Monday, June 3, 2019

Awa' wi' ye! - II/60 Caledonians vs II/49 Marian Romans

What if Julius Caesar had tacked a different course with the Belgii, and the legions of Caesar's time had invaded the lands of the Caledones?

I laid out an imposing high-ground-heavy board, though the surface is a little too slick for convenient use:

The main rule changes from DBA3.0:

  1. Caledonians automatically defend the high ground end
  2. Steep going is not "bad" going, it is "rough" so just limits movement (this prevents Bd and Cv from being useless)
  3. Solo rules are simply to close as swiftly as possible with due allowance for bad-going-friendly types like Ax, Ps and Wb seeking such going.
Here's an overhead shot of the deployed sides to make it clearer. LCh span the glen, Wb supported by the lone Ps are divided on the high ground. For the Roman part a Bd element is left back at the fortified camp, because fast foot and LCh can easily zoom around a wing; and each wing forms into column so as to be able to advance past the bad going spots that could form a trap otherwise.

I felt at the time I was not being 100% fair to my Mary Roms - their default is plenty of Bd and they could have scraped up many more Ax, but didn't. Even Arty would have been pretty handy.

An account of the battle:

In terms of the race for bad going, the Cals roll too low to spring their Ps ahead but not too far ahead. They watch as the MarRom Ax breaks off (bottom picture). The MarRoms form a defensive line right, advancing their left.

With a decent roll the Cals (who stay in good command distance) challenge the MarRom left, and a fight for the scrub ground develops. Not wanting the Cals center to isolate their left the MarRom centre spreads out and advances.

The Spanish Ax proves a tough foe! First blood to the MarRoms with a 5:1.

Buoyed by this the MarRoms continue to push forward. But command distance is beginning to become an issue. In response the Cal left "marks" the Ps, forcing an unpleasant number of choices, all of which can be easily resolved by always rolling high PIPs... which ain't gonna happen.
One PIP has to be spent getting closer to the left flank, but the MarRom center has little to fear from LCh so pushes forward. 
Oh woops, fast Wb are suddenly in the MarRom faces! And although you can't see it from the overhead shot, those Bd are caught downslope. 
The loss of the Ps was expected, but losing a Bd really hurt. From here it's desperation for the MarRoms.
The MarRom line fragments as the last Bd element on their right crumbles. Time to flee and write a convincing report!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

First Battle of Winterfell using HOTT

They don't teach generalship in Westeros...

Battle of Winterfell (I)

Working my way back to the somewhat inexplicable Baratheon venture into the northern wastes to secure Winterfell. Stannis is very far from home. But for the purposes of turning a debacle into a plausible contest, I lay out the following special rules:

1. Finding himself right next to Winterfell, Stannis vigorously patrols against Bolton spies, uses Melisandre to scout, hangs deserters, and cuts a defensible base camp.
2. Supply difficulties are not insurmountable.

For his part Ramsay Snow/Bolton needs a field victory so as to loot his enemy and find forage for his many horse herds. (I believe this is what forces Ramsay to take the field each time.)

Army lists

Bolton, defending - same as the Battle of the Bastards:
Beast general, cost 2.
3xKnights, cost 6.
4xRiders, cost 8.
1xShooters, cost 2.
1xWarband, cost 2.
2xSpear, cost 4.

Baratheon, attacking
2xBlades incl false blade general, cost 4.
1xMagician, cost 4.
1xHorde, representing demoralized foot.
Special rules:
Stannis himself, and a variety of elements, are concealed or off the board. They may be summoned on a 6. Alternatively or additionally, 3 BW of concealed (lurking) bad going may also be summoned on a 6. If there are both off-board and concealed elements, two separate 6s are needed.
To represent the chance of resupply, off-board elements appear partly at random: foot appear 1,2,3 north edge, 4,5, west edge, and 6 east edge. Mounted appear 1,2,3,4 north edge, or 5,6 east edge.

An account of the battle:

All goes well for Ramsay until Riders and Beasts gain the "step". At that moment Stannis rolls a 6 and buys 3 chevaux-de-frise, his own Bd general, and 1 Spear. This brings his force points to 16. 

He uses the 6th PIP to advance his existing Bd to the spare obstacle. Suddenly Ramsay is in trouble and badly needs to pull back and rejig. But of course it's far easier to advance than pull back an overextended line. It takes time and his left is nibbled up!

Stannis rolls another 6 and summons 1 Wb element appearing west, 2 Riders from the east, and 1 Rider from the north. His force is now a full 24 points.

From there on it's a nightmare for Ramsay. He takes just the one Rider before losing half his force.
Final result: Bolton loses, 2:12
Summing up: I thought the summoning rules worked well. Obviously things could go much worse for Stannis. Possibly a hidden card system to establish where his lurking bad ground might appear? I don't like the idea of reducing it to a woods-battle, so this seems a good way of making it a set-piece battle.

Melisandre was just worth the 4 point cost. Her 2-PIP cost to bespell hindered Stannis movement. Her long-range assistance into melee was decisive twice, and that's often all you need to turn a battle.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Battle of the Bastards using HOTT

They don't teach generalship in Westeros...

Battle of the Bastards
After the previous fun Long Night refight I decided to pick out the other big land set piece battles and see how they run using HOTT. Naturally there are many variations. (Shout-out to Paul Mann's lists for Groan of Thrones on Boardgame Geek for suggested army lists.) These are my own interpretation.

The battlefield
Rewatching S6 E9 and S5 E10 I was delighted to see a big overhead shot, and a view from the aggressors' lines. That helps! Both episodes recycle the same steep clay bank near the woods, northwest of the stronghold. Just back of that there are plentiful woods to cut and to retire from horse into. Between that and the stronghold there's dead ground, but not enough slope to slow horse or provide any advantage. The stronghold itself is low-lying, and because book 1 tells me it lies on a thermal layer, that's understandable. The distance between the stronghold and bad ground (the step and woods) is so short that foot advancing from either can get into action pretty easily.

Army lists

Bolton, defending
Beast general, cost 2. I decided Ramsay's hounds are where his heart is.
3xKnights, cost 6. I hesitated about this, but despite the general lack of spears there are definitely plenty of heavy charging horse Ramsay keeps in reserve.
4xRiders, cost 8. Ramsay has plenty of these, and doesn't mind wasting them.
1xShooters, cost 2. A thin line of archers with schmaverage bows.
1xWarband, cost 2. The basic fantasy get-stuck-in foot, definitely not well-disciplined but much better than Horde quality. You could argue Bolton does not have any, but I would argue he has to, given his turncoat-Stark numbers.
2xSpear, cost 4. The overhead of the melee shows there are relatively small numbers of spearmen/shieldmen but they have to be able to split into two files, so two it is.

Stark, attacking
Hero general, cost 4. Jon, Ghost, and his closest comrades clad in thick plot armor.
Behemoth, cost 4. Wun Wun has a decisive effect on the TV battle so definitely rates his own points.
2xWarband, cost 4. Wildlings, Night Watch, loyalist northerners.
1xRider, cost 2. Jon's biggest fangirl Lyanna Mormont and her core of armored knights, supported by other mounted loyalist northerners.
1xShooter, cost 2. Again you could definitely debate this, but there seemed to be plenty of archers, who were never used.
Special reserve: in this version (1) Sansa does let Jon know the Arryn allies are nearby, and (2) when Jon points out there is time to cut defensive works, they get right onto that.
Allies are summoned on the east board edge with a 6.
Bad going is created in front of 3 BW of defenders, represented by chevaux-de-frise. (3 foot elements permits 3 BW)

An account of the battle
The chevaux-de-frise in front of elements simply creates bad going for the element on the wrong side of them. In conjunction with the "step" of steep clay bank, it creates a problem for Ramsay. His pincer move is forced into very wide separation. He holds the center with spears, and stays back there himself to keep command distance of both wings. Shooters on the left will eventually get rid of warband, then riders can roll any shieldwall up - just like Hastings!

Then Jon rolls a 6 and 3 mounted elements appear on the east edge!

Ramsay calls up his knight reserve, but they can't quite cover that flank in both time and numbers - converting a line to a flank-moving column is expensive. And Jon starts really using Wun Wun, along with riders and warband in support. Bang bang, two Bolton riders gone!

A fencing match develops along the woods edge. With two riders for support and his own beasts and a warband, Ramsay attempts to swing the battle. Heroically, the Wildlings hold out, seeing off the turncoat Starks long enough for Jon to get there. Standoff.

Then Ramsay hits the dreaded PIP-slump! He can't even get his final reserve knights to move, as lines are driven in and Wun Wun with a support rider take the stronghold.

Total defeat for Bolton, 0:12 plus stronghold lost.

Summing up: It felt about right. The element I feel least comfortable with is Jon's shooters. But that's because in the TV version, Jon "know nothing" Snow aragorned off ahead of his entire army, forcing them to give up the not-very-prepared ground. Maybe in this version, the northern archers are just as good as the Boltons?

I was as fair as I could be - as you can probably sense I am no Jon Snow fan - and tried to use the Bolton forces as best they could be used. To no avail. Possibly using a card based system for Jon Snow to decide how he arses-up his deployment might be better? But the premise of these fun games is that the generals know what they are doing, unlike all but a couple of Westeros generals.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Long Night using HOTT

They don't teach generalship in Westeros.
After sneering my way through every setpiece battle of season 7 I really feel I have to solo the Long Night, AKA battle of Winterfell.

These lists and special rules are the result of three attempts at it. This is as playable a compromise as I could want.

Army lists

Army of the Night King
1. Night King riding the undead dragon, as Aerial Hero, special rule 1. Cost 6.
2. White Walkers as cleric, special rule 2. Cost 3.
3. Summoned storm as Airboat, special rule 3. Cost 3.
4. Undead as Horde, special rules 4 and 5. Cost 12.
Special rules for attackers
1. Only the death of the Night King ends the attack.
2. White Walkers act as the Night King's proxy for exerting command. So long as they are in base to base contact with the horde group commanded, no extra PIPs are needed regardless of the Night King's distance.
3. The storm front behaves the same as an airboat element, but cannot be attacked by enemy, and flees off the board if it loses.
4. Undead never recoil, they can only be destroyed by doubling or by being defeated and not doubled, while atop a flame trench. If the latter, the trench is also removed.
5. Undead can be sacrificed to automatically win against lurking flame trench, and for converting fortification to uphill slope. These are cumulative so that two elements are needed to "pave the way" over a flame trench and field fortification.

Allied armies
1. Jon Snow with various other key characters, as Hero. Cost 4.
2. Daenerys with her dragons, as Dragon. Cost 4.
3. Artillery based in Winterfell, special rule 2. Cost 3.
4. Dothraki as 1xriders. Cost 2.
5. Unsullied as 1xspears. Cost 2.
6. Northern forces as 1xwarband. Cost 2.
7. Three base widths field fortifications, special rule 3. Cost 3.
8. Four base widths flame trenches, special rule 4. Cost 4.
Special rules for defenders
1. Only the loss of the Stronghold (representing Bran being taken) ends the defence.
2. Artillery have a range of 500p from the Stronghold, but may not support elements in melee. Other artillery rules all apply.
3. Field fortifications may be of two types, a chevaux-de-frise that creates the bad going condition for elements attempting to cross it, or a rampart that does the same but also prevents melee support. Ditches, pot-holes, rope-tangles and so forth are assumed to form part of these defences.
4. Flame trenches are essentially passive lurkers. They may be summoned adjacent to defending elements, field fortifications, or the Stronghold. They act in support of active defenders. See attacker special rule 4. If no land opponent remains within 600p the flame trench is removed.

An account of the battle
The cost for bringing up reinforcements, moving himself and using the ice storm was a great puzzle for the Night King. The defenders juggled around a little, trying to set the Hero to best use, whittling away hordes with artillery, and keeping the last flame trench as a surprise. Eventually the Hero Jon Snow stalked close enough to the Night King to try the single combat, and with a 6:1 victory was gained!