Wednesday, April 30, 2014

27th April Central London

The Last Emperors ...

My final ancient/medieval outing for April was a rare opportunity to join the Jockey's crowd for a multiplayer game set in the last age of Crusading.

As JB's preamble put it 1453: Constantinople has fallen.  Now the Sultan turns his eye to the Peloponnese, where the last Byzantine princelings and the final generation of Frankish lords cling to power behind great fortresses such as the Acrocorinth and Mistra while the Pope, the greatest erotic poet of the age, attempts to rally support for a new crusade.

I joined a smaller but more tightly motivated Ottoman team upstairs in Constantinople (or Istanbul as many Turks were already calling it) while the many Christian petty princes and would be Emperors pored over the big map on the common area.

(The Last Emperors ... political/deployment at start)

You can get an impression of this from the genral map at the start of the game ... a little green toe-hold at the top of the board (our Ottoman jumping off point for the campaign) and the rest of it covered in a near incoherent patchwork of colour coded factions and families.  Could we conquer Greece before they could unite and throw us back ...

Given our massive stack of resources, could they confront us at all?

Well, the answer to that would be found upstairs in beyond our sublime porte, where there was an Empire to run which would continually sap resources from our Greek enterprise.

We began the game with a convincing blitzkrieg through Northern Greece, installing unpleasant governors  (according to how compliant had been the province) and subsequently shipping in good moslem settlers ... but problems built up and we could not sustain the aggression of that first season at war.

(The Last Emperors ... game end)

The Christians had been able to launch a Crusade, the seas were running with pirates, and I was killed in a great (land) battle at Lepanto.   We had achieved our initial objectives ... taken Athens, established a puppet Duke, pushed the Venetians out of Eastern waters, but it would take a new campaign to unlock the Peloponnese.   

The game freely mixed role play with boardgame and Committee game and enjoyed a quick and dirty buckets of dice battle resolution.   It smoothly ran through a number of seasons over a working lunch and afternoon.  There was a neat spying sub-game in operation which has inspired a lot of follow up traffic (and which I can see porting nicely into Wars of the Roses scenarios) ...

No toy soldiers were harmed or endangered in this map-based game.   Nevertheless, it was nice to be able to play a Medieval/Renaissance game at the operational level for a change - and I think it brought attention to this quirky twilight period of Western history ...

DBA Northern Cup at Triples next!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

12th April, London, ExCel


I should subtitle this 'An Ancient and Medieval Salute' or some such: there are endless blogs with photo collections from Salute, but none quite like this.   Most bloggers seem to focus on shopping or goblins or power armour and panzers.  Scarcely one gives you any sort of coverage of the early historical content.

But to kick off, the Society of Ancients presented another Lost Battle, this time Macedonians and Romans contesting the Dogs' Heads hills in Thessaly ...

(Salute 2014: BC197 - Cynoscephalae ... a Lost Battle from the Society of Ancients)

This is the battle that evolves from a reinforced encounter in the fog ... and the one where Roman legionaries are able to beat the Macedonian phalanx because, in part, they can cope better with the rolling terrain ...

Professor Sabin is away broadening the world's understanding of warfare at the moment so the game was run by Eric et al ( ;) ...) ...

(Cynoscephalae: the Macedonian phalanx in the hills)

(Cynoscephalae: the Roman battle line ...)

This was run twice (with a break for lunch) and involved a number of visitors and plentiful break for explanation and demos.  Sometime players get engrossed in the game, but always remember, the Society welcomes interruptions if you have any questions (and, occasionally, we might not have spotted that).

Ancient and Medieval Salute ...

Regular readers might recall my noting that there haven't been many ancients games at this year's shows (and a more Medieval theme to the early history games there have been) ... Well, Salute 2014 had a good number of core ancients exhibits.

Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy were flagshipping with Simon Miller's 'C-Day' - a cross channel beach landing (but in this case from France and under the direction of Julius Caesar ...) ..

(C-Day: legionaries wade ashore under the hostile gaze of native British warriors)

You will know I love the detail that makes up these historical tableaux, so I'm sure you will indulge some extra shots ...

(C-Day: Roman warship ... elephant on tow ... wading legionaries)

(C-Day: British cavalry and chariots thunder to the cliffs - click on the picture to enlarge)

(C-Day: more Roman ships close up to the shore ...)

Gripping Beast seemed to be respinning my game 'Welcome to Jerusalem' with this Saga based display (it wasn't being played, so hard to work out how all the components meshed - but its looks drew a lot of attention ...)...

Committee member Rob Broom was there with his War & Conquest Thermopylae game ...

(Thermopylae: the pass is denied)

The game featured a number of splendidly turned out Greek battle groups (Rob really is getting the hang of this, you know ...) 

(Themopylae: some of the many Greek prepared to block the Persians' advance)

So, we've had Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Crusaders ... there was jousting, Chariot racing and Viking raiders ... and it was a nice surprise to see Hannibal's army turn up for the Trebia ... and in glorious 54mm!  This was a splendid game from John (that's it apparently - but he did give a nice explanation of the game).

(John's impressive Trebia in 54m)

The game itself was DBA and John reckons he has a good 6 DBA armies in the big game (so they can play a 6 contingent campaign version)

(Hannibal at the Trebia: cavalry and elephants in 54mm!)

There was some talk about the elephants but these look good to me ... relatively small, big ears etc. etc. (the towers might be a bit hefty but, really, we don't know enough ...) ..

A great advert for the standard ancients game - and geared to play, not just for display ..

(HaT 54mm Romans ... working in this scale need not cost a fortune)

The Warlord team were also there with a game ...

And Best Participation Game went to Crawley for their well thought out Chariot Racing

(Salute 2014: Ad Spatium Accedis .. Best Participation Game)

This was a card driven multiplayer game with Ben Hur style hats and lots of crashes and deliberate interference.  Great choice ... a nice take on an ancients perennial.  Insiders will know I am looking at this theme myself ...

(Ad Spatium Accedis: the Chariots line up for the start )

Apologies to those ancients games I missed, this was my best of Salute.  Overall, I was pleased to see our part of the historical spectrum putting its best foot forward and good to see all the core ancients attractions on display.

Good also to see awards going to ancients games and to historical presentations.

Of course, there was much much more ... here is a quick guide to the Best of the Rest ...

(Salute 2014 ... a big space ship ... stuff for kids ... historical societies ... Most Innovative Game for Megagame Makers with guns ...) ...

I also liked ...

(10mm ECW: Wow! a real feast for the eyes ... beautiful figures - from Pendraken I believe)

... and with the centenary coming up, there was plenty on the WWI theme ...

... and some Not Quite Napoleonics (doing what Napoleonics do best ...) ...

(Salute 2014: 1837 - the Battle of Barbastro)

... and uncharacteristically, I very much liked Duncan MacFarlane's chunky 28mm Battle of Arklow ... Not Quite Napoleonics - in this case the Irish Rebellion ..

(Salute 2014: 1798 - the Battle of Arklow)

There has been a bit of moaning on some chat pages about Salute this year ... I think mostly by people whose day got off on the wrong foot due to a long queue, some unfriendly managing of the queue by ExCel staff ... and some inconsistencies.

I don't want to argue with those people: I think every enthusiast wants everyone else to have a good day out and if it gets spoiled that is annoying for all of us.


For Salute, ExCel has a number of embedded problems ... fatiguing and visually ugly floor, poor lighting, weird acoustics etc. (and the room is so big you need to be clever with your camera).  Honestly (an ignoring the horrible year where it took half the morning to get in) I preferred Olympia ...

 ... but I thought this was a good Salute and I had a mix of meets and discussions that are unlikely to happen anywhere else.

A great selection of games and eye-candy ... and if anything, possibly less of a corporate feel this time around .. 

I think Salute is still a must, but I remind everyone of what I said before ... wear forgiving shoes, don't turn up before 11 as you will just get caught in a queue ... try to avoid big ruck sack syndrome and do games and Society stands first, shopping second (again avoiding scrums - few items will sell out and traders can be very generous in the afternoon, I find) ...

Terrible queue for coffee but not too expensive (and they do a very nice mocha ...) ...

Back to Montaperti galleries shortly and look out for Triples next month (and the DBA Northern Cup)

Monday, April 14, 2014

29th March, Bletchley, MK (2)

Motaperti BattleDay ... the Basic Impetus + game ...

For a full analysis of how Basic Impetus handled this 13th Century Guelph/Ghibelline conflict, I will be contributing thoughts to an upcoming issue of Slingshot ... but here are some photos of the two games and some further details ...

The armies were taken from Basic Impetus's free to download lists, with a few extra units giving a bigger, more communal array to the Guelph Florentines, and some characteristic German cavalry to the Ghibellines from Siena.  

By a close finish in both cases, the smaller army won, as in the original battle.

(Game One: the Ghibelline cavalry ride out against the Florentine right)

In both games the Siena's outflanking force (randomly on a '6') turned up at the first opportunity, threatening the Florentine left.  Meanwhile, in Game One, the preemptive German attack on the other flank broke through to the Florentine Carroccio ..

(Game One: fierce fighting around the Florentine Carroccio and Bell Tower)

As an aside, the above picture has some coincidental similarities to picture from Villani's Chronica which we discussed at length on the Society of Ancients Forum (which I interpreted as showing - standard - two vehicles overlapping, and - more contentious - a sail-type flag suspended from a cross bar ... just simplified by the artist such that the cross bar is not evident) ...

Case not proved, but curious that such a similar picture emerged randomly from the game.

(the Florentine Carroccio and Bell Tower under attack)

And in both games the destruction caused by the Sienese flank march created a 'ticking clock' against which the Florentines had to win quickly or inevitably be defeated ..

(Game One: the Florentine rear: Sienese cavalry plough into the flank of hapless crossbowmen)

(Game One: the fight for the Carroccio ... as the Sienese fall back, the Germans engage ...)

Although the Carroccio held out against multiple attacks, the Florentine army was broken by accumulated losses.

Game 2

The German attack on the Florentine right had a tougher time as some good shooting (lucky) inflicted loss of cohesion amongst them (in Impetus this makes them no longer fresh and denies them their decisive charge bonus) ... as a consequence, some succeeded, some failed and were chased off into the Sienese rear ...

(Game Two: some  of Siena's finest baulk under crossbow volleys)

(Game Two: none of the ghibelline units break through to the Carroccio, Bell Tower and guards)

The battle developed into three areas; an isolated fight for the Florentine right flank, an infantry battle on the left decisively influenced by the cavalry behind the flank, and an attempt by the victorious units from the Florentine cavalry wing to carry the battle to the Sienese Carroccio ...

(Game Two: the battle fragments into three main areas: both Florentine flanks and a thrust through to the Sienese rear)

The victorious Florentines ignored the losing battle around them and pressed on to the enemy Carroccio ... in fact a pragmatic choice: defeating the Carroccio would have broken the enemy morale and saved the army. 

(Game Two: an isolated unit of Florentine cavalry charges the Sienese Carroccio)

But it was not to be ... fortune favoured the Sienese, and as the attack floundered, the Florentine infantry collapsed and the army was broken.

Two very different and compelling games but with historical flavours and a similar final outcome.

As noted in the Montaperti overview, the Impetus table was honoured with the best game award and I think ticked a number of boxes ... without impressing like the DBMM game (best terrain), it was presentable and eye-catching ... we got two smooth and entertaining games concluded ... the pattern of the games had a plausible period feel to them ... and the players seemed to enjoy trying a game system we have not seen at the BattleDay before (or that's my excuse, anyway)


The game we played (which I have described as Basic Impetus Plus) is Basic Impetus as you can download for free with the plus of evades (light troops can fall back when charged), countercharges (subject to the usual limitations, troops can countercharge and meet in the middle - both sides counting their Impetus bonus if appropriate), and a restriction of only one interpenetrating unit being allowed to shoot.

I would rewrite the evade mod we used, but generally these gave us a good, and plausibly historical game.

Thanks to Dadi e Piombo for Basic Impetus, thanks to Chris, Vincent and Mark for making it enjoyable to work through ...

It is the second week of April already, so my Salute report will follow shortly ...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

29th March, Bletchley, MK

The Society of Ancients BattleDay 2014 - overview ...

This was the 11th annual BattleDay.   This year the subject was Montaperti, the 1260 battle between Guelphs and Ghibellines in Tuscany near Siena.   

Seven groups participated in the UK side-by-side refight of the battle, together with satellite games in Italy and the US ... The selected rules used were Armati, DBMM, Basic Impetus, Warlord, Strongbow, Saga, DBA (UK, Italy and US) and Warrior (US) ...

The day began with a presentation by each group on their take on the battle ...

(Mark Fry talks us through the essentials of the Armati game)

I presented the Impetus game, but made sure to get a picture of the other games as I usually try to.

You will find plenty on the games in coming issues of Slingshot and discussion on the SoA forum ..


At the end there was the usual debrief and thanks, plus a lighthearted awards ceremony announcing winners of the much coveted Best Terrain prize, the Best Game prize, plus a series of specially painted figures were handed out to mark notable acts of derring-do ...

(This year's BattleDay Souvenir figures)

Best Terrain went to the splendid DBMM landscape, Best Game to the Impetus table.

A superb day out and great contributions from all the presenters - well done, Society of Ancients! - and well put together, Richard.

I will follow this general/gallery post with my own experiences presenting the Impetus game.