Wednesday 30 May 2018

Technical Interlude: "Council... What Council....?"

Occasionally there will be mention in my posts, usually during campaigns, of a decision made by a "Council of Officers", "Council of War", "The Elders of the Tribe", "The Band" etc. etc. These comments will relate to instances where I need a group decision for "my side" or the enemy regarding policy, strategy, grand tactical action and so forth (i.e when it's not just a case of the relevant commanders obeying orders or me saying "You lot go there"). There are several ways I mimic this...

Sometimes I will be lazy, list the options (occasionally just in my head) and simply chuck a dice.

Other times I will draw up a table of options, allocate "dice result" numbers to these, based on my assessment of the likelihood or advisability of certain decisions - THEN simply chuck some dice (example below using five x 6D).

Or do a similar thing using my old Tell Me" dial....

However, for the scenario being played out at the moment I am using method described in the following examples using a pack of standard playing cards. I have found this method quite satisfying, particularly for long-term, grand-scale campaigns where politics, as well as military decisions, are part of the mix....

First I decide on the issue the make up of the council (the number of members), and the issue the council members are to discuss - in a "Yes/No" form. I then assess if anything is know about the council members (i.e have they an opinion known in advance, do they have a voting history/character/agenda?).

If it is pretty clear what their opinion on the matter will be then cards are drawn from the pack until one turns in the "colour of their opinion". This represents both the individual's "vote" and their ability to marshal their arguments.

Basically the higher value the card, the stronger the feelings of the person involved and the better his/her arguments so that. for example, someone drawing an eight of hearts (red) is deemed to have "out-argued" and convinced over to his side someone with (say) a two of clubs (black). Where the opposing cards add up to the same value as a character's card the character affected will abstain.

Where relevant a character might be granted a random additional card of that colour to further back his arguments (for example; when I have used this method to see if a defeated tribe will fight on against the Romans any Chief Druid in the Council is highly likely to be highly motivated to argue for fighting on. He will get an additional appropriate card in his personal draw).

Example 1: An isolated force has a newly-appointed commander (who has inherited command due to the C.O. being hors de combat) following an unanticipated battle in which a high number of friendly casualties were taken). He is unsure of what is expected of him under these new circumstances and so, while awaiting orders from a higher authority, he calls for a meeting with his senior officers in order to glean their opinions before making a decision.

In this case the question is "Should we conform to the orders issued to the force before the recent battle, and proceed as if nothing has happened, or retrench here ans await further instructions?"

On this occasion Black cards will mean a "Stay put & await orders" vote. Red cards will mean a "Yes to following orders" (in this case pressing on into possibly hostile territory with a reduced force) vote.

In the example we are following there is the new C.O. and his council of officers (eight of them). At this stage of the campaign none of them are "characters" and their opinions are unknown. They therefore have no Starting Cards. I draw a random card from the shuffled deck for each officer.

We see that opinion is divided.
The C.O. is pretty cautious about proceeding (Black 8), given the changed circumstances.

One of the junior Tribunes (Black King) and one of the Senior Centurions (Black Queen) are very much urging caution - and marshalling sound arguments as to why pressing ahead would be an unwise choice.

The other officers are split. Some have no real opinion, other than being vaguely uncertain (Black 2 ), others are arguing for different sides, but with little passion or solid argument (4-7s).
One of the Milliary Prefects however is pretty gung-ho (Red Jack) and putting forward a good case for following the orders laid down for them. The result is as follows:

"After a lively debate, and despite good points on both sides, it is decided that caution is the best policy. They will await orders from higher command".

How do I decide/know this?

I move and place the cards in  order of seniority OR "strength of feeling" if there are no extremes in ranking. Thus, in the pic the Black King trumps the Red Jack  - i.e. the Tribune out-argues the Prefect, who concedes.

The Black Queen (with its value of 12) outnumbers and so "out persuades" the Red. 6. The Black 7 ditto the Red 5, and the Black 5 beats the Red 4 (i.e. the officers arguing for caution defeat the arguments of those in favour of a "forward" policy).

With the Black 9 backing the C.O.'s position anyway, when it comes to a vote the Black cards have won the argument, and the Council unanimously votes for caution, the C.O. confirms the decision of the Council (he had his doubts anyway)..

Meanwhile I make a note of those individuals who have drawn Picture Cards - these will form "character notes" for future discussions (i.e the gung-ho Prefect will now always draw a red card, the noticeably cautious Tribune & Centurion always black).


Example 2:

A Tribal Army has just suffered a serious defeat, so bad that it seems appropriate the tribe considers its options. The choices on the agenda are "Do we continue the fight?" or "Do we sue for terms".

We have a Council of Elders and Chiefs made up of six elders, a senior druid, the current High Chief /Warband leader and the chiefs of two allied contingents (I normally have one "elder"/chief per division/unit but this will vary depending on the scenario).

It is already known, as part of the background to this event, that Druid is strongly for fighting on, as is the Chief of the Albi contingent (as long as the fight in on someone else's ground he is all for it..) so they each get a starting card from the red suits (drawn at random) to represent this.

The High Chief, wounded in the fight and shocked by their defeat and the casualty rate, two Elders (whose units broke in the previous battle) and the Chieftain of the allied Catoni (whose chaps lost heavily) are not so keen, so they get get random starter cards from the black suits (see the left had Starter Positions on the pic below) .

Then we shuffle the pack and draw for the debate - laying cards for all the participants who do not already have cards. The Druid - because of his inter-tribal spiritual influence and powers of persuasion - will get an extra card randomly drawn from the red suits.

The result is as follows:

We then assess the "debate".

Cards are laid down in order of seniority. Once a card has been laid it cannot be moved again.

We see that all the High Chief can do is persuade Elder 6 to abstain.
The Druid however can use his red Jack to trump the black 10 of Elder 1 (winning him over) and his red 9 the black 7 of Elder 3.
The Chief of the Albi uses his red 7 to counter the black 5 of Elder 5 and the Chief of the Catoni his black king to beat down the red 9 of Elder 2.

This just leaves Elder 5 to play (the only card neither played nor covered by another card). He can trump the High Kin's black 2, talking Elder 6 back to the "war party" AND "see" the High King's 2 with the "unused" pips, causing him to abstain.

We therefore see below the red (for war), black (for peace) and abstaining (blue) final positions....

The party wishing to continue the fight wins the debate - the High Chief giving in to the pressure from his council. Note, however, that the Chief of the Catoni has NOT been persuaded at all and has very strong feelings (untrumped Black king). As an independent chief he will withdraw his forces from the forthcoming battle.....

I have used this method in large and small campaigns - and even mid-battle - when a serious decision needs to be made and find it quick to use and achieving pleasing results; with untrumped high cards  leading to all sorts of actions by junior commanders which upset matters for both the AI AND the live solo player....

Saturday 26 May 2018

The Game's Afoot...

The Battle of Riangola River.

Firmus's force, moving southwards along the valley of the Riangola in Hillfort Cluster XXXVI (see map) is menaced by a very large body of enemy, seeming intent on ravaging the baggage train.

As the game opens:
Ist Thracum (inf) has been deployed as a flank guard.

Coh. 3, Legio. II Aug. and Vth Gallorum (inf.) form the vanguard (marching in battle order) - placed approx 1m from the board's eastern edge (diced for).

Next comes the C.O. and his staf/bodyguard, leading the main body.

Firmus's column of march will thus consist of Coh: 5, 6, 7 of Legio. II Aug. plus baggage (not arrived on table) with I Tungrorum (mill. Inf.) forming the rearguard.

All bar the Vanguard are in marching order, with their impedimenta on their shoulders, shields slung & covered and helms any which way (i.e they are not "battle ready").In front of the main column surveyors/pioneers are dealing with a route issue and making the native track suitable for wheeled vehicles.

The Celts will come on - well, wherever they come on.....

Entry & Activation:

All unit activation is by a "Token Draw" in the Sharp Practice Two style. Each activated unit has two "Inherent Action Options" (movement/combat etc.) . These can be added to by officers with bonus abilities. For movement each unit throws 1x6d per Action Option used. Combat is based on adapted SP2 rules/conventions.

In the Activation Token Tub I have tokens for:

One Unit Commander Token for each Roman "division" commander; i.e. the Senior Tribune - force C.O.,  his 2IC (in this case the Camp Prefect - the most experienced military officer), the Vanguard commander (a legion Tribune),  the Prefect of the Thracian flank guard and the Column captain (a legion Tribune). If the column breaks up/once full combat is joined each cohort will have it's own junior officer added to the token mix, but initially the units stay firmly under senior officer control.

Three Roman "Command Tokens" (used as per SP2).  If any additional Roman forces enter the table (e.g the rearguard or returning scouts - as dictated by "Events" below) an additional Command Token is added for every 2 such units.

1 Celtic Activation token. Every time this is pulled a Celtic body arrives at the table edge, the nature and size of the force diced for as outlined previously.  Deployment point is decided by dice (12 designated possible entry points. I dice thrown/1 entry point per activated body).

An additional, allocated Unit Commander token is added to the tub for each new unit/body, Roman or Celtic, placed on the field.

Two Celtic Command Tokens are placed in the tub to begin with. An additional token is added for every two Celtic bodies subsequently entering the table.

A "Card" token.  If drawn I throw a 10d and consult the Event Table drawn up for this scenario. This table is as follows:

1: Roman Transport Issue - if the baggage train ins on the table there is a problem. The baggage train cannot move ("Sorry Legate, the wheel fell off didn't it..."). Otherwise ignore & throw again.

2) Roman unit activates (player's choice).

3) Celtic unit activates (diced for).

4 or 5) If the Celtic Activation Token has already been drawn, add it to the tub again - it may be drawn again.

6) Unit panics - dice for side affected, dice for unit. Unit moves 12" in the direction away from the nearest enemy unit. Any conflicts/choices diced for.

7) Unit rallies - dice for side affected. A single panicked or broken unit rallies. Dice for any choices.

8) A "Blind" appears. Deploy in cover at table edge as if arriving Celtic force. The nature of this force will not be revealed until "spotted". Dice for side. Dice for size as standard if Celtic or for off-table unit (if any available) if Roman. 

9) Unexpected reinforcements (Roman). If there are any scouting/off table Roman units available one of these enters play. Deployment diced for as for Celts.

10) Weather changes (This Ain't Siluria, remember..) - if fine it turns to rain. Visibility and movement halved. Missile effects halved. If already rainy, the rain stops.


On the first turn the Romans make little progress ("Who built this road then, Legate?"). The Celts draw their Activation Token, throw for numbers & type of body, and we're off...

I won't give a blow account, but will mainly use this Bat. Rep.  as an exercise in describing the rule conventions that allow me to have a lot of solo fun.....

We've seen above how I get the guys on the field in a way to keep me guessing.

In addition, as the Roman player I wanted to get into some kind of Battle Formation, bring the baggage on into a protected "square" safe from any wild enemy attacks coming in the same old way - and using my legionaries to beat them off, in the same old way; hoping my cavalry scouts (two whole cohorts worth) would turn up to complete an enemy route... Hmmm.......... To do this, however, I needed lucky activation of my officers....

Well, as things progressed the Celts kept coming on (eventually arriving on three sides) with the Activation happening as per the token draw and the Celt targets decided by IMP & dice. I manage this by looking at the options open to the activated enemy formation (inc. any overall enemy orders/objective - in this case the baggage and generally being a nuisance), dice for the "courage" of the commander,  make a quick "probability" calculation, throw dice as appropriate - and take the consequences...

Early on I made what turned out to be a serious tactical error and, thanks to the above, nearly came a cropper.....

In my haste to get the column deployed AND keep an eye on my vanguard I left the C.O. exposed between them - providing (as the Tokens hampered me and favoured the enemy - and the dice played out) a Target of Opportunity for the enemy chariots, swiftly exploited...

Down went my C.O. (wounded), my 2IC (dead) and my only on-table cavalry (their bodyguard; dead or scattered).  A flurry of good tokens retrieved the situation but things were going pear-shaped for me very early.

Next, my column deployed to meet a flanking threat, but by doing so opened the road for the baggage - which came on between the column and ANOTHER enemy force. This force swept in, through the baggage train, and after a swift & inconclusive fight with the column, ran off some of the baggage & killed a lot of non-combatants before withdrawing in good order.

Some friendly auxiliary infantry reinforcements arrived (scouting unit - as dictated by the Events Table) but with my command structure gone my defence was disjointed, I had no effective Battle Line or reserve, NO cavalry and I was in a bad position to act aggressively without exposure to a fast and numerous enemy..

Discretion proved the better part of valour for both sides - and as the enemy pulled away from the field with their booty (while taunting us)  all we could safely do was to dress the ranks and watch.....

So ended the first battle of the campaign. My Northern operations have received a setback, and though the Butcher's Bill wasn't THAT bad (see below)  I can't claim THAT exercise as a victory.....

With a report forwarded to the Legate commanding the campaign (it will take at least 4 days to reach him) the vexillation will do some local slapping & nailing to ram home the message "We ain't beat and we ain't going", then hunker down and await instructions. 

So ends the first 20 days or so of the campaign in the north...

Meanwhile: the Legate carries on with "Flying the Eagle" along the coast, convincing the locals re. which side of their laver bread is buttered, gaining a "Forced March" card to hold in hand for when needed, ravaging the large sanctuary near the coast and begins building a fort & supply depot in the valley of the Occama river. It is while he is there, on the 24th, he receives the report of the action in the north.

However, also on the 24th. (a card turns and...) reports arrive at Isca indicating that there is a potentially hostile force in the unpacified hills south of the mountains overlooking the Serrova valley. No indication of size. No indication of intent....... But it looks like the fewmets might be hitting the windmill all too shortly.......

Decisions have to be made:

What orders should be sent to the Northern Vexillation?

Does our push west and north have to come to a standstill while we investigate the force hovering behind our lines - and within striking distance of Isca - or can we assume that THAT is going to turn out to be just a minor nuisance, to which we can just send an investigative flying column, while we pursue our main objective...?


And So It Begins.........

Spring Project  2018: "This Ain't Siluria"; A Roman v Celt campaign..

Phase one: Having set out my campaign ground rules (see previous post) we begin. This scenario has a back story - the formal pacification of an area where the "tribal government" has decide to "Go Roman", but we can't be sure how well the outlying regions will react to that - given that they have had a couple of generations of fighting them...   So - a note from the Governor:  

With my orders in place I draw up the forces available to me. To get the job done I reckon I will need two columns operating in the area. One will be under my direct command, the other under the command of a sub-commander. I decide on the forces HE will have, and issue him with instructions. In theory he will follow these - but events (decided by the cards) may provoke independent thought on his part (dangerous - or inspirational ?). I set out his rules of engagement & orders:

  And so the game begins. Using the map and tokens, throwing a dice each day to see if we draw a "event Card (throw of 5-6 needed) we proceed.

The Plan is roughly as outlined on the map below. Blue represents the planned movements of my column, red those of the secondary, "North" column.

I keep a (rough) War Diary to track events. This  allows me to keep a grip on what is occurring
, but also provides a "narrative feel". From this we can see that the operations begin fairly smoothly.

There is one minor skirmish (on the 8th), which I deal with on the Combat Table and some interference (on the 6th - the "Serious Storm" card) and a bit of good luck (the opportunity to "Force March" on the 5th.). On the 19th, however, we get a card indicating one mobile unit will be subject to "harassment" by local forces. We have our first "on the table" operation.   

By the 19th we have the map situation as below; 

The pinkish shaded areas are those zones "pacified" so far (by persuasion or intimidation). The battle is taking place way up in the right hand corner of the map. There are two small fort garrisons (the aux. markers) and the garrison at Isca (far right). The main force is the one by the coast. We have missed an area just below the eastern mountains - this could prove to be a hot-spot unless dealt with PDQ....

We know the Roman forces involved (see the orders above), and throw to see how the C.O. is dealing with the issue of scouting.  In this case the C.O. elected to travel in "Thorough Scouting" mode. (this was diced for. Result = option 3 on the Scouting Options). As a result, his cavalry ( I Aelia Hispanorum eq. mill, Picentiana Gallorum eq) and one cohort I Alpinorum Peditata are deemed detached as scouts/advance guard and will not initially be available to him during the battle.

As he opted for this scouting mode he could have deployed up to four cohorts (legionary or auxiliary) in positions of advantage (e.g. flank guards, securing hills commanding his route etc. ) up to 3' from the column head/rear if desired. However, (diced for) he has decided to only deploy one cohort in this way

I then decide on the size of the hostile force he will encounter by the simple throwing of a dice; every point on the dice up to 5 adds one "body" of approx. 400 foot, 200 horse or 50 chariots to the force (the nature/type of that "body" is again decided by another dice throw: 1-2 = skirmishing foot, 3-4 = close combat foot, 5 = horse, 6 = chariots.
Thus, for example, throws of 4 and "Type" throws of 1, two 3s and a 5 means a force made up of 1 body of skirmishers, two of close combat infantry and one body of cavalry). If a "6" is thrown this means 6 "bodies" AND I throw again - to a maximum of 10 throws (i.e the enemy force cannot exceed 24,000 foot).  In this case I throw two sixes (in succession as above) and a 5.
However, as this is an "ambush" type scenario, to add to my uncertainty as the Roman Player I will not dice for body type until the hostile units are deployed on the table. I decide on my Order of March, set up a suitable table based on the local geography and IMP, and off we go.....


Move Stopped Play..

  All packed up.. I'm still here and the Blog is still "live".... Seventeen packing boxes of board games, about twenty cases o...