Friday, April 29, 2016

Double DBA Pharsalus at the BattleDay

My contribution at the BattleDay was to stage Pharsalus using some DBA options including the Double DBA format I proposed for Zama back in 2011.

The scenario needs to compel the players to fight in depth ... giving them 2 DBA armies, one behind the other.  The first two should fight themselves to a standstill before being withdrawn.  The clash of the main/reserve armies that follows should be the one that counts.

I needed some more 10mm Romans for this, of course ...

(Pompey's cavalry ... some of the older Chariot Spanish, some Newline Hellenistics)

Many thanks to Newline Designs for excellent service (and some very nice 10mm figures)

(Newline Designs 10mm Marian/Caesarian Roman legionaries )

The figures, built on the Zama collection, are mounted on standard 40mm basewidths (just extra figures): I like the look - each base being a more convincing 'unit' in the smaller scale.

(the personalities ... drop in pieces to go on the command stands)

to cover the Big Battle options, I made up 8 commanders, each an individual to fill a magnetised gap on a general's element ...

(Mark Antony leading a cavalry envelopment ... a new command piece)

(Metellus Scipio commanded Pompey's centre at Pharsalus ... he was a great descendent of Scipio Africanus so I was able to recycle an existing figure for him)

Pompey in overall command of his army with Afranius, Ahenobarbus, Scipio and Labienus as generals ... Caesar commanding his army and taking charge of the Reserve and Right Wing ... with Calvinus and Mark Antony controlling the centre and left respectively ...

(following the traditional interpretation, I put a large camp behind Pompey's army,  but left Caesar's off table)

Although I had intended to play both the BB and Double DBA options, we focused attention solely on the latter - so while it was nice to see all the personalities and note their positions in the order of battle, we only needed 4: Calvinus commanding Caesar's opening phases, Labienus the Pompeians ... and Caesar and Pompey to command the decisive phase.

I used 72 elements, but due to the numerical disparities, split them 34 to Caesar, 38 to Pompey.  It would give Pompey a break point 2 higher.  One of the challenges of the day would be to see if this asymmetry would unduly distort DBA's underlying balance.

(Battle on the plains beside the river Enipeus at Pharsalus)

Actually we played the Double game twice with a win each to Pompey and Caesar ... not enough games to be remotely scientific but certainly a veneer of balance.

The basic idea with Double DBA is that the two armies deploy 2 commands each, one in front of the other, and rolling a pip die for each.  The front commands wear each other down hoping to break through and do some damage to the enemy's main force.  Both opening phase commands are withdrawn when exhausted (i.e. when their DBA battle ends in the usual way).   The scoring between them is irrelevant but the winner gets to retain his winning elements (so if the winner was 2 elements off breaking, he can retain 2 elements from the opening phases force) ...

The decisive phase battle plays normally, one die per player, normal breakpoints and victory conditions.

Players are so used to simultaneous battle with command one beside the other that fighting in the Roman style, commands in depth, seems almost heretical.  But it does work surprisingly smoothly.

(Pharsalus: opening phases .. Labienus attempts to turn in on and outflank Caesar's right)

Both armies rested one flank on the river.  Caesar was woefully short of cavalry and his ploy of thinning his centre in order to deploy legionaries to shore the open flank was essential in the game.  

Caesar just does not have enough muscle or guile to hold off Labienus without the heavy infantry.

Caesar intervenes personally.

Caesar's intervention stabilises the flank and neutralises Labienus's numerical advantage.  

That said, Labienus has successfully drawn Caesar's reserves into the early phase of battle and these losses will be permanent.

Of course, the effect of the Double format is that the decision will always be elsewhere, and with Pharsalus, it will rest with the infantry (although without flanks, the centre might well be doomed) ...

And the final infantry slog went one-apiece ...

(a decisive Caesar win: the blade/legion on the right has just pursued a base depth after destroying the enemy legion to front - which broke Pompey's centre) 

Pharsalus today ...

I usually like to visit the battlefields of history before trying to recreate them ... in this case there was no time in preparing for BattleDay 2016.  I did, however do some virtual tourism courtesy of Google Maps ...

(the river Enipeus near the town of Farsala today)

(the flat plain at Farsala looking towards the town)

(the prominent high ground which narrows the plain near to where the battle may have been fought)

Obviously while without archaeology these images don't help identify the exact location or orientation of the battle, they perhaps do help give us a clue to look and character of the battlefield.

Like many an ancient battle, it is essentially a flat open field with an 'edge of the world' on one side (at least) ... some scope for cavalry on the other ....

To add interest I made a boat for the river.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

2nd April, Bletchley MK (overview)


This year's SoA Battleday was a well attended full house - a sunny day in the now well-established Sycamore Hall venue.  There were a lot of legionaries ...

(the Pharsalus BattleDay ... just out of shot, C&C, To the Strongest and Piquet)

The day started with an informative introduction by Lost Battles author Prof. Phil Sabin of Kings College and a lively Q&A.

There were 13 games being run on the day with some overlaps within 12 basic ancient wargame systems.  I'll give you snapshots of them in alphabetical order ...

You will see a couple of overlaps there: two DBA variants - a Big Battles variant focusing on part of the battleline, and my own 'Double' battle configured in depth similar to my treatment of Zama some years back ...

And Lost Battles appears twice ... once in the familiar Sabin/Cruttenden/Waller presentation, and then in a dual focus game which used Lost Battles for the big picture and Hail Caesar for the closer view.

Variable resolution might be one of the features of the day, as the Piquet game also sought to change focus (you might notice, on the general picture of the game above, a couple of magnification zones that up the scale) ...

(Pharsalus ... smaller scale figures: Civitates Bellantes)

... and smaller scale figures ... Pharsalus was a colossal battle and many presenters seem to have felt that smaller scales captured it battle (or games that mixed sharper focus with the big picture) ... 15mm predominated as usual but 10, 6 and 2 had a lot to say.

(Pharsalus ... smaller scale figures: Double DBA) 

I will put a report on my own game in separate blog (to follow) and wrap up the overview here.

It seemed a great success with some new approaches, some big games and lots of legionaries ...

(Pharsalus ... lots of legionaries: Armati)

Well done the Society of Ancients ... another great battle recreated!