Monday, 17 October 2016

Warband Historical - Parthians vs Armenians

Play testing of the Warband Historical rules continues at a pace and in this battle, we put a historical match-up together - The Arascid Parthians against The Armenians (early).

We played an open battle at the intended 500pts.  Sadly I don't have the lists in detail, but the Parthians went with a poor quality commander an high quality troops.  The army was therefore very small at 9 units, with a small core of highly powerful cataphracts, a few units of skirmishing archers, and a couple of "deep" skirmish horse units (robust, flexible, fast moving, but concentrating force into a single unit).  As most of the Parthian units could shoot, the plan was to have a lower quality commander to try and engineer a "defensive" impetus and go second each turn.  This theoretically advantages the shooting, as you can get your units into good shooting positions once you see where the attacker's units are.  Its a decent plan, but is taking a poor commander worth the risk?  We shall see...

The Armenians had 13 units with very few upgraded, the infantry archers downgraded to "wavering" and a good quality commander.  The Armenians have a decent core of medium and skirmishing infantry archers, slingers, and javelinmen, a large wing of average cataphracts, and a small wing of fierce Hiberian cavalry.  The plan was to place terrain to anchor with the skirmishers, maximise the archery to weaken the superior Parthian cataphracts, and to try to use numbers effectively.

Terrain placement

The Parthians chose to place "open ground" to try to keep at least some areas were free for their skirmish horse to maneouver.  The Armenians put down their maximum three small forests to give their skirmishers some terrain.  the random placement saw the west flank blocked up with woodland, leaving the Parthians out in the open.  

Comment: Players are able to "purchase" terrain depending on the quality of their commander.  This allows you to try to get terrain that may be advantageous to you.  For example, an average commander can probably select three small (2x2BW) pieces of limiting terrain.  Terrain placement is random though, and its possible it won't end up where you'd like.

Season and weather

The random season/weather was generated and came out as "winter / snow", which added additional rough ground to the battlefield.  It fell on the right flank again, truly shutting that side off. 

Comment: weather is random, with one side determining the season, and the other the weather effect.  In this case we rolls "winter" and "snow".  I'll be keeping an eye on this as we playtest - I may need to introduce some sort of "army climate" modifier.


The Armenians deployed with their cataphracts in the open terrain on the east flank, and positioned their archers and skirmishers ready to make their way forwards into the woodland.  On their far west, the Hiberian fierce cavalry were ready to push out over the rough ground and into the open on the west flank.

The Parthians held their main strength (cataphracts) back, guarding their baggage camp on the east flank.  They sent one of their two light horse swarms on a flanking march, intending to come in behind the Armenian east flank.

Comment:  Armies deploy three units at a time alternately.  You may also hold 0-3 units back in reserve, and from the reserve send them on a flank march or even into ambush.  Flank marching is risky though and a unit may not arrive!  Its useful to send units with high Motivation ratings to increase their chances to arrive.

The battle lines were set...

The full battle arrayed...
Parthian skirmishers holding the west flank
The fearsome heavy Parthian cataphracts
Hiberian cavalry ready to swarm out through the rough ground

Comment: We're using our 15mm armies to playtest the rules.  the basing is 10x5cm, which playtesters have said they really like.  I'm aware however, that the DBx basing standard of 40mm frontage means its likely to make for 80mm unit frontages as standard.  Not sure...

The opening moves of the battle.  With their good quality commander seizing (and keeping for most of the battle) the initiative, the Armenian skirmishers captured the woodlands, and the Hiberian cavalry threatened the Parthians in the open.  They swung their archers out in a line to hold off the remaining Parthians, while the skirmishers and Hiberians did their work.  

Comment: The initiative roll is "winner goes first".  Its become clear through testing that "winner chooses to go first or second" may be preferable.

The Parthians attempted to concentrate their shooting into the woodland, but without their commander nearby to coordinate things (inspire them with Command Points), the Armenians in the woodland were safe.  The Armenian commander was within range however, and was able to provide sufficient Command Points to allow low level effective shooting out into the Parthians.

Comment: The woodland imposes -1d6 Shooting, which means that skirmish units can't hit unless the Commander steps in to add dice, or some other advantage (like a flank attack) can be gained.  I'm increasingly moving away from the idea of avoiding negative attack modifiers, and moving towards positive defensive modifiers.

The Parthians countered on the east flank with their deep skirmishing light horse unit.  This one unit held off the Armenians in the area and managed to put some decent archery into the cataphracts.  Their heavy armour held firm though.

Comment: "deep" is a special ability which makes for flexible and resilient, but high cost units.  They worked pretty well and seem a popular option.

While this was going on, the Hiberian cavalry charged into the Parthian skirmishers, with predictable outcomes.  The skirmishers, par from their (poor) commander, and lacking a nearby sub-commander were driven back and cut to ribbons, offering only delaying force.

Comment:  here tactics kicked in, and decent quality cavalry make quick work of skirmishers whose only option is to fall back and try to get away.

Mid-game, the Parthian cataphracts came out to fight, but were intercepted by the Armenians, whose greater initiative was able to get their charges in, forcing the Parthians to countercharge (with less effect).  The Parthian light horse were contained.  With the Armenians finally pushed forwards (to prevent being charged by the fierce Parthian cataphracts), the Parthian flank march attempted to arrive.  It consisted of another deep light horse swarm, but unfortunately for the Parthians after two turns of trying to bring them on, they failed and were lost!  Clearly the horsemen got lost in the winter conditions.

On the west flank, the Armenian Hiberians cut their way through the skirmishers to close in on the Parthian cataphracts.  With the main battle line stalemated between the Parthian and Armenian catphracts the Parthian losses hit 50% and the army broke. 

Comment:  Armies break (and lose) once they lose 50% of their starting points, either routed or destroyed.  In this 500pt battle therefore, the Parthians broke at 250pts lost.  The failure of their flanking unit to arrive (counting as lost) contributed to the collapse of the army.

Comment: In this playtest, pretty much everything worked well and a great, fun game was had.  I think there's a few things I'll keep an eye on over the next few games, notably skirmisher evade moves - mainly the direction they may take.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Warband Historical - Seleucids take on the British Tribes!

Playtesting for the historical version of Warband (hard, pdf) continues at a pace and this week we took a couple of large forces to the table in a non-historical battle.

Although provisionally titled "Comitatus" (the inspiration for the original name "Warband") these rules will probably not be released under this title.  Someone got there first!

Anyway, Warband Historical (WH) is normally fought between two 500pt forces but for this battle, with access to a larger table, we pushed this up to 800pts, partly to test the scalability of the rules, but also to fill the table!

We used here our 15mm ancients armies based DBx style, and saboted (in some cases with blu-tac) onto 10cm x 5cm bases.  We're playtesting in the Warband basing style, but its likely that the release basing will be 80 x 40mm - there's just too much dominance of the 40mm frontage in ancients gaming to resist!

To the south we have the Seleucids consisting of the following 17 units:

General (mounted, average quality)
5x Pike phalanxes (+ fierce and resolute - on 10 x 10mm bases)
4x Asiatic archers
1x Asiatic elephants
2x Thorakitai 
1x Companion cavalry (+ fear, powerful, Hero, sub-commander)
1x Cavalry (+ Sub-commander)
2x Cretan slingers

To the north we have the British Tribes consisting of the following 20 units:

1x Chieftain in chariot (average)
2x Charioteers (+ Sub-commander)
2x Charioteers
2x Fanatics
8x Warriors (+ fierce)
2x Light horse
3x Slingers

I oversaw proceedings and let the four players get on with things.  Two have played Warband so were familiar with the basics, although WH changes a few core elements and adds in some extras.  None-the-less, even the new players picked up the game within a turn or two.

Both teams selected to place no terrain at all.

Comment: WH allows each army to select terrain based on the commander's quality, and its possible to take no terrain (this may change).  Both side in this matchup lamented their decision to go with an open field, for different reasons!

The British deployed in traditional battle order with an infantry centre and cavalry/chariot flanks.  The Seleucids chose a defence in depth with a front rank of medium and light archers supported behind by the formidable phalanx.  The elephants formed up in the centre of the archers ready to meet the bulk of the British strength.  They left the west flank empty, and put both their cavalry units on the east flank.

Comment: each army deploys in "chunks" of 3 units at a time so you can see your opponent's deployment develop.  While you may sent units on flanking moves, neither army elected to do so.

The Seleucid disposition was defensive.  Clearly outnumbered on the flanks by light and fast moving cavalry, they held the phalanx back to protect its flanks.  The British intended a rapid envelopment on both flanks to exploit their strength in terms of numbers and mobility.

The battle opened with the British sub-commanders group moving their flanking forces forwards rapidly.  The envelopment seemed inevitable.  In the centre, the British sling-armed skirmishers advanced to try to pin the Seleucid centre.

Comment: sub-commanders are new rules that allow a commander to extend his command range in expending "command points".  Sub-commanders can also conduct "group moves" allow the traditions centre and flanks structure of historical battles.  The British used this to good efect in the early stages but their sib-commander on the west flank bottled out for several turns after...

The Seleucids were somewhat more cautious, but came out to meet the challenged.  Their elite companions and cavalry moved to counter the attempted envelopment on the east flank.  This was an unequal fight from the start.  The British chariots were up against some truly exceptional opponents.

In the centre, the archers and elephants stepped out to drive off the British skirmishers.

In the initial exchanged, the British slingers were forced back under a hail of arrows, but not before they peppered the Asiatic archers with lethal stones, forcing them to fall back also.

The British fanatics, unable to restrain themselves, broke ranks and stormed off towards the Seleucids.  

Comment:  any unit suffering 2+ hits has to withdraw from its position by falling back.  Although outranged, the slingers were stll able to advance and inflict hits on the enemy archers.  Meanwhile, forgetting that their fanatics are "impetuous", the British players forgot to control them and so they headed off on their own in a forced "impetuous move"!  This oversight messed with the British plans quite a bit and almost cost them the game.

Meanwhile, on the east flank, the British were able to make their envelopment, but lacked the numbers to do it effectively.  The Seleucid cavalry flank was more than up to the job, ably supported by the Thorakitai infantry, and put the British charioteers and light horsemen to flight.  Although successful, they were now chasing the routing British off and effectively advanced themselves out of the battle.


Things weren't going so well for the British on the west flank (top), and their mounted flank consistently failed to move for several turns.  This meant they were unable to exploit the wide open flank before them!

In the centre, the Seleucid elephants were having a field day!  They punched through the British fanatics and skirmishers into the main British warrior line, and despite taking casualties, were able maintain their morale!  the British finally managed to stop the devastating charge and although they didn't take the elephants out, did have the threat they posed contained. 

Comment: units must roll a "motivation check" to determine whether they move, and if so how far.  The British players consistently failed this dice roll for several turns, and as they were attempting a "group move" the commander couldn't intervene to help motivate them.

Very much on the back foot, the British had lost the initial engagements to the Seleucids.  It must be said some spectacularly poor dice rolling didn't help!  However, the mid game began in earnest and the British attack began finally to develop.  Their western chariot flank came in, and supported their slingers and warriors, threatening the Seleucid phalanx.

With their front line archers engaged with the British warriors in front, and their Thorakitai flank guard tied up with British skirmishing, the Seleucids peeled off a phalanx unit to try to hold the flanking move long enough to destroy the British in front of them.

The pikemen found themselves completely surrounded by swirling British skirmishers.  Pressing on as best they could, it was a fight lost before it began and slings and arrows routed the heavy foot.

Things were starting to turn around for the British and the game was pulling back towards a draw.

Sadly we ran out of time, but as the phalanx finally began to move, and the Companions were heading back into the fight, the British were poised to take the Seleucid pike blocks one by one, rolling up their line.  

The game ended with about 40pts between the two forces losses, so a draw.  Given another hour who knows what would have happened!?

Comment:  as we were testing the rules and had new players involved (and we started late) we didn't manage to get to a resolution.  However, it was a jolly fun game, and a good test for the rules.

Tweaks include, addressing some suspect pursuit rules, considerations about skirmish units not blocking non-skirmishers from fall backs, and some discussions around tactics to take on elephants and mounted skirmishers.

Up next, Parthians vs Armenians I think.

OH and...a thing of beauty I think you'll agree...

Monday, 30 May 2016

Warband video series

Justin Borges appears to be embarking on a video series where he will look at the various aspects of the Warband rules.

I'll be following this series closely.  Here's his first offering where he talks mainly about the models and basing available for Warband from Pendraken.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Warband meets Lord of the Rings

Recently I took a bit of time out of my busy gaming schedule to put together an unofficial 'supplement' to use with the Warband Fantasy Wargames rules.

I've been an almost life-long fan of Tolkien's works and the chance to refight the battles or fight all new ones in this fun and excellent setting is not to be missed.

Luke Ueda-Sarson made this possible with his excellent DBx rules and discussions.

I thought Warband needed some lists too, and after finishing them off I thought I'd share them.  You'll find the booklet here.


Sunday, 6 March 2016

After Dorking 1871: The War in Africa, The Battle of Bundas - Part 2

Following on from part 1 we restarted the Prussian invasion of British Egypt where the battle still hung very much in the balance.

The British regiments defending Bundas had just broken and fled north, and the Prussians were poised to sweep into the settlement and on to capture the road north.

General Hans Von Platzhirsch ordered his field artillery to advance and form a grand battery overlooking Bundas.  He held his infantry line in place while the guns advanced and set up.

Prussian grand battery forming up (these are pointing away from the British to represent them still being limbered and not ready to fire)

Verdammt noch mal, Fritz, bekommen diese Waffen eingesetzt!!
Command failures kept the Prussian guns out of the fight for a turn or two, giving the British time to deploy their reserves.

This gave the British the opportunity to bring up their tardy reserves and as time passed the Prussian impetus ebbed away.  The British soon formed a powerful line to the east of Bundas.  

The two lines close and try to establish something like an ordered firing line.

Both succeed and a ranged duel begins...

Both forces made good use of long ranged firing and as shot and shell poured into the opposing lines, regiments wavered and were shaken across the battle front.

It was a brutal tit-for-tat exchange and it was most unclear which side would gain the upper hand.

The Prussian divisional reserve infantry took the town and set about looting what little of value they could find.  

In a panicked response, a British regiment saw fit to abandon its orders and charge out towards the Prussian lines.  They intended to dislodge the beastly Boche at the point of a bayonet.  It didn't go well as they took horrendous losses advancing into the Prussian Dreyse rifles.  None-the-less, they put the Prussian before them to flight!

Both sides suffered further losses and the fight descended into a bitter impasse.  

The British suffer casualties all across their positions, and fall back to try to recover.

Wissen mein Gott die Briten, wie Sie ihre Waffen äh verwenden?
Prussians are shaken by British fire...

Prussian lines withdraw heavily shaken to try to restore a bit of order.  Its all too late though...

We decided at this point that the Prussians would withdraw along their logistics lines and had not done enough to secure Bundas or the road to Khartoum.

An excellent battle all round and another good bash for the Black Powder rules.  

I doubt the machinations of the Prussians in Africa are finished...

Here's a review of Black Powder from the Beast of War chaps.

Prussian period uniforms start at 1.26.

British period uniforms.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Warband Tournament Milton Keynes 7th May 2016

Milton Keynes Wargames Society are running a Warband event 7th-8th May this year.  

I think it looks like it could well be a lot of fun so I intend to make the long journey south to take part.

Individual entry

Rules: Pendraken’s ‘Warband’ rules, with errata and FAQ from Pendraken Website.

Points: 500AP

Terrain: players to provide to suit army and Generals points.

Lists: From any of the 12 official book lists (with amended Vampire Lord points from forum errata).

Figures: should be 10/12mm and on 100mm X 50mm bases, and painted to a reasonable standard. Proxy figures are allowed, as long as they are made clear to both your opponent and it made clear as to what the represent.

Timings9:00 -12:00 then 1:00 to 4:00 both days.
Presentation 4:30 Sunday only.

Taking place in Middleton Hall, Milton Keynes. More details here. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Warband: Goblins vs. Hill dwarves

This week our usual roleplaying session was interrupted by an unexpectedly absent GM, so I gave some friends a run out with my Warband display armies instead.  They've played before, mid-last year so we were all looking forwards to another bash.

Because the armies are designed as showcases, they are a bit of a mixed bag and the lists are as follows:

General (Exceptional)
Shaman (Good)
2x Warriors
2x Archers
2x Wolf riders (Skirmish, 1x Hero)
1x Giants

Hill dwarves
General (good)
Spell-smith (average)
2x Warriors (Resolute, Shieldwall)
2x Archers (Shieldwall)
1x Berserkers
1x Boulder elementals

I set up a fixed terrain board, eschewing the terrain placement rules, and the two rival generals set up their forces ready to fight.

This helped save a bit of time, but mainly I just found some nice lightweight boards while I was pootling about at the club.

The goblin king anchored his northern flank with his trusty (or perhaps mistrusted) shaman, put his main strength including the giants in the centre, and his archers on the hill to his southern flank.

The canny dwarf king set up behind his infantry centre with his spell-smith.  To the north he placed his boulder elementals who he intended to send forth to capture the northern hill.  To the south his unruly berserkers bit their axe-hafts and screamed blue murder at the encroaching goblin horde.  No quarter would be given and they were ready to sell their lives dearly.

The dwarves opened proceedings with a cautious advance in the centre.  However, to the south the berserkers were having none of it.  They ignored their king and stomped off as fast as their stumpy legs would carry them.  They smelled goblin blood and lost their collective minds...

As an impartial observer I felt the hill dwarves had a better deployment.  the Goblins were strung out wide, and their magic user seemed a little out of place on the flank.  The opening moves saw the dwarves fail a lot of Motivation tests, including losing control of their berserkers.

The goblins countered by advancing their giants and wolf riders through the southern woodland.

 ...and here is where the first action of the day was met.  Out of control, the dwarf berserkers plunged headlong away from their own lines and soon found themselves completely surrounded by swirling wolf riders and goblin archers.  The little fellows were in their element and the fighting raged here for much of the battle.  

Their natural toughness did the berserkers proud and with their hero point they were able to hold up four goblin units for most of the game.  Unfortunately, the rest of the hill dwarf army didn't really exploit the opportunities this created.

Meanwhile, to the north, the goblin shaman and his coterie found themselves in a rather one-sided battle with the horrifying boulder elementals.  

The goblin mages did their best with some magic attacks as the boulder elementals closed the distance.  The Hill dwarves made a good choice here dumping command points into getting the elementals to charge forwards quickly to prevent taking too much of this spell damage.  Once they got into melee with the shamans, there really was only one result, as the goblin king was too far away to help out.  After they routed though, the hill dwarf king was focussed elsewhere and so couldn't exert his influence to get the elelmentals back into the fight quick enough.

It was a predictably one-sided fight and in short order the goblin spell casters were fleeing for their lives, never to return.

With the northern flank lost, and the southern flank bogged down, the goblin king throws his centre forwards into the glinting iron wall that is the hill dwarf infantry.

This really was a grind.  Resolute shieldwall dwarf warriors are some of the toughest units in the game and the goblins needed all the inspiration their king could muster!  They poured command points into their fighting try try and bust through the dwarf armour, but really this was a massive tarpit that even the giants couldn't help break.  Those units that did fall back or rout on both sides were swept up by both skilled generals rallying the units that broke free of the front line.

And then, after a bitter and extended fight the hill dwarf berserkers are finally cut down, break and run off by the wolf riders.  The goblin southern flank swarms forwards, turning in on the hill dwarf centre.

This was a turning point of sorts.  The goblins could now bring in the extra numbers they had tied up on the south flank.  that said, while the giants and wolf riders made an impact, the archers just couldn't make the moves quickly enough.  Once again the hill dwarves natural toughness proved a hard nut to crack.

The battle here descended into a grind, with both sides having units break and then rallied back into the fight.  Finally the hill dwarf king throws himself into the front line in an attempt to try and break the deadlock.

While the dwarves are utterly tough, they're only average in dealing damage and crucially lack the mobility to run down the enemies they rout.  This means the opponent often has plenty of time to bring broken units back into the fight!  To try and break the deadlock the dwarf king stepped in personally.  As the clock ran down though it was too little too late.

Time ran out and both sides had lost about 160pts of troops.  The goblins took the battle by about 10 points though so it was little more than a bitter draw.  The goblin king claimed victory though!

A good time was had by all and the players certainly seemed to enjoy themselves in what was a hard fought and evenly matched grinding fight.  throughout most of the game it really could have gone either way.