Monday, December 30, 2013

Border Skirmish

I didn't start this game with a well defined scenario in mind, just a rough idea, 2 partial armies that I wanted to get on the table and a set of rules to test. As I started pulling terrain out, the ideas slowly came together.
The defending Western forces were:
3 units of spearmen
1 unit of infantry
1 unit of archers
2 units of impetuous light infantry
1 unit of impetuous levy light infantry
2 units of skirmishes.
4 units of skirmishes and light infantry along with 4 dummies were hidden in various woods with neither side knowing which marker was which. The rest were in the palisaded village . Break Point 4.

The Midlish punitive expedition was composed of 2 units of cavalry one of which were Elite, heavily armoured knights, 2 units of archers, 1 of billmen (infantry) and 3 of spearmen.
Their rather ambitious mission was to capture the village by nightfall so that they could levy a contribution and be ready to head home before enemy reinforcements could arrive. Break point 3.

The Billmen, top,  far right are guarding the flank while the column presses on. A unit of light infantry has popped up behind the column and has just forced the archers to retreat.

The game started well enough with the Midlish column pushing ahead, archers in the lead, clearing dummy cards from several woods and being ambushed by skirmishers or light infantry from others. It didn't take long to halt the game for a rethink. Decisions still seemed too sudden and all the various charge bonuses and shooting nuances that were being tested weren't being matched by an equivalent control as to when things happened leading to counter charge and reaction rules and......this was where I broke for a think and tweak and came back, re-running the handful of shots and melees that had been done.The game felt better so I pushed on.

The redone melee did see the archers slightly more wounded but moments later a charge by the spearmen drove off the light infantry. (In the first go the light infantry had charged and wiped out the spearmen in one go due to a slightly over average roll.) In the distance, the Midlish army is struggling with poor command dice and an awkwardly placed wood. On top of the wood the West Folk are emerging and forming a battle line on top of the hill.

The game continued to flow well with the defending spearmen somewhat afraid to advance on to the plain and the attackers still struggling to get their force together while light troops harassed their infantry. At last the defenders got cheeky and charged some light troops in on the attacking infantry while moving the Islemen with their axes forward to stop the cavalry from interfering. It worked better than intended when the knights charged them and rolled one of the biggest handfuls of 1's and 2's I can remember seeing in a long time. The Islemen of course responded by rolling up.    
 Victory hangs in the balance. 
The loss markers were made up for Armati games in the late 90's.

Again the Midlish command rolls were low and most of their army was beyond command control was out of command making it hard to bring up reinforcements. They used the time to try and rally but shaken to the core apparently, the knights kept rolling 1 on their rally rolls despite being the General's body guard. Luckily for them the main body of infantry had driven off the light troops after a fierce and prolonged fight but the cavalry unit was suffering a slow trickle of losses to some very veteran skirmishers. 

At this point both armies were 1 loss away from breaking. Possibly the BP should have been a little higher but the game did last longer than I expected with lots of to and fro so maybe not, anyway, it is an optional rule in the event of no other victory conditions. It this case it was to capture the town by nightfall, I had just forgotten to say when that was!

Time to do or die, the cavalry charged the skirmishers carrying on into the spearmen while the knights charged the Islemen again. This time both melee's went as expected. The heavy cavalry did some damage but were eventually driven back while the Islemen were blown apart by the shock of the knight's charge. They retreated with 1 strength point remaining but pursuit was blocked by a fresh unit spearmen. The defenders made a good command roll, pulling back quickly into the palisade and the Earl suddenly noticed that the sun was setting. Letting the infantry straggle up out of command and taking time to rally too many troops too often had used up the day. 

It was time to go home before the woods got any darker.

The end of the day. Neither army quite defeated but the village not even attacked let alone taken and burnt.

So that's its for 2013.

  Happy New Year to all !

Look to see more Gathering of Hosts Medieval/Fantasy battles in the year ahead as well as more discussion on the thoughts behind the rules as they get  tried under fire and as I polish and add the fantasy supplement. 

Friday, December 27, 2013


The holiday is over, back to work! Well, maybe work isn't exactly the right word.
While still happy with the over all feel of Hosts, I had some nagging concerns about some aspects. The more I tried to address them, the worse they seemed to get. They seemed to be growing in complexity with more and more special cases without becoming more authentic or accurate and units seemed to be variously too fragile or too resilient.
After a break, I went back to the original requirements. Briefly:
Simple and abstract
Not showing tactical details
Missile fire to wear troops down not to be quickly decisive.
Melee to normally be a grind but with the chance of being quickly decisive.
The core issues seemed to resolve around the number of dice vs the number of hits that could be taken. The bits making me unhappy all stemmed primarily from this.
After deciding to restore melee as a simultaneous struggle (which feels more natural to me) rather than taking turns hitting, I started wondering about using the difference in scores and then had a sudden flash of inspiration to separate hits from strength point loss. After that, it became easy to bring it all back together and closer to the original vision. Neither of these concepts are particularly original but they seemed to be just what I needed.
There were a few other things such as reverting to 2 orders for remote units rather than the die roll. Its just easier and more integrated as well as keeping with the abstract for effect angle.
The rules are available here:
Current version of Gathering of Hosts
A report on the test game tomorrow .

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Coming up

I've run out of time but I have a game to report and some discussion on the rules to write up tomorrow .  All good.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Yuletide Greetings

A very safe and Merry Christmas to all my readers and their loved ones.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cold Trod

The Witch of the Woods brings word to Lord Alexander.

At last the Midland punitive expedition wades the Pfelt Burn and makes its way towards Caer Marachs. Their mission Is to take and burn the fortified border village .

A play test of Gathering of Hosts is bound to follow ere long. I confess that I have some doubts about the new melee mechanism where the number of dice drop as a unit takes hits but 1 game is not enough to settle the matter and despite misgivings, the system worked ok in the first test game. 

My clromebook had a nervous breakdown this morning so this I
is a trial post from her tablet. Please bear with me. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Midlish Muster

The Earl of Cowcross'n arrives to take command of a West March muster.
(Any resemblance between the Arms of the imaginary earl and those of the historical Earl of Oxford are purely due to copying the latter.)

A short while ago a Westland raiding party slipped through the Midlands and into the Imperial Pale. Imperial forces repulsed the attack  but the Ambassador to the Midlish court complained to the King about the increasingly frequent incursions that Midland seemed unable or unwilling to prevent. The implied threat was that if the Midlish could not defend their borders, the Empire would do so for them. 

The King of course protested that the raiders often traveled by sea over which HE claimed no jurisdiction and that the Midlish borders  WERE secure. None the less, a courier soon left the castle heading towards Cowcross'n, seat of the Earl of Cowcross'n, Warden of the West March and the next day a summons went out calling the border levies to a muster.   

The Midlish West March Muster.
A mix of Garrison knights, Revenge Men-at-Arms and Scottish spearmen, and various odds and ends including one of my favorite figures, an armoured axeman from Minfigs Alexander Nevsky range who has been commanding Valdurian or Scottish spearmen for decades without ever resting his axe.
There are roughly this many figures again including around 3 dozen new Garrison figures  and a variety of older figures waiting for repair and re-basing.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Legendary Lands Glimpsed through the Mists of Time

According to the myths and legends told around Midlish hearths, other peoples once lived in these lands. Ruled by great kings and warrior generals they fought epic wars and Kingdoms rose and fell. Word has it that after the fabled Draconian Wars ended, the Emperor gathered his Legio and his Comitatus and ventured Eastward over the sea to the far off land of his birth and that his scribes took with them the last full chronicle of the Time Before and that with his passing, fire and sword took the lands and darkness swallowed the past.
Every Scholar, Wiseman, or Mystic worth his salt has his own copy of a dusty, stained map of the Olde Lands, each sworn to be accurate and original, each different. Upon close inspection, this one appears to be not quite 40 years old and may be the work of the famous cartographer and historian, Simon, but the writing doesn't look authentic so it could be a copy.

To this day though, children, and old folk as well, still love hearing tales of the invasions by the tiny Dalriadans from the North, the 1/2 human hordes of savages from Wolfheim and the small but resilient Legions from far off Aquillia to the south and about how they were all defeated by the Warrior Queen Johanna and of how the shining Kingdom of Valdur arose and how it eventually fell and was lost so that today none can even say just where the great Royal Fortress of Dunklerne once stood.

Artists conception of Ancient Valdurian warriors finishing off a wounded Aquillian of the Legio Aerphix. The original Dalridian and Valdurian peoples were of similar small  stature before the Invasions and the Age of Metal.

In the Midlands, when the winter winds howl, the days grow short and cold and life looks bleak, the folk build up their hearth fires and remind themselves that the heroes of old do but sleep in a cave in the mountains and that one day, they will  come again and bring Peace and Prosperity to all.

If anyone wonders if I made the most of my class time at college, I offer up this evidence that I did!
(Depending on your point of View.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Knights in grey primer

The Midland knights (only 1/2 dressed ) with the Earl of Cowcross at their head .  Nothing like heraldry to remind one just how much one's eyes have deteriorated and how shaky ones hands have become.
These Garrison knights have such deliate detail and such natural draping that it was tempting to change my mind and shade and highlight them but I've never painted 'proper' toy knights so I will persevere and hopefully the reflection from the gloss finish will disguise the odd shaped stars and wobbly stripes.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Over the last 2 days I've been sorting out the miscellany of medieval Scots, organizing them into distinctive "regiments" and sticking them on the bases I bought a couple of years ago when I first started dabbling in a 10cm hex grid.

Interesting how memory and relativity can fool us. I thought there were more Scots spearmen than there are, it seemed like a lot 15 years ago when I organized them into 2 Armati armies to take to my 1st Cold Wars. Turns out there are only a little over 200 spearmen plus archers, cavalry, wee folk and the like, say 300 all told. I guess its because I never got into big armies of big units that it seemed like more.

Overview: Highlanders and skirmishers in front, the War of Liberation spearmen, archers and cavalry in the middle, Flodden era in the rear. 

Still, even leaving out the Flodden types there are enough enough for Bannockburn at 1:40 (depending on whose interpretation you use). All I would have to add is something like 300 English and that has long been the problem, I'm just not up for it. Hence the pondering of fictional, semi-historical and down right fantastical options.

After the other day's fantasy battle I was quite hepped up and started dividing the Scots into two or three fantasy armies and after all the Heritage figures that are taken from the illustrations in the old Almark Flodden book were marketed as fantasy troops and the 80 or so of them plus 60 Garrison spearmen and highlanders made up the core of the improved Valdurian army that won such great victories in 1976/77.  However, once I got to sorting, it started feeling like a shame to lose the ability to do an historical as well as fantasy version of the army and I started having concerns about internal consistency and back stories. I also remembered that the giant bear was really too big - twice the size of an elephant and anyway I had promised him to the 40mm Prince Valiant guys as a giant bear/monster.

Once I finish touch ups, replacing missing spears etc and paint bases, I'll grab the real camera and take some close ups of the units.

I don't really want to fight Stirling Bridge, Falkirk and Bannockburn over and over, let along all those later disasters,  and daring surprise escalades of castles, ambushes and cattle raids really cry out for individual figures and a different troop mix than pitched battles. A pseudo historical campaign seemed like a  good idea but its a lot of work to do it right and there are still many constrictions.

Since I am not ready to convert the armies to outright fantasy, the obvious direction is the old fashioned fictional world using historical armies with fantasy elements over laid on it, even perhaps  some non-human units at some point. At this point it behooves me to acknowledge that I already have an ancient one started, should I start a second, medieval one? Or should I be a bit more Howardian and just add them all together?   Actually I'm not really keen on the Macedonian Successor part except that it is there, it was the vaguely Sassinds and Skythians that I wanted along with all the various Dark Age/Ancient Celtic/Germanic troops. Looking at the mix of clothing, armour, weapons and tactics  that could be found on the fringes of late Medieval Europe,  I think I can make it all fit.

The Five Kingdoms of Cliche.

  • The Empire. Off to the south east, frontier forces with armoured lancers, unarmoured archers, conscripts, elephants and other foul creatures.
  • The Barbarians. A horde of allied tribes in trousers from the Steppes and Forests to the East, probing for lands to settle, the Round Shields, the Long shields and ? Heavy and light cavalry supported by unarmoured spearmen and archers. 
  • The Hillmen from the wild Misty Isles and Highlands to the North West - spearmen and light infantry and.... other things.....
  • The Kingdom of the Middle. Balanced army of knights, archers  and billmen/speamen.
  • The Merchant Princes: A fortified coastal outpost of an overseas Western Power with a smallish garrison of armoured  pikemen supported by knights, handgunners, canon and maybe an airship etc., the latest in technology.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holding the Pass

I have been itching to get my Scots back on the table and to get painting the English  and extras I got from Rob at Garrison (I'd been hoping to finish before his winter break so I could justify buying more but...). The problem has once again been confusion over basing and organization. They started on WRG 3rd edition bases in '76 then, being badly in need of an upgrade, switched to Armati in the 90's with 13th to 16th Century types all intermixed to make the army 'fit' together . 

Last year,  in a fit of enthusiasm after an enjoyable hexed based Impetus variant game, I rebased an army's worth of 13th Century figures onto 8cm wide bases for use on Ron's Hexon terrain. They fought one great game  then we were on to something else.  I tried them on my new grid and the game was fun but of course they didn't quite fit so since it seemed unlikely that they would see action at Ron's in the near future and anyway 6 cm  will work on his hexes, I began once again to rebase them but stalled. (Given the number of my armies whose units have an 8 or 9 cm frontage, the obvious answer was of course to bite the bullet and repaint the grid but it took almost a  year to accept the inevitable.)

So there I was, a Gathering of Hosts upgrade to test, a desire to get my Scots out and no troops ready to go, except the old 15/16th C ones on 6 cm wide bases and no enemy..... except...except....that HOTT army I had prepared and never used! Oh and look, I still have the smaller grid! The  game was soon afoot.

On the left we see the Men of the City. (What city? dunno never got that far.) This was a mix of my Flodden Scots and a few WOTR Minifigs (that's Roses not Ring). I intended the Men of the City to be on the attack but when looking at what was ready to go, the opposition could easily field twice the number of units so I gave them a pass to defend. Their force ended up as follows:
1 x Merchant-Prince General attached to bodyguard of Elite heavily armoured halbardiers,
1 x Heavy Cavalry
2 x heavily armoured phalanx infantry (1 of which I had fielded as heavy handgunners with heavily armoured pavise men in front and then promptly forgot about the handgunners and treated them as phalanx until it was too late to change)
3  phalanx infantry
2 x light infantry handgunners
1 x skirmishers
1 x bombard.

On the right we see the Folk of the Forest. From the available forces they chose:
1 x Lion Queen General (treated as Elite Light Infantry Swordsmen)
2 x Forest Beasts (aka Elephants although 1 was a 54mm bear and the other a Star Wars toy Bantha, each accompanied by various mostly naked Picts and Highlanders)
3 x light cavalry 
1 x unarmoured billwomen. (Minifigs from the collection of John G Robertson sent on by Tim at Megablitz. You have no idea how close they came this week to being joined by a dozen archers and a score of swordswomen from the same range but I stood firm and didn't bid.
3 x light infantry swordsmen (inc a small but patriotic Moose)
1 x light infantry archers
1 x elite skirmisher (originally meant as a HOTT Sneaker or something like that).
 (hmmm that's only 1 extra unit, I meant for a bigger numerical advantage since they were on the offensive..oops...maybe that's why the Irish were on the other table this morning?)

The armies close to missile range, the gunners and artillery miss, the archers and light cavalry don't.

The major change which I wanted to test was the idea of basing a unit's melee dice on its current strength. In theory I like it since it makes it even more important to use fresh units in an attack, hold a reserve and to try to shelter troops from enemy shooting if you can. However, I had also been trying to harmonize as many as rules as possible with the Square Brigadier to make my life easier and I wanted to make sure that I hadn't broken anything along the way. 

The game began with the Forest folk emerging from the wood and swiftly moving to missile range. Because of the narrow pass between river and steep hill, there was little room for their mobility so much faith was put on the beasts of war. There was a fair amount of unease about the enemy's firepower until they whiffed all along the line and even more unease about the melee strength  of the armoured phalanx. 

While working up the nerve to charge, (esp on a Orders roll of 1 which was needed to bring up the light cavalry which had failed every distant order roll so far.) they began to shoot with the archers, both the light infantry and those accompanying the beasts, and the light cavalry with their javelins. The result was rewarding so since the enemy did nothing but burn powder again, they decided to try it again, wiping out the cannon and a unit of handgunners. 

The Merchant Prince did a quick calculation and decided his best bet now was to attack before the enemy could shoot big gaps into his battle line.  This didn't look good.

The battlelines crash.

The Forest Folk got first melee roll aided by a defensive fire bonus and good dice. It rocked the City Phalanx onto its heels and made me ponder the wisdom of reducing their melee dice but after I applied armour and phalanx defensive benefits and cursed the lack of support, I went ahead and rolled the dice with negligible result.  With the armies pretty much locked together and another 1 on the Orders dice, the next turn rolled ahead with the City Folk rolling first in melee, this time doing serious damage. With their basic strength being low to start with and no defensive bonuses apart from support, the forest folk were hurting. At least the giant beasts didn't panic!

An attempt to flank the enemy line and take the hill was driven back by the handgunners and rabble on the hill and the phalanx ground slowly on. On the City's turn the heavy cavalry charged in routing one unit of lights but without support was unable to do anything in the long term but fall back and protect the flank. Things looked desperate so the Queen herself led the reserves forward, and promptly learned why a gold bikini is not considered adequate armour. 

Casualties mount! The great beasts were actually removed as casualties but the artist insisted on showing them running away. 

With the Queen wounded and out of the battle temporarily, the Merchant Prince moved forward and ordered his worst hit spearmen to rally where they could while others wheeled to lap around the enemy line. The whole Forest front line died or fled including the beasts but the day wasn't quite over. 

Gathering her forces, the queen tried again to slide around the flank but the enemy line held and the naked halbardiers were soon taken care of by the Merchant Prince himself, or his bodyguard more likely since the Prince is only armed with a purse and a scroll (probably a contract offer now that I think of it). With losses over 50% the Forest Folk broke and ran for cover. 7/12 units lost vs 3/11 but the City folk had 3 units with only 1 hit left and 2 with 2 left and were within a few die rolls of breaking for 1/2 the game! 

The end of the fray.

So there we are. A small game, a simple situation, I thought maybe 30 minutes and 5 or 6 turns to play. I lost track of both turns and time and was a little surprised to see midnight creeping up on me. I started setting up at nine and it took awhile to sort things but even so I must have played for 90 minutes without noticing. My cup of tea was certainly cold and almost full when I wrapped up, usually a good sign.

Using the current strength in melee worked like a charm. The heavy infantry were able to take a pounding and last, especially when heavily armed. The 'barbarian' swordsmen were dangerous in the initial round but faded quickly. The defensive bonus for the light infantry meant to represent a shower of arrows and javelins might be a bit iffy but it also allows for an unseen counter charge without extra rules. The other minor harmonization changes were pretty much neutral and over all this game had the best feel yet.

The Scots are already marshalling into their new units and picking sides. The better equipped Scots will fight for Douglas and the Regent, the naked knee spearmen will join the wild Highlanders and Islemen to fight for the Lord of the Isles. I'm not sure when or where the Bantha will show up next but the Lord of the Isles might like to hang onto the a few of the scantily clad witches and warrior women.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gathering of Hordes - Fantasy Teaser

Two years ago I fought a couple of HOTT games on the Captain's Table and upon my return home I dug out some old figures and started putting together some fantasy armies. I never quite got to fighting any solo HOTT games but the armies have been waiting and when I looked around for a couple of armies to try out the latest modifications to the Gathering of Hosts, they just demanded to be fielded, Men of the City vs the Free Folk of the Forests.

I haven't written any fantasy rules so I only used troops that could be classified as an existing troop type (ie behemoth = elephant) but I can see that changing!

Battle report tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Designer Armies

One of the attractions of "Ancient" wargaming is the variety of armies and troop types that can be fielded. Even if playing strictly historical refight games this can lead to challenging  situations such as perhaps an army of archers and cavalry facing a heavy infantry army but if playing old fashioned competition style games, selecting armies was part of the fun. If playing Grant style Tabletop Teaser scenarios there is another twist, some armies are ill suited to some scenarios which can resulting in some awkward games with armies being given an unlikely task, perhaps an army of horse archers being tasked with holding a mountain pass or making an amphibious landing.

The plan when I started this blog 4 (really?) years ago was to focus on building two largish opposing armies for an extended campaign with a secondary capability of improvising appropriate enemies for games against friends. I managed a start and a couple of games but there are more historical Greek & Persian battles on the blog than Lydian vs Mede campaign battles and along the way my table dropped from 48 sq feet to 30 sq feet and is about to shrink again. I also demonstrated conclusively that by the time I've painted a few figures of one type,  I'm done and want to paint something different.

25mm Garrison Phrygians. Disappointed by the lack of action they have now sailed to the far side of the world.

So, the new plan which has been slowly coming together over the last 2 years is to have a number of smaller armies (5 has been chosen) that can play off each other over the next 20 years (hopefully). The idea was not to be super historical but rather to run a verging on fantasy historical campaign set in a time and place where hard information is scarce and which can provide a selection of armies which tick various boxes and be able to provide some classic clashes as well as being able to handle almost any table top teaser scenario.  The plan was also to base the armies around figures on hand, preferably ones already painted.  The armies will consist of around 20 units each with a unit frontage of 8 cm, say 3-4 cavalry or skirmishers, 6 light infantry,  or 8-12 heavy infantry.  Scenario forces will be chosen from these units with many games seeing less than 12 units on the table.  The hope is that I'll be able to play a  series of 2-4 game mini-campaigns over the next two years.

 The new paradigm.

The setting, very roughly, is along the Silk Road in Central Asia in the 1st century and postulates that Alexandria Eschate is still holding out as a last ember of the Bactrian Greek Kingdom. Control of that section of the Silk Road is being contested by Alexandria, by Marakanda (Samarkand) which has been conquered by a Skythian Queen and now fields a rather Kushan-like force, and by the Persian Governor who ought to be leading a Parthian army but actually has an early Sassinid force. There are various likely contenders for the 4th and 5th spots but they are all too close to the first 3 to be worth building. Instead, I have some troops that I wouldn't mind adding but am having just a little trouble with the back story. I'll get there though.

The 4th place will be taken by a "barbarian" army. I was initially thinking of something Daylamite or Dacian like based on the Prince August "barbarian" molds with unarmoured spearmen with round shields and Phrygian caps but the various historical prototypes are either too far away or were too minor a power and appear only as auxiliaries in other peoples armies. Another possibility, conceived today, is an early proto-Gothic  army which has come east from the Black Sea instead of going west. Still improbable but possible in an historical-fantasy context and allowing the army to be based around a core of 40 year old Celtic minifigs that once formed the core of my Valdurian army supplemented by various other "barbarian" figures such as the Prince August ones. For best effect I might have to replace some of the round PA shields with oblong or hexagonal ones or postulate allied or subordinate   contingents. There may even be some form of magic or wild beasts, maybe.

That would leave the 5th position wide open for future expansion. I'm not keen on starting any new armies from scratch, certainly not until the ones already started are complete and most of the likely historical candidates are too similar to one of the first three armies to entice me.  I might be able to propose a Rus-like infantry army appearing a few centuries early and a little off course. Perhaps the 1/72nd plastic armies fielded a few weeks ago were just a version of the 4&5th kingdom's armies appearing for the first time?

Over the next week I'll take a closer look at each of the armies.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Turanian at the Gate

Since General Saromander's failure at the Battle of the Tower last winter, all had  been quiet, nothing but rumours and old faery tales to suggest that King Antiros had gained anything from his victory in that minor skirmish. Still, King Rossius the Unknown decided that it would be best to use the lull to his advantage, to strengthen the Kingdom of Turan, just in case. Restoring the City of Marakanda to its rightful place as business hub of Turan seemed like a good start.

One would think that a city of merchants wouldn't  be hard to entice with trade opportunities but perhaps his offer had been too generous  and they sensed a weakness to be exploited, or perhaps that vixen Sharazhad had hidden the offer. He had to admit to a certain fascination with the girl ever since their surprise New Year's encounter. Still, it had been a very generous offer to her as "Queen" of the break away city, third wife to the King of Turan for her, free trade for the city, the leaderless peasants to be granted overlords chosen from amongst the younger sons of the great Turanian houses, employment in the Turanian Border Patrols for the warriors. A very generous offer, he had even offered to take on three additional maidens of Sharazhad's choice into his harem despite the discord that might sow at home. And what was her response? The head of his envoy on a silver platter with certain body parts in place of a tongue!  Obviously the girl was looking for a more strenuous wooing. It was time for the Host to Gather again!

In an effort to delay the Turanian advance while the main army mustered, Queen Sharazhad led a small force of archers with some catapults from the city defence to a pass near the border. Once the local levies were mustered she found herself with 1 unit of light cavalry horse archers,  3 units of infantry archers, 2 units of skirmishing archers and the unit of artillery.

The Turanian army, as usual, depended on chance for their order of battle. From the south came a column containing 1 unit of light cavalry, 3 units of skirmishers, and 2 units of spearmen.  From the east came a column composed of 1 unit of light cavalry horse archers, 1 unit of infantry skirmishers, 1 unit of heavy horse archers, 1 of clibinari (armoured lance & bow), 1 of cataphracts and 1 elephant squadron.

With little room to maneuver, King Rossius pushed his light cavalry and skirmishers forward to cover the deployment of the heavy cavalry and elephants. The first unit of horse archers died quickly but while the left wing was unable to evict the enemy skirmishers from their hill, the day was well advanced before the final light cavalry unit broke.

As the losses mounted in the center and no threat to the Maracandan left flank appeared, the Queen began to shuffle troops towards the center but it was a slow business made worse by an apparent lack of messengers to carry orders (lots of 1's.)  A charge uphill by the Clibinari, Rossius at their head, was briefly held by the Marakandan horse archers. Seizing the moment, the Queen led a unit of archers into the flank of the Clibinari. It was a brave but unwise move. The Clibinari ignored the distraction, routed the horse archers and pursued beyond reach of the foot archers. Behind them, the Clibinari and Cataphracts charged in support. After a tough fight with the other 2 archer units, both cavalry units were repulsed.  

 Wheeling around, the Clibinari charged into the Queen and her archers just as the elephants lumbered up the hill from behind. The cataphracts sought to clinch the victory by charging back into the foot archers but had underestimated the effect of flanking fire from Marakandan skirmishers. (6 dice from the 2 units, 5 hits reduced to 3 by armour.) The Marakandan's were jubilant but, caught between lancers and elephants, the archers surrounding the Queen broke for the woods. The young Queen tried to rally them but she was pierced by an arrow. Luckily the woods were not far and her men gathered her up and carried her to safety. The Turanians had been bloodied but the pass was open and the sun still high in the sky. Luckily for Marakanda, King Rossius is not know for his speed or his single minded, aggressive prosecution of campaigns. 

After the last game, I decided to go back to turn sequence and order dice as used for the games last winter. It was the right choice, the whole thing felt just right and gave an interesting game lasting a bit over an hour.

Now to muster the Marakandan heavy cavalry into their proper squadrons and to raise the city militia, and maybe some more Turanians.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Terror of the Turanians! Coming soon

The Turanian hosts of King Rossius the Unknown approach a pass held by Queen Sharazhad of Marakanda with a small force. A short battle report and update on Gathering of Hosts rules to follow in a day or so.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Old Warriors Re-incarnated

My first ancient warriors were 25mm hard plastic Mini-Marx Vikings.

 Picture from, somewhere on the web, some years ago.

I loved those Vikings but I also longed for the Elastolin Vikings and Saxons and the occasional Giant 20mm copy only whetted my appetite. My first real ancient wargame figures though, were the nearly universal Airfix Ancient Britons.

Hands up anyone who isn't familiar with this old Airfix standard!  Painting these c1999 convinced me that I was past trying to paint 20mm figures. (oops)
Anyway 4 Warband elements and 2 Psiloi.

Fast forward to the early 21st Century and all the old figures were gone but a friend of mine started talking about building a DBA army using 1/72 figures but using the 15mm figure basing. Well, amongst my guilty pleasures had been the occasional purchase of 1/72nd plastic figures for largely nostalgic reasons mixed with curiosity to see some of the new stuff that I would have loved to have had available in the '70's.

The Skythians from Zvezda's Persians and some Italeri Saracens provided some Light Horse nomad allies. I would not have had to convert horse archers out of Waterloo Hussars with Paratrooper helmets and various bits if these had been available in 1972.

These included the Hat release of the Airfix Ancient Britons, the Revel Saxons which included copies of many Elastolin figures and just recently, the Orion Vikings that included copies of not only the 54mm Marx but my old Mini-Marx Vikings! (also released as 60mm Warriors of the World).

From the Orion Viking set.  The 8 front rank figures  in horned helmets are copies of the old 25mm Minimarx figures as is a bareheaded axeman in rear, the standard bearer is a copy of one of the Marx 54mm vikings which I converted and the rest are either Revel Saxons or Orion Vikings. Based here as one Psiloi and  3 Warband (4) or Blade elements.

In a week I had a "Barbarian" army put together using a DBA Late German list (Alemanic maybe?) . No enemy was forthcoming so I carried on, dug further and found boxes of Persians and Saracens and bought a box of Italeri Gallic cavalry and soon I had another "Barbarian" army using a different list, early Gothic possibly? (Can't lay my hand on the DBA list of the time).  In the 10 years since I slapped them together, I think they have been out to play DBA 3 times and once came with me on a business trip to try out some ideas for a traveling game. Now they've been out again and had more fun than ever before.

A mix of Orion Vikings including more Marx copies, Revel Anglo-Saxons including lots of Elastolin copies  and Airfix Ancient Britons. More warband/blades plus 2 stands of Bow(3).

 Last and least were 2 Cav elements, 1 for each army, from a  box of Italeri Gallic cavalry which happened to be in a local shop. 

The 1/72nd figures are very nice, small but still very visible and the weight and size is darned convenient for portable armies being carted up and down stairs .....But I'm not going to get diverted  into building up a campaign's worth of 1/72nd armies.  Not even if there are some boxes of 1/72nd Cataphracts  in the cupboard wondering what they are doing here, and some Romans. Nor am I going to rebase them onto something more standard like 60mm elements.

Not going to happen! .


Certainly not this year.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Hosts Gather for the Battle of the Crowning Stone

No one knows the origin of the Crowning Stone, it is lost in the mists of time but no King of the Land has been crowned anywhere else. So it was that Airafix was greatly troubled when  word came that a host of warriors from over the sea had landed and were marching on the Crowning Stone, boasting of their plan to haul it away. Great was his relief when the High King sent his champion Italeria with a great host  of horsemen to join the fight. The two armies mustered and marched upon the Stone.

The armies deployed and taking advantage of the nice new grid lines. 6 units of infantry flanked by light infantry archers in the distance, 2 elite cavalry, 3 horse archers, 2 light infantry and a skirmish unit of archers in the foreground. 

Italeria sat upon his horse and gazed past Stone Hill at the immense dust cloud. His experience suggested that upwards of 50 men marched towards the nearly 30 men under his command but they were huddled like sheep and all marched on foot and they did not worry him. What worried him as he ambled forward was how his Steppe mercenaries could tell who one was talking about if they were all named Alan?

Suddenly he realized that the enemy had stolen a march on him and were already climbing the farside  of the hill. Damn! His plan had been to make use of the superior speed of his cavalry and light infantry to get there first and sieze the advantage of ground. Now it would be be his loose scattering of men against their shield wall, meeting at the crest  with no advantage of ground. That didn't seem like a good plan. Showering with missiles might work if they weren't in dead ground. He didn't really have any other plan. Might be a good time to call up a druid to slaughter a chicken while he waited and maybe let the Alans work around the flank while the dead chicken thought up a plan.

Ahh, that was better, the enemy had come forward and manned the edge of the hill and the Alans were circling behind them. He waved Airafix and his light infantry to do the same on the other side. Once the enemy had been worn down a bit, he would lead his bodyguard in a death or glory ride against the shieldwall.

On the hill, King Orion rested on his shield during a break in the series of hit and run attacks. This had all seemed so simple, march up, take the hill, scare off the locals. Well, the locals seemed scared enough but that didn't seemed to help. They kept showering the hill with arrows and javelins and running away when threatened. His men had good shields and some armour and knew how to keep a tight formation but every now and then an arrow slipped by. His own archers had eventually been overwhelmed and only rarely did the enemy come close enough for his men to respond with their own javelins. Come nightfall he prayed or let the enemy grow rash.

As the sun sank and the enemy's shieldwall grew thinner, Italeria grew impatient. At last he had his trumpeter blow charge and he and his companions rode forward. As they smashed into the enemy from two sides the enemy collapsed. Singing a song of triumph, Italeria pushed forward into their ranks only to smash up against a new shield wall, glancing up he could see the enemy's dragon banner overhead. It was the last thing he saw.

The battle was not so easily won however, on one flank Airafix led his light infantry forward while the King of the Alans honoured the alliance (contract). His horse archers had been mauled earlier when they followed up their arrows with a charge so he kept them back now but the arrows kept raining down. With the shieldwall shrinking Orion himself was struck by an arrow and the shieldwall crumbled.

Aerafix, Lord of the Old Ones, guardian of the Crowning Stone. 


I had planned to try out the ungridded version of the Gathering of Hosts using my Turanians but I don't have a handy carrying case for them and didn't feeling like making several trips up and down stairs lugging trays of metal 25mm figures. I opted to spend some time reorganizing and basing some 1/72nd ACW troops  and then, with memories of the invisible grid still in my mind, grabbed a green felt marker and quickly lined out the grid. The improved board just called out to be tested and suddenly I recalled the makeshift 1/72nd DBA armies tucked away in a dark corner for the last decade. That's a story for another day but the test game was on! 

The first game lasted about 5 minutes before I called a halt, reset the table and turned back to the rules. Another 5 minutes of adjustments  and I launched into a game which kept me rivetted for an hour. I still need to do some editing for example, I caught myself applying various unwritten rules, and I need to look a bit closer at some of the troop type definitions and check that they each have a role  but essentially I am ready to roll. The big decision now is whether to stick with 1 stand per unit + markers (the smart move) or break the units down into 1 stand per strength point.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Teaser: Battle for the Crowning Stone

Tomorrow: A test game of  Gathering of Hosts. 

The light infantry and cavalry of the warlord Italeria with his ally Airafix fight the shieldwall of King Orion of the Minamarx and Elastolikes.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Hosts consider the Articles of War

I suppose it is Landsknechts in particular that we think of as agreeing to the offered Articles of War before signing on but I like to think that my toy armies and I go through a similar process. To avoid spinning too many tires I have spent a fair amount of time over the last 3 days re-reading old rules related blog posts, game reports and post game discussion, old rules drafts and so on.

Despite various superficial and important things like organization, basing and the grid/no grid debate the real key essence is the choice between figure dependent, element dependent or unit dependent rules.

 Figure Dependent. This is Old School nose counting. A unit is composed of X number of figures. The number of figures affects the unit's combat strength and figures are removed (or marked) to record its deterioration as a result of combat. Usually this is coupled with separate morale tests as strength and morale are considered related but separate things. The main advantage is that it is simple and intuitive but it is also quite flexible. It also encourages large numbers of figures which may be good or bad depending on circumstances and preferences. The main disadvantage is that it is administratively heavy. If bases are used rosters or markers must also be used and tracked rigorously. If singles are used they must not only be deployed and moved about but the casualties must be gathered up and sorted and re-united with their units afterwards. If, as usually the case, the units are large, it is hard to adapt to hexes. Smallish units on large hexes pose no difficulty however.

Element Dependent.  This is what I think of as the Middle School approach, basically a stream lined development of the OSW approach. Now units are composed of standardized elements or bases of troops. Strength is measured in elements rather than figures and losses are taken in terms of elements. If a roster is used then this slides backward to being just a variation of figure dependent. Fire & Fury is the classic example of this approach but it has been used in ancients as well. This approach shares many of the benefits of the OSW figure approach but without the admin burden. If used with hexes, it is often hard to get enough elements to fit in a hex and its starts to edge towards being a less sophisticated version of a unit based game.

Unit Dependent. This is the Morchauser/DBA/Armati/Impetus approach. The unit is treated as a whole. Usually it is on 1 base but Armati, for example, uses 2 bases for compatibility and to allow some units to be formed wide or deep when being deployed. Losses are taken in whole units, generally with no degradation along the way. There way be a roster  but it is against a theoretical morale/combat value and not a mere matter of how many figures are present. The advantages are largely in simplicity of administration and play but also in allowing scales to be played with, allowing large battles to be recreated with fewer troops. The most administratively simple method is the DBA live/die approach which does not track slow attrition. Mostly this works with a loss of flavour and intuitiveness rather than accuracy. The alternate roster approach seems to resolve that which may be one of the reasons why Armati and Impetus have been popular. As long as the stand size fits the grid, this is the easiest system to adapt to a grid.

Looking back, Gathering of Hosts began as figure based and migrated to element based and was exploring unit based when it collided with the square brigadier and everything froze in time. I'm not going back to figure based.  I was however leaning towards element based until I started looking at practicalities crossed with battle reports. Unexpectedly, many of the best games actually came from the unit based angle  and that is where I will take them.

For my own convenience, I will adopt what was once the universal 60mm  frontage for my own units,  largely because that will fit on my grid yet can will still work without a grid but any size and basing will work from card board counters to 24 individual models or anything else. Maneuver will be by groups but combat will be by unit. As much as I hate using little dice to mark hits, I will plan on it for now and limit the number of "hits" to a maximum of 6 per unit.  

I have also decided to once again drop the activation dice, largely because I find that it works best with certain ratios of generals to troops, ratios I don't always find myself using. Instead I will rely on my standard initiative roll with Orders tests for units not in command etc.

Everything else will remain the usual as much as possible.

One of the small "unit" based games from last year that I enjoyed.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Host Stirs

It hasn't quite woken yet but there is stirring in the camps and scouts have been dispatched.

While the councils of war are still in progress, there have been some decisions taken.
Campaigns. I have not yet dismissed the idea of 'proper'  Romans in lorica segmenta and bracae but there will be no new armies until I get caught up. That means:

1) Anglo-Scots. The goal is 2 small matched armies. In practice most games will be small brushes but I will set it up to do Bannockburn. technically that should mean 2 rule sets if not two armies but I'll ignore that. Figures are on hand, ready for the winter painting season.

Archived shot of the Scots, patiently waiting for the Sassanach to arrive.

2) Five Kingdoms. This is the one that started as sort of Greco-Bactrian and proto-Sassinids  and is now on track to be fictional bordering on fantasy. I do know one army will be at least vaguely Persian and another have heavy Skythian influence and since I want an army of barbarian infantry, one of them though possibly not one that looks all that appropriate for the time and place.

Archive shot of Rossius the Forgotten,
once again collecting a new army to lead into battle.
Basing. Its a bit of a confused mishmash at moment with singles, 40mm, 60mm and 80mm bases. The move to 80mm bases has been squashed and will eventually be reversed. As long as Ron and I are using hexes, anything that fits in a hex is compatible but if I do hexes, mine will be 3" not 4" so I am going to standardize on a 60mm frontage again.  I might, however, do a number of troops on 1/2 bases or not.
Rules. Ah, hmm. I may end up with 2 sets, one with a roster and morale tests, another with unit removal. I've gone both ways in the past and both methods have merit. The current set seem to have been abandoned 1/2 way through an edit and contains some serious contradiction so priority one is to bring them to order, grid-free. A Gridded variant may follow or a completely different hex/square version. I certainly intend to see the armies marching across the card table and the main table this winter. Anyway work will start this weekend on cleaning them up.