Monday, 29 April 2019

AAR: Punic Wars (Impetus 2nd edition), 28Apr2019

This was the first outing for my 15mm Punic Wars armies, and the first use of the newly released Impetus 2nd edition rules. Ian randomly was assigned the Carthaginians whilst I got the Roman army that basically comprised 2 standard legions with minimal Italian allies. The terrain was pretty open but I did manage to add a river on which I could secure my right flank. The most obvious problem I faced was how to deal with the Carthaginian cavalry command. I had little choice but the use one legion to hopefully hold out against the mounted threat, whilst the other legion pushed on to take out the enemy infantry/elephant command.

Carthage to the left and Rome on the right

The battle developed pretty much as I expected. My right hand legion held and then prevailed against the Carthaginian infantry, destroying some Libyans, Spanish and Campanian foot units. The elephants were also close to death. The large unit of Gauls were tough and prevented a quick Roman victory on this flank. On my left flank the Carthaginian cavalry, especially the excellent Numidians, ran rings around the plodding Romans, quickly destroying the small Roman cavalry detachment. Ian was helped by rolling double 6 on his first initiative, which upgraded his general to Expert (Hannibal?). Incidentally on the other flank I rolled double 1, which downgraded my General to Poor (though this had little effect on the game). I did manage to kill some enemy, particularly when one Roman maniple made multiple moves in good order to kill some Spanish and box in one unit of Numidians. The end of the Roman command came with the destruction of a unit of Triarii, dying surrounded by a swarm of enemy horse. The collapse of this Legion signalled the end of the game and a win for Ian and Carthaginians.
The Roman right flank about to take on the elephants
View from the Carthaginian perspective

Overall a good game and deserved win. I think the Romans will always struggle against the Carthaginian cavalry, and I need to give some thought to how to overcome this inherent problem facing Rome.
The Roman left flank and the Legion is about to die

The original Impetus rules did require a 2nd edition; there were so many additional rules and modifications scattered through the various supplements that needed bringing together and clarification. But the 2nd edition is not simply a compilation exercise, there are significant changes as well. This did slow our first game down because we needed to refer to the rule book many times to check different situations. Generally I think the 2nd edition is good, beautifully produced with good graphics and nice binding that allows the rules to be open on the table. The type of game is essentially the same as that produced by the original Impetus rules, which I think is a good thing. I don’t intend to give a detailed review of the rules themselves (I have not played enough yet) but instead just raise a few points based on this single game and my quick read through of the rules.

Terrain selection seems too basic and will always result in an open battlefield. This will favour some armies and disadvantage others. I would have liked to see more options available to cater for different army types and theatres of conflict. I really like the improved range of options available when being charged (in our game I forgot to use Close Ranks when my Triarii were charged), and the Evade rules are much clearer now. The Roman Pilum is now an effective weapon, especially when first charged. I like the variable Retreat and Pursuit tables which make things much less predictable. I like the more gradual reduction in unit status by becoming Worn then Exhausted. I still think ‘Large’ units are overly powerful (I am considering trying a ‘house rule’ whereby loses are inflicted on the front element of a large unit, and only transferred to the back element at the very end of the turn). I also noticed that the rules for Impetuous units have largely been removed from the 2nd edition, and replaced with a single Frenzy Test to potentially break up group charges. I have yet to play using my Roman versus Early German armies, but I suspect the problems for the Romans have got much tougher. Previously I could manoeuvre my more disciplined Romans to force the impetuous barbarians in to uncoordinated charges. Now I don’t think that option is available, and if the enemy has ‘large’ units, then I don’t hold out much hope for victory with the Romans. We will wait and see. I am sure both Ian and I made some rules errors during the game; for example, in melee when both participants cause no potential hits, then both should take a disorder (7.7.1), which may result in a loss to VBU.

To conclude Impetus 2nd edition has a tentative thumbs up from me and will remain one of my favourite rule systems for Ancient/Renaissance gaming, but more games need to be played before I come to a firm conclusion.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Boardgame session: 21Apr19

Elaine and I have been playing a range of 2-player games during the last few months. This has allowed us to get some under-played games off the shelf. One game I contemplated playing was ‘Key to the City of London’ but I (surprisingly) found in a charity shop a mint condition copy of the original ‘Keyflower’ game for only £2.50! So, I bought it and found it to be an excellent game (better than ‘Key to the City’). This Sunday Val and Chris came over, so I decided to give it a try using a higher player count. It works just as well with more players, the nasty plays are more spread out, and the play time is still fast. Both Val and Chris took a bit of time to get into the game the rules and structure (probably my poor explanation), but they managed to come in 1st and 2nd, so they clearly got the gist of the game. There is a surprising amount of thought required with each play you make, and I struggled because I could never get the number of meeples I required to make things happen. I think I prefer Keyflower to Key to the City, but I am motivated to try the London game soon.

Elaine and I visited Thirsty Meeples in Oxford recently and bought the ‘Herb Witches’ extension for Quacks of Quedlinberg, and have played a number of 2-player games using it. We could now try out the extension with Val and Chris. The new ingredient books are fine, the addition of the locoweed is OK, the Herb Witches are good, but my favourite addition is the orange ‘6’ tile. I seem to be lucky with this expensive tile, it always seems to come out of the bag each round! Now we have 6 books for each ingredient, it allows a simple D6 roll to be used to randomise the ingredient books, and this nicely improves the game replay ability. Overall I am happy with the extension; the price (£15) was OK and it does add some nice options for the game without slowing it down. The 5th player board will also be convenient when Gill, Erin and Paul visit.

Monday, 8 April 2019

New Project

As I have now completed (?) my Punic Wars armies, I am again faced with the “Next Project” dilemma. I sat down and evaluated what I most enjoy about the hobby, and this basically breaks down to 3 major considerations: (1) The gaming itself. I like the interaction with other players. I am not especially competitive, so I enjoy a smooth, thought provoking game where winning is a bonus, not a driving force behind my game play. I like trying new rules and finding new (to me) mechanisms that can improve either the historical simulation or the flow of a game. (2) Painting. The whole process of planning, purchasing and painting new armies and units is very rewarding and enjoyable. The time I spend on this aspect of the hobby dwarves that spent actually gaming with the toys on the table. I have even devoted some large chunks of my life to producing a beautiful army, and have yet to get to use these figures on the table! I do feel a certain guilt (?) about this, especially considering the money locked away in my ‘unused’ toys, but the pleasure the process gives me makes the whole thing worthwhile. (3) History. Wargaming encourages me to read and research the periods I am aiming to model and game. As a result, I think my knowledge of British and Western European history is pretty good. As the geographic net spreads out, my depth of knowledge reduces. The purchase of Ottoman and Hungarian armies allowed me to explore the some of the history of Eastern Europe and characters like Janos Hunyadi. My Samurai armies gave me an insight into Japanese history (and geography), and I would love to visit Japan to see the places myself. I am aware of huge gaps in my historical knowledge base. I know little about the history of the Indian sub-continent, and nothing of pre-colonial sub-Saharan African history. The one gap I am most aware of is China. I don’t know when the Ming or Tang dynasties were, and how different periods of Chinese history relate to each other. I am very ignorant about the geography of China; there are major cities whose location I could not place on a map. The locations of mountains, rivers, deserts, flood-plains, forests, jungles etc.,  are a mystery to me. So, for my next project I am going to build up a Han Chinese army and immerse myself in all things Chinese. Why choose the Han dynasty? Well, Lancashire Games produce a number of battlepacks for this period, which is both convenient and cheap. So for only ~£100 I now have enough figures to put together ~800 points for Impetus (using a beta-list Han Chinese list on their website). Also, as I’ve since found out, the Han dynasty was concurrent with the rise of the Romans, so offers an interesting comparison. Additionally in my attic I found an old second-hand Warhammer Ancients book on this period of Chinese history (part of a job-lot bought years ago) called Art of War, which provides a nice guide to painting etc. I’m set to go, but I am aware that a Games Workshop booklet is not the best foundation for my project, so I would welcome any advice from readers out there.
Finally, I missed Salute this year. I was all set to go until a bug struck me down on the Friday. Typically I’m fine now, but disappointed to miss the show which marks the start of the wargaming year for me.