Thursday, 29 January 2009

Polemos:GNW - Second Impressions

Following our first game of Polemos (see post dated 25 January 2009), I asked a couple of questions about the rules on the Polemos Yahoo Group. These were answered very quickly by Nick Dorrell, the rules' author, so full marks for support of the rules and a big thank you to Nick. I have now re-read the rules and they make much more sense with a game under my belt; it is much easier to see how the rules fit together and how the various parts interact. So, with all this behind us, Steve and I set to and played another game. This time we played an attack/defence game. Steve took the Saxons again, defending the small town of Nieder Kurzhosen, which is rumoured to be situated near Cleethorpes. I took the Swedes in a bid to drive the Saxons from the field.

The Scenario
The Saxon garrison of Nieder Kurzhosen has sallied forth from the town in an attempt to drive off the Swedish advance guard. They are afraid that the Swedes will be able to cut communications to the Saxon main army if left unchallenged, so sitting out a siege in the town with its poorly maintained defences is not an option. The Swedes wish to drive the Saxons from the field and sack the town because they are badly in need of the local schnapps, which drink is famous throughout the country.
The Game
In a bid to speed up the game, and taking our cue from the rules, the Saxons set up in their half of the board, while the Swedes were allowed to set up within 1' of their base edge. This meant that the two armies would start about 5 Base Widths (BW) apart. The Base Width is the basic unit of measurement in Polemos: GNW. My Baccus 6mm GNW figures are based on 60mm x 30mm bases so 1BW is 60mm. The table was 4' x 3'. The figures were deployed as shown in the picture below: The progress of the game was simple. We had two hours in which to play the game and managed seven turns. The Saxon infantry occupied earthworks in front of the town and stayed there for most of the game. Only one infantry battalion ventured forth to fire on the Swedish cavalry and that was both late in the game and ineffective. The Swedish infantry were assailed by the Saxon cavalry over on the Swedish left flank in a ding dong battle that saw first one Saxon cavalry unit routing and then a breakthrough by the Saxon second line that routed a Swedish infantry unit. Overall this fighting was inconclusive and honours were about even. On the Swedish right flank all of the Swedish cavalry assailed the Saxon dragoons and drove them from the field in the end. Typically, I had managed to give my worst commander command of my best cavalry, so their progress towards the fight was slower than might have been desirable. The following pictures were each taken at the end of a turn and hopefully should give you a taste of the flow of the battle (More pictures from this game may be found in my Photobucket account).

This game flowed much better than the last one. We achieved roughly the same result in half the time. Issues that were not covered in the rules still cropped up but we were able to work out our own solutions to them until I could ask about them on the Polemos yahoo group. All of my questions so far have been answered very quickly and I would commend Nick on his customer service in that regard. We still think that the game needs a better QRS, but other than that, it plays well and is worth checking out if you enjoy this fascinating period of history when Sweden was a great power.
The game itself felt about right for the period, although I would quite like to see the infantry getting stuck in more. Cavalry seem to dominate because of their extra movement. Command and control is key to winning the game and it is very easy for your commands to become disrupted. It then takes a while to reform them, or, if you have more pressing things to do with your tempo points, your errant troops will just sit there until charged or night falls. This emphasis on command and control really makes the game for us.

So, what does this mean for the game. Well, we enjoyed the game more now that we had clarified a couple of issues. The learning curve is steep but has been worth the climb for us. The down side is that our usual gaming slot is about 2-3 hours so even a small battle of Polemos is unlikely to be completed during one of our usual gaming sessions. We shall certainly play Polemos again because the look and feel of the game work for us but we shall need to allow more time, especially if we try a larger game.

Both armies used in this game are Baccus 6mm starter armies. Baccus are linked from the sidebar if you want to investigate further. They also produce and sell the Polemos rules, which were used in this game.

If you are interested in the Great Northern War, I would recommend reading Voltaire's Life of Charles XII (the Everyman edition is good and usually fairly cheap secondhand) and Robert Frost's Northern Wars. The former should give you a good feel for the war from the Swedish perspective, while the latter is a drier but more informative history book. If you opt to buy either of these books, please use the links above because clicking through the Amazon link at the top of the page will help support my thrifty gaming project. Thank you.

Other sites you may find useful are:
Dan Schorr's Northern Wars site. This site keeps running out of bandwidth so get in early in the month. It has many useful pdf files about the period and is probably the most useful site for the period that you will find online.
Nick Dorrell's Great Northern War site has other information and links to other sites too. This is also an excellent site that neatly complements Dan's site.

1 comment:

  1. The game of Polemos GNW went much better this week. The rules seemed to flow much better, although the quick reference sheet is still a little confusing. At least this week I managed to drive one unit from the field, but did rather foolishly lose one of my generals and thereby spent the rest of the game at a severe disadvantage on the left. In future Polemos will have to either be played on a Saturday or over a couple of weeks. The next set of rules we will be trying for the Great Northern War is Volley and Bayonet.

    Before that we'll be trying Warrior Heroes:Armies and Adventures, my Brethren are just about finished now.