Sunday 31 December 2023

Successful New Years Resolutions: And how to stick to them

How do you make a success of your New Year Resolutions? Wargamers, like other people, will be heading into New Year's Eve with goals for the coming year. But Resolutions are notoriously hard to keep and by the end of February, most have been abandoned. So how do I approach setting goals for my hobby and have I been successful with my resolutions for 2023?

Friday 29 December 2023

Bosworth Test Game: Test of Resolve

The Crown of England was up for grabs this week, and the outcome was dramatic and very exciting. I had a week off work for the Christmas break so I was determined to take a day out for a solo game of Test of Resolve, the Wars of the Roses ruleset. I have been building the armies of Henry Tudor and Richard III for Bosworth for a little over a year and while I have played a few small test games I have yet to fight the battle. I have a plan (and the figures) for the whole battle, but my table in the Operations Room is just 3ft by 5ft so I would have to select a portion of the map and play part of the battle only. As it was the two formations that were excluded in this setup didn't play a part in the actual battle so leaving them out didn't have an impact on this game. When I play this with a larger table there are rules for their inclusion, but that's a challenge for another day.

The order of battle for this game included Richard III, Brackenbury and Norfolk for the Yorkists and Henry Tudor, Oxford, De Chande and William Stanley for the Lancastrians. For the purposes of this game, the French under De Chande would not be free to move until Turn 2 while William Stanley could only move if a 'Show your Colours' card was revealed from Turn 2 onwards, and a test passed.

(Y) Richard III - 9 Battle Points
(Y) Brackenbury - 20 Battle Points
(Y) Norfolk - 24 Battle Points

(L) Henry Tudor - 6 Battle Points
(L) Oxford - 25 Battle Points
(L) De Chande - 14 Battle Points
(L) William Stanley - 15 Battle Points

These rules use a deck of special cards (the game deck) to drive the action. This consists of cards which determine which side is active and what actions they can take, such as Move & Melee, Fire or Ending the Turn. I decided to remove the Missile Supply cards from the deck for the first turn only, partly because I didn't like the idea that one side of the other could have to test for missiles before anything had happened, and party to speed along the first turn. These cards would be put in the discard pile ready to be reshuffled into a new game deck for turn two. Similarly a Yorkist "Event" Card and Lancastrian "Show Your Colours" card would also go into the discard pile for inclusion in the deck in turn two.
The game starts with the Yorkist Archers moving forward into long-range. The Melee troops remain stationary for now, waiting for this initial missile duel to conclude before advancing.

Oxford sends his missile troops forward to get into close range. He has two handgun units at either end of the line, but they need to be within 5" to have the range and these press further forward. Meanwhile, DeChande and his French troops remain in their starting positions and (offscreen to the right) William Stanley has yet to reveal his allegiance.

Norfolk and Brackenbury push their Billmen and Men at Arms forward behind the archers. This in turn prompts Oxford to do the same, although his men must cross a small stream which will limit their movement slightly. However, all of this is just posturing, the Archers have not finished their deadly exchanges yet. A handful of units have had their resolve reduced by missile fire but the most significant impact has come from Henry's Canon on a slight hill behind his line (offscreen to the left). Despite long odds (needing 11+ on a D12), they have hit one of Norfolk's Archer companies twice, severely weakening them.

Henry and his Mounted Knights move to position themselves on the right of Oxford's Line, but the marshy ground to their front limits room for manoeuvre.

De Chande leads his French and Scots across the stream and begins to advance on Norfolk's troops ahead of them. The Crossbowmen have a similar range to the archers but had started out of range of the enemy so this move brings them into the action if a Fire card comes out of the Game Deck.

Brackenbury has lost two Archer companies and the third had to fall back behind its haven company, so he decides to advance his Billmen. In response, Oxford moves his melee troops forward and on the next Movement card will begin withdrawing his archers behind their haven companies. Archers do get a chance to withdraw if approached by enemy melee troops but there is always a chance that they don't withdraw fast enough and Oxford wants to keep his line in good order.

Oxford successfully pulls back his Archers and then form-up as light melee troops behind their Haven companies. One more Move card, for either side, and the bloodshed will begin.

This overhead show shows the advancing French under DeChande and Oxford's Battle move forward ready for the desperate struggle to begin. William Stanley has yet to show his colours so at this point the Lancastrians are outnumbered. Even if Stanley does pick sides, the marsh will limit his movement on the right.

From turn two, the Yorkist Event card was included in the Play Deck, and it would shape the outcome of the battle. The Yorkist Event was "Mind the Gap". The King sees a gap open in the Lancastrian line and has to choose whether to act on it or not. If not, the card goes back into the deck for the next turn, but if it is acted upon the King needs to roll 8 or more on a D12.

Although both sides had not yet begun a general melee, I decided that Richard III would take the chance to end the battle decisively. Unsure of the allegiance of the Stanleys, and keen to assert his authority as the rightful king of England, Richard orders his knights to charge through the Lancastrian line. Richard was many things but he was not a coward and even his enemies acknowledged the bravery of the King following the battle of Bosworth.

Richard's command successfully rolls to act on the order (rolling a 12 on a d12!) and moves in a straight line, ignoring terrain, distance and intervening troops, to be placed in frontal contact with Henry's command. A round of melee is then immediately fought and the King's command gains several important bonuses in this initial round of combat. The charge gets a +1 for Shock (a charge bonus) and another +1 for a supporting company. Meanwhile, Henry suffered a -2 surprise modifier as the attack came out of the blue.

Modifiers alone do not win a Melee but then Richard rolled an 11 and Henry a three. After modifiers that was a difference of 10+ resulting in the loss of three Resolve Points on Henry's company. Despite this Henry passes his resolve test and remains in position.

Now I deviated from the rules slightly as I decided that the initial impact had been so great that I ought to conduct a second round of Melee immediately. No supporting units could join the fight quickly enough to give any advantage to Henry so rather than unnecessarily drag the game out I opted to fight on (I'll give more thought to this rule change before my next game). This time Henry would not have the Suprise Penalty and Richard would not get the Shock bonus...but it made little difference with the King winning again and Henry's company rolling a 1!

This prompted a commander's fate test and once again I rolled a 1 meaning Henry was cut down and his ill-fated attempt on the Crown on England was brought to an ignominious end on the field of Bosworth.

Long Live King Richard III!

What have I learned from this game and what will I do differently next time?

Well for a start I have learned that by manipulating the Play Deck it's possible to speed play along quite effectively. I decided to hold back the Missile Supply cards until turn two and this has two effects. It makes the initial deck slightly smaller, putting more emphasis on movement and firing. However, it also means that some Missile companies remain longer than they otherwise would and this stretches out the archery duel at the beginning of the battle. I'll have to give this some more thought going forward. 

I'm also inclined to keep my change to melee in the game, ie if there are nearby supporting companies that would change the outcome of the second round of melee, then have that second round immediately to speed the game along. Again I'll have to give this some careful thought but given the size of the armies I am fielding, I think any small changes that increase the speed of the game could be a good thing. 

I may also make a few small changes to the map for the battle to accommodate the size of the Battles. For instance, I think the Marsh is too big and effectively divides the battlefield in a way that I'm not sure the real marsh did on the historical battlefield. 

So I have a few things to think about and some changes to consider following what was a very enjoyable and exciting little game. 

Sunday 24 December 2023

Clarity verses Inspiration: The Pursuit of Precision in Wargame Rules

All wargame rules are a compromise between Clarity and Inspiration. Getting the balance right can be very difficult, and getting it wrong can lead to endless confusion.

Sunday 17 December 2023

Collaborative Painting: Rising to the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge

Painting in collaboration or competition with other wargamers is a fantastic way to boost your productivity. I'm taking part in this year's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge and every year that I have participated my painting output has gone up. Whole armies can be completed in just three months, with the gentle support and encouragement of other wargamers.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Breaking with convention: Miniature Basing for Different Rulesets

Do you go the extra mile to ensure your bases fit as many of the rule sets you are likely to play or base them for the game you first plan to play and just make it work? Do you adhere to the basing conventions for a set of rules or are you a convention breaker?

Sunday 3 December 2023

Napoleon: A travesty of a movie

Ridley Scott's Napoleon is a travesty of a movie. Historically inaccurate, poorly written, badly acted and a complete mess from beginning to end. 

I've not done a film review before but I had to make an exception for this film. Hotly anticipated by many wargamers the early images from the production made us even more eager to see the final cut. What we got was so bad that the film has become the latest internet meme, with terrible review after terrible review. Far be it for me not to join in, so here's my take on two and a half hours of wasted opportunity and insult to history.