Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Some thoughts on the Battle of Poirot Pass

After I play a game, I like to dwell on what went well and what didn't - so that the next time will be even more enjoyable.

Following my proposed turn sequence, I rolled for the campaign turn's weather (stormy) and then supply - abundance for both sides. Now, for those following along at home, that's three 6s in a row on a d6. Of course, this never happens when I actually want it to.

I skipped events - just wanted to start with the first battle as planned- a meeting engagement to gain control over a valuable pass-and rolled for the game weather. Even with the +1 modifier, I only rolled light/rain drizzle, which from a commanders point of view beats heavy rains or torrential downpours and high winds, but as a test of my game effect ideas, it was minimally helpful.

I decided that this time I would experiment with the idea of playing both sides, rather than against an "opponent". To make it fair and worth my time, I took away total control from each side by:
  • Assigned each stand a playing card to make each side's deck and then added half as many blank cards to each deck. So, with 11 stands (10 + 1 vehicle each), each deck was 11 cards, plus 5 (i rounded down) for a total of 16 cards.
  • Borrowing an idea I came across while researching meeting engagement scenarios, I split the deck into 3 groups - 4 cards for the scouts/vanguard, 8 for the main body and 4 for the rear guard.
    • The scouts start on the board
    • On turn 3, at the end of a side's half of the turn, roll d6 for arrival of the main body of troops. They arrive on a 6. If they arrive, place on table.
    • If they don't arrive, then, at the end of that side's half of turn 4, roll again, and this time add 1 to the roll. If the result is 6, they arrive. For each turn, add 1 to the roll until the main body arrives.
    • Two turns after that, repeat the process for the rear guard.
  • All troops upon their arrival were randomly placed on their base line by die roll.
  • In an article at Solo Battles Dale (I don't know his last name) made mention of assigning written orders to his solo opponent to guide troop movements. Inspired, I decided to create a set of of cards with 5 different ideas of how I might approach the battle. As I am of no great tactical mind, these were five simple ideas or game plans, if you will. Each side drew a card and these were noted and returned to the deck. I repeated this for the main body and then again for the rear guard as each arrived. Thus, each body could have different objectives as part of an overall coordinated attack for that side. All of my decisions for movement/strategy would be based in large part on these orders.
  • Each side's leaders were rated 1 = cautious, 2-5 a little cautious, a little aggressive, 6- aggressive, with the Mythic Fate Chart handling any grey areas.
  •  A cautious leader would retire his side from the field after 40% loss of strength, an avg after 50% (a common value in wargame rules, hence why i chose it), and an aggressive after 60%. These were guidelines however, and, again, I'd use Mythic if there were any question.
  • Finally I added the G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. vehicle start and sustain rules and intended to use their results table should a hit be scored on one of the vehicles. These mechanisms make the vehicles the temperamental technological marvels that they are and prevent player from running roughshod over the enemy.
I am pleased with how everything worked out and more so, how it all seemed to work together. This was the first game I ever played that wasn't 1 fig. = 1 man, so some of this may just be the giddiness of trying something new but the game really was fun and felt very different than my usual skirmish games.

There was a good deal of uncertainty caused by the use of blinds and additional blank cards  and the unknown arrival time and placement of remaining forces. But, it was the use of written orders that I felt really added to the feel of bodies of soldiers maneuvering into position - not in reaction to every move of the enemy, but guided by a plan and their officers.

 It also meant that when they arrived, some units would have a great deal of movement to make just to get where they belonged.

At one point, this resulted in the Sauvignon-Blanc walker being stalled out one move from its objective, a position on the center hill (from which it could dominate the table with artillery fire). Unfortunately, it stalled and was unable to restart for nearly the remainder of the game. Of course, it was faced away from the newly revealed Riesling steam tractor. The tractor had its own mechanical difficulties and never was able to maneuver within range of the walker and so disaster was at least temporarily averted.

Memoir of Battle gave a great game with the right feel. Ranged weapons were effective, but it really took closing in to do serous damage quickly. One lizard-folk goum took out an entire zug of Riesling infantry in just one melee! The only time that happened in the 11 turns the game lasted, might I add.

Finally, the grid surface eliminated one of my least favorite things - measuring. I can't express how much I dislike stopping and measuring. 

The only downside was the amount of time spent moving playing cards around before contact was achieved - 16 cards per side takes awhile. Next time, I'll give each company a card instead of each platoon/section which should cut that time in half.

I've already rolled up the recovery and reinforcements per the campaign rules to complete the first game week and I can't wait for the next battle!

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