Monday, March 23, 2015

Never Ending Knights

It's been almost a month since I started this group of Garrison knights and sergeants. They hit a near perfect wave of obstacles ranging from the minor things like repeated calls for physical labour during my best painting light hours and the resulting tiredness in the evenings to major things like having trouble choosing the colours and heraldry and not liking the 1st attempts to an odd reluctance on the part of the figures to accept paint graciously, something I experience now and then. (Cynics might suggest the problem is actually to do with how tired or distracted the painter is.)

In any event they have been bypassed several times while I worked on something else but after having a fairly relaxing day with a game and only 2 hours of snow clearance I decided to force finish them before they got quietly put away unfinished for ever. Luckily gloss varnish hides a multitude of sins.

Sir Daniel Lichen and Sir Edward Longbottom and 2 henchmen almost ready for battle.
When I started in on them, they were going to be a 4 figure unit on unarmoured horses. They would serve as a supporting unit for the Earl of Cowcross or as medium cavalry if needed. Sir Daniel just seemed to need a barded horse though, and possibly a front row seat. Then, the more I thought about it, the less likely it seemed to me that the sergeants and lesser knights and other men at arms would be serving in separate units. It seemed more likely that they should be permanently attached as a 2nd rank to the great lords and knights on their barded horses leaving it to mounted crossbowmen and some sort of border horse to form the light or medium cavalry.

Then I changed the grid size........

My existing and in progress units were designed as 2 stand units to fit a 4" grid. They look a little lost on the 6" grid so either bigger stands or more of them are called for. Either way will allow me to use more figures without making the games bigger, longer or more complex but if I go for more bases I can also add more depth to the units without adding complexity.

So now the plan is to convert the existing partially built armies to a smaller number of larger units, 6 stands if heavy, 3 if light. Since most of the units are not uniformed its mostly a matter of shuffling but, this just might mean "having" to buy more figures.......

Monday, March 2, 2015

Army of the Midlands: The King's Rangers

Few men now inhabit the forests and plains that were once the heartland of the ancient kingdom of Valdur. Wars and waves of invaders have turned it into a wilderness battleground. The very site of the Royal Seat, a fortress perched high on a hill, has been lost but Dunklerne is not forgotten  and the lands along the river, reaching from the mountain to the sea are not called the "Northern Border" but "the King's Hold" and it is guarded not by levies but by troops of the King's Household.
King's Rangers of the Hold Guard or the Green Jacks as they are known in the taverns.
Garrison 25mm.

It says something about history and perceived threats that while the primary responsibility for the Eastern and Western borders of the Midlands lies with the feudal lords and their retainers and tenants,  the Northern Borders are guarded by full time, paid, garrisons even though it has been a generation since the last incursion by the Riders of the Northern Federation.

The lands to the West were once the founding nations of the Great Kingdom of Valdur and the descendants of those ancients may boast of the past in from their wild strongholds but they pose no real threat to the Midlands. To the East there have always been enemies and while the fortunes of war have ebbed and flowed over the centuries, invasions from the East have always drained away in the end.

To the North however, there once stood the Kingdom of Dale. Here the ancestors of the Midland nobles first set foot on the Continent and carved a home for themselves. From there they first fought against and then for the Valdurian Queen and then became more and more apart of that Kingdom until in the end, they made it their own. It was long years thereafter that a new wave of invaders came over land from the East and joining with rebellious Valdurian tribes and Nobles who resented still the Dalish newcomers. Together with the men of the west they tore the Kingdom apart.

In times of plenty relations are good between the Midlands and the North and trade flows across the mountains but when the winters grow cold, the summers dry and the harvest fails, then raiders cross the border again instead of merchant caravans and so the King has tasked Sir John and his Black Company to hold the Great Pass and along the North West frontier he has built posts and filled them with soldiers. The posts themselves are held largely by infantry but horsemen are needed to patrol the lands between the posts. At first these were lancers, sometimes accompanied by a few archers mounted on old nags but as the crossbow evolved and was imported from the Empire, a new soldier appeared. This is the Mounted Crossbowmen trained to shoot from horse back or to charge sword in hand when the situation calls for it, In peace they patrol the borders, in times of war they act as scouts and flankers supporting the Knights, spearmen and foot archers of the main battle line.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A New Gathering

Its been a struggle but the new version of Gathering of Hosts is available from the link to the left 
(or here). The rules are actually fairly close to what I have been using since 2013 but the wording and how things are presented have changed as was determined on last fall.

Habit and expectation initially had me following a conventional approach of defining troop types and having charts for movement, shooting and so on. This works just fine, especially if working with a fairly small number of known troop types but it does get your mind into a certain set when someone says "Peltast" and you think "Reg C LMI w javelin, lts and shield" and since I have been trying to imagine the armies that I am describing as I go, well the writing was getting to be excessive to fit in each change in imaging for very little return and attempts to predefine the building blocks was restrictive unless simple was to be left very far behind.

Here is the last of the 3 games, the smallest (6 units each vs the 9 used earlier) and the fastest, most exciting, with the highest tension and a last minute upset Westman victory largely due to their use of speed and their ability to move through woods to keep melee and missile fire to a minimum. It was extremely close though, several Westlands units escaped when 1 hit away from destruction.  Honours of the Game though went to the new unit of Midlish Mounted Crossbowmen who almost won the game single handedly. More on them in a later post.

So, in a series of small games I experimented with various options to make the game easier to describe and customize from counting noses to having up to 4 single stand units allowed to form temporary groups to, well more things than I care to remember and recount. I finally settled for some old simple ideas with fixed units 1 to a grid area but instead of defining any generic troop types I just described each of the units that I intend to build and added special unit rules that apply just to them. (A touch of WHAB I suppose) It didn't take long to find that some special rules could be cut and pasted in for various similar units in various armies which will simplify gaming but I have skipped the bit where I explain what it represents and why the unit has it. This sort of thing will be added to illustrated army lists over the next year, along with personalities and potted history. One page per army. 

But that's for the future. There is painting and basing to be done before I play again!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Race to the Fords Pt 1.

At last winter has eased up enough for me to get a small Gathering of Hosts game on the table. Looking at the leftover scenery I decided to go for a raiding party of Men of the West trying to slip past the Midlish border lords.

The Men of the West,  nicely organized by the dice, make a dash for the fords.

I've been thinking about how many or how few troop types I want to deal with and come to the conclusion that I want fewer and as proposed last year I have begun to rewrite the rules specifically for what I am doing in this campaign. With that in mind the forces used were:

Raiding Party:
General: The Witch Morgana, Mistress of the Mist. She is accompanied by a sole Heroic Bodyguard and is not a unit. She does not fight in battle if attached to a unit but the Dragon's Breath mist that she can summon will provide cover for the unit against shooting and in melee.
3 units of light cavalry lancers
6 units of unarmoured light infantry including some archers and swordsmen. I diced for each unit to see which edge square they began on.

The Midlish border village contained a unit of billmen and a unit of light infantry archers.

There were 2 converging Midlish columns rushing to cut off and punish the raiders but both ended up coming on the same road.

The Black Company: Subgeneral unit of knights, unit of lancers and unit of crossbowmen.

The Earl of Cowcross: General with unit of knights, unit of lancers and 2 units of light infantry archers.

More to come in a day or so along with a link to the rules as played.

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.