, 2xAx, 2xPs.  The Mountain Indians will be led by a light horse general and won't take any heavy foot, providing: 3xLH (gen), 5xAx, 4xPs.  The choice of armies is based mostly on availability, but I think the Mountain Indians will provide some useful bad-going support.

In response, JM has given me his army composition, which as far as I can tell is what I've chosen in the past: 2xLCh, 7x3Cv, 6x2LH, 9x4Sp, 3x3Ax, 9x2Ps.  On one hand, it's the best choice given the elements available; on the other hand, I painted them all based on what I thought I'd field, so there isn't a lot of flexibility here.

Other than knowing what I did with the Persians last time I played with them, this is as far as my Deep Thought has gone so far.  Before I play, I need to decide a few things: how to split up my Alexandrian commands, and what the commands' missions are likely to be (depending on the Persian deployment).  JM will most likely be placing terrain, unless he wastes his 6-1 split on the terrain roll, so I am not going to concern myself with the prospect of deploying terrain, just yet.

Dividing my commands should be a bit easier for me, since I have only two armies that can combine forces with high/low PIP dice, and an ally who must act as a separate 12 element command.  All else being equal, the best divisions give each command a number of elements indivisible by three, so they must lose one additional element before they're reduced by 1/3 and break.

Since each command needs at least 6 elements, the options are: 7/17, 8/16, 10/14, or 11/13.  Typically, large pike blocks don't need a large number of PIPs to maneuver, they just need to run really fast.  I expect JM, with more recent Pike experience, might disagree with this assessment, but I'm going to run with it anyway; because in comparison, elephants need many PIPs to move at all and knights need enough PIPs to stay alive after the first round of combat.

Dividing commands and deciding on the strategy to use are tightly coupled.  I'd like to deploy my Pike in three blocks of four with psiloi joining them, for added maneuverability.  There's basically nothing in JM's army that can consistently face two ranks of pike in the open over the long haul, but he has plenty of ways to delay them and make them ineffective.  There's no money in my pike trying to kill off his mounted wing, so if I want to win with them I'll need to point them at the spears and push hard.  They can do a great job of delaying his mounted wing, but that would be hard to get him to agree to.  I'd also like a Knight general with the pikes, both to fill gaps and to possibly punch a hole somewhere important.

How will he deal with my Elephants?  He can either outmaneuver them, or try to delay or overwhelm them with psiloi or auxilia.  He may need his auxilia to protect the flank of his spears, and a few Psiloi to support the spears and auxilia.  This leaves him with about 5 free psiloi.  The elephants can't kill psiloi, but knights can.  I'm inclined to face him with a block of Kn-El-Kn-El-Kn so his Psiloi can't find safe footing against the elephants.  This will also work well against his mounted contingent, since they also don't want to face elephants or knights.

The main question now is, how should I divide the commands for greatest effect?  I think it would make most sense to put the pikes in the larger command, but give them the low PIP die.  I think I'm leaning towards this option:
  • C-in-C high pip command with 3xKn (gen), 2xEl, 2xLH, 4xPk
  • Low pip command with 1xKn (gen), 8xPk, 2xPs, 2xAx
  • Allied command with 3xLH (gen), 5xAx, 4xPs
Unless I take some pike in the C-in-C command, I'll drain off all the light support which will suck even more PIPs from the C-in-C.  The downside is, the pike block wants one PIP every turn; but I can maneuver them separately from the rest of the pikes since they can't group anyway.

The allied command is quite strong against Persians.  The psiloi-backed auxilia can face some Persian mounted in the open if necessary, and can hold bad going.

I feel like Persia's mounted wing has the potential to overwhelm mine, or occupy it and turn my flank.  He has 15 mounted, and I have only 11.  My elephants and knights are stronger, but I have a higher proportion of light horse, and they can't coordinate their attack as well.  He's also more maneuverable.  Overall I'll have a shorter line with my double-ranked pike, but maybe I can extend it by strategic placement of single ranks.  I can also attempt to take advantage of terrain to funnel him and prevent him from using the full width of his army.

Most likely, JM will deploy terrain and set up 2 commands first.  I'm not going to try to guess JM's terrain deployment, but I expect he'll attempt to protect one flank with terrain and leave the other as open as possible for his mounted wing.

I am guessing JM will have to deploy his mounted wing early since it'll likely contain his C-in-C.  This will somewhat reduce my ability to bluff without being obvious, because if I leave an obvious flank open by his mounted, he'll either have to go after it or risk a trap.  If it were an option, I'd consider placing my pikes opposite his spears but with a flank open to his mounted.  My Kn/El block would be at the edge of his spears, and the Indians further down the line.  In practice, the pikes would turn to face the flank with a narrower frontage and try not to lose, while the Kn/El pounced on his spears.  The Indians would try to turn his other flank.

This would be a risky attempt to deny his mounted flank.  But he's much more maneuverable, and his light horse quick kills my pikes while I have no second rank bonus.  So I don't think that's such a good idea.

My ideas have run out.  I'm tired, my laptop battery is running low, and tomorrow night I'll be almost as tired by the time we start.  Hopefully my thought ahead of time will be enough to let me run on intuition once the game actually starts.

I plan to publish this as soon as the game is over or maybe only after it's started; the after-action report might have to wait a while.