Sunday, 25 January 2015

A face off between Al and Cid

Any form of actual gaming has been mostly absent from my calendar of late. Too much commuting and too much to do at weekends. However this Saturday afforded me a small window to squeeze in a game and try out my new armies using DBA 3.0. Okay, so I haven't built any camps yet, so some improvisation is required.

I'd been having some feelings of dissatisfaction with the army list (III/33) that I'd been using for my Murabits.. Not with the troops types as much as the other bits and pieces. The list is generic North Africa/Sicily and covers a wider period than the 60 years or so of Almoravid domination. Then, about 20 minutes before my opponent was due to turn up I discovered I was using the wrong list. I should have been using Islamic Berber (III/75). A hasty re-jigging of the bases I had out produced me a close approximation of the army (some African lancers standing in for Christian knights) and I was ready, but also had a new painting list.

My opponent for these games was Phil. He'd got some stuff for me from a recent Peter Pig order and it seems churlish not to invite him in for a game if he's come past to drop the stuff off.

Enough of that and on with the game.

Phil has a 15mm Feudal Spanish army, so he took their 20mm bigger brothers for the first game.It may not be the troop mix he's used to, but he had a plan. Of course this is the first game he's used the army for under DBA3.0, so a few surprises might be ahead for both of us.


Phil was defending, so he set up first. I sort of mirrored his deployment, but pushed my Light Horse out wide to try and get round the flanks.


Phil advanced generally, and pushed his cavalry/knights out to his left to mask off his exposure to my Light Horse. He's doing something clever with his single base of Light Horse apparently. I rolled a 1 for my PIPs and so didn't do much.


Phil threw his Knights into the end of my line, forgetting that what looked like some Berber cavalry was actually Knights. He's managed to pin my Light Horse into the corner too. Brilliant die rolling by yours truly killed the Knight unit with the red banner. You should note that due to a lack of figures that the Spanish general is the foot blades with the blue banner. My general is the inoffensive looking guy with the donkey and the trumpeter.


My turn and I just engage all along the line. It is evenly matched, which when facing an opponent who is tactically more competent than you are is not a bad deal.


I'm seriously out matched on this flank, but I actually get away with it.


The combats in the middle go my way in spades. Lots of the Spanish recoil and I get two kills on the Psiloi. That pushes Phil's dead pile up to three and I'm still firing on all cylinders, except for one base of Light Horse dead out on my right..


I just like this view from behind my line.


And this one.


So Phil needs to kill lots in his next turn and goes for it full throttle. He turns his Knights in on the flank of my Light Horse. Ooo-er.


His Light Horse from the combat on my right peel off and catch the flank of my Knights. This is bad news. As I pushed Phil back last turn he is no longer overlapped by my General base. At the end of the turn Phil has pulled the game back to 3 all.


In my turn I have just enough PIPs to turn my General into the flank of his opposite number. He dies, game over. Win for the Murabits.

So, a game where I was comprehensively out-generaled by a superior army but I won it any way. How come? This table might make it all clear.


Yep. I kept a record of the die rolls in the game. Phil consistently out rolled me on PIPs, but I had him cold on the combat rolls. The averages are revealing, but the killer has the frequency I rolled 5s & 6s. Game to me through dumb luck.

How would we both fare when we swapped the armies over?


Again the Spanish were defending, so I had to deploy first this time. Not sure what my plan was. Hold the middle with my infantry whilst crushing his flanks with my superior cavalry, probably. Why is that Light Horse unit in the middle?


I think I had a 3 for my first PIP roll. I sent my Psiloi off to occupy the wood and  transferred my Light Horse out to the end of my line. Phil, as usual got his Light Horse in a threatening position.


A PIP roll of 1 left me standing still pretty much, so Phil was able to sweep in upon my flank and hit my Light Horse.


Although I lost the Light Horse I was able to counter attack with my Knights and Cavalry. This drove the Light Horse off and inflicted a casualty too. My attempt to close with Phil's Psiloi/Archer unit was frustrated  by a push back result (NB We didn't realise until after the game that Phil has an illegal army. He can't have the Knight unit and the Archers).


My right wing looks a bit of a mess now. Phil's general is in there, Light Horse round my rear. What a mess.

I'm missing some pictures of the action in the middle. I closed with everything I could, and drove Phil back, inflicting some damage. Phil killed off my Cavalry unit and piled into the back of my Knights in the main line. These died. Looking dodgy.


Then it was all over. A couple of good rolls and I've cut up Phil's spears and won the game.

Another win for me, and a win for the Spanish. So what does the Dice Table tell us?


Even clearer than the last game. Doesn't matter how useless you are, if you get good combat rolls you can get out of almost anything. I had the same spread of PIP rolls as in the previous game, so I was again very passive.

I've never done such a thorough analysis of dice rolls in a game before. Not all games lend themselves to this type of analysis anyway. What's more, not all die rolls are equal. A 6 is much more useful when opposed by a 1, than a 5, for example. And you can get away with rolling a 1 if you're not fighting in a 2:1 combat. Sometimes a 1 is all you need for PIPs.

I also have to say that normally Phil beats me, so I think these games aren't a true reflection of the game. I was very lucky.

But no less fun for all that.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Cid & Al are ready to play

Well, a little later than I had hoped, but my two DBA 3.0 Spanish Reconquista armies are done. Feudal Spanish (III/35b) and Murabits "Early Muslim North Africa & Sicilly" (III/33)

Actually, the first two  of three. I need to do the Andalusians (III/34) as well at some point. So, having a Sunday morning free I retreated to Shedquarters with my finished figures, put my "desert" board on the table and took some photographs.


Here's the array of Spanish. A fine body of heavy foot in the middle, flanked by hidalgos and caballeros villanos, and screened by some javelin men and archers.


Here are the "psiloi". They've all got pins for javelins, and where possible I've added some more to the original figure. They're nice but I'm a bit concerned by the figures on either end, who are running on a single leg. Not the most robust of poses.


Oh! Forgot these in my brief description above. Some pre-jinete light mounted javelin men.


This is my dismounted General (4bd) element. One of the hidalgo bases could do as a General instead, but then I'd need to paint another one to make up my regular hidlagos, - which I will, in time. The standard is a plastic one from the set, with the pole replaced by florist wire again. I debated replacing the shaft of the axe with a pin, but decided I'd be okay. I can always go back and do it later if I need to.


For the caballeros villanos I went for the figures with the round, simple shields, to imply they don't have the most up to date and expensive equipment. I've also gone for fairly simple colours, but with a bit of trim to indicate their slightly higher status than regular towns folk.


This is the hidalgo base which could also double as the General.


There are two other hidalgo elements. I added lance pennons, either by transplanting the ones from the lances in the set, or by using some wine bottle foil. The results overall are a bit mixed I'm afraid.


The army has 3 elements of 4 Sp. I did two bases in similar colours and "heraldry", but I fear they look a little too uniform for the period pre-knightly Orders, and a bit too smart to be a city militia. I gave them a standard to vary the colours a bit.


As I reported in an earlier post the army list changed from 2.2 to 3.0, so I had to add another spear base. These have a brick red/green theme. I'm quite pleased with this look.


Finally a 3 Ax bow unit, which is new to the DBA 3.0 army, makes up the round dozen.

I also have a couple of spare bases to enable me to mix it up a bit.


The cross bows were done as psiloi for the 2.2 army, but the 3.0 army sees them as 3Cb. I'll need some like this if I use the army under Armati, although I'm not convinced by skirmishing arbalasters. These may end up being rebased.


Finally some slingers. Armies never have enough of these, in my opinion.

So now we can turn to North Africa, for my Murabits (III/33). I added some huts and palm trees for a bit of atmosphere for the group shot.


A good number of light horse, some decent heavy cavalry (not knights) and some spears make this quite a nice little army.


Here they are facing up to the Spaniards. Must be in Spain now, because there are no palm trees.


I'd like to pretend I played a game, but I didn't. These are just posed.


It was important to check the cavalry can fight each other without the lances getting in the way.


And finally the infantry match up, for similar reasons.

They're a nice colourful pair of armies. I have some more to do for the Murabits to give me a few more options, before I move onto the Andalusians.

This has been posted a bit later than intended. The trains this week have universally not run to time. Ironically this evening I caught an earlier train that had been delayed 20 minutes and so got home earlier than I would if the trains had been running on time and I caught my usual one. Got that? In summary it meant I had enough time to finish this post.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

I really must start this project

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but we (Mrs T and I) went to Peru last year. I went not intending to be interested in their military history (Incas v Spanish? What's the point?). However, against my best intentions and thanks to a guide in Arequipa the Pacific War of 1879 - 1884 came to my attention.

After a small amount of inquiry it became clear this was an interesting and of course confusing and bitter struggle with lots to interest the military historian and wargamer.

Coming back home it turns out there is a recently produced range of figures from Outpost Wargaming, and also some cracking good sources.

Alan Curtis has published a two volume guide called "To The Last Cartridge" which you can get through Nafziger. Curtis has also posted a painting guide on the Outpost website.

And then there's this Christmas present I got. I nearly didn't ask for it. After all it's £45. That's a lot for a book. On the other hand when you see what people will pay for a box of plastic figures from Warlord it's actually reasonable.

I'm talking about "Uniforms of the Pacific War" published by Partizan Press.

For anyone wanting to model or paint the armies this is about perfect. The translation is a bit off in places (evidence of Google Translate, perhaps?) and I think it would have helped if the translators had read Curtis' books. Inclusion of an explanation of exactly what a Civic Battalion is wouldn't have hurt, for example. The problem is often that a direct translation of a word doesn't always carry the same meaning. "Militia" and "Volunteer" have distinct meanings in English in a military context and no doubt Spanish is the same.

Anyway, ignore that, because this book is brilliant. In 256 pages you get 160 pages of colour illustrations and descriptions, half of each. Each illustration broadly has 3 clear representations of different units and uniforms. So that's over 200 good, usable pictures. They're divided by Campaign and by army, as all the sides seem to change their uniforms and organisation from year to year. And nick their opponent's kit. And some of them wear picklehaubs.

Your basic Osprey has 8 pages of pictures with a similar number of pictures per page. So, in one way this is the equivalent of 10 Ospreys. Then you also get the rest of the pages stuffed full with contemporary photographs or modern photographs of contemporary equipment. Then to round it off it has a list of all the units that took part in the War, by campaign. The brief description of the War at the start of the book is handy, but if you're serious you'd go to Curtis for that any way.

Any other problems? Well, be nice if it had an index, but on the other hand it means you have an excuse to leaf through it when ever you want to find something, and it is gorgeous to look at.

The original authors were Chilean, but they've tried very hard to cover all three armies in the conflict. The slant on the history is also Chilean, as is Curtis', but I think that's inevitable. The Chileans won in a nation defining way. The Peruvians and Bolivians got thrashed and lost terrain that they still covet.

So, I really have to get my order for figures in and start this project.

When I'm done with my Arabs, Andalusians, Feudal Spanish, and Taipings.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

How annoying

The  constraints of my current contract are cutting into my wargaming and blogging time. No matter, if the signal holds up on the train and I have something to say I'm as sound as a pound.

Over Christmas I laboured to complete my El Cid DBA army. I got most of it done and finished the last base off over the weekend.

I've had a few missteps along the way.  I seem to struggle with reading army lists especially when there are options. However none of these were fatal. Just some figures prepared that didn't need to be. Of course due to the need for a reprint I was working off DBA 2.2 rather than DBA 3.0 but surely that won't be a problem.

Alas it turns out it is. There are only small changes but the choices I made from the 2.2 options don't work for 3.0. I can't complain as I prefer the look of the new list but it does mean that this evening's planned photo report of my completed hidalgos must be postponed until I finish another element of spears and some bowmen.

Ho hum.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

FoG-R start to the New Year

It's been over six months since we last played FoG-R and in looking for a subject for the New Year game there was a suggestion we should go back to it. Phil is painting a 15mm Huguenot army and he and Chris A are going to Usk to play in the tournament. Hence a need to try out Huguenot tactics and reacquaint ourselves with the rules.

Because with FoG-R, whatever else you may say, you sure get a lot of rules.

We had a good turnout for the game as well, with Will, Phil & two Chris', plus me.

Well, we all know the saying that a little learning is a dangerous thing and never was it more true of a game. I had a slightly disappointing time and I have no one else to blame but myself for thinking I understood how things worked and then finding out they didn't. Still, more of that later.


Our early arrivals were Chris K and Will. Chris joined me with the Huguenots, and Will took the Spanish. At this point we were awaiting Chris A & Phil, who actually understand the rules.

Chris K took one look at my authentic early Huguenot set up and declared it just wouldn't do, so we shifted the Gendarmes from the centre over to my wing, and supported them with some Reiters. The centre was now held by a large Landsknecht keil, supported by Huguenot shot on either side. The left wing was held by Reiters and "Arquebusiers on Nags". Let's call them dragoons for this game.

Will was happier with the authentic Spanish set up. He had two tercios in the centre, supported by artillery with gendarmes of varying quality on the wings supported by mounted shot or light foot  .

Chris A and Phil were soon with us, so off we went.


I had the right wing and immediately advanced with the intention of getting to grips with my Spanish opposite numbers. I had my chaps "en haye" (all in one line). What I didn't realise that under FoG-R "en haye" includes having some of your elements in a second rank to fill in later and reduce your vulnerability to shooting. I was advised to do this by Phil on my first turn, but I ignored him because it didn't look right. Big mistake.


Chris K went out wide with his horse to turn the Spanish flanks.


The Spaniards pushed slightly forward in the centre, and were happy for us to come at them. This is an observable tendency for anyone with tercios. Me, I'd move them into the middle of the table and dominate the board. Sorry this picture is a bit out of focus.


 The Spanish opened up with their artillery, as they had my gendarmes in their line of sight.


I occupied an orchard with my landsknecht. Yes there are some crossbow men bulking out the numbers.


Into the valley of death move my gendarmes. I'm about a turn behind here, as I forgot to take a double move in turn one. Chris A is opposing me, and reckons he's got me surrounded by shot, and his gendarmes strongly supported by a tercio. I'm not bothered at this point as I have enough room to hit his gendarmes and overwhelm them.


Chris still stands and waits. I divert my Reiters to shoot off those musketeers in the ploughed field (you can tell it's a ploughed field as someone is ploughing it). BTW The musketeers are light foot, but I've not got any Spanish based like that.


On the other flank Chris K has seized the village with his dragoons and is enfilading Will's gendarmes ("Celedas").


Chris A has turned his musketeers to get a final shot at my gendarmes (I've lost a base by this point). I've still got enough to hit his gendarmes all along the line and have an overlap however.


Will has moved his tercio up to seize the middle of the table. This draws Phil's keil forward to pin it in place,  whilst we work on the supporting troops.


This is when the wheels dropped off for me, and my "little learning" let me down. Apparently I couldn't slide or wheel or do anything with my gendarmes to line up with their opposite numbers, but had to charge the tercio as well. This is because you can't wheel if it means you end up contacting fewer opponents. I understand why the rule is there, but honestly, would gendarmes charge a steady tercio when they can mix it with their social equals? And doesn't an overlap fight anyway? Well, it does, but it doesn't count for these purposes. As I said, FoG-R has a lot of rules.

Not too serious initially as I won the impact phase. I'd have won it by more if I'd not had to fight the tercio.


Elsewhere things are going better as we rough up Will's horse.


Anyway, back to my gendarmes. I lost the melee phase in spades. Hits on the tercio were effectively wasted (it's so big) and I was outscored in the cavalry battle, with Chris hitting with most of his re-rolls, getting 7 hits to my four. The meant I got outscored by two hits and then rolled 1 for my death roll and also rolled stupidly low for my Cohesion test. Unit virtually annihilated and broken in one round of combat. Not happy.

On the other hand I did shoot up the light foot with my reiters.


The next shock was that apparently pursuing gendarmes can just stop and wheel and charge another unit in the flank. As young people would say "WTF???". I'd believe it if I was told we got this bit of the rules wrong, but books were consulted, and it seemed at the time that we didn't.

So I lost my reiters (not a surprise as they were charged in the flank by superior cavalry). Luckily, I'd still got a single unit of light foot standing out in the open.


On the other flank a failed CMT (Complex Manoeuvre Test) meant Chris' reiters were fighting in a narrower formation than they might have wanted.


So, yes, we'd lost my flank from a position of strength on deployment. Way to go me.


In the middle Phil was lining his troops up to take the isolated tercio apart.


Due to game time pressures Phil charged the tercio with the keil earlier than intended., but things generally went in his favour.


I started to get the rule systems sorted out, and was able to get quite a few elements shooting at the rear of the pursuing Spanish gendarmes, but alas couldn't hit them. Didn't follow why they had to pursue now, when they didn't earlier. Lucky really, or they'd have stomped all over my foot.


Those tercios are tough, as they fight all round and have no flanks or rears.


The fight over by the village was inconclusive, but Chris K was bringing up his dragoons to help out.

At this point we'd been playing for over four hours, so I called an end to it. Unclear which side was winning. Everyone declared themselves happy with the afternoon's entertainment, and much was learnt about how FoG-R works.

FoG-R isn't a bad representation of renaissance warfare, and gets a lot of things right. It's possibly a little too random in some areas, and there really are a lot of rules to make it work properly. You have to know the rules to get a realistic result rather than playing the history rather than the game. There was nothing wrong with what I was trying to do with the gendarmes, but my execution wasn't correct under the rules. And my dice rolling was poorer than my opponent.

Well, that's probably it on the game front for a while. Back to work on Monday in the City. We'll see how that pans out before I plan anything else.