Saturday, February 25, 2012

18th - 19th Feb, Burton on Trent

Badcon 2012 - Burton Doubles

The second of the year's big doubles events comes round quickly after Usk at Burton on Trent, the home of the brewing industry. I always make sure I have a pint at lunchtime.

Traditionally Burton followed the four DBM books of Army Lists in rotation, and this would have been the first of the four books - Biblical (and my favourite next to Book 4 - Medieval*).

In this age of FoG, however, the hosts have decided to extend the period to incorporate the armies of the Hellenistic world and the Roman Republic (to maximise the appeal to players, one has to assume) ...

I'm not sure it's quite fair to put men in loincloths with bronze weapons up against Phalanxes and Legions, really - and judging by the popularity of Graeco Bactrian and Seleucid armies, many players agree (rules aren't always at the fairest when the spread over technological watersheds like the end of the Bronze Age ...)..

(Game 1: Early Libyan vs Myceneans)

We chose to go with a traditional Biblical army ... Early Libyan (a great fun, massive army in the hey-day of DBM ... but out of favour since the V3.1 changes made Wb(F) armies almost hopeless).

It looked pretty useless under FoG (naked guys under a system that favours armour ...)... but we didn't want to use pikes or cataphracts ... so 'brave' it was ...

(massed skirmishing ... something the Libyans do well ...)...

The main thing to say is that the event gave us four really enjoyable and nicely fought games.

Sometimes you will read chuntering about 'competition wargaming' - nearly all of it written by ill-informed pundits who think they know better but don't actually play (or who maybe lost a game thirty years ago and haven't gotten over it somehow): they should get off their high horses and play doubles at Usk or Burton. They might enjoy it.

(against Carthaginians: various Sea People and Libyan Warrior blocks and columns march up behind the skirmish line)

We didn't have particularly high expectations of victory, so were more than pleased to finish about half way, and to have recorded a decisive win, sacked a camp and killed several generals amongst our tally of achievements over the weekend ...

(muscling up for combat ... )

In the end our games were decided by the skirmish and the charge of our warriors. If we could destroy the enemy front lines with our bowmen, we might be in business. In FoG the warriors are unprotected (Medium) Impact Foot. Against armoured guys that gives us one real shot - the Impact Phase. If, as in our big win, we can disrupt the enemy with the charge, we can make headway in the game.

If, as in most of the games, the enemy can stand the impact of the charge, the warriors will likely be cut to pieces in the melee.

(Gaddafi's tribal ancestor, alive and well and leading the Libyan charioteers)

The light chariots proved really useful and durable, but were mostly outnumbered, the skirmishing bowmen were always a threat ... but we had centred the army around the warriors and the (slightly better armoured) Sea Peoples allies.

In the end, there just never seemed to be enough of them to compensate for their weakness in the protracted melee phases of combat. Ignoring the last game against Parthians, which was really a long and exciting skirmish encounter**, we got three goes at infantry based armies (Carthagnian, Mycenean and Later Dynastic - i.e. mostly mercenary Hoplite - Egyptian) winning one handsomely, otherwise just running out of troops to support the front lines. The points system just doesn't give you the second wave you need to have a real chance of breaking armoured infantry.

(eager to seem sophisticated, the Libyans made their encampment amongst the Sphynxes of the detested Egyptians ...)..

Full results are available (say, TMP ), but an enjoyable weekend, great cameraderie and plenty of fun with an army that can lose with its heads held high ... Thanks again Burton.

You might also like this (Simon's Lurkio Blog)

Time to think about Armati, now ...

*this is not a slight against the Classical period for interest ... the age of the Greeks and the Romans is at the heart of 'ancient' wargaming - just I have never felt the warfare of the period is done well by the popular tabletop rules (where pike blocks tend to swirl around like Napoleonic battalions - who themselves didn't really swirl around anyway - rather than hold long steady frontages as they did historically). So it's a game thing.

** our naked Warriors were never going to charge headlong at Cataphracts, but the metal men were always going to be too slow to bundle through and chase us down.

Friday, February 17, 2012

DBA Special - Egyptian Double Feature

Here's a quick look at the two armies featured in our DBA Participation Game 'Lords of the Nile' ...

They constitute the first delivery phase of my refurbishment of the flats collection I acquired at Fiasco last year. The presentation is to what I would call 'wargames standard' rather than flats collector standard: (a) I'm working with an existing collection, rather than painting from scratch; (b) a few experiments revealed that the aesthetics differ between figures destined to be viewed flat and individually and those destined to be viewed en-masse on multiple bases.

The basing is in the modern landscaped idiom (and to standard 25/28mm base sizes).

So these are the results so far (I am still learning). People seem to have liked the refreshingly different look of these traditional figures - and have enjoyed them as collector curios ...

The lead army is New Kingdom Egyptian, which I have cast on a punitive mission on the banks of the Nile. Their enemies I have styled 'Rebellious Tribes' as although the figures are mostly Nubian, I have chosen to organise the army using the Libyan list. The rationale is simple enough: using the Libyan list gives the rebels a chariot general! Otherwise there is little difference between the Libyan and Nubian lists.


(The Egyptian host arrayed)

(Chariot general + 3xLCh)

(archers: 4x4Bw)

(infantry: 3x3/4Bd + 1 Ps)


(The rebellious tribes arrayed)

(The Libyan Chariot General)

(Warriors: 3x3 Wb)

(archers: 3x3Bw)

(tribal skirmishers: 5xPs)

The armies follow the existing DBA V2.2 lists, although the games have been played using the latest trial version of V3. Victories have been even between the armies.

Lords of the Nile featured at Vapnartak and Hammerhead. The next shows outings will feature Phil Sabin's Lost Battles (Cavalier) and Will and Graham's Plataea (WMMS). Lords of the Nile will probably be back for Campaign in May ...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

12th February, Newark (Kelham Hall)

HAMMERHEAD 2012Hammerhead is the other wargames show at Newark's splendid Kelham Hall - COGS not Newark Irregulars (and by reputation, more fantasy and Sci-Fi than historical) ...

Perfect ground, then, for the Society of Ancients to go promoting the historical wargame, and to be showcasing ancients.

And, indeed, although the show is smaller - and less historically focused - Hammerhead gives us a sensible, main hall (the Dome) position ... so we got more visitors and more players than we got in our (300 mile round trip!) visit to Vapnartak last week.

We played twice as many games.

(Lords of the Nile 30mm DBA V3 game at Hammerhead)

We took along 'Lords of the Nile', our DBA V3 30mm flats Participation Game.

People certainly seem to be enjoying the unique look of the traditional flat figures, and I have to say that DBA V3 is providing us with a good, reasonably quick and balanced game.

Lords of the Nile will do most of the Shows North (north and midlands) shows until 'Call it Qids' - the show version of the Society's brand new Ian Russell Lowell/Graham Evans Kadesh game - debuts at Campaign in May.

There are far fewer big 28mm static 'games' at Hammerhead than at most shows we visit (it does more of the 'small and interesting' games ... and has more of an emphasis on them being played) ...

Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing and chatting to the paper terrain people (haven't had a good look at one of theirs in a while)

(French beachhead done in folded paper)

Actually, talking of beaches, there was quite a lot of sand at Hammerhead ... Not only did our game feature the lands of the Nile, a number of the fantasy games explored similar themes (in their own quirky ways). I liked the look of this offering from the WarGods people (who were also very helpful in my despairing quest to find a half-decent 28mm Ramesses for the Qids game).

(more Egyptian mayhem)

But the 'sand kings of Kelham' were undoubtedly the Peterborough club (with more fantasy nonsense) who brought and set up their own sand table.

It was quite shallow, and wasn't really coloured up (other than as sand ...) but nevertheless, it was interesting to see it (cleverly) done - and yes, even though it was comparatively shallow, it was a big table and there were heaps of sand ... as became apparent when they started scooping it all up at the end of the day.

(more sand ... much more sand)

My sand was just a dry brush effect using household emulsions ('Prairie Gold' and 'Parchment' colours over a 'Coffee' base - there, you see ... I knew you'd ask)


Even seasoned players have found the 'base widths' movement pleasing and well balanced, and with Egyptians and Libyans, the play runs very smoothly and plausibly.

We need to get Phil to clarify a wording issue on shooting, otherwise the rules and play are nice and clear.

As well as liking the movement, players have liked the changes to rear support (less of it), Psiloi movement (group moves in bad going etc.) and Psiloi outcomes (e.g. fleeing when doubled in shooting). with the Libyan army nearly half Psiloi, it is good to see they can do well against the heavier New Kingdom forces (we have done this set up over a dozen times and the armies a roughly level pegging) ...

We allow a little bit of diced-for terrain (as that is a feature of V3). I'm so pleased to see Phil replace the irrevocably broken terrain system in previous versions of the game. Time will tell what needs adjusting in the new mechanism, but the new set up is already better.

Not being destroyed by blocked recoils is a significant improvement, especially for us using the game as an introduction to ancients at shows (and for all comers) - explaining to players why they must lose elements just because they recoil at an inconvenient angle (despite there being precious little justification for it in military history) has always been thorny. The newer approach seems much truer to DBA's game scale.

I have to own up I couldn't resist a few snaps of this game (played between a father and son, neither of them familiar with DBx or with ancients) ...

Against Dad's linear tactic, and against our better advice, the lad chose to block his Egyptian army up into a huge single group wedge. It looked awesome, but we were all pretty sure it wouldn't work.

(New Kingdom Egyptian Panzerkeil)

As the enemy approached, the wedge split apart into three columns (it was like watching a well choreographed movie).
(Charge! You can get a bigger image by clicking on the picture)

Each of the fronts subsequently got overlapped, but survived, the columns spread out, and ... defeated the shallow lines of warriors. And we really thought it couldn't possibly work.

Then again, it was an example of a lad beating his Dad at DBA (and that I have seen on numerous occasions!).

DBA Version 3 seems a better game than Version 2.2 from a historical player perspective. I have been surprised by how well it has stood up to all comers (the real 'road' test) ...

Dale has summarised the main diferences V3 brings neatly on his DBA Blog ( here ... )

I have time off this weekend to play some FoG at Burton ... and the Society Shows Team will be out and about at Cavalier at the end of the month.

See you there ...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

5th February, York Racecourse


The snow bound trip into York for Vapnartak was something of an adventure and had I known that I would end up driving my notoriously slithery German RWD vehicle on fresh compacted snow, I probably would have bottled it (overseas readers: bottled it = chickened out/not gone).

As it was, I was tail-gunner on the Gentlemen Pensioners (Lance & Longbow/SoA) expedition and just followed where the vanguard led. And that got us into the show just about by opening time (and if some of it was achieved more by faith than judgement, I'm not telling ...)...

Saturday was an altogether sunnier affair as we had all gotten together in Salford for a big Sudan battle the day before the show (see below). What a great idea for a wargaming weekend (big battle on Saturday, show on Sunday. What's a few snowflakes?!).

(Vapnartak: York Racecourse, 5th February 2012)

Back with Vapnartak, although some Societies get pride of place, The Society of Ancients does not. Nobody will tell me why. We have loyally supported this show since back in the Merchant Adventurers' days - yet every year they find a way of pushing us even further off the beaten track. This year we were out of the show proper up amongst the competition tables. A few visitors found us but most didn't.

(wargame in a box ... tucked away in a corner - the Society of Ancients at Vapnartak)

I guess it must be because they don't want Participation Games and anything other than 28mm, but I wish they would tell us as we always try to involve people and introduce newcomers to historical wargames etc. whenever asked, they always approve (then stick us where we can't be found by any potential players! Doh!) .

(Lance & Longbow Society's simple but effective Ravenna game)

(Curteys put on this big if slightly anonymous version of Plataea)

Many evenings of work went into this year's 'Lords of the Nile' project (which will see better locations at other shows ...) so it was a pity so few saw the combination of tradition German flats with modern terrain presentation and WRG's latest trial of DBA V3. Looks splendid, don't you think? Ah, well ...

More on Lords of the Nile below. And you will get a better opportunity to see it at Hammerhead this coming weekend.

(display tables at Vapnartak)

(WWII: German columns doing what they do best)

(some nice early 20th C. soldiers in the Middle east)

Vapnartak is therefore a trade show mixed with 28mm clumsy tables and a labour intensive Flea Market. There were some good offerings amongst the 28mm stuff (though, as is increasingly the case at York, nothing much new or imaginative) ... here's a quick tour, but you are better served by visiting 28mm drool sites for this show if you like that sort of thing.

(my favourite downstairs game: Ilkley's old school game with traditional wargames soldiers)

So ... nice venue, nice people, strange priorities. I'm sure we will continue to support the show as long as they continue to accommodate us (but I'm not sure that will be for much longer as out in the car park is probably next for historical wargaming's biggest volunteer association ...) ..

Gentlemen Pensioners Big Game (day before Vapnartak) ...

This was a Sudan game played with 28mm figures and using The Sword and the Flame roughly based on the battle of Firkat.

(Firkat mounted Mahdists emerge victorious from the desert flank)

For a balanced and fuller view of the game, you might like to visit other Gentlemen's blogs ...
Fire at Will
Wargames Amateur

Now commenting on a game played using the hugely popular TSATF rules is tricky ground. The rules are extremely clumsy and characterless: slow to resolve and very arbitrary. Inevitably, as a pioneer of the use of cards, I quite like the sequencing of movement and shooting by playing card (but in all honesty, most other games that use that mechanism do it better). And using D6 for some rolls, D20s for others, isn't gaining points for elegance. Then, of course we must have saving rolls. The combat system is a triumph of tedium over efficiency.

(twilight at Firkat and the Mahdists celebrate as the Egyptians run away)

I am a great social wargamer and really enjoyed pushing the colonial toys around with friends I have known now for as much as 30 years. We could make the game worthwhile and entertaining using any old mechanism, however dubious or un-promising. But just for balance, given the misleadingly positive spin The Sword and the Flame so regularly gets, I thought it proper to record my view of the rules themselves: the worst so-called 'historical' wargames rules I play all year ... not even close on Black Powder, Science vs Pluck or PitS (or something you scribbled down the night before) in my opinion. All the things I dislike in a set of rules rolled into one package. I commanded the Mahdidsts, by the way, and we won. So don't let that cloud your judgement.

And yes, I'd happily do it all again (as the whole thing was a great game despite the rules) ...

Lords of the Nile (DBA V3) at Vapnartak ...

I'll say a little more after the game has its second run at Hammerhead. Phil Barker kindly emailed me the latest trial version of V3 a couple of days before the show and we played the game through a few time both with seasoned DBA enthusiasts and complete newcomers to the DB system.

(DBA V3: close combat in the lands of the Pharaoh)

Of course, it worked very smoothly and cleanly in all the games and V3 generally seems both to work better than 2.2 and to give a more intuitive and cleaner game (less 'gamey'/easier to play). The movement is in basewidths and seems to work better than the older system. Rear Support and consequent losses are much simplified giving a more authentic flavour and better balance. The games themselves took about the same time to play as previously (despite an expectation that the games might be a bit quicker) ...

Those people who were able to find the Society stand at Vapnartak seemed to enjoy seeing the game played with these refurbished veterans of yesterday's wargaming and they are, indeed, a pleasure to play with. They have the size of 28mm with none of the clumsiness - in a different world they might even catch on :O)

(The Egyptian army's lone element of Psiloi heads for the security of the Teddy Bear fur)