Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Battle of Yarmuk (revisited)

So Phil has until the end of December to get his battle report off to the DBA 3.0 Great Battles project. I therefore thought it would be helpful for him to have another run at it in Shedquarters, so it provided the second half of our pre-Christmas game afternoon.

On this occasion I swapped sides and got the "Arabs", whilst Will got the Byzantines. As with the previous game of the day I partnered Chris & Will teamed up with Phil.


The Islamic forces are on the left, with the Byzantines on the right. After the initial game Phil reckoned that the best way of simulating the Arabs' greater pre-battle speed and manoeuvrability was to allow them an effective "landing" on the flank if they wanted it.


I did. Want it, that is. So I switched a whole load of heavy cavalry and my General out on to the Byzantine left flank, as you can see.


Taking the first move we swept on towards our opponents. I misjudged the opening turn or two and accordingly lost two LH units against similar opponents in what can be termed a "crapshoot". This was careless, as it meant my half of the army was already half way to being demoralised under the Big Battle DBA rules, and my flanking force was in danger of being outnumbered and overwhelmed.


The battle on my flank resolved into a confused cavalry melee against heavier knights, and I was soon bested down to demoralised state, and was forced to hold or retire.


Luckily some keen shooting by my solitary archer unit soon evened things up (they are not affected by the demoralisation modifier when shooting).


Will was soon gazing despondently at his casualty pile, and also the remains of his army which had fled. I was still holding in position, protecting my companion's flank.


The other flank was more confused. Phil & Chris are much more experienced as DBA players, and so the tactics were accordingly more sophisticated.


Many of the combats did not go as expected, - a classic light horse envelopment resulted in them all recoiling, one off the board, due to a 6:1 dice roll.


But it was soon too much for the Byzantines and we had their army broken albeit at a high cost to ourselves.

The idea of the flank landing worked better than Phil's previous ad hoc rule, so I think that stays in the scenario as a way of showing how the mechanisms can be "re-purposed" to good effect.

We had a good discussion about the Big Battle Rules. It is my contention that they have not been as well thrashed out as the main rules, and the writing style is much more...relaxed, and possibly open to ambiguity where the main rules are not. There are bits of them that I do not like, principally that it is several armies bolted together. That doesn't ring true to me, however convenient it is as a mechanism.

Still, a fine way to round off the day. I can only cross my fingers and hope that Phil finishes off the painting and basing by the deadline.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

DBA 3.0 - Vikings v Scots

For a pre-Christmas game we got together to play some DBA 3.0. Phil has just finished his Viking army, of which he is justly proud, and wanted to give it an outing. See here for more pictures: Phil's Vikings.

The Vikings make a pair with pre-Feudal Scottish. Phil has done a propor job on both of them (Chris remarked to me that he has long ago given up being jealous of Phil's stuff and just got on with his life. He's probably right).


The Scottish camp is a Broch, with some detachable monks as defenders. The tower is made of something clever, but I can't remember what.


The Vikings have a couple of beached long ships. Well, the front halves of beached long ships. There are detachable defenders in the middle, but they aren't any monks.


The Scots have a load of "fast" pikes, some warband and an element of light horse as well as a mounted cavalry General. Will commanded the army and put them out like this. Phil was his military advisor.


The Vikings have blades. And a bow element. I put the bow out on the right wing to shoot the light horse. Chris was my advisor. We had advisors as Phil & Chris have a copy of the rules and Will & I don't.


This is a close up of the Viking commander. All very nice. I'm in two ranks to prevent a break through, and also so I can easily expand to lengthen my line, having obeyed the deployment restrictions about being near the board edges. This will enable me to flank Will's line and kill him lots.

So off we go. Will tries to turn my line with his LH, so I send my bowmen out to hold him up.

The photos sort of stop here for a while, as I rolled 5 PIP dice of 1 in succession so not much moved. This meant my line just sat there, pretty much, not expanding whilst the LH danced round me without a scratch on them. Will wasn't going to close in the middle until his LH had finished their task.

DBA 3.0 has fixed a whole load of things I didn't quite care for in the earlier version (better bow ranges, better push back rules, etc) but they haven't/can't fix the crapness that arises from a run of bad PIP dice. Luckily DBA is over fairly quickly, as any wargame where you can't move your figures whilst your opponent does as he wants is pretty close to broken.

My shooting was rubbish too, so the LH managed to assault and ransack the camp, and then gallop off behind my line, which had moved forward but still couldn't expand to create any overlaps, as you can see below.


Yep, now got my rear and both flanks threatened by cavalry.


The central melee was a mix, with it going 50/50 I'd say. Will's flank attack by his General paid dividends and I lost an element as I couldn't recoil. I'm coming to the end of my run of 1's here, but basically I just had to stand there and put up with it.


See, all I needed was a couple of PIPs to scare off his general.


It's all over now, I lost 4 v 3 in the end (I think), so closer than it could have been.

My sulks above not withstanding an enjoyable game with some nice stuff and some good friends. The PIP system is what it is, - DBA wouldn't work without it but it is also the reason I can't take the game as seriously as some do.

DBA 3.0 is the future of DBA, however. It has sold out and been re-printed and my copy is hopefully in the post. It is a cleaner, less cheesy game and a lot of fun. Its development has taken years and a significant number of players have been consulted and play tested it. The only reason I can see for sticking with DBA 2.2 is because you don't want to buy new rules (understandable) or because you have broken the mechanisms sufficiently for your own benefit (unforgiveable).

Monday, 22 December 2014

Taiping Again

Following on from the pictures of the Murabits/Feudal Spanish I did some of the Taiping figures, together with the infamous Chinese house.

No comments. Just enjoy the pictures.





Sunday, 21 December 2014

More of Cid & Al

Took some time out to snap some shots of my Almoravids & Spanish figures. Shedquarters has better light for this & I used some wide angle and macro lens attachments to get close ups.


This is the progress to date on the Almoravids. I've stopped whilst I catch up with the Spanish. I've also noted by peaking into Phil's copy of DBA 3 that they've been more specific about what the bases should be in the army, so I have some extra bases to paint (Psiloi with bows, for example).


Another shot of the Murabit heavy cavalry and the command group.


The light horse look okay, even tho' there aren't a lot of different poses.


The El Cid cavalry.


A sort of combat picture. Luckily for me the opposing figures interlock convincingly.


I put this one in so you can see the detail on the Murabit saddle cloths.

Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I can make some real progress on the Spanish DBA army.


Monday, 15 December 2014

If you see Cid….

It’s been a few days since my last post. A few reasons for this. Firstly I'm working full time, so blogging during the afternoon is more problematical than it has been recently. My painting schedule has been disrupted, and I'm not running any games either.

On top of that there’s been Christmas related activity. I had a lot of my old team round on Saturday for mince pies and a catch up. Nearly three years since I got made redundant and they split up my department, but we still keep in touch.

Anyway, over the last week I've been able to fit in a few minutes painting here and there and my first Feudal Spanish  elements are done. These have been a bit of a challenge. I have generally steered away from the medieval period because of the whole heraldry thing. The Wars of the Roses was okay as no one is holding shields so no need for all that painting of lions and so on. Mostly.

The other thing is that heraldry is so personal. It identifies who the man in the armour is and you have to be careful if you are using the real stuff that at least the guys concerned were alive at the same time. On the other hand in the early 11th century the whole system is still a bit simpler than it later becomes and simple geometric devices aren't uncommon.

Plus Phil has a lovely 15mm Feudal Spanish army. Not that I'm competitive. Besides I'm doing 20mm plastic.



There’s nothing particularly remarkable about these two elements. One is made up of figures from the Hat El Cid Command box, the other from the Hat El Cid Spanish Heavy Cavalry. Compared to their Arab / Moroccan adversaries the mounted figures are quite slight. Those of you who regularly look at 28mm Perry style figures will notice quite a change. In build and proportions these are much more like Ral Partha figures of old, and more like the build of the figures you see in medieval manuscripts.

The trumpeter in the command element has a separate arm for his instrument. This fits on its peg really well and didn't seem to need the little blob of superglue to hold it in place, although I used it anyway. The Leader figure is clearly intended to be The Cid, so I gave him the round shield from the options in the box.



The standard bearer had a bit more work done on him. The kite shield is added from the spares on the sprue, but the standard was a problem. The box comes with a nicely modelled flag, with rounded partitions along the edge. I can never get that effect with paper or any other method I've tried. So I wanted to use it, but it’s on a plastic wobbly lance. So I got a bit bold. I cut the flag from the lance pole, and carefully made holes in the flaps where the pole goes with a fairly big safety pin (it was too small flexible and small to use a drill) and then pushed a  pole made from florists wire through as a replacement. It isn't perfect – I missed some of the flaps – but it looks alright and went into the figure’s hand okay. It is held in place at the bottom by being glued into a hole drilled into the figure’s foot.



I got quite ambitious with the design on the flag as far as what I'm normally prepared to paint, but I'm pleased with the result. It's the Madonna and Child. Honest.


The other element of knights had lances replaced by florist wire and the green surcoated figure had his head swapped out for one of the spares in the Command box. He was wearing a flat topped helmet that’s a bit later than the Murabit period, so that had to go.

Unlike my normal cavalry units these have quite a mix of horse colours as I reasoned every man brings his own horse and fights with his friends, so no enforced uniformity of colour.

So that’s two elements done. Next up are some DBA Cv elements, - heavy cavalry with javelins in this case. Then I can get on to the infantry. I have a few days off over Christmas, so you never know, -a new army in the New Year?

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A bit of a re-think

Well, I finished my first week in the new job and they want me to go back next week. The commute isn't too bad, - about what I did last time I was in London back in 2013. The job is a bit more unpredictable at the moment, and the opportunities to juggle my start and end times are probably restricted too. I'm a long way up in a tall building which doesn't help at "going home time" with only half a dozen lifts serving the tower.

What this means is that I'm not clear on how much weekly wargaming I'm going to get in for the near future. It also means for sure that my painting time is massively curtailed.

My current painting project is Hat 20mm plastic Murabit/Almoravid North Africans. I had to put the Taiping on stand by as I ran out of bases. I use the Peter Pig 30mm square plastic bases and they have a particular thickness no one in the MDF market supplies. I need to wait until I, or a local friend, is visiting a show with Mr Pig there. I could always order them direct, I suppose, and just take the postage charge, but the postage will end up being 40% of the order total.

With virtually no painting time in the week the Murabits are going to take a while to finish. I've been painting towards an Armati / AMW size army, and I recognise that I'm going to need to buy a few more boxes to get the army numbers right. In the mean time I have done enough for a DBA 2.2 army (III/33). I have DBA 3.0 on order for Christmas but I don't expect much of a change in the list, although having said that it has no archers in it, and the Murabits were famed for having archers hide behind their spearmen.

What I think that means is that I should rotate the armies being painted. I have enough toys given to me by Jim to get an "El Cid" Spanish army out of the boxes and an Andalusian one as well. So I think I'll focus on doing those, with the Spanish next. When I've done a DBA sized army for each I'll go around again and do another DBA sized army and so on.

Anyway, here's my DBA Murabit plastic army:


First up we have the Command element (1 x 3Cv (Gen)). These are from Hat box 8249, "Moorish Command". The drummer figure on the right is riding a donkey. The best of these in pose and fit is probably the trumpeter, but they all do the business.


Next we have an element of Murabit heavy cavalry (1 x  3Cv). The plastic lances have been replaced with florist wire and are painted as bamboo. Unusually for me I have mixed the poses up to give them a more "irregular" feel, rather than having them all with vertical lances etc. These are from Hat box 8247 "Almoravid Heavy Cavalry".


The cavalry are rounded off with some Riff/Berber light horse (3 x 2LH). Javelins have been replaced with pins, as per my normal approach. I've mixed up the tunic colours a bit. We, as wargamers, tend to paint our North Africans/Arabs in white a lot. My various holidays to North Africa would indicate that when you get out of the conurbations where people dress in Western style tunic colours are a lot darker. I've kept quite a few figures in white to make the army look a bit brighter however. These are from Hat box 8246 "Almoravid Light Cavalry".


For the infantry I've gone for some subject people skirmishers (3 x 2Ps). Javelins replaced by pins as you'd expect. It hasn't been obvious up until now but I've gone for a really dark flesh tone, - African rather than Arab, using Colour Party's MA10. I like the tone it gives. The General is done in a lighter shade, - Colour Party's MA36, which I also used for my Indians. These figures, and all the other infantry, are from Hat box 8189 "Almoravid Infantry"


I've gone for some Black Guards in this army (2 x 4Sp). These have been on screen before. I'm considering re-painting the white head coverings. The spears on these haven't been "pinned" as they're held quite close to the tip. I'm hoping they'll be okay.



Finally I've got some light infantry who are a mix of Berbers and Arabs (2 x 3Ax). Spears replaced, but otherwise pretty much standard.

There are some nice foot command figures in the Moorish Command box, which I will work into future units. I will need another box of infantry anyway for my final plans to bear fruit.

I'd got quite a few more infantry painted already, before I decided to stop and go "DBA", so I can vary the infantry mix. My sources for these were the two Ospreys on the Western Islamic forces, the Warhammer Ancients "El Cid" book, and the WRG "Armies of Feudal Europe".

My actual research into the Murabits has otherwise been a bit scanty. I'm sure I got some stuff when I was in Morocco, but apart from my Rough Guide I have no idea where I put it.

This afternoon we have to sort out the Christmas Tree, then I can prepare my Feudal Spanish. I'm liking the look of those figures.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Games Day 3 - Somewhere in Denmark

Our final games feature of the day was provided by Chris. He brought Neil Thomas' "One Hour Wargames" and his Prusso-Danish War figures along (we didn't know he had them either).

The rules in the book are very simple and it relies on the scenarios being challenging to make the game. The book has a lot of scenarios in it.


In this game the Danes are advancing down the road and the Prussians are trying to stop him. The terrain for this game was the recently harvested wheat fields of Denmark and nothing to do with the sandy desert of Syria.


The Danes had to exit the board with three units. The Prussians caught them in a cross fire (I missed the start of the game as I was making tea/coffee and getting cakes & sausage rolls so I'm not clear exactly what was happening). The system has simple die roll = hits methodology, with units taking 15 hits before destruction. We used Rummikub tiles to record the number of hits. They go up to 13 & have a "Joker" tile you can use for 14 if needed.


The Danish cavalry repeatedly charged the Prussian guns and suffered accordingly. The infantry fire fight was loaded in favour of the Prussians as well. due to their flanking position. Perhaps we hadn't set this up right or we could have been guilty of tired tactics after a long day.


However, having reduced the artillery to 4 hits remaining, perhaps the Danes could force their way off.


Alas Prussian musketry proved too much.


And then it was all over. It took us about 15 minutes, so the challenge with the game seems to be to stretch it to an hour, not squeeze it down to one.

The rules are really, really simple, even for Neil Thomas. The game is based around interesting scenarios, so it needs more tries. I can see that the rules would have further utility for really large games with lots of players. They're quick, unambiguous and don't seem to need umpire intervention.

Anyway, to summarise it was a good way to round off the day and could be played comfortably whilst eating and drinking. I think we'll be seeing them again.

I shall probably seek out a copy of the book sometime in the future.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Games Day 2 - Yarmak

Back from the pub & it's Phil's turn to entertain us.

I have written previously about my re-fight of Cannae using DBA 3.0. This was done as part of a DBA 3.0 "Great Battles" project, due for publication early next year. I was roped into the exercise by Phil, who was planning to do a take on the Battle of Yarmak, 636AD for the project.

Yarmak, as you all know, is the decisive six day battle between the Islamic Hordes spreading the word of the Prophet by fire and sword and the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) Empire. The Islamic forces wins with consequences that are still with us today. Phil is not doing all of the six days but is basing the game on the action that took place on day 5.

Anyway, that's not the big reason to get excited about this game. Phil is putting it on using 30mm flats many of which once belonged to either Phil Barker or Tony Bath. How cool is that!

I'm not a massive fan of the flat aesthetic, I'm afraid, but this is a piece of history. And Phil very cleverly deployed the armies at a slight angle so the players could see the figures obliquely rather than just having a whole array of edges in front of them.

I have to say that from the right angle they do look jolly spiffing


Phil & I took the Byzantine army (which he informed us was mostly Armenians and Arabs) and Richard and Chris took the Islamic Army. I was facing off against Chris. This is never good. He is really adept at creating several of those "kill" situations regularly every turn whereas I'm usually lucky to get two or three in the whole game. As you can see in the above picture the massed lines of cavalry create a pleasing "3D" effect.


My forces are on the left hand side of the line. We have one camp, - in Phil's corner - and they have two, one in each of their corners.


The Islamicists have the ability to switch PIP dice between the players. We are stuck with who gets the highest once we've chosen on turn 1 (it was me, but then I was facing Chris). Chris immediately got his light horse into a column and tried to turn my left flank. I hastily assembled a light division to see him off. In the middle the main lines trundled towards each other, Chris bringing up his reserves to exploit my internal flank.

Part of the problem for the Byzantines is they have some two deep units. These are great against blades, but otherwise they reduce your frontage and cost more when they get killed. As this is mainly a cavalry battle they aren't your go-to troop type.


My light division saw off the flanking move, but I was forced to use it to prop up the end of my line to stop it getting turned whilst I brought up my reserves. I have no idea what was going on on Phil's side of the table.


I had a shocker in the first round of combat and didn't roll above a 3.


Whatever. It still looks great even tho' the figures aren't finished.


Another round of terrible rolls meant I was soon three elements down having inflicted no hits. My light division was down to a single base. On the positive side I'd got my reserves into line and stabilised the position. Phil had taken a hammering as well, losing one of his double elements. Two more down and his command was demoralised.


A few liucky die rolls and I've got my blades through the middle and flanking the enemy line. At this point, however, I lost another base so I was demoralised and we had lost.

Phil & I thought it would be a good idea to play on as I'd only lost a few light troops and most of my heavy stuff was still okay. Plus we had the time to do it. Chris pointed out that if he'd known that he'd have played his previous turn a bit differently, as some of his troops were more epxosed on the basis that he wouldn't have to fight any more.


I hammered forward and my luck changed. Regardless of how he was set up I just out rolled him and got a few doubles, eliminating units straight off.


Before you know it I'm bearing down on his remaining forces and camp and no amount of clever manoeuvres are going to help.



And so the game ended. Phil had managed to drag things back on his flank, and the Byzantines were claiming victory.

Phil has some scenario design issues to deal with and is probably in need of some special rules. The one special rule he did have , - a one off rule that allowed a Cav unit to move like LH - was not used as Chris was okay doing things the old fashioned way.

Unlike Cannae I had no conception of how this should pan out. Phil will have his own ideas about how he wants this to run and so has some thinking to do.

Lots of fun and quite challenging as well. Those flats will look great when they're finished and playing with a real bit of wargaming history is a notable thing in itself.

I'll be sticking with my round figures, however.

And then on to part 3.....