Fall-In 2011: Part 2

Before we went to bed on Friday, we made sure we knew what time Saturday’s events started.

Embattled Isles

The first event on Saturday was an excellent set of themed games arranged by the Davids.  They built 7 scenarios that all took place in England over a long span of time.  The battles chronicled successive waves of invaders taking control of England and then defending against the next invading army.  Each battle had preset terrain and army deployments, and some had special rules.  Unfortunately, we only had enough players to play 5 of the 7 scenarios.

I enjoyed this format immensely, but it must have taken a lot of work to arrange.   The huge win here is that all metagame concerns are completely gone, so players are evaluated based on their ability to command in a variety of situations they don’t have complete control over.  Defenders and invaders had separate winners, ensuring that any scenario unbalance was compensated for in the results.

In the end, the top three on our (defending) side went 3-2, and I ended up in the middle of the pack (worst of the best) based on points.

The shortened event left us with too much time to spend money in the flea market and dealer’s hall as the snow piled up outside.  At some point during the weekend, possibly between these two events, I got in a few pickup games with Jeff Franz and Jan Spoor.

Viking Fury

In recent years, the highlight of every HMGS-E convention has been the themed campaign event run by (you guessed it) the Davids on Saturday night.  This year’s theme was Viking Fury: the Viking invasion of England and Ireland.  I played one of the Viking players: Ivar the Boneless. Unfortunately JM, aka “Ragnar Shaggybreeches,” wasn’t around for me to blame him for my name (Ragnar was Ivar’s father, but he’s still not sure who the mother is).

Chris’s Picts are taken from behind.

In the first round, I yelled “Waagh!” and ran forward, as all good Vikings should.  “You guys approach his position from the woods, and we’ll sail up from behind and surprise him.

Chris surrounds me, but not fast enough.

In the campaign turn, I landed on a space on the map that must be defended by either Chris Brantley or Jan Spoor, and took my chances.  Chris defended with his Picts, placed a mandatory waterway, and ended up with it at his rear.  Fortunately for me, he didn’t anticipate my littoral landing.  I boldly deployed my general with 3 supporting units behind his lines, and took his camp on the first turn.  Luckily I had enough PIPs to run forward with the remainder of my force.  The 3″ move for 3Bd (Raiders special rules for this campaign) definitely helped get my guys back into command.

After that, it was a matter of me killing two more of his units before he surrounded and destroyed me.  I plowed forward in the center, while he spent PIPs to go around me on both flanks.  In the end he completely surrounded me, but I was back in command and he had gotten out of command.  He was almost within striking distance of my camp when I killed a second element and convinced these reasonable men to join my cause.  Bitches!

Pushing David Kuijt back into the sea.

In the second round, I attacked David Kuijt, also a Viking who had claimed a landing spot on the campaign map.

He did anticipate the possibility of a littoral landing at his rear, and protected against it.  However,  through a combination of not making very many horribly bad mistakes, and rolling really well, I finally beat David, 4-2.

He ended up being my first vassal, since in the first round my victory only gained me a place to park my boats and set up camp.

Nick Swales rolls me up.

In the third round, I had yet another chance to invade on the campaign map, and I attacked Nick Swales with a long line of spears.  This was a fairly straightforward “line ’em up and roll high” sort of affair.  Unfortunatly only one of us gets to roll high enough to win, and this time it was him.  He poked a hole in my line where my warband had hoped to poke a hole in his, and beat me down with attrition in a 4-1 victory.

In the final round, Rich Baier attacked me to steal my growing vassal tree.  Again we were both Vikings, so it should’ve been a fairly even match.  And again, it was a straight line without much complicated maneuver involved.  But this time, Diceman was on a winning streak.  He didn’t win with a few 6-1 splits, but instead he kept pushing me back with die rolls just good enough to beat me, consistantly over a long period.  Eventually I had to die, and I did.

Diceman has a lucky streak

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed playing against Rich, because I had so many recoils that my combat factors were never horrible. I consistently felt like a good die roll was just around the corner; it just never came.  I don’t have notes regarding how badly he beat me, but I suspect it was 4-0. He went on to win the entire event, and I ended up in a multiway tie with the third most points.

I definitely have fun at these conventions, especially given how few opportunities I end up with to play DBA and HOTT outside the conventions.  I know I’d play better if I played more often, but I’ll take what I can get.

And now, to plan for Cold Wars.  I need to get 48 points of “something HOTT” ready for a grudge match, and it’s looking like it’ll most likely be my Fire army. We’ll see what other events pop up that will require more painting…

A hearty thanks to all of the game masters and the event coordinators!

Fall-In 2011: Part 1

JM and I rode out to Lancaster with Larry early on Thursday, to get to Fall-In with time for dinner before Larry’s Glue Factory event.  I wanted to write this up before I finished reading JM’s account of what happened during BBDBA on Friday. I expect he may find my post-game analysis a bit tedious, but I find it helpful to go back over images to learn from our experiences.

Mike Guth’s Tuaregs approach the dunes.

Thursday: The Glue Factory

The Glue Factory was a DBA theme requiring all participating armies to contain at least 8 mounted elements out of 12 (not including elephants).  I brought Mongol Conquest, because it was one of my two eligible armies (along with Skythians). Mongols have many light horse, with low combat factors, no room to maneuver on a 24″ board, and high aggression “guaranteeing” I’d never place terrain. I didn’t think this was a strong army compared to what I expected from the competition.

I expected to see mostly Knight armies, but I shouldn’t have been surprised by Mike Guth’s Tuaregs in the first round. He won terrain and placed massive dunes in the center.  These are bad going to me but not to his camels.  The only thing in my favor was that they didn’t block shooting, though they did constrict his command radius.

An anachronistic civil war vs. Dave’s Golden Horde

I didn’t expect to win with this setup, and I felt successful for killing 2 elements before I lost 2-4.  This was too much terrain even for Mike, who had command radius issues once he sent his general into the center.

In the second round I had a much better chance of success if you just compared army composition.  I faced Dave, whose last name I didn’t learn, with his Golden Horde.  Surprisingly, I won the terrain roll, and had to figure out what a Steppe is supposed to look like.  Unfortunately I lost my fourth element to his bow shots before I killed four of his, and he won 4-3.

I found it interesting that when you have two light horse armies, you no longer need to play as a flanking force to gain an advantage.  My success was through flanking him around my right side… but so was my demise.

Mike Bumala’s Normans

 In the final round, I faced Mark Bumala’s Normans.  Once again, I placed terrain.  This game was a horrible massacre: I lost 1-5g.  I was really perturbed by how uncooperative my dice were being; it’s the only time I remember recently when I got very angry at bad die rolls.

Friday: Big Battle Doubles

Friday morning, JM and I got up nice and early, with plenty of time before the BBDBA doubles tournament at 9am.  Except, it didn’t start until 10am.  When did that happen?

We had time to get in a bit of a Viking civil war between our recently finished Baueda Viking armies. This Fall-In was notable for being the first HMGS-E convention I’ve been to when I’ve played a substantial number of pickup games between events.

This time, the Grey Wardens (JM and I) took Leidang (III/40d) with a Medieval German ally (IV/13a).  We chose 6 blades and the psiloi from each Leidang, and 2 auxilia in the German ally.  This left the Leidang with 2x3Kn, 12x4Bd, 4x3Ax, 4x2Ps, 2x4Sp, and the Germans with 5x3Kn, 2x4Sp, 2x3Ax, 1x4Cb, 2x2Ps.

Two Davids: Leidang on Leidang action

In the first round we faced Two Davids (Kuijt and Schlanger) with a nearly mirror image of our army.  They also had Leidang with a German ally, but they included 5 blades and 1 bow from each Leidang army, and used all of the German spears.  We won terrain and placed the terrain we planned for, with the waterway on a short edge so we wouldn’t see any landings.

The crux: our right flank bad going

We initially placed both Leidang commands, and then we were faced with the typical defender’s dilemma in BBDBA.  After placing 2 commands centrally so they’re hard to ignore, the enemy places 3 commands so they overlap your two and extend out each flank.  The defender now must choose which flank to attack and which to hold back.

Their Germans were on our left flank, but their knights were deployed inside a marsh, and didn’t look like they had room to maneuver.  On our right flank, we were a bit cramped by terrain, but our Germans are better in bad going than theirs.  We deployed the Germans on our right.  After a few turns we learned a few reasons not to have done what we did, but I think if we had deployed on the other side we simply would’ve learned a different lesson.

Our allies see their brothers working for the enemy, and flee.

We were slightly outmatched in the bad going on our right flank, but it could have gone either way due to the low combat factors.  When we first entered combat, it did go either way, and we ended up getting crushed in the bad going, and soon the German command broke before it could make contact. 

On the left flank, JM did an admirable job of holding off the Germans for as long as possible, but unless you’re winning somewhere else, living as long as possible just isn’t good enough.  He broke the enemy’s German command by killing its general, but that was too little too late, and we couldn’t catch up in elements before losing by attrition, 13-87.

In retrospect, in the best case scenario our knights on the right flank would still have been waiting for that combat to end before they could attack very strongly.  The fact that we didn’t want to advance on our left flank gave the enemy Germans the time they needed to maneuver to our flank unhindered.  It feels like we might have been better off deploying our Germans on the left, but then we would’ve had our knights facing their bad going, and we still wouldn’t have been able to flank them as easily as they could with bad going troops on the other side.  In short: it’s better to have terrain to anchor both of your flanks, than only one of them.

Stooge stand-in Mark Pozniak, with stooge Larry.

In round 2, we faced Larry Chaban and Mark Pozniak, using Larry’s “Jagoff” army: Medieval German IV/13d.  With 6 war wagons and 6 artillery, this is a formidable beast.

They defended and Larry placed pool table terrain. They deployed “everything except the mounted” first, with supported pike protecting the war wagons and artillery.  The Pike are too strong for our blades to beat consistently, and the war wagons don’t let us get any overlaps because they don’t recoil.   Our only hope was running fast, killing some artillery, and taking advantage of gaps in the line.

We were left with the standard BBDBA attacker’s dilemma: when faced with a narrower force, which side do we deploy heavier on? Which flank do we want to attack, where do we want them to deploy their third command, and how do we deploy to encourage them to comply with our preferences?  In this case we didn’t ask all of these questions, so we didn’t answer them.

For the Leidang, we used an interwoven command deployment: part of command A, then part of B, then the rest of A, then the rest of B.  The theory was to be able to get localized 2-on-1 command advantage, but the downside is that it always costs more PIPs to maneuver the groups, and it lets them get 2-on-1 command advantage at different locations.  We won’t be trying that again

In this game, we were basicaly trying to attack with our blades and knights while they attacked with their knights.  The problem with this plan is that all else being equal, their knights are faster than our blades, so we have to hold them off longer than they’d have to hold us off.

We also learned a lesson about allied commands: they are unreliable.  They can get high PIPs, but they can also get low PIPs.  This makes them more well suited for less PIP-intense missions than “primary attacking force.”

This time, the force JM was using to hold off the enemy also happened to be our CinC.  We did kill a few elements, but not many: we lost 8-92.

Rob and Matt Torres place their center command.

In our final round, we faced Robert and Matt Torres with their Low Countries army.  They had lots of pike, with some artillery and knights in support.

Just before initial contact

They won terrain and placed a river to narrow the board, with terrain on one flank.  They deployed a pike block on each side with an empty space in the center for their artillery and blades.  Our counterdeployment was simple: a straight line of blades against most of their pikes, with a flanking force of mounted and bad going troops on the one open flank.  Our hope was to break the center and then hit both of their internal flanks from their center to break another command and destroy them.

Overall, our plan worked, but there was a flaw: neither of their weak commands we attacked was their CinC.  Since we rarely have occasion to need to know how to win, we (or at least I) didn’t realize that demoralizing two commands isn’t enough, only attrition or demoralizing the CinC lets you win.

The Aftermath

In the end, we did kill their center and envelop and destroy them on our right flank; but we still needed to frantically kill elements while their strong CinC command hammered our low PIP command.  We ended up losing one command, and almost lost our camp, but we survived long enough to win a 74-26 Pyrrhic victory. 

Looking at these pictures, it becomes more clear to me that with heavy foot lines, you really don’t need to extend very far past the enemy’s flank to gain a significant advantage.  We could’ve shifted our entire line left two elements and we’d have been better off on both flanks.

Finally, the Grey Wardens won a game!  I think our next goal should be to end with more than 100 points.  I feel that we made mistakes, but they were a bit more strategic in nature than in past events, and that we agreed on what we’d try, even though it didn’t work.  At least I didn’t run my forces towards inevitable crushing defeat, like last time.

In the end, the Stooges and the Davids didn’t finish in time but still ended up first and second in our bracket, so they diced off to enter the finals.  Larry and Mark went to the finals and won the event.  Congratulations!

A Game of Ice and Fire

Because we knew we wouldn’t be participating in any other events during the time slot after Big Battle Doubles, JM and I arranged for a pickup game of Hordes of the Things against the Two Davids.  This turned into 72 points of 3-on-3 mayhem.

The Ice Elementals, commanded by David Kuijt, David Schlanger, and Mark Pozniak, defended their barren icy wasteland from liberation by the forces of Fire and Earth commanded by me, JM, and Chris Brantley.

I didn’t get a good sense of the battle on the other end of this large table, but the general flow seemed to be: we melt them with our fire, and the resulting water puts out our fire.  The earth elementals broke first through the loss of their general, followed by my complete annhiliation.

This was my first experience using the “large warband” variant rules, and I liked them a lot.  The figures were pretty, and the terrain was also quite nice.  Overall it increased my inspiration to play HOTT, and to complete some of my existing HOTT armies.  I’ve started basing my own fire elemental army, using many of the same D&D figures seen here.

Oh yeah! JM and I also played a pickup game of Hordes of the Things, Ewoks vs. Undead.  I was not at all put off by the weird combination of troops, it really didn’t seem any worse than fighting ahistorical matches in DBA once you got the figures on the table.

Congress of Gamers 2011: DBA

This past Saturday was Congress of Gamers in Rockville, MD (just outside DC). I was afraid I might not make it to the De Bellis Vasingtonium (DBA open) event, because we were going on a long family weekend… to DC.  I’m glad Marla argreed to let me leave them at the zoo for most of Saturday.  Thanks!

The events I didn’t participate in included a lot of open board gaming along with some organized board gaming events such as a racing series.  There weren’t many miniatures games other than the ones organized by “the DBA crowd.” Unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate in the Wings of War Balloon Busting event either, due to time constraints.

I really enjoyed the format of the “Bring-and-Buy,” where you drop off your old board games and hope someone buys them.  I didn’t bring any games due to timing, and didn’t end up buying anything because the prices were high compared to the size of my wallet and my desire to own the games.  But I think in future years I could sell off some of my games fairly easily since I wouldn’t expect to get as much as they were asking for theirs.  I also missed participating in the no-ship math trade.

Hordes of the Things

I arrived too late to play in the Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields event, a Hordes of the Things giant battle scenario set up by David Kuijt and Dave Schlanger.  I did get a few pictures: here’s an overview of the whole battle.

This scenario was based on the Battle of Dale.  This battle was left out of the movies, and the main characters weren’t there so it was chronicled in less detail in the books as well.  Around Dale in the North of Middle Earth, Dwarves, Elves, and Men faced the forces of Sauron: mostly Easterlings (evil men).

In HOTT terms, each side had 108 points split into 4 commands, good guys vs. bad guys (aren’t they always?)  As in the Giant Battle rules, all players on a side played simultaneously.  Although this can slow things down given enough players, I think I prefer the “long line” battles over the more free-for-all format used in the Two Davids Monsterpocalypse themed HOTT games.  I should probably actually play a normal Giant Battle before I settle on that decision…

All the figures were Games Workshop, mostly Lord of the Rings figures (with a few pigeons from the Warhammer elf line.)

De Bellis Vasingtonium

As it turned out, only an “hour” of wolves and shattered shields was a bit optimistic. When everyone finaly cleaned up the Battle of Dale, we started De Bellis Vasingtonium: a 4 round DBA tournament open to all armies.

I couldn’t decide whether to take Feudal Spanish (III/35b) or Later Achemenid Persians (II/7), so I brought Hittite Empire instead: I/24b.  I chose the psiloi option, giving me a final composition of: 3xHCh (gen), 1xLCh, 6x3Sp, 2x2Ps.  Except for its lack of bad going troops, this is a fairly solid composition, especially for 1200BC. 

JM’s right hand blocks his view of his Greco-Indian general.

I thought I might face another early army, but JM’s Greco-Indians were the earliest possibility, so we played each other in the first round.  “I came all this way to play against you?”

I attacked and JM set up basically a pool table, which suited us both just fine.  Early on I denied his elephant flank and concentrated on his other side.  I didn’t win this battle, JM lost it 2g-0.  Our battle lines seemed fairly well matched, but after the first few bounds of combat, JM misused a 1-PIP roll and left his General open to being outflanked, so I killed him.

Apparently JM stopped making mistakes early, because this was the only game he lost.  Congratulations on the 3-1 placing, that’s excellent!

Before: Doug Austin’s Bosporans vs. my Hittites.

In the second round, I faced Doug Austin’s Bosporins.  I’ve faced these guys twice before in BBDBA but never in single DBA.  I was the attacker, and Doug set up symmetrical terrain with two roads and a central wood.  He set up in a tight block with his bad going troops poised to run down the road and take my camp.  My plan was to run as fast as possible towards his knights while expending the minimum force necessary to distract and delay his light troops… who were running twice as fast towards my camp.

After: A big mess of Bosporans and Hittites

In the end, my expectations were met and my plan ended up working, but the timing and some luck went in my favor this time.  His plan was complicated somewhat by a greater need to consider his general’s command radius due to the woods, but mine was limited by the speed of my heavy foot.

He moved to within striking range of my camp before pulling back his bowmen to try to kill my general.  In the mean time, my spears and mounted troops finally reached his knights and I started gaining an advantage there.  He was even able to shoot several times with his artillery, which he deployed on his base line.  In the end I took his camp with my LCh, and won 3c-1. 

I decided to use “before” and “after” pictures here, because the contrast is so striking.  After Doug ran down the road and I ran up the open ground, we ended up almost perpendicular to our starting deployments, and Doug had turned my “flank” (my original rear).  Apparently his bowmen thought my wall was too high, because he didn’t end up attempting to take my camp.

I won two games in a row? Weird!  Unforutnately things started going down hill from here.

Mike’s Medieval Portugese took my camp.

In the third round, I faced Mike Guth and his Medieval Portugese time travellers. This seemed like such an ahistorical matchup that even a bystander asked something like “what are you… why…. what?” In reality, they were just using their time machine to get some practice in before sailing to North America.

I don’t have any pictures of the start of this game, but I defended and set up terrain with a small wood on either side of a road.  I deployed with my spears in depth in the center (double ranked with psiloi support) and mounted on the flanks, to defend against a central Knight assault.  In retrospect I think a thinner line would’ve been more flexible and less intimidating to him.

The Portuguese and Bostporin army compositions are similar, but with more heavy foot in the Portugese.  I don’t remember Mike’s setup.

He pulled a psiloi rush on the first turn.  He didn’t kill my LCh, but did really annoy me for the entire game.  That psiloi required a huge PIP expenditure for me to defend against, and the best I got was a stalemate. Finally, he took my camp with his auxilia and won 2c-1, with about 1 minute before time was called.

It was definitely a good move for him to do the psiloi rush even if he didn’t kill me, because I was definitely set up incorrectly to handle it. I put two mounted on that flank, because as soon as I was free of the woods they could move out to their flank and be more useful… the problem being that they were never able to move past the woods.  I may have been able to deal with it better if I had spear and psiloi over there.

I don’t have any pictures at all of the final game, which is probably just as well.  I faced David Kuijt’s Hussites, and basically beat myself with a bunch of mistakes to go along with my lack of experience with or thought about Hussites (or war wagons in general).  My only consolation is that I learned more than DK did 🙂

First of all… a gentle hill is not bad going, and you should ask what kind of hill it is before you decide which board edge you prefer.  After deploying incorrectly because the hill was not actually protecting my flank, I failed to correct my mistake and wasted PIPs maneuvering around the hill even though it wasn’t bad going.

Hussites have war wagons that are superior to my mounted but inferior to my spears, and blades that are superior to my spears but lose to my knights.  His initial set up let him swap his elements to ensure he had a few hot spots that he could take advantage of and poke holes in my line.  I’m not a very good element dancer, so I didn’t see much advantage to trying to swap elements into good matchups as I advanced… but I hadn’t considered that the PIP sink of the war wagons would’ve prevented him from swapping back as easily.

But that wasn’t the last of my mistakes.  Without much enemy mounted, my psiloi were wasted in the spear support role I put them in: this is a mental block I need to get over.  They don’t die to anything in his army except his light horse, so I should’ve had them out in front, extending my line or at least preventing flank maneuvers.

I hadn’t even considered the effects of massed War Wagon and Artillery firing on my lines.  That’s pretty brutal.

In the end, he outflanked my short line with his light horse and general… but his 4-0 victory came from slaughtering my line in head-to-head combat while making me spend all my pips on my flank.

In general, I have a problem with beating myself when playing DK by paying more attention to what he’s doing than to what I’m doing… but this time I made some big mistakes that I should not have, and that made it even worse.  Larry wouldn’t have admitted to knowing me after seeing that game.

In the end, I finished in the middle of the pack with a 2-2 record, which surpassed my expectations but not my hopes. 


I had fun at Congress of Gamers, and if there are enough events I’ll try to make it down again in future years… but the hotel cost may be too high to make it worth it if we aren’t planning a trip down there already.

Historicon 2011: Friday, Saturday

Friday: Monsterpocalypse

After BBDBA on Friday night, the only event was the Two Davids giant Hordes of the Things game: Monsterpocalypse Episode 2: Rise of the Terrasaurs – There goes Tokyo!

This was an 8 player HOTT game played on a huge board using rebased Monsterpocalypse figures.  Each player had a 24 point army, and sat next to an ally on one side and an enemy on the other. The goal was to capture objectives on the board.  Capturing an objective increased your army’s power, and decreased the power of the defensive forces in the city.  The first army to capture all 4 of their objectives won.

My aerial hero general is nuked

I was signed up for one of the IOUS slots (Insects of Unusual Size) and Rich Gause took the other.  Apparently we left our hive mind at home.  I deployed in a completely stupid way and boxed myself in, spending several turns to even get out of my deployment zone.  Dave Schlanger decided not to flank my general and kill it in the first 2 turns of the game, but it didn’t extend my lifetime very much.  Instead, both of the defense forces to our right beat the crap out of Rich’s bugs. 

Soon, Jon Bostwick rolled a 6 and brought out his nuke (a god, in HOTT element terms).  This killed off several of Rich’s elements, broke his army, and then started wandering towards the center of the map.

Eventually I unboxed myself, got some PIPs, and flew away.  Alex Bostwick, to my left, used a Jedi mind trick to convince me to attack the nuke, and it was a total disaster.  We didn’t understand how multiplayer attacks were resolved, and didn’t realize we couldn’t cooperate to flank and destroy it.  When it came back to Jon’s turn, he nuked my aerial hero, which broke my army.  On my turn, immediately after Jon’s, I rolled a 1 for PIPs, and the rest of my army evaporated instantly (in HOTT, demoralized elements that you can’t hold on the board are removed immediately instead of fleeing).

In The Princess Bride, the ROUSes were killed by fire spouts.  I guess when your unusual size is as large as a skyscraper, a tactical nuke is just about the right scale for a fire spout.  Even though I was out of the game, I hung around to watch.  I left before it finished, but eventually the Terrasaurs captured their fourth objective and won.

Saturday: NICT

The NICT, basically the DBA annual national championship, is open to anyone who has placed first in a NASAMW sanctioned tournament (or second place, for larger tournaments).  My win at the Battle at the Crossroads this year qualified me for the NICT, so I got to sit at the big kids’ table this year.  The event was played on 24″ boards with dismounting in any bound.

Since the pyramid event I qualified in was so weird, both in terms of tournament scoring rules and special rules in use during play, I decided to use the army I qualified with: Leidang, III/40d.  This is not an awesome army within its period: it’s basically bringing blades to a knight fight.  I took 1xKn(gen), 5xBd, 3xAx, 1xSp, 1xPs, 1xBw.

In the first round, I faced Greek Alex’s French Ordonnance, on my terrain, and lost 4-1.  He really didn’t want to dismount, but he swapped in his blades to dig my auxilia out of the woods.  In the second round, Tony Aguilar beat me 4-1, also with French Ordonnance, this time on his choice of terrain, a pool table. I was playing my blades aggressively like knights, and he was playing his knights timidly like blades, but he still ended up beating me.  I tried to concentrate my forces on one end of his line, but I didn’t support myself well enough and ended up outflanked and destroyed piecemeal.

In the final round, I had a somewhat better matchup against Ron Giampapa’s Medieval Scandinavians, but I still lost: 5-1 this time.  I don’t have any pictures, but this was a straight “line ’em up, knock ’em down” affair with minimal maneuver.  The dice didn’t let me exploit any local advantages I managed to create, so my line quickly crumbled.

This wasn’t a frustrating event, but it wasn’t particularly inspiring, either.  I prefer themed events over opens, because of the variety of armies present.  Even in themes, I’m more likely to choose an army I like instead of choosing my army based on how competitive it will be.  Hopefully I’ll eventually get good enough to win despite my army choice.

Saturday: HOTT Open

Tom Thomas ran a Hordes of the Things open tournament with 25mm basing and 4 foot boards.  He had plenty of nice loaner armies, so lots of people dropped in who weren’t planning to play.  We had 9 players, which let Tom participate to even out the field.

I brought a new version of the Elves of the Offwhite Tower, and got to show off my phallic symbol again… this time complete with a sheath.  My army list was: 3xSp (gen), 1xBd, 2xSh, 2xFl, 2xRd, 1xMg.  I learned a lot and enjoyed playing the army, but I am likely to change it up before I play it again.

In the first round, I played against Catherine Thomas, who played a Stark army based on R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series of novels.  Considering how much mindshare these books are getting among persons whose opinion I respect, I’m going to have to pick up a copy of A Game of Thrones before vacation.

Catherine’s army was very similar to something you’d see in DBA, except with a Hero.  I surrounded her with my flyers and started pestering her a lot, but she ended up killing my general and winning 8g-2. 

In the next round, I faced Jon Bostwick again, and he had another Boudicca army. This time he had a giant tree for a Behemoth, Boudicca was a hero, and the army was rounded out by a handful of warbands and a couple more chariots (riders).  He ended up killing my general, but I was ahead and won 12-8g.  For some reason, it seems like the majority of my wins this weekend were against Bostwicks…

I faced Tom Thomas in the final round, also with a Song of Fire and Ice army.  This was an interesting battle, but unfortunately we were running out of time and I had to cut it short in order to make it to the Peloponnesian War campaign event. 

My magician ensorcelled his magician, and we were at 6-6. He brought his magician back, and I killed his hero: back to 6-6 again.  He tried to ensorcell my magician, but he failed and ensorcelled himself, so it was 10-6.  He was able to bring his magician back a second time, and then ensorcelled me, bringing it to 10-6 in the other direction.  This back-and-forth could’ve gone on for some time, but I was out of time.  I hated to concede and leave in the middle of the game, and hated to cheat to lose, so I explained I was short on time and put myself in a vulnerable position for him to take advantage of. It still took a few more turns, but he killed me and won 12-6.  Sorry about that!

I learned a lot from this event, and I’m now more inspired to play HOTT more, build at least one more army, and build a few more interesting elements for my Elf army.  Larry said it was a bad idea to take both a Magician and Fliers in the same army, and I can see why: they both need 2 PIPs to move, they can’t group move together, and magicians need even more PIPs to use their spells.  But they’re both so useful!

In all of my games, I put a second rank of spear behind my general, bringing him up to +6/+6.  Eventually I realized this is silly: I should have a Hero general.  For the same 4 points, I get a +6/+6 element that moves a lot farther, isn’t quick killed by knights, and maneuvers more easily since it’s only a single element.  It’s less flexible, but that only matters if you intend to use the flexibility.

Flyers are very fun.  I thought I’d need two of them to make them useful, but I’m not sure this is necessary.  One is enough to wreak havoc behind the enemy line, providing flank or rear contacts. I also see much more benefit to taking high PIP elements than before.  I thought it would be a handicap to have fewer elements, but you have more PIPs to run the remaining elements, and they’re stronger and more maneuverable.

Saturday: Peloponnesian War Campaign

“It is 431 BC, and things are going to crap.”

Peloponnesian Campaign Map

The Two Davids campaigns are the highlight of every convention and a great end to a fun weekend.  This year’s event was in ancient Greece, with a bit of Persia thrown in for good measure.  I was signed up for one of the Spartan slots, II/5a: 9xSp, 1xCv, 1xAx, 1xPs.

In the first round, I attacked Corinth, played by Alex Bostwick with II/5i.  His army was the same as mine, except with one more psiloi and one less spear.  This was a fairly straightforward hoplite battle, except for the part where he took my camp with his cavalry.  I was eventually in a position to take it back, but by then I had beaten him, 4-c.  I controlled Corinth, and had a vassal in the first turn.  Yay!  This also meant I had a big target on my head.

The Davids, who run the campaign, are becoming famous for getting the lowest numbered tiles in many rounds.  After Larry thoroughly searched the campaign tile bag, and demonstrated to everyone’s satisfaction that there was no funny business going on, Dave Schlanger drew the 1 tile in the first round.  In the second and third rounds, David Kuijt drew the 1.  Shenanigans!

DK’s Hoplite Echelon concentrates force on my left flank

I was a pretty target, so DK attacked me in round 2.  He had an identical army composition to mine.  I set up the same terrain as in the first round, approximately.  David did something very clever, shown in the accompanying image. I’ve seen and used echelon formations before, but not in this way. He made very good use of the tactic here to deny one of my flanks while concentrating superior force on the other, for a minimum of PIPs, and while mutually supporting his own spears in the process.  By the time I saw what he was doing, I had already wheeled into a position that would take many PIPs to send my spears against him… but I was rolling 1’s for PIPs and he was rolling up my line.  He beat me 5-0, and I became his vassal.

After I saw what he was doing and commented on it, David again said “It doesn’t always work this well.”  

“So,” I responded, “when you say it doesn’t always work this well, that means you can do it but no one else can figure it out, right?”

“Yep, pretty much.”

That “pretty much” guaranteed I had to try this enough times to figure it out.  Even if it doesn’t always work, it’s important to learn more tactics so you can not only use them, but protect yourself from them and find ways to beat them.

In the third round, Mark Pozniak attacked me with his Athenians. I tried the echelon tactic, but it didn’t work correctly.  I ended up leaving my general’s flank open, and after several turns of back-and-forth combats, he eventually beat my general and won 3g-0.  I made some mistakes I should’ve avoided, but I was more interested in learning this new way than practicing what I already knew.

In the last round, Jon Bostwick attacked me, again with the same army composition I was using… and again, I attempted the echelon tactic.  Again, I left my general’s flank open, but I realized it a bit earlier and was able to protect it somewhat.  However, it didn’t help me win, and he beat me 4-0.

When I think about hoplite battles, they always seem boring and uninteresting to me.  This is probably because it’s a typical army choice for demonstrating DBA to new players, where hoplite battles are typically played out in a very straightforward fashion for the benefit of the new player.  When I actually play with hoplites against an experienced opponent, it’s a lot more fun.

I finished this year’s campaign in the middle of the pack, which was satisfying, but more importantly I learned new ways to play this army, gained a greater appreciation for it, and best of all I had fun.

Another year of Historicon is over, and no one knows where next year’s show will be.  I guess we’ll find out eventually, if the convention actually happens in 2012, but depending on where it’s held I might not end up attending.

Historicon 2011: Big Battle Doubles (Friday)

Friday’s main event is always Big Battle Doubles.  Since JM wasn’t in attendence, The Grey Wardens couldn’t make a return appearance.  Luckily, Dave Schlanger set me up with Mark Pozniak.  After we settled on playing Mark’s Ancient British, II/53, we chose the team name Woad Kill.  The final army composition was 12xLCh, 6xLH, 15x3Wb, 3x2Ps.  This is not a power army by any means, but it can definitely win through outmaneuvering (and high die rolls).

Somewhat unfortunately, Warband is a finesse troop in DBA.  I say “unfortunately” because historically these guys were more likely to yell “Waagh!” and run straight ahead.  This is only “somewhat” unfortunate because warband are fun to play the wrong way, since they maneuver so well.

Game 1 deployment vs. Doug Austin’s Bosporans with Sarmatian ally

The first image demonstrates our final defensive plan: two large pieces of bad going in the center, daring the enemy to approach our central CinC command and camp; two pieces of bad going near the board edges to constrict a flank.  It also shows the command split we used for all three games:

  • 3xLCh, 1xLH, 5x3Wb, 1x2Ps (10 el, BP: 4)
  • 3xLCh, 3xLH, 6x3Wb, 1x2Ps (13 el, BP: 5)
  • 6xLCh, 2xLH, 4x3Wb, 1x2Ps (13 el, BP: 5)

One flank command (low PIP) would hold on and try not to die for as long as possible.  The center command and other flank command would work together to attack the enemy’s weakest flank.  In this picture, the enemy deployed ideally for us, by putting most of their army on our preferred defensive flank.

During planning conversations with Mark, I had three primary concerns with this plan and command split.  First, the low PIP command consisted of both warband and mounted, and with 10 elements it might not have enough PIPs to accomplish its missions.  Second, combining two commands which were split by a piece of bad going might lead to command and control issues.  Finally, what would entice the enemy to approach us centrally?  In practice, only some of these ended up being real problems, and we only defended once anyway.

Round 1

In the first round, we faced Team Bosporan: Doug Austin and Bill Connely. They played the same army Doug used when JM and I faced him at Cold Wars: Bosporans (II/25) with a Sarmatian ally (II/26).  They also had a 0 aggression, but we won the terrain roll.  Doug set up very similarly to last year: a central low-PIP command consisting of primarily artillery and bow, with his CinC command split on both sides of that command; and the allied block of knights (with 1xLH for variety, this time) on our left flank.  The first picture above shows the final deployment.

We knew we had enough bad going troops to take and hold any piece of bad going, but our goal was not to hide in bad going and delay the game. Instead, we intended to look like a Warband army but act like a Mounted army.  The bad going provided a safe “home base” and staging area for the warbands, but it couldn’t be a final destination if we wanted to finish the game on time.

Game 1 in progress: attack the right flank.

As the game progressed, we advanced into the bad going, defended on the left flank, and attacked quickly on the right.  Our cavalry and warband reached their right flank before their knights reached our left, but Doug retreated from our advance and competently maneuvered to avoid our attack.  This would’ve gone a bit differently on 30″ deep boards, with an extra few inches to use in their backfield.  In the center, nothing really happened: they didn’t approach, so I held our central mounted in reserve to act where they were needed the most.

The End is Nearly Nigh

In the end game, my left flank warband were able to aid in the defense and even tried to pick off a few CinC elements (or at least suck away some PIPs).  We delayed the inevitable break of our low PIP command for a long time, but eventually it did break.  I allowed the elements to flee enough to get in the way of oncoming knights before trying to hold them, but there were only a few turns left.  With time running out, Doug graciously recognized they would lose eventually, and allowed the game to come to a conclusion on our right flank instead of retreating and delaying until time ran out.  In the end, we killed enough elements to break their CinC, and won 84-16.

Regarding my concerns about this plan: The low PIP command was not too large, and did have enough PIPs, even though it was acting both in the open and in bad going.  The key to success here was the fact that it had a passive mission to “not die.”  It would have failed if it were required to attack.  Command and control wasn’t a big issue in this game, because the central command was only required to work on one side of the woods.  It didn’t really matter whether the enemy approached us centrally or not: instead of advancing aggressively in the center and risking attacks from bad going, they tried to maneuver to our right flank and faced the warband there instead.  I didn’t see this flexibility before I saw the plan in action.

Round 2

Vs. Two Davids, after a few turns

In the second game, we faced Two Davids with “some kind of Romans” and Sub-Roman British (King Arthur).  They were also aggression 0, but they won terrain.  We applied basically the same plan we used in the first game to the enemy’s choice of terrain since it was similar enough to our own.

Much of this game hinged on a minor but costly mistake shown in this picture: the CinC command sent a column of warband down the road to “help” in the woods, but they ended up out of command.  This sucked PIPs from the CinC while severely hampering the ability of the right flank command to maneuver there and attack effectively.  We were able to maintain this PIP debt for longer than we expected, but eventually the Davids killed off enough elements in the woods to control them completely, and it was all downhill from there.

Another noteworthy part of this game was the Davids’ deployment and initial maneuver.  They deployed their line behind the deployment line, and placed their third command in front of their main line near the center.  As seen in the image above, they wheeled the two overlapping lines away from each other, in a beautiful maneuver I can only compare to the blooming of a flower.  It was very instructive to watch and learn from, but as David Kuijt said, “It doesn’t always work out that way.”  (Hold that thought, and read the Saturday update once I post it…)

I don’t know what would’ve happened if we had anticipated the command and control issues, and decided not to send the central warband toward the right flank.  The real battle here ended up being in the center and the right flank woods, not on the far flanks, so the extra force and PIPs would have been helpful. 

In the end, we hardly killed anything, and lost 94-6.  I enjoyed the game a lot, and seeing the flower bloom taught me enough to make it worth losing.  Command and control was more of an issue, obviously, but the low PIP command still had enough PIPs.  I think the tides could’ve turned somewhat to our favor in the woods, but the Davids had the overall PIP advantage and we were fairly evenly matched in combat, so they were bound to win if the dice acted as expected (and I’m not one to bet against them).

Round 3

Alex and Jon Bostwick, not the One True Boudicca!

The Long Island Bostwicks (Jon and Alex) read our team name on Fanaticus, and decided that they weren’t going to be outdone by us, so they took Ancient British as well. They totally out-woaded us!  They must be extroverts, or something.

Unfortunately, no one else was familiar with the recent Beastie Boys video (and trailer).  I wanted to bring a super fresh, old school beatdown to the table: “We’re the real Boudicca!”  “No, we’re the real Boudicca!”  I’ve listened to and grown up with the Beastie Boys since middle school, so as long as they’re still rapping, I know I’m not old yet…

Once again, everyone was aggression 0, and they won the terrain roll and defended.  Since we have the same army, this wasn’t a big deal.  Their command structure was different than ours: they put all of their mounted in one huge CinC command, and split their warband into two commands.  They had no psiloi, and took more warband instead.

They deployed their mounted command centrally with one warband command on their flank.  Their mounted had some elements in reserve behind the lines, and there was a road in place allowing them to redeploy as necessary.

As usual, width is better than depth.  We decided to create a longer line and outflank them on each side.  Cavalry is superior to warband, so we didn’t want to face their cav with our warband.  By putting two commands next to each other, we had enough mounted to meet their cavalry with one or two elements in reserve, and the third command’s mounted elements were still available to provide a superior force on one flank.

Their third command placement showed a bit of father-son rivalry.  Alex wanted all the warband on one flank, while Jon wanted the third command on his side.  I think Jon may have had the better answer, but Alex got his way and commanded both warband commands on our left flank.  Unfortunately, this meant that the reserve chariots were out of command by the time they reached the flank.  This sucked up their PIPs, and once I tamed their warband on the left flank it allowed us to use all three commands against their CinC command.

We were going neck-and-neck until one turn when I broke both of the warband commands: one by killing 1/3 of the elements and the other by killing its general.  After that, it was only a matter of time; but we ended up killing enough CinC elements to end the game before they lost 18 elements. We won 86-14.  No, we’re the real Boudicca!

Once again, the low PIP command had plenty of PIPs, since its mission was to advance in a straight line and attack in the open in a single line.  There was some potential for command issues on the left flank, but I kept the general in a useful position and it wasn’t a real problem.


I had a lot of fun in this event, as usual, and I’m glad to have partnered with Mark.  Thank you very much, Mark!  You won so many other events that I hope I didn’t hold you back very much in BBDBA.

Besides having fun, I learned a lot.  At the time I couldn’t identify many specific lessons, but now that I’m writing it up, they are a bit easier to identify.

  • My approach to planning in past BBDBA events seems mostly on the right track.  I considered most of the same aspects Mark did, but valued their importance differently.  It’s not clear how useful considering all possible enemies is, given the limited field you’re likely to face unless you reach the finals.
  • 10 elements aren’t too many for a low PIP command, even if they’re of a variety of element types.  The more important aspect of their success is their mission.
  • It’s very important to pay attention to command and control radius.  Yeah, I already knew that in theory, but I need to pay even more attention to it.
  • If you split a command to work on two areas of the board, you can share its PIPs with two other friendly commands.  However, you may also present that command to two separate enemy commands, making it more vulnerable to enemy attack.  If it is your CinC command, it may make the CinC easier to break.
  • On the other hand, using multiple commands against one enemy command is an important aid to your success.  Balancing this with avoiding exposing your command to too many enemy commands may be difficult.
  • The Blooming Flower tactic is an interesting, useful, and dangerous way to deploy your commands flexibly in two overlapping lines.

BBDBA seems to warp time in an odd way.  For me, time seems to be controlled by the overall flow and pace of a battle, and not wall clock time.  As a result, when I’m finished with a big battle game it feels like it was just as long as a single DBA game, and I wonder where half the day went.

Thanks to my partner and my opponents for a wonderful day of BBDBA!

Historicon 2011: Wednesday, Thursday

After Cold Wars, I said I didn’t take enough notes to write detailed descriptions of what went on, but apparently I was wrong.  This time around I expect to post even less information, so I apologize ahead of time for not remembering details such as what happened in any of the games, or my opponents’ last names.

Since JM wasn’t going to Historicon, I rode down with Diceman and slept on the floor of the Stooges’ room.  We arrived early on Wednesday, and would’ve had plenty of time for dinner before the first event if they would only have brought us our check.

A Shot in the Dark

On Wednesday night, Larry ran A Shot in the Dark.  This limited tournament required armies with at least 4 bows, so I took my Tlingit army with 10 bows and 2 psiloi.  I expected that this would be a poor army choice if I wanted to win, and I was mostly right.  Most players took the best army they could find with at least 4 bows, instead of maxing out on the shooting.  There were a lot of Medieval combined arms armies, as well as Indians.

In the first round I faced Dave, a very new player with War of the Roses English.  I ended up winning 2g-0.  The next game was against Hank Drapalski with his Medieval French (IV/64b).  As expected, he ended up dismounting all of his knights into blades.  On the last bound before we ran out of time, it was 3-3 and I shot one last element… and killed it!  Oops, no… my general doesn’t get +1 unless someone’s shooting back… so yeah, it was a 3-3 unfinished game that could’ve gone either way in the next few bounds.  So close, yet so far away. In the last round, I faced Ron Giampapa’s Early Egyptians (I/2b) and lost 1-4.

I enjoyed learning about bows in this event.  I tend to be a bit of a chaotic player, and often increase geometric complexity and let my troops mutually support each other outside the typical straight line formation.  This isn’t always what I plan. I often end up with many groups of elements, but I don’t mind as long as they’re safe and don’t require PIPs for maintenance.  In this event, I ended up using my bows basically as aggressive skirmishers, moving around in small groups and seeking out local advantages while attempting to prevent poor matchups. Because they shoot, it didn’t work horribly, but considering I only won one game it didn’t work very well, either.  Larry says “never let your bows get overlapped,” and that’s basically true, but when the field is covered with blades it often doesn’t matter anyway.

Overall, I don’t think it was a particularly competitive army choice, but it was in line with the theme so I enjoyed being able to field the army again before it’s most likely changed by the release of DBA 3.0.


On Thursday morning, I played DBA-RRR for the first time in the Open event.  I brought Rajput Indians, built from my Hindu Indian DBA army with additional Rajput knights and blades, and a cannon (pictures forthcoming).  This is also not a particularly competitive army in the face of firearms, but I enjoyed my limited exposure to DBA-RRR and would like to eventually get an army that takes advantage of more of the RRR-specific element interactions.  I’m not very interested in the Renaissance, so I’m unlikely to paint many armies for DBA-RRR.

In the first round, I faced Dan McKellick, another player new to both DBA and DBA-RRR, with Italian Condotta, I/1.  I lost 1-5… so he got the beginner’s luck and I didn’t, apparently.  In the next round, I faced Bill Brown’s English Civil War Parliamentarian II/22a.  I was leading 3-0 when I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, to pull off a narrow loss at 3-4.

In the final round, I faced Brian’s Valois French, I/8c.  In the first turn he did a “psiloi” rush with only a single skirmisher to attack my lonely cannon. In DBA-RRR, skirmishers shoot at +2/+2 with 200p range, and they’re still immune to cannon fire.  He didn’t kill anything quickly, but this ended up being a tremendous pain in the ass for many turns.  I brought over a bow to help shoot at the skirmisher, but he killed it off with his shooting.  I was moving 2 blades over to help as well, when he moved behind my cannon to shoot it from the rear.  I managed to turn around, and when he shot me on the next turn I fled him off the board.  Finally!  In the mean time, he had tied up a quarter of my army with only one element. I’m surprised I lived through it as long as I did, but in the end I lost 2-4.

My elephant was basically useless in all of the games, due to its vulnerability to cannon fire, so I’m glad I was able to detach my general.  Clearly it’s not a good idea to leave your cannons vulnerable, even though they shoot 8″ in this game.

In this event I was making some mistakes, but I chalked it up to being the first time I played the game. Unfortunately I didn’t stop making mistakes as soon as I had hoped…

Team Cup

The Team Cup format requires players to form 4-player teams, and each player selects an army from a different book.  Teams are matched up against other teams, and players play against their opponent within the same book. I couldn’t build another Pittsburgh team, so I joined Tony Aguilar, Rich Gause, and Ron Giampapa to form the North and South team.  Unfortunately I don’t remember all of our team results.

There were an odd number of teams, so in the first round we got a bye.  This counts as a win, but that’s not the point: I’m here to play the game… so Rich and I played a practice game during the free slot.  I was in book II with Lysimachid, II/17; Rich was in book I with Vedic Indian, I/23.  He won 2-4.

In the first “real” round, I faced Dave again with his Later Carthaginians (II/32, no elephants).  He beat me 4-1, after I made some big, dumb mistakes I should have known better than to repeat.

In the next round I faced Larry, also with Later Carthaginians.  He took one elephant and one light horse.  In the last bound, Larry graciously allowed me to take a move back. I ended up winning 5-4 by killing double ranked warbands, but the combat rolls would’ve produced the same results if I had used my second-best move instead.

I think our team all lost our first game, and we were 2-2 in the second round, but I could be wrong.  Looking at past years’ army selections in book II, I expected to face Tamil Indians at least once, but I didn’t.

Midnite Madness

It can’t be “midnight” if it starts at 11pm, right?  Well, it didn’t end until almost 3am, so that’s close enough.  As usual, this is a single elimination event open to all armies, but the motivations are warped by the fact that it happens so late at night.  The winners advance to the next round and the losers get to sleep, so it’s never clear which is the better option.  The only loser is whoever comes in second place, since they had to stay up until the end but they still didn’t win.

I used Mark Pozniak’s Ancient British, II/53, to get some practice with them before Big Battle on Friday.  In the first round, I beat David Bostwick’s New Kingdom Egyptians, I/22, at 4-3.  In the second round I faced Ben Hatch, who was a fairly experienced DBA player who hasn’t played at conventions before.  He beat me 4-2 with his Vikings, and I truly learned the lesson that warbands are bad going troops.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to maneuver them into bad going before they had to face blades.

And finally, sleep…

Stoogecon: a Matched Pair?

Stoogecon was a few weeks ago.  As with last year’s event, the tournaments were three rounds long: an Open and Matched Pairs.  Unlike in previous years, the DBM folks showed up as well, and even managed to get as many players as “we” (the DBA players) did.  Although I mainly want to share my thoughts about my choice of Matched Pair armies, I’ll start with a summary of the day.

In the Open, we apparently all had the same idea: “everyone likes medieval knight armies, so I’ll take elephants.”  I brought Rajput Indians, III/10b. The other players had Tamil Indians, Graeco-Indian, Southern Dynasty Chinese, New Kingdom Egyptians, and Romans.

A quick summary of my Open games: In round 1, Frank with Tamil Indians beat me in a close and hard-fought match, 4-3.  In round 2, I shouldn’t have gone into the bad going, and Rich’s Chinese punished me for it, 4-1. In the last round, Larry’s Egyptians ran up to me and committed ritual suicide: I won 2g-0 on the bound Larry first contacted me.

For the Matched Pairs event, I chose Early Bedouin, I/6c, vs. Later Achaemenid Persian, II/7.  Bedouins have: 3x3Cm (Gen), 1x2Cm, 4x3Ax, 4x2Ps.  I gave the Persians 1xLCh (Gen), 2x3Cv, 2xLH, 4x3Ax, 3x2Ps.  The basic difference is the Bedouin camels are better vs. mounted, but there are fewer of them.  Bedouins have the possibility of Dunes, but with Ag: 3 to 1 they’ll rarely get to use them. 

So, is this a well-matched pair?  I’ll share my thoughts after a summary of the event.

In the first round, I played against Jim using his armies: I played Middle Imperial Romans vs. his Later Imperial Romans.  I didn’t feel like I made any big mistakes during play, but still ended up continuing my losing streak against him: 4-0. 

In the second round, we used my armies, and JM chose Bedouins.  These armies have low combat factors, so they’re fast and bloody.  I don’t remember the details of the battle, but it was a total rout: I won 6g-1. 

In the third and final round, we played my armies again and Frank chose the Persians.  Surprisingly, the Bedouins won terrain and of course placed some big central dunes. That whole “rout” thing worked so well, I tried it again… only this time I was Bedouin, so I lost 5-2.

At this point my conclusion may be obvious, but I first want to make it clear that I really enjoy playing either one of these armies against the other.  I’ve had some tense and interesting games, and even the routs didn’t look totally hopeless until the dice started rolling.  Using primarily light troops means you run faster, so you get into combat faster with less time to rearrange lines before contact; and the low combat factors mean someone dies quickly.  You’ll never end up with an incomplete game, in any case.

The basic premise of this matched pair is to take two similar but slightly different armies, with similar compositions but relative strengths and weaknesses. Bedouin camels have an advantage against mounted but a penalty against foot, and don’t suffer bad going penalties if they happen to find a dune to stand in.  Persians have more mounted, but less bad going troops.

Despite these seemingly even odds, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Bedouins win.  It can certainly be done, and there have been some close games, but overall I don’t think the pair is as well-matched as I used to.  After Stoogecon, I considered why this might be, and came up with a few ideas.

First of all, “dunes” are mostly a red herring.  Bedouin will rarely get a chance to place dunes at all, only 6/36 of the time.  If you do get dunes, they can probably be used effectively, but I haven’t done it correctly yet.  The benefit of dunes in this matchup is not that camels fight in them without penalty; it is the camels’ ability to move through dunes as a group.  No Persian player would be dumb enough to put their Cavalry near the dunes, so the camels will only be facing foot… but the camels aren’t very good against foot.  So, deploy the dunes for disruptive PIP advantage, rather than as a central terrain to fight over.

The other problem is the nature of the armies’ advantages.  Bedouin camels are better against cavalry, which is 5 elements; but they’re worse against foot, the other 7 elements. Their advantage turns a cavalry matchup from 3-3 into a 4-3, which increases their odds of a kill from 2/36 to 4/36 and a recoil from 15/36 to 21/36. Their disadvantage against supported auxilia goes from 3-3 to 2-3: 2/36 chance of being killed up to 6/36, and 15/36 recoil up to 21/36.  Against unsupported auxilia, 3-2 to 2-2 reduces the chance of a kill from 6/36 to 4/36, while increasing the chance of being killed from 1/36 to 4/36.

So basically, Bedouins get a lesser advantage against fewer foes, and a larger disadvantage against more foes.

The overall dynamic is that the Persians are happy playing with their entire force out in the open, while the Bedouins want to keep their foot in bad going to stay away from the enemy Cavalry.  They have to choose to either stay in bad going and give the Persians both numerical advantage in the open and overall PIP advantage; or to come into the open and give the Persians combat factor advantage

Not all of these factors played into every loss I’ve seen, but in my previous attempts to use this matched pair I came away with similarly skewed result.

Overall, I have a bit of a dilemma.  I really enjoy playing this pair of armies, but I no longer think it’s an even match.  I either need to figure out how to win with Bedouin, since I already know how to win with Persia; or find another matched pair that I enjoy playing as much as this one even when I’m losing.  Any ideas?

Post Tax Day BBDBA 2011

Last weekend I drove out to Columbus, and Mike and I played BBDBA at the Post Tax Day event.  It was a fun time, definitely worth going to Ohio.  I hope to go back for future DBA events out there.

Unlike my other BBDBA tournament experience, this was a singles event instead of doubles.  I borrowed JM’s Hittite army so I could field double Hittites (I/24a) with a Mitanni (I/19) ally.  My planning ahead of time was limited to figuring out how to break the army into commands, and considering general defensive deployment (but not terrain placement).  In all three games, my commands were split as follows:

  • High PIP: 4xLCh(CinC), 9xSp, 3xPs.
  • Low PIP: 4xLCh(Gen), 3xSp, 1xPs.
  • Ally: 6xLCh, 2xAx, 3xPs, 1xHd.

I’m a bit of a wuss, so the Mitanni horde never left the camp.

Game 1: Hittites

Brian Peruski with Hittites

The first game was a Hittite civil war: I faced Brian Peruski’s triple Hittites (I/24b).  Our army compositions were similar, but he had knights instead of cavalry, and I had the Mitanni ally.

I defended, and placed fairly open terrain with two roads and woods.  My army wanted some bad going to play with, but not a lot.  I placed my Hittites first, with the spears supported and in two ranks as shown here.  This provided good defense against knights, and the symmetrical deployment allowed me to deploy my Mitanni on whichever flank I though I could gain an advantage on, while leaving chariots to protect the other flank.

Although I hoped to face knights with my spears, I didn’t expect it.  Although knights quick kill spears, the combat factors are horrible if the spears have support.

Brian deployed with one command poised to go into the woods on my right flank, and a mounted command on my left.  My choice at this point was to try to figure out which command was his low PIP command, so I could ignore it and concentrate on the other side instead.  I deployed against his mounted-heavy command, and left my right flank relatively open.

It turned out I was wrong about his commands: his mid PIP was on my right and his low PIP was on my left.  In the first turn, Brian ran down the road, and everywhere else we advanced in an orderly fashion.  This left his column of spear ahead of the rest of his force, and within striking range of my chariots.

For the remainder of the game, three chariots from my high PIP command delayed and distracted his mid PIP command on my right flank.  He was never able to bring the rest of his troops up to support his spear. In the center, we pushed back and forth until I killed off some knights and held my advantage. On my left flank, I outflanked and destroyed him.

Eventually I broke his C-in-C command in the center, after suffering a loss of 6 elements.  The final score was 88-12 in my favor.  My first win in tournament BBDBA!

Mike’s Early Crusaders are run down by Brian’s Hittites.

This game reaffirmed my faith in well-supported spears against knights.  Brian learned from his mistake of deploying his knights against my spears, and in the second game he crushed Mike by deploying his spears against Mike’s knights. 

This also provided a great example of Economy of Force.  Holding off 10 of Brian’s elements with only 3 of mine made a huge difference.  Early on, I was afraid I made a mistake by placing both roads, because they ended up providing Brian with as much mobility as they provided me.  Luckily, facing my chariots left him without enough PIPs for the rest of his force to advance.

Game 2: Medieval Swedish

John Lawitzke with Medieval Scandinavians (Sweden).

Ugh, what a nightmare.  I totally screwed this one up. 

John Lawitzke defended with his Medieval Scandinavians (IV/54c): blades and bows galore.  As in his first game against Mike, he placed a fortress of maximum sized forest and marsh in front of a waterway.

Clearly he wanted to sit inside the fortress and not outside it, so I made the only good decision all game by choosing to place the waterway at my rear.  He placed his camp centrally, and I deployed mine on my far right flank so I could deploy at least part of my force in front of the bad going.

After he deployed centrally, I started screwing up.  First of all, I didn’t deploy a strong force against his C-in-C command, but instead virtually ignored it.  Second of all, I spent way too much effort attempting to prevent a littoral landing.  I could’ve lost both camps on the first few turns, but since his army was so slow I should’ve had plenty of time to recapture them before he hit me.  Instead, I bottled up my troops and made it impossible to maneuver.

When we first met in combat, it didn’t look like a completely lost cause until after I rolled the dice.  I had some advantageous combats, but they all failed; this turned my disadvantageous combats into epic fails, and I lost several elements.  After that, I never had a combat that was in my favor for the rest of the game.

He quickly crushed the Mitanni on my right flank, and then demoralized my C-in-C command.  By the end of the game I was cheering when I simply caused a recoil.  He beat me 100-0.  Doh!

Game 3: Antigonids

Scott Ludwig with Asiatic Early Successors (II/16a).

In the third game, I defended against Scott Ludwig’s Early Asiatic Successors: Antigonos (II/16a).  My terrain placement was intended to encourage him to choose his side of the table, and to anchor his pikes on the woods on his baseline.  It worked.  The hill on my left was steep and on the right it was gentle.

I used the same symmetric deployment as in the first game, but with a single rank of spears where I assumed his pikes would be.  After he deployed where I hoped he would, I placed my Mitanni where they could play on the steep hill and restrict his options on that flank.

Scott’s command split was pretty severe.  He had 18xPk (C-in-C) and 1xLH in his low PIP command.  This is just enough PIPs to walk forward in a straight line, but it provided no room for maneuver.  The key to my survival was clearly based in not letting him poke me with his long pointy sticks.  On my right flank, his mid PIP command had 6xPs, 1xLH(Gen) in the woods.  On my left was all of his mounted in a high PIP attack wing.

He advanced his pike line with his psiloi in support on my right flank.  There was a mistake in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what the better answer would have been.  The three chariots on my right flank killed off the entire psiloi command before starting to outflank his pikes.

In the center, I really didn’t want to face his pikes.  I advanced as far as necessary to gain a hill advantage, and then sent my psiloi into “pain in the ass” mode.  They played between the lines, forcing him to shift sideways to align with my group of psiloi, and then preventing him from advancing more than 5-10mm at a time before contacting another psiloi unless he broke formation.  His troops were well trained and stayed in line, but it was virtually impossible for him to gain ground.  His 1-2 PIPs per turn were dedicated to fending off my chariot attack on his pike’s flank.

My left flank was most interesting, tactically.  I had superior numbers and terrain advantage; he had superior combat factors.  It wasn’t clear whether I’d be able to turn his flank on my right before he gained an advantage on my left.

After the death of Scott’s high PIP general.

He broke through my line with his elephants, demoralized my low PIP command, and started killing spears in my high PIP command.  In the end, I won with a bit of a Deus Ex Dice: I set up an advantageous combat against his high PIP command’s general and killed him.  With his low PIP command completely destroyed and his high PIP command demoralized, and almost no PIPs available to advance his pike line, he conceded.  He’d have been hard pressed to keep his three elephants on the board, since they were in 2 groups and cost 3 PIPs per group to avoid retreat.  In the end, I won 78-22.

This game was another great example of economy of force, but I was able to make a strong offensive strike against his psiloi since my light chariots quick kill them.  He might have been better off rotating his pike line on the bad going, letting him keep some of his psiloi in the woods.

I was really happy with my terrain placement.  It was minimal enough to look harmless, but provided exactly the function I wanted it to.  In some games my plan would be too obvious and therefore easy to ignore.  However, it’s still sometimes a good tradeoff to give the enemy the terrain they’re looking for in exchange for terrain you’re looking for. The alternative is no one getting the terrain they want, which may be just as good.


In the end, I came in 5th place out of 10 with 166 points.  Mike won a game as well, in the third round and his third game of BBDBA ever.  I didn’t even have to exercise my “bring a new player so you’ll have someone to beat” option.

This whole “BBDBA singles” thing has a lot more of the feel of a DBA event than a BBDBA doubles event.  In the end, it’s still DBA and I enjoy DBA.  Mike wasn’t sure whether he’d like the longer game length of BBDBA, especially when you’re losing, but he had a good time and continues to have enthusiasm for DBA.

Hittites with Mitanni ally are a bit more interesting than I expected, compared to Hittites in a single army.  If I were playing triple Hittites, I’d definitely prefer the later Hittites with heavy chariots.

The Mitanni are a very useful ally for several reasons.  Their combination of bad going and chariots is a good mix when facing a mounted command near bad going.  I also liked the PIP distribution with this ally.  I never felt like I was PIP screwed even when I was rolling low, and I really enjoyed the fact that my low PIP command typically had more PIPs than a triple army’s low PIP command.

Thanks for the great event, I hope to be back for more DBA in the future!

Cold Wars 2011: Saturday

Saturday had two big events with a free slot for shopping.

Luckily, the “good old days” of playing 4 new rule sets and coming home with 4 new armies to paint are long gone!  I managed to buy relatively little this time around. Besides picking up some random stuff at the flea market and more bases from Gale Force 9, I also got a 15mm Hordes of the Things army from Splintered Light.  They have really beautiful figures.  I chose a mixed Undead force, with dwarves, humans, centaurs, goat men, and even an undead elephant.

Hordes of the Things: Good vs. Evil

The Diceman. Some people call him… Tim.

The morning event was Hordes of the Things in 25mm.  I brought my Elves of the Offwhite Tower, but I never defended; so I never got to place my “vaguely flesh colored” tower, as David Kuijt described it.  My army was comprised of 3xSp (gen), 2xBd, 3xSh, 2xKn, 1xMg.

In the first round, I faced Rich Baier’s Lord of the Rings Orc army, and lost.  Next, I faced Frank Popecki’s Dark Elves, and lost.  Finally, I faced David Schlanger’s Haradrim, and lost.

I like Hordes of the Things, but so far in a very different way than DBA.  It’s a very similar game to DBA from a rules perspective, but the different element types require very different strategies than DBA.  HotT seems like a game I want to play mostly for the fun and cinema of it, while DBA feels like a game I want to get better at.

Campaign Theme: 4th War of the Diadachoi

For me, there are two main events that bookend every convention: BBDBA doubles at the beginning, and the Two Davids campaign event at the end. This time around, the campaign included Alexander’s successors and some outlying barbarians, during the 4th war of succession.

This was an interesting mix of armies. The successors all had heavy pike armies, but most of the other armies had light foot or spears. In many theme campaigns, the very different army compositions are typically not close to each other on the map, so you usually face a comparable enemy. On this map, the light armies were all over the place, so any Pike army that wanted an easier target could probably find one.

Successor campaign map

I played Lysimachid (II/17): 1x3Kn (Gen), 1x2LH, 4x4Pk, 4x3Ax, 1x2Ps, 1x4Sp. I hadn’t tried a 4 pike army before, and I really enjoyed this one; even against armies with 6 pikes. I initially wanted to play Kassandros, who has an elephant instead of a spear, but I think I’d prefer this army to have more PIPs available to maneuver the light foot, instead of dragging an elephant around with me.

In the first round, I played against Alex Bostwick’s Bithynians: mostly auxilia.  He defended, and I beat him in a fairly straightforward, unmemorable battle.


In the next round, I faced Frank Popecki with Antigonids: an elephant and 6 pikes.  He attacked, and sent his elephant with 3 other elements around the far side of a wood.  I decided to respond by sending a larger portion of my force to that side, to try to isolate them from their general and kill them when they were out of command.

The strategy was working fairly well, until he took a risk and killed off one of my Auxilia in the woods.  After that it was a very intricate, tactical game, but he had the upper hand and eventually won.

DOOM!  But I won…

In the third round, I faced Alex Halkiadakis and his Aiotolian League: a few spears and a lot of psiloi.  This was going fairly well, as I punched a hole in his spear with my knight general and exploited the gap.  He had heavy losses, and I could win by killing only one more element, so I took a risk.  I sent my spear against his light horse with an overlap on one side, and used my general to flank him on the other side.  This left me without a recoil, so I’d die if I lost the battle… but since it was 4-0, that was only possible if we rolled a 6-1 split in his favor.

We rolled a 6-2, and the combat was tied so neither of us moved.  Alex sent his general against the rear of mine, who turned to face.  It was his 5 to my 4, and if I recoiled I died.  Things weren’t looking good, and then… another tie!

On my bound, I brought up my psiloi to compensate for the missing overlap, and closed the door with my light horse so I would actually kill his element, and got rid of his light horse before my general recoiled (but lived).  That was a close battle that came down to only a few rolls.

Next, I faced Alex Bostwick again, with him attacking this time.  I killed a psiloi early, which was lucky; because in the next combat I sent my Knight general against his light horse with one overlap: 5-1.  Again, I had a huge chance of winning, but I’d die if I lost… but I’d only lose on a 6-1 split in his favor.  In retrospect, since this was not a game winning move, I probably should’ve been more careful; but I wouldn’t be saying that unless we rolled 6-1 and I lost, so obviously that’s exactly what happened.

The game wasn’t over yet, because he hadn’t killed more elements than I had.  I held on for a few turns through even more locked combats that I would’ve preferred to win, but with my moves requiring 2 pips after losing my general, it didn’t take long for him to take out one more element and win.

In the final round, I faced another player whose name I forget, and who wasn’t originally signed up for the event so I can’t look it up, either… sorry about that 🙂

It was another 6 pike army with an elephant, aren’t they all?  I defended and deployed 3 pieces of bad going diagonally across the board and a road down the center.  There was enough space for my 4 pike between the bad going, but not his 6.  My plan was to catch his flank of his pike as he tried to push through the bad going, or crush him in the bad going if he tried to take the central hill.

Early on, things were going well, but eventually he started catching up.  We ended up in another very tricky tactical battle with elements all over the place.  He killed a fourth element before I did, and took victory at 4-3.

The event was a lot of fun, as usual.

The main mistakes I know I made in this event were taking some small risks of losing instantly, and taking advantage of short-term tactical benefits while failing to maintain coherent battle line.  I noticed several times when I was broken into too many groups.  I know the decisions that brought me there made sense at the time: I was intending to win with combat odds that were in my favor, not to lose and end up spread all over the place.

I enjoyed playing the Lysimachid army, but I have mixed feelings about it overall.  I guess I’m not inspired by it, even though it’s quite fun to play.  I think it worked well in this campaign event: if I attacked I could choose an enemy who had more light foot and would likely place terrain; but if I was attacked it was most likely by a 6xPk army so I could deploy bad going and gain an advantage. 

I may not play this army again soon, but I think a triple Lysimachid or triple Kassandros army might be a better alternative than double Alexander with Mountain Indians.

It was another great convention!  Now I’m looking forward to Post Tax Day BBDBA in Columbus, Stoogecon here in town, and Historicon.