Wednesday 25 April 2018

Mini MeG 1 - Part 3


In the last part of the reports series from my first ever event in Mortem et Gloriam system, I would like to summarize my experiences, share the impressions about the game and even ask a few questions about the situations that occurred in the battles!

First of all, however, I would like to thank Dean from Olympian Games for organizing the event (and supplying much needed Camp, the best painted element in my army :)), Canberra Regional Wargame Group for hosting the tournament along their usual activities and my fantastic opponents, Geoff and Leigh for great games! One of the reasons I write the reports is that by doing so I can say "thank you!" to the organizers and the players. Without them, obviously, I would have not had such a fantastic time!

Mini MeG 1

I would like to start with the event itself. I really liked the format, i.e. 2 games at 7000 points and 4 x 4' tables. It allowed to play games in a relaxed manner and as the most experienced player in the group had 6 games under his belt, we did need that extra time! In fact, I have not finished neither of my games but I expected that. After all, prior to the tournament I only read the rules and had no opportunity to play any games at all.

It was a fantastic experience and I am really glad I could attend. After just two games the rules started to feel natural. After first game I was a bit worried that the learning curve can be really steep. But I noticed that in the game two I can already implement lessons from my first battle and I moved my units with more confidence. That was a good sign because I would like to reach the stage where I am focusing on the battle and how to outsmart the opponent as quickly as possible. Hopefully, that can be achieved fast and that consulting the rulebook does not happen too often once the player gets the good grip of the system.

The idea for the event for the beginners was a great one for sure. I think it also helped to spread the news about the system and I am told that more and more people are buying the rules. Let's hope that all of them are going to like the rules and will add to the pool of players who play regularly. It will also be interesting to know what armies are going to be chosen. From my own point of view I already know about potential Romans, Parthians or Gallic/Galatian Tribes and Carthaginians. All of them are from the same historical period as Seleucids so that is definitely great news!

Mortem et Gloriam - First Impressions

I must confess that after I read the rules (which was done over many evenings as I tried to read them chapter by chapter rather than in one go) I was not yet convinced I want to play that game. The reason is that while the aim was to provide a relatively straightforward set to learn, many things were new to me and looked a bit overwhelming. 

But at the same time it made even more sense to me to attend the event and play a game or two in order to see how these rules work in practice. In general, I liked the novelty of the system and I could engage in the game even with limited knowledge of the rules. There is a lot for me to learn before I can feel comfortable with the system. However, the experience was definitely positive and I decided to start building a proper army in 15mm. 

In the meantime, I decided to talk a bit more about the game to share more of my first impressions and to see if I actually got the rules right. 

1. Pre-battle

1.1 Terrain

I heard about this concept before I even started reading the rules. My brother played the game before me and I got his description about that stage. It sounded very interesting so when it was my time to learn the rules and play the game I was intrigued to see what impact it may have.

It certainly requires some knowledge of your own army and the opposing force in order to decide what would be the ideal stage for the battle to come. It was obviously not possible for me to know that in my first games. But what I learned was that even if I choose Plains as it is designated terrain type for my army, I may still end up with some terrain features on the battlefield. At the same time, although it seems some of the units I have such as Phalangites or Line Cavalry may prefer open ground to fight on, it does not mean I may not need some terrain to use either.

In the future I would like to learn how to establish the following:
1. What is the good terrain set up for my army to fight on?
2. How to use that in order to limit the efficiency of the enemy force?
3. If I am the Defender and can choose type of the battle field - which one should I choose?
4. How to play the cards in order to get to the terrain type I want?

Another interesting thing I noticed is that even if I can get to the battle field type of my choice, the placement of the terrain pieces is not completely under my control. Yes, I can sometimes choose pieces of terrain to place but the location is determined by the roll of the dice to some extend (left, center, right). It can also be moved or even completely removed by my opponent! 

Hence, in addition to the above, to learn how to place the terrain to the advantage of my army and disadvantage of my enemy is a very important thing to achieve. While it didn't not seem to have a dramatic effect on the flow of my first games,  the rules suggest that terrain heavily impacts movement and fighting abilities of the units. 

1.2 Out-scouting

Another aspect of the pre-battle system is Out-scouting. This was very interesting too because it is partially determined in the army list building. The number of cards one has depends on how many Skirmishing units are there in the force. Hence, it may be a good idea to add at least some of them. 

Without much prior knowledge I followed the advice of more a experienced player and had 3 SuG's that gave me 2 cards for that phase of the game. Interestingly, it was enough to out-scout the enemy in both games and force both attackers to deploy their first 3 TuG's before me (it was scaled down from usual 4 minimum due to smaller size games). 

Unfortunately, I was not prepared yet to use it to my advantage but for the future games I would need to know:
1. How to deploy if I am out-scouted?
2. Shall I design the army with more Skirmishers and if yes, what could be a good proportion of TuG's to SuG's in the Seleucid army?
3. If I happen to out-scout the enemy, how to use it to my advantage?

In any case, it was very interesting to experience Pre-battle system and I think it makes the game more interesting. Ideally, I would like to be able to play on the battle field with some terrain features for both, visual and practical benefits in the game.

2. The Battle

There is a specific turn sequence to conduct the battle but both players perform actions alternately. I will go through each of them in the order they are performed in the game.

2.1 Card Phase

In general, card system is used to prompt actions. Each card has a different color and as a rule the player needs to play the card of the particular color to perofm an action. What color is needed for particular action depends on how difficult the action is (taking into account various factors, e.g. the same action may be more difficult to execute in terrain than in the open) and how well trained the unit that receives the order is.

Sample cards from the official deck.

The number of cards depends on the quality and number of commanders. For example, I had two Competent and one Mediocre commanders. At the beginning of every turn I was dealt three cards per each Competent and two for Mediocre commanders. Total of eight cards for different types of actions in each turn.

Hence, the quality of the commander does not affect the difficulty level of the action but can help to get the right card to do so. In the tournament, due to the fact we played at 7000 points, the maximum number of commanders was three. In bigger games it can be up to four.

I came to the conclusion that having the right balance between number and/or quality of the commanders and the number and/or quality of units is very important when designing the composition of the army. The one it was suggested to me for this event was very good because I did not feel outnumbered much and did not have the situation when I could not really perform any action due to lack of cards. However, I expect that it was also due to the fact I did not reach more intense fighting stage of the game to need more cards for the actions I had to perform. I imagine that, especially at higher points, there will be situations where the player needs to choose which action to perform due to the limited number of cards and perhaps not the ones that allow complicated maneuvers.

2.3 Charge Phase

Although this phase comes first in the turn, right after the cards are dealt, it is not usually the first type of action units would take. After all, they start further apart and need to maneuver to get to the positions.

However, I would like to talk about this phase now and share some impressions I had.

Players declare the charges alternately, starting with the active player for that turn but interestingly, they do not move the units yet. Because of that, both players have the knowledge of potential directions of the attack but the order in which these are executed and resolved remains to be decided. It is very dynamic process and it was interesting to observe how the scenarios are being played out. For example, it happened that despite the fact that units declared charges, some of them were attacked before they could move and hit their chosen enemies.

There also seem to be quite a number of options on how to move files and individual bases for the best effect. But we did not have enough opportunities yet to test many options and learn what may be the best in particular situation. I also hope that it is not going to slow down the game play that much and with more experience it will go smoothly.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons from that phase was, however, that charging in itself may not necessarily be an advantage in terms of dealing damage to the enemy. In this phase we had an opportunity to learn how different colored dice affect the outcomes of the attack.

I quickly realized that attacking Superior TuG's with Average or Cavalry with Infantry, may not necessarily put me in a good spot to start with.  Before I elaborate, let me note that Mortem et Gloriam uses different colored dice that have different symbols on the sides. These symbols may mean special action if the unit has any, a wound or dead base to the enemy unit or a blank. Black dice is the worst (no option to kill the base), then white, green, yellow and red is the best. What kind of dice is used is determined by several factors, starting with the quality of the units fighting.

Mortem et Gloriam Dice

 Then I also noticed that different claims can cancel each other. For example (and to see if we calculated the claims correctly), in game two I charged Noble Cavalry that is Superior (+1) and has Short Spear (+1) with my Average Line Cavalry, that has Charging Lancer (+2). It means that both players roll Green Dice to do damage as no one could claim advantage. While not too bad, the Green Dice has 2 blank sides and I happened to roll that sometimes :)

Hence, the aim for the future will be to learn how to maneuver in such a way that units have all the advantages they can claim when they charge. And how to maximize these claims to get better dice than the opponent as that ensures that the damage will be done on the impact.

2.3 Shooting Phase

I must admit that in the first two games we did not have much of the shooting to deal with. First. my army and those of the opponents had only a handful of skirmishers that could potentially do some damage at the distance. And second, we did not quite make it happen that these units were in good positions to shoot either.

Hence, I will skip this phase as I do not have much of an experience with it at the moment. However, I hope to change that in my future games, especially with bigger armies and bring in some archers, both on foot and mounted.

2.4 Movement Phase

One of the main elements of the game I wanted to learn at the event is simply how to move my units so that they are in the right place at the right time. As majority of TuG's I had in the army are Drilled it means that they should be able to execute the orders easier. However, I still needed some experience to see how far and how quickly each of them can perform certain action.

I started using Block Moves a lot in order to move 3 units at the same time. It is useful and the number of TuG's a commander can order to move as a block depends on his quality. It is, perhaps, another important factor to consider for the future as I may need a better commander than Competent in order to move 3+ units as a block.

I also noted that I keep adding the commander to the unit in order to be able to upgrade the card and prompt the move.  I don't think it will be always necessary. In addition, sometimes I had to use a card that would allow more complicated maneuver than the one I wanted to execute. Simply because I didn't have any worse left!

There are 15 possible types of moves but not all of them are available for every unit in the game. At the beginning it was difficult to decide what kind of movement (if at all) I want to execute but I think the first two games allowed me to quickly learn how to maneuver.

I find this phase very important because where you finish the maneuvering of your units is going to determine if you have an opportunity to attack in the next turn. Again, alternating the moves creates some dynamics and deciding whom to move first may both, create and limit movement options for the enemy and other friendly units.

2.5 Fighting Phase

This was one of the novelties for me that one unit can fight twice in the same turn. First, during the Charging Phase and then during the Fighting Phase.

The interesting part is that the player may use cards to prompt actions in this phase. One of the options is to turn the base 90/180 degree and deny flank/rear attack bonus.

In addition, the dice each player would use can change too as certain claims are available only in the charge phase and not in the fighting phase. I found it important to be able to predict then not only what the result of the fight may be but when it may be resolved. 

We have not reached the stage when units start breaking yet so it will be interesting to see how that affects the situation on the battle field.

2.6 End of Turn Phase

What I learned about this phase is that one can recover wounds. It is not easy because the cards needed to perform that action have to be really good. I expect that in the stage of the battle where things are intense and there is a shortage of cards to prompt all the actions, that may be difficult to actually have anything spare in this phase.

However, it may equally be a game changer when that one recovered wound would result in TuG fighting longer and either hold the line or even break the opponent first.

3. Some Questions

I would like to use the opportunity and ask some questions, perhaps more experienced players would advise. There were a few situations that were not completely clear to me and while we played them in a certain way I would like to ask if that was correct.

First situation occurred when I completed the charge and it happened that the contact was made to the corner of enemy TuG with the center of my TuG consisting of two files (Fig. 1A). Because there was room for that we decided that each file can align to different edge (Fig. 1B). Is this a correct way to do it?

Corner to Corner charge (1A) and subsequent alignment (1B).

In this case both files of Line Cavalry could fight. However, when in a similar situation there was no room to align the files we kept them in place. And it was assumed that one file made contact, while the other was supporting, thus it did not fight during the charge phase. Is that correct?

After thinking about this situation I came to the conclusion that it is better to make contact with just one file and then use the rule on page 47 in 6.3 called Pressed Forward. Once the contact is made any file can be moved up to 1BW to contact the enemy too.

One file made contact (2A) and the other Presses Forward (2B).

It looks to me as a cleaner situation as both files can fight and they are not breaking contact with each other.

Second question is related to the situation where the TuG is engaged in combat but not all files are engaged. During the game I thought I cannot move any files but according to the Universal Rule 10 on page 45, any not engaged file may charge target that is within to 1 Base Width.

One file of each TuG is engaged (3A). Two, not engaged files of the Phalangites now charge to the flank of the cavalry (3B).

I wonder if that would be the correct way to play. If yes, then while the files that were not engaged in the fight are now charging the flank, they would not get the bonus claim for charging flank because they did not start that maneuver from beyond the front edge line of the enemy TuG. But still, more attacks for the infantry.

4. What Next?

Well, first of all I must say that I had great experiences during the event and my first games so I definitely want to continue playing with Mortem et Gloriam. A lot of rules make sense now and I can at least try to understand how they supposed to work.

My initial plan was to start replacing the units I made out of 10mm miniatures with 15mm ones. However, there is a new tournament coming in July and this time it is going to be 10000 points over two days (4 battles total). It means that I need to expand my existing force.

Because I don't think I would be able to replace the models and at the same time expand to bigger army, I would prefer to keep the 7000 core and add to it. I think in this way I should be able to upgrade the army quicker and have the force ready for the event. Here is the army list for the reference:

7000 points  - the core of the army.

However, there are still decisions I have to make about the army and these are:

1. Should I upgrade my commanders? If yes, to what level?

I assume I will add one more to have 4 commanders in total but I have not yet decided what would be their respective types.

2. Should I upgrade the units?

I can upgrade the units in two ways. Some of them can have more bases, for example Line Cavalry may have 6 bases per TuG and that may be a good idea to give them extra staying power as well as more dice in combat if they can engage with all files.

I can also upgrade the units to Superior. For example, Line Cavalry can upgraded like that. I can have another TuG of Argyraspides too.

Potentially, I can also do both, i.e. upgrade Line Cavalry to Superior and add more bases for the unit. The question is, what would be the good balance?

3. Which units to add?

I have not checked that yet but I assume that even if I added one more commander, upgraded them, increased the size of Line Cavalry to 6 bases each and upgraded it to Superior, I would still need to add more units to reach 10000 points.

Perhaps it is a better idea to start adding more units first and upgrade them only if there are points for it. This has the disadvantage of needing to add more models which I may not have at this stage.  It is possible I may be able to acquire them in time but still, this is something I need to consider.

And of course, the question is, what to add? The faction of Seleucids is quite versatile in the choice of units (one of the reasons I chose them) so I can pick quite different elements.

While trying to find answers to all these questions I decided to start painting new models.  I was lucky to get enough Xyston Argyraspides from Olympian Games to form one TuG of elite phalanx. I really enjoyed painting first models and I have just completed first two bases:

Argyraspides - 2 done, 6 to go!

Well, that was quite a long post but I think it shows that the new game got me really interested. I hope I will be able to get some games soon and in the meantime, I will keep painting. There is a chance I may get some more cavalry soon too!

Thank you very much for reading!

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