Friday, September 29, 2023

On The Reliabilty of Data II

The 2023 edition of the Wargames, Soldiers, and Strategy Magazines' Great Wargaming Survey is a wrap and the results are in.  Total responses this year were 9,282 completed surveys.  That count is down from 2022 but 9,282 respondents still represent a solid sample size.  Several new questions were added into the 2023 survey.  There are still questions that have yet to see any analysis, some new twists to earlier analysis, and revisiting some old questions with a look using fresh data.  Many topics to explore in the coming twelve months.

First, I start off the 2023 analysis cycle with a look at a topic first examined in May of 2023.  That topic is the On the Reliability of Data.  Why examine this topic again so soon after the last investigation?  For one, the survey counts are down from 2022.  Second, the age question was asked differently.  Third, I wondered if discussing the conundrum of first-time respondents would move the needle at all.  Finally, we can assess the stability of the data with one more year added into the mix.

Prior Survey Response by Year
As identified in last year's analysis, the percent of respondents having taken a prior survey remained in the low 50% range.  After mentioning this result, I wondered if surfacing this tendency would affect results.  Well, impossible to say whether mentioning this attribute had any impact upon the results but those having taken the survey before jumped to 66%.       
Years Spent Wargaming (Duration)
What about the number of years spent in the wargaming hobby?  Did that remain consistent to prior years?  No!  The group claiming to have 31 or more years in the hobby spiked to nearly 45%.  Perhaps the hobby is graying?   
Respondent Location by Year
Year after year, the location of respondents seems stable.  We see roughly the same mix of locations each year. 
Age Group by Year
Like last year's analysis, the tendency of age cohorts to increase over time continues.  In tandem with the Duration chart above, 2023 saw a jump in the number of respondents in these older age cohorts.  Is this phenomenon due solely to an aging population of could something else be driving these results?
One frustration from recent years is that compliance with answering the Age question has been slipping.  In 2019, Age was changed from an age range to a discrete age to accommodate the psychometric study (one day, I will dig into those data!).  Age was a required field.  In 2020, Age became an optional field but remained as discrete.  2021 and 2022 kept that same format but non-compliance increased to the point that in 2022 nearly 1 in 5 respondents failed to answer the age question.  Wanting to reverse this trend, I suggested returning to age cohorts rather than asking for discrete age.  The result?  Non-compliance almost entirely vanished.  Could these non-compliant respondents have resided primarily in the older age cohorts?
Primary Interest by Year
Finally, we revisit primary interest in wargaming.  The trend seen earlier of a shift from Fantasy/Sci-Fi to both Mixed and Historicals continues.  If responses are drawn from a representative sample then the notion that non-historical wargamers shift away from preferring purely non-historical wargaming as they age holds.  Is the survey catering to and drawing from fewer non-historical wargamers over time or is the trend illustrated here accurate?  Other analyses may be able to confirm.  
Even with some shifts in the data, I still maintain that the hypothesis that these data are drawn from similar populations, across time, cannot be rejected outright.

Many questions.  Some answers.  Your comments encouraged.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Chariot Wars!

After the Rein-Bow Warriors (RBW) playtest discussed in Playtest Notes, I kept the table and units in situ for another chariot wars clash.  Rather than using RBW as the Rules of Engagement, this next battle would see Basic Impetvs (BI) on a grid in play.  In place of The Rejects’ regular Monday night Paint & Chat session, I would host a remote game for five of the group.

All but one of the Rejects have never played (or maybe even seen) a game of BI played.  Only Steve has played BI before and that has been in some of my games.  Since I had four players completely unfamiliar with the rules, I suggested the players think of this session as a Basic Training to the rules.

After a brief overview of the rules and with QRS in hand, we took to the table.  In this engagement there were three Egyptian players to two Hittite players.  As a seasoned veteran, Steve opted to take one of the Hittite commands as well as the King.  Richard took the other Hittite command.  On the Egyptian side of the table, Ray took the Pharaoh's command while Lee and Surjit took the Egyptian right and center. 

Figuring this as a training mission, I took no screenshots and few photos during the game.  Yeah, that is my excuse!  Luckily for the chroniclers, Richard kept good notes and snapped a number of screenshots during play.  Richard provides an enjoyable recap of the action at Basic Impetvs Meets Chariot Wars.  I recommend visiting Richard's blog for a battle account.

As in the RBW playtest game, both sides are roughly equivalent with the Egyptians having an edge in archers and the Hittites having an edge in spearmen.  Hittites hold a one chariot advantage.
The two armies face off.
Egyptians in the foreground.
Hittites ready themselves for battle.
Egyptians do likewise.
As the battle gets underway, the Hittites take the initiative.  Hittite chariots are brought forward on the wings.  Hittite bowshots from one of the chariots disorders one of the Egyptian units of massed archers in Pharaoh's command.  To counter the enemy chariots, Ray brings up Pharaoh's chariot alongside another chariot to cover both the Egyptian right and center.  Lee and Surjit bring their two chariots into the center to control that space.   
The two battle lines close.
Both armies bring their chariotry to the fore.
Gaining the initiative on Turn 2, Ray strikes out with Pharaoh and his wingman.  With Egyptian skirmishers slipping out of the way, the Egyptian chariots attack!  In a prolonged dogfight, the chariots exchange missile fire until the Hittites break.  One Hittite chariot is destroyed.  The second is put to flight.  Although Pharaoh's chariot is badly damaged, the victorious Egyptians follow up in pursuit.     
Pharaoh attacks!
The Hittite left is gone!
On the other side of the table, the Hittites consider the battle lost but vow to fight on.  The ease at which Pharaoh cuts through the Hittite left (The Gods were with him!) emboldens the Egyptian Army.  Screened by a wall of skirmishers, the chariots on the other flank scream forward.  In a vicious dogfight, each army loses a chariot.  To prevent a breakthrough of his battle line, the Hittite King brings his chariot forward to engage the enemy.  Although the King appears to be gaining the upper hand, he breaks off the fight once the Egyptians bring up massed archers and put him under the bow.
Chariot clash on the Egyptian left.
The Hittite King engages the enemy
but retires once the enemy brings up massed archers.
Having chased the fleeing Hittite chariots vigorously, the Pharaoh finds himself behind the enemy lines.  Exhausted from their efforts, the two Egyptian chariots are attacked from behind.  In a matter of minutes, the over-extended chariots including the Pharaoh are dispatched by enemy foot.  Oh, the humanity!
The Attacker becomes the Attacked!
With their left secure, the Hittites advance.
The loss of the Pharaoh, three chariots, and assorted foot units is enough to push the Egyptian Army over its break point.  The Egyptian Army withdraws...without its Pharaoh.   
The Hittites take the battle ground!
Although this outing was designed as a training scenario, the players picked up the basic concepts of BI quickly (I think).  Only two turns were completed in a little less than two hours.  Quick result, for sure, but with the loss of Pharaoh, the Egyptians found themselves in a tight place regardless.  By the end of Turn 1, all players figured the battle over with an inevitable Egyptian victory.  My, how the tables turned on Turn 2.

Congratulations to the Hittite generals, Steve and Richard.  To the Egyptians (Ray, Lee, Surjit), the Hittite Army was only a pip or two away from breaking themselves.

What might have been...

Whatever it might have been, I thought this exercise great fun.  Maybe they will return to the BI table again, confident in the knowledge gained in this outing?  If so, I may increase the Army Breakpoints a few points to lengthen the game.  An increase may not lengthen the game much if we see the near complete destruction of the chariot arms as in this contest.

For me, up tomorrow is an away (remote) game with a look at the WotR.  An away game is on deck for Saturday too with an Ancients battle.  It's a busy week.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Playtest Notes

As mentioned in the previous post, I joined Ian for a playtest session to refresh my fading memories on rules' development for his Rein-Bow Warriors (RBW) project.  Last time we gave the rules a workout was about 18 months ago.  What has changed, what do we remember, what have we forgotten, and what can be improved?  We will see.

Following is a collection of my notes, insights, and suggestions from this session on Thursday.  Next time I look for my notes, I will know where to find them.  All tables and illustrations are copyright Ian Russell Lowell.  Game photos are mine. 

Turn Sequence
The Turn Sequence from the last playtest back in March 2022 contained a total of nine steps.  I recall, at the time, that these nine steps were difficult to keep in mind.  Some of the steps seemed out of order and the sequence required constant referral during play.  Simplification, if possible, would be helpful to streamline the turn sequence.  When Ian sent an updated QRS, I noticed that the sequence had been reduced to seven steps.  That is good!  Seven steps are more manageable than nine.

Since Step 3 is a direct result of Step 2, Step 3 could be combined within Step 2.  Now we are down to six steps. 

Turn Sequence
Similarly, Step 6 covers completion of charge movement in addition to hand-to-hand combat.  With chariots making their final charge movement in Step 6, frontline foot units ought to take a Reaction Test here as well.   We ought to name these Reaction Tests from chariot proximity "Seeing the Chariot" Test.  More on this Reaction Test later.

To Grid or Not To Grid?
In last year's playtests, battles were fought on an open field with tape measure and protractor in hand.  With my game table already laid out with a hex grid from my recent Punic War games, I asked if trying the game on a grid was possible.  Ian, said, "Sure!"  Within a very short amount of time, a hex-based diagram arrived into my Inbox.  All missile ranges and movements rates were converted from inches (or IKU) to hexes.

Missile ranges and arcs of fire template
I replied that this looked terrific but my units face a hex vertex not the side.   No problem!  Within minutes, a new diagram appeared in my Inbox showing a quick switch to unit orientation.

Quick revision to unit orientation.
Now that a hex was in place, one other change I made from the previous games was to reduce a Basic Maneuver Unit (BMU) from two stands to one stand.  Each BMU would occupy one hex.   In the earlier version of the rules, one BMU comprised two stands.  The BMU had one Mettle Value but each stand within the BMU could shoot and melee independently but all damage was assessed against the BMU.  What this meant was that (two stand) BMUs had a lot of combat power but were very brittle.

As play began, I quickly realized that the switch to a grid-based, one BMU/hex design simplified much of the game mechanisms.  Mechanisms that were fuzzy or unclear in the earlier, open-table sessions became straightforward without ambiguity on a grid.   While the basic game engine remained intact, the fog was beginning to lift on how to actually implement Ian's design philosophy into a playable solution.

With Turn Sequence and playing area defined, how did the playtest session progress?  What else was surfaced during this session?

The Game
After a lengthy discussion trying to remember how all of the pieces worked and a refresher on the dice roll resolution (roll two dice and add the differential to the largest), we dived into the game.

Battle lines drawn.
With the fast-moving chariots heading out first, contact was quickly made.  The trailing dust clouds denote last path taken and represent a No-Man's Land to foot.  One tenet of RBW is that chariot pairs engage in dogfights in a swirling "joust" as chariots speed passed one another, turn-about, and re-engage in a series of bowshots.  No foot units dare enter this whirlwind of activity. 

Chariots race off to meet their adversary.
While in past games, this area was marked out with a series of ill-defined dust clouds, the benefit of a hex-grid was recognized immediately.  Play stopped and we discussed the notion of Zones of Control. In a follow-up email, Ian termed these no-go areas as Non-Chariot Exclusion Zones.  I think I will stick with EZOC

Non-Chariot Exclusion Zone
Back to the game.

As the chariot arms of both armies scream out in advance of the main battle lines, it is clear that the Egyptians are outgunned.  While two of the Egyptian chariots intercept two Hittite chariots and begin dogfights, the two Hittite chariots on the wings advance unopposed.  The third Egyptian chariot in the center of the Egyptian battle line moves off toward the Hittite main battle line.    

Chariots engage.
While the two pairs of opposing chariots dogfight, the Egyptian chariot in the center approaches the Hittite line triggering Seeing the Chariot Mettle Tests.  In prior iterations of the RBW, when this test was triggered, the entire battle line had to make the test using the Mettle Value of the highest rated unit in the battle line.

Again, play was stopped to discuss.

After an engaging discussion with a few anecdotes told, we decided to only test units that were actually within chariot bow range.  Any testing unit could still utilize the highest Mettle Value from the entire battle line.  Was a successful Mettle Test based upon less or equal to a dice roll or strictly less thanLess than or equal was the decision.  Also, throwing doubles during a Mettle Test resulted in possible leader casualty in the earlier rules' iteration.  Now, doubles are treated as a regular Mettle Test (Pass or Fail) with the largest die used since differential is zero.  In this game, we used doubles as an automatic pass but think the test ought to remain within the standard framwork as outlined in the previous sentence.  

Hittites test for Seeing the Chariot.
Hittite skirmishes are close to breaking.
On both flanks, chariot dogfighting continues.  In previous games, ammo expenditures were tracked.  Chariots had four shots before needing to break off and return to camp to replenish.  In this game, constraints on ammo supply were lifted.  Those previous experiments demonstrated that by the time a chariot had expended its four shots, it was likely already badly damaged.  Compounding this, the battle was often decided before chariots could return to camp, replenish, and get back into battle.  In this one trial, lifting of ammo supply made no significant difference to the course of battle.  Why track something needlessly?        

Chariot dogfighting.
While the dogfighting continues, the Hittites maneuver to get around the Egyptian flanks.  The Egyptian foot on the right turn to discourage the attacker from continuing on.  The ploy does not work!  Despite receiving fire from the massed archers, the Hittite chariot bursts by the foot and heads toward the Pharaoh.  Note that the Engagement Chart showed no distinction between bow-armed skirmishers and massed archers.  After the game, Ian corrected that to give massed archers an advantage in fire over skirmishing bow.
Hittite chariot moves against the Egyptian right.
Egyptians turn to face
and give the attackers a volley.
Still, the Hittite sweeps around the flank
 and into the Egyptian rear.
Back in the center, rather than plowing into the Hittite line, the Egyptian chariot pulls up and begins a caracole into the enemy troops.  First, the Hittite skirmishers break and run.  As the effects of the caracole barrage mount, a unit of javelinmen breaks for the rear.  The Hittite line has been breached! Note that after some discussion, a unit of Mettle W1R1 must rout.  Otherwise, a unit with Mettle of R1 may remain in place and fight on (defensively only).  Earlier, a R1 caused a unit to retire.
Hittites break for the rear!
The Pharaoh is caught behind his battle line and engaged in a dogfight with the enemy chariot.  In a series of passes, the Pharaoh is forced to retire.  With the Pharaoh fleeing the battlefield, his army does likewise. 
Pharaoh is hotly engaged!
Victory to Ian and his Hittites!

This game produced a very interesting battle.  We succeeded in exercising many facets of the rules and clarifying a number of points.

I think we made good progress although my tactics need some work.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Back to Biblicals!

The dust had yet to settle over the plains of Ilipa when I received an email from the Society of Ancients.  This email contained an announcement for the upcoming annual convention in October.  Since I am unlikely to attend this year's convention at Madingley Hall near Cambridge, I was only generally curious of the content.  What really caught my eye was the inclusion of Ian Russell-Lowell in the program.  I have gamed with Ian for nearly three years now often seeing him in a weekly remote game.  Ah, the fun of shooting down Snoopy and his long line of succession in aerial dogfights over the fields of Flanders.  Phil Steele will be presenting at the convention as well.  Another of my weekly remote gaming buddies out and on tour.  Joining them this year sure would be fun. 

Back to the email.  My gaze was especially focused onto the content on offer.  First, Ian would be discussing the Late Bronze Age.  One of his specialties.  Second, Ian would be running a workshop on the latest incarnation of his Work-in-Progress Late Bronze Age rules, Rein-Bow Warriors (RBW).

Now, RBW is a ruleset that Ian and I have discussed much in the past and even got in a handful of playtests.  I have not seen rules' development since our last work more than a year ago.  Remembering that the rules still had some conundrums left to solve and streamlining to consider from the last playings, I wondered what had changed in the passing year and a half.

A quick email to Ian answered my question.  

Not much!  

Given that presenting a workshop for developmental rules having not seeing action in more than a year might be a challenge, I offered my services to help in refreshing both of our collective memories.  Ian cheerfully accepted!

In what will be the first of (I hope) several playtests, Ian and I will meet this week to discuss the current state of the rules, consult notes made during previous sessions, and push a few troops around my remote table.  Well, remote for Ian.  I will be broadcasting live from my game room.  Ian will be Zooming in from Cornwall.
Hittites ready for action.
While Biblical armies may be roaming around the table for a while, I figured why not get these armies in a game or two outside of these playtest sessions with Ian.  Why not indeed?  To that end, the plan is to pull Egyptian and Hittite armies from storage boxes and set out a pitched battle or two using Basic Impetvs.  One game is formulating for Monday.

Reject Big Lee recently recounted an occasion where serendipity struck, guiding him gently into a new project (see When Serendipity Strikes).

While I have no pull from a new project, the stars may have aligned to give me a nudge toward fielding my Biblical armies and trumping my move toward a War of Austrian Succession battle.

  1. Five-inch arid hex system used for 28mm Basic Impetvs is already laid out onto the gaming table from Ilipa.
  2. I started creating more five-inch hexes including hills last week.
  3. I undercoated a handful of 28mm Babylonian archers even though most of my painting activity has been focused on 15/18mm figures.
  4. Receipt of Society of Ancients convention email.
  5. Correspondence and acceptance with Ian for more playtesting. 

Tomorrow I begin setting out the armies.  He will be watching...

Saturday, September 16, 2023

French Infantry circa 1799

Despite a steady stream of 18mm SYW/WAS figures slowly shuffling through the painting queue, I interrupted the normal process flow to toss in something new.  Well, not new, actually.  These figures have been sitting in the Ready to Paint box for nigh-on two years.  Possibly even longer.  Looking into this holding box, there are a handful of units for my yet to see the table 1799 Suvorov in Italy project.  Now, some of the French and Austrians have seen action in 1800 campaigns and even at Rivoli many years ago.  The Russians, however, have yet to see a die rolled in anger.
Anyway, sorting through boxes and packs of figures strewn about seemingly everywhere, I committed to working some of these already black undercoated figures into the painting line.  I needed to turn over some of this old inventory before the fall undercoating season begins with the arrival of shortened days and falling temperatures.  Besides, these figures have been curing long enough!
Opening up the Painting Log, I see the last time any new units were added to this project was nearly three years ago.  Three years?  My, how time flies!  To correct for this long hiatus, off the workbench today are 39 figures spread across three French battalions.  All figures are AB miniatures.  I will try to push some more of these units into the painting queue before three years have passed.

What is on the painting desk now?  Hanoverian cavalry and Spanish foreign infantry regiments and cavalry for the SYW/WAS projects.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Ilipa Again, Again

In post-game discussions following the first refight of Ilipa with the five-player UK/France group, talk centered on how the Romans could win.  Is a victory even possible?  I assured them that it was and I had done so.  (Note: I still need to chronicle Sunday's game with Matt).  For a refresher on that battle, see A Tale of Two Armies.  

I suggested that a refight might help settle the issue.  All agreed to give the scenario another go.  On Game Day, Wednesday (13 SEP), Mark had another commitment, so the number of players was reduced to four.  Two-teams of two players would make the game. Swapping sides from Game #1, Tony and David B. volunteered to take the Romans straight away.  Tony would command the Roman Right under Scipio while David took Marcius' legion and the center.  That left the Carthaginians to Chris and David C.  Chris took Hasdrubal's central command while David C. commanded the two wings.

Did the Romans turn the tables on the Carthaginians in this contest?  Read on to find out.

The battle opened in a similar fashion to the first game.  That is, the two lines slowly closed the distance while skirmishers deployed ahead of the main battle line harassed their opposition.  Roman Velites on both wings were very effective in driving off Carthaginian elephants from each wing.  To stabilize the Carthaginian Left, Spanish cavalry attack.  They too are driven off.
Velites harass the enemy elephant.
Elephant on the Carthaginian Left is driven off.
Elephant on the Carthaginian Right meets the same fate.
The two armies close.
Spanish cavalry attack and are repulsed.
Seeing these early reverses, Hasdrubal presses on by launching an attack with a warband against Scipio's Legion.  The legionaries stand firm and the warband is repulsed.  Still, the warband provides time for Hasdrubal to bring his heavily armored spearmen up to the front.  Hasdrubal follows-up by sending Spanish infantry in against the Roman Center.  His Spanish hesitate and fail to close with the enemy.
Warband charges in...
and charges back!
This diversion buys time for Hasdrubal
to bring up his heavy infantry.
A view of Hasdrubal's heavy infantry.
Seeing Spanish Scutarii caught in No Man's Land between the main battle lines, Marcius strikes!  The force of the legion bearing down upon the light infantry is too much.  They turn and flee.  Marcius (David B) orders his legion to pursue.  They oblige.  The legionaries plow into the adjacent warband.  They, too, are overpowered and retire.  Bloodlusted by their success, David's Romans press on, catching the retiring warband.  The warband turns and flees.  Still the Romans advance.  Is there no stopping them?  Not yet!  Next victim is a hapless unit of skirmishers.  They are easily overpowered and scatter.  With the Carthaginian Center hollowing out, David's Ever Victorious Legionaries turn to strike the elephant from the rear.  With escape route blocked, the rampaging elephant is dispatched. 

Witnessing all of this destruction to its front and its own chance for glory slipping away, the other half of Marcius' (David's) legion moves into action.  They attack the Spanish light infantry that were supporting the elephant.  In all of the chaos, the Spanish turn with their back to the enemy and flee.  The Carthaginian Right is no more!
Marcius attacks in the center.  
The enemy are driven back.
With the enemy dissolving before him,
Marcius pursues...
and pursues...
and pursues...
and pursues, destroying an elephant.
Marcius' legionaries drive off more Spanish.
Having witnessed his right and center ripped to shreds, Hasdrubal attempts to salvage the dire situation by sending his heavy infantry in against Scipio's legion.  They are repulsed!  Sensing complete victory is only one charge away, the Romans in the center throw volleys of javelins into the remaining Spanish Scutarii in the center.  With the Spanish in disorder, a warband charges in to deliver the coup de grace.  Unfortunately for the warband, the Spanish are made of sterner stuff.  The warband's attack is repulsed.  
Carthaginian heavy infantry go in...
and are sent back.
A warband's attack is also repulsed.
With his right completely in shambles and his flank turned, Hasdrubal orders his army to retire.
Much of the Carthaginian right is put to flight!
Victory to the Romans! A convincing victory it was too.

Congratulations to Tony and David B. for a well-played game.  The level of destruction David wreaked with Marcius' legion in pursuit after pursuit was simply awe inspiring.  The continued attacks by Marcius crippled the Carthaginian Right and opened up Hasdrubal's Center.  Rather than fighting to the bitter and preordained end, Hasdrubal was wise to order his army's withdrawal.

To Chris and David C., that was a tough loss.  From my vantage point, it looked like a train wreck in slow motion unfolding upon the table.  David B's persistent (and successful) pursuits cut through the Carthaginian Right before turning inward toward the center.  

From the Roman perspective, it was poetry in motion.  For the Carthaginians, it was a Natural Disaster.

Thanks everyone for a very entertaining game.  As always, much appreciated.

Mark will be sorry that he missed out on this action.  See, the Romans can win at Ilipa!