Cold Wars 2011: Friday

I didn’t take enough notes to post details of everything I did at Cold Wars, so a summary post will have to do.

We stayed at the Lancaster Host again… that place is getting to be a bit of a dump.  We got a pretty crummy room: it reeked of smoke and had clogged drains.  Fortunately we really only slept there anyway so it wasn’t a big deal.  On the other hand, food options are better than they used to be.  There are burritos available for lunch, and the “family restaurant” next door turned into a Japanese/sushi restaurant.  They also still have the nightly pig roast, if you’re into that sort of thing.

JM and I arrived a bit after 8pm on Thursday, so we probably could’ve played the Dismounting Knight event.  Instead, we decided to get in some more games of Hordes of the Things, since we had hardly ever played and had an event on Saturday that sort of expected us to know most of the rules.

BBDBA Doubles

Friday’s main event was BBDBA Doubles.  JM and I took Alexandrian Imperial (II/15) with a Mountain Indian Ally (II/2).  This was supposed to give us good punch in Alex’s mounted wing, a defensive wall of pike, and lots of bad going troops in the ally.  It’s a high aggression army, so we expected to attack every game, and weren’t disappointed.  Although we considered many of the enemies we might face, some of our opponents gave us a bit of a surprise.

Stephen Aspenberg and Doug Austin

In the first game, we faced Doug Austin and Stephen Aspenberg, playing Bosporans and Sarmatians. They had a lot of knights, with some light troops and artillery in the center.  We deployed the mountain Indians on the far left flank to outflank them, and Alexander on our right.  Unfortunately my Mountain Indians were crushed by playing with knights they should’ve stayed away from, and our pikes were too far off our right flank to be as useful as we would prefer.  In the end, they beat us with two commands demoralized after taking 50% losses to the army; but our C-in-C command had no casualties; mostly because they took so long to get into contact with the enemy.

Alex and Jonathan Bostwick

Next we faced the Bostwicks, who had a ton of cavalry with some light foot in the center.  Since they didn’t have anything affected by double ranked pikes, we thinned out our line and faced them on a wide frontage.  My Mountain Indians had relatively even odds against their Cavalry, but they were more able to take advantage of holes in our line, so my right flank was the first to fall.  On the left, we fared much better: JM demoralized their C-in-C command.  Unfortunately, we had more losses than they did, so we didn’t win outright.  Instead, we lost the battle of attrition as they killed us faster than we could kill them.

I think our setup worked better in this game, and I’m not sure how we could’ve improved things very much from a strategic perspective.  One possibility would’ve been to place our Mountain Indians in the center, and hope they responded by deploying their Cavalry opposite us.  This would’ve been essentially the same matchups we had, except our pike would have been able to gang up on them… eventually, if they ever made it into contact with the enemy.

In the third round, the only teams we were likely to face were both from Pittsburgh and were both playing Ptolemaics.  We ended up facing Larry and Rich instead of Tim and Lisa.

The Stooges: Rich Baier and Larry Chaban

Since Saturday’s campaign theme was a Successor event, we did a bit more thinking than average about how to face another Pike army.  The biggest questions we had were: what do you do with the Mountain Indians, and how can you break their C-in-C command when it’s built entirely out of Pikes?  Our typical strategy was to try to break the C-in-C command, but against pikes we might need to settle for killing everything else; but we needed to keep their pike at bay while we did it.  The answer we came up with was to send the Mountain Indians against their pikes, while facing the rest of their army with our remaining two commands.

The Mountain Indians have 7 elements that can’t be harmed by pikes unless they step out of formation and make themselves vulnerable, so that’s relatively safe. Our light horse general can also quick kill their pikes relatively easily… in theory.   We did relatively well, but our main mistake was to send too much of our pike against their pike instead of facing their lighter troops.  Our other big mistake was thinking the center of their line was made up of auxilia, when it was in fact blades.  They concentrated two commands against our C-in-C command, and crushed us relatively quickly.

Littoral Landing Lovers

After BBDBA Doubles was a themed event that only allowed Littoral armies.  In the first round, I faced Larry and he finally got his payback against my as-yet-unbeaten Leidang (III/40d).  This time, I took 1xKn, 5xBd, 3xAx, 1xPs, 1xSp, 1xBw.  I did a landing and had some initial success, until he killed my bow with his knight and rolled me up.

Doug Mudd

Next, I faced Doug Mudd.  The game went so quickly, I don’t remember his army.  He attacked, and did a landing behind my line.  Using a first turn psiloi double move, he sent a psiloi against my Knight general, which turned to face.  The combat was his 2 to my 4 with me quick killing him, but he rolled high and recoiled my general into my own troops, winning the game 1g-0 before I even had a turn.  Oops!  We had a lot of free time, considering some players weren’t even done deploying yet, so we played an unofficial rematch (shown here), and I beat him in this second game.  I don’t think either of us did a landing.

Stephen Aspenberg

In the final round, I faced Stephen Aspenberg’s Athenians.  I decided that since this was a Littoral Landing event, I’d better do another landing.  I sent 2 elements against his flank, and he sent 3 against mine.  My elements were able to kill 2 of his, while I held off his landing with only 2 of mine.  When we met in the middle, my blades beat his spears and I won.

This leaves my Leidang with a 7-2 record, which I’m only keeping track of because it’s one of the only armies I’ve managed to win consistently with.

Midnight Madness

I don’t remember a lot about Midnight Madness (and don’t have any pictures), but there wasn’t much to remember.  In the first round, I played my Hittite Empire (I/24b) against Jonathan Bostwick’s Minoan & Mycenaean (I/18).  I won, but that’s all I remember… though I have a feeling neither of us remembered to place our camp.  In the second round, I faced Later Mycenaeans and Trojan War (I/26) and lost.

Battle at the Crossroads: 2011

Saturday was Battle at the Crossroads in Cambridge, OH.  Rich, Larry, JM, and I drove out to participate in the DBA pyramid format event.

This year’s theme was Vikings and their enemies, so I brought my Leidang army. The composition I used was: 1xKn (gen), 5xBd, 1xSp, 3xAx, 2xPs.

There were several special rules in effect to keep things competitive for the Vikings.  I’ll list them there for future reference, and to provide context for the tactical decisions shown in pictures below:

  • Knights other than generals don’t quick kill blades
  • Blades fight at +4/+3
  • Viking blades receive rear support by psiloi against foot (as well as mounted)
  • Vikings always attack, Leidang always defends
Larry contemplates his fate.

I beat Larry a few weeks ago, so he wanted a grudge match. He wrote “same year as Alan” as his army’s year selection, and we were paired up in the first round.  He brought East Frankish: III/52, with plenty of emasculated knights.

I had a plan for the first round, when I knew I’d be defending against a non-Viking.  I set up two medium-small central woods and the required waterway.  The intent of the terrain was to divide the enemy forces, while maintaining superiority in the bad going.

The biggest flaw in my plan was the possibility of a littoral landing.  I hadn’t considered whether to land, or what to do with my landing force if I did.  Nevertheless, I held back 2xBd and 1xPs and deployed everything else from the woods to the water.

On the first turn, I brought on my landing force somewhat forward, and angled toward the center of the board.  Here, they got in my way and inhibited my movement; but, they also restricted Larry’s ability to advance effectively on that flank.  They required many pips to unscrew completely, but in the mean time they weren’t a big liability: they mainly delayed any action on that side of the board.

Larry sent his horde and a spear around the other flank, and I countered with 2 Auxilia.  In the end, I killed a bunch of knights on my right flank, and he killed my auxilia on my left flank.  Result: 4-2, I beat Larry again.  Overall, the battle was a confused mess; but I find that I often prefer a confused mess instead of two straight lines walking straight forward.

Dan Joyce’s Sub-Roman Brits; Mike Demana’s Vikings

In the second round, we faced Dan Joyce, C-in-C playing Sub-Roman British; and Mike Demana playing Vikings. We placed woods on the sides of the board to narrow it, and a steep hill in the center.  I deployed on the narrower side, and as expected, Mike’s Vikings ended up opposite me.  Larry deployed against Dan’s force on the other side.

Pulling it out of the fire

Larry made me roll his PIP die so he could blame me for the bad rolls.  He got his bad rolls, and his command was the first to break.  Things were looking bad, and we were about to lose.  Eventually I pushed Mike’s Vikings back far enough to take the nearest camp, which happened to be the C-in-C’s camp on the wrong side of the board.  The two element loss was enough to break the command, and we won.

This was an interesting, stressful game. It felt like I was running out of time, but only because I was anxious to see how things turned out in the next few turns.

The Final Round

In the final round we played a 4-on-4 game against Scott Ludwig’s Early Germans (C-in-C), Andy Swingle’s Vikings, Rich Baier’s Leidang/Viking (I forget which), and Dave Welch’s Welsh.

Initial deployment; more Vikings are off our left flank

We deployed on one side instead of in the center, which was a bit of a mistake, in retrospect.  Mike’s Vikings were on our far left flank by the board edge.  I came next, and Dan Joyce’s British were at right flank of our initial deployment.

In response, they deployed more centrally, and narrower.  They ignored the vikings on our far left flank, so in order to include them in the battle we’d have to walk slowly so they could catch up.  Larry, with the most mobile force, deployed on the right flank at the end of our line.

A better initial deployment might have been to deploy centrally, and place Larry’s mobile command last on whichever flank was more vulnerable.  However, the enemy still would’ve been able to  ignore our slower flank, so we probably wouldn’t have gained anything.

Just before we made contact

In the early game, I wheeled to the right and Mike sent his Vikings over the hill, while the rest of our army stood still.  Eventually we clashed.  Dan and Larry faced 3 commands against their 2, and suffered for it.  Also, Larry could have as many 1’s as he wanted on his PIP die, which I was still rolling.

Hilarity ensues; the end is almost nigh

Larry’s command broke first, and then Dan’s. On my side of the board we had superiority, so we broke Andy’s command and then Rich’s.  Neither C-in-C command was close to breaking, but we were both losing a lot of elements. 

The End.  This used to be straight battle lines?

In the last few turns, we were each a few elements away from the 50% losses required to lose.  Larry’s command was completely destroyed or fled off the board, and Dan was hanging on for dear life and winning some tough combats more often than statistics would suggest.  It was a battle of attrition and a race to the bottom.  My general ran rampant in the center of my flank, killing demoralized elements as quickly as possible to increase our death count, but Mike killed the decisive element: Andy’s blade general.

It felt like we lost this game several times, but “it’s not over until the fat Viking sings” and it was a good thing we stayed until the credits rolled.

Our side won, and I ended up taking first place for overall points, probably because of Valdemar the Victorious’ killing spree in the last game. Quick killing demoralized blades with your knight general is the kind of fun you really shouldn’t indulge in very often, or you might get spoiled.

Thanks to all of my allies and opponents for the wonderful games, and special thanks to the organizers for staging this event.  I hope to be back next year!

Fall-In 2010: Gallic Wars Campaign

The Two Davids DBA campaign games are a highlight of the HMGS conventions.  When I heard the theme at Fall-In was going to be Gallic Wars, I had mixed feelings.  I don’t like the Gauls as an army, but I basically already had them painted anyway so it wouldn’t require any effort.  After actually playing the campaign, I changed my mind: this was an excellent campaign and I really enjoyed playing this army in historical context (but without Romans).

The campaign had 20 players, with only 7 armies that weren’t a (possibly modified) Gallic list.  There were two Romans, but most of the other armies were also warband-heavy.  Most of the armies were built around a core of warband, and this gave me a lot of opportunities to learn how to use them (or how not to use them).  The armies were all quite evenly matched, but the Davids customized some of the lists, and this provided just enough variation to keep things interesting.

I’ve written a bit about the campaign format before, so I’ll stick to what actually happened.  Unfortunately I didn’t get many pictures during this event, so you’ll have to use your imaginaion.

In the first campaign round I drew a high enough number that I was attacked: by David Kuijt.  This was a short but interesting game.  I  set up to one side of a central wood, but a road ran the length of the board on the other side.  DK ran down the road to take the woods at my flank.  Although I immediately knew the danger, and managed not to get my cavalry sucked into the woods, I did make enough mistakes to lose.  I didn’t have enough warband close to the woods to hold it; and I wasn’t aggressive enough running around the woods with my cavalry to maintain an advantage with the foot I did have.  The entire battle was fought over the woods, the rest of the board hardly made any difference.

The tile selection was modified somewhat this time.  Battle winners always chose two tiles and assigned one to their minions.  David gave me the 1, allowing me to attack.  I chose to fight against David Bostwick.  Unfortunately, I also got the 1 on all my combat rolls, and I was quickly and completely crushed.  I made first contact, and chose fights that were to my advantage; even so, I lost 3 elements on my turn.  On David’s turn, he killed 3 more of my elements.  Several of these were 3-2 in my favor, which required a 6-1 split for me to lose… but I managed, somehow.  I lost, but was still DK’s vassal.

The next round David Bostwick chose the tiles, and kept the 1 for himself; apparently I lost it in my failed attack against him.  He wanted a rematch, and attacked me back.  This game was a bit longer, but it was still bloody… and luckily, this time it went in my favor.  However, since I defended, I didn’t gain him as a vassal.

In the fourth round, I almost had a low enough number to attack… but not quite, so Jan Spoor attacked me.  I don’t remember this game well, but I think this was when I decided double-ranked Warband were too dangerous to use regularly: I lost 4 elements in the form of two warbands along with their rear support.  This put me under Jan’s control and lost DK a vassal.

Meanwhile, in round 4, an interesting thing happened.  Two vassal trees attacked each other in a way that resulted in a loop.  Larry was DK’s vassal; Rob was Larry’s vassal; Doug was Rob’s vassal; and DK was Doug’s vassal.  Apparently there were some intergenerational marriages going on here.  I think this was the first time this happened in a campaign game, and the main result was that all of these players ended up with big targets on their backs because claiming any of them would break the loop and potentially give control of all four of them to a new master.

In the final round, I was able to attack again and attacked David Shepps, who was playing Early Germans.  He had no mounted support, and deployed to the side of a board-splitting wall of woods in a line of double ranked warband, with a warband and psiloi perpendicular and behind to protect his flank.  I attacked frontally but also advanced two warbands through the woods.  They acted as bait and died for their service; but it disrupted his line enough for me to take advantage of him and eventually secure a win.  I won with 5 elements killed to his 4, a close match.  This gave me my first vassal ever!

In the end, I feel like I played well, learned a lot about warbands, and overall had a really great time.  I’m looking forward to future Two Davids campaigns that have more similar armies like this.  It’s sort of like playing a tight theme night at Legions but with more games and a wider variety of opponents.

Fall-In 2010: Open Scramble

Saturday afternoon was the Open Scramble format tournament.  I thoroughly enjoyed this event and look forward to playing a similar event again.

The Scramble format is interesting and different, but like Matched Pairs, you have to be willing to let other players touch your army.  In the first round, each player gets a random army from one of the other players, and is matched against a random enemy.  Players were required to select specific terrain pieces to be used in all rounds as well.  In the second round, winning armies are matched with losing players, but no player can use their own army.  In the last round, each player uses their own army.

The organizers of this event decided to use a timer to ensure the rounds were all exactly one hour long.  I liked this official time keeping, but probably only because my games weren’t too long.  

I brought two “beater armies” for JM and I to use. These are built primarily from the “old school” Carthaginians I bought at Historicon, and since I didn’t paint them and they’re already mostly damaged, I didn’t mind if anyone else used them. I let JM use Gauls (II/11), which I was saving for the Gallic Wars event, and I used Later Carthaginians (II/32) without any elephants, and with 2x3Wb, 1x2Ps for the other option.

In the first round, I ended up with JM’s Gauls, and I was matched against Jason Bostwick, using Later Achaemenid Persians (II/7) with the all-Auxilia option and a scythed chariot. 

This game was over quickly.  Once again I was crushed by an invincible Scythed Chariot.  Jason flanked me and rolled up my line, winning 4g-0 (as shown on the right).

Our results were so skewed that we predicted I’d end up with Jason’s army from the first round, and he’d play with mine; and that’s just what happened.

In the second round, I played Later Achaemenid Persians against JM, who had some kind of Crusaders… early, perhaps?  “I came all this way to play against you?”

He defended and set up terrain.  I ended up with a large wood on one flank, and he set up in a line to avoid it.  I set up on my left flank, intending to use the woods as a highway for my light foot, and sweep around his flank on my left while denying his right flank.

This is exactly what happened.  It was a long, hard fought battle, and early on I lost many combats that were statistically in my favor; including losing the scythed chariot almost immediately. Eventually my luck turned and I killed enough elements to win.  Neither of us remember the final score or have pictures of it, unfortunately, but we know the organizers’ notes were incorrect.

In the final round, I fought against Zenboy, aka Michael Downey.  I had my Later Carthaginians, and Zenboy played his Later Achaemenid Persians.  He defended, and placed a wood on one side with two gentle hills and a road that played no effect in the game.

This was a much more straightforward fight than the previous one: we stood in a line and walked straight forward, both of us happy with the element-to-element matchups we had.  Zenboy lost his Scythed Chariot early on against my psiloi, and it was all downhill from there.  Judging by the final photo at the right, I ended up losing only one light horse, and he lost 5 (since the SCh didn’t count towards victory).

The most interesting part of the game was when I used my warband against his psiloi-supported auxilia.  I used one warband to turn the psiloi out of supporting position, and attacked with the front warband first.  He killed the auxilia, and then advanced into flank support position for the second combat against his psiloi, which also died.  I learned something; maybe next time I’ll be able to set that one up on purpose 🙂

I really enjoyed this event, despite the fact that every round I played with or against an army I brought, and only one army in one game was an army I don’t own.  All my opponents were fun to play with, and I learned some tangible lessons.  I like the balancing factor provided by people playing with armies other than their own. I’d like to play another scramble format event, but next time I hope I get to play with some new and intresting armies.

Fall-In 2010: 1491 Pyramid Event

There were two niche events covering the same theme: American armies.  Since I had painted my Tlingit (IV/11) and a camp, I originally planned to play in both events.  After playing in the first event on Friday night, I was uninspired to get up early on Saturday just for my bows to die versus Warbands again.

“1491” was a pyramid format event on Friday night.  In this format, the first round is a series of 1-on-1 games.  In the second round, the winners and losers are combined to form two player teams who play each other, carrying over their losses from the first round.  Luckily we had 8 players, allowing the third round to be two full four-on-four games.

I’ve enjoyed the Pyramid format in the past, but unfortunately I didn’t have as much fun this time.  Although I really like the way my Tlingit look, the Northwest Americans (IV/11) just aren’t very competitive against their contemporary enemies.  They have 10 bows, and I didn’t play against anything except warband-heavy armies in this event.

In the first round, I lost against Ted Galacci, 4-1.  In this event, they matched one game’s winner with the other’s loser, to enourage you to really wipe out the other guy.  In the second game, Bob Beattie was my commander in chief, and JM played under Ted’s leadership.  Our side won 7-2, which sent JM and Ted to play under our enemy’s C-in-C; and we got Mike Guth and another player whose name I unfortunately forget; he left early.

By the last round, both sides had 25 elements.  Or was it 27?  Maybe 26.  I think it was 25.  In any case: this was four players playing about 2 armies worth of elements.  We rolled 4 PIP dice and they were assigned by the C-in-C appropriately.  This left us with almost twice as many PIPs per element compared to a normal game, giving a relative advantage to warbands and players who maneuver inefficiently.

In the end, we lost.  JM’s three remaining elements apparently killed more than their weight in gold… shiny, Aztec gold.

The goal of matching winners with players who lost to someone else was to encourage players to kill as much as possible instead of making arrangements to lose with minimal losses and gain an advantage in later rounds.  I’m not sure this worked out as well as it was intended to.  I don’t think it was as satisfying to play under the command of someone who didn’t beat you; and unless you made an effort to avoid it, it was easy to end up playing against your original opponent in subsequent games.  Finally, I think the game works better with more elements in play during the later games.

I’m currently not very inspired to play my Tlingit.  They’re pretty, but 10 bows and 2 psiloi, while flexible, don’t leave much room for deception. I think I’ll have to let them sit on the shelf for a while to rebuild my interest.

I am interested in trying another Pyramid format event.  JM and I discussed it on the way home, and decided that Samurai armies would work well in this format.  Battles between individual Samurai and joining forces against a common foe feel just about right for this period.

Fall-In 2010: BBDBA Doubles

JM and I formed “Team Red Meat” at the Fall-In BBDBA doubles competition.  The name was inspired by a combination of factors: we’re first time competitors, aka “fresh meat;” and I really enjoy the Red Meat comic.  Unfortunately I never remembered to say “I hate you, Milkman Dan!”

Larry heckled us a bit for planning ahead and bringing a document describing our plans.  Yes, we were inspired by the Two Davids who make similar documents in preparation for their battles.  However, our goal was not primarily to win.  We only wanted to fail to make utter fools of ourselves, and I think we succeeded.

Planning ahead allowed us to think on our own time instead of wasting our opponents’ time, and gave us a baseline to measure what worked and what didn’t so we could learn more quickly.  Neither JM nor I have a very strong knowledge of historical tactics used by real generals, and neither of us have much experience in BBDBA or other larger scale Ancients games, so planning was also intended to offset our deficit in experience.  I’m glad we did it and we’ll likely do it again, for similar reasons.

There were eight entries in this tournament.  The field was split by army year into two groups of 4, and everyone played everyone else in each group.  The winners in each group played the finals some time after the convention was over; I never heard the final result.

We fielded Warring States Chinese: Chao (II/4c).  As seen in earlier posts, I painted two of the armies and JM painted the third.  No one noticed our use of 3Cb instead of 4Cb or our single Russian light horse stand in with the Chinese; though neither had any effect on gameplay.  Our command split was the same in all our games:

  • Mid PIP (C-in-C): 2xHCh (gen), 3x2LH, 6x4Sp, 3x4Cb, 2x2Ps; 16 elements, breakpoint 6
  • High PIP: 4xHCh (gen), 3x2LH, 3x4Sp, 3x4Cb; 13 elements, breakpoint 5
  • Low PIP: 3x4Sp (gen), 3x4Cb, 1x2Ps; 7 elements, breakpoint 3

Stooges: Larry and Will

Our first game was against Larry and his honorary Stooge partner Will.  “We came all this way to play against you?”  They brought Seleucids (II/19), which combined the elements that posed our greatest anticipated challenge: pikes and elephants. We forgot about the possibility of Scythed Chariots, and they were the killer this game.

We defended, and set up terrain as planned: three small central hills with a road the long way behind one.  It wasn’t much, but we placed it where we hoped we could take more advantage of it than our enemy.

The plan for elephants was to avoid them, or try to shoot them with bows.  Larry had an interesting command structure around his elephants: he combined three elephants and three scythed chariots with one other element.  Since the expendible chariots don’t count towards the break point, the command needs to lose 6 of its 7 elements before it’s destroyed, providing additional protection for the elephants.

Death by Scythed Chariot

For the pike, we wanted to outflank them with light horse and peel them apart.  Unfortunately, they used their pike in passive defense of a well defended position.  We decided to win elsewhere, and didn’t approach the pike.  I’m not sure if this was a good idea or not.

Our failure and prompt demise came on the opposite flank.  Will’s scythed chariots totally destroyed our line, and then broke through to the road where they could kill whatever they wanted.  These things are called “expendibles” for a reason: they aren’t supposed to live very long.  Will rolled really well a few times, and that provided him with the tactical advantage to roll us up.  This was our fastest loss in the tournament.  One important lesson I learned here, was to pay attention when to let your broken command flee.  They’re only useful when they’re still in the way; after that, they’re screwing up the high/low/mid PIP die rolls.

Two Davids: Kuijt and Schlanger

In the second game, we faced the Two Davids: David Schlanger and David Kuijt playing some kind of Romans (Early Imperial, I think) with an ally (Arabo-Aramean, I think).  Their army didn’t have any particularly problematic elements, but the Davids are very good players.

We defended again, and placed a waterway to reduce our time to contact.  It did an adequate job of that, but probably wasn’t really necessary since neither of us was particularly fast.

They refused our left flank with their artillery and forced us to play our attacking force on our right.

This was a very interesting game, I enjoyed it a lot. There was a lot of back and forth on our attacking flank, but the Davids did a great job and I learned a lot.  We had some localized advantages on occasion, but unfortunately I missed our prime opportunity to pull a win from the jaws of defeat.  I had a chariot within striking range of the enemy camp, and asked DS about the finer points of attacking a camp.  I decided not to attack the camp, but in the mean time I missed the fact that I could’ve flanked their commander in chief, which might have ended the game in our favor instantly.  Instead, they broke our high PIP command, then a second command, and won.

A lesson on the virtues of a subtly painted C-in-C

The Davids did a wonderful job of using two of their commands against one of ours, and winning through PIP advantage.  The high PIP Roman command and the allied command were next to each other, and moved into overlapping positions.  This allowed both commands to work together and share PIPs, whether the critical position ended up being in the center or on the flank.  We tried to start doing this later in this game and throughout our next game, but since we hadn’t planned for it, we didn’t do a great job.

I think the Davids’ choice to use an Ally makes this easier: by placing the ally next to the high PIP command, they can always easily tell which elements are a part of each command.  The downside is that ordinary maneuvers are always more expensive since they’re split across two commands and can’t use a single PIP group move.

Team Canuk: Colin Rice and Michael Saunders

Our third game was against Team Canuck: Michael Saunders and Colin Rice.  They played Patrician Roman (East) II/83b, I believe. They had a wide variety of troops, but without any elements that were particularly problematic for us.

They defended and placed terrain: a wall of woods down the center of half the board, a road perpendicular, and the rest of the board empty.  They set up their first two commands in the open area, and left their bad going troops (aux, warband) in their last command.

We didn’t stand a chance in the woods, so we compressed our spears into double ranks against their knights and stuffed ourselves into narrow frontage in the open.  We tried to overlap our commands somewhat, but we limited this to the elements we could tell apart when they stood next to each other.  They deployed their light troops behind their main line, and the entire battle was limited to one half of the board.

They redeployed on their baseline while we ran hell to leather

They ended up spending several turns to redeploy and maneuver their troops without advancing at all, before we made contact.  We were running as fast as we could, but just couldn’t get there before they had time to fix their deployment problems.

Once our lines met, we had an advantage early on and damaged all of their commands, but none to the breaking point. It felt like we had a real chance of winning.  We even had several 4-3 rolls against their C-in-C, but they all failed. 

Finally, the Canadian luck turned, and they broke our commands before we did anything else to theirs.  Just before time ran out for the round, they killed us.

I really enjoyed this event, and I look forward to playing BBDBA Doubles again.  JM and I worked well together, and I think with a few refinements we can increase our expectations to include actually winning a game.  Our plans were not obviously bad, and I’m glad we spent time on them.  Their simplicity helped us implement them correctly.

Neither of us are content with our army choice, but we want to revisit the army “later.”  Warring States Chinese are quite low on bad going troops, and don’t have many different element types available.

Between the two of us, we have enough BBDBA armies to practice together effectively, and with our current level of motivation we should probably start soon.  I wouldn’t want to give any secrets away, so I won’t mention our options for Cold Wars.

Fall-In 2010 Summary

Almost everything went according to plan; at least, nothing went horribly wrong.  JM and I had a great weekend and we both hope to go to more conventions in the future.

Driving to Lancaster always confuses me for some reason, and I found new and different ways to get “almost lost”.  We made it there in time for registration, but just missed getting into Larry’s game (Auxilirama).

Staying at the Lancaster Host was a good idea, and I’ll do it again.  It costs more than the closest cheap hotels, but being in the same building as the convention left more time for gaming between sleep breaks.  We still had to go outside to get to the dealer hall, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone outside all weekend.

Speaking of the dealer hall: I seem to be getting better at not buying things I’m not going to paint.  Between the dealer hall and flea market, the only unpainted figures I bought were 15mm early WWII Russians.  I plan to paint these up for a scenario I’ll run when Mike is in town over the holidays.  I’ll have to fire up the airbrush, since “all one color” is faster that way.  I also bought a variety of other materials and accessories: more bases-by-the quart and adhesive “plasteel” from GF9; a few nicer road segments for DBA; and some cards from an obsolete CCG.

Apparently, last year was the first year they started supporting Toys for Tots at Fall-In.  Besides collecting toys, they also get donations of games, models, figures, and supplies from vendors and individual modellers, and either raffle or auction off the donations.  All proceeds go to Toys for Tots… it’s for the kids!  I have no problem donating money to a good cause, so why not get something good out of it too?

So with that in mind, I won two auctions.  One was a set of foam core buildings, 28mm scale.  These were built by hand with a printed veneer to add a great amount of detail without having to actually paint them.  They’re the perfect scale and style for Malifaux, and they’ll complement our existing terrain nicely.  I also won a 28mm Greek Hoplite army for DBA.  It’s not likely to be a big winner in any tournaments, but it’s a better size for demonstrations and kid-sized hands, and it’ll allow me to play in 25mm DBA events in the future.

I played in all of the events I planned to enter, except the Armies of the Americas event on Saturday morning.  It was early: 9am; and I needed a time to dedicate to shopping without a time limit.  Armies of the Americas was very similar to the 1491 event the night before, and I’d have used the same army for both events.  Unfortunately I got sick of playing my all-bow army pretty quickly… but more about that later.

This was my first convention playing nothing but DBA.  I don’t miss “all the random events” very much.  The comraderie of playing a game I know I like with a group of opponents I’ve played with before more than makes up for the lack of variety.  In the future, I wouldn’t mind spending one or two slots testing out some new rules if there’s something that looks really interesting, but I won’t miss it if that doesn’t happen.

Fall-In 2010 Plans

Fall-In is this weekend! JM and I are driving out tomorrow.  It’s in Lancaster, and we got a room in the Lancaster Host where the convention is, so we don’t have to leave the building all weekend except to go to the dealer hall (if it’s still out back).

Although I feel a bit burned out on DBA, it’s the main plan for this weekend.  I’ve basically packed the weekend with events; hopefully I can sneak out to the flea market once or twice.

We want to register on Thursday so probably won’t play in Larry’s Auxilirama game.  I won’t be bringing an eligible army for this.

Friday morning until 6pm is BBDBA doubles, and Team Red Meat has a plan.  Basically I’m going to lose and say “I hate you, Milkman Dan!” a lot like a whiny little girl.

JM and I are bringing Warring States: Chao (II/4c).  Two of the armies are mine and JM’s providing the third.  We aren’t likely to do particularly well, since we can count the combined number of BBDBA games we’ve played on one hand and some of those were against each other.  But we did think ahead enough that we hopefully won’t slow everyone else down too much.  I’ll post more on that after it’s done.

Friday evening is 1491: New World Dominance, an American army pyramid tournament.  I really enjoyed the pyramid format at Battle at the Crossroads earlier this year. However, with at least two Mound Builders in the Northern bracket, I’m very likely to face them, and they provide a formidable opponent to most other eligible armies.  I’ll be fielding my Tlingit (IV/11) with their newly completed camp, without a totem pole for now.

Finally, Midnight Madness starts at… well, 11pm.  I guess they call it “Almost Midnight Madness” now.  I’ll choose an army based on whatever I feel like at the time, but most likely Later Carthaginians (II/32) with warbands but no elephants.

Hopefully I’ll wake up in time for Armies of the Americas at 9am on Saturday.  This is a non-pyramid format tournament with the same eligible armies as the pyramid tournament.  I’ll be playing my Tlingit (IV/11) again.

At 1pm is an Open Scramble.  You play 4 rounds, but don’t use your own army until the last round.  In the first round you use your enemy’s army and after that the winningest players use the losingest armies until the last round when you use the one you brought.  I was planning on using Later Carthaginians (II/32) again, but come to think of it… maybe Gauls (II/11) would be better.  Or worse.  It’s not clear which is preferrable.  In any case, JM will use the army I’m not using.  They’re both beater armies, made up mostly from the quadruple Carthaginian army I got at the Historicon flea market. I won’t mind if they get a bit beat up by strangers.

5pm starts the Two Davids campaign: Gallic Wars. I’m playing Gauls (II/11) just like everyone else… but I’m using a modified list.  Oh! I’d better go bring figures for the unmodified version to use in the Open.

That’s “it.”  I’ve managed to pack 5 armies for 6 events, including 2/3 of a BBDBA triple army.  That’s not necesarily a good thing, though, since I’ll probably be sick of playing all of them by the end of the weekend.

Despite having a weekend full of DBA, there are other events I’m missing that I’d enjoy.  There are several Hordes of the Things themed events, and some 25mm events I don’t have an army for.

Historicon 2010: DBA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historicon 2010: Duke’s Jubilee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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