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 2nd time that the late John Robertson's Amazons have appeared in a game on my table (see http://gameofmonth.blogspot.ca/2012/04/viewer-discretion-is-advised.html) 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.

Friday, October 10, 2014

More Colours and even a Few Commands

I have been rather remiss in posting to this blog. Rather than falling off the edge of the world again (this is an ancients blog remember) I have actually done a few relevent things.

Rossius Juniores snapped by a fan with a smartphone while he gives a rousing speech under bright lights.

Firstly I painted up a Garrison Tribune and guard (lovely figures, in different circumstances I would have loved to have an army of these tramping across the table.) some Celtic slingers and a British chariot cobbled together from spare bits. Being just a little devious these are now cluttering up Ron's shelves, not mine.

Lightly converted RAFM scythed chariot with OG crew off to join my nearly 40 yr old converted Garrison scythed chariot. My only actual Celtic chariot, a Minifig S range one,  is missing a wheel and temporarily shelved.

The Romans defend a ridge against an attack expected from Thisaway but which actually arrives from Thataway.

Not only that but we have played 3 more games, all interesting, 2 of them real nail biters.

The Romans redeploy while light troops dash around pelting each other with slings and arrows not to mention javelins. 

We are still experimenting with adapting the Grant scenarios to the system as most involve a lengthy approach march at 1 hex per turn, trying the patience of both sides. Since Ron has, by luck of the draw, ended up with either reinforcements or an approach march in every game, it is almost incomprehensible to me that I as Roman have been able to put aside my celtic rashness and exhibited stern though not faultless discipline in holding my armies together while watching the enemy approach in fits and starts as the cards allow.

In what turns out to be the decisive attack of the day, the barbarian light chariot and light cavalry  swoop into a gap in the Roman line cutting off the retreat of a cohort. Rossius Junores is severely wounded for the 2nd time in his short career  but all 3 barbarian units were destroyed either by battle backs or next turn's counterattack. Surrounding people can be deadly for the enemy when it works and deadly for you if you have to sacrifice your own line of retreat to do it.

During the 2nd of the 3 games, Ron actually managed to maintain his entire army (apart from lights) in a continuous line even when moving it in segments. Fortunately for me it was dark by the time one end of the line hit mine, throwing it back. It was one of those time limited scenarios and we had agreed to play once through the deck with no reshuffling. whew!

The other games had no time limit and each ended with losses almost even, a few die rolls away from a reverse decision.

At the end of the day, after a bloody struggle between warbands and cohorts, the Roman cavalry attacks up the left flank and seals the victory.

Now that there are chariots and slingers, there is talk of a Roman invasion of Britain before October is done.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Resuming My Roman Ways

On Wednesday Ron & I made our 2nd attempt at C&C ancients. This time we used miniatures and points armies in a Grant Teaser.

The scenario was Broken Ground. I drew defend and Romans. From the available forces I chose 8 Medium infantry units for my legions, 2 light archer units and 3 commanders. The overall commander was once commander of my Armati Romans, the rest were Ron's.

Ron selected an enormous, uncountable horde of warriors, light infantry and light and medium cavalry which might have totaled 17 or 18 units in all under 3 chieftains. The figures were a mix of those painted by Ron and by myself under commission.

Each road exit was worth a VP to whoever controls it.

I posted a small force of 2 infantry and an archer under a Tribune to hold the left road which was
screened by bad going. The rest of the army straddled the center/right line which was close to the line. Ron's line stretched across the table from edge to edge as far as the eye could see with warriors flanked by cavalry and light troops.

Mid-game, with losses even, the lines reform and I remember to haul out my phone for a picture..

The game began an advance by light troops on both flanks. I tried to score hits on his warbands to remove the warrior bonus while he tried to draw me forward and disrupt my line as his warriors started forward on his right.

I had really good cards for doing something other than what I was doing but managed to bring 2 units over to strengthen my left and then a 3rd. Unfortunately I didn't quite get my battleline reformed and my initial volley of pila had limited success. His small group of warriors hit my line like a tidal wave and rolled over it before my men could even draw swords. Luckily I was able to extricate myself and form a new line and between bow and pila broke up his and scored a few hits on some of his units as his cards ran dry. Given a brief respite, I decided that with 4 of my 5 cards being for the other flank, I should try to chase off his light troops if for no other reason than to let me build a better hand. As his lights fell back and I advanced, I kept reminding myself that I would need to look sharp and fallback at the first sign of his remaining warriors advancing. After all, no one wants to be 'that guy' who let the enemy's light troops draw him out of position.

By now the deck had pretty much run out and despite my early losses I was slightly ahead on units destroyed and still controlled both strategic points. As I watched his line roll forward I did a quick calculation and decided I had one turn's grace. Since the start of the game I had held a card giving a combat bonus to units fighting without having moved (in other words in a continuing melee). I had never managed to stay alive and in contact but now I had a cohort in contact with a damaged light: infantry unit and decided to go with the chance of an elimination. He naturally evaded but I still had 6 dice so 2 hits were possible. Briefly I thought "not worth it, should have pulled back my line on the right." But the card was played. I missed. Then Ron laid down a doubletime card, crossed the space and over ran 2 cohorts without pausing to wipe the paint chips from their swords. Shaken but not wounded, the Tribune on that side bolted back to his reserve and deftly moved it back out of harm's way. There were 2 more cards to play but the game was over. I had held on to my edge in victory points, but just barely.

So what did I think after 4 tense hours? Like most decent ancient rules, it manages to get the troops to behave in what feels like an appropriate fashion with that typical scissors/paper/stone feel. At the army level, relating the cards to how things really work is beyond me. Recreating an historical battle would be as much a matter of luck as of intent. However if one believes that generals made very basic plans and then just did their best to manage the chaos  then this represents that well enough.

The main thing was that the game was both exciting and mentally stimulating, in other words, Fun, with the capital F. We will play again.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Way is Shut.

For long years the Eastern border of the Midlands had been quiet, guarded by an Empire powerful but friendly, friendly that is as long as the King of Midlands didn't cause any inconvenience. However, now the power of the Empire is slowly waning while that of the Great King Of Kings in the East is rising. No barriers now stand between the Eastern Border of the Midlands and the Turanian horsemen of the Great King.

Good news!
After hiding for 10 months in a dark corner of a room that it had never been in before, my camera has re-emerged, just not in time for this battle. Better pictures are bound to follow!

So it was that the Lord of Ravenswood received a summons to march with his Black Company. The time of testing had arrived.

As the armies march onto the field. the Black Company rides ahead to block the move by Turanian light cavalry to sweep over the river and into the unprotected farms and villages of the Middle Kingdom. Behind them the Earl of Cowcross leads his cavalry and some archers  to confront the enemy and give his spearmen space to deploy.


Having aligned the mechanisms more closely with those of the Square Brigadier, things like deciding which type of combat modifiers should be to dice scores and which to the number of dice  rolled and so on, it was time to retest the rules. It was also time to step farther into fiction, or fantasy if you will, and bring another of the 5 Kingdoms into play, the Turanian Great King. Picture a medieval Sassinid Successor State or something similar, but without the religious issues of our history.

The Turanian Hillmen have over run the bravely defended village, pulled the thatch off the roof and driven the Midlish knights back with a hail of slingshot.  The light cavalry on their left are holding their own but are losing the missile battle with the Black Crossbowmen who are experiencing their first real battle. On the right, the Turanian light cavalry found themselves trapped between the Royal Companions and a mass of  aggressive spearmen and  dispersed. Seeing that the Companions were now faced with woods full of archers and  a forest of spears while the enemy cavalry were redeploying towards the open ground, Prince Salaman Dar orders them to pull back and redeploy to the left. 

The Turanians are a reconnaissance in force/raiding party, testing the strength of the Midland borders. Their mission is to scatter the defenders and cross the river in force. The Midlish army must force them to retreat.

The Turanians, led by Prince Salaman Dar, consist of:

Right Wing
2 units of Royal Companions, Elite, heavily armoured cavalry inc a sub commander
1 unit of light cavalry.

1 Elephant
1 unit of spearmen
1 large unit of archers with pavise (there should actually be a few more figures there, oops)
3 units of skirmishers.

Left Wing
Sub commander
1 unit of cavalry
2 units of light cavalry

The Midlish army has regrouped and, now that the Earl's Orders die has recovered  its nerve,  is pushing forward. In response, the Prince's Order die suddenly freezes for a few turns and he has trouble regrouping and redeploying his  somewhat scattered forces just when it matters most.
The Midlish army consisted of:

A detached unit of militia archers defending their village.

(The Black Company)
1 unit of elite heavily armoured lancers w sub commander.
1 unit of crossbowmen

Main Battle
1 unit of elite heavily armoured lancers w general.
1 unit of lancers

2 units of archers
2 large units of spearmen 1 including a sub commander.

( Note: under these rules, lancers are heavy cavalry relying on shock alone, cavalry are heavy cavalry able to fight at close quarters but also capable of shooting. All light troops have a shooting ability.)

The Earl sweeps forward scattering Turanian skirmishers and archers alike and capturing Prince Salaman .
 There is talk of glass windows for the upper windows in Cattlecross Hall..
I was very happy with how the rules played out and the balance between these armies.There was a bit of trouble trying to get the right language to describe how I wanted the movement to work so I kept fiddling with it so that it described what I was actually doing. I'm not sure if anyone else will understand but as long as they reach a consensus with themselves it will be all good.

Apart from that the missile fire was of limited use against large bodies of troops and heavily armoured units but could be deadly in the right circumstances and was excellent for encouraging light troops and cavalry to back off. The spearmen were resilient but slow and hard to maneuver and were better at wearing an enemy down and outlasting them than at smashing them.  The Knights on the other hand were pretty darned good at smashing things out of their way though they didn't get to try having a go at a large block of spearmen. The support rules also worked as hoped making properly formed groups of units tougher in defense and more persistent in offence than scattered individual ones.

The Turanian Royal Companions are finally in position to assault the knights of the Black Company but the rest of the left wing has disappeared apart from a solitary horse archer, the Prince's banner has gone down and a horde of Midlish knights is bearing down on their flank. It is is time to cover the retreat of what is left of the army and report back to the Great King that a War will be required if the Midlands are to be subdued.
(The jubilant peasants seem to have already re-thatched their houses!)

I'm already looking forward to the next game but there is some painting and background work to be done first.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Posting of Hosts

Now that I am doing 95% of my blogging  and writing on a 7" tablet I'm finding that some applications lose something in their android form. In this case the Google Drive app allows  me to share with specified individuals but not to create a link for anyone to use so I am converting rules to html pages on my blogs. Formatting  html pages using blogger and a tablet has been ....interesting.... but hopefully their accessibility will make up for any shortcomings in formatting. 

The Earl of Cowcross leads a Midlish force to block the enemy's path.

The Gathering  of Hosts rules have now been modified to fit in with The Square Brigadier and honed a little. The results are posted at left. (Mobile users will need to switch to desktop for now) or
click here: Gathering of Hosts .

Today I played an enjoyable solo  test game of the revised rules set in the Five Kingdoms,  pitting a Midlish force against one of the Great  King's periodic incursions. A report will follow.
The Great King's men march west in hope of plunder.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sir John of Ravens Wood Hold

Sir John Ravenswood of Raven's Wood Hold,
commander of the Black Band,
Captain of the Passes.
The medieval age is not exactly  known for uniforms, especially in the modern sense, the Military Orders, a badge or perhaps occasionally a livery, but references to uniforms are not uncommon in Sword and Sorcery settings. In this case they just felt right. With the uniform though, there had to be a backstory. I'm starting to enjoy  this matter of  exploring imaginary lands and history again.

The full field strength of the Black Band. Additional soldiers form a permanent garrison for Raven's Wood Hold itself.

There are two passes through the mountains that form much of the northern border of the Midlands. In the far distant past the Kingdom of Valdur controlled land on both sides of the mountains and the Great or West Pass was a busy avenue for commerce as well as an occasional route for invasion. The East Pass has always been a source of danger with the southern entrance in particular sitting either just within or well without the border as the fortunes of war ebbed and flowed.

The fort known as Raven's Wood Hold sits at the crest of the Great Pass a gateway or a barrier to those who would pass through the mountains. Sir John's family have held the post of Captain of the Passes for three generations now and they have adopted the surname Ravenswood and regard the Hold as their family home. 

The post of Captain of the Pass does not come with wide lands but it does come with the right to collect tolls. Rather than being able to rely purely on the levies from his lands the Captains have had to maintain a paid band of freelance soldiers,  mercenaries from all lands though few come from far away.  Since the mountain tribes are a minor  nuisance compared to the threat posed by raids by cavalry and archers from the Riders north of the pass or the Great King's Satrap to the East, the Hold maintains a quick response force of crossbowmen and armoured knights supported by local levies of light horse. Spearmen and war machines guard the Hold in their absence.

To mark the border guards, they have been given jacks or surcoats of Raven black and the knights bear not their own crest, for many who join the company do not wish their true name to be known, instead they bear the Great Tree of the Raven's Wood.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Black Company

Thank you to all for the helpful input. The reminders that this decision will have ramifications for the storyline were timely. I have not yet done  the  legwork to name existing cities let alone figure out the details of economic and social structures. There is however, a long history of mercenaries in this region,  particularly heavy cavalry and missile troops to supplement the native ones. 

So, still on their painting stick,  the crossbow men of the Black Company. I'm sure we will discover more about them once the unit of knights has been added and some "historical" research has been done.

I had initially intended to   paint them in toy style block and varnish with black (dark grey) surcoats but as I  progressed I realized that they were wearing studded jacks so went for black leather with brownish overtones. The figures are small enough, with enough detail and undercuts to make a smooth block finish difficult.  Luckily I remembered that the majority of the figures they are joining were done with overwashes so I proceeded to use the old techniques. Still a simple approach and I think they will blend in well.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mercenaries or Militia?

I should really be painting up some more Midland...Midlander? Midlanish? Midlish? archers or knights  or billmen but I have a hankering to do these crossbowmen. I was picturing them as the light infantry-ish type but Rob threw in some pavises  and I was very tempted to do a crossbow and pikearmed pavise bearer unit but I've decided to hold firm and do them as just crossbowmen.  Whether or not to permenantly attach the pavises to the bases or leave them separate and how having them should affect their movement are questions that remain.

More importantly, who are they?  The yeoman farmers of the midlands are archers or spear and bill men. The cities would have more foreign influence and money and of course the use of mercenaries has long been widespread. The figures are very uniformly dressed but that need not apply to colours.
Since I'm discovering this fictional history as I go, what do people think?
A. City Militia in uniform surcoats over their clothes?
B. Individually recruited mercenaries wearing whatever?
C. A Free Company of mercenaries wearing the Corporate Colours over their clothes. Perhaps with a cavalry contingent to match? White with a red lion perhaps....... or Black or......
D. Royal Guards in livery.