Thursday, June 13, 2013

Riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in . . .

 . . . a colossal pain in my anus.

Got in a Maurice campaign game against Nick the Lemming last night, and not to spoil the show, had my derriere handed to me rather handily.  Nick's take on the debacle (and some rather kind words, back at you Nick, you're a scholar and a gentleman) can be found here, and the rather amusing campaign report here.

 It all began so well. We drew Rugged for terrain, a type I don't believe I've played on before, and, while Nick won the roll to be defender (i.e., the scouting roll), I used the trick from a few games back in which I put two towns on his side, so I'd have some choice over the objective. Nick deployed, I set up my infantry to pin him and my cavalry to flank.

The calm before my horrible, horrible, defeat.

 I deployed my guns off to the left, with an infantry unit to discourage adventuresome cavalry.  The plan was to envelope his flank, and produce some 2:1 attacks that might let me roll him up.


Nick's army has a fairly powerful combination of National Advantages, those being Lethal Volleys (he re-rolls failed "kill" rolls on shooting), Rally to the Colours (he re-rolls failed rally dice), and Depot Battalions (which lets him play aggressively, knowing that at least two broken units can return at full strength).  He's also an excellent player, which means he uses these advantages to put considerable pressure on an opponent.  I've yet to find a way to deal with his army successfully.  Most of the tactices I've developed against other players (coordinate the attack, flank with cavalry, get in some disruptions via musketry, close to contact for the break through) just don't work, and Nick's aggressive play style means I generally don't have the luxury of dancing around him looking for an opening.

Unassuming, yet murderous.

This game more or less illustrates the problem, so in many ways, is worth studying for learning purposes.  My game plan, as I noted, was to flank with the cavalry, hopefully picking up his guns, and getting my cavalry in behind his infantry.  If coordinated with an infantry advance, this might force Nick to break up his lines a little.  If I could get some 2:1 fights, or hook around the end of his infantry line, I might be able to bring my own advantages (such as my edge in combat via a la baionette) into play.

So far, so good.

Instead, Nick sensibly retired his guns, and elongated his line to counter my moves.  I opened up with a preliminary bonbardment, and pushed forward my infantry and cavalry.  Nick, however, rallied off any disruptions I managed via bombardment, and wheeled his infantry to counter my advance.

That gaping hole in the centre is where the Irish used to be.  Still in the game though.

I thought this might be an opportunity (after the game, Nick concurred, indicating he'd been a little concerned about the thiness of his lines.  I moved my infantry up to just out of musket range, and considered my options.  One was to attack with the cavalry, try to break the thin end of his line, and then sweep around.  The other was a broad infantry engagement, and hope to do enough damage to blunt his return attack.

Nick promptly disrupted my plans by playing an event card that forced my Irish infantry (my best) forward into musket range.  Over the next few turns, he then produced a card combination that had me gnashing my teeth, first forcing a volley phase (which tore up my Irish some), then blunting their charge (I was going to lose them, I might as well try to tear him up a bit as well), and then to top it off, rolled just well enough to survive combat.  The Irish went down in a wave of musket fire, and I was left with limited options.

So handsome, so debonair, so quickly dead.

Nick then advanced his infantry, pressuring me into making a decision.  I simply cannot stand and trade musket fire with him.  His troops shoot better, and unless they're destroyed in a single round, can generally roll off any disruptions via his Rally advantage.  Once we're in range, I either have to go forward, or back up.

Nick moves to musket range.  Time to get off the pot.

I decided to charge, but with the cavalry.  If I could break through, I had a chance to regain the initiative, and  pull some pressure off the infantry.  Unfortunately, this didn't work either.  Partly this was  product of confusion (I'd been treating the hills as separate terrain, and consequently thought my cavalry was divided into two forces, so only went in with half), partly it was a product of cards (Nick played a card that blunted my best unit), and partly it was a product of him rolling just enough to avoid being destroyed.  He'd then counter with musket fire and a rally action, and after a second charge, I was down two units, my entire army was moderately to severely damaged, and Nick's was essentially untouched.


Seeing no prospects for a win, and not wanting to have my army torn up any more, I asked for terms, and Nick, being the gent he is, accepted.

Get back on the pot, get back on the pot!

The basic fact is I was out-played.  Nick's army is a hard nut to crack, and he plays it well.  He guarded his vulnerable elements (his mediocre horse and his guns), and he took away the initiative early, forcing me into a position of making a hasty attack, or trying to disengage and reform elsewhere.  The latter might have been my better option; another possibility was to pull back, and try and loop my horse further around his flank, either getting in behind or forcing him to prolong his line further.  I'm learning that against Nick's force, I basically get one crack; if I don't break through on first contact, he can just sit there and blow me away at leisure.

This does not look good.

One thing I might try next time we face off is to use my guns more aggressively, moving them right up.  That way, I have at least one point in the line where I outgun him.  If I coordinate well enough, I might be able to get enough disruptions to weaken his line, and make a charge viable.  We'll see.
Next up are some almost finished M&T French.  Next week I've got another game against Nick, this one Impetus.  Some Bloodbowl is tentatively scheduled for the week after, and then we're officially into Cubtime / summer.  Blog activity will drop off somewhat in July and August, but I should get enough painting done for at least semi-regular updates.



  1. I like the photo of the Irish from the back. Funnily enough, that's the side of them I'm used to seeing as well!

    Great report though, and we'll have to try out some of those other tactics next time. I'm not sure of the guns coming close part - it's going to be tricky to co-ordinate that with the infantry, and if you get close enough for cannister, you're also then in charge range and while I don't fancy charging your elite infantry, I do favour my grenadiers against your artillery.

    I can certainly see them interspersed between infantry units if you're defending though, thanks to the All Guns Bombard rule.

    It would have been interesting if you'd gotten your horse around my lines though; my horse can't handle yours usually, but if you were disrupted enough from that first contact, I might have stood a chance there too. Certainly something we can think about in the next friendly game, anyway.

  2. Your BatRep is a great compliment to Nick's BatRep. Very enjoyable to read about the battle from both sides. Funny, Nick chocks his win up to luck while you say you were outplayed. You both are gentlemen gamers. Well done!

    1. It was a combination of my list being able to overcome the advantages of Markus' without losing my own advantages, coupled with luck. Don't believe him when he says he was outplayed. :P

  3. Marcus! As the attacker, I no longer drop any terrain in the defender's setup zone and I grab the villages 1st & put them on my back line. I realize they didn't come into play here but too many times, vilalges served as unbreakable castles that throw my attack off.

    Rally and Lethal are a killer combo. I've got no suggestions for handling those!

    1. Yeah, I've also found towns become less effective with play experience. Mostly, they lock up a unit in garrison, making the rest of the opponent that much easier to break. In order to get at the town, you need to break through your opponent anyway, so why not go for the decisive win?

      I've found cramming the opponent's side with rough ground to be effective, unless they have lots of irregulars. It breaks them up, makes it hard to respond, and can produce disruptions if they have to move.


  4. I've stopped picking towns for myself, and decided with this one not to bother garrisoning them either - for one it ties down a unit for the game, and I could always move into it if necessary, but they are pretty tough to winkle a unit out of, and I like a challenge. I've smiled the last couple of games where people have immediately put a town down on their side to try to stop me from having one in my area - I don't really care whether I get one or not, to be honest. I don't think I put anything down this time but hills, apart from one wall, on the other town and which I didn't use.

  5. That doesn't mean I won't put towns elsewhere on the board though - I have too many lovely buildings not to do so. :D

  6. Looks like a great game! I recommend trying a game without national advantages as they are pretty powerful. It doesn't help your chances when your friend has the best ones either.;-)


    1. I'd like to further explain this in the key to Maurice is rally and whoever can do this the best is likely to win.


  7. That's a great looking game!

    I find Maurice too difficult. It's not the rules, which are straightforward, but the fact that my regular opponent has such a good grasp of strategy that I often know I have lost the game before the first unit has moved. :-(

  8. Great looking game and an excellent report!

  9. Great report. I stumbled across your blog last night whilst searching the net for 15mm Bolt Action inspiration. I'm now in the process of reading all your battle reports. Love your writing style and humor.

    1. Glad you're enjoying them. Stay tuned, as there should be more in future. I've got a few things to get out of the way, and then I'm hoping to focus on the next 500 points for my Russians.