Thursday, March 31, 2011

NDBML Manchester 27th March

Northern Doubles

Yes, I've indicated that this is a busy time. Straight after the Lost Legion DBA it was back up north for the Manchester spring round of the Northern Doubles.

Field of Glory
for me.

So, putting the Armati aside and the DBA aside ... what was left in the Field of Glory bag?

Well a big dumb version of my Condotta Italians, for starters.

The NDBML uses a handicapping system: armies are graded from 1 to 3 depending on how many supertroops and Inspired Commanders you have. An army of elite and superior troops with an IC would be grade 1. An army with none of either would be grade 3. Having more than 15 battlegroups shuttles the army up a grade.

Teams need to use one army from each grade during the year, and score some extra points by winning above their rating.

As my Italians have no superior troops anyway (and I am not a smart enough player to benefit from an IC ....)... they are a natural for a Grade 3 ... Just usually I have a few more battlegroups (16 at 800 points, 18 at 900). So it just needed dumbing down to 15 for this outing.

The two games on offer produced the alpha and the omega of open competition. Game 1 was against Les Mitchell's Early Successors (Medieval Knights vs Hellenistic pikes!) .... Game 2 was against Colin Betts's Hungarians. So one completely out of period and one completely plausible in period.

The Knights against pikes was the usual inconclusive run around that FoG gives you (whether way out of period, or more plausible if the pikes are Swiss): Knights are generally too feeble against formed foot; drilled foot are too manoeuvrable against mounted (well in general, in FoG drilled foot manoeuvre and move too quickly and in too many battalion-sized groups to give an authentic flavour of ancient battle ... just it shows up worst against mounted ...) ...

No criticism of the players, we had a good enough game, and everyone played nicely ... just it is very much an academic exercise, it isn't a proper wargame.

(a game of movement before the crunch - Condotta vs Hungarians)

Against the Hungarians, of course, we had a swirling cavalry engagement, our flanks enveloped but our knights resilient. The Hungarians have better knights - just about - but we have more. All the Condotta knights are drilled, so are better able to control their charge ... but, for reasons that are better left to a different forum, FoG rates them as average, so they aren't that reliable once they start taking Cohesion Tests.

It is also worth saying - rightly or wrongly (and that is debatable) - that FoG rates the crossbow as primarily useful against cavalry (worse ... would you believe? ... than a 'bent bit of wood' bow against most infantry!). The Italians, other than the knights, are predominantly crossbow-armed. So the army is optimised by the rule writers against cavalry, not foot. So, bad news against Les, good news against Colin.

(Shaping up for the confrontation - the knights line up whilst, in the background, Hawkwood's English try to hold the end of an outflanked Italian position)
We had a colossal clash of knights in the latter. About 100 knights in one big clash, with half the generals on the battlefield bundling in. My long suffering doubles partner, Chris, threw some wonderful dice, and passed some improbable tests ... Colin didn' ... and didn't. So, yes, of course there was a lot of luck involved - then again, we used our advantages of better drill and bigger units reasonably wisely, so have no complaints when it works.

We ended up with a split result against us vs the Successors, and reasonably good win against the Hungarians. We didn't get our camp looted or our generals killed (which makes a change - but then it was only two games ...)... So a fun day and a respectable finish ...

You can get the full results here: the Maws NDBML page

These one day FoG bashes are great value and well worth the trip. The Northerners are always very welcoming, and always give a good game (pitched competitively if you are a seasoned player, helpfully if you are a beginner) - have a look at the Maws page ... you might find one that's handy for you.

Mostly, it is FoG, of course, but there is DBMM on offer too, and this is well and regularly supported. All ancients, as it should be ... though there is FoG-R ever on the horizon ...

Well ... Battle Day next ... Hmmm, I wonder what Rick Priestley's 'Hail Caesar' will be like (and who will have the baggage coming up with Pre' ?)?

Thanks everyone.

Alton, 26th March

The Lost Legion

The Society of Ancients UK DBA League came in to being late last year in discussions which followed the English DBA Open.

The appetite for 'one-day' DBA events seems consistent, and linking such events together an obvious 'next step'.

The Lost Legion is one of several new events that have eme
rged in response to the idea of a Society sponsored series.
The formula was for pla
yers to bring along a matched pair of armies, and then, game and game about, to play either their pair or their opponent's pair. When playing your own game, the other player gets to choose which army to use. After that, the game proceeds by the book (invader, terrain, edge selection etc.)...

This gave me so
mething of a problem - I am a 'cross over' from DBM, so I don't have lots of little armies in matchable pairs (I have quite a few big armies without the specific opponents that DBA - sometimes idiosyncratically - lists as appropriate) ... Where I have opposing forces, these are historically constructed (and my categorising/basing doesn't always match the DB classification).

Where I d
o have smaller armies, they are based-up in double depth for Armati (or are genuinely smaller, like my 10mm)! It took me a while to get my head around this problem.

s I have several thousand 15mm figures in only a few period bands, it seemed obvious that finding an interesting and compatible pair amounting to just 24 elements ought to be straight forward. Ought to be ... but isn't!

the end I opted to go with my favoured Crusades period, and a fairly adaptable Syrian army. I thought that the 5 Spears in the obvious opponent for the army (i.e. Later Crusader) was potentially a bit stodgy (for a quick-fire game schedule) and, in truth, not especially typical of Crusader armies of the period.

A plausible 'in period' enemy for the Syrians (though not listed in the rules), t
he Lusignan Cypriot looked a bit more attractive to play with, so I decided on that as the other half of the pair.

I clearly judged well, as all my
opponents thought the Cypriot army looked attractive ... so picked it and beat me with it. Hmmm.

The joy of this is
that you only have yourself to blame ... I got my own game three times, was given the Syrians each time and lost the match 3 - 0.

(Lusignan Cypriot ... in the background, another win is being chalked up)
I played my opponents' games 3 times, and won that rubber 2 - 1.
I hold my hands up at that. I have always been prepared to admit that I am far
more bothered about historical content and military interest than ever I am in play balance.

Well, I should add, that I'm not putting that forward as an excuse ... my opponents played well in all 6 games
and I could have expected no better than 2 or 3 wins.

I enjoyed all 6
games though I must say that the opener against the well tutored martin Smith was something of a fools mate ... I lumbered myself with a BUA which I couldn't defend adequately, Martin got it on his side of the table and quickly went 3 up. I lost the fourth valiantly trying to kill his general as the only real option given the BUA handicap.

Without taking sides (haha!) I fully understand why so many peo
ple consider the BUA rules to be stupid.

Each to his
own, of course, but I can't think of much historical justification for the arable set up or the way the BUA works in the game (most historical battles just don't work like that). Silly.

Somewhat more fortuitously, although I did include a naval baggage element for the Littoral Lusignans (so geared them up for all sorts of landing options) ... all the games were in arable Syria (so the road or BUA nonsense prevail
ed) ... Still, the ship is a pretty piece of decoration for the army.

(Randon eye candy from the Lost Legion... )

(Classical Indians)
(Armies at Alton: click on the images for a bigger picture)
The away games I got were Ptolemy Keraunos against the
Galatians, Lydian vs Medes and Hittite vs Minoans. A good mix, given the Crusader period that was my home game.

As ever, I met some new enthusiasts, learned a few more nuances of the game and had an enjoyable day out.

(The Land or Littoral Baggage choice provided for the Cypriots)

Martin intended to host a small event for a dozen or so players. He got 20. Seems like it was a good idea, then. Well done ...

You can find out more about the League by visiting the PAWS page
Society of Ancients UK DBA League
(a DBA family photo ... some of the players at Lost Legion 2011)

The Alton results were ...

1 Colin O'Shea 102 points; 2 Adrian Webb 98 points; 3 Matthew Bennett 98 points; 4 Martin Myers; 5 Martin Smith; 6 Bill MacGillivray; 7 Duncan McCoshan; 8 Patrick Myers; 9 John Drury; 10 Scott Russell.

The other ten players on the day were, in no particular order :-David Constable, Luca Blasi, Peter James, Mark Skelton, Phil Steele, Gordon Frater, Ray Briggs, Denis McManus, Tim Moore, and Aislinn Smith.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bournemouth 12-13 March


Peter Barham's Society of Ancients sponsored spring Armati event has become an excellent regular feature, these days ... and I was back this year as defending champion.

I may as well get that bit out of the way now, as it became pretty quickly clear on the opening day that I was not going to get lucky two years running (and that obscurity was once again opening her welcoming arms to receive me)..

(some of the armies featured in this year's Bournemouth scenarios)

The formula for the event is that, courtesy of Roy and Mark, 52 preset armies are provided by the organisers in 26 historical pairs. These are marked as (a) and (b) on a coin, and the coins are shuffled together in a bag. Each round one of the players from each match draws a coin to be allocated the game, then tosses it to see who plays which side. A great idea, I'm sure you will agree.

(The 'Sucro - 75BC' scenario)

(The Pompeian battle line)

I drew Sassanid against Ian Kerr with White Huns (Scenario #17); Assyrian against Stuart Campbell with Medes (Scenario 5); Sertorian Spanish against Mick Owen's Pompeians (Scenario 10); Hittites against Richard Jeffrey-Cook's Sea Peoples Confederation (Scenario 3); and Later Crusader against Craig Tannock's Comnenan Byzantine (Scenario 23).

(The 'Ugarit - 1182BC' scenario)

So a good mix for me ... Something Biblical, something Medieval ... and not a pike phalanx or Samurai in sight (a little 'in joke' for the benefit of the UK Armati fraternity, there - apologies to the rest of the world ...)..

(the 'Fourth Crusade - Constantinople 1204AD' scenario)

For what it's worth, Scenario 1 ('Megiddo - 1479BC') was Early New Kingdom Egyptian vs Syro-Canaanite ... and Scenario 26 ('The Second Invasion of Japan - 1282AD') was Yuan Mongol vs Early Japanese ...

Very few players can even aspire to have as extensive and diverse a collection as Roy and Mark can put together, and one of the great joys of the Bournemouth formula is getting to play the numerous areas covered by Armati that your own collection doesn't cover. There is always something new up for grabs.

I was surpised by how good the Romano-Spanish game was ... and I was surprised to win the Hittites/Sea Peoples scenario where dauntingly huge numbers of Warband and LHI crashed in waves upon a small Hittite army (however, I did have a plan, and I did win the initiative in what turned out to be the last turn: both clever stratagems on my part, only surpassed by rolling dice high enough to destroy the unit which was personally led by Richard's general!) ...

As a veteran player of these games, I know it will come as scant compensation to those who got on the wrong end of my good dice to know that this happened somewhat infrequently during the weekend (I lost most of the games and was never really in contention ...)..

Winning or whining is less important, of course, than wining and dining and the 'all in' Chinese on the Saturday evening was its usual sumptuous self.

(Pete takes time off from running the tournament to lose a game of Gladiolus with his son!)

We were able to contribute meaningfully to Bournemouth's recycling targets by emptying several large and dozens of small bottles for them during the course of the weekend - bottles which otherwise would have been out of circulation, idly full of wines and beers. Indeed, some of the wine bottles had been out of circulation for many years, so it was particularly helpful of us to empty them and return the glass to other uses.

Sunday saw some of us still hunting elusive victories, others shaping up for their podium finishes. In the end Roy Boss ran out a worthy winner (and there is a full results listing here, on the Society of Ancients News blog) ...

There was much talk this year of how to get the slow minority to speed up a little (the schedule of games - which allows for 3 on the Saturday - is clearly not hurried, as nearly all of the games finish within the allotted time ...)... and it may be that next year's event will feature a new scoring system placing more emphasis on winning before the clock runs out.

It is a pity that this is becoming more and more likely - but slow play is a problem across all the current tournament systems from DBA to FoG. Some players just like to play methodically (for them it is not slow ... it is how they normally play) - unfortunately the consequently slower pace of the game is determined for both players, not just the methodical one (and it is not uncommon for the other player to disadvantage himself by playing more quickly in order to push the pace along, and make the odd mistake). Hmmm ...

Undoubtedly, this is a theme we will come back to...

Meanwhile, here are some more pictures....

(Decisive moments as the Sea People crash into the deep stationary Hittite infantry)

(Roy's resplendent Goergians hold the line)

(collecting heads for the general - this Samurai was doing better than I was, so it seems ...)

A great weekend as usual - hopefully, it will not clash with Alumwell next year, and we can do it all again.

I took many more photos, and plan another entry shortly which will just be a tour round the marvellous collection of armies put at everyone's disposal for enjoyment over the weekend.

Thanks on behalf of the Society of Ancients to Roy and Mark for planning and transporting everthing, Peter for masterminding the event and to all the players for their support.

Wolverhampton 13th March

WMMS 2011

A busy weekend, this one.

As sometimes happens with the moving feast of Spring Wargames shows, the Shows North team was double-booked (and I was attending the SoA sponsored Armati event down in Bournemouth).

Now I don't want anyone to feel I was being disloyal to my 'North and Midlands' brief, here ... truth is, with the events not clashing last year, I attended Armati by the Sea last year ... and, fortuitously, won.

You will appreciate two things here ... it would be bad form not to go back and defend my title ... and it doesn't happen very often (so any precedent set is likely to be pretty innocuous ...).

Thankfully, I was able to leave WMMS in the capable hands of Graham ('Fluttering Flags') Fordham and Chris Perry. Thanks guys ...

Graham took along the usual Society of Ancients gear, plus a DBA version of the battle of Barnet using his decorative 28mm Wars of the Roses collection.

(heraldic banners and pennons by Graham Fordham's 'Fluttering Flags')

We'll be seeing quite a lot of the Wars of the Roses this year, I think. 550 years ago, on Palm Sunday, the bloodiest battle on English soil was fought on the snowy fields of Towton in North Yorkshire.

I understand there was a suitably chilly display at Alumwell which I hope I will catch up with during the course of the Shows season.

Thanks Alumwell. Hopefully no clashes next year, and we'll have a full team and a new project to unveil ...

Zama DBA update

A while back, I promised a fuller report on my 'double' DBA Zama game, and more pictures of the 10mm armies I built for it.

Well, I have finished the Slingshot article, now, (so if you want more of the 'how and why' discussion about the battle and how to depict it, then at some point you need to follow one of the links and join the Society of Ancients ... This isn't a hard sell: I think most people stop by here on a whim, and to look at pictures - so this is the place for the eye candy, Slingshot it is the place for publishing articles on Zama; second, if you are interested in how battles work in the age of Hannibal and Scipio, then you will enjoy being part of the Society ... and encouraging you to join is my gift ...)...

Zama BattleDay links

Here is the eye candy ...

DOUBLE DBA ZAMA ... armies and pictures:

This is a top down view of the battlefield. As can be seen, each player has two 12 element DBA armies, one deployed in fron of the other (rather than side-by-side, as is more common in 'big battle' variants). The red and blue lines, at left, indicate the notional four deployed lines of battle described at Zama (in this case amalgamated to three - though 10mm does allow a line of figures to be shown).

Double DBA
... Double DBA is a straightforward idea (though not one I
have seen before) ... each side has two standard (12 element) DBA armies, but instead of deploying them side-by-side (in the usual allies or 'doubles' format), one deploys in front of the other.
Each side's forward army is 'expendable' and fights on until either of those two 'engagement' armies reaches its normal (4 element) DBA break point. At that point both forces are withdrawn - except the 'winner' is allowed to retain the margin between the engagement forces (so the loser of that opening phases withdraws the remainder of his force, the winner removes 8 elements) ...
(a Carthaginian elephant pushing into the Roman lines 'old' Chariot 10mm figures)
Conduct of battle: until the engagement armies are withdrawn, both sides play both forces simultaneously. Pips are rolled for each independently, and any damage done to the reserve army is, of course, permanent. (Scipio stationed amongst the Roman Triarii in the last line)

When the engagement armies are withdrawn, the two reserve armies may reorganise a little by swapping 2 elements (as the defender may, at the start of a normal DBA battle), and the engagement army's Pip die is no longer rolled (the player with any extra elements from the engagement phase must control those elements as well as the reserve force with the reserve army's Pips) ...
(Roman Velites)
The game is won when either reserve army breaks by losing 4 elements or its commander. Remnants of the engagement army are not part of the reserve force so do not count in this analysis.
(Carthaginian Mercenaries and Levies)
Carthaginian Engagement Army
(as deployed, L to R)
2 LH, 3El, 1 Ps, 3 El, 1 Cv, 1 Cv Gen, 1 Cv
Carthaginian Reserve Army
(main line, L to R)
1 Ps, 5 Hd, 1 Ps;
(rear line, L to R)
2 Sp, 1 Sp Gen (Hannibal), 2 Sp.

Roman Engagement Army
(as deployed, L to R)
1 Ps, 1 Bd, 1 Ps, 1Bd, 1 Ps, 1Bd, 1Ps, 1 Cv gen (Masinissa), 2 LH with 2 Ps deployed in a supporting rank behind the LH.
Roman Reserve Army
(main Line, L to R)
1 LH, 2 Cv, 6 Bd,
(rear line, L to R)
1 Sp, 1 Sp gen (Scipio), 1 Sp
For DBA completeness, both armies were given a camp behind the lines, but they cannot be 'taken' in the game. The battlefield is a flat open plain with no terrain features in play.

(fearful of the Numidian host on the Roman right, Hannibal has deliberately drifted half his line a Masinissa, allowing a gap to develop)

(Masinissa, with closer order troops around him, leads the skirmish line to spoil the Carthaginian elephant attack)

(The Romans push into the gap, meanwhile, Hannibal tries to reorganise his rear lines in order to bring his veterans into the battle earlier ...)


(with most of the engagement armies removed, Rome's Numidians remain in battle and attempt to turn the Carthaginian position)

(The end: Hannibal and Scipio close ... however, the Numidians in the foreground are Rome's allies, and are poised to block the Carthaginian spear-line's recoils. This will win the game for Scipio)

This year's Battle Day is in Bletchley, on 2nd April, and features the great showdown between the Egyptians and Hittites at Kadesh.

More here: Society of Ancients BattleDay information

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tonbridge, 27th February


I was pleased to drive over to Tonbridge the other weekend, and join the Society's 'A' team for this year's Cavalier.

Pleased, of course, that is, once I'd done the parking thing. Tonbridge is clearly one of those South East towns where the locals enjoy driving around in circles, chatting to each other (amiably and angrily) in Car Parks already full of people driving round in circles ...

At least, I assume they enjoy it ... as they never fix it. I come from the East Midlands, where, on a Sunday morning, we prefer just to drive up, park and go about our business. Going by car somewhere where you can't park, on a Sunday morning is something I just don't 'get' - but it is very popular in Tonbridge.

I was delivering supplies of the newly printed January issue of Slingshot (the first issue of the new subscription year) which we were proud to show off to the public - slightly different, this year, as we have gone for the 'lie flat' stapled option.

(a rare quieter moment: the Secretary flips through a newly delivered January Slingshot)

January Slingshots are available now, of course, as part of your 2011 subscription (still only £20, at shows, by post or online from the Society website) ...

At Cavalier, we also launched the latest 5 yearly upgrade of the Slingshot Archive DVD - now of course containing every Slingshot from 1965 to 2010 ... an invaluable resource of over 13,000 pages about ancient and medieval history and wargaming. Fully indexed and requires Adobe Acrobat Reader version 7.0 or later.

The DVD is available to Society of Ancients members only, and clicking on the thumbnail should take you to the appropriate page of the website to order your copy (Paypal available) ...

To showcase historical wargaming in the ancient and medieval periods, at Cavalier Phillip Sabin put on the battle of Sentinum using Lost Battles.

At Sentinum, in BC 295, Rome took on and defeated an alliance of Samnites and Gauls on a flat plain in Umbria ... Eric Cruttenden and Alan Waller helped stage this in 28mm.

(Sentinum, 295 BC, directed by the author of Lost Battles)

Lee Hadley has a great selection of photos from this year's Cavalier, including some good shots of the Societry team presenting the Sentinum game (The Society of Ancients presents Sentinum) ...
Thanks, Lee ...

(Sentinum, 295 BC, the Romans exert more pressure on the tiring allies)

Elsewhere, having moaned about the lack of variety, even lack of originality, at Vapnartak, I must say I was impressed by Cavalier, and could have lost myself in this show for hours. There's a lot more on Lee's blog (Big Lee's Miniature Adventures), and some of the WW2 stuff on my themed pages (P.B.Eye-Candy) where I will often post pictures of interesting stuff that is a little off topic for Ancients on the Move ...

The Lance & Longbow game was equally expansive, and photographed well ...

(Lance & Longbow Society)
(Red Army takes Budapest)

... and the Budapest game won best demonstration game. There were quite a few planes, boats, trains and other interesting stuff, and a wide range of scales and styles of game being played.

I quite liked the Stringbags at Taranto WW2 game (which looked great, and seemed in play all day long), but you will have to follow the links provided to see more.

Graham F will be covering WMMS for us with a DBA medieval game while I am away playing Armati in Bournemouth. It is a pity to miss such a good Midlands show, but against all odds, I won something in Bournemouth last year - so feel duty bound to go back and defend my title!

Be nice to Graham.

See you all at the Battle Day if not before ...