When Empires Clash! – Play-test 1

This solo play-test was devised to test some of the ideas that have been included in the most recent draft of these rules including:

  • The use of 2D6s for European troops and D12 for Native troops to simulate the asymmetry between the rigid and predictable European style of warfare and the more fluid and unpredictable Native style of warfare
  • Making the number of stands a Commander can activate each turn depend upon their ability as well a their dice score
  • Changes to the Combat system, particularly the difference between Fire and Close Combat, the effect of firing into the rear or flank of an enemy stand, and what happens when a stand recoils as a result of Combat

Setup

A fairly open battlefield was set up, with the Mahdist baseline being a line of rocky hills separated by two narrow gorges through which the Mahdists would deploy.

The battlefield.

The British and the Mahdists each threw 8D6s to determine the size of the force they would command, and both threw a total of 32.

The British Commander selected six stands of British Regular Infantry, a British Rifled Field Artillery stand, a British Machine Gun stand, and a Pack Transport stand. The Commander then threw a D6 to determine his ability. The score was 5, and his ability was rated as being ‘Average’.

The British force. The Infantry stands are drawn from English and Scottish Line Regiments, as is the Machine Gun stand. The Royal Artillery are represented by a stand of Rifled Field Artillery.

The Mahdist Commander selected four stands of Jihadia Infantry, eight stands of Mahdist Spearmen, three stands of Mahdist Cavalry, and a Mahdist Smoothbore Field Artillery stand. The Mahdist Commander then threw a D6 to determine his ability. The score was 1, and his ability was rated as being ‘Poor’.

The Mahdist force consisted mainly of Mahdist Spearmen, with some Jihadia Infantry, Mahdist Cavalry, and Smoothbore Field Artillery.

Both sides then threw a D6 to determine how many squares in from their baseline they could deploy. The British threw 5 and the Mahdists threw 4.

Turn 1

Both sides threw for initiative; the British scored 7 with their 2D6 and the Mahdists scored 1 with their D12.

The British threw 2D6 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 11, to which was added 2 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 13, which allowed the British to activate all their stands.

The British Rifled Field Artillery stand moved forward two squares and opened fire on the Mahdist Smoothbore Field Artillery stand. The British Rifled Field Artillery threw 2D6 and scored 5; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 8 (5+3). The Mahdist Smoothbore Field Artillery threw a D12 and scored 4; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 7 (4+2+1). The Mahdist Smoothbore Field Artillery stand was forced to recoil up to two squares, which it did.

The rest of the British force advanced two squares forwards and deployed into Square. Because they were out of range they did not engage the enemy.

The British Square with the Machine Gun stand and Rifled Field Artillery stand forming the two foremost corners.

The Mahdists threw a D12 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 7, to which was added 1 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 8.

The Mahdist Commander decided that the best course of action was to engage the British as soon as possible. As a result he moved his three Mahdist Cavalry stands forward and deployed them into a line facing the right-hand corner of the British Square. He also moved five stands of Mahdist Spearmen forward to threaten the left-hand corner of the British Square.

The Mahdists advance.

Turn 2

Both sides threw for initiative; the British scored 8 with their 2D6 and the Mahdists scored 2 with their D12.

The British threw 2D6 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 8, to which was added 2 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 10, which allowed the British to activate all their stands.

The British Rifled Field Artillery stand opened fire on the central Mahdist Cavalry stand. The British Rifled Field Artillery threw 2D6 and scored 9; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 14 (9+3+2). The Mahdist Cavalry threw a D12 and scored 3; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 5 (3+2). The Mahdist Cavalry stand was destroyed. British Rifled Field Artillery did not move after it had fired.

The British Commander decided not to activate any more of his stands, and the British force remained in Square and awaited the forthcoming Mahdist attack.

The Mahdists threw a D12 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 6, to which was added 1 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 7.

The Mahdist Commander decided to continue the advance on the British Square. He first moved the remaining two Mahdist Cavalry stands forward so that they could engage the right-hand corner of the British Square in close combat.

The first Mahdist Cavalry stand was able to attack the British Rifled Field Artillery stand in the flank. The Mahdist Cavalry threw D12 and scored 10; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 14 (10+2+2). The British Rifled Field Artillery threw 2D6 and scored 4; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 7 (4+3). The British Rifled Field Artillery stand was destroyed.

Note: As presently written the fact that the British Rifled Field Artillery stand formed the corner of the British Square did not protect it from being flanked. This has made me realise that I need to include a rule that ensures that stands that form part of an unbroken Square cannot be flanked.

The second Mahdist Cavalry stand was able to attack the leading right-hand British Regular Infantry stand. The Mahdist Cavalry threw D12 and scored 3; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 5 (3+2). The British Regular Infantry threw 2D6and scored 6; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 13 (6+3+2+2). The Close Combat had proved to be indecisive, although both sides remained in contact.

Note: The result of this Close Combat has made me realise that a stand can initiate a Close Combat, lose it, and suffer little or no consequence as a result. I will therefore have to amend the Close Combat results to ensure that this does not happen in future battles.

The Mahdist Commander then moved forward, accompanied by the Mahdist Smoothbore Field Artillery stand and the three remaining stands of Mahdist Spearmen.

The initial Mahdist attack destroyed the British Rifled Field Artillery stand.

Turn Three

Both sides threw for initiative; the British scored 3 with their 2D6 and the Mahdists scored 1 with their D12.

The Mahdists threw a D12 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 8, to which was added 1 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 9.

The Mahdist Commander moved the Mahdist Cavalry stand that had destroyed the British Rifled Field Artillery stand during the last move forward into the flank of the right-hand British Regular Infantry stand. The Mahdist Cavalry threw D12 and scored 9; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 13 (9+2+2). The British Regular Infantry threw 2D6 and scored 12; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 20 (12+3+3+2). The Close Combat had proved to be indecisive, although both sides remained in contact.

The Mahdist Commander then used the remaining Mahdist Cavalry stand to attack the right-hand British Regular Infantry stand. The Mahdist Cavalry threw D12 and scored 9; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 11 (9+2). The British Infantry threw 2D6 and scored 7; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 14 (7+3+2+2). The Close Combat had proved to be indecisive, although both sides remained in contact.

Note: Yet again the stands that lost the Close Combats suffered no ill effect and confirmed my decision to address this situation in the next draft of the rules.

The Mahdist Commander then moved the Mahdist Smoothbore Field Artillery stand forward, along with Command stand and five stands of Mahdist Spearmen.

The Mahdist Spearmen threatened the British square.

The British threw 2D6 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 5, to which was added 2 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 7.

The British Commander swung the British Regular Infantry stand that formed the right-hand side of the Square through 90° so that they could fire into the flank of the Mahdist Cavalry stand that was next to them. The British Regular Infantry threw 2D6 and scored 12; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 17 (12+3+2). The Mahdist Cavalry threw a D12 and scored 5; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 7 (5+2). The Mahdist Cavalry stand was destroyed.

The right-hand British Regular Infantry stand then engaged the remaining Mahdist Cavalry stand. The British Regular Infantry threw 2D6 and scored 8; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 11 (8+3). The Mahdist Cavalry threw a D12 and scored 2; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 4 (2+2). The final Mahdist Cavalry stand was destroyed.

The left-hand British Regular Infantry stand then engaged the stand of Mahdist Spearmen directly to their front. The British Regular Infantry threw 2D6 and scored 8; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 11 (8+3). The Mahdist Spearmen threw a D12 and scored 3; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 5 (3+2). The leading stand of Mahdist Spearmen was destroyed.

The British Machine Gun stand then engaged the stand of Mahdist Spearmen directly to their front. The British Machine Gun threw 2D6 and scored 7; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 9 (7+2). The Mahdist Spearmen threw a D12 and scored 3; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 5 (3+2). The leading stand of Mahdist Spearmen should have recoiled into the square behind but because they were sharing a square with another stand of Mahdist Spearmen, they were destroyed.

The British Commander chose not to activate any more of his units.

The Empire strikes back! British firepower began to have a major impact on the course of the battle.

Turn 4

Both sides threw for initiative; the British scored 8 with their 2D6 and the Mahdists scored 10 with their D12.

The Mahdists threw a D12 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 9, to which was added 1 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 10.

The Mahdist Commander moved the stand of Mahdist Spearmen opposite the British Machine Gun stand into contact with British Machine Gun stand and engaged it in Close Combat. The Mahdist Spearmen threw D12 and scored 7; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 10 (7+2+1). The British Machine Gun threw 2D6 and scored 7; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 11 (7+2+2). The Close Combat had proved to be indecisive, although both sides remained in contact.

The Mahdist Commander then moved the stand of Mahdist Spearmen in the square behind the Mahdist Spearmen opposite the left-hand British Regular Infantry stand through the leading stand of Mahdist Spearmen so that they could engage the British Regular Infantry stand. The Mahdist Spearmen threw D12 and scored 4; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 8 (4+2+2). The British Infantry threw 2D6 and scored 7; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 14 (7+3+2+2). The Close Combat had proved to be indecisive, although both sides remained in contact.

The stand of Mahdist Spearmen that had been passed through then moved forward to engage the right-hand British Regular Infantry stand. The Mahdist Spearmen threw D12 and scored 9; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 12 (9+2+1). The British Infantry threw 2D6 and scored 8; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 15 (8+3+2+2). The Close Combat had proved to be indecisive, although both sides remained in contact.

The Mahdist Commander then activated and moved forward his Command stand, the Mahdist Smoothbore Field Artillery stand, the remaining three stands of Mahdist Spearmen, and two stands of Jihadia Infantry.

Despite their growing casualties, the Mahdists continued to threaten the British Square.

The British threw 2D6 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 12, to which was added 2 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 14, which allowed the British to activate all their stands.

The British Commander swung the British Regular Infantry stand that had formed the right-hand side of the Square back through 90° so that the Square was reinstated.

The British Commander the ordered the British Machine Gun stand to engaged the Mahdist Spearmen to their front in Close Combat. The British Machine Gun stand threw 2D6 and scored 7; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 11 (7+2+2). The Mahdist Spearmen threw a D12 and scored 4; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 7 (4+2+1). The stand of Mahdist Spearmen recoiled one square to their rear.

The left-hand British Regular Infantry stand then engaged the stand of Mahdist Spearmen to their front in Close Combat. The British Regular Infantry stand threw 2D6 and scored 9; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 16 (9+3+2+2). The Mahdist Spearmen threw a D12 and scored 1; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 4 (1+2+1). The stand of Mahdist Spearmen was destroyed.

The right-hand British Regular Infantry stand then engaged the stand of Mahdist Spearmen to their front in Close Combat. The British Regular Infantry stand threw 2D6 and scored 10; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 17 (10+3+2+2). The Mahdist Spearmen threw a D12 and scored 4; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 7 (4+2+1). The stand of Mahdist Spearmen was destroyed.

The British drove the Mahdists back again.

Turn 5

Both sides threw for initiative; the British scored 7 with their 2D6 and the Mahdists scored 2 with their D12.

The British threw 2D6 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 6, to which was added 2 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 8.

The British Commander the ordered the British Machine Gun stand to open fire on the Mahdist Spearmen to their front. The British Machine Gun stand threw 2D6 and scored 9; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 11 (9+2). The Mahdist Spearmen threw a D12 and scored 3; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 5 (3+2). The stand of Mahdist Spearmen was destroyed.

At this point the Mahdists force was reduced to 50% of its original vale (less the value of the Command stand), which would require them to retreat as soon as possible.

The left-hand British Regular Infantry stand then opened fire on the stand of Mahdist Spearmen to their front. The British Regular Infantry stand threw 2D6 and scored 7; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 10 (7+3). The Mahdist Spearmen threw a D12 and scored 5; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 7 (5+2). The stand of Mahdist Spearmen recoiled one square to its rear.

The right-hand British Regular Infantry stand then opened fire on the Mahdist Command stand to their front. The British Regular Infantry stand threw 2D6 and scored 4; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 7 (4+3). The Mahdist Spearmen threw a D12 and scored 9; when the necessary additions and subtractions were made, the final score was 10 (9+1). The gunfire had been ineffective.

The British Commander chose not to activate any further units.

A close-up view of the Mahdist Spearmen. They are just in range of the British magazine rifles and Machine Gun.

The Mahdists cannot muster enough strength to mount yet another attack on the British Square and prepare to withdraw from the battlefield.

The Mahdists threw a D12 to determine how many stands they could activate. The score was 8, to which was added 1 to reflect the ability of the Commander. The total score was 9.

The Mahdist Commander began the enforced withdrawal, which continued for the next two moves. The British, fearing that they could easily be drawn into a trap, cautiously followed the retreating Mahdists, but were unable to inflict further casualties.

The battle was adjudged to be a ‘Decisive’ British victory!

Comments

This play-test threw up several instances where the ability of stands to flank stands that were forming part of an unbroken Square was unrealistic, as were some of the combat results. I have been redrafting the rules in parallel with this play-test, and these anomalies have now been dealt with.


When Empires Clash! – Play-test 1 – A short, interim report

Despite having to spend a lot of time this evening looking after my sick wife and trying to fix her ‘dead’ computer, I have managed to move forward with the play-test.

I am now half way through Turn 3, and things seem to be favouring the British, although the Mahdists have not suffered many casualties as yet. This may be about to change as the bulk of the Mahdist Infantry has come into range of the British Machine Gun Company and the front rank of the British square.

With a bit of luck I should be able to finish the play-test by Wednesday so that I can complete the new draft of the rules before I go to COW on Friday.


I have had better days …

My wife and I have been celebrating her birthday with a few days away at our favourite hotel in Norfolk.

On the journey home she began to complain of feeling very hot, which was not surprising as the weather was very humid and we had an enforce stop on the motorway as a result of an accident several miles ahead. We finally got home much later than we had expected but she continued to feel unwell. She eventually took her temperature, which was 101 degrees, and has gone to bed in the hope that she will feel better in the morning.

In the meantime her computer has decided to go seriously wrong, and I have spent the last two hours trying to fix it … to no avail. I suspect that it has finally given up the ghost and will have to be replaced. Luckily I have a simple device that will allow me to download and save the files from her hard drive, which will mean that anything that was not recently backed-up should not be lost.

All this has meant that I have not been able to devote any time to wargaming today and unless she gets better soon, it is likely that I will have to put my play-test of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! on hold for at least a couple of days.


Deep thought … and a little retail therapy

Because it is my wife’s birthday this weekend, I have not been able to spend much time on anything that is wargames-related.

That said I have been able to buy several AIRFIX kits that I will be able to use for a project that I have been vaguely planning recently. Once my ideas have taken on a more definitive shape I will share them via this blog.

I have also been able to spend a bit of time thinking about – and amending – the latest draft of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! Most of these changes are a result of the as yet unfinished play-test. In my opinion the changes improve the rules without adding any more complexity, but this will only be proved by further play-testing.


When Empires Clash! – Play-test 1 – Interim report

As you might have noted from my previous blog entry, I have begun the first play-test of the latest version of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! So far I have finished the first two turns, and the changes to the rules seem to have improved the flow and the feel of the game.

Because it is my wife’s birthday this weekend, most of the next few days will be spent celebrating this event. As a result I will not be able to finish the play-test until early next week. In the meantime, here are a couple of images from the battle to whet your appetite.

The first is the British force advancing towards the Mahdist positions at the other end of the battlefield.

The second shows the Mahdist Spearmen – followed by the Jihadia Riflemen – passing between two rocky outcrops.

Incidentally the colour of the tabletop seems to change depending upon the light at the time the image is taken. I have attempted to allow for this when I take the image and when I manipulate it before it is uploaded to my blog. This has only been partially effective, and in the long run I suspect that I will have to repaint the tabletop to overcome this problem.


Irresistible 3 for 2 at Waterstone’s! – More books to read!

The first play-test of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! is underway, but was interrupted by my wife’s need for some retail therapy. This included the usual mundane shopping for food and other household consumables as well as a visit to the travel agents to book a short cruise next Easter to Ireland and Northern Spain.

I was allowed some time off ‘for good behaviour’, and I was able to pay a visit to the local branch of Waterstone’s, where I discovered that they were having a ‘3 for 2’ sale of books. The latter included some Osprey books that I have had my eye on but was just too mean to buy … until now.

I am now the proud owner of the following books:

  • THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR 1918 – 22 by David Bullock

  • LANDING CRAFT, INFANTRY AND FIRE SUPPORT by Gordon L Rottman and Peter Bull

  • JAPANESE TANKS 1939 – 45 by Steven J Zaloga and Peter Bull

Although this may seem a rather disparate selection, there is purpose in my madness:

  • The Russian Civil War has lots of small battles, and WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! would be an ideal set of rules to use to refight them.
  • I have always be fascinated by amphibious warfare, and I find landing craft – particularly those were modified for other tasks – intriguing.
  • Finally, I don’t know very much about Japanese tanks and I hope that this book will make me somewhat better informed.

The ultimate boxed wargame!

Knowing of my interest in old wargames – particularly those that use gridded playing surfaces – Stefan Wolf-Beyrich – a fellow member of Wargame Developments – contacted me today with information about a boxed Kriegsspiel set that was made for the Prussian King and his family. Apparently it has been featured in an article in DER SPIEGEL as well as in Journal #3 of the INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR BOARD GAME STUDIES.

This handcrafted set came in a specially made cabinet that had separate draws for the playing pieces, small terrain tiles, the measuring compasses, and the dice. The top of the cabinet was designed to open up to act as the surface upon which the terrain tiles were laid out.

The set still exists, and is kept in Schloss Charlottenberg.

This is a wonderful example of a complete boxed wargame, and is the sort of design that I would aspire to own … but with stands of figures rather than coloured playing pieces. It would be too heavy to carry around from place to place, but would look magnificent in any wargames room.