Monday, March 25, 2013

23rd March, Alton


(a round of the 2013 Society of Ancients UK DBA League)

Nearly Easter, now, but we still seem locked in frozen weather, snow and alarmist public service warnings.

Rule 1: keep calm and carry on: nothing is ever quite a bad as the panic-mongers and sensationalists at the BBC would have you believe (the only reliable source of information in the UK, these days, seems to be your own eyes and ears).

So I braved the driving sleet and snow and ploughed round the M25 to Alton, as did most of the players who had signed up.  The turn out was good.   I'm glad I made the effort - the return trip was painless, and the event was great fun.

(star prize: a splendid Donnington Nabataean army II/22(a) painted by Colin O'Shea)

Martin had organised a wealth of prizes to reward the players, including a number of DBA armies and a selection of BUAs and camps.   I think everyone picked up a token of one sort or another.   

Star Prize was a very attractive Nabataean army kindly donated by Colin O'Shea and made up of tough looking Donnington Miniatures, new and ready to go to war for the winner (see pic.).

The format is 'matched pairs': each player brings along a pair of armies (preferably historical opponents or similar ...) ... and will use his/her pair every other game.   When using them, the opponent chooses which to go with ... otherwise aggression, terrain, deployment etc. goes as normal.

(my six games: 1, 3 and 5, mine; 2 - Roman vs Dacian; 4 - Blemmye vs Arabs; 6 - Sub Roman Atrebates vs Sub Roman Regia)

6 UK-style games against a 45 minute clock, 3 either side of lunch ... Randomly drawn opponents and prize-giving around 4:30.

This format offers just about everything I like ... quick games that are broadly historical ... a balance of variety (half the games are what you chose to offer, half are what other players prefer) ... a random draw ... and generally an absence of uber armies ...

In the end I opted to take along a couple of my Gothic style armies ... based on Stilicho's 405 Fiesole campaign where he used Gothic foederati against Radagaesus.   So Goth against Goth, really, but I employed the Ostrogoth and Gepid lists to give variety to the two armies.

Elsewhere, the was a very enjoyable mix and some well-presented armies.

(Phoenicians vs Babylonians)

(Macedonians vs Thessalians)

(Umayyad vs Later Visigothic)

(Roman vs Caledonian)

All of my 'away' games were close affairs, I thought (though the score lines varied).   Lots of terrain made fighting off the Dacians a challenge.  I just lost a very dicey game using Blemmye against Colin's Arabs.   And I managed to pinch the points in the Sub Roman war ... Richard pushed his warbandy Brits up a road, I managed to absorb the charges and surround them (and fortuitously called the combats in the right order in what proved to be the last turn)

(some of the Alton players: with apologies to those who got chopped off the edges)

Martin kindly asked me to represent the Society of Ancients for the presentations, so as an alternative to lots of handshakes, here's a line up of happy campers ...

A very successful day based on a simple but effective formula.   In addition, thanks to all of the sponsors and individuals who donated prizes.  Much appreciated all round.


These armies derive from an Armati Gothic army, hence the matching look.   I gave the wagon laager camp to the Ostrogoths and made a second one up for the Gepids incorporating the Roman watchtower (a splendid Baggagetrain 10mm item): a much better employment of it than its previous appearances as a BUA (like ... as if I know how best to use a BUA in this game ...) ...

Gepid (II/71): Ag:3; Steppe; Kn Gen; 3xKn; 4xWb; 4xPs.

Ostrogoth (II/76a) Ag:3; Arable; Kn Gen; 4xKn; 1xLH; 4xWb; 2xPs.

(The Gothic cavalry is mostly Lurkio with some Black Hat/Gladiator and Chariot)

The Ostrogoth, I think is clearly slightly more attractive (it is easier to see how to use the extra Kn and LH than 2 extra Ps, I think: anyway, my opponent took the Ostrogoths in all 3 games ...

So my game involved using the Ps to tie up the enemy foot, and to use the Warband to tempt the Gothic knights into a position where I could gain the edge: certainly I should be able to tie them up with 4 Ps at my disposal, and certainly, with an advantage in Knights, the enemy will try to get them at my Warband ...

But could I take advantage in those circumstances?   Well it worked for me in 2 of the 3 games.   In the 3rd the enemy indeed took the bait, and allowed me to engage with overlaps ... however, he won all the combats, taking down all the warband, a Knight and the General in one turn!   

Some plans do not withstand contact with reality!

However ... that's 2 successes out of 3.   Last time in this format I lost all 3 of my home games ... so my choice was obviously a touch wiser this time.

I'm also pleased that all 3 (indeed all 6 of my games) were completed inside the distance (which at 45mins doesn't allow for much dithering): Knight and Warband armies against each other are 'result armies'!


I also won 2 of 3 away games - so came an unlikely third ... winning another trophy and picking up a Chariot Miniatures Theban army which will need painting!  Thanks, Magister Militum: lovely stuff!

Alton DBA Pairs tournament: 1: Lindon Paxton; 2: Martin Myers; 3: Phil Steele. 

Riches indeed!  See what I mean?  What more could you ask of a one-day tournament?

BattleDay and Doubles Masters next ....

Friday, March 22, 2013

17th March, Berkhamsted Castle

The Siege of Berkhamsted Castle with the Battlefields Trust

Something must have stood at Berkhamsted in 1066 when the Witan decided to meet the bastard duke William of Normandy there, by Roman Akeman Street, and offer him the vacant crown of England.

The Normans very soon built a classic motte and bailey castle, and much of that original structure is evident today in its upgraded but ruined forms.

The original castle and perimeter would have been built out of wood, the stone castle being built by Thomas Beckett in the late 1150s.   As well as being a well frequented royal castle with an attractive deer park, in 1216, Berkhamsted was on the front line in King John's Civil War.

(what was once there: click on it for a bigger view)

The siege of 1216 was the subject of the Battlefields Trust walk ...

England was at war from1215 to 1217 in the aftermath of the signing of Magna Carta.  Many barons clearly intended to hold a reluctant John to the terms that he had been forced to issue.   They turned to Dauphin Louis of France for assistance.

(view of the bailey from atop the motte)

Louis landed in May 1216 and marched on London, where the people and rebel barons proclaimed him King.   Militarily, however, many castles and walled towns held out for John, including Berkhamsted, which Louis besieged in December.

The siege lasted just two weeks before a surrender was ordered - by this stage, King John was dead and William Marshal was endeavouring to broker a peace in favour of the 9 years old Henry III (so it is thought heroically holding on was no longer called for) ...

('spurs' visible on the outer ring - north flank)

There is a long standing debate concerning the outer earthworks at Berkhamsted (visible in the picture above) ... some holding that they are third line of defences thrown up to keep the attackers off the main ditch and wall ... others that these are actually Louis's siegeworks, pressed hard against the fortress.

The earthworks only exist (or remain ...) to the North and East, and feature seven so-called 'spurs' - 'D'-shaped platforms the rounded part of which face away from the castle.  They are very reminiscent of the plan of projecting towers of course (and to me, at least, have always seemd too close to the walls for it to have been practical for a besieger to have built them in such short order).

You may know better, of course ...

(the motte seen from outside the eastern perimeter)

It is believed that Louis used trebuchets at Berkhamsted - the very latest in continental military engineering ... probably sited on the high ground to the East of the fortress. 

(looking out toward the higher ground)

1216 was Berkhamsted's last military action, but it continued in significant use for several centuries.  Although it is of quite early design, it has a comparatively spacious bailey which was well appointed with fine buildings, and the large moat made it secure enough to hold the captured King Jean II after the battle of Poitiers ...

This was something of an exploratory visit by the Battlefields Trust, and very welcome.   It should become part of a 'Magna Carta trail', and, hopefully, visits will become a regular feature by the time of the siege's 800th anniversary in 2016.

Given the horrors of early Spring this year, the walk was well-attended, BFT members combining with local heritage enthusiasts and military historians.

The heavens opened at the appointed hour, and the first phase of our visit battled against a vicious sleet storm - however, the worst of it soon abated and there were occasional windows in which I could get some of these somewhat grey and overcast photographs.

My next outing will be to Alton for a pairs round of the SoA UK DBA League.  See you there.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

10th March, Wolverhampton

WMMS 2013 Alumwell

Another show and another freezing cold Sunday morning.   Is it just me?   I'm getting fed up with de-icing cars and hoping the snow won't settle!   Thankfully Will had offered to drive (we were picking up some heaters for Treb's shedquarters so needed French versatility more than we needed German joy ...) ...

The Society of Ancients showpiece was my Bosworth presentation, which is now just about all there.

(Big Figure DBA ... Bosworth 1485) 

I will have a little more supporting material available next time out (presentation boards on the battle and the archaeology etc) ... and around 5 more flags from Fluttering Flags ... 54mm is such a pleasure to work with that I'm sure I'll find some further enhancements.

In truth, ancients were a little thin on the ground at Alumwell this year, little more than our medieval game and Rob Broom's War & Conquest ...

(Rob Broom's 'Prelude to Amphipolis')

But walking around with my camera later in the day, I did discover some remarkable 6mm figures opposite Pete Berry's Baccus stand.   It is wonderful what can be done these days - so, as my project is with big figures, here is (just about) the other end of the range.

(mass, but also ...) 

( ... fine detail ... click on the pictures and take a look)

There was a bit of an 'oh my word' (or variations on that theme) on one of the very fine AWI games at the show ... I was just admiring the set up and taking a few pictures ...

(Battling for America with Will McNally's rules)

... when I spotted these fine fellows were playing the game using Lance & Longbow/Gentleman Pensioner Will McNally's rules.   Now we had a very good game of Germantown with these after last year's Phalanx show.   It also has to be said there's nothing trendy about these rules - they had clearly been selected on merit (and I think Will had a fascinating chat with the players when the DL Books stand was a little less busy).

WMMS is very much a traditional military show, with plenty of modelling displays and some costume societies present.  I quite like the 18th century uniforms and militaria, and it added to the lace-colonial feel ...

Plenty of teddybear fur, too, these days ... I see on TMP that the correct term is 'fun fur' and I guess we should be careful lest anyone assume we are sanctioning cruelty to teddybears ...  I think it looks very good in the right display (it could draw me back to cloths rather than boards ...)

Plenty of it under this sprawling 28mm ACW game ....

A relatively quiet show by mid afternoon, I also had a chance to touch base with Rob Broom, Martin from Warbases and Martin Goddard at Peter Pig who is doing a very nice Viking range and will be putting out a warrior and raiding game which looks promising.

Martin had his Square Bashing WWI game (Western Front) to try out at the show ... a foretaste of the flavour that will be 2014 I suspect.   Can you believe that come next August, it will be 100 years on? ...  My Grandfather was a tank gunner at Cambrai (that must make me old).

Bosworth update

This shot of Richard's artillery position came out nicely.   The figures are by Irregular Miniatures, the guns are conversions of Renaissance pieces from Irregular's 42mm ranges.   Note my trendy use of teddybear fur for the Fenn Hole marsh ...

But I must share with you what was, appropriately, the last game of the day ...  

I'm sure many readers will 'get' enough of how DBA works to follow this.   I was playing Richard, and the score was 3 elements destroyed each.   So whoever destroyed the next element would win the game.   Needing that extra kill, I had the pips to charge across the battlefield with the support of my cavalry and engage Henry in combat.  

Now this would be very foolhardy - we all know the Bosworth story - and in my version, William Stanley fights for Henry but can only be moved in turns where the Henry Tudor player rolls a 6 for Pips.   This had not happened, so, on the edge of the battlefield, Stanley hovered.  

Put it this way: I might kill Henry anyway, attacking with the cavalry support.   If not, there was a 1:6 chance Stanley would join in against my flank (which I could, of course, survive, on good dice) - otherwise, if he wasn't dead already, I would have Henry's flank another turn on.   These considerations lured me in.

I'm sure you can figure out the rest ... I charge, Henry holds, and in his turn he rolls a 6 on demand and Stanley takes my flank.

(Bosworth at Alumwell: the end of Richard's 'death ride')

It was the end of the game: the dice were caught on camera ... Henry rolled another 6, as Richard, I rolled a 2.  I lose and with Stanley on my flank, I cannot recoil. In DBA the recoil becomes a kill (when I'm prevented from recoiling).  Game over ... 

Leicester ... Car Park ... the rest is history ...

It was a lot of fun, and with rehearsed stupidity, the move was still the obvious one (I really had no game changer anywhere else) 


Thanks for another great show, Alumwell - an enjoyable day out but, man, did it turn cold at the end.   Ffffreezing ...

I hope it warms up for the Battlefields Trust's walk around Berkhamsted Castle at the weekend.

But look out for DBA at Alton ... 

... and the Society of Ancients BattleDay in Bletchley next month.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

2nd - 3rd March, Bournemouth

Armati by the Sea 2013

I am very grateful to the team that regularly put the Bournemouth Armati weekend together ... and to the players who travel often great distances to participate in the event.

All games are preset historical match-ups, and all the kit required to play, down to the gice are provided by the organisers.   Although Armati is no longer a 'living' and fully supported historical game, such is the appeal that players fly in from Scotland, Ireland and France for the event (my trip from the East Midlands is modest by comparison).

There were 20 scenarios this year, running from Megiddo to Barnet ... so that's 40 armies ready to pick up from the command table ... and all the scenarios with the appropriate lists are complied into a guide of which every player is given a copy.   I would recommend this to anyone.

Armies are mostly from Roy Boss's extensive collection ... with some help from co-conspiritors Mark Fry and Peter Barham.

(glimpses of the provided armies: Teutonic Order)

It is a hotel-based event, and having arrived late on Friday, I was just a few drinks, a good night's sleep and a wholesome breakfast away from my first game.  I usually hope for Dark Age and chivalry armies in these events: like most tabletop games, Armati does cavalry better than phalanxes - and the combination of longer movement and obligatory charging makes getting a result within the time frame relatively painless.

(some splendidly painted 15mm Celts: click on the images for a larger picture)

That said, if you must play Hellenistic games, play Armati, where the pikes 'units' have to be welded together into a phalanx, and where shooting up light troops is an irrelevance to the game result.

By my usual standards, therefore, the draw did not suit me ... of the 5 scenarios, I was drawn only one Medieval battle - the rest were BC 317 or earlier.

(some nicely turned-out elephants ... always a great sight on the ancient battlefield)

Of course, that's a very limited perspective ... I drew 5 great opponents, the scenarios I played were reasonably well-balanced and certainly engaging ... the armies provided were a joy to play with, and I seemed to keep on the good side of Lady Luck (she can be a flirt, and she knows how much I love her six dimples ...) ...

So here they are ...

N.B: the 'scenarios' range from preselected and historically opposed lists (most of them are straight like this, using the standard, bland, Armati terrain) to actual scenarios with built in unique effects.     For ease, deployment is behind traditional Armati screens ...

SCENARIO 8: PARAITACENE - 317 BC (Early Seleucid vs Eumenid ... armies courtesy Roy Boss)

We deployed some distance apart ... this game was slowed by the lengthy approach.  I had the Seleucid.

SCENARIO 6: CLUSIUM - 391 BC (Later Etruscan vs Trans-Alpine Celts ... armies courtesy Roy Boss)

I had the Etruscans and was battered upon by 'non-key' Gaesati - I fought them off at some length - but by then the battle was over.   A clear win for the warband army.

SCENARIO 2: NIHRIYA - 1245 BC (Early Assyrian vs Hittite Empire ... armies courtesy Roy Boss)

I had promised myself to play simply, but this was Saturday evening and I was a bit daunted by the quality of the Assyrians ... so I resorted to Hittite tactics, left most of my Foot out-of-command, allowing me a very mobile 'hit and run' force of small chariot raiders.   Although I lost my general in the process, my raiding parties managed to inflict defeat on the Assyrians before they got to my vulnerable infantry (on whom they were undoubtedly looking like a wolf on the fold) ...

That was Saturday ... a series of hard fought, fairly even games of which I won two.

However, I indulged many a libation on the Saturday night, and the luck of the gods shined down upon me all Sunday.

SCENARIO 4: NINEVEH - 612 BC (Sargonid Assyrian vs Medo-Cimmerian Alliance ... armies courtesy Roy Boss)

Although this is a Biblical/Antiquity army, I can play it like turks!  9 units of horse archers.    Against Assyrians, however, you need some skill and some luck (as they shoot back).

SCENARIO 18: PIOWICE 1331 AD (Medieval Polish/Lithuanian vs Teutonic Order ... armies courtesy Roy Boss)

Vincent beat me in Glasgow in a game where I thought if I'd got a bit of traction, lucky or otherwise, I might have won.  Here fortunes were reversed ... I could do no wrong.   Vincent set all the combats up to his advantage.   I won all the key ones on the dice.  Job done.

As I say, as a gentleman wargamer, these days, I had determined to play nice historical games all weekend ... set up in the middle of the table with two flanks, then get on with the game without too much clever stuff.   The games are better that way.

But it did result in me scoring a huge points tally on the Sunday.  But not enough to challenge the leaders, I assumed.   I was therefore taking pictures for the Society when I was called up in second place ... Second! ... well I never ...

(The Society of Ancients sponsors the event and President Roy Boss kindly presented the prizes)

Just for the record, second place comes with a £20 Amazon voucher (now that will come in very handy).   As I am always happy to admit, I like winning etc. every now and then, so an unexpected 2nd place put a big smile on my face ... especially as we'd drawn scenarios that don't usually suit me and I'd had a lot of fun with them.   Thanks.

Excellent weekend ... simple trip there and back - and I'd stayed on for the Monday excursion - which this year was to the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth ...

P.B.Eye-Candy on a visit to the D-Day Museum

Follow the link for pictures of tanks and stuff like that.

Great event ... why don't you join us next year?   Before then, we'll be doing Bosworth on the SoA stand at Alumwell on Sunday.

(more splendid chivalry from the Bournemouth Armati tables)

(D-Day Museum)