Monday, 20 October 2014

AAR Feudal English v Scots; Impetus

After Action Report; Feudal English versus Feudal Scots (Impetus rules) 19 Oct 2014

Both armies in this game were supplied by myself and comprised 300 points using 15mm figures from a range of manufacturers, mainly Essex Miniatures. The rules to be used were Impetus (Lorenzo Sartori; Dadi&Piombo, 2008). My opponent, Ian, commanded the English whilst I took on the Scots. I hoped to examine how the rules coped with the rather unique Scots schiltron formation. The rules appear to give some benefits to the schiltron formation: the units are ‘Large’ (2 bases deep) which imparts considerable resilience; they gain a depth bonus in combat; they are armed with ‘Long Spears’ which negates the impetus bonus of mounted troops; and they do not suffer from flank attacks because they are ‘hedgehog’ formations. Against these advantages they do suffer from a major disadvantage, they become ‘Disordered’ whenever they move. This carries a small negative modifier in combat and, more importantly, means they can never make multiple moves in a turn. This greatly reduces the speed of the army when advancing and makes response to enemy flanking or breakthrough moves difficult. Also, the disorder prevents the Scots schiltrons from operating as ‘Groups’ and making well co-ordinated attacks with multiple units impossible.

 The game was fought on a 6’x4’ table with the Scots left flank protected by a castle (impassable terrain), and the right flank protected by woods. Otherwise there was a couple of gentle hills, a marsh and a patch of rough ground, but generally these terrain features played a minor role in the game. My deployment involved setting my 8 schiltron units in a chequer board fashion across my front. I hoped this would force the enemy bowmen to fire at the front schiltrons and enable my rear schiltrons to move through and engage the enemy whilst still fresh and untouched. On my left flank I deployed my 2 highland units, who I hoped would be particularly effective because of their high strength (VBU=5) combined with being armed with bows. The Scots knights where held back in reserve to act as a ‘fire brigade’ against English breakthroughs. The English deployed all their knights, backed by 2 units of bows, facing my left flank. The remaining English foot faced most of my schiltrons, with bows backed by English spearmen.


The Scots advanced steadily. The English bow fire at long range was largely ineffective, except on the Scots left flank where the highland units were devastated. As the Scots began to close, the loses from the English bows started to tell, this was expected and planned for. At this point Ian unleashed the might of the English knights. The second rank of Scots schiltrons moved through the weakened front rank schiltrons, and the English spearmen moved through the English archers to engage them. Close combat was occurring across the whole battlefront. The schiltrons did achieve some success against the English foot but took loses themselves. The schiltrons also held against the English knights, again taking more loses, but they failed to destroy any of the English knights. The best Scots success was a unit of bow armed skirmishers who whittled down a unit of English knights over a few turns. I finally released my Scots knights to meet the English advance, but in hindsight I should have done this one or two turns earlier, because before they could arrive the Scots army broke due to loses accumulated.


Another English win! Over the years the Scots have never won, their best results have only ever been draws, irrespective of whether they were commanded by me or by my opponents. I am undecided about whether my chequer board deployment was helpful. It did protect my second rank of schiltrons from archery degradation, but the high loses inflicted on my front schiltrons may have contributed to my defeat. I have previously used a more solid, compact, broad front tactic but this has not proved more successful, so the jury is still out on this question. I think in future games I may try using more disruptive terrain to break up the battlefield, and include more auxiliary Scots troops (Islemen etc.) as well to exploit such terrain. After the game Ian admitted concern about the loses the English foot were suffering. This is illusory because each English foot unit lost only concedes a single victory point, and the Scots must destroy English knights to have any chance of victory. If the English player rashly throws his knights in very early in the battle then the Scots may achieve a victory. If the English player holds his knights whilst weakening the slow moving Scots schiltrons with bow fire, then English victory is almost certain, even if the English foot are eliminated later. From my, Scots, perspective the key points of the game were: the early loss of the highlanders (who I had big hopes for), and the initiative order on the turn before the Scots schiltrons finally closed with the English. In his turn Ian won the initiative dice roll, effectively giving him 2 successive actions firing at my schiltrons at close range causing significant loses. If this had not occurred then possibly the game would have continued for a further couple of turns. I would then have had a chance to eliminate some of the weakened English knights, and my own knights would have arrived on the scene.
Irrespective of possible what-if’s, this was another solid win for Ian (my third defeat in a row). The game was very enjoyable and tense, and was completed in just over 2 hours. Our next game will again be Impetus, this time featuring a pair of armies supplied by Ian; Thracians versus Greek hoplites.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Boardgame session: 11th October 2014

The aim of this series of articles is not to present a comprehensive review of specific baordgames, because there are already far better sites dedicated to this (a good starting point is – Instead this will be record of games played combined with my impressions of those games.

My wife, Elaine, and I visited friends, Val and Chris. As always they had been spending since our last visit and new games were available to play. One of these games was “Escape: The Curse of the Temple”. This game is a co-operative themed around the Indiana Jones movies. Essentially the players are exploring the temple trying to find the exit. To win ALL the players have to successfully leave the temple. They do this by each player frantically rolling a set of 5 dice, attempting to get the correct combinations for what they wish to do (move into a room, find gems etc.). Each dice has a black icon which locks that dice (bad), but there is also a gold icon which can unlock 2 locked dice (good). Players can share their dice with others within the same room (the co-op element). The temple has a pile of gems and the players must find these (thereby depleting the gem pile) in order to leave the temple once the exit tile is revealed. The novel complicating factor is that the game is timed to last 10 minutes (via a sound track on an i-pad or similar device). Within the 10 minutes there are 2 warning alarms which force players to scamper back to the safe starting tile (or permanently lose a dice from their set, very bad). We played the basic game, but there are Curse and Treasure tiles which can be added to expand/complicate the game. We played the game twice; the first game was a disaster with no one escaping, but in the second game we all got out. The timed soundtrack works well and really added to the tension; you really felt the race against the clock! I have never before seen players manically rolling dice like this! You tend to be so focussed on the dice rolling that you fail to notice that your compatriots have moved on into a different room. Rational thought seems to vanish and everyone is in a heightened state of panic. There is literally no opportunity for ‘analysis paralysis’. The co-op element is also very strong; there are continual shouts to other players such as “Help! I’m blacked out”, “I’ve rolled a gold icon”, “What do you mean you’re not in the same room as me”, “We need keys to get the gems”, “Quick, all back to the start tile”. This not a game to play in quiet surroundings, it will disturb anyone in the same or adjacent rooms. It surprised me how often the black icons appear, and I even checked the dice between the games to assure myself that there was only one per die! Overall I think all the players really enjoyed the gaming experience. We only played 2 games because the game is a surprisingly tiring experience. After 2 games we all felt we needed a breather and I could not imagine playing this game repeatedly during a whole session. The components of the game are OK and the theme is strong. There is a fair bit of laughter and almost no post-game analysis, because no one can clearly remember specific actions or failures. I can see this as a game we will repeatedly play but in limited doses; a ‘filler’ game for the last half hour of a game session.

Next we moved on to playing ‘Dungeon Petz’. This is a game I introduced at the last session I hosted and it was so successful that Val and Chris went and bought a copy for themselves. The game revolves around a family of imps running a pet shop; keeping, maintaining, showing and selling different monsters. In essence this is a worker placement game and I find the key mechanic revolves around meeting the various needs of each of your monster pets. The components of the game are excellent and the theme is very strong (it is possibly the most thematic game I possess). The rules seem complicated at first with many diverse decisions and actions, but the game graphics guide you clearly and the internal logic of the theme makes the decision making a rational process. We played 2 games of ‘Dungeon Petz’ and each lasted just over an hour. The enjoyment and beauty of the game was as high as when we first played it, and I can see this game remaining as one of the most popular go-to games in our collections. I have toyed with the idea of buying the expansion ‘Dark Alleys’ but I am nervous that this may merely add complexity and take away from the clean flow of the existing game.
We finished this boardgame session with a game of ‘King of Tokyo’. I find this to be an excellent wind-up game for any session. It is essentially a Yahtzee dice rolling game themed on Japanese Manga comic book superhero/villain characters trying to dominate Tokyo. The theme is so silly that the competitive instinct of all players is muted and everyone is just looking to have fun. The rules and mechanics seem simple and straightforward, but I am sure there are hidden depths. The best comment to make about this game is that it is so good that I am planning to purchase the newly released ‘Kings of New York’ version in the near future.