ADEPTICON 2012 – Until Next Year!

Well Adepticon 2012 has come and gone.  I must say that as always it was a fun event.  For those of you out there that love WAB as much as I do this is the one event to the year that no one should miss.

With 3 full days of WAB events, no one should have left un-WAB-satisfied.  The Friday night Prince’s Crusade was a big hit and enjoyed by all who participated.  With a minor win for the forces of Saladin, I was glad to have been one of Mike Butcher’s Berber vassals.

The Saturday individual tournament was as always a blast, but hard-fought as always.  The 3 game format, organized by Rich Nelson was a new twist on the 20 battle point format.  Each scenario had three distinct elements which lead to the accumulation of battle points which were kept in a running total for the championship.  Well with 2 wins and a 3rd-round loss, I was pushing the dead-middle of the overall standings.

Rather than duplicate his efforts here, Mike Butcher took some great pictures and has a review of all 3 days of events, so check it out on his blog, The Butcher’s Bill.

Sunday-the Team Tournament, I wish I could say more or have a better excuse, but either through misunderstanding or staying out too late the night before (or both) my team partner (Alexander Akers) and I missed the first game of the team tournament.  So, while we could have played the remaining 2 games, we went and had lunch and watched the Cubs/Reds game.  I will make sure I don’t miss it again next year.  Watch your back Mike Butcher and Shawn Welte!

Team Painting with Dean Motoyama.

Well last week Dean helped me finish some skirmish cavalry for my Macedonian army.  Dean did the detail on the horses manes, tails, hooves, bridles and the heads of the riders.  It was a total production line system, but the time crunch for Adepticon was pressing.

The second picture is of the Cretan archers that I added to my army this year.  I normally don’t like paying 14 points per model, but included them in my list to help bulk out my missile troops.  Everything was dipped with ARMY PAINTER strong tone.

I just wanted to say thanks to Dean and well I am off to Adepticon.  See you all next week.

What Do I Know?…A Question About Spears

Occasionally, as the host of the Historical Wargames Podcast, I get a question which is extremely thoughtful and/or thought provoking.  Sometimes, I might have an answer and sometimes I have no clue.  It was a recent question that really made me chuckle to myself, but I figured was worth taking some time and answering:

I listen to your podcast and know you know everything about WAB, but I want to know whether heavy throwing spears or thrusting spears are better for my Late Imperial Roman Army.  You put yourself out as a so-called master, so I am coming to you for advice. – Phil

Well, I don’t know if Phil was being courteous or a smart-ass (I am leaning towards the later), but here are my thoughts on the issue.  It really comes down to analyzing the pros and cons of each weapon when designing your army with your own style of play in mind.  Since cavalry can’t have heavy throwing spears, I will stay on topic in regards to infantry only.

The heavy throwing spear (HTS) is most often characterized as the pilum in WAB.  I often refer to the HTS as a one hit wonder, due to it’s initial damage and usage in 2 ranks (when charging or being charged).   On average against a T3 target, a HTS will wound 66% of the time, and against a 4+ armor save, will only be saved against 66% of the time.  So typically, a model will hit 50% of the time (against WS3 & WS4).  So a few math-hammer* calculations later and against a WS3 or 4, T3, armor save nil or 6+ opponent, the HTS will hit, wound and kill 33% of the time.  Even against the normally impressive armor save of 4+, and everything else the same, the HTS will kill 22% of the time…which is not bad.  But that is also the HTS’s weakness, it only lasts for ONE round.  Then both the strength and additional attacks from the second ranks end.  It is not unlike a boxer who leads off with a devastating upper-cut and must follow-up with modest jabs to the body.  It is a flexible weapon and very good against high armor save opponents, but against stubborn troops can be very disappointing, who weather the initial hit (and massive casualties), and do not break.  It has the added bonus against warbands that it allows for high combat resolution which normally grants the win in the first round of combat and thus nullifying the auto-break rule.

The thrusting spear (which I just call spear), is normally not as spectacular as the HTS.  The spear does have it’s own strengths.  When being charged or in ROUND TWO (or after) combats the spear retains the ability to fight in two ranks, which can effectively double (or better) the number of attacks going at your enemy when compared to the HTS (after round one).  So, a few math-hammer calculations later, against the same WS3, T3, AS 6+ opponent, the spear will nominally kill 21% of the time and only 13% of the time vs. a 4+ armor save.  The weakness of the spear is that when charging only the front rank can attack which limits the initially hitting power of the weapon, unless of course the unit has the phalanx or offensive spearmen special rules.  So, remaining with the boxing analogy, the spear is initially (during a charge) like a weak left hand, but followed up with twice as many body blows as the boxer referenced above.   The spear does well for defensive players who often find themselves battling enemies not easily broken or stubborn and will typically find combats lasting for more than one round.   While not typically as effective against warbands, the spear is a good defensive weapon which allows for good combat result generation throughout and entire combat.

So it comes down to playing style, a typically defensive player may want to look towards the humble spear, while a more aggressive player may want to apply the heavy throwing spear.   In my own Late Imperial Roman Army, I actually use a combination of spears and HTS to maximize my flexibility on the battlefield.   So Phil, in closing I would take both…for the reasons discussed above and balanced by my own generalship style.

*=math-hammer, a bunch of bullshit statistics with which players try to determine the outcome of games…

Persian Bolt-Thrower Madness!

Yesterday, I was hanging out with a couple buddies of mine who are Wargaming Enthusiasts.   In some circles, particularly 40k and Fantasy, they have been called ‘beardy’.  So I tend to approach their army lists with a little bit of skepticism and I should have known better when Dan purchased 3 boxes of Warlord Games Scorpion Batteries.  So Dan and Steve start their game.

Steve was playing his EIR, with 2 heavy bolt-throwers and a stone thrower, which is a typical build for him.  Dan on the other hand has been building a Later Achaemenid Persian army, I knew he had purchased the bolt-throwers but what I saw on the table was monstrous.  In his 2500 point army list, he had included 7 bolt-throwers.  My initial thoughts were that the list was unbalanced and pretty WAAC (win at all costs).  It was as the game progressed that I realized that the 7 bolt-throwers (arranged into 3 batteries) were less effective than the stone thrower (by itself).  It came down to the fact that Steve is a master of guess range weapons, while Dan had to rely on dice.  Don’t get me wrong, the bolt-throwers did wipe out a unit of legionnaires by themselves, but in the end it was a solid win for the Romans, who prevailed against 7 bolt-throwers and over 125 bow armed models.  I initially thought the Later Persian army list in Armies of Antiquity 2 had a large whole in it with the amount of bolt-throwers which could be included, those thoughts have been dispelled.

The important point was their game was average, with average dice rolls and expected combat results.  The 2 units of legionnaires which reached the massed Kardakes, mopped them up without much effort, once the army began to break, it became a rapid disintegration.  It was a great game and both guys are top notch players, I am glad I have seen the Persian Bolt-Thrower Madness in action and now know it is much more bark than bite.