Sunday, 5 April 2015

Andalusian Interlude

Finally managed to finish my Andalusian DBA 3 Army (III/34b). This doesn't have all the options, alas. There are no Christian mercenaries as I need another box of Spanish Heavy cavalry. The ones I have are tied up in the Spanish Army. Having said that I've got some spare figures in the El Cid Spanish Command box, so maybe I can do something with them.

First up 1 x General (Cv). Banners are made out of a tomato paste tube, poles from florist wire. The thin tin sheet folds well but it is very stiff and a pig to cut accurately. It has to be put in place before you can paint it so I found these banners hard going. The General's axe has had the original plastic version cut away and the head transplanted onto a pin which was then pushed into the hand and cut off to the right length.

1 x Andalusian Cavalry (Cv). I like the poses and design of these figures. Spears are florist wire and I've done the same trick with the axe head.

 These are a mix of Black Guard and Andalusian spearmen (Sp). They include a number of axe wielding figures who have been converted to spearmen with pins. Everyone else has been suitably pinned as well. I like the figures on the right a lot, but there's only 4 in the whole box of 96, which is a bit of a shame as I'm not buying another 3 boxes to make an AMW unit.

2 x mujahids (LH). Again with pins for spears. The overall colour palette for this army was mostly blue and green with red kept to an absolute minimum. Really stands out when it is used, however.

2 x archers (Ps). Not completely happy with the look of these, - especially the figure with the white hoops on blue. I had half a mind to repaint him & I think I probably should have done. The pose of the figure drawing an arrow from the quiver is good however.

Finally 3 x javelinmen (Ps). The army list says these should be berbers, but I went for a more arab look. These are the most colourful figures in the army, again with pins for javelins.

Don't know how well these chaps will perform. There's a lot of light stuff in there and no real killing bases (no Kn or Bd) but you can never tell with DBA. Adding Spanish Feudals as allies might bolster them a bit.

What with working in London and stopping to do the Taipings these three armies based on the Hat El Cid range have taken longer than expected. I'm pleased with the overall look of them:

That's the Almoravids (Islamic Berber III/75) at the back and Feudal Spanish (III/35b) at the front, with the new guys in the middle.

Having got this far the next step is to ramp up the numbers for AMW. I've already started with the Mujahids and have a couple of completed four base units. Of course I need to decide on the army composition first really, rather than just paint all the stuff in the boxes I've got (although that technique often works as well). As indicated above I'm a bit light in some areas and over supplied in others - mainly arab/Moor heavy cavalry.

This will all be blown of course when the Peruvian & Chilean forces arrive so they may be added to intermittently rather than consistently over the next 12 months. Still, who's in a hurry?

Finally I must say thank you to blog follower Jim who made me the gifft of these figures. They've been a joy to work on.

It was a Good Friday after all

A Good Friday break from work gave me a chance to open up Shedquarters. Phil still needs to do some work on his Yarmuk DBA refight so we agreed to pick that up in the afternoon. Whilst I was waiting for him to arrive I thought it might be interesting to re fight Hydaspes using AMW straight, without any of my various additions over the years.

As its only 8 units a side compromises have to be made. Alex ends up with just a light cavalry unit on his left and the Indians only have one unit of chariots.

It's not a subtle battle. The Macedonian right wing has some fancy manoeuvring as the Companions try to avoid a one on one with the chariots but otherwise its fairly head on.

In the middle the elephants start an all out assault on the main Macedonian line.

At first it looks like it's going badly as one elephant fails three saving rolls and promptly dies.

On the right the Indian cavalry succumb to the Alexandrian onslaught and it looks like they can get two on one with the chariots.

The remaining elephant is doing stunning work, apparently invulnerable, churning its way through the phalangites. The bow units perform creditably in the shooting phase as well.

Half a phalanx shot away and another crushed by an elephant. Not looking good for the invaders.

Another phalanx crushed by an elephant and if you look closely you'll see there's one last base of the other unit just in contact with the archers. Still, the chariots have been seen off and that leaves Alex with two units of companions and one of light horse out of the photo at the bottom.

The race is on to see if the Companions can hoover up the Indian Heavy Archers before they lose another unit to the elephant.

Hanging on by the smallest of margins the archers are still there when the elephant comes up and catches their opponents in the flank.

And that's it. A 3-2 win to the Indians. A very close game that could have gone either way. Perhaps a better outcome than the game at Bletchley?

Just as I finished Phil arrived with Yarmuk. I have no pictures of the game. We played it twice with me as the Byzantines. I won the first game fairly easily. As we reflected on this it became clear than the games we had played featured Byzantine wins on a regular basis with the Arabs infrequently troubling the scorer. The flank march was actually a liability as it got crushed by Byzantine reserves and the Arab holding action in the centre wasn't a great success either.

A discussion of what we wanted to see led to an upgrading of the Arab foot from Blade to Spear and a repositioning of the Byzantine reserves and commanders. The next game then gave us an Arab victory and a much more satisfactory game narrative.

All Phil has to do now is finish the figures, take some more pictures & write it up.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Society of Ancients Battle Day 2015

As trailed in the last post this Saturday I was up slightly earlier than usual to head off to Sycamore Hall in Bletchley for the annual Society of Ancients Battle Day.

This event has been running for 13 years now and this year it reached new heights. Even with one game dropping out there were 16 games on display using 14 different systems. More on them later.

On arrival the hall was a mass of activity with people unloading terrain and toys. Luckily Hydaspes was fought on an open flat plain so no real challenges on the terrain front for anyone.

After initial set ups there's usually a talk from some one eminent. On this occasion it was Professor Phil Sabin who went over the different views on Hydaspes. This was followed by a Q&A, where Phil was joined by Duncan Head, author of "Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars" (which still ranks as the definitive work on armies of the period). Duncan also wrote the very good article on Alexander's army at the Hydaspes in December's Slingshot. If you don't have a copy of that, you should seek it out from the SoA stand at the next show you attend. Or buy it on line.

After that, a quick zip round the other games, before we started on our own.

This is Big Battle DBA 3, put on by an old friend, Martyn Simpson. It was busy all day, with a lot of interest it seemed.

This is one of the two Command and Colours games on the day. I think both won prizes for something or other. I've played C&C and it is certainly fun with some intriguing mechanisms. I find it a bit too board gamey to make me want to play it on more than a one off basis. And at the price it sells at I won't be buying my own copy.

I wasn't familiar with "War & Conquest" (shows I don't get out much) but it's a Warhammer Ancients second generation game I think. The rule book is all gloss and pictures with the normal blocks of meandering text that takes 5 pages to tell you that you roll some dice and add on factors. On the positive side all the army lists & QRF are supposedly available on the supporting website so once you've bought the book that's your total spend on rules. It looked horribly heavy going and clunky. I guess if you like that sort of game then it's the one for you.

This is "Lost Battles", run by Phil Sabin. This churned over a few times on the day, with Phil making copious notes as it went along. It had a coterie of fans and was well liked it seemed. Phil had used LB as the basis for some of his talk earlier on. I like the LB book a lot as I've said before, but I do find the rules a bit soulless and Phil has dealt with a number of the problems wargames rules grapple with by just raising the level of resolution so they are not relevant.

Comitatus was a completely new game for me and I didn't see it played either. I've probably missed it as it's a set of rules for the Dark Ages. Fairly pointless having this picture here really.

Vincent Auger, who is usually to be seen with the Armati boys, was here with his own rules. Which were written in French. That'd give him an advantage over the people he was playing I'd guess.

This is the other Command & Colours game. The hex grid on the playing surface is very subtle. They were also using a mix of figures, including Indians from the same Hat range I was using.

This is Duncan Head's take on the battle which used DBMM and followed Hammond's interpretation which has the battle as an overwhelming attack on the Indian left whilst the rest do nothing. Given this position he really only needed half the table and didn't need most of the Indian infantry.

Finally of the games I photographed this is Armati in action. As regular readers know I am a fan of Armati, but it can look ugly with all of the hit and fatigue markers on the table.

Other rules I saw being used were WRG 5th or 6th edition, "Hail Caesar", "Spear and Shield" or something like that, Piquet and I think "To the Strongest".  I'm probably coming up short on some of the systems in play.

Well, I had my AMW adaptation to be getting on with. My players were Phil from our local group and Simon Wilson who came down from somewhere near Sheffield to play. He took the Indians.

I haven't documented the game turn by turn as I've written up versions of this several times already. Phil went in for a big right hook, lead by Alexander. He took some heavy casualties on his other units, especially from the chariots, but it turned out to be a devastating tactic.

King Porus tried to even up the odds by intervening, but he eventually had to flee to the relative safety of his infantry line. The elephants tried to press on in the centre and inflicted some damage but were unable to make a break through. They also kept dying and the running into each other  when going berserk.

Eventually Phil was able to encircle both ends of the line, and Porus died when the infantry unit  has was with was overwhelmed by Alexander and two units of Companions.  Simon took it very well and claimed to have enjoyed the day. I really should have taped down the edges on the mat to stop it riding up in the centre.

We only got to play the game once due to lack of fresh players. and we probably didn't have quite enough time any way.

It really shows how the hobby has fragmented over the years, and continues to do so. The oldest rules on display were 6th edition which date from 1980. A battle day run in the early 80s would probably have featured lots of games using 6th edition plus possibly Tony Bath and his rules and that would have been that, unless the Halifax team turned up with "Shock of Impact". But 14 sets of rules, - no, not believable.

Anyway, a thoroughly enjoyable day out and recommended to anyone who hasn't tried it. Keep your eyes open for next year's event.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Society of Ancients Battle Day 28 March 2015

Haven't done one of these for a while. Battle Day, that is*.

I took part in the early ones, - I did Gaugamela, Sambre & Dorylaeum all as Matrix Games in pre-blog days - and then I stopped. There was always a reason not to go, although I've helped Phil out with some of his submissions, and this year it seemed like I'd miss it too. However changes to holiday plans meant I would be in the UK over the required weekend so I went to not taking part to running a game inside a fortnight.

Luckily for me the battle is Hydaspes this year, which I've re fought a couple of times with AMW, and the organiser (Richard Lockwood) took part in one of those. I think he really wanted me to take part. Details are here: Battle Day

So far I have two players, me & Phil, but more may join in over the next week.

As I can't take my Shedquarters tables with me I needed to check out my transportable terrain mat. Whilst I've got those big green cloths which are featured when I'm playing square based games I usually take my vinyl play mat which is blue on one side and green on the other. The blue side has featured in Hammerin' Iron posts on this blog. When I rolled it out I was reminded that the green side was also marked out in squares, so I had to do a quick repaint. (BTW This mat is made of two vinyl advertising posters that Chris K gave me when he ran an outdoor shop. They were for Berghaus, I think).

Having repainted I did a quick sizing with the proposed forces. It's a bit of a squeeze, but they fit.

Indians on the right, Macedonians an the left. Copy of Slingshot with excellent articles on the armies in the foreground.

Alexander and his companions. These are new figures,  - Hat - which were bought in anticipation of this game. I'd been using Gauls to make up the numbers.

Porus & his elephants. Richard Lockwood says we shouldn't use as many elephants as we can lay our hands on. I don't completely agree.

Another shot of the Indian line. It's wall to wall stuff.

From the layout I don't expect much manoeuvring. I am expecting a hard fought and bloody encounter.

We will be using the Shedquarters amendments that reduce the effectiveness of elephants and give generals a role. If we have enough time we might refight it without these changes. If we do I expect Alexander to get well and truly spanked.

* If you have never heard of these what happens is the same battle is re fought by lots of different groups, all using different rules. The results are written up and published in Slingshot. The day successfully proves that everyone's chosen rules are the best.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Taiping Trials

Today I had a visit from fellow WDer Tim Gow from "Megablitz and More". He came to see me on a business matter, but we also found the time to squeeze in some "Shed Action".

As we haven't had a game for a while I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to put on. Then the answer became obvious. The Taiping's have been finished recently and haven't been blooded yet. "Taiping Era" it is then, prompting some late might flag painting.

Not having played the rules for a while I set up a fairly simple confrontation. I hadn't realised how many Imperials I had, so I had to cut the army size back to make a game of it.

It was a good refresher for me of the rules and Tim made some helpful suggestions as well in areas where the rules have proved problematic in the past. I also learned not to pack the centre of the table with terrain if you want the game to move forward swiftly.

My Imperials are to the left, Tim's Rebels to the right. We meet in a fertile valley, at a cross roads dividing the local paddy fields.

Tim, worried about his right flank, bolsters his sword and shield men with a unit of cavalry.

He adopts a watchful pose in the centre, relying on his massed guns to drive off my superior forces.

 I, cunningly, have deployed my artillery out of range and in the wrong place so I have no covering fire. This means my Tiger Men are swiftly broken by Tim's artillery, and are soon streaming towards the rear.

On my right my brave Manchoo horse wade through paddy fields to face down Tim's cavalry.

On my left I have massed my Mongol hordes, confident of smashing in Tim's flank guards and delivering me victory.

A vigorous round of combat  sees one of my cavalry units needing to retire for refit, whilst Tim's skirmishers take to their heels.

Everywhere the mighty forces of the Empire press forward as the Taiping Rebels cower on their base line.

The left flank cavalry melee ends with both sides falling back after indecisive combat. On the far flank, and out of shot, we have broken a unit each and so both have some cavalry threatening our opponent's rear.

Here's a close up of Tim's right flank horse, showing their shaky morale with an MV ("Moral Vigour") marker of two.

Meanwhile in the middle my rallied Tiger Men have counter attacked and are just about to overrun those pesky Taiping jingals, whilst my own such unit pours fire into those opposing infantry.

Alas I am unable to close and break where I need to, and Tim's guns are breaking my units one at a time.

The left flank has descended into a stalemate as I am unable to rally my cavalry sufficiently to close again. Tim's superior quality troops are making a difference all along the line.

A final shot of the centre. Most of my infantry has broken and it is time for Tim to go home. Another victory for the Heavenly Kingdom.

I need to revisit my understanding of the rules and tidy up a few areas, but otherwise not too bad a return. I probably need more Taiping troops and I also need to look again at the command structure. Still, good enough to return to CoW, most probably.

(NB The rules are available as a download, top right of the page).