Monday, October 27, 2014

High School Crusaders: The Bloody End

On our final day of the simulation, things were going fast and frenzied.  Units started vanishing from the table as accumulated casualties took a toll on morale. The decisive end that seemed so elusive in the first few sessions. Students had a great time, and while military history is not a major theme in the course, it was a happy break from the rather heavy religious, cultural, and narrative perspectives we had been taking to this point.  We got close to a conclusion as the number of units able to contest possession of the objective (an oasis) thinned down, but time moves on, and the Second Crusade won't teach itself.

Shira finally got the hang of using the Turkish horse archers, and she began to harass the plodding infantry opposite her.  The counterattack by the knights made the Muslim right flank particularly interesting. 

Row after row of earnest pilgrim get ground into oblivion. Apparently their faith was not as an effective a shield as...well, a real shield.

Armored crossbowmen occupy a particularly good position on the hill, but an unbelievably good volley from the Arabic archers wiped them out, leaving the knights ahead of them isolated.

Muslim cavalry punches a hole in the Christian center, but the Crusaders rally and begin to  push ruthlessly towards the oasis in the background.

The Turks clear their side of defenders, but the rest of the battle has flowed to the center of the table.

The guy in the red shirt is Zack, just after he realized he uttered the sentence "Can I pound Drew in the rear?" out loud. He then corrected himself and asked if he could attack Drew's flank, which wasn't much better. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

High School Crusaders 2: First Blood

Day One of our "Warfare in the Levant" simulation saw the armies surge forward and some efforts to gain an advantage through maneuver.  Day Two saw the first units come into contact and the first serious casualties.

Knights race back to secure the Crusader left.  Some stubborn Turkish light cavalry inflict some damage and refuse to give ground, but it seems like only a matter of time before the heavily armored knights rout their foes.  Meanwhile, Frankish bowmen drive back another unit of light cavalry, but the battle for the flank is far from over.

Trevor pushes the Crusader infantry forward in the center.  Is that a TARDIS by his hand? Hm, it seems to make an appearance in most of my 28mm battlefields.

More knights charge forward in the center, engaging a unit of bow-armed Arab skirmishers and some heavy Arab cavalry.  I realized at this point that I had written no rules for automatic retreat after losing a melee, so troops were just going to have to fight it out until someone lost a morale check.  Not that the students noticed or minded. They seem to like lots of bloody action.  Go fig.

Lauren considers sweeping to her right to help the Turks, but decides instead to sweep Christian archers off the hill in front of her.

Oh, noes!  A charge of Crusader knights falls just short of reaching its target.  The Muslim bowmen to each flank now have a juicy target in front of them.

The knights int he foreground have just caused the Arab skirmishers to rout off the board.  will the spearmen and cavalry be able to protect the oasis to their rear?

The pilgrims have been inching forward, and now they have the chance to prove their faith.  They took a lot of hits from the Arab cavalry rushing into them, but they passed their morale check. I guess faith counts for something.

A long view of the battlefield.  Though blood has been spilled, and some units are starting to feel the effects of casualties, it could still go either way. I have one more class period dedicated to this simulation. I guarantee the kids are going to plead for two.  Or more...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

High School Crusaders: Crusaders and Jihadi

One of my senior electives this year is a seminar on the Crusades. We read a lot of primary sources, watch the Terry Jones documentary, and discuss the rise of religious intolerance in the Middle Ages.  And, since I'm the teacher, we also spend a week playing with my toys.  

My summer project this year was to make substantial armies representing Christians and Muslims at about the time of the First Crusade.  I had ten students enroll in the class, so I had to make small units and paint quickly!  I finished the last units about two weeks ago.  We're using a set of homebrew rules for which I'll credit Black Powder, Johnny Reb, and the house rules of the Ambler Gamers as inspiration.  Most of the figures are 28mm Old Glory, although there are some Gripping Beast and Perry models on the table.

The setup at start.  Most commands are mixed forces of cavalry, heavy infantry, and missile troops.  The Crusaders are on the left, and the Muslims are on the right.

In the left foreground: a command of sacrificial lambs devout pilgrims.

I called these Turkish horsemen the Dothraki.  The response: "Wow. I didn't know they were real."

Arab Horsemen and infantry protect the oasis.

Allah akbar!

Here are my Muslim commanders.

And the Crusaders. I told everyone to pose like a badass.  Whatever.

After the first turn. The four commanders on the wings all inched towards the center. I predict a huge scrum.

The Crusader center surged forward, frustrating the Arab plans to prepare a defense. Some bowmen exchanged shots, but so far the field remains largely unbloodied. 

The Turks start to pepper their enemies with arrows. The commander of the Crusader left will doubtlessly try to recall his prodigal cavalry to deal with the threat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Everything is Awesome! (in class)

Outside of the simulation games I run, I don't write much about what I do in the classroom, but today, I ran an exercise that might be of interest to the regular readers of this blog.  I teach at a college prep school, and the recent long weekend was designated "College Application Essay Weekend," meaning that seniors were supposed to get their applications finished and we teachers of senior electives were not allowed to assign regular homework to seniors.

So, I decided to challenge the students in my AP Art History students to use Legos to design architectural spaces to house governments. One team was told to create a space for a republic to meet, and the other was told to create a space to house the seat of an empire.  For materials, my dusty old container of Legos was brought out.

Team Empire hard at work.

And Team Republic deep in deliberation.

The final entry for the Republic:  A natural amphitheater built into a hillside (hence the lunar terrain).  The speaker is under a sheltered platform, while the delegates cluster in the open, surrounded by allegorical images (the Sun, a Horse of the Old Ways, a flag, and, for some reason, Unikitty).

An enemy approaches the gates of the Empire. The gates hold back the equestrian might of the Empress, who built her power through conquest. A court of advisors can be seen to the left, clearly inferior to the roofed structure in which the Empress lives in seclusion.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lament of the Nerd Parent

Made another meme.  Kids today, they just don't game the way we used to...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Table Groans, pt. 2: the British seek pain relief

Last night saw the conclusion of the monster Napoleonics game we started last Wednesday, in which an allied force of Russians, Prussians, and British took on a combined army of French, Bavarians, and Polish. I'm pretty sure this historical matchup took place historically.   In 1814. Or maybe it was 1799.  Anyhow, it was one of those battles that happened when no-one was looking.

As usual, my report will focus on that corner of the table where I had command.  I'm pretty sure noble and heroic deeds were performed in other sectors of the battlefield, but as they did not concern me, I will give them correspondingly less attention.  heh heh.

Looking at my position at the end of last week, I realized that any sane commander would realize that he was outnumbered and outmaneuvered and do his best to withdraw in good order.  My cavalry has exhausted itself protecting myself last week, and I was left with a wall of infantry to hold our army's right flank.I had cavalry supported by artillery pinning my infantry to the front, and three brigades of infantry pressing on the extreme right flank.  Of course, I'm not a sane and rational commander.  I'm a wargamer!  So the fight to the death begins.

I was going to need some serious pain reliever to get through this one...

The large blank space in the foreground is where cavalry and their supporting artillery should have been. Oops.

Meanwhile, towards the center, my Portuguese and Spanish allies to a respectable job of maintaining communication with the Russians.  The Spanish took a battering, and the Portuguese gave as good as they got.  Sadly, the British would let them down in the end.

But enough about me!  Mark was able to make it this week, and he drove masses of Russian infantry at the French center while his cavalry teamed up with the Prussians to pin the French guard.  One battery of French artillery made a valiant defense of their guns, slowing the Russian advance.  Apparently the guns were commanded by Capitaine van Damme.

Scott's French held a central position against the Prussians commanded by Steve Pilch who tried several times to break their lines.  Prussians sure do look pretty when they are massed up like this. 

A long view of the table, with my Brits int he foreground. You'll note that my flank position is becoming increasingly theoretical.  Eventually, my whole command broke, costing the Allies the game.  I, of course, blamed the late arrival of the Prussians.  Then I turned my defeat into a heroic narrative of British virtue in the face of adversity.  You know: the classic defense.

Our club mascot hung his head in shame at my craven flight.

Afterwards, we considered ways we could get more minis on the table. I love this club!

Next week, Scott and Steve Turn will test out a scenario they are preparing for Fall In.  Get ready for some Martian Mayhem.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How much lead can a table support? Wednesday night Napoleonics

Ambler Gamers have been on a Napoleonics kick lately, with a monster two session game that ended last week and another one that began this week.  Tonight, my Brits made a special guest appearance, fighting alongside Russian and Prussian allies against a horde of Frenchmen and their minions.

Joe's basement is a gaming wonderland. Usually, we only use half the table in our weekly games. Recently, though, Joe has uncovered its full magnificent length.  I believe over 2500 figures were present on the battlefield.

Here's my British force.  Looks like a lot, huh?  I spent all last year painting them. I should have painted more...

My Russian allies to my immediate left.  Steve Turn contemplates the pain he is going to inflict on me while he eats dinner.

And here come the Prussians, swarming in from the left as they did last week.

Lots of cavalry in this battle.  Lots.

And in the center of the French line, a Guard division.  Joe realizes that despite setting up the game, his Russians are going to have to face Napoleon's old Grognards.

Every time I face off against Steve, we start the game with a  cavalry charge on Turn 1.  Last night was no different.  I was hoping for more from my light horsemen.  They suffered some early losses before they began to give back a little.

With my small cavalry brigade tied up, Steve realizes that he can force me into square with his remaining Polish lancers, perfect fodder for his guns.

Scott shows his contempt for the Prussian hussars who threaten his flank.

Scott faced foes to his front and right. He still had traffic problems getting resources where they needed to be.

Joe finds that his own cavalry has the ability to underperform.  Still, there's more where that came from.

Steve Pilch plugs a hole created by retreating cavalry with...more cavalry!

Scott seized ground int he center of the table early in the game, but the Russians plodded inexorably forward. Nobody plods like Russians. 

Steve pulls some of his cavalry back beyond my artillery range. My troops finally have a chance to pull back behind the hill to regroup. Annnnnnnd they blow a command roll.  Dangit.

My flank gets threatened. Do I worry? Nah.  I still have a battered unit of dragoons to throw away.

The Russians press the French center.

Did I mention the cavalry?  Because there was cavalry.  Lots of it.

Behold the thousand foot general!  Steve Pilch tries to decide whether to throw his cavalry aimlessly at the French lines, or to fall back, regroup, and hurl them aimlessly on a later turn.

"What do you mean we don't have rules for flushing skirmishers out of woods?"

I think I sent more infantry battalions into square than I ever have in my life. Because cavalry.  You'll note that my dragoons have sought the relative safety of the dead pile.

My Light Brigade trying to make life less pleasant for the French. While they held up two brigades with their defense of the woods, they paid a high price.

Scott surveying the field at halftime.  We'll finish next week. My flank is falling fast, but my Brits will be able to get a few good volleys in. Meanwhile, the rest of the field is a near-run thing.