Monday, August 27, 2012

Pulse of Battle - Game One (and two)

Hooray! Last evening we played our first play test of Pulse of Battle! We actually played twice...two smallish games. The first game was simply a taste of things -  many things are different from Field of Battle. So we lined up our forces and marched them into each other to get our feet wet.

A Roman force, consisting of a solid core of foot with a couple of mounted auxiliaries was set against a Macedonian force. The later force was heavy in pike men and supported by a strong mounted force.

The first game was played rather quickly as we worked our way through several new rules and worked out some rough edges on various details. The Romans were soundly thrashed in the process...but what did it matter? Victory was not the point, but rather getting into various situations to exercise the rules!

Having many notes written, rules tweaked, amended, added or removed, we moved into game two. This game would be played more seriously and would prove to be quite fun.

Commanding the Roman force was Greg Cornell. His wing commanders were Eric Elder and Terry Shockey. Commanding the Macedonian force was Greg Rold, with the support of John Mumby and myself. The battlefield was a "golf course" to keep things simple for us all.

The Roman army consisted of six units of heavy infantry and three of medium infantry. They were supported by two units of light infantry and one of light cavalry and one of medium cavalry. Most of the Roman main-body infantry was armed with the Pilum.

Not being a student of the Roman periods, I'll refer to these units by their generic classifications...

The Macedonian army consisted of seven units of pike-armed heavy infantry. Three units of medium infantry and one of light infantry. the mounted arm included one unit of elephants and two heavy cavalry and one medium cavalry units.

Not trying to get squirrelly, we deployed the pikes in the center in two phalanx formations and proceeded to place the remaining army in protective locations to their flanks. I commanded the center (the likes) while Greg took the right with the light foot and the mounted troops...John took the left with the allied footmen.

Facing John, on the Roman right was Eric with a force made up of heavy Roman infantry. Greg deployed a force of three heavy and one light foot across the center to oppose the pikes. Terry and the remaining Roman foot and cavalry deployed on the Roman left.

So, from my left to my right, we would see medium infantry battling heavy infantry, pikes against heavy infantry, elephants against lights, and a combined force of medium foot and horse against horse of higher weight. Should be a good run through. It was.

The game played with a good flow, action was hot and heavy...especially on the two flanks.

Melee combat was good. Don't wish to divulge too much as the rules are in development, but the initial impact of forces mattered, the weight classifications of the troops mattered, light troops seemed to work well and the weaponry employed mattered...but none of this was in an overbearing way. This continues the Piquet tradition of respectful abstraction and simplification: you get enough details, not the bog, and you get to worry about getting the right stuff to the right place and have the appropriate range of potential results - which is the important thing in Piquet - results.

Also "trained" troops had some advantages when it came to unit interpenetration. Light troops were allowed to evade combat and use their missile weapons to their annoying capabilities.

One thing I thought was cool was that units didn't really rout like in the horse and musket period. Yes units would fall back, but destruction rather than rout and rally is in play as the survivors ceased to exist as an instrument of war.

Formations and maneuver are more restricted than horse and musket, as you would expect. But, moving your units is not painful - Brent is keen on the balance between making things difficult on the players but not making the game unplayable. We're interested in having fun and reaching decisions in our little games, and trying to experience the period conditions, not interested in using protractors to move the little fellows!!

Brent tried some new ideas on deployments too. I liked them. Simple and clean. We'll see where this goes as I am a fan of the Fate and Command Decision tables from FoB.

All in all, I felt like it was possible for a general to try to get the right troops to the right place in the right circumstances which may indeed be the primary essence of commanding bodies of soldiers.

Regarding the battle itself, the Romans roughly handled our left flank...but...John did a great job in holding them off of the flanks of the phalanx. His troops were out-classed but sold their morale chips dearly.

On our right flank, Greg was savaged by the enemy foot and horse, but held his own until the end. His elephant did not accomplish anything, canceled out by some bold lights...but his horse wrecked the Roman flank. In the end however, he had practically nothing left.

In the center, the phalanx slowly first, Greg pulled back his line shrewdly creating more ground for the unwieldy phalanx to cover. At one point, my flanks were in a dangerous position and I felt like I was maneuvering a battleship in a bathtub! But, the gods of war showed us some favor and we managed to hit the Roman line. We made only slight success...when it happened...the dreaded Army Morale card! The losses on our flanks had reduced our morale points to the negative and I rolled a freakin' one on the morale test. The game ended in a defeat for our forces.

Again, good stuff and a good time too. Those darned Romans are tough customers. I look forward to more Pulse of Battle and getting some Chinese armies out there in the near future!!!!

Here are some pics!

Roman High Command

Brent and John

Macedonian High Command

Game One - Start

You can actually see the wheels turning!


Game Two - Start!

Romans are getting serious!

Macedonian left

Macedonian right

Macedonian center



Cavalry meet!

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