Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Earl of Belmont goes Waltzing With a Bear

I was thinking of writing a proper battle report on Saturday's game but to my dismay I seem to have only taken 2 sets of photos and having had a busy weekend of gaming, rules tinkering and video watching, the details are a bit vague.
A reprise from the previous post.
The scenario is #4 from CS Grant's Programmed Scenarios. I decided to run the Northmen as a programmed enemy. Their mission was to delay the enemy without taking heavy losses. A die roll decided that they could lose at most 3 units. I played the Midlanders myself with the mission of breaking through as quickly as possibly with victory to be decided by post game consensus rather than any nice clearcut predetermined conditions. (hate it when he does that!)

After rolling for deployment options for the Northmen I selected all the light and missile troops for the left flank backed by a few bands of infantry.  (gotta get casting armored vikings and saxons!)

A closer look at the hill just before the Lancers charge.
The first few turns saw some cautious manouvring and the occasional exchange of arrows. I wasn't keen to throw away my advance guards just yet and Helgin had rolled a passive defence. At last the main body arrived and I sent the lads in. 

Fortune was not favouring archery today and time being short, I sent in the lancers. To my chagrin my men rolled high when hitting and low on armour saves so that the centaurs and archers that I expected to slaughter, despite the hill, were hurt but lived to retreat while I lost 1 stand and most of the second. As heavier troops moved up, the enemy fell back all along the line which was fine by me. 

The bickering amongst the light troops continued as the Earl pressed forward and eventually the enemy was down 2 stands. Behind the line the Lady Vivian tended to the wounded by staring seductively into their eyes and muttering phrases in a strange tongue while they continued to die in droves. 

Eventually the knights caught up with the Northmen hearthguard and crashed into them, on the first round their armour helped but the infantry survived to fallback into the stream. The knights followed up wiping out 1 band and nearly taking the 2nd but the number of hits received in return was shocking. Perhaps it was the muddy streambank but the 3+ armour save was not enough to save the Earl's Pensioners, they were wiped out!  Helgin had also lost a stand though and would lose the game if he lost another.  The Earl joined the remaing lancers and  pressed forward into the stream.

That's when it appeared, the Great Bear! Rumbling forward he crashed into the lancers midstream. 4 dice, 4 hits, 4 armour saves for 4,5,6 and not a single save! Now it was the Earl's turn to roll for the 2 excess hits but his armour was strong. He was left alone with an enemy unit however (the Bear being a unit rather than a character) so had to dice to avoid capture. I'm not sure yet if the bear is a trained beast with a handler, enchanted, or an intelligent ally but I'm pretty sure you don't want to be captured by it!

The moment of drama as Mahan Mohr slays the Earl's horse with one swipe of his great paw, trapping the Earl underneath.
It seemed almost inevitable. Now what to do with the army commander captured? I rechecked the rules and remembered that I had included one of the example house rules from Morschauser. If the General is lost, roll for each unit with equal chances to fight on, fallback, or flee the field. Apparently the Earl's men loved him but not enough to die trying to rescue him. They fled the field in droves. Delay? Hell! Helgin held the pass!

What can I say? Fast, furious, some tricky tactical challenges to think about, some "shouldn't have done that" moments and never as predictable as one would expect. Now I need a big stack of 60mm squares of 1/4" mdf.

(Edited to correct Westfolk to Northmen)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Helgin Holds the Hills

Or tries to.

Sneak Preview

Scenario 4 from Programmed Scenarios.

UnitHits MoveMeleeFlankRangeSaveSpecial
Earl Helgin 2343-5General
Angus Mohr2352-4
Mathan Mor4452-5Not slowed by woods
Sea Folk4342-5
Farm Folk4333-6Hedgehog: spears count as cover in melee

UnitHits MoveMeleeFlankRangeSaveSpecial
Earl of Belmont1553-3General
Vivian142265Heal, Obscure,Confound,Stealth,Guile
City Bands4333-6Hedgehog: Pikes count as cover in melee

Friday, June 19, 2015

Implementation progressing, Planning to Follow

Did I mention the "Irregular B" aspect of my nature? (For those not up on the old 3rd ed WRG Ancients they are the impetuous barbarian noble types, Frankish knights and so on, liable to charge without orders.) Well exploration of the feasibility of  moving Prince Michael and my Rough Wooing forces to my fantasy setting is proceeding but not quite as expected. I have figured out how to place and explain the transition without disowning the 25mm games or disallowing them to continue and without disrupting the Adventures of Prince Michael, I have rediscovered the size/style issue that has left so many unpainted Elastolin, Merten and Perry figures in the cupboard and I've discovered that there were a couple more unpainted figures than I remembered, about 100 or so more.

Fresh off the painting table.
A Midlish Knight and archers of the 3rd Age.
Elastolin Gensdarme, Merten Archers
The last issue is the easiest. If I assign almost all the existing big clunky figures to the Empire that will give them some 60 stands of troops, somewhat more than the standard 35 but then the Empire rarely fights and the figures are the travelling portion of my Rough Wooing armies so its really just a place holder for them in case I want to use a few while the other armies are building over the next few years.

I hadn't completely forgotten the size/style issue but had suppressed it and forgotten why I hadn't finished so many of the smaller figures. The Meisterzinn figures aren't all big and tall, the semiflat ones are nicely sized and proportioned but some are big and many of the full round ones have HUGE heads. The 2 handed swordsman is probably the tallest of the lot, I chose one of them to make a Galloglach from 15 years ago. There are a few Elastolins and Perries etc mixed in with the bigger figures in my Rough Wooing armies and in a crowd they don't stand out but when there are whole armies of different sizes in a Fantasy setting or when disproportionate individuals meet in a duel well...... 

Prince Michael takes on Angus Mor, a Hill Giant from the West.
Elastolin vs a Meisterzinn conversion

There are enough unpainted Elastolin vikings left along with the Prince August Vikings to let me build the men of the west from Dearg Mor's "Picts" and "Helgin's "Saxons" (aka Elastolin vikings) and Prince August Vikings backed up by Great Beasts, witches, flying things and a few Giants and the like. The schiltrons have apparently disappeared under the increasing influence of the Men of the Sea.

The Midlands will get all the late Medieval types including Swiss pikemen to replace the Scots spearmen. Fashions change but it will be the same balanced mix of heavy cavalry backed by a few lights, infantry and archers.

To the East the Sultan who has replaced the Great King of Kings may encourage some of his wilder subjects to raid over the border, a few lizard men and the like, perhaps accompanied by some of the wilder brigands but it will be a while yet before his Spahis, Jannisaries, great cannon and masses of volunteers are ready to march.

That leaves the north. According to the Adventures of Prince Michael in the Days of King Arthur, the Prince hails from Valdur in the North. I have been portraying it as being in northern Britain (southern Scotland), from just beyond the wall but the name Valdur is the name of my old fantasy Kingdom. So be it. The wall was built in the Northwest then, to hold back the Picts or Westmen and the sea raiders and King Arthur obviously sits on the throne of the Midlands making the North and the Midlands as some sort of semi-allies at the moment. I had been planning the 25mm Northern armies as horsemen, including horse archers (Garrison Hyrkanians) and armoured lancers (Minfig and Heritage Rohirrim)  backed by peasant infantry (Garrison Fyrd and Prince August). I was about to reassign the Elastolin  Huns to the East but in his adventures, Prince Michael often fights beside Preisages the Sarmatian  so it looks like the Huns and remaining Elastolin Roman and early medieval troops will all be part of the Northern Confederation giving them their 35 stands once the cavalry kits and a few more infantry are finished.  

I have yet to write the details of the history anywhere but shortly after the last Ambush game and the return home of the Master of Secrets (released from captivity by the Witch Queen of the West), the King of the Midlands suddenly fell ill and while he did not die for another 20 years, the Kingdom fell into civil war after civil war. Twenty years after his death the Falcon of Light appeared with a young boy whom he proclaimed to be the son of the late King, conceived just before his death and raised in secrecy .....(OK not original but it just happens to fit the established story line). 

Our story now resumes 20 years after that or roughly 60 years later and 15mm taller than the last game.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Warriors and Witches

Gathering of Hosts might be a massed combat or Battle game but what tale of legendary battles is complete without heroes, leaders, mages and various specialist characters? 
On Sunday Rob hosted a game to test out his proposed character rules. Essentially each character is given 1 or more special rules which can be used boost a unit he/she is with, or a list of spells where appropriate which may each be used once. This worked fairly well but I would like to incorporate some of the sort of combat effects I am used to for commanders. So here are some proposed character rules.
Still on the outside of the Tiger. 

Proposed Character Rules for Gathering of Hosts.

  1. Characters may be of 2 types: integral or independent. An integral character is based with  a unit, may not leave it and may not influence other units.If the unit is destroyed, he is destroyed as well. Independent characters may move from unit to unit or act on their own and may use their influence on any unit they have joined or at such distance as is specified for their ability.

    (Note: although this is a battle game there is no fixed scale, units might be a score of men or 100 or 500. In a big battle an independent character might represent a main character with sidekicks, hearthguard, acolytes etc or just be a really BIG DAMNED HERO! )
  2.  Stats. Each character must have a set of stats defined at the start of a game. These may be recorded on a card for each character or be collected on a reference sheet. They will each have the same stats as a unit: movement, armour etc but will also have a list of special abilities. If these abilities are not standard ones from the rules then they need to be explained. Each character normally has 1 strength point but exceptional characters may have 2.
  3. Characters and Units. If a character is an integral  part of a unit he may not leave it otherwise they are treated as any other character. A character may pass through freindly units and vice versa but if they end the move touching then the character has joined the unit. A character may not join more than 1 unit per turn.  A character who is joined to a unit may move away during normal movement or may move with the unit. When joined to a unit a character may use their special abilities and must fight in melee. If a character is joined to a unit which is destroyed by enemy shooting or in melee, any excess hits will go against the character (and may be saved). If after all melee is resolved a character is still alive and is in contact with an enemy then each side rolls a die. If the enemy roll is higher the character is overwhelmed and captured otherwise it may immediately move away.
  4. Magic: Magicians (witches etc etc) are given a list of spells that they are capable of performing. Powerful spells should be limited to 1 use each but a magician may have more than 1 copy of the spell. Lesser spells may be used as often as desired but only once per turn.  A magician may not move and cast a spell and may not cast a spell if in melee. Spells have the same range as bows. Here are some sample spells, other spells may be added by a GM or by agreement before a game and these may be changed or ommitted: 
    1. Restore. (single use) The magician selects a unit and throws 4 dice. For each 5,6 1 lost strength point is recovered. 
    2. Ward: (single use) The magician rolls 1 d6/2 The result is how long the spell lasts. While in effect the unit adds 1 to their saving throw.
    3. Hurry. (single use) The magician rolls 1 d6/2 The result is how long the spell lasts. While the spell is in effect the unit moves double. 
    4. Frenzy. (single use) The magician rolls 1d6/2. The result is how long the spell lasts. While the spell is in effect the unit receives a +1 to its Melee Power but this may never be more than 5.
    5. Summon. (single use) The magician rolls 1d6. On a score of 4,5,6 a monster is called into play (must be pre arranged).   
    6. Heal: (multiple use) The magician rolls 1 die per strength point and for each 5,6 rolled 1 lost strength point is recovered.
    7. Obscure (multiple use) The magician rolls 1 die per strength point. On a roll of 5,6 the target unit is enveloped in mist and counts as in cover to enemy shooting and melee (note note cumulative with actual cover)
    8. Hasten. (multiple use) The magician rolls 1 die per strength point and for each 5,6 rolled the unit may add 1 extra movement increment. 
    9. Rage (multiple use) The magician rolls 1 die per strength point and for each 5,6 rolled the unit rolls 1 extra die in combat.
    10. Confound (multiple use)The magician rolls 1 die per strength point and if any 5 or 6 is rolled the target unit loses 1 increment of movement on its next turn and will fight and shoot with 1 die less than normal on this turn and on its turn.
  5. Special abilities. Characters may have special abilities which may be applied to a unit that the character has joined only while he is joined. Others only apply to the character. Here are some examples, others may be added by a GM or by agreement before a game and these need not be used: 
    1. Inspire. The unit gains 1 increment of movement.
    2. Cunning. The unit adds 1 to its Melee Power but this may never exceed 5.
    3. Prepared. The unit adds 1 to its armour save.
    4. Stealth. The character may pass through any enemy unit and may force an opposing character to accept a challenge.
    5. Guile. The character may wear a disguise and join an enemy unit. Each side rolls a die. If the unit rolls higher than the ruse fails and the character must resolve melee with the unit and if he lives must roll for capture as usual otherwise the ruse works and the character may then move the unit. He may not attack with the unit but may retreat and will prevent it from shooting or attacking. If the character stays with the unit then the roll off must be repeated each turn.  
    6. Strategem. The melee power of any enemy attacking the unit in melee is reduced by 1 but never to less than 1.
  6. Challenges. If  characters are joined to units which are opposing each other in melee then on his turn a character can challenge an opponent to single combat. The 2 characters then fight one round of melee against each other before the unit's fight. If they survive they may fight again as normal with their unit. If a character declines combat then he may not fight in melee or use any special abilities. If the unit is destroyed the character may be killed or captured as normal.
  7. Army Morale. Characters do not count when establishing army Morale but when they are lost they count against it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tested at the Pass

After Sunday's game I was all hepped up and excited and ready to write a narrative with some background on characters and situation but duties called then yesterday was a game day in town and an absorbing WWII game and... well the moment has passed so here is a shorter more direct report on the game.

My goal, beyond having fun,  was twofold: test some new rules and test the rules in a smaller, scenario driven, game.  Spoiler alert: Full marks on both points.

The convoy escort has beaten off the first attacks and advanced but a new assault is gathering.

The scenario was a mix of the general idea of an old teaser ambush with some terrain  laid down as much according to instinct and the pieces on hand as to any vague plan of a narrow valley between hills and river. I then chose 12 units per side plus a victory objective from which arose a back story.

In the Midlands, rumours of dark dealings and a new threat from the West are circulating. The King has "requested", Sir Daniel, Purveyor of Truths to leave his lair and venture forth in person to get to the bottom of things and return with proof. After adventures not recorded he and a force are returning with a captured Lion Priestess in hand. They have only to pass through the Shadow Vale and across the Stone Bridge to reach the safety of the Midlands.

The rearguard cavalry is moving up to counter attack.Casualty figures and looters mark lost units.
The convoy enters the table as follows:
Scouts: 1 x light armoured cavalry crossbows
Main Body:
Tunstall Lancers 1 x Armoured shock cavalry
Tunstall Archers: 1 x Light armoured. archers
Pikes: 2 x armoured pikemen.
Guardians of Truth: 1 x Heavily Armoured Shock Infantry
Sir Daniel and escort: Character General
Captive in cart with light armoured escort.
Border Archers: 1 x Light Armoured Archers
Pikes: 2 x armoured pikemen.
Longbottom Lancers:  1 x armoured shock cavalry

Rearguard: Border Horse 1x light armoured shock cavalry

The Westfolk forces are all hidden in ambush. Rather than use my usual cards and blinds option or the hidden map deployment I would use in a 2 player game, I tried something new. Each turn I rolled 2 dice. A 6 meant a cavalry unit, 4,or 5 an infantry unit. These are drawn from a list of available units, if none of the appropriate type are available none appear. For each unit I rolled 2 dice. If Red was higher the Lion Queen could place the unit anywhere on table not visible to the enemy and not yet searched by them. If Blue was higher the unit had to be placed in one of the not yet cleared ambush locations closest to the enemy and must shoot or attack if possible or advance full speed on the turn of placement if not. The system worked well to provide a reasonable ambush that was a surprise to both sides but especially to the ambushed as there was no eyeing of cards as possible danger spots, every hill and wood was a danger.  

The list was:
Lion Queen. Character and General with Special unit. Attributes not defined yet so treated as shock cavalry able to move through woods with magical protection equal to armour.
The Assasasin. character not yet defined so treated as light infantry but with attack of 5 and magical protection equal to armour. (didn't get into action)
3 x Light Cavalry, lightly armoured (shield)
3 x light infantry archers, unarmoured but counting as light due to camoflage
4 x light infantry, lightly armoured.

The scene from a different angle.
(oops I thought this was a later picture but its here now)


Early on a series of impetuous ambushes by archers and light cavalry inflicted some heavy damage by shooting and by flanking attacks on isolated units. Only 1 unit was destroyed early on but shielding the ones with 1 hit left while trying to cover the convoy became a real headache for Sir Daniel. As more light infantry appeared and the attackers got anxious to score kills or grab the hostage before the rest of the heavy troops could come up led to some possibly rash atacks not backed up by luck. Soon casualties were even and the ambushers were using their speed to retreat to safe havens from which to watch for an opening while keeping up a thin shower of arrows. The convoy plodded forward in all round defence minus 1/2 the cavalry which had chased after some light infantry, been ambushed, rescued by more cavalry, and then caught the retreating enemy just short of cover and rode them down. At this point, both sides were down a couple of units but Sir Daniel had either to push forward or else retreat quickly hoping for a draw. A die roll chose the aggresive go for a win. With battered and lost units on both sides it hung in the balance, if the flanking cavalry could come up behind the ambusher's cavalry in the open, like a hammer against the anvil of the convoy, all would be good. Instead the third archer finally appeared and shot down the last Tunstall lancer, who failed his armour save, and the Midlish force went under strength and was no longer allowed to attack or shoot (not that there were any archers left).  They tried to retreat but the swift moving light infantry soon surrounded them. There was no hope but to negotiate, hand over the priestess alive in exchange for free passage. I gave Sir Daniel a chance to use the persuasion of his secret knowledge on the Lion Queen (opposed die roll) and it worked. He handed her over and was allowed to depart. A Westfolk victory in their eyes if some what diminished by the sight of their enemy retreating unmolested but a continuing story for Sir Daniel.

The game hangs in the balance. Both armies are only a few units away from losing morale and have multiple wounded units.


As mentioned above I was very pleased with how the rules worked with the armour save. With as few as 12 units per side, and a scenario, an engaging battle was fought lasting longer than the earlier, larger, straight encounters, possibly 2 hours and somewhere between 20 and 30 turns. A large battle should still go fast but with a bit more depth than before.

I hadn't been happy with my trial horse archer rule or the shoot only before move and lack of difference in archers types so I tried introducing light and massed archers on horse and foot and let light ones move and shoot but with 2 dice while the massed one could do either. The move and shoot with 1/2 dice worked fine, the other not so much and anyway, looking at the figures I realized that unless my old Minifig Picts were some sort of stealth snipers, they were really just an unarmoured version of the lightly armoured English archer figures they were fighting. For massed archers I had really been thinking Persian Sparabara and the like. In the end I decided to just let any archer move and shoot with 1/2 dice and I'll worry about special units later. One I'm puzzling over is my 2 stands of "lances" which contain a mix of lancers and mounted crossbowmen. Possibly a special unit stat with 2 dice of shock and 2 of archers. But that's a question for later.

In case anyone is wondering about the increased flank value instead of a hedgehog, the pikes are more like Swiss with a mix of pikes and halberds and ready to form square at the drop of a hat without orders from above.
The bridge is in sight. The rearguard cavalry is swiftly advancing on the rear of the enemy cavalry but then archers pop up in the scrub along the river and the Tunstall Lances go down and with them the army's morale.  

More work on characters and magic is next I think. Not to mention more rebasing, painting and playing.

The deal is struck. Safe release of the prisoner for freedom to go.