22 July, 2009
On Sunday afternoon I got a chance to try out the Welsh. Owain ap Urien (actually the name of one of Arthur’s companions!) resisted the incursions of some Anglo-Normans, led by Ranulf the Dastard (doubtless the descendent of some unacknowledged offspring of William the Bastard!)—and so you see my partisan loyalties in this encounter.
Owain was the lord of somewhere in the South West in the early 12th century; he’d spent some time in Ireland, as happened quite often to Welsh princes, and he brought back some Dublin Ostmen mercenaries. Otherwise his force was predominantly archers, whether skirmishers or massed (I followed the DBM list which allows these to be either Bw or Ps; as Ian Heath (AFE, p. 51) says there’s actually no evidence massed archers were ever fielded, it seems reasonable to use a mixture.
Ranulf, by contrast, was an oppressive scoundrel that had attracted a band of lawless freebooters to his services (in contrast, of course, to Owain’s upstanding Vikings!). He was seeking to add Owain’s lands to his holdings (he was the aggressor).
The armies met in a wooded area between two hills (Coedgenau). Ranulf got to deploy in the area he hoped would be the least bad for him. It would, however, require him to deploy in column and try to deploy into line in the middle of the field. The Welsh drew up first. They massed their archers on their right flank, facing the open ground. They guarded the left flank with some skirmishers on the steep hill, put their warbands in the forest and the Ostmen in column in the gap between the hill and wood. Owain himself was in reserve behind the archers.
Ranulf deployed in columns, his spear on the left, muntatores in the centre and knights on the left. His skirmishers covered each flank. In hindsight the knights would have been better to have exchanged positions with the spear.
(1) Ranulf made an energetic start (6 PIPs), being able to send his skirmishers forward on the right in attempt to gain time and room to deploy behind them. Owain’s response (2 PIPs) was more languid, advancing his archers and the Ostmen.
(2) Ranulf (4 PIPs) belatedly realizes that facing all those archers with his knights is a chancy proposition and attempts to move them out of the way. Owain (4 PIPs) attempts to chase off the annoying skirmishers with his own supported by the Ostmen. This opening engagement sets the tone for the battle. Owain’s troops are half-hearted and have to recoil (2+2 v. 1+5).
(3) Ranulf (3 PIPs) decides to throw the muntatores in to support the skirmishers, while he and the spearmen continue to advance. The muntatores are supported by the skirmishers, but due to some very desultory fighting only force a recoil of the Ostmen (3+1 v. 2+1!). Owain (4 PIPs) rearranges his Ostmen, giving them rear support from the skirmishers, wheels and advances his archers and extends his skirmishers to give overlap support. His archers fire on the muntatores with disappointing results (4+1 v. 3+3).
(4) Ranulf has the PIPs (4) to get his spearmen across to the archers using the road. The manouvre does not leave him in an ideal situation, however; his knights are separated and the spearmen are in column close to the enemy. Owain (5 PIPs) replies by advancing his warband to give overlap support to the Ostmen who attack the muntatores and skirmishers. Shooting by the only element of archers in range to the spearmen is ineffectual. Poor dice dog the attack. The Ostmen recoil (4+2 v. 2+5) and the skirmishers put up a good fight before retiring behind Ranulf and his retinue (4+6 v. 2+5).
(5) Ranulf (2 PIPs), feeling short of ideas, retires his muntatores to align with himself and advances his spear towards the archers, whose shooting forces them to recoil (2+5 v. 1+4). Owain (4 PIPs) sees the chance to hit the spear from the side with his warbands and retires some archers to give them room, while also realigning his Ostmen. Now would have been the time for good dice to have decimated the Marcher spearmen, but they continued their lukewarm form: the archers did nothing (2+3 v. 2+4); a recoil would have destroyed the back rank. The spearmen also hold back the warband (4+4 v. 4+4).
(6) Ranulf (4 PIPs) is unfazed and decides to charge the Ostmen, supported by his skirmishers. He also advances the front of the column of spear and gives them some skirmisher support. Shooting forces the skirmishers to retire, while the warband is forced to retire (4+5 v. 4+3). Ranulf slaughters the Ostmen (4+5 v. 3+2), taking with them their skirmisher support. The muntatores face doughtier axemen, but nevertheless push them back (3+6 v. 2+5). Owain (1 PIP) loses his nerve and can only order the warband back into the fray. They finally gain a little traction and eliminate their opponents (4+5 v. 4+4). The archers had forced the spearmen to recoil (2+4 v. 2+2).
(7) Ranulf (5 PIPs) is spurred on by his success and Owain’s lack of response. He rounds on the remaining Ostmen, sends the spearmen against the archers, and brings some knights up to support the spear. The Ostmen are utterly massacred (3+6 v. 2+1), the spearmen push back the warband (4+3 v. 3+1) and there is a standoff with the archers, though the skirmishers recoil (3+3 v. 2+4 and 2+2 v. 2+3). Owain regains his composure (5 PIPs) and in a desperate attempt to break the Marcher force sends his skirmishers on the left flank out to attack their counterparts, while he attempts to move around to the right flank (that wood was a real pain).
His archers shoot on the muntatores, who shrug it off (4+4 v. 3+6) Then the skirmishers have more poor dice. At this point, infuriated by the consistently mediocre dice, I intervene, change dice (red for green!) and reroll. This makes a huge difference. The skirmishers destroy their opponents in a tough fight (2+6 v. 1+5). The warband are on fire (3+6 v. 4+1); only the archers fail to kill, being pushed back (2+4 v. 2+5).
(8) Ranulf (3 PIPs) despite the losses of the last turn can see the Welsh are at breaking point. The warbands had advanced into range of his knights, ugh! And he turns on those skirmishers who’d come out into the open. His casual assurance of victory is almost his undoing. In fact, I was so sure it was all over bar the shouting that I didn’t notice that if Ranulf was forced to recoil he’d meet the muntatores and be destroyed. In fact I forgot to do the shooting all together, and this very outcome happened. Embarrassed I use those dice for the archers shooting who should have shot at the muntatores (4+4 v. 3+1). The next bit of shooting was equally effective, with the archers who recoiled able to shoot at the spear with support on both sides (2+6 v. 2+2). Remarkably, Owain is in with a chance. The skirmishers can’t keep up the good luck, being destroyed by Ranulf (4+4 v. 2+1); the warbands, however, manage to hang on against the odds (3+2 v. 2+4). The Norman knights, seeing their spear in disarray retire from the field and Owain claims victory in a bloody encounter in which he loses both his Ostmen and two of his skirmishers while destroying three quarters of Ranulf’s spear, his muntatores and some of his skirmishers.
A veil was drawn over the scene of Ranulf’s defeat; no photo was taken of the final position. Actually, it didn’t play out as tidily as I’ve described it. I thought the archers couldn’t shoot at the spear, as the spear were ‘in a position to provide overlap support’ as the WADBAG Guide puts it. Only in the morning after writing a description of Owain’s defeat, did I check the rules and realize they should have fired. I shuffled all the dice results on—the skirmishers had resisted Ranulf; now their dice saw the spear destroyed. The warband had fallen to the knights, now their result saw the skirmishers destroyed, and then I rolled for the warband and the dice were still with the Welsh the next morning. You could say it’s a case of a battle were the historical record is ambiguous and both sides claimed victory. I show my partisan spirit in going with the Welsh!
Ranulf probably chose the right side to deploy from, but he botched his set-up, and would have been lucky to win when his spear were at such a disadvantage and he was separated from the bulk of his knights. Yet he would have, had I not changed that dice! The transformation was incredible!
Owain decision to mass his archers had two justifications; firstly they made the most open piece of terrain unattractive to Ranulf’s mounted troops, and then they would be most deadly with their supported fire.
The downside was that Ranulf could have avoided them by deploying on the other flank, and properly deployed his spear would have the advantage over them. Furthermore, although terrain was a problem for Ranulf’s horse on his right flank, any foot deployed in the open were vulnerable, as the Ostmen discovered.
Had Ranulf deployed sensibly, he could have used his knights to pin the right flank in bad terrain, while the spear, supported by skirmishers and muntatores dealt to the archers.
An alternative deployment for Owain would have been to split the archers, perhaps exchanging two for the Ostmen and their support. The Ostmen were vulnerable to knights wherever they deployed, but at least they’d have archer support.
15 July, 2009
I really had to try out some of my newly finished armies, and also try out recording a game—writing each move and taking photos. Therefore, last Friday I decided that I’d use the Pre-feudal Scots (the South Welsh really need a mounted opponent to be interesting, and currently the only ones are lowly Tabletop figures!). Given this choice the most appropriate opponent therefore seemed to be the Scots Isles and Highlands army, even though it didn’t follow the DBA list, but my adaptation of the DBM one:
6 x 4Bd (Islemen, 1 = cmd)
2 x 3Bw (Highland archers)
1 x 2Ps (Highland skirmishers)
1 x 5Wb (Highland rabble)
2 x 3Ax (Irish mercenaries)
The Irish were necessary, as the Galwegians were in the Scots army. The Islemen were also actually Vikings, as not enough of them have been painted, and one of them was an element of Thegns.
The Islemen, led by Fergus mac Dougal, are raiding somewhere along the West coast near Galloway in the early 11th century. They are met by the local Scots leader, Malcolm Canbeg, who has the support of nearby Galwegians, who are always keen on a scrap.
They meet Malcolm along a road in an area of low hills with a small wood on their left flank. Malcolm has deployed with his skirmishers facing the woods, their spearmen in the centre and the Thegns and Galwegians on their left flank, flanked by Malcolm and his retinue and a troop of light horse.
To meet this Fergus deploys his Irish to gain control of the wood, the Highland rabble next to them, then himself flanked by more Islemen, then the Highland archers to face the cavalry, and finally more Islemen supported by skirmishers to meet the cavalry and the warbands.
Malcolm decides to shift his cavalry to his right flank and move spearmen to face the archers.
With 2 PIPs Fergus chooses to advance the Irish and the right flank, hoping to move the archers towards the cavalry.
With 4 PIPs Malcolm advances the entire line 200 paces, and then spends the remaining PIPs getting his skirmishers into the woods.
Fergus has 4 PIPs and contests the woods with the Irish, advances the right flank and wheels the archers towards the cavalry. They lose the first fight against the skirmishers, but manage to win the second.
Malcolm uses 5 PIPs to advance his skirmishers to overlap one of the Irish, he then advances the cavalry, thinking perhaps to flank the Irish next turn. The rest of the troops continue to advance. The Irish run like a pack of cowards (they roll a 1 against a 6!). That was not expected, and suddenly Malcolm looks to be dominant on the left flank.
Fergus has 4 PIPs and retreats the Irish, advances on the right flank and splits the bow, sending one to support the right flank.
Malcolm decides that his LH are not suited to facing archers, retreating them and starting to send them to provide support on the opposite flank. He himself retires to line up with the line of spearmen.
With 4 PIPs Fergus hurries the right flank forward, hoping to make contact before the LH can arrive. He aligns the Irish with his own line and advances it too. The archers, having chased off the LH, try to catch up with the right flank. The archers lined up with the right flank fire ineffectually on the Thegns.
Malcolm continues to be energetic and has 5 PIPs. The LH complete their manoeuvre (3 PIPs), and the skirmishers advance to the edge of the woods (not too smart!). The Thegns are again shot at ineffectually.
With 4 PIPs Fergus takes on the skirmishers in the woods. The Irish and rabble advance to contact, and then the rabble use an extra move to close the door. The right flank advances to contact, fearing the LH flanking. The lone archer moves a little closer. His shooting on a spear unit was ineffectual (he probably was shooting illegally at the one providing overlap support on the other archers).
Then it got messy! The Islemen facing the Thegns go first. They are confident (6 v. 3), but the dice are against them (1 v. 6!), and they’re routed. Their plan, risky as it was, had hinged on this combat going well. The Galwegians recoil, as do the spearmen. Remarkably the archers survive; only recoiling (0+4 v. 4+1).
Malcolm used his 3 PIPs to advance his spear and Galwegians against the Islemen and flank them with the LH. He also advances his spear against the archers. The archer not in contact illegally shoot at the spear providing overlap support, forcing it to recoil (I missed that at the time!).
The spear and cavalry are too much for the Islemen, who are routed. However, the Islemen facing the Galwegians, despite being overlapped on both sides, forcedthem to recoil again (4+6 v. 4+3). The spearmen fail narrowly to destroy the archers (4+6 v. 2+4). Actually, had they still had their overlap as they should have, the game would have ended then.
Fergus doesn’t despair, and energetically tries to recover the situation with 4 PIPs. The surviving Islemen on the right flank retreat. The Irish and rabble tackle the last skirmisher (I’m not sure the Irish could sidle into contact; perhaps they should have closed the door and had the rabble, at best, as overlap support). Fergus himself tries to avoid his archers with a wheel of 100 paces and an advance. The archers, despite support, fail to disconcert the spear with their shooting, but it’s close (3+6 v. 4+5). The Irish avenge their comrades in a tough fight (3+6 v. 1+5).
Malcolm remains energetic and sends the Galwegians into another charge (2 PIPs) on the Islemen supported by the Thegns and the LH. They fail again (4+2 v. 4+4). The archers again shoot ineffectually at the spear.
Starting to lose momentum, Fergus has only two PIPs, which he uses to make contact with the enemy himself. He gets some overlap support from some archers. The spearmen, however, are resilient. Those overlapped by the archers recoil ((5+4 v. 3+2), narrowly avoiding breaking. Those facing Fergus are bolder, but are still forced back (6+4 v. 3+4), and Malcolm and the Islemen facing him poke at each other halfheartedly (3+1 v. 3+1!).
Malcolm, clearly distracted, issues almost no orders; with only one PIP he orders his spearmen back into contact. The overlappers are now overlapped, and the archers are mauled (4+6 v. 1+3), giving victory to the Scots. No longer overlapped Malcolm fights with more energy and forces his Islemen back (4+4 v. 3+3). Fergus’s other flank support, clearly unnerved by the destruction of the archers next to them, are also forced to recoil (4+3 v. 4+1). Fergus himself, overlapped on both sides, nevertheless fights his opponents to a standstill (4+3 v. 4+3).
It’s hard to say how much of Fergus’s defeat was due to his bad deployment—the archers would have done better on the left flank, where they would have neutralized any attempted redeployment of the LH. His decision to try to get the archers across to meet the cavalry was probably worse, as it forced the gamble of attacking on the right flank before the centre could catch up. However, his luck was as big a factor; he was unlucky in the woods, and Malcolm was lucky to get his LH around to the other flank so fast. Also the collapse of Fergus’s right flank was caused by the Thegns remarkable victory. Perhaps they were expressing some sort of opinion about being earmarked to become Islemen! If so, they were emphatic about it.
Battle honours are owed to the Thegns (it’s not the first time they’ve done this, either!), and to the Islemen/Vikings who valiantly held off the repeated attacks of the Galwegians, even when flanked.
15 July, 2009
The Deviosi dynasty are licking their wounds after failing to dominate the Six Islands. The only ray of sunshine in this encounter was that the threats of the Kushites proved vain. The victors were the Hyskos, villainous Asiatics, who proved more devious than any of the Deviosi. The speed of their victory gave clear evidence of their total lack of scruples.
Their most egregious act was to land on an island to which the Deviosi clearly held first nation status and to build over the foundations of a settlement the Deviosi had started. With the wood they looted from this lawless act they went on to construct an impressive navy that united their far-flung holdings. And though there’s no denying the quality of the ships they built, that changes not a bit the black-hearted scurvy dogs that crew them!
Hail Lawrence, tyrant of Catan!
14 July, 2009
I’m giving this blog a little more history quickly by posting battle reports originally sent as emails to my friend Steve in Melbourne. Steve and I have known each other since secondary school, where we shared a common interest in gaming. His decision to get some DBA armies a few years back was one of the catalysts for me to get into figure gaming myself.
Furthermore, a game of DBA at his place when I visited in 2007 was instrumental in getting me remotivated to get my own armies. Since then, his visits to NZ have been the occasion of many of the games of DBA and HOTT that I’ve played. The visits have also been a spur to get armies finished in time for them.
Although I’ve kept no record of the games we’ve played, I’ve used email to keep myself motivated, reporting on progress with painting and with reports of games I’ve played, either solo or against others. Hopefully, I’ve also reciprocated by giving him some motivation for his painting, though I’ve not been able to get back there since 2007.
Actually, it was a particularly long report that was the spark for this blog, as it provoked the suggestion from Steve that I should start a blogging such stuff.
14 July, 2009
Although I’d painted quite a lot in the last few months, I’d not actually played any games in ages. Early last month I decided to try out my freshly painted flier elements. Ieuan decided he’d join in so we had two armies:
3 x Rd (Wolf Riders, 1 = cmd)
2 x Bs (Wolves)
2 x Bh (Trolls and Ogres)
1 x Dr
2 x Lk (Spiders)
3 x Fl (Bats = allies)
2 x Wb (Galwegians, 1 = cmd)
2 x Sh (Highland Archers)
4 x Fl (Valkyries and Hippogriff Riders)
2 x Rd (Centaurs)
1 x Bh (Walking Tree)
3 x Fl (Eagles)
It was a really topsy-turvy battle. Ieuan as the baddies had the edge. All those fliers were very hard to manoeuvre, and quite fragile. My shooters and warbands sat on the flanks doing nothing for a lack of PIPs. The dragon showed up and ate a flier and then torched the walking tree, which was flanked by the trolls, winning the battle. It was still quite close and I almost knocked out his general, which had started flanked by the two behemoths—not good as they pursued out of support!
The fliers proved pretty fragile, yet better dice could have seen them being much more dangerous. All the same, I reckon 2 fliers is all an army needs!
Ieuan was the defender and I talked him out of slapping a forest in the centre of the board, but the forests around the edge proved irrelevant to the battle between riders and behemoths in the centre of the board, so his wolves and spiders were largely spectators, though one element almost drove the eagle commander off the board. His bats attacked my commander, but weren’t able to do anything spectacular (I played a variant that halved the PIPs of allies—that hurt them a lot).
Fun finally to use all the figures I’ve painted over the last while.
14 July, 2009
A few days after defeating Anglo-Normans I tried the Irish against Vikings. I posted the following to Steve:
Well, my blog would be a little embarrassing—yesterday I tried Vikings against Norse Irish and totally screwed up the littoral landings. The Irish landed 2 Bd an Ax and a Ps behind the Viking lines. They were actually in range of the undefended camp. I then decided that was too bad a set-up by the Vikings and moved the camp and a Bd that was defending on the wrong side. I should have then repositioned the landing, but I didn’t. Despite some truly heroic dice-rolling by my daughter Anna the Irish landing was destroyed, losing them the game. As they were out of command range they sucked up all the PIPs. I should really have started over or not moved the camp, but I tend to favour the Irish (I’m trying them out), so I made the change in order to avoid what seemed an incompetent set-up.
14 July, 2009
At the end of March this year to celebrate the completion of the Norse-Irish I tried them out in a solo game against an Anglo-Norman opponent. The Irish were defenders (I didn’t need to cheat about this, but I was prepared to). The Irish had to have a waterway and elected to have two woods close to it at either end of the board and a long marsh at 90 degrees to it in the middle of the board in relation to the waterway, and near and about two thirds of the way along the board in the other direction. The Normans thought of trying to put the waterway to the rear of the Irish, but eventually decided to be closest to the marsh and hope to get around its flanks with their cavalry in time to destroy the Irish in the open.
The Irish deployed with three elements of bonnachts supported by an element of kerns in a line in front of the wood behind which their camp was and then to have the rest of the bonnachts and kerns to line up alongside this group with the Ostmen to their rear. They hoped to gain the marsh before the knights and cavalry could catch them. They decided against trying a littoral landing (it’d only slow up the rush for the marsh).
The English had three elements of skirmishers (psiloi) behind the marsh, the four spear in a column in the gap between the marsh and their wood, one knight next to the waterway, and the other three knights, the commander and the cavalry on the far flank.
The Irish exchanged two bonnachts with two kerns to get the kerns on the open flank in the hope of racing to the marsh on their first turn and disrupting the cavalry. This proved a winner as they rolled enough PIPs to get a kern into the edge of the marsh and ZOC the column of knights. At this point the English commander realized the problem of having his commander on one wing and tried to move himself and two other knights to the other flank. The cavalry continued its outflanking manoeuvre, and the psiloi went into the marsh.
The Irish got some two more kerns into the marsh and one was destroyed in a combat with the English skirmishers (very bad dice). On the next turn the general flanked by two bonnachts poured in; they lined up with the psiloi and on the open flank outflanked the psiloi with a kern. The dice at this point really ended the game—both flanking bonnachts were destroyed! The general survived exposed but in a hopeless position. I decided to reroll to see what would happen and this time the expected happened: the flanked Eglish psiloi was destroyed, as was the one on the other end; the one facing the general was lucky to survive.
Now the battle was more evenly poised. The English had a bottleneck trying to get the knights out between the marsh and the woods—the spear were in front and blocking them. The surviving skirmisher abandoned the marsh and faced off against the general just out of range flanked by a knight. On the outer flank the cavalry avoided a kern doubling back to flank them while being attacked frontally by the Ostmen. They spent most of the battle fairly ineffectually retreating from the Ostmen while waiting for the knight on that flank to skirt the ZOC of the kern perched on the marsh’s edge and join them. The Irish then made the bottleneck worse by advancing an element of bonnachts into the spear who were too close to the marsh. They had to turn and face, blocking the English general. The element of knights next to the waterway advanced, while the Irish used good PIPs to send all the bonnachts and kerns in the woods out to try and get at the spear. As it eventuated, these bonnachts won the game. They got lucky against the knight: overlap and psiloi support made it 3-2. The knights recoiled when they charged the element closest to the waterway and then were destroyed when the Irish followed up—good dice did it.
The spear had managed to destroy the bonnachts in the marsh, but now were caught on their flank again by the bonnachts that had been victorious against the knights. Worse still a kern had moved across the marsh to flank them. They survived, forcing a recoil in the first combat, and charged in for a second time with a stalemate. The Irish then got the result they needed to win the game.
The mobility of auxilia and psiloi is quite neat, but their vulnerability in the open to knights (that went for the entire army!) was pretty unnerving. If it’d been a bonnacht that was supporting the Ostmen they might have been able to trap the cavalry, but the kerns were scared to leave the marsh lest they get hit by the cavalry.
The English knights could have, and should have, moved through the woods to get past the spear, but were mesmerized by the area of open ground between the marsh and the wood, which was blocked and they remained ineffectual. Otherwise their deployment was ill-conceived, with the general on one flank and the spear in column. Still, but for the PIPs that allowed the kern to obstruct on one flank it would have been a slaughter.
A much better deployment would have been to put the spear in a line behind the marsh and not move them. The skirmishers should have occupied the edges of the marsh on the first turn as the kerns did. This would have let the cavalry around where they could have hoped to catch some Irish in the open. Fighting for control of the marsh was a mistake; they were lucky not to lose all three psiloi. Sitting outside with the spear would have left what Irish made it to the marsh look foolish, cut off from half the army and the camp. Knowing what to do with the Ostmen was difficult. They were slow and were torn between chasing the cavalry and going after the spear. Once they opted for the cavalry their speed committed them to persevere with this.
It was a fun game. The Irish were always going to need a fair amount of luck to win, and they generally got good PIPs and the right combat dice (except at the start in what became a very quick alternate outcome!). Hindsight revealed the shortcomings of the English deployment, which the Irish were able to use to good effect.
Next I think I’ll go for a fight of Irish against Vikings, both are littoral, so it’d make for an interesting match-up, provided the Irish were defending.