Monday, October 21, 2019

Skirmish at a Natal Farmstead

Keeping up with my blogs can be a challenge. All that to say is that this one has been sitting in "draft" mode for over a month.

The game was part of a campaign I call, The Sun Never Sets. I'm sure I stole it from somewhere but don't remember where.

The backstory assumed the Zulus were successful at Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. After Rorke's Drift the Undi Corps continues on into Natal.

Chelmsford is making his way back to Natal. In the meantime British and Colonial forces are spread thin while the Undi Corps rampages around.

In this case a British force of 24 points faces a Zulu force of 30 points. The Empire forces are clustered around a walled farmstead.

Both sides had freedom of action to a point. The Zulu's needed to accumulate supply. This was done by occupying the mealie fields and the cattle herd. A major victory would have entailed eliminating the British force and looting the farmstead.

The British were supposed to interfere with the Zulu project.

The rules used were The Men Who Would Be Kings. Leadership for each unit was rolled for and two of the three British Foot units received poor leaders that significantly reduced their small arms range. Only the Highland unit was in tip top form.

Of course the Zulu's did not know this and besides they had some poor units as well.

It's fair to say that the leadership roles affected the British player to the extent he was very cautious; making little attempt to leave the walled farm and interfere with the Zulu's supply gathering expedition.

The Zulu player fearing a repeat of Rorke's Drift decided to mask the farmstead and sweep around the flank in order to find easier pickings.

From a campaign point of view it was interesting as each player played a personality as they saw fit. Had it been a one off type game it would have been the type of game I'd call a "cost benefit analysis" type game.

This means how many Zulu points does it take to eliminate however many British points are in the game.

I suspect that many gamers play the rules along those lines and I understand since the rules lend themselves to a Hollywood type game. (There is no insult in that.)

A campaign game where losses matter casts a different light on the situation. There simply was not enough incentive for the the Zulu's to charge a fortified post and there was not enough incentive for the British to leave the fortified post and try to interfere with the Zulu's sweeping around them.

The game had to be judged in a different light. Would the Zulu king be happy with the Undi Corps continued rampage? Would the Colonial Government be happy with the British officer in charge as he allowed the Zulus to continue on? Those kind of questions go beyond a "one off" type game when the cost-benefit analysis victory conditions apply.

The British officer was in fact chastised and the Highland unit removed from his command. It's expected he will seek to train his officers to be a bit more effective for the next round.

The Zulu player has to also face political considerations. He wasn't supposed to be in the Natal in the first place. His success makes the Zulu king nervous but the Undi Corps loves Prince Dabulamanzi  kaMpandeand   is happy to follow him into Natal!

Here's some pictures of the action and non-action.

Newline Miniatures, Natal Mounted Police
Hat, British Foot
Hat, British Foot
Hat, Natal Native Contingent 
Strelets, Highlanders
I'm supposed to guard the cattle!
A ready made fort.
One of the units with poor leadership.
Most of the Zulu Impi, figures are Hat, ESCI and Waterloo. The Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande is on the white horse.
Most of the British deployment
Zulus gain the mealie fields
The NMP sortie out
The Highlanders contented themselves with long range fire although their leader wanted to go, "up and at them."
Two foots units with poor leadership are still formidable.
How many waves of Zulus would it take to penetrate the defense? That's the cost-benefit analysis principle at work.
Zulu's taking cover in a depression
The Zulus had some poor leadership units as well. Hat figures

Impressive and scary!

An impressive array of warriors!

Natal Carbineers not in the game-posed picture because I like them. Figures by Newline
An impressive, newly painted block of Zulus, figures by Hat.
A young regiment, few white spots on a black background
The sweep around meant crossing a river.
The Zulus would get no closer and the cattle are safe.
Zulus crossing the river. The NNC would withdraw.
For a turn or two the Zulus would threaten but not charge.

Dabulamanzi kaMpande on the right of the picture
"Not going to charge that"Dabulamanzi kaMpande) 
This unit took long range casualties from the Highland unit thus under lining the potential of the British rifles.

The NMP sought to skirmish with the Zulu unit opposite them and came off a little worse. The police took the only Empire casualties.

Zulu unit with a pin marker

Editorial commentary

I'm mulling over the suitability of skirmish type rules in a campaign that has a strategic dimension. In other words my plans for The Sun Never Sets may be a bit grandiose and not conducive to a good game. Both players did a fine job of role playing but it made for a rather dull game, although it was very pleasing visually. Food for thought for next time.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ephesus 496 BC

We recently played out the Battle of Ephesus, a battle between the Greeks and the Persians. The scenario was taken from Command and Colors Ancients. (Thanks to Jim Duncan the author of the scenario.) The rules used are my version of DBA which I call DBA_BR. My previous post explains many of the house rules that go into my version.

Here's the map and historical background and CCA map for the battle:

Historical Background
In 499BC the tyrant of Miletus, Aristagoras, persuaded the Ionian Greeks to rise in rebellion against their Persian ruler King Darius. Darius placed Miletus under siege while Aristsgorus sailed to Greece to enlist the support of Athens and Sparta. The Spartans refused, but the Athenians sent 20 ships along with 5 ships from the city of Eretria who owed a debt of gratitude to the Milasians for their help in a former conflict. The ships landed at Ephesus and an allied army of Athenians, Eretrians and Ionians marched on the Persian regional capital of Sardes under the command of Charopinos, the brother of Aristagoras, and Hermophantus a man from Miletus. 
The Greeks easily captured Sardes and drove the regional Satrap, Artaphernes, into the city citadel. The approach of a large Persian army, probably the one that had been besieging Miletus, forced the Greeks to retreat back to Ephesus, but the Persian supremecy in cavalry meant the Greeks were caught and forced to turn and fight. The outnumbered and mainly infantry Greek army was heavily defeated with the Eretrian general Eualcides being killed. The Athenians retreated to their ships and then back to Athens. 
The Ionian revolt would rage for many more years and was eventually crushed in 494BC. Darius never forgot the aid the Ionians received from mainland Greece and he determined that Persia should exact its revenge in the future.

Taken from Ancients - Commands and Colors System website.
Page title: JD59 Ephesus (498 BC) - Ancients - Commands and Colors System
Page link:

I translate the counters from CCA into DBA terms and divide the opposing forces into groups according to the number of commanders in the CCA version of the scenrio.
I created a system of dicing for terrain for my 4' by 4' table. Three features dominated and through the dicing all ended up in the center of the table. This was key in how the battle went. The view here is from the Greek side of the board.
The Persian left was dominated by LH, CV and A HVChar. Sadly for the Persian commander (me) this placed them behind the rough terrain section-not good for horse of any type.
The Persian center, Sparabara (LtSP\BW combination) and Indians (Bw).
This is the Persian right. Again we wee LH, CV, a HVChar and one element of Ps.This flank would be initially successful.
This picture shows the Persian groupings very well. Two strong wings of mounted troops with decent infantry in the center. It would be a deadly combination had the terrain been more clear.
Nice close up of the artwork from my friend Mike.
Greek LH on the Greek left. The Persian horse would make short work of them.
The imposing Greek center-all SP and a tough nut to crack head on!
More great art work from Mike.
The Greek right flank. Two elements of SP supported on both sides by Thracian Ax.
Nice aerial view of the Greek deployment. The rough terrain serves as a nice anchor for the Greeks who lack  horse.
The Greek horse got to the high ground first. The hill was not rough ground.
The Persian horse approaches the hill.
And vanquish the Greek horse!
The Persian center advances to support the victorious horse.
Ranged BW recoils one element of Greek SP. Things look promising for the Persians. 
Sadly, the Persian left is paralyzed by the hill, held by Thracian Ax and the Greek SP between the hill and the rough terrain. It proofed to be a terrible bottle neck for the Persians.
The Greek commander managed to shift a significant number of SP elements to prevent the Persian horse from outflanking them. Each group commander gets "x" number of moves per turn that must be diced for. Therefore, he must make priority decisions based on his die throw. Once the Greek SP made contact with the Persian CV I knew I was in trouble!
The Greek gamble was to leave the center lightly held.
The Persians still have a chance for a break through in the center. The Greek player moves  some Ps  and Ax to flank the Indians on the left of the picture.
The Indian unit is flanked and the Greek SP unit has recoiled the Persian Sparabara opposite it. I don't like the way it's going at this point.
The Persian horse has been routed from the hilltop. The units that remain are no match for a head on with the Greek SP.
The paralyzed Persian left. In desperation I considered an attack but I had already lost almost enough elements to force a concede.
This would be the near climax of the game as the Greek SP pushes relentlessly while the Indians on the far right of the picture will die thus forcing a roll up of the whole line!
Bah! The unengaged Persian left. What a waste of good horse. 
Uh oh!
The end.
The game was a lot of fun and unusual given that it was historically set so early in the contest between the Greeks and Persians. All the miniatures were provided by my friend Mike while I designed the scenerio.