Sunday, 19 November 2017

Seleukid Dissolution - 145 BC

The year is 145 BC. Alexander Balas sits uneasily on the Seleukid throne in Antioch. The issue of his bastardy had been resolved through a marriage alliance with Ptolemaic Egypt, but now, as he grew tired of Ptolemaic interference, the court at Alexandria turns its eyes to his young cousin Demetrios Nikator. 

Demetrios, with Egyptian money, experienced Cretan mercenary generals and a large body of soldiers for hire, has landed in Kilikia. Alexander sends word to his Arab allies, and prepares for war.

The forces deploy somewhere along the north Syrian coast. Demetrios' mercenaries come down from the north (on the right). Leading the massed heavy infantry himself, Demetrios anchors the western flank on the coastline. One of his mercenary commanders brings the light infantry and elephants up behind, while to the other commander leads the cavalry to the east. The far east flank is protected by a steep hill.

Alexander's forces have marched up the coast from the south (on the left). The eastern flank is made up of Arab auxiliaries, the west flank is the small but able Seleukid royal army. An ambush is located in the woods in front of the Arab line, and the third command is curious absent.

Both lists are 100% legal, but some unit names have been changed to allow for the historic situation - Late Seleukid civic militia foot and horse are used to represent the less than reliable Arab tribesmen that fought for and against multiple Seleukid kings. Ultimately, Alexander would lose his head to one of his allied sheiks. But not on this day.
Alexander's regular forces. The Agema heavy cavalry are in reserve - just in case the small horde of yibbering Galatians don't live up to their fierce reputation.

Demetrios' infantry commands a low hill by the coast while hillmen make sand castles on the beach.

 Alexander's Arab allies prepare to hold the town and the woods in front of the camp.

Both sets of lines advance. Despite some marvelous CP rolling, the ambush in the woods prevents Demetrios from throwing his infantry forward too quickly. The Arabs are able to advance and fill the gap - exposing the fact that the ambush marker was a bit ephemeral to start with.

Alexander's horse archers start to outflank Demetrios' mounted division. In the centre, Demetrios' elephant corp pushes on towards the Arab camelry. Some of the Cretan skirmishers are able to move forward in support, but others get mired in among the heavy infantry.

Arab tribesmen take up a rather awkward position in the town while their bow-armed brethren make there way through the woods.

In the west, the Arabs hold the town and the woods. Arab skirmishing archers and camelry unleash volley after volley of arrows at Demetrios' elephants. Despite trying to hold back Alexander's horse archers with their own, Demetrios's mounted wing charges forward with wide open flanks.

 The disordered elephants charge home into the Arab camelry ...

... while Demetrios' Thracian mercenaries turn around and start heading back the way they camp. To form a camp guard, so they said.
At the same time, Demetrios' cataphracts plow forward into Alexander's infantry. Everyone watching that clash expected the horsemen to drop dead on the pikes, but to cleave straight through the Galatian warband. Surprisingly, none of the melee rolls proved decisive.

Demetrios' elephants destroyed one unit of camelry, but there then both routed by the remaining camelry and skirmishing archers. Demetrios' skilled Cretan mercenary general was killed by the routing elephants. The camelry then turned and took one unit of Demetrios' cataphacts in the flank. At the other end of the cataphract line, Alexander's imitation legionaries marched around to engage the other flank. 

Alexander's horse archers eliminated their opposites and started making eyes towards Demetrios' camp. At the same time, the Arab cavalry made their way through the elephant shaped hole in Demetrios' line and wiped out the elite Cretan archers.

While the inland - eastern - half of the battle was going the way of Alexander, along the coast, Demetrios' hillmen and imitation legionaries attacked the town. In the distance, the Arab cavalry ride over the Cretan archers and start forward towards the Thracian mercenaries who had turned to face Alexander's horse archers.

Demetrios' remaining mercenary general manages to keep his remaining cataphracts in decent shape, but his line is gradually worn down.

Back along the coast, Demetrios' forces sweep into the town and drive off the Arab tribesmen. One unit of Hillmen start approaching Alexander's camp.

With nothing better to do, Alexander's allied commander joins a unit of Arab skirmishers and leads them forward into some Cretan slingers. A camera with better zoom would have revealed the slingers' look of surprise, but unfortunately, none was at hand.

And just when it looked like everything was going his way anyway, Alexander's third commander with his glorious flank march decided to turn up! Exhausted, the Galatian cavalry would really play no further part in the battle.

So close! part 1: Demetrios' Hillmen can almost smell Alexander's camp. In the background, the Arab cavalry can be seen hitting the Thracians in the flank.

 So close! part 2: Alexander's horse archers can almost smell Demetrios' camp. 

And that was when Demetrios' army lost its nerve and started to pull back to the north. Demetrios lost all 23 morale/break points, while Alexander lost 19 of his 23. It was a fairly touch and go situation once Demetrios' infantry made it to the village, but at the end of the day, they were too slow in getting there. His pikemen - the core of Demetrios' army and his real strength over Alexander's forces, failed to meet any enemy head on. Demetrios' cavalry was too eager to charge whatever foe were to their front and suffered the consequences. 

Meanwhile, Alexander's elite Agema heavy cavalry just sat in reserve and did nothing, and his Galatian cavalry on the flank march was so late to the battle that it also had no real impact. The mediocre Arab medium swordsmen reinforced my existing poor opinion of medium swordsmen. If a 'man of the match' prize were awarded, I would give it to either the non-existent ambush marker in the woods, or failing that, the Arab camelry who managed to take on elephants and win!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Ludi Hetairoi - The last bouts of the day

... and Edu from Hetairoi Wargames has now completed all eight bouts of his great gladiatorial rumbustification using my card and dice driven gladiator rules, Blood, Sweat and Cheers.

In case you missed it, the classic match up between the thraex Hermes and Crixus the murmillo was a real nail biter. Read about it HERE.

The final fight saw Scorpus the retiarius take on the two secutors Flamma and Astivus. The retiarius had the high ground, but would that be enough? You can find out how he got on HERE.

As for the winnings, the results speak for themselves really. All participants started with 100 sestertii and had to place bets on all matches. Delighted to have come out with a positive result; I certainly never expected to win considering I placed my bets according to which gladiator models I likes the best! The winner (or in this case, Tonijor, the runner up) gets a copy of the print and play rules courtesy of Ganesha Games.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

More scatter terrain

I am a wargamer. Therefore, I am inherently restless. I have enough projects* going on at the moment, but still wanted to do some hobbying with a change of emphasis. With that in mind, I decided to build some more scatter terrain. This is the first time I have made a terrain in any quantity since 2012, back when the world made more sense, and I posted what would go on to be one of my most popular posts ever (this one HERE).
*NB I realise that enough is really never enough, but I also have a family, and a job, and a puppy, so enough really should be enough.

I decided I needed a coastal zone, some more hills appropriate to smaller scale games, and may as well make a few more larger rough/wood template pieces as well. I ordered a pack of 50 trees off eBay (more on those in a later post I'm sure), and bought a decent sized (1200x800mm) piece of 3mm MDF. 

I first roughed out my design. The coastal zone runs up the right hand side here. You may be able to see the straight double lines of pencil set in 16 and 20 cm from the right. these allowed me to know that, even though my coast would be wavy, the joins would always be in the same place, so they could be a little bit modular. The lowest section was going to have a headland built into it.

The MDF was cut with a jigsaw. I ended up deciding that the 3mm MDF wasn't giving enough height to my hills, so I added in some slightly thicker pieces of cork-backed dining place mats that I had, at one stage, cut up to try and make snow drifts. The snow drifts were woeful, but they worked well in the hills.

All pieces were sanded back and stuck in place with PVA glue. Then I used silicon sealant around the steps to make them less steppy. Some old basing ballast was then scattered around the beach sections and the rough patches. The river sections are each 30 cm wide, as I have a 3 foot wide table.

Base coats of paint were applied. I find that tester pots of house paint work well when you want a range of colours. Obviously I was going for Mediterranean inshore teal-blue waters here, rather than the more traditionally Homeric wine-dark seas.

And here they are completed the olive sheet which we use when we need to cover my entire table. 

The headland - just crying out for a little stone circle or temple of Poseidon...

And here are the new pieces alongside some of my existing cork hills and rough/wood templates. The flock is a lot lighter and brighter, but otherwise, I think they fit in well. Not at all bad for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The origins of Brexit - 1470something

Five of us got together to play an epic 400 point game of L'Art de la Guerre this week. Three of us played as the glorious suns/sons of York (War of the Roses Yorkists, two commands each), agains a coalition of  French Ordnance and Kalmar Union Scandinavians. The Yorkists were the attackers, and the battlefield was mostly open. Excellent for the heavy French and Scandinavian knights - not so great for all our longbowmen. Above, five commands of Yorkists to the left, six commands of Scandis (top right) and Frenchies (lower right). But wait... where for art thou, o' missing Yorkist command...?

As the Yorkists trudge towards the stationary French lines, the grand sweeping maneuver reveals itself too soon. My second command enters the table with little surprise and even less tactical acumen. At the top of the picture, the Scandinavian mounted and foot divisions advance, but the Swedish lord proves unreliable and hold back. The glory of French chivalry in the center, led by the king (a Charles, no doubt) advance to the crest of the hill.

My entire flank march is stalled by a combination of 1x French heavy infantry, and a succession of CP rolls of 1!

Over on the far side of the table, the Danish and Norwegian cavalry (and their German mercenaries), advance towards the English lines.

The continental cavalry smack home into the Yorkist lines. At the bottom of the shot you can see my entire command slowing coming to grips with the heavy infantry speed hump. Oh so painful to watch the ineptitude of my lord's command rolls.

Taking advantage of the reticent Swedish command, the Yorkists start to encircle the Scandinavian cavalry.

Meanwhile, the French cavalry go through the Yorkist centre and start to come out the other side! 

As the Swedish lord finally decides to commit, the Scandi cavalry is surrounded.
... but not soon enough. My elite foot knights are obliterated by bombards and shot at by Gascon crossbowmen. My flanking maneuver finally routes some foes, but not enough of them. The English mounted knights at this end of the table stall their charge (command pips!) and take repeated volleys of crossbow bolts.

At this point we called the game. The Yorkists had not quite broken, but were well on the way. The Europeans were mauled, but not as badly as us.

In the end, we called it a Swedish victory! The Swedish command was still untouched, and ready to sweep all others from the field. Unfortunately, the bloody nose received by the Yorkists on that field of battle left a cultural scar on the memories of its people. If they could not force Europe to their own will, then they would have no part of it in the future! Over 500 years later, we live with that legacy...

Friday, 27 October 2017

The jötnar

The climactic final scenario of the Thorfinn's Saga mini-campaign will be Thorfinn's attempt to 'appropriate' a magic held by a jötunn, or troll. In regular games of Palaeo Diet they can be used as apex predators, but I have a mind to create a new profile for them to represent their more hominid aspects. These two beasties are Copplestone Castings Yetis, but they will do nicely for my purposes.

Jötunn no. 1. Although provided with 'modesty' fur in the front, both figures have characterful bare bottoms - and somewhat more surprisingly - scrotums. Funny, that the Blogger spell checker doesn't recognise the plural form of scrotum. Ho hum, lets move on.

Jötunn no. 2.

And the obligatory scale shot showing the Macrocosm dwarves with the Copplestone yetis. I think if Thorfinn and the lads ever get into this position, they should keep an eye open for the door of Valhalla.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Thorfinn Hardluck and his crew

I decided some time ago, that what I really needed was a couple of vikings. Not a whole warband, and certainly not an army, but just a few, to scratch that Norse itch. Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten gave me the perfect excuse! Mind you, they may also find their way onto a Song of Blades and Heroes table some time in the future. Allow me to present Jarl Thorfinn Hardluck, Thorvald the Touched, and Thorbjørn Bjarnason. All three are Norse dwarves from Macrocosm Miniatures - the pack is mysteriously called 'Ragnar's Crew', but I'm sure it has taken no inspiration from any TV shows...

I intentionally went looking for Norsemen with exaggerated features to fit in with the exaggerated feel of the rest of my Palaeo Diet stuff. These Macrocosm ones seemed to fit the bill, although there are presently no photos of them on the website. The sculpts are great, although some of the moulding lacked a little detail, only really noticeable around the ears and on the hands. I also note that while my pack had more than enough left hand options - it had one right hand too few. The jarl's sword hand was cut from the shield-maiden figure and reattached here. I didn't mind because I only wanted three hunters, and managed to put these together in a satisfactory manner. From my dealings with Macrocosm to date, I'm sure they would have sent me out a spare right hand or two had I asked for it. Thorbjørn's bow and quiver came from an unrelated plastic sprue.

As well as generic hunts, these hunters are destined for a Palaeo Diet mini-campaign that I am working on, titled Thorfinn's Saga, following the jarl's epic quest to find a magic ring and bring prosperity to his struggling people. Keep an eye out for more details on that in the future. For now, here are the lads:

Jarl Thorfinn Hardluck
Equipment: As appropriate for a man of his standing Thorfinn wields a well-wrought sword. The sword is treated as a Club (PDEE p.5). It can only be used against beasts or foes in base contact, but confers a +1 modifier to Thorfinn’s attack rolls.
Traits: Thorfinn is the ruler of his people and insists on leading from the front, an attitude that has made him Crotchety (PDEE p.13). Nevertheless, his experience (and the fortune of having inherited some armour) has forged Thorfinn into a formidable warrior, rendering him a Brute (PDEE p.13).

Thorvald the Touched
Equipment: Thorvald carries multiple axes which he throws at foes and wields in combat with equal skill. Axes are treated as Spears (PDEE p.5). They can be used against beasts or foes up to 1x Short distance away.
Traits: Touched by the gods and a little weird, Thorvald has knowledge of many natural and supernatural things. He is both a Healer (PDEE p.14) and a Thinker (PDEE p.14).

Thorbjørn Bjarnason
Equipment: Thorbjørn carries a bow. He may pelt beasts and foes up to 1x Long distance, but always suffers a -1 modifier to his pelting and attack rolls.
Traits: The youngest surviving member of Thorfinn’s household, Thorbjørn eager to prove his worth; he is therefore Excited (PDEE p.14). However, his skill with a bow is already spoken of highly, and Thorbjørn is known as a skilled Hunter (PDEE p.14).

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The last battle of the Kalmar Union

We got in another game of L'Art de la Guerre this week - War of the Roses (Yorkists), against Medieval Scandinavians (Kalmar Union). All figures are from the 6mm Baccus late Medieval range, with a couple of simple conversions on the Scandi side. Andrew was leading his Yorkists, Jim was commanding the two Danish commands of the Kalmar forces, while I took the allied Swedish division. This was to be my last game with the Scandinavians as Jim has just taken them over - a palace coup!

On our right, Jim ran a heavy foot command of German mercenaries supported by skirmishing crossbowmen and hand gunners. The C-in-C (+2 commander) was in control over here.

Our centre consisted of Jim's mounted command - led by an unexceptional sub-commander. Two elite knights, two mounted crossbowmen, and two medium cavalry valets. They also had the light artillery field piece.

My left wing command was the allied Swedish force consisting of a unit of knights, some skirmishing crossbowmen and the Swedish mixed crossbow/pole-arm militia.

Each of Andrew's Yorkist commands were a real mix of foot knights, longbow, and bill. The two wings each had a mounted unit of knights in support as well. The command in the picture above was on the Yorkist right flank, opposite my Swedes.

In the centre, the mixed foot were supported by both light and heavy artillery. You can see here Andrew's rookie mistake of breaking up his foot with the big guns. This meant that trying to advance this division with minimal CPs proved tricky.

The Yorkist left flank of mixed foot units and a lance of mounted knights, opposite Jim's German foot.

The end of the opening turn. Jim and I both sent forward our skirmishers, although the rest of my Swedes remained pretty static. Happily, my commander had agreed to support the Kalmar Union this time around and was reliable. His opposite number commanding the Yorkist right flank rolled a 1 for CPs in the first turn and became unreliable. It seemed that this flank was going to be Andrew's undoing.

Danish hand-gunners and crossbowmen creep out of the plantation to start peppering the end of the Yorkist line.

As the Andrew's Yorkist right flank (bottom left of the photo) remained uncommitted, my Swedish militia cautiously advanced, screening the redeployment of my Swedish knights and crossbow skirmishers towards the centre of the table. You can also see our Scandi mounted command advancing swiftly in the centre. The Yorkist left flank occupied a low hill and waited for the slow and steady German foot.

The Yorkist heavy artillery pays its way, destroying a unit of Danish valets.  
The clash of lines. The Scandi C-in-C leads forward the heavy foot against the Yorkists on the hill. He is supported by the mounted division which likewise hits the Yorkists on the plain. Taking advantage of the gap caused by the immobile heavy artillery, the two units of mounted crossbowmen (heavy cavalry) embrace a unit of foot knights. My Swedish knights are on their way!

Unfortunately, the Yorkist foot knights cleave straight through the mounted crossbowmen to their front, kill the Danish divisional commander, and turn to face the flank attack. Before my Swedes can quite make contact with the exposed knightly rears, they are in turn hit in the flank by more foot knights. That was not well planned apparently.
The long view of the battle. The Yorkist right had finally decided to commit and have just engaged in a shoot out with the Swedish militia. In the centre, the Scandi cavalry are holding their own, while up on the hill, the German infantry have managed to turn the Yorkist flank and have started to roll there way down. York's flag over the north of England is starting to look shaky at this point, and the the Scandinavians start planning where to set up their flat-pack trading emporia...

Arrows and bolts fly down by the river side.

The Yorkist foot knights rout the mounted crossbowmen and plow on into the flank of the remaining unit of valets. My gallant Swedish knights turn the tables on their foes (the Yorkist foot knights) and the Swedish skirmishers start laying into the advancing English mounted knights.
At this point in the game, both sides had suffered some pretty bad losses (including the entire mounted division of the Kalmar Union army!). Break points were thus - Kalmar Union: 16/22; Yorkists 17/19. My Swedish knights charged headlong into the unprotected Yorkist light artillery.  All we had to do was ride down the gunners, or just disorder them, and one other unit in one of the many combats of the turn. Victory was assured!

... Except that's not how the game works. Seemingly, you need to roll dice and stuff. And sometimes the dice don't want to play nice. My Swedes did manage to disorder the light artillery, bringing the Yorkists to within one point of breaking. But the other melees all went one way and the Yorkies held firm. In that one turn we lost six break points and the game went to Andre and his Yorkists. Just.

It was a great game, and looked really well. Andrew was on the back foot from the start, with an uncommitted, unreliable commander, and poorly deployed artillery. However, English shooting was rather effective, and the battle on the hill supremely hard fought. One particular unit of household longbowmen stood their ground throughout against the German foot, not even suffering a single loss of cohesion.

It is a little sad to see the Medieval Scandinavians go to their new home, but I know they will be well loved, and it widens the pool of potential opponents. In this period, I am left with my Anglo-Irish army which morphs seamlessly into War of the Roses Yorkists (more of them!), and late Hundred Years War English. I sort of needed the storage space occupied by those Scandis too - for my Minoans. :)