Thursday, January 1, 2015

The battle of Two (small) Armies

I did manage to squeeze in the remainder of the battle yesterday before trundling off to watch the final Hobbit, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite myself. Kudos to all involved!

But back to the game.

When laying out the troops I put on my Turanian hat and thought: "not sure yet what they're going to do but my Hillmen and Slingers are the only troops  any good on that steep hill so I'll put them there, my infantry to hold the road and see there are any openings for my cavalry on my right where its open".

Then I crossed the river and put on my Great Helm, thinking "the infantry is too slow to do anything but hey diddle diddle but there has to be something beyond a frontal charge. He won't expect, knights to try going over the mountain but I'll send archers over and the cavalry around it. A job for the Black Company. The rest of the archers and cavalry will just guard the open left flank though I don't really expect an attack".

The Turanians won initiative about 8 out of 10 turns starting at the start. They chose to let the attackers go first and then on the next turn grabbed a double move to put the enemy in harm's way (see picture in last post). Luckily the combat dice were less biased  and the first attack was shrugged off with losses on both sides.  It was evident though that the revised play sequence needed some better wording on when a unit can hit a flank and how/when they can react. I ended up using the "does this look right" rule alot.

After repulsing the initial Turanian attack, the Earl plunged across the river on the left and center which led to a lengthy melee with losses on both sides, including first the Turanian commander, Sala Mandar, and then the Earl. For reasons which escape me, rather than supporting the Turanian spears holding the ford, the elephants decided to advance across the river and try to distract the archers threatening the spear unit that had climbed the hill rather than be shot at anymore. In the center a unit of archers was steadfastly holding the bank. 

With both armies leaderless, things began to bog down but the Black Company finally managed to cross the ford only to be confronted by Turanian garrison cataphracts (the figures are just too old, battered, plain and dowdy looking to be nobles.) backed by hillmen taking cover in a patch of woods on the flank. It looked like a trap so the Black Company lowered lances and charged.

In the center things sputtered to a halt with Midland spears being recoiled by the archers while the Turanian spears were driven back from the bank. The spears attacking the steep hill were routed by the archers who then turned their bows on the elephant. The cavalry melee in the middle of the river stalled. With flanks open all over the place, casualties heavy and no one in charge, it was hard to see how it would all end.

Casualties were heavy but the Midlish spearmen hung in there and the archers eventually took care of their counterparts and the elephants breaking the enemy's morale. Honours of the day go to the Black Company whose knights and cavalry turned the flank while the crossbowmen not only shot up the enemy infantry but in the end drew swords and closed in on the flank of the elephants (ok they probably shot them point blank).

So that was it, the last game of 2014, and it left me eager to play another. But first some more figures to paint and gaps in OB's to fill.

Happy 2015 to all!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Preparing a Return Visit

Last winter the Great King of Kings sent his Turanian horsemen over the border into the midlands. The foray was repulsed but honour demanded a reply. Normally this should be the duty of the Warden of the East but the Warden is aged and the King has once again called upon the Earl of Cowcross.

The Warden of the West March marches East.
Prince Sala Mandur, Satrap of the Borderlands keeps a watchful eye on his neighbors though and is not easily caught unawares. A summons has gone out and the local nobles and garrison troops have gathered along the Great Road where it crosses the Little Phoam River.

Turanian infantry and Elephants.
I mentioned in passing in an  earlier blog post that I wanted to strip the rules down to just the troops and tactics used in this pseudo-campaign. I haven't quite got there yet but as I laid the troops out this afternoon I began to think seriously about and so the process has begun. 

Here is the battle laid out ready to begin. The river is a minor obstacle, hills with 2 contours are broken terrain. The little trees are purely ornamental, the bigger ones are woods. I need to work on some woods bases.

The defenders consist of 12 units: 2 of heavily armoured knights (cataphracts), 1 of armoured lance and bow cavalry, 3 light cavalry, 1 elephants, 2 spearmen, 2 archers/slingers light infantry (mercenary mountain tribesmen).

The attackers, oddly enough, also have 12 units, 2 heavily armoured knights, 2 armoured lancers, 4  lightly armoured archers (not sure yet what that means, the rules really only recognize 3 armour levels...) 4 armoured spearmen.

Two turns have been played, on the 2nd the Turanian general managed to pull a surprise counter attack on his opponent....and this in a solo game!
The game will continue tomorrow.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Northern Federation

Good Ol Santa, suitably bribed, came through with a last box of Garrisons. A few Midlish Hobilars, some peasant levies, reinforcements  for the Great King: cataphracts, clibinari and peasants, and some Hyrkanian horse archers.
The last of their kind.

There was the usual quiet chorus of burbling "yes....yes yes" until I hit the Hyrkanians and thought "Damn, I knew I should have ordered dozens!"

Of course I hadn't because I don't really want a whole army of Huns-by-any-other-name. I wanted some horse archers to flush out the Federation or Alliance of "Barbarians" in the north.
A variety of old Valdurians surrounding one of the new horse archers.

I haven't got the details sorted but the Federation exists to provide a home for a battered mix of Celtic/Saxon/Fantasy figures, primarily early Valdurians from my college days. I had started to think of a Gothic sort of army but then remembered my old Rohirrim horse archers that I had de-armoured. I'm also minding that I have Prince August molds for "barbarian" infantry as well as a few left over Valdurian Celts.

 So there we have the basis of the next player in the campaign. An army of Noble Heavy Cavalry backed by levies of warrior farmers,  horse archers and a handful of Valdurian tribesmen, driven into the mountains generations ago by waves of invaders.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Tunstall Tower Archers

I was going to wait till I had leisure to take some decent pictures during daylight hours but while I've been able to sneak a few moments to paint early in the morning or late at night,  leisure is a fleeting thing these days and I'm impatient so here we are.
Sir Daniel inspects the new recruits.
 Last week I added 7 or 8 new Westlands spearmen to bring me up to 2 double units. This week, upon returning from a visit to family,  I decided to paint up the Midlish Garrison  archers I got last year. The original idea was for them to be yeoman answering the call but the armour and tidy uniform look just screamed livery and this is mythical history so uniforms it was.

In one of my favorite books as a kid, the bad guy's troops wore his livery colours, Murrey and Blue. In college, I had a rather rich looking Minifig nobleman who has been wandering around for decades now with a trumpeter, drummer and 2 torchbearers  (there was a priest  but he appears to have gone off to some monastery). His entourage ended up in said Murrey and Blue even though the nobleman was a good guy who retired from exploring dungeons to play chess against his sword, I just liked the name and the colours.

So now he has a company of archers with billmen and lances on the way and a border tower to hold. Its becoming clear that professional garrisons hired by Lords, appointed by the King,  play an important role in the defence of the realm.

The newly augmented spears. Mostly Garrison but the officer with the big shield is a Partha Elf who has been waiting for nearly 40 years for some paint and a role to play.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mulling While I Gather

While laying out the troops for the last game I was reminded that I only had 3 out of the planned 4 Westmen spear units finished. Since the plan was to use 2 unit spearblocks this was a bit awkward but these things happen. The 8 new figures to finish the 4th spear unit are now primed and ready to go.

However, the shortage also led to another twist. In order to fill the table a bit more I had doubled the number of units. Before I put the game away, I went back and replayed it using the original smaller forces. To my dismay the game with fewer units was a little shorter but just as interesting. It would be easier to add depth to the rules without using rosters if the units were larger and using fewer larger units would keep the over all numbers the same.  However, bigger units would not fit inside the existing grid. It would call for multi square units or mega squares.   I had to stop and think a bit.

When I started working on the rules I was looking at classical ancient armies many of which had largish formal units. Now that I am looking at a fantasy medieval setting is that an appropriate approach? Looking at Robert E Howards novels it is, but looking at 12th to 15th C European armies, small companies grouped into large, hard to control blocks seem to be more typical. In either case the current version seems to allow too much tactical freedom.

I haven't  got much farther than that but rather than any fundamental changes I'm just going to add back some bonuses for large multi-unit infantry blocks and leave the cavalry and skirmishers alone. The hardcharging barbarian (sic) light infantry need more thought.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Awakening the Hosts

By the time I had 1/2 the units laid out on the table the main question was answered. The Great & Shiny War has not eclipsed all other hobby interests. Phew!

However, I can also confirm confidently that my days as an Historical Ancients Wargamer are over. Oh I'll still play when invited. As recently as Thursday I found myself playing a test game of DBA3 to my great surprise. They are as torturous and confusing to read as always but adapted to hexes, they provided an enjoyable game to my even greater surprise.  (There might be a future post on this) But playing when invited is not the same as building and maintaining armies and designing rules and scenarios.

Sir John Ravenswood and his Black Company led the column forward. At the sight of the somewhat disorganized Westlands army, he ordred the Van to deploy and led his knights forward in an attempt to sweep the enemy away before they could block the road with a solid hedge of spears. Unhorsed and wounded, his loyal knights covered him while his squire got him safely away to have his wounds treated. 

Nope, by the time I found myself Thursday knight painting Jupons onto some plate armoured early 16thC pikemen to help them fit in with the more usual 12th to 14th C ones to be found in a Midlish army, and found myself debating arms for what must be dismounted Lothian knights, it was clear that last year's decision was right. What I want is 1 fantasy/medieval setting for my  25mm Ancient/Medievals that I can explore and invent.

One outcome of this is that when rewriting the rules, I won't need generic potential troop types to cover 2,000 years, I can write troop capabilities and stats for a small/number of know units using the building blocks chosen. I am looking forward to this!

Both armies continue to deploy. The Earl of Cowcross decides on a push forward while the Woodland Queen leaves the Western spearmen to block the road while she sends her tribesmen to threaten the enemy's flank. 

Raids and counter raids are common on the Western Border of the Midlands so no backstory was required to replay this scenario with these armies. Since the advancing army is the only one with cavalry it seemed best to give that role to the Midlands. They are pressing forward intent on passing through the woods before dark. After all few Midlanders will willingly risk a night in a Western Wood. The westerners are gathering for a raid and with their cavalry off scouting, they have been caught napping. I made units roll an orders die to awaken but they were  up in a jiffy. The Midlish column on the other hand lagged.
The Earl took his time to organize the attack and ignored the flank threat beyond a minimal guard. The Westerners had few forces which could stand up to a frontal assault but honour demanded that they try. 

It was nip and tuck at times with the advantage shifting and I'm afraid I was guilty of neglecting duties by the time it was due but it was enough fun that I played again on Saturday. That game had a different start with the Black Company riding down 2 units of Spearmen but despite my midgame opinion that the Westerners had no hope, once again they held at the end. The turning point was the repeated refusal of the Lothian spearmen to advance. Since they made up 1/3 of the Midland army, it deprived the Earl of the men needed to exploit the lack of close combat troops in the enemy army. I wonder about potential political fall out.
The clash of spears was long and bloody as expected but when the Earl and his Household swept down the hill towards the Queen with her big cats and Amazon guards, he expected to sweep them aside. Instead, the heavy halbards of the burly guardswomen cut down the knights despite heavy losses due to their lack of armour (not to mention clothes). When the dust settled the wounded Earl was dragged back to his army  while the Queen's cat crouched spitting over her bloodied form. As soon as the Midlanders were well on the road, the Westmen faded back through the woods to bind their wounds and sing songs of victory about another invasion halted.  

The partially rewritten draft  is available but probably not worth looking at yet. To summarize, I have decided on dicing for initiative each turn with a sequence of A moves, B shoots, melee. reverse and repeat.  After an experiment with going back to counting noses for combat and casualties highlighted the non-viability of 4 man cavalry units I have gone back to stands having a set number of dice and hits. A bit Rough Wooing ish actually but it works. There should be a better and longer draft by the end of the month.

Before I end, this is the 1st time that the late John Robertson's Amazons have appeared in a game on my table (see so here's a shout out to Tim and to  John's memory.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Border Suprise

A Midlands army hurries down the road, hoping to pass through the Forest before night.
Unbeknownst to the Midlanders, a force of Westmen has passed through the woods and is camped in a gulley.
It felt like time to get the 25mm Ancients/Medievals out. Since the table was all set with a suitable scenario, I went with it. The prescribed armies looked a little thin on the ground so I decided to double them only to find that I did not have enough Midland units refurbished and ready to go. A slight delay ensued but the game will continue on Saturday.