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.


  1. Great post and pics.I enjoyed the background and army introduction too not to mention the photos.Rules sound like they served you well.Have you decided yet fully about fantasy additions or not to the rules?

  2. Thanks. It was a good game. I'm not sure how far to push the fantasy stuff but I'm beginning it might almost be a more honest approach to what is starting to turn not-very-historical anyway. I don't think I'll seek to reproduce any particular published fantasy world and the focus will be on men but I can see adding some form of magic as well as flying beasts and flying machines and the rules will easily cover various human like critters. Maybe something for undead and heroes and magical critters. Nothing too powerful though. All in the format of a bolt on supplement I think to avoid confusing myself.Something to work on over the winter.

  3. Nice to see some old friends in battle again! Good report.