Wednesday, May 18, 2022

'Crowning' Achievement - Strength & Honour AAR

This past weekend was Kozcon, a small mini-convention put on by a group of wargamers from Pennsylvania in memory of a friend and fellow wargamer. The ticket costs are donated to the American Cancer Society. 

It was a well attended event with over two dozen players. There was an ADLG tournament (28mm open) along with several other participation games. The main event was a dice-off raffle with plenty of prizes. 

I met up with Ted and Steve, who had agreed to play our first game of Strength & Honour at the convention. I had just finished the Pontic Greek army a few days prior.

Another attendee (Russ) dropped into the fourth player spot alongside me as the Pontic commanders. Steve and Ted led the Romans. 

As to not complicate things too much, we kept the terrain and scenario simple; a good ol' brawl to test the rules. 

The Roman force consisted of:
    x1 Veteran Legion  
    x3 Experienced Legions
    x2 Raw Legions
    x2 Skirmishers

The Roman Legion in Strength & Honour is a big, tough block of troops. Even the Raw Legions can put up a decent fight, and the Veteran (and Elite) Legions are implacable, deadly, and relatively nimble for formations of around 5,000 soldiers. 

The Pontic army was much more varied:
    x2 Pike Phalanxes
    x1 Thureophoroi
    x2 Imitation Legions
    x1 Skirmishers
    x1 Pontic Cavalry
    x1 Pontic Light Cavalry
    x1 Cataphracts

As one of the few Successors factions in Strength & Honour, the Pike Phalanx takes front and center in the Pontic force; that is, as long as they're not trying to copy Rome with their Imitation Legions. They also had access to cavalry for this game, something Russ would use to good effect. 

We also calculated break points, with the Romans having 17 and the Greeks having 18.

The Romans won the roll off to be the attackers. Their skirmishers moved forward as the Legions began to spread out. The center of the Pontic line moved up, with the flanks staying still. 

The first two units to clash were the Pontic Thureophoroi and Roman Skirmishers, which only resulted in a push back. 

We quickly found out that Skirmishers are a headache to deal with. You need a 6 on the Combat Dice results to really do any damage, and if the opponent can pass their Discipline Tests (which Steve did with flying colors), then you can't give your opponent any Setback cards by pushing the Skirmishers back.

I realized my deployment mistake early on, when Ted's Skirmishers managed to push back my Cavalry from their woods. This left the right flank of the Pontic line up in the air; the worst possible situation for a phalanx!

It didn't take long for both sides to push their attacks on the enemy flank. The Romans had their Skirmishers, who had to contend with the Pontic Cavalry. However, because the Skirmishers were in partially in rough terrain (the small woods scattered around), both sides Combat Rating were greatly reduced, and the Cavalry wasn't able to do much. 

On the other side of the battle, the Pontic Light Cavalry and Cataphracts were lining up an attack on the Veteran Legion. 

The Thureophoroi managed to push back the Roman Skirmishers and the unit was Disordered. 

As the battle raged on, I was desperately trying to stop Ted's Skirmishers from getting into the flank of the Pike Phalanx, but failed. This is especially bad for Phalanxes, as they automatically become Disordered when attacked on the flank. Not only does this result in a Setback Card, but it's only a single step away from the unit Routing!

Meanwhile, Russ was pinning down the Roman flank with the Cataphracts. But with the Veteran Legion's Discipline of 5+, they weren't going to be panicking any time soon. 

Unfortunately, the Pontic Light Cavalry bounced off the flank of the Raw Legion that had failed to move the entire game and became Disordered. 

I wasn't so lucky with my forces. The first of the Pike Phalanxes routed, and the Thureophoroi were pushed back by a Raw Legion, becoming Disorded as a result. I was picking up Setback and Disaster cards left and right!

It was around this time that Steve and Ted called "Haemonculus Est!" to see if the Pontic army had broken. Luckily we only reached around 11 of our 18 break, which let us discard one of the Disaster Cards, but Fatigued the Pontic forces, reducing their movement for the rest of the game.

Despite continually hitting their flanks, my Cavalry couldn't seem to do any damage to the Roman Skirmishers! This meant they were free to hit my second Pike Phalanx in the flank and, with some poor luck, quickly routed the unit. 

Russ' Cataphracts continued to hammer the Veteran Legion, and for a moment the gods shined on the Pontic forces as the Legion failed its discipline test with a critical failure, resulting in the Legion retiring and ending up Disorded and  facing away from the Cataphracts. 

That luck didn't last long, however, with the Pontic Light Cavalry not only failing to reform, but instead dispersing with a Rout result.

Both sides continued the fight, but a second call of "Haemonculus Est!" from Steve and Ted revealed that the Greeks had finally crossed over their break point, which ended the game. We tallied up the Setback and Disaster cards; the Greeks had 23, while the Romans had 10. It would have been a little higher had the Romans not rolled box-cars twice on two separate Discipline Checks (which allows you to remove an unseen Setback card).

The vagaries of Fortuna aside, we really enjoyed the rules! 

One aspect of Blood Bowl (I know, hold on, stick with me for a moment) is the calculation of risk when activating players. There are some actions that are less risky than others; standing a player up should be done before trying to tackle an Ogre with a lineman, or trying to dodge past a member of the other team. 

Strength & Honour scratches that same itch. It's a balancing act of trying to determine what's the least risky activation first. It's recognizing when you should slide that unit of skirmishers up to support a combat so it's two dice, your choice, instead of a single die roll. 

You add that to a fun period of history and a relatively niche scale, and it's a blast. I'm going to be ordering extra units soon so I can run bigger and more varied games. Maybe I could even get a campaign going. 

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