Friday, 23 February 2018

Swiss Roll

An opportunity arose last night to give my DBA Early Swiss an outing against some historical foes, so I went for it. At last, a chance to find out if the army is a dog, or not.

In the first game they defended against a Medieval German army under Peter. My reckoning is that the biggest danger for the Swiss are enemy knights, since they have a decent chance of riding down the blades in the open. I tried to close down the battlefield with plenty of difficult hills, but two of the three ended up being discarded. The one that wasn't was large enough to hamper the German deployment, though. In addition I opted for a hamlet; this doesn't slow movement, or seriously hinder combat, but does prevent the Swiss infantry from being ridden down.

The hill had left the Germans somewhat caught out in terms of deployment, so I went for what seemed to be the obvious Swiss tactic - a full charge. This was mostly aimed at the enemy units deployed on the hill, where no-one would be at any particular advantage.

This started well, destroying a couple of German elements, but the Swiss crossbows on the flank were lost to their enemy counterparts, leaving the army in a precarious position. The blades in a Swiss army are double-depth, which means that the first one lost counts as two elements. With two elements lost already, the first casualty would see a Swiss defeat. and the battle was bogging down, with the German knights ready to counterattack.

They did, and the Swiss held them, even killing one. They kept fighting and picked up the fourth kill to secure a win.

We played a second game with the same armies. This time the battlefield was split by a river. Again I hurled the Swiss forward into a wild charge, against the opposing infantry at least. The troops facing the German knights held back. I ended up with a few command issues, since a lot of my stuff was on the wrong side of the hill from my general. But they moved forward as best they could.

Again the battle was centered around the hamlet. I think rough going is a big asset to this particular Swiss army, but a hamlet is the only terrain of that type they have on offer when they defend. Expect to see a lot of games featuring hamlets when the Swiss fight.

The Swiss quickly got the upper hand in the hamlet ...

... but the German knights charged the other half of the army, which rapidly collapsed, giving the Germans a narrow win.

For the third game Dave took over the Swiss, and switched to the first Late Swiss list, which swaps some of the blades for pikes. Peter switched to a not quite historical foe - the Free Company, and opted for lots of foot.

I reckon lots of foot isn't the way to fight the Swiss, who are optimised against infantry. This seemed to be the case in the game. The Swiss defended again, and pretty much steamrollered the Free Company.  Their archers suffered particularly badly, as the Swiss move fast enough to avoid a sustained volley of arrows, and can easily slaughter the bows once they get into close combat.

A counter-attack by the knights ended up with them skewered on pikes. Another Swiss win.

For the final game Dave took the Free Company, opting to put more of them on horses. I took the Swiss. For the first time the Swiss were fighting on enemy territory, and Dave sensibly made it as open as possible.

I went for the same tactics as before - attack. And, despite the Swiss losing a couple of their elements and putting them one kill from defeat, they prevailed, sweeping away their Free Company foes in a pretty much straight head-to-head fight.

I was surprised at how effective the Swiss were, so long as they could attack quickly and get to set the order of combats. A lot of their troops pursue after combat, which quickly led to broken lines, but their blades are fairly tough so this isn't too much of an issue. On their own territory they did pretty well, especially if they could force the enemy into cramped deployments. Ad they seemed to be able to hold the knights better than I thought they would just looking at the factors. Obviously having the choice of combats, and aiming to get overlaps, helped there.

So, the Swiss - they seem to be all about attack.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Battlesworn at Bundanoon

Catherine and I went away camping this weekend, because, as regular readers will know, this time of year is our wedding anniversary and that's how we celebrate it. As always I took some games with me and, as always, I failed to play most of them. However we did fit in a Sunday afternoon game of  Battlesworn in a shady picnic shelter (because it was too hot otherwise). I only took two pictures.

We played the King of the Hill scenario, with the winner being whoever had a figure on the stone plinth at the end of the fight. I used goblins and won the initial race to the objective, but Catherine got one of her dwarves up and a length fight ensued. Other figures got sucked in to support, but I managed to position mine so that access to the plinth was trickier. The game developed into my troll and a goblin with a poisoned spear holding off superior numbers of angry dwarves, whilst the goblin on the plinth stood there near to death but protected from direct attack.

The game ended after ten turns with a goblin win. It was too hot for a rematch.

Aside from eating, walking and sleeping, the only other highlight of the weekend worth noting was that I picked up a second-hand copy of The Earthsea Trilogy for $4. I've read it a couple of times (and the first book more than a couple), but never owned a copy before. I knocked off 'A Wizard of Earthsea' on Sunday evening before tea.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Some People Call Me Maurice

There were four of us gaming at the University yesterday evening, and we played some Maurice, trying out army ideas for a forthcoming second campaign.

This was the only picture I took of Peter and Ralph's game, which featured Ralph's rapid-firing Prussians taking on Peter's Austrians.

I played Caesar. He took a British army, with shooting and melee national advantages. I went for something Swedish, opting for a Great Captain and cavaliers for the cavalry.

I defended, and got to sit behind a river. Caesar massed his infantry against my cavalry flank, so I pulled the horse back, switching most of it to the other flank where I hoped I might cross the river and take the fight to his inferior cavalry. I never got that far.

On my right flank I had troops ensconced behind a wall and garrisoning a village.

Caesar marched his magnificent columns of infantry up to the river.

He started to cross, but my cunning (and lucky) card-play meant that for several turns he got bogged down, unable to move. This left a number of his units exposed on my side of the river, where I was able to concentrate my fire on them, and break a couple.

A large ploughed field on my side of the river was also a problem for Caesar, and advancing across it would break up his army into unmanageable groups.

A shot of my cavalry on the right flank. They did a masterful interpenetration of my infantry line, then sat in this position for the rest of the game.

Caesar finally got his infantry across the river on my extreme left, and his superior firepower began to tell (although my troops' inability to hit anything in return didn't help).

A charge by the cavalry I'd left on that flank failed to slow the British advance, and I ended up slowly giving ground, hoping the third deck would run out and end the game with me still in possession of the objective and at least one point of army morale.

A British unit got too enthusiastic and charged to its own destruction, but the victorious Swedes were shot down before they had much chance to celebrate the win.

And that was pretty much it. Caesar pushed forward, we exchanged fire and eventually the Swedish morale broke. It was a good game, and had my shooting been better would have been closer. A few times in the mid-game, I had isolated British units under fire and close to breaking, and couldn't quite finish them off before he was able to recover. This would have made his final advance riskier, as his army morale would have been shakier. But it wasn't to be.

I never got to use my Cavaliers advantage.

There was much discussion about the selection of armies and national advantages for the Maurice campaign system. I can't help thinking that it tends to encourage the selection of forces that are rather more minimaxed and sterile than those you might select for a one-off game; they are optimised for the campaign rather than set up as reflections of historical prototypes. Has anyone else played the Maurice campaign system? Was this your experience of it?

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Swiss Miss

So there I was yesterday evening, with a newly-based Early Swiss DBA army all ready to go, and time for a quick game of something. I didn't really have my DBA head on, though, and neither do I have a proper opponent for the Swiss, so I decided to play HOTT instead, since I can do that without bothering to find and read the rules first.

I put together the following army - 4 x Spears (including the general), 6 x Warband, 1 x Shooter and 1 x Rider. The warband were the double-depth blade elements, so would fight double-double ranked. It looked impressive.

I got out the Ceidonians to oppose them, fielding 4 x Knight (including the general), 4 x Spears, 2 x Shooters and 2 x Blades.

Both armies pushed forward. I made the mistake with the Swiss of not only advancing their spears off a hill towards the Ceidonian knights, but also aiming the warband block at enemy spearmen who had stayed on a hill.

The first combats.

And the inevitable results. The Swiss lost three elements straight off, destroying a Ceidonian knight in return. They now had an enemy on the hill on one flank and a bloody great big hole in their centre.

The Ceidonians exploited their advantage ...

... and rolled up the Swiss foot before riding down their general.

The end. The Swiss lost eight of their twelve elements, whilst the Ceidonians lost a knight in the initial attack and a blade to a lucky kill by the one Swiss element that managed to get into a decent position.

Not an auspicious first game and, I suspect, a reflection of things to come in DBA, where enemy knights will ride the blades down rather easily unless countered in a cunning fashion. Obviously the Swiss spear should have stayed on the hill to face the knights (forcing a standoff, because the Ceidonians would have been daft to try the attack), leaving both armies trying to win the battle elsewhere.

Monday, 12 February 2018


At the end of my previous post I said I'd acquired a pile of painted 15mm medieval figures that I was planning on assembling into a couple of DBA armies. Well, I spent this weekend working on one of the armies. Mostly this involved stripping figures from their current bases, a few minor changes to the paint-jobs on some of them, a lot of repairing and replacing of weapons, the addition of flags and, finally, a complete rebasing.

The end result? An Early Swiss DBA army.

Actually it's more than that; a quick check of the DBA lists showed that the first Late Swiss sub-list is very similar and I had the figures to cover the differences. So I did those as well, extending my army's date range by a massive 25 years.

The Early Swiss army offers the chance to have an force made up almost entirely of double-based troops. I found this quite attractive, despite the fact that it's something of a liability not entirely offset by the advantage it offers. So there's nine elements of 6Bd. Including the general. The rest of the army consist of a couple of psiloi with crossbows, and an element of light horse, also with crossbows. That's it. Very one-dimensional.

The Late Swiss list covers the stage when they switched to pikes, but the first sub-list is still basically the 6Bd, with a small core of pike elements. Four to be precise. The army loses the light horse and only fields six of the blade elements.

I did some reading around and the first 'proper' Confederacy consisted of eight cantons. So I gave each of eight elements one of the cantonal flags. The one element without a flag is the committee that commands the army. The flags really set the army off nicely.

I have no illusions about how effective this army is. The other figures I've got should, if I work them right, give me an appropriate Medieval German list to oppose them, but all of their historical opponents are strong on knights; a troop type the Swiss blades are vulnerable to. I suspect that Swiss victories rely on them being the defender and being very cunning in their use of terrain; pretty much how they performed historically, as far as I can tell. Still despite their weakness the army looks great, and I'm thrilled to have finally acquired it at such little effort, and no cost.
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