Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cold Wars Report (4)

Continuing my report of games I played I Cold Wars 2012, I present my third entrance into a DBA tournament, the first that was for 25mm, and the debut of my wooden Early Armenian army in any game. (Which is another way of saying I did not practice playing DBA in 25mm or using that particular army list at all before entering the Grand Melee.)

My other Cold Wars reports are here: one, two, and three.

Games 4, 5, and 6 – 25mm Ancients Tournament (DBA)

First off, it was great actually meeting a lot of the people behind the names of the posts I read on the DBA forum on Yahoo and on Fanaticus.

My first game was against Ron G. (his Fanaticus handle) and his (I believe) Seleucid army. The figures were nicely painted and based and Ron was a real pleasure to game with. In fact, he gave some advice for how to play my Armenian army better (but only after he had kicked my butt). But, I am getting ahead of myself. Game one starts with the Seleucids invading my beloved Armenia ...
So, a 1-4 loss because I (yet again) over-extended my light horse. I did finally kill that bloody elephant, which was my primary goal, so it would not rampage through my army.

Next up was a game against a Greek Hoplite army consisting of ten Spear elements, and two Psiloi elements. I've played a few hoplite battles and always found that the battles against the Thracians and Scythians (or even the Thessalians with their Light Horse elements) were a tough row to hoe.

Game two has yet more Greeks invading Armenia ...
Finally a win at 4-2! I made comment to my opponent (who unfortunately, I lost his name) that I thought that this was a tough match-up and his comment was that he had won two previous tournaments with that army. Well cool!

Game three was against Ted (I hope I got his name right) and his Low Countries late medieval army, consisting of seven Knights and five bows. Again, Armenia was being invaded ...
Another 1-4 loss! I hate saying that it was because I got a bad string of PIP rolls (which is true); I really felt that somehow I could have changed my deployment in some way and done better, but my opponent said he did not think so.

It was an enjoyable tournament, with really nice opponents, and it taught me a lot. Not necessarily how to fight with the Armenians any better, but more that if you really want to do well in a tournament, whether DBA or Flames of War or anything else, you really need to practice. For DBA it is very much about understanding the relationships between elements (what beats what) and being familiar with the combinations certain armies can bring to the table. Hmmm. Sounds the same as Flames of War, come to think of it.

One final note: something I had always wondered about was how the "general wargaming population" (whatever that is) might react to my wooden figures, especially for something as serious as a tournament. The answer is, the reaction was pretty good. At worst I got a grin, but no comment whatsoever. However, I got a lot of positive comments, before, during, and after the games including from passers by. The most surprising comment was "where did you buy them?" Of course one common response was "it must have taken a long time to make them." As indicated on my Wooden Warriors blog, making the Armenian army was originally part of a "12 elements in 12 days" experiment. Although I did not make that goal for a number of reasons, that goal was for making, painting, and basing. And I was not that far off. So no, they do not take that long unless you want them to.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cold Wars Report (3)

Well, I made it back from my trek to Cold Wars 2012. My first two reports are both on my Dale's Wargames blog. The first report was about my game using the It Is Warm Work Age of Sail naval rules and the second report about my second game using the Pride of Lions rules.

Game 3 – Victorian Science Fiction (Hordes of the Things)

This game was entitled War of the Worlds and was put on by the famous Bob Beattie. After having read so much of work and ideas online, I was finally able to meet the man, and it was a pleasure, as was his game.

The scenario was modelled after War of the Worlds – no, not the Orsen Wells radio drama, but the 1898 book by H. G. Wells. In Bob's version, however, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen call up various Victorian forces for good while the "Martian" invaders bring Earth's forces for evil under its control. Bob adapted a number of characters to troop types from Hordes of the Things (HOTT) and added a few scenario rules.

I showed up first so was given the choice of commands and I chose the Invaders as, well, the flying saucer and tripod war machines looked cool! I later found out that I had five elements that required a PIP roll of '6' to come on and a further ten elements (or so) that were Lurkers that could only enter in special terrain that slowly crept across the board and that no one wanted to enter!

Pre-battle view of the entire board
Bob had some absolutely lovely and ingenious figures that he has collected and built over the years. In the picture below you can see Fu Manchu's aerial troops strapped to kites (on the left) and the Invaders' flying saucer and some walkers.

Posed picture of the Aerial Forces of Evil
Every turn another 6" (or so) hex would be added to the board, in a random direction from where the last hex was placed. This represented the invaders' plat life slowly taking over the planet, much like the plants in the movie War of the Worlds (with Tom Cruise). As you can see in the picture below, it is turn five as there are five hexes on the board.

One of the fiercest weapons the invaders had were the Black Smoke creatures (rated as Gods in HOTT) and the invaders had three of them. In addition it had two very large tripods which counted as Dragons. Each of these elements require a '6' on the PIP roll to bring on. Given that it would be very hard to bring these on using normal rules, Bob gave the Invader 2D6 to roll for PIPs, choosing the highest die. This also had the side effect of altering the odds that Gods went away. Normally, a God in HOTT is brought on when the player rolls a '6' and uses all of the PIPs to bring the God on. On any subsequent turn, however, if the player rolls a '1' for PIPs the God is removed. As I was rolling 2D6 and choosing the best, a God (or Dragon) could be called up if either die was a '6', but would only be removed if both dice rolled were '1'.

Needless to say, I never lost a God to a bad PIP roll, and I got all three Gods and two Dragons onto the board. I even ignored calling up the Black Smoke a couple of times that I rolled a '6' as I would rather have used the PIPs for movement.

The Creeping Crud of the Invaders
 It was interesting watching the interaction between some of the other troop types in the armies, but in the end, the Gods (three for me, one for John Carter's forces) dominated the field. I lost count of how many elements the first Black Smoke took out, and it was never destroyed nor removed because of a roll of double '1'.

Are those the aerial troops of Fu Manchu?
 The forces of good were unusually timid and did not make much effort to move, much less attack. Eventually, as shown in the figure below, the Creeping Crud started to divide the board and (randomly) provide a barrier of rough going for me to defend. Anyone daring to enter would be attacked unmercifully by my Invader Brains (Lurkers).

The Creeping Crud cannot be stopped!
 Although I had some interesting and powerful elements – artillery and behemoths in sufficient quantities – they just did not compare to the Black Smoke, so whenever I was short on PIPs I simply moved that rather than all of these lovely elements.

The Invaders' Command
Although I was not bored with the game, I can see that such a force would be rather boring after a steady diet of it. Not that a "normal" game of HOTT would ever play this way. A player willfully choosing three Gods and two Dragons as the majority of their force is just asking not to use most of that force in a normal game. This was only possible because of Bob's generous PIP rule for the Invader command (me).
The god-like creatures of each side battle it out ...
Everything thrown at my first God – Hero General, Magician, Cleric – was destroyed. When John Carter's "God" (I cannot recall their name; they were shiny people) was brought on, it started to rampage through the forces of evil. I eventually called for a Black Smoke creature to stop it (after it had killed one of my tripod walkers). As shown in the photo above, I got a lucky roll and the Creeping Crud grew underneath their God, I then rolled a '6' for PIPs, allowing me to call up my Black Smoke, and then with me at +6 and the enemy at +4 (everyone but Invaders were -2 in the Creeping Crud), I was able to barely beat them, banishing their weapon from the board.

... but the Forces of Evil prevail!
That pretty much broke the morale of the enemy players. Still more Black Smoke rampaged through their armies, taking out aerial heroes, dragons, and all manner of creatures.

The Black Smoke creatures are relentless
 At the end of the game, there were not many losses on the side of evil. Most had occurred on the far flanks, away from the Black Smoke in the center.

The far right flank at the end of the battle
 In the center, the Creeping Crud had absorbed quite an impressive section of board. My forces were largely intact (I think I lost one Dragon and one Behemoth) and although the game was declared "close, but an Invader victory", many players declared it a significant victory for evil.

My forces at the end of the battle


I really enjoyed the game as it was visually impressive and different from all my other games of HOTT, which were the typical Dwarves, Elves, Humans, and Goblins. Even though they were the same rules, they did not feel like a medieval fantasy game.

Bob later said that he should have removed the God if either die rolled a '1', rather than if both did. That would have certainly balanced out the sides, but I think I would have been reluctant to throw in any Black Smoke unless it had been absolutely necessary, given the odds. Bringing a God on would almost certainly have resulted in its loss, unless it came on at the end of the game.

The rules played well, even with some players never having played HOTT or DBA. Clearly some players were more involved than others, so some further balancing of forces is probably necessary, but I am sure Bob will work that out. As it was, for me, it was a fun four hours.

Next up is my DBA tournament using my wooden Early Armenian army.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Next Draft of DBA 3.0 is Out

The Jan 2012 draft of DBA 3.0 is out. Phil Barker has been active on the DBA forum on Yahoo, field questions and addressing concerns (although some still do not like the answers they have received). At first I was a little dismayed by Phil and Sue not really joining in on the debates on the forums (Yahoo or Fanaticus), as Phil had on the DBMM forum on Yahoo. Actually, it was watching (from the public bleachers) the development of DBMM that got me excited when I heard that it was DBA's turn. A chance to interact with the authors, to voice a preference, to be heard. So when Phil did not come on immediately, I really did think like some of the detractors were complaining: Phil did not care about DBA.

Turns out that all things need to happen in their own time and at their own pace. Phil is engaged and providing some very interesting and useful insight into his game design philosophy. And let's face it: for all the complainer's about "Barkerese", his ancients rules - in all their various forms - are clearly the most played ancients rules on the planet. (Might they also be the most played wargaming miniatures rules, regardless of period or genre, out there? Quite possibly, but the Warhammer franchise probably beats them. If counting only historical, quite probably, but it is hard to tell, given the popularity of Flames of War.)

Enough gushing. Here are some noteworthy changes from the last draft (or from the previous version, if I did not note it in the last draft, but it was there):
  • Army lists can now swap three elements from their list with three elements from an allied list.
  • Clarity on terrain piece sizes.
  • Choosing a BUA does not take away the attacker's choice for a baseline.
  • Having a lot of War Wagons in your army does not exempt you from having a camp if you don't have a BUA.
  • Littoral landing force can have a maximum of only three elements now (down from four).
  • You can have a landing force if your, or an allied contingent's, home topography is Littoral.
  • Clarified that a single element only gets a 0 PIP move if on the road.
  • Allied elements cannot make a group move with non-allied elements.
  • The < 1BW slide movement has been clarified.
  • Distant shooting targeting priority has been clarified.
  • Turning to flank when a column has been contacted is now clear.
  • Clarified that recoiling is a controlled retreat (which explains why mounted have a choice in how far they recoil).
  • The Buttocks of Death is no more!
  • Rear support from Psiloi is gone! This got rid of the controversy of rear-supporting Psiloi being destroyed if any of the three elements it was supporting were destroyed, but definitely changed the dynamic of the game. I wonder if this change will survive past this draft...
  • If you recoil but cannot complete the move, you are not destroyed; only if you cannot start the recoil are you lost.
  • Fleeing is no longer "recoil, turn 180ยบ, then move a full move". The initial recoil is now gone.
  • 4Kn (cataphracts) do not pursue like other Knights.
  • Loss of a General no longer results in an automatic loss in some cases; it now simply counts as an extra element lost.
  • Only the first double element lost counts as 2 elements lost; all subsequent double elements count as 1. Given the rumors that the Thebans could have a substantial number of double element Spears (8Sp), this is good news indeed!

The one area that confused me on the previous draft, and which I still do not see in this draft, is where some have complained that "heavy infantry" (infantry moving 200 paces) could, from a previous overlap position, flank a recoiling enemy cavalry element, as shown in the picture to the right. Like the last draft, this draft clearly states that:
An element can move into close combat against an enemy flank edge only if it starts entirely on the opposite side of a line prolonging that edge ...
So why do people think that you could legally move into flank contact just because you previously were in an overlap position, given the above rule? Having said that, I still do not see how people maintain that "closing the door" is even legal anymore. In both cases the element starts wholly (or partly, depending upon whether you define an edge touching a line is on the opposite side of that line) in front of the enemy element, so flank contact is not allowed.

Sometimes, one's knowledge of the previous edition is a hindrance, as you tend to gravitate interpretation towards what you already know, rather than really trying to see what the new version says. As far as I can tell, "closing the door" seems to be a concept no longer supported.
Update: I now see that my reading was incorrect. The reference to "that edge" refers to the flank edge, not the front edge! So those contacts are legal because the element is beyond the flank line.
I am definitely in the camp of buying and playing DBA 3.0 when it comes out. With each passing draft of the rules the writing gets clearer. (Is "Barkerese" now a dead language?) It is unfortunate that the 2.2/3.0 schism appears to not be going away, but some people just do not like the faster movement, changed deployment area, and randomized terrain, all things that I favor.

But, as with choice of WW II rules, fantasy rules, Napoleonic rules, etc. to each their own.