Saturday, July 19, 2014

Napoleonics 20: Waterloo, Take 2

The Fading Glory content description says "four battles" but there are some alternatives:
  • Waterloo Main Scenario 
    • Waterloo & Wavre (June 18)
  • Borodino Main Scenario
    • Davout's Flanking Maneuver
  • Smolensk Main Scenario
    • Lubino
    • Smolensk Flanking Maneuver
  • Salamanca Main Scenario
    • Salamanca (July 22)
    • King Joseph Marches
So what you get is ten "scenarios and variants".

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Napoleonics 20: Waterloo

I just got a copy of Fading Glory, which is GMT's reissue of four Napoleonics 20 games from Victory Point Games: Waterloo, Salamanca, Smolensk, Borodino. Waterloo is first in the scenario book, so I started with that one. The rules are pretty simple, and any old-school wargamer who grew up with SPI and Avalon Hill will already know the basics: hex based, zones of control, CRT.
No optional rules in effect for this play through, which mosts importantly mean "no leaders".

Turn 1: The French center/right assaults Ligny, committing the Guard and launching diversionary attacks on the Prussian units outside the fortress. Victory comes at a heavy cost--II Cavalry and IV Corp--but the Prussian III Corps breaks and the Guard takes Ligny. On the west, the battle with the British is indecisive. The British reserve moves forward to Quatre Bras.

Turn 2: The French win a Pyrrhic victory, losing two infantry corps in exchange for the British I Corps. They fare better in the east, breaking a second Prussian unit. The Allies have only two units on the map now; the British Reserves pull back west of Genappes to prevent a flanking maneuver by a French cavalry unit in the woods, and the surviving Prussian corps marches into Quatre Bras. At this point the Allies have three Broken units, but the French have 4 and spent one Morale to commit the Guard (the second commit was free thanks to a card draw); Allied morale is 8, French is 6.

Turn 3: The French march toward Quatre Bras. The Allies use a card to attempt to rally the British I corps, but blow the roll and the unit is eliminated. In retrospect, the Allies should have spent a Morale Point to provide a +1 DRM; that, plus the Elite status of that unit, would have kept it in Limbo instead of being destroyed.

Turn 4 (Night): The French maneuver against Quatre Bras; the British bring on Uxbridge at Nivelles; the Prussians bring in their reinforcements plus their rallied vanguard unit at Hamme.

Turn 5: The French force march to attack the Prussian corps in Quatre Bras and the British reserves in Genappe, throwing the Guard and two cavalry divisions against the latter. The Prussians receive a "Withdraw" result which is nullified by being in a fortress; the British unit is broken, and French cavalry occupies Genappe. The Allies bring on the British II at Nivelles; the corps joins Uxbridge in an attack on the French III Cavalry. The French dragoons countercharge, driving back Uxbridge and spoiling the British attack.

Turn 6: The French cavalry in Genappe ignores its orders (due to the Michel Ney card effects) and charges the British infantry, to no effect. It holds the two British units in play while massed French infantry assaults Quatre Bras and destroys the Prussian unit there. Northeast, French cavalry moves between Chapelle St Lambert and Wavre, harrying the advancing Prussian reinforcements. Repeated British attacks break Ney's cavalry, but the handwriting is on the wall--there are two British units facing seven French, and the Prussians are too far away.

Turn 7: Napoleon Humbugs Allies, and the fast-marching French surround and destroy the two remaining British units. Oddly, while the English have no units on the board, their moral hasn't really suffered; they have lost six units (including two permanently) but have broken four French in return, so their morale is still at 6 (from the original 8). The Prussian cavalry vanguard races toward the crossroad at Waterloo, but they won't make it in time.

Turn 8: The French advance north. The two cavalry divisions end the turn just outside Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte, followed by the Imperial Guard and the rest of the army.

Turn 9: The French cavary move into the Waterloo area, blocking Allied lines of advance. The Allies could in theory pull it out--they've still got Morale points left--but the French are concentrated, the Allies dispersed, and barring awful dice, the French should be able to keep their advantage intact. Vive l'Empereur!

Rules which tripped me up: Crossing a minor river costs +1 move; Rout markers come off at the end of the next turn unless the enemy is in contact, in which case they don't; and Artillery attacks (but does not defend) at twice its printed strength--they really should have changed the counter design to reflect that one. And you have to pay careful attention to the Morale Points, both in terms of"keep track of them" and "spend them when you need to--but only when you really need to."

All in all, a good design. I particularly like the quick set up--only 26 counters, total for both sides, on the board, and that includes generals (which I didn't use) and reinforcements on the turn track.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The South Shall Rise Again

Victory Point Games produced The South Shall Rise Again as a solo or cooperative skirmish game pitting one to four Union soldiers against Confederate zombies ("Zebs").
What you get in the ziplock bag edition:

  • 12 x 13 hex map in muted tones, depicting a field bordered by a road, two fences, a fieldstone wall, and trees. 
  • player aid card, with Union info on one side, Undead on the other.
  • Union soldiers, Zebs, Revenants, and Glorious Dead, depicted as vertical counters with bases; they're not miniatures but they give something of the same feel. 
  • status markers, such as Rifle/Unloaded, Pistol Ammo, Stunned, Wounded, and Grappled.
  • Skill markers, such as "Bushwacker" (-1 to Ranged combat, +1 Melee) or "Slippery" (ignore the first Grapple result from an Undead attack), to personalize your soldiers
  • Heroic Action cards and Event cards
  • Five Scenario cards, including one "Make your own"
  • Rule booklet
  • A ziplock bag, which is a little too small to comfortably stuff everything back in--but it's not like you can't find a larger ziplock in your kitchen.
Your Union private can move, shoot, reload, melee, or move-and-shoot.  Zebs and Revenants simply close for melee; Glorious Dead can also load and fire. Each unit takes two Wounds to kill; there's a small chance of inflicting two Wounds with a single attack but you can't count on moving up to a Zed and destroying it with one attack. That's a key point...

For my first play through, I played the On The Road scenario with one soldier facing two Zeds and two Revenants. I fired at a Revenant, stunning it. I reloaded my rifle, then backed away from the undead shambling toward me. I took another shot, which Wounded a Revenant. By this point the Undead were closing in, so I ran off to one side, thinking I could quickly deal with the Zed there and then have room to maneuver. The Zed moved into contact with me and Grappled; my counter attack Wounded it and broke the grapple, but I didn't have a chance to move away before the two Revenants moved in and attacked. That was the end of poor Private Picket....unless he comes back as a Revenant himself! 

Playing time is listed as 30 minutes, which seems about right. Quick and easy, but requires some thought to win.

edit: took me two more games before I won. The key seems to be, never let them close to melee range. One you take out the Revenants (move 2), dealing with the Zeds (move 1) is easy.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Party Kill

Tonight was the first time, as far as I can recall, that I've ever killed a fellow party member.

I'm playing Gok, a half-orc barbarian charger. Jesse's usual character was killed two weeks ago; his replacement character, named Nit Bitsim, was a psychic--and, unbeknown to us, a changeling pretending to be a human.

We had finished a tough fight in a cave at the bottom of a sea cliff, and the party was divided over whether to keep exploring the cave, or go back to town. Nit wanted us to leave, so he told Gok, "Let's go climb back up the cliff--your mother is waiting !" Gok's INT score is significantly below average, so he bought Nit's claim and rushed back up the cliff, only to find that his mother was not, in fact, anywhere around. Gok's mother is the human half of his ancestry, and he is quite devoted to her. When Gok realized that Nit was lying about Gok's mother, he was Not Amused. As Nit started climbing the rope up the 25ft cliff, Gok grabbed the line and started banging it--and Nit-- against the rocks.

Nit, somewhat battered, kept climbing--unaccountably, trying to get closer to the angry barbarian. He tried to scramble away, but Gok bull rushed him and knocked him back off the edge of the cliff. Nit barely managed to catch hold of the edge, and found himself dangling with twenty five feet of air below him and a barbarian above. Meanwhile, the rest of the party watched, but no one tried to stop Gok. Ooga eventually roused himself to persuade Nit to apologize to Gok, whereupon the barbarian hauled him up the cliff and growled "Don't lie to Gok again. Make Gok mad".

As Gok stalks off, Boraheen confronts the "human" and demands that he not lie to party members.Nit promises to comply, but his insincerity is transparent. So Boraheen throws him off the cliff. Moments later, Nit is dangling over the edge, Boraheen gripping him by one wrist. And then Nit starts turning pasty white. Boraheen doesn't know what Nit is, but recognizes a transformation; he slams Nit to the ground and demands "What are you?" Gok turns around, sees that Nit shapechanging, and remembers that Malicia, who lied to him, was a shape shifting demon. Gok yells "Demon!" and charges. Mirra recognizes a changling and yells "Gok, stop!"; the barbarian skids to a halt with his blade inches from Nit's face. At that point Nit made one final mistake. Instead of surrendering and mending his ways, he tried a psychic attack against Gok. Gok associates psychic powers with demons, and Gok has lightning reflexes; he jams his spear him, and in a single stroke, Nit is dead.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Trireme: Battle of Actium

Replay of a portion of the Battle of Actium, using Trireme to pit Mark Anthony's fleet against Octavian. This is one section of the much larger battle, with 500+ ships engaged. 

Anthony's fleet had fewer ships (15 vs 20 Octavians), but with large marine contingents; Octavian's forces had smaller vessels, but better crews and firepots which automatically set fires with a successful ram. If an Antonian managed to board an Octavian, they almost always won; meanwhile, the Octavians tried to concentrate fire with their catapults to set the enemy ablaze. Of course, each side felt the other's specialty was overpowered...

The Antonian plan appears to have been to spread their four large ships across their formation, to lead with them, and to pull in their wings when those were threatened. The Octavian plan was to divide the fleet into squadrons of three; to attack the flanks, leaving little in the center; and to focus on ranged fire to avoid risk of being boarded. 

Ranged fire (2 hexes distant) turned out not to work too well unless you had a mass of ships dogpiling one enemy. From range 2, you had a 1/3 chance of setting one fire, which might inconvenience the enemy but cannot destroy him; the target rolls 2d6 plus the number of fires, and is destroyed in a 14 or higher. Lower rolls mean all or half the fires are extinguished, or the fires are carried over till the next turn and their crew is busy fighting fires and not available for boarding. 

From range 1, a catapult rolls 2 dice (needing 5 or 6) and an archer shooting from a tower rolls 1 die (needing 4-6), so there's a possibility of setting 2-3 fires and that in turn has a chance of killing a ship. But range 1 also means the enemy archers can shoot back; several of our ships lost all their marines that way. And you're also at some risk of being boarded. Given the Antonian marine contingents usually outnumbered ours by 2:1 or more, this was fatal; I think we had only one ship win a boarding battle, and that was against an enemy who was being attacked from two sides.

What turned out to be most effective was ramming with firepots. If you ram, your archers and catapults might set a couple of fires, and then your firepots add 1d6 fires. With good dice, you might set as many as 9 fires, and that will either sink him or leave him without anyone to defend against boarding. If the latter, you can board him and destroy him (assuming, of course, that his archers and catapults hadn't already killed all your marines).
Ramming by itself was ineffective; I believe our entire fleet put a total of one hole in one ship, which didn't sink it but did slow it down a bit. 

The Antonian fleet failed to maintain their formation, or use their large ships well; the quicker Octavians were able to take advantage in the confused melee that followed the formations breaking. The Octavian efforts against the flanks were successful; the Antonians destroyed a few ships in the center, but then they didn't have any vulnerable targets left, and it had cost them.

Post game discussion was on "toning down effects of fire". I suspect that isn't necessary--Octavian fire is more dramatic than Antonian boarding battles, but both sides lost 40% of their ships--but one suggestion was to give larger ships a negative DRM to the Fire Effects roll. Another possibility would be for ram firepots to roll 2d3 or 1d6-1 instead of 1d6, or something like that. 

Final count: 
9 surviving Antonians (including one with a serious fire, one de-crewed) out of 15 
12 Octavians (including at least two de-crewed) out of 20
The GM ruled it as an Octavian victory. although given the parity in losses, one might make a case for it being inconclusive, with the Octavians having an advantage.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Star Empires

I've previously played GMT's Space Empires as a solo game against Doomsday Machines; with Chris Rees and Josh visiting, we decided to try the three-player set up.  Josh and Chris quickly declared an alliance, with the dividing line between their territories going right through my homeworld...
They both pulled ahead in the economics race, which I think was partly due to them making better investment choices and partly due to the luck of the random planet setup. I discovered a warp point just outside my border; not much later, Chris discovered the other end of the warp point between his border and Josh's. Feeling secure against any attack from his ally, Chris sent a raiding force into my space, blockading a couple of planets (although not destroying them) and killing a few ships. Instead of confronting his fleet directly, I sent a few cruisers through the warp point (which turned out to be garrisoned only by a decoy) to blockade his planets.
Meanwhile, Josh sent a fleet down through my territory. I avoided contact, hoping that Chris and Josh's fleet would slug it out and the survivor would be too weak to take my capitol. In fact, Chris withdrew back through the warp point to lift the blockades I'd put in place. Josh ignored my homeworld and followed Chris, and I followed Josh. There was a little parade of fleets, each about two hexes from the next...
Josh mauled Chris's fleet, which retreated back to his homeworld; Josh attacked again and did some damage to the planet, but withdrew before finishing him off. Chris decided he'd rather be destroyed by me than by his treacherous "ally"; he said that if I moved a fleet into his homeworld, he'd retreat his fleet out. I did and he did and I successfully bombarded his homeworld, taking the victory.