Wednesday, October 4, 2023

So Long, Solachon! - So Convenient for Hewing AAR

Barrage 2023 was a couple weekends ago, and I haven't had a chance to attend since 2019. While I wasn't able to take off from work to attend Friday, I signed up for a couple games on Saturday. 

My first game was a playtest/demonstration of the "big battle version" of a ruleset, "So Convenient for Hewing", run by the author himself. 

The scenario was based on the Battle of Solachon, between the Byzantines and Sassanid Persians. I played the scenario with a team of father-and-sons (Rob, Norman, and Will if I remember correctly) from the HAWKS group. Will and I played as the Sassanids, while Rob and Norman commanded the Byzantines. 

The game started with the reveal of a Sassanid cavalry ambush, hidden behind the rise dominating one side of the battlefield. 

I should talk about the rules a bit. Turns are split into actions determined by random card draws between a Red side and a Blue side. Each card has an Action (Move, Shoot, Charge, Free) and a couple End Turn cards. Units alternate performing that action between sides. The card's corresponding color has initiative for the Action. For example, a Red Charge card will allow the Red side to make the first charge.

Units also have action pips (1 or 2), which they can spend to take the action on the card. Once a unit is out of pips, they can no longer take actions.

So a unit could potentially charge twice in a turn, or move twice, or shoot twice. But it's random, and spending your pips early in a turn can leave you without any chance to exploit a situation later in the turn. But those two End of Turn cards can be drawn at any time, leaving your saved pips wasted. 

Will took command of the ambush and the Sassanid left, facing off against Norman. 

On the other side of the battlefield, Rob and I performed a cavalry ballet. 

And the footslogging infantry worked their way towards combat. 

The Sassanids had a unit of Cataphracts, which were the kings of the battlefield. But my poor luck meant they weren't all that effective. However, my light cavalry kept two of Rob's cavalry units occupied. 

After a few turns, the Sassanid ambush had succeeded, leaving the Byzantine's flank wide open. 

It was also here that we discovered the rules' "end of game" mechanic; for every regular (non-light) unit lost, you compare that number to a d6 rolled at the end of each turn. If you roll equal to or under that number, your army routs!

While the light cavalry occupied each other's attention, Will pushed into the Byzantine flank. Will's infantry fell back, peppering the Sassanid cavalry with arrows. 

The cavalry battle on the Byzantine left wasn't as decisive. 

I should note that the Sassanids had one huge advantage in this game; a second general. Generals in these rules can use their pips to command other units and can join units for extra bonuses. With the right combination of cards, a general can get a unit of veteran cavalry to charge four times in one turn! 

With two generals commanding their cavalry, the Sassanids had a decent advantage in decisive activations. 

Of course, that didn't matter so much when I couldn't get my troops in order (i.e., not roll like crap). With my light cavalry chased off my flank, Robt was free to swing his own light cavalry into my exposed flank.

Which gave Rob the chance to charge into the flank of my Cataphracts and send them running!

Luckily the Cataphracts' heavy armor kept them from taking any permanent hits, but they were suddenly in front of the main Byzantine line, full of mixed melee/ranged infantry units that were plenty willing to take potshots at the Sassanid cavalry as they rode by in a blind panic. 

In his efforts to catch the Cataphracts, Rob did allow his line to become muddled.

Meanwhile, Norman had managed to rout another Byzantine unit. 

I also managed to rout a Byzantine unit (while losing one of my own), and Norman bagged another.

It was there that the Byzantines finally rolled low enough for their army to break, and the game ended.

The rules received pretty positive praise from the players. Jessee did a great job adapting a set of skirmish rules to something that has the feel of a larger battle, and there are plenty of decisions to be made during the game. Our only concerns were how strong generals were (having both extra activations and bonuses to melee and leadership) and the somewhat arbitrary roll for ending a game. 

I would recommend anyone looking for a fun set of fairly simple rules that don't need a large investment to get into to check these out once the full version has been released. 

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