Sunday, December 25, 2011

First Test with DBA 3.0

I finally played my first game of DBA 3.0 (the current test version) and although it was solo, I did not use DBAS; I was simply playing both sides, trying to figure out what rules changed and how things were different.

I played the draft lists of the New Kingdom Egyptians (the b list) versus the Philistines (the a list) and came up with the first issue: the Philistines list the NKE as an enemy, but the reverse is not true. Ah well, hopefully the Barkers have that sorted out.

With an aggression of 3 for the Philistines, and a good roll, they ended up the invaders. The NKE had to place the terrain. As the topography is Littoral, I had to place a waterway. For the optional terrain, I chose a road and a woods; nothing too complex for the first game. The photo below shows the terrain (and troop dispositions at the end of the game). The NKE are at the bottom and the Philistines are at the top.

The first thing that changes is rolling for terrain quarter placement. In this case it was no real challenge as two of the three rolls were a '5', allowing the NKE player to place the terrain as they wished.
On the DBA forum on Yahoo, I could have sworn I saw a statement that the invader could not choose a baseline that contained a BUA, but I could not find the rule that said it. I will have to ask on the forum, but as I could not find the rule I decided to forego a BUA this game.
The NKE decided to setup farther back, in order to get their Bows into action longer. Basically, that did not work. The Bows did nothing except provide the occasional overlap for Blade on Blade battles.

The Blade pursuit made the battles really mix it up. Rather than spending PIPs redressing lines from recoils, I now spent PIPs running my supports to keep up with my pursuing Blades!

Some mention that the games go very fast. Mine was something on the order of 7 turns (14 bounds). Blade on Blade combat is inconclusive. Without a 6-1 roll you will just recoil. Overlaps, even double overlaps, aren't always deadly and a recoil just breaks his line as bad as it does yours.

I liked the extra movement and the 1/2 base width/1 base width recoils.

I will definitely be switching. Plus, my Philistines can now have their LCh (Gen) dismount as a Bd (Gen). Time to paint three more figures!

By the way, the Philistines won, 4-3. The Philistines lost two Bd and one Ps, while the NKE lost two Bw, one Bd, and one LCh.

UPDATE: In reviewing the rules I may have made a mistake and the NKE won 4-3. The problem arose when I realized that the Ps providing rear support to a Bd against a LCh should have been destroyed when the Bd was destroyed on a 6-1 roll. So, that is how close the game was!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Implications of DBA 3.0

The Solo DBA Development forum on Yahoo has been dormant for awhile, primarily waiting for DBA 3.0 to come out. My own DBA gaming - solo or otherwise - has also been lacking. To some degree it was about waiting for 3.0, but mostly it was about rotating the games; I cannot stick with one period or one set of rules, so I have to create a rotation.

With DBA 3.0 in test, and a test version of the rules published in the Files section of the DBA forum on Yahoo,  it is about time to look at them and the implications the new rules may have, with an emphasis on solo gaming. (I will not be covering all changes.) So, if you don't have the test rules, go get them now so we can go over it section by section.

Playing Area and Ground Scale

The 15mm standard battlefield is defined as 24" square, but there is now a nod to the "North American" use of 30" square boards, so players can choose either and not feel like it is unofficial.

Troop Definitions

There is a new troop type - more of a modifier, really - that of Mounted Infantry. This is basically a standard foot troop type (but presumably not of type War Wagon or Artillery) that has a deeper base, moves at the speed of a Knight element, but is shot at and fights as their base element type. This will make for an interesting element type, although I gather that there will be few army lists with this option. Nonetheless, it will add a new tactical challenge that the solo gamer can explore.

Dismounting is essentially the same as before, save that you cannot use a group move to perform the dismount action. That makes dismounting of large portions of one's army much more costly, so that limits a tactical choice one might have previously had. Again, another tactical challenge that a gamer might like to experiment with and refine in solo play.

Battlefield Terrain

This is the area where the rules change substantially, and are almost a boon for the solo gamer. The defender now chooses the terrain pieces to be placed, however a random roll determines which quarter the piece will be placed in (or which player gets to choose the quarter it will be placed in). The defender places the terrain piece, but if it cannot fit (some terrain types must be placed wholly within a quarter) it is discarded, even if a compulsory type. Once terrain is placed, the invader (attacker) chooses the board edge they wish to attack from (with some limitations).

From a solo gaming view point this might simplify terrain selection and placement. Based upon the army type being played you might choose some standard compulsory and optional terrain features, with guidelines on the sizes of the pieces and how they should be arranged. This is a big change from the method I was attempting by specifying exact terrain selection and placement based on army pairings, then looking at how the terrain might appear from all four angles (depending upon which side the invader ended up on).

The Arable topography now has the Rough terrain type, representing boggy, plowed fields. Previously all Bad Going in this topography blocked line of sight (and command) in some way. Great for bow-armed elements to hide behind.

Another aspect of the terrain changes is that all terrain must be at least one base width (BW) from one another, and from the board edges (with the BUA providing the sole exception). This means that using terrain to hug the "edge of the world" and stop the enemy from going around your flank without having to move through Bad Going no longer works, again changing some of the previous terrain placement strategies.

PIP Dicing

Single elements and groups moving entirely on roads make their first move for 0 PIPs. This makes the use of roads much more strategic. With Arable able to place up to three roads, road movement might become much more common.

The nature of a LH army changes dramatically too, as the command radius to them extends out to 2,000 paces (or 20 BW or 32", easily covering a 24" square board), allowing a group of LH to use a single PIP to move when far from the General. (I am already blowing the dust off of my Skythians...)

Tactical Moves

Movement through Bad Going for Psiloi is more generous, making it possible to make group moves in line, rather than in just column and second moves is ending there. This will definitely change how you deploy your troops.

Breaking-off from Close Combat

Fewer troops can now break-off from close combat, so this will reduce the possible defensive moves, simplifying the work I was doing for De Bellis Antiquitatis Solus (DBAS).

Distant Shooting

Now that elements can shoot from or at an overlap position, this changes how Bows could be deployed in the battle line and makes them much more useful and less likely to be nullified from shooting.

Overlapping in Combat

A crucial change to the overlap rules is that an element within 1/2 BW of the battlefield edge counts as overlapped on that flank. This changes the nature of the edge of the board, as it did with terrain deployment, making games where an army anchors its flank on the "edge of the world" less likely (or at least less beneficial).

Combat Outcome

An element providing rear support, save for a Psiloi element, is no longer destroyed when the element it is supporting is destroyed. This makes two ranks of Spears and Warband more viable options for deployment. Given this rule, and the pursuit rule, Psiloi-backed Spears, Blades, and Auxilia might become a less-likely deployment option.


What does it means for solo gaming using DBA 3.0. When I started writing DBAS, I broke down the solo gamer's decisions to:

  1. Determine the composition of the Non-Player General's (NPG) army. How to determine the composition does not change much, but it does some, primarily given that the Psiloi is now destroyed more often while giving support from the rear.
  2. Determine the terrain elements to be placed, if the defender. Again, this does not really change much.
  3. Determine the size of the terrain elements to be placed, if the defender. Now that terrain placement is randomized (at least by the quarter it must reside in), all area terrain other than Gentle Hills must be placed wholly within the indicated quarter, no area terrain may be placed closer than 1 BW to another, and no area terrain other than a BUA may be placed closer than 1 BW to the battlefield edge, selecting lots of large area terrain could result in those selections being discarded due to lack of space in an overloaded quarter.
  4. Determine the exact placement of a terrain element, if the defender. Other than the rules indicated above must be met, this probably makes it easier for the solo gamer. Previously, you had to develop a cohesive terrain arrangement for the NPG – one that would make sense for the type of army the NPG was using, and one that might penalize the player's army – but now the elements are randomized one at a time and placed, so the defender is unsure of the complete set of elements at his disposal while specifying the exact position of the element. From the DBAS point of view, that means thinking of terrain arrangements is nice, but unless the dice gods favor you, you are unlikely to get the exact arrangement you want. Again, that will lead to guidelines on terrain placement, rather than rules.
  5. Determine the baseline to take, if the invader. This does not change much, as again it will be more a set of guidelines on how to determine which terrain to face or occupy, rather than a set of rules.
  6. Determine troop deployment. This changes some, if only because of the change in dynamics of the elements (e.g. Psiloi being destroyed easier in support, versus operating better in groups). However, something glossed over previously is that the movement of all elements has sped up significantly and deployment areas are more generous, making it much quicker to get into contact. The corollary of this is that a player now has fewer moves to rearrange his troops to obtain better match-ups. This is especially true of the defender, who no longer receives the two element pair swap during deployment. That all said, any previous guidelines on troop placement will have to change, in order to reflect the new dynamics, but the nature or complexity of those guidelines won't change much for DBAS.
  7. Determine which elements or groups receive PIPs. In the previous version of DBA, DBAS used a formula for determine who should get PIPs based upon which group or element would have the greatest positive effect on gameplay. This was the heart of the Tactical Engine. Although the rules and priorities won't change much for 3.0, it will have to change if only to take into account new rules for group movement and second tactical moves.
  8. Determine how the elements or groups perform their moves. DBAS ignored this decision in the past, figuring that if the player could determine an effective move to be scored in the Tactical Engine, he already had the exact movement path in mind. That won't change.
So, all in all, a little extra work in DBAS here, a little less work there.

There are a lot of changes to the rules – more than I have gone over – so I suggest you pick up a copy. Remember, this is a draft and thus can change again. There is already a lot of discussion going on at the DBA forum on Yahoo and on Fanaticus, asking for clarification on some of the wording, so I suspect this language will change, if only to ensure we will buy a copy of the rules when they are published!

I, for one, am looking forward to the new rules. I await the new Theban army list so I can base my newly-painted figures. However, based on the language in the draft, I may not have enough figures painted as the Thebans now use some Double-Based Elements (DBE) 8Sp!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Combat Maneuver Type

To recap: This blog entry discussed the three Non-Player General (NPG) Character values (Aggressive, Bold, and Cautious). This blog entry linked the NPG Character values to the three Maneuver Types (Combat, Positioning, and Defensive) and the order in which those maneuvers would be selected. In this entry will focus on the Combat maneuver type, and how to further break it down to find the move the NPG should make.

When I look at possible moves to make, and try to determine which move is better (when I have a limited number of PIPs and cannot make all desired moves), I tend to look at one factor: what is the total combat advantage I will gain by making the move. What do I mean by that?

As shown in the figure above, assume that I use a PIP to move the group of two red Blade elements into contact with the two white Auxilia elements. This results in two combats to resolve: one at 5 to 3 and one at 5 to 3, modified by overlaps resulting from the previous combat (it may be a 4-3, 5-3, or 5-2, depending on who, if anyone, recoiled). As you cannot determine who will win until the dice are rolled, a simple method of calculating the combat potential is to score the combat differential of all the combats resulting from the moves.

So in the example above, the move results in two combats, each of 5-3 or +2, so the move receives a score of +4. The move below, in which two red Blade elements are moved into contact with three white Auxilia elements, results in a score of +3.

Note that if the three white elements were Psiloi, with a combat factor of 2 each, the move would be scored +5, so even though the red Blade elements are moving into a position of overlap, because of the superiority in combat it would rate higher than the first depicted.

Now this is very similar to the original scoring system with the Tactical Engine in DBAS, but the idea is to provide a series of rules of which are the "best" maneuvers and only use the scoring as a tie breaker. So, what are the best combat maneuvers?

In my mind, clearly the best combat maneuvers are (in order):
  1. Results in the destruction of the enemy element if the score is tied.
  2. Results in the destruction of the enemy element if the score is beaten.
  3. Results in the destruction of the enemy element if the score is doubled.
  4. Where the worst possible result for the enemy element is it fleeing.
  5. Where my element would be destroyed on being doubled, but the enemy element would not.
  6. Where my element would be destroyed on being beaten, but the enemy element would not.
  7. Where my element would be destroyed on being tied, but there enemy element would not.
In these cases, scoring is easy ... if all the elements in the maneuver are the same, and facing similar opposing elements. But what happens when a group maneuver results in some combats at order # 3 and some at, say, #5? Use the worst case.

That's the start of the idea. Next I will focus on Defensive Maneuvers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

NPG Character and PIP Usage

So, now that we have established that the Non-Player General (NPG) can have a Character value of Aggressive, Bold, or Cautious, and under what circumstances those values change (see last blog entry), what does each value mean.

I have always viewed the use of PIPs in DBA as for one of three reasons:
  • To maneuver into combat 1.
  • To maneuver out of combat.
  • To maneuver, but neither starting nor ending in combat.
1 Typically the maneuver is into or out of contact, but could be into or out of Bow and Artillery range and fire arc too.
For simplicity, I call these three types of maneuvers Combat, Defensive, and Positioning, respectively. These three types provide an order of precedence that can be aligned with the NPG Character into Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary choices, as shown in the table below.


Note that there is a fourth possibility for a Character value, between Cautious and Bold, which would produce the precedence of Positioning, Defensive, Combat. But I decided to set that aside for the time being.

So, now we have an order to using our PIPs. If the NPG is Cautious, all Defensive maneuvers will be considered first, with Positioning maneuvers second, and if there are any PIPs remaining, Combat maneuvers last.

The next few posts will consider each maneuver type and provide a set of rules for determining the "best" PIP use within each type, hopefully tying it back to the movement scoring entries I started back in October 2010.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Rule-Based Tactical Engine - NPG Character

As I indicated in the last blog entry, the mechanic of scoring possible moves then executing the one with the highest score was not only too tedious (if you carried it out to every possibility), but it failed to meet the most basic requirement of the Tactical Engine (TE): to tell you, the player, which move to make.

All of my attempts to "catalog" game elements (moves, terrain layouts, deployments, etc.) have been pretty much failures because to get them "all" it would take a very long time and when I was done, it would be too unwieldy anyway. A better approach is to gather up "just enough" and as you find a need to add another element, do so. Eventually you will get to that right balance of "enough choice" versus "too unwieldy to use". So, rather than try to finish the catalog of moves, we can use the lessons from that exercise to come up with a rules-based approach.

I still want to keep the concept that the character of the Non-Player General (NPG) changes through the course of the game as certain events occur. If the NPG is losing, he should be more cautious; if he is winning, he should be aggressive. The basic rules for determining the current character of an NPG is (in order of precedence) are:
  1. An NPG is Cautious if 3 VP have been scored against him.
  2. An NPG is Cautious if 2 VP have been scored against him, and he has scored no VP.
  3. An NPG is Bold if he has scored at least 2 VP more than has been scored against him.
  4. An NPG is Bold if he has rolled a '5' or more for PIPs this bound.
  5. An NPG is Aggressive.
These five simple rules now allow. you to gauge how aggressively the NPG will play, given the values Cautious, Aggressive, and Bold. Next post will look at how those three values affect movement selection.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why the Tactical Engine "Failed"

For those that have looked at my "Tactical Engine" (TE) in De Bellis Antiquitatis Solus (DBAS) you will have noticed that I have taken a non-random approach, meaning I do not use any random elements (like dice) to resolve which move to make in favor of another. Instead, I wanted to take a "logical" approach and weight all of the options, using a scoring formula, and take the highest value move first, the second highest second, etc.

The problem with this approach is:
  1. You must determine all of the possible moves an element can make, then calculate each score to determine which to make.
  2. You must determine all of the moves all elements could make, and compare each's best score to determine which would be first.
  3. A group of n elements has, at a minimum, n number of moves (one as a group of n, one as a group of n-1, one as a group of n-2, etc. and one as a single element).
Thus, the problem with the approach is that, taken to its logical conclusion, you would spend so much time determining all the possible moves, and scoring them, that you would have no fun. Or you would do what I did and only score what you thought was the element's or group's "best" move was and go from there. And if you do that, it is really little different from the tried and true solo gamer's methodology: play each side to the best of your ability.

So, what is the purpose of the TE? Originally, it was to point you, the player, to the move to be made by an element or a group. That caused me to re-think the process. Currently you could say that my process is to:
  1. Think of all the possible moves. (Or think of all of the probable moves.)
  2. Score each of those moves.
  3. Execute the moves in order from highest score to lowest, until you run out of PIPs.
The heart of the problem here is that the TE is not telling you what moves to make, you are telling it a move and it gives you a number indicating how "good" it is. Any "better" move won't be revealed unless you think of it and score it out.

So, if you want a solo system where the Non-Player General (NPG) presents the moves to you, you need a system of movement rules where you run down the list and when a triggering condition is met, you execute the move that it indicates. A "simple" IF-THEN rule base. That is the approach I am going to use for the TE in DBAS. If that is not the approach you want for your solo gaming, you might look at Richard Lee's Solo DBA on the Solo DBA Development forum on Yahoo.

More on this subject next time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

DBA Later Mycenaen and Trojan War Army I/26(a) and (b) in 15mm

I have always like the Trojan Wars armies, and when I saw its composition for DBA, I especially liked it. And what's not to like? Four Light Chariots dismountable as Blades in the Biblical Age!

I finally finished touching the figures up. I will probably never get Old Glory miniatures again (well, except for AWI, I am sure) as they are just too frail and fiddly. I hate cast-on spears, and these figures illustrate why. Once the spear shafts start bending, they start 'snaking' and 'corkscrewing' and they won't be straight until just before they break off! One of these days I will probably sell off this army and replace it with figures from Black Hat Miniatures. These were painted by Bob Barnetson.

First up is the General (front rank, center) and the Nobles in their Light Chariots. Both the Achaian (a) and Trojan (b) variants use all of these units as a mandatory core. Again, they dismount to Blades!

Here is my dismounted Blades General unit.

Next up is my mass of Spears. The Achaians require four units, with an option of two more. The Trojans require four units, with an option of one additional. As there are eight stands in the picture, my two Warband stands appear to be mixed in. I probably need to mark them in some way...

These next are the two optional Achaian pike units. The figures are Essex, probably Early Mycenaeans.

Both armies require two Psiloi units. I chose to represent them as archers.

The Trojans have one required Auxilia unit (left) and one optional Blades unit (right).

Finally, I have the dismounted Blades units from the Chariots. It appears that I am missing a unit though. (That's not good.) These are Black Hat Miniatures, and I do think they look nice, if a little chunky.

I like the basing for this army, which is a little sandier and 'drier' than normal. Also, this is an army where you truly have to love cowhide!

Now with the units painted, based, and touched up, it is time to get these guys onto the field, even for a solo game.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

DBA Early Armenian Army II/28(b) in 28mm

One day Don went out and purchased a painted 28mm Seleucid army on eBay and after looking at it I decided I needed a 28mm army to use against it. Looking through the list of enemies I selected the Early Armenian army II/28(b). 

Why this army? Well, I like Light Horse, that is for sure, and I thought that the Cataphracts would be interesting to play. Pitting Auxilia and Psiloi against Pikes would certainly be a challenge, but as I only needed 4 VP to win, I decided it would be easier to crush the non-Pike elements for the win. Looking to the future I can also see using this army to fight against a myriad of Roman lists, so they were not going to be one-use.

If you have followed posts on my other blogs – specifically on the Wooden Warriors blog – you know that at times I like to make my own figures from wood. One thing I always wondered about was how opponents might react to my using my hand-made wooden figures against their commercial, metal figures. Well, this army would be such an experiment. If it failed – the figures looked wrong, compared to commercial figures, or if people objected to me using them – I could always make another army to match against them. (That is where the Romans come in.)

Click on the figure below to see an enlarged version.

You can see more details in the Wooden Warriors blog entry. There were also all kinds of work-in-progress blog entries showing the cataphracts, horse archers, warriors (Auxilia), and archers separately. 

I am still making the Romans – I ran out of steam and I still haven't figured out what to use for the shields – but they will be sent to Bob Barnetson for painting (as he does a fair bit of painting for me now). I want to see what someone else can do with them and whether they are enjoyable for others to paint as I think they are.

Now, if only I would finish the Seleucid elephant that Don is missing, I would get a game in with these guys!

DBA Early Etruscan Army I/55(a)

I am not quite sure where I got this army – I think I bought it from someone on the TMP Ancients Marketplace – but these are Miriliton Etruscans, and from the composition of the DBA army pack they are Early Etruscans.

I held onto the army for awhile before sending it off to Bob Barnetson to have it painted, mostly because I was unsure of how it should look. You can see Bob's original work on his blog. The only real changes I have made are adding magnets to the bottoms of the bases, painting the sides of the bases, and adding shield transfers.

First up is the General in his Light Chariot on the left, and the two Cavalry in the center and right. Note that the right unit is in the style of Italian Greeks, so I applied some LBMS transfers to their shields.

Next are the two Psiloi in the army. I am not sure why Bob did not put the archers on one stand and the javelins on the other, but I was not going to mess up the basing by correcting that.

In the center is the single Blades unit in the army.

Although these are Spears, Miriliton mixed in a few with different shields. Again, I think I would have preferred mixing them in with the other Spears units, but this is fine. It allows me to use them as a specific sub-tribe of some sort. Unfortunately (for the list), they are not Auxilia.

Finally, there are the other Spears units. These are all styled as Italian Greeks with hoplite shields, so I put some LBMS shield transfers on them too. It certainly added a bit of color to the original figures.

I am not really sure of the historical accuracy of the Miriliton figures; they feel as if they come from a later period like the Etruscan League (I/57), but I can morph this army into the (a) variant of that list by painting another Spears unit.

The LBMS shield transfers were an interesting exercise. Don't assume they are like the decals of your childhood; they are not. Read the piece of paper that comes with the transfers; it is not a catalog, but rather instructions! Had I read the little piece of paper, I might not have wasted three transfers!

Basically you cut out the design, peel the thin, light plastic sheet off of the face, press the uncovered face to the surface (shield) as it has adhesive on it, then wet the paper backing in order to slide it off of the transfer. You do not have to wet the whole thing first and then slide the transfer off onto the shield. Doing so means you will not be able to peel off the plastic covering!

I used the Carthaginian shield transfers because it was the closest thing I could find to what I wanted, but I really need to buy some of the Greek ones, given that I have something like 100+ hoplites to do at some point. (You hear that Bob? One hundred Xyston hoplites are waiting for you to paint someday. All I need are shield transfers and spears.)

Now all I have to do is pull out my Italian Greek army (I/52(i)) for a game ...

Friday, June 17, 2011

No Post for Awhile

Obviously there has been no post for awhile. I need to rectify that. My goal this weekend is to at least get some pictures up on the blog of new DBA armies that I have acquired. I've gotten an Early Etruscan army that is painted based, but needs some decals for the shields, and a Kappadocian army that is painted and based, but needs a few details on the cloaks so they look a little less uniform. I also have a Trojan War army that just needs edging on the base. All of these were painted by Bob Barnetson (a.k.a. Bob in Edmonton). Bob's blog is here. He has a new set of Greeks for me coming too.

I've purchased a number of medievals from Mikey Gees. They were all listed as Teutonic armies, but some are more like generic German medieval. But they are all nicely painted. I may have a problem getting some into formation, however, because their lances overlap the bases by a significant amount.

I've also bought an army I have wanted to try for awhile: Hussites. Nothing like seeing what five War Wagons can do. I bought that army to fight two specific opponents and their armies. The first (with his Later Polish) moved away and the second (with his Medieval Germans) doesn't game much anymore. So, buying my own Medieval Germans now seems like a brilliant idea.

Of course, just because I want to put up pictures doesn't mean I am ignoring the DBA Solus project. I have always gone through phases and I just have not cycled back to DBAS yet. I have been doing a lot of Flames of War of late (as indicated on my Dale's Wargames blog), but I want to get back to solo wargaming - just because.

So, don't lose hope! I will return to this space.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New DBA 3.0 (Draft) Army List for Armenia

I was just looking at the WRG website and reading the draft army lists for Section II of the upcoming DBA 3.0 rules and noticed that the Armenian list I am building has had a change! Instead of 2x2Ps it is now 2x(Ps or Bw), so that means I can build two more elements (six more foot archers) in order to have some options!

I am not sure under what circumstances I might use the Bow elements over the Psiloi, but options are options.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Terrain Placement - Anchoring Flanks (Part 2)

Littoral Waterway Defense

The Littoral Waterway Defense uses the compulsory Waterway terrain piece, along with three optional Bad Going Terrain (two Steep Hills and one Woods). The reason this cannot be used for Arable defenders as the Waterway is optional, leaving only two other optional terrain pieces, and this defense requires a Waterway and three terrain pieces.

The figure above shows the terrain placement. The Waterway allows you to remove a section of the board, making it easier to use three pieces of terrain to create anchor points for the flank. As shown in the figure below, this board rotated in every combination still has viable anchor points, either with the terrain pieces, the Waterway, or the board edge.

Some people may prefer not to "turtle" once they have established their battle line between two anchor points, feeling that it gives the initiative over to the enemy. If so, that makes it a good choice for your solo "opponent"; it allows you to try something new that you would not normally do yourself, giving you more experience against that type of defense and foe.

Arable Waterway Defense

The biggest problem with anchoring flanks in Arable home topography's is that you do not have four Bad Going terrain choices to ensure that, no matter which way the board is rotated, the board remains the same. Given that you must use a compulsory piece of terrain - either a BUA or a Road - you can use the BUA to anchor a flank.

I will defer the discussion on using a BUA for the time being, but suffice it to say you can exchange one of the Bad Going terrain pieces for the BUA and achieve the same results, as shown in the figure below.

Note that I have placed the BUA opposite to the Waterway, increasing the odds that the defender will have the waterway to its flank, rather than behind it. The figure below shows the possible battle lines for each way the board can be rotated by the attacker. Note that the attacker will generally favor the baseline opposite the BUA with the Waterway to the left flank (in this case), so the odds are the defender will defend with the lower-right configuration.

So, what if you need to anchor your flanks, have the Arable topography, but don't want to use a BUA? We'll look at that next time.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Terrain Placement - Anchoring Flanks (Part 1)

The primary differentiator between Anchoring Flanks and Concentrating Forces is the type of terrain the battle line rests its flanks upon, or the distance between the battle line's flank and the terrain piece. Anchoring Flanks not only allows the flank to rest upon Bad Going terrain, it prefers it.

Looking at the terrain types, the following can be considered:
  • Steep Hills: Preferred as it is Bad Going, plus it allows your flanking light infantry to gain an advantage (uphill) should the enemy light infantry try to flank your battle line through the terrain.
  • Gentle Hills: Not acceptable as it is not Bad Going, so virtually any fast moving elements can attack your flank and it will have an advantage (uphill).
  • Woods: Preferred as it is Bad Going, plus it creates more of a command issue (extra PIP) for the attacking flanking force trying to outflank the battle line.
  • Marsh: Acceptable as it is Bad Going, but it does not create a command issue as with Woods, nor an advantage for light infantry guarding the flanks. However, it might be upgraded to Preferred if the defending army protects the flanks with missile weapons. Note also that the shape of a Marsh can be "sausage-like".
  • Rough: Rate the same as for a Marsh.
  • Dunes: Rate the same as for a Woods, unless the attacking army has Camels. If the attacker has Camels and you defend the flank with Bows, rate it as Preferred, otherwise it is not acceptable.
  • Oasis: Rate the same as for a Woods, unless the attacking army has Camels, in which case it is rated as not acceptable.
  • BUA: This is a whole discussion unto itself and will be addressed in another blog entry.
  • Waterway: Preferred as it is Impassable. A Littoral attacking army may use it to make a landing, so it is something that must be considered as to whether it is to be placed at all, but for the purposes of Anchoring Flanks, it works.
  • River: 67% of the time a river will be useful for Anchoring Flanks and 33% of the time it will not. The problem is that you do not know which it will be until after you select it and the game has started. Consider it acceptable, especially in combination with a BUA.
  • Road: Dangerous as it is essentially open ground and the enemy has the possibility of rapidly advancing upon your flank using road movement. Do not anchor a flank on a road.
So, with the various rating established, we can look at each of the Topography values and determine the best terrain to consider for Anchoring Flanks, in order of preference:
  • Arable: Waterway, Steep Hill, Woods, and River. A Gentle Hill or Road can be used, but should not be on the flank.
  • Forest: Woods, Marsh, and River. A Gentle Hill can be used, but should not be on the flank.
  • Hilly: Steep Hill, Woods, and River. A Road can be used, but should not be on the flank.
  • Steppe: Rough and River. A Gentle Hill can be used, but should not be on the flank. Let's hope that if you have this topography you have an army that prefers not to Anchor Flanks!
  • Dry: Steep Hill, Oasis, Dunes, and Rough. Pretty much every choice is a good one for an army that wants to Anchor Flanks.
  • Tropical: Woods, Marsh or Rough, and River. A Road can be used, but should not be on the flank.
  • Littoral: Waterway, Steep Hill, Woods, Dunes, Marsh, and River.
So, we now have the "which terrain", let's talk about "how many pieces".

The 4 Point Defense

As the defender, the best way to ensure that your flanks are anchored when it comes time to deploy is to set up a "4 point defense" - or a board that has four defense points (in this case, terrain pieces). For example, see the figure below.

In the figure the green is the board (24" by 24") and the brown are terrain pieces (in this case the maximum 180mm x 180mm). The thin black line indicates exactly 40mm from the board edge, so with the terrain overlapping the lines, an element cannot pass between the board edge and the terrain piece; at some point it must pass through the terrain.

The "A" at the top of the screen is a reference point. If the board ends up being rotated by the attacker's choice of preferred baseline and the subsequent roll, the board configuration will essentially be the same no matter how the board is rotated, as shown in the figure below.

So, with the 4 point defense in place, your battle line can anchor it's flanks and the light troops can defend the terrain. The figure below shows how a defender (in blue) might utilize the setup.

In order to use the 4 point defense the defender's topography rating must have either preferred or acceptable terrain as one of the compulsory terrain types, given that you cannot choose four optional pieces of terrain and this defense requires four terrain pieces. So, returning to our Topography rating for the defender, what would the 4 point defense look like for each?

  • Arable: A 4 point defense cannot be used as none of the compulsory terrain is ideal for anchoring flanks. (Exception: see the discussion on placing a BUA in a later blog entry.)
  • Forest: Two Woods and two Marshes serve as the four points.
  • Hilly: Two Steep Hills and two Woods serve as the four points as none of the compulsory terrain is ideal for anchoring flanks.
  • Steppe: A 4 point defense cannot be used.
  • Dry: For missile-oriented armies, or against armies that have Camels use two Steep Hills and two Roughs. Against missile-oriented armies use two Roughs and two Oasis.
  • Tropical: Two Woods and two Marsh or Rough.
  • Littoral: A 4 point defense cannot be used, as a Waterway is compulsory.
Well, that's a start. Next we will look at the next defense to consider for Anchoring Flanks: the Waterway Defense.

    Terrain Placement - Part 2

    In the last blog entry I started discussing terrain placement. The idea was that the attacking and defending army types would determine how the defender would arrange the terrain to suit his fighting style.

    The last thing I wrote was how I should probably have included a Light Horse army type, so here it is, along with a Knightly army type:

    Defending Army Type

    As a reminder, the codes are defined as:
    • AF = Anchor Flanks: the Defender needs to set terrain such that he can anchor the flanks of the main battle line on terrain.
    • CF = Concentrate Forces: the Defender needs to set terrain such that he can concentrate his forces without necessarily exposing his flanks to attack by forces in Bad Going.
    • DF = Disrupt Forces: the Defender needs to set as much terrain as possible in order to disrupt the enemy's battle line and to make him vulnerable to attacks from the Defender's forces in Bad Going.
    • OA = Open Area: the Defender needs to place minimal terrain - in number, size, and disruptive effects - to keep maneuver to a maximum.
    So now that we have a general description of how to use terrain to the defender's advantage, which terrain do we place and where do we place it? That is the topic of the next blog entries.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Terrain Placement

    Believe it or not, I have been thinking about how to codify terrain placement and it pretty much centers around trying to classify the match-up, along the lines of a previous blog entry.

    Consider that a slow, heavy infantry-oriented force (eight or more Blades, Spears, or Pikes, but not Warbands) matched against a faster infantry army will probably want to concentrate the board, yet not make its flanks vulnerable to light infantry attacking from Bad Going, whereas the same force matched against a mounted force will probably want to anchor its flanks on Bad Going, which the mounted troops cannot safely attack through. (Against other heavy infantry it may not matter as much what the board is.)

    So, I was thinking about a matrix where the top was the defending force type, the left was the attacking force type and the cell was the board type to go for. Then take the board type, look at the home topography and determine what should be placed. I have not thought about what to do for variations yet.

    Here is a start for the matrix. I know it will eventually need more values, but I have to start somewhere.

    Defending Army Type

    The codes are as follows:

    • AF = Anchor Flanks: the Defender needs to set terrain such that he can anchor the flanks of the main battle line on terrain.
    • CF = Concentrate Forces: the Defender needs to set terrain such that he can concentrate his forces without necessarily exposing his flanks to attack by forces in Bad Going.
    • DF = Disrupt Forces: the Defender needs to set as much terrain as possible in order to disrupt the enemy's battle line and to make him vulnerable to attacks from the Defender's forces in Bad Going.
    • OA = Open Area: the Defender needs to place minimal terrain - in number, size, and disruptive effects - to keep maneuver to a maximum.
    I've just finished and I can already think of another category I would like to call out: Light Horse (LH). Ah well, next time. This provides a starting point and context for discussion. I would like to hear your thoughts on this approach and whether you agree with the ratings. More later on why one option versus another for those with a "/".

    UPDATE: Thanks to Jay (of the Solo Wargamer blog) for noting that the table values were transposed. The table above has been corrected. It is good to know that someone is reading this though. :)