Thursday, January 2, 2014

Last Game of 2013: 19th C. Italians vs Ethiopians

On, well I don't know what night it was but it was before 2014, I managed to squeeze in a little game using some counters and a piece of scrap paper which I marked with a grid.

The idea was to bring some counters along on my Winter Holiday to visit my parents so that I could game in the evening when time allowed. Compared to miniatures, a baggie of counters takes up almost no space for a fairly varied force. In this case, counters are top-down Ethiopians and Italians, available from The Junior General.

The counters were mounted to the sticky side of a self-stick linoleum tile and then cut apart (not recommended. Craft foam is way easier to cut and results in an equally nice counter)

The rules were the well loved Portable Wargame, or that was the plan. As it turned out I conflated Memoir of Battle with the Portable Wargame, and ended up with something in between. The major error was that I allowed artillery to fire and move in the same turn. Ditto for the infantry.

Here is the setup:

 The Ethiopians and the Italians both want control of the hill in the middle of the field (the white scrap paper). They have 8 turns to do it. (That was somewhat arbitrary on my part). 

I used the tactical engine from Solo DBA for DBA Version 2.2 guide to handle the stance of both generals, and the tactical stance each turn for each side. I simply selected from the menu of likely options provided in that document.

Why not play one side as I usually do? Because, I'm Italian-American and have a bias for the Italians but I deplore the idea of colonialism, and as such, want the Ethiopians to win, per the historical result.

Two armies lay opposite and ready

Turn 1 - Artillery fire had no effect and both sides advanced towards the hill.

Turn 2 - The Italians manage to score a hit on Ethiopian cavalry but they absorb the blow, falling back temporarily. Both sides take a defensive stance and attempt to maneuver their units out of range of the other side's artillery.
End of Turn 2
 Turn 3 - The Ethiopian artillery strikes home, eliminating the leftmost Italian infantry unit but the Italians seize the initiative. The officer in charge orders the artillery up and center for better target selection. Meanwhile, the Ethiopians attempt to repair their line.

Turn 4 - Ethiopian artillery targets the Italian battery but over shoots, destroying the infantry unit behind the battery instead - a negative turned into a positive. The Italians manage to land shells among the Ethiopian battery forcing it to fall back. Here my mistake in letting artillery fire and then move is visible - essentially the artillery lost no ground as a result of the push back.

End Turn 4
Turn 5 - The artillery for both sides is ineffective, but the Italian machine gun opens up and destroys a unit of Ethiopian cavalry. The Ethiopians take a defensive stance and their leader orders them to take the terrain objective.

Turn 6 - The artillery shells again find their mark. This time, the Ethiopians targeted the Italian battery again and forced them to fall back. The Italians fired on the Ethiopian commander and fell short, the shells crashing among and destroying a unit of Ethiopian cavalry.

The Italians won the initiative 2 to 1, but still took on a defensive stance. In this case, a safe attack was made by the Italians on the 3rd dismounted cavalry unit, and they too were destroyed. 

Facing growing losses, the Ethiopian commander had the troops fall back off the hill and out of immediate danger.

Turn 7 - The artillery fails to strike home for either side, and both sides take a defensive posture as the casualties mount.

End Turn 7
Turn 8 - Although the Ethiopians successfully targeted and destroyed an Italian Askari unit, the Italians destroyed a unit of Ethiopian spear.

The Italian commander gets the jump on the Ethiopians (initiative rolls of 6 vs 1). He takes a defensive stance as he has the hill in his posession and simply needs to hold out.

Down with 50 % casualties, the Ethiopian commander faces a tough decision - attempt to knock the Italians back or retreat to fight another day?

Do they keep fighting? 1 yes and they will fight until the end, 2-3 Yes but check again next turn (not that there will be one), 4-5 No but they fall back in good order, 6 they rout from the field abandoning their artillery

I rolled a 5.

The commander opted to lead his troops off the field in good order to fight the Imperialists another day.  

End Turn 8
Despite my errors in rule following, it was a fun little battle; almost until the end, I had no idea which side was going to come out on top. 

The counters worked perfectly well for scratching the gaming itch and I hope to break out some WWII counters that I made (using the craft foam backing) sooner rather than later. 


  1. Nice little battle. Good idea for a road game.

    1. I think the next attempt will be to fit the counters, a map with grid, 4 small dice and the rules, into an Altoids or similar tin, for a truly portable wargame. Thinner counters with card backing instead of linoleum or craft foam might work better, as they'd give more space, so we'll see.