23 November, 2009

Last week I painted up three elements of 7Hd for the Battle of Hastings. I also finished all the figures I need for the King Magnus campaign.

Feudal Hordes

These are all Essex figures, some of which I got by trade from Paul Potter. They are pretty primitive looking figures, some are armed with lumps of wood or crude stone clubs. They’ll be used in campaign games for emergency reinforcements. The middle element is made up of figures without trousers, so it’s particularly suitable for the Welsh and Pre-feudal Scots, who don’t hold with such fashion!

I also finished one 3Sp and two 3Bw for the Welsh (Feudal Castings, of course). Until I’m inspired to paint the early Welsh option (lots of 3Wb), that’s all of them for now, though I do have the figures for some more command elements, particularly another mounted one, but I think other projects will take priority.

More Welsh

And I’ve done some more Viking archers (also Feudal Castings), only to decided that if I make the Anglo-Norse huscarls immune to QK, they won’t need any more light troops. Still, I’ve now got enough archers for two Viking armies, and I’ve probably got the blades too, if I painted the rest; again I can’t see that being an immediate priority.

Viking Archers

No sooner had Harold sent the Norwegians packing, after a hard fight, than he got news that William of Normandy had landed in the south. Without hesitating he marched his forces to meet this challenge to his sovereignty. He was able to recover one element of the fyrd he’d lost at Stamford and he brought his force up to strength with some hastily raised levies of dubious worth. Hi s force to face the Norman invader was, 3x4Bd (huscarls), 6x4Sp (fyrd), 1x2Ps (skirmishers) and 2x7Hd (fyrd dregs). The huscarls acquitted themselves so well at Stamford that I decided to give them a bonus; they can only be killed by knights if they’re doubled. This was a variant rule I saw in Slingshot 263 (“The Normans in Italy”). It seems eminently reasonable to make these elite troops the steadiest in the army against knights rather than some of the most vulnerable.

William had brought with him plenty of cavalry (7x3Kn and 1x2LH) with some spear (2x4Sp) and archers (2x2Ps). It was a toss-up whether to deploy the archers as skirmishers or in formation, as the formed-up archers could have a lot of fun with the hordes, but then so can the knights.

William had the first piece of luck as he was able to set the terrain, and he wasn’t about to play fair! He managed to meet Harold on a road with only a pair of small woods in opposite corners to break up the flatness. This was that flat bit on the way to Senlac Hill, which is clearly where Harold was heading! This is the battle of Hastings where Harold doesn’t get to that hill.

There was little to choose between the various edges, but Harold got the road running between them and the smallest hill on his left flank. William deployed with his spear on the road, hoping to use it to help them keep up with the knight. He them put his light horse and skirmishers on the right flank, hoping to move quickly to contest the wood with the Saxons. Otherwise his knights formed up either side of the spear.

Harold met this with a block of psiloi-supported spear flanked by himself and his huscarls and a two-deep block of spear on the right flank. He tried to give the hordes what little protection they could by placing them near the woods, hoping to delay the Norman light troops with them. He kept some fyrd in the camp in case the LH got through to it.

Initial deployments; William on the left, Harold on the right.

On his first turn Harold moved his horde out of the woods to stop the Norman light horse getting around it to the camp and he advanced the line (not needing 2 PIPs to move hordes on the first turn is handy!).

With 4 PIPs William opted to send his light troops forward quickly.

Turn 1: The Norman light troops advance quickly.

On the next turn Harold wheeled his line and brought the horde on the end out to anchor it. William with 6 PIPs got clever and advanced his spear along the road and broke up his knights as they chased along after.

Turn 2: The Normans rush forward.

Harold, excited to see the Normans in disarray, rushed forward, moving his horde around to ZOC the enemy skirmishers. William paid the price of his rashness with only a single PIP, which he used to try to get the spear across to face Harold’s spear.

Turn 3: Harold gets closer and William's line is not yet organized.

Harold continued to advance. Now he had the enemy ZOCed. It would be harder for them to manoeuvre. William was still in a dither with only 2 PIPs. He used these to support his spear as best he could.

Turn 4: Harold's bold advance looks to catch the Normans in disarray.

Harold didn’t hesitate and on the next turn attacked William’s left flank before it could properly deploy. He succeeded in destroying a conroi of Norman knights with spear that had overlap support (6-3) and drive back some knights with his huscarls.

Turn 5 (Harold): First blood to the English as the knights on the right flank break.

William has better PIPs now (4) and starts to organize a response, but it’s not easy with the enemy already so close. His skirmishers attack the end of Harold’s line forcing the fyrd to turn to react, and William gets a better line to face Harold on his left.

Turn 5 (William): The Norman skirmishers force the Saxons to turn to face them.

Harold now throws his army into the attack before William can outflank it. It’s a disaster! Despite being two-deep, the spear on the right flank are routed (3-6). Any chance of an advantage against William with his huscarls is lost and they are forced to retire (had I not made them special it would have been game over!). The huscarls to the left of Harold seem disheartened too and are forced back, destroying any chance against the Norman spear, who are fought to a standstill.

Turn 6: Harold's luck fails and his right flank is blown away.

William responds by flanking Harold’s huscarls and throwing everything he has against the Saxons. The hordes remain unfazed by the Norman light horse supported by skirmishers and throw them back. Elsewhere there are three stalemates, including the beleagured huscarls and the fight between the two commanders.

Turn 6 (William): The Saxons hold firm against the Norman charge.

Harold can do little to put pressure on the Normans beyond straightening his battleline and fighting bravely. Sadly this was not to be a repeat of Stamford, and this time his huscarls are destroyed. Nevertheless, he throws back William’s attack on him, and his other huscarls, heartened by this, rout the knights in front of them (5-2).

Turn 7 (Harold): The right flank continues to collapse, but elsewhere Harold's huscarls are victorious.

William now gets 5 PIPs and flanks his rival for the throne. Clinically he straightens his line, extending the spear to cover for the lost knights. His skirmishers advance to ZOC the spear on his far right again. No heroics here, he’ll wait for English right flank to collapse under the weight of knights opposing it. He is victorious. Harold’s huscarls fight bravely, but flanked they go down in a close fight (4-4). Legend has it that Harold was killed in single combat with William, who was able to lift the crown of England from his head.

Turn 7: (William): Harold falls surrounded by his huscarls. The heart of English resistance collapses with him.

With their commander gone all resistance collapsed and the Norman cavalry was able to carry out a terrible pursuit. Only the hordes got away. They melted into the woods and claimed to be innocent truffle-collectors. The Normans, being partial to these, were surprisingly fooled!

  • Review:

There was no Senlac Hill for Harold, unlike at Stamford. For all that he gave the Normans some anxious moments. Had the right flank not folded, the odds against the rest of the knights there would have been in his favour. William was still really getting organized, and it could have got even worse. Surprisingly the hordes were not the weak link. Harold’s bold advance gave William no time to organize a real attack on them, and they performed their duty of guarding the left flank very well.

William would have been better to have moved his spear as part of his reaction to Harold’s set-up. If he could have got them opposite Harold’s psiloi-supported spear he would have been able to drive it back and attack the remaining spear with knights at even odds and a quick kill. That was his plan part way through his advance. They were certainly better against spear, but the manoeuvre threw his line into disorder. It was luck that brought down the Saxon’s right flank and gave him the battle. Harold’s plan was really as good as it could get in the circumstances. Waiting to be attacked would only have made the hordes a target and allowed the camp to be attacked.

  • The outcome of the battle:

Well, I can let out a sigh of relief. I was worried Harold might create another upset. And what if he wasn’t killed himself? What if his hordes and a few fyrd were destroyed? There might have been yet another battle!

With Harold dead, William set to securing the south of the kingdom. Harald got wind of this victory and returned to claim the north of England for himself. Neither were keen to attack the other that summer, and in the next season, when William advanced north he was met by Harald at Navenby and given a bloody nose.

The only battle remaining to be fought before the campaign can begin is the battle between Gruffudd ap Cynan and Gruffudd ap Rhys to see which represents the Welsh in this campaign.

I think I’ll give the same status to Harald’s huscarls that I gave to Harold’s. They certainly showed it at Navenby! This means that the Anglo-Norse will get 3x4Bd (huscarls), 1x3Kn (Norman adventurers), 7x4Sp (fyrd), 1x2Ps or 3Bw (archers). Now that I’ve finally painted enough archers for them to have more I’ve decided not to use them!

Well, I finally fought the battle between Harald Hardrada and Harold Godwinson that was the main point at which the alternate history for the King Magnus campaign branches from regular history. I decided not to make it a close refight of the battle of Stamford Bridge, but rather make it a regular DBA encounter between the two armies. I was thinking it’d be a walk-over for the Vikings as they out-classed the bulk of the Anglo-Saxon army (Bd v. Sp), but it proved to be an enthralling encounter.
Harald had defeated the Northern earls at Fulford and was advancing on Harold when the two armies met near Stamford. Harald had 11 blade, of which 4 were his huscarls, 6 were hird and one was an element of tag-along raiders (for variety!). He also had some berserks. Against this Harold met him with 3 elements of huscarls (4Bd), 8 elements of fyrd (4Sp) and an element of skirmishers (2Ps).
Harald was the aggressor and Harold met him along a road where two low hills faced each other. To one side of them was a wood. Harold was fortunate in getting the edge he wanted and deployed so that the fyrd would be able have the advantage of the hill. He deployed between the hill and the woods with his huscarls and anchored the line with his skirmishers in the wood.

Initial Deployment

Initial Deployment: English on the left, Vikings on the right.

Harald saw a number of ways of attacking this deployment. He opposed the fyrd with himself and his huscarls along with the berserks. He hoped to get around the hill with the berserks. He then opposed Harold and his huscarls with his hird. He hoped to be able to flank and destroy the skirmishers in the wood and turn the line on Harold.
Harold in turn could not see anything he could do but wait and try to strengthen his left flank. For the first four turns the Vikings advanced while Harold wheeled the fyrd to occupy the hill.

Turn 1

Turn 1: Harald advances; Harold wheels the fyrd onto the hill.

Turn 2

Turn 2: The advance continues.

Turn 3

Turn 3: The Vikings rumble closer.

Turn 4

Turn 4: The Viking huscarls wheel to face the hill and the hird continue to advance.

On the fifth turn the berserks attacked a lone group of fyrd guarding the flank, but were repulsed. On the next turn, with only one PIP, Harald detached some of his huscarls to support the berserks. Meanwhile, Harold deployed a second fyrd to strengthen this flank.

Turn 5 (Harald)

Turn 5 (Harald): The berserks are repulsed.

Turn 5 (Harold)

Turn 5 (Harold): Harold brings more fyrd to face the berserks.

Turn 6

Turn 6: Harald supports the berserkers with some huscarls.

On turn seven Harald attacked. While he and the huscarls waited at the foot of the hill, on the right flank the detached huscarls and the berserks tore the opposing fyrd to shreds. The huscarls rolled 6-1 and the berserks 6-2 (I’ll just give the dice rolls, attacker-defender)! On the other wing, however, things did not go so well. The skirmishers repulsed the hird (2-6) and Harold nearly destroyed the hird opposing him (1-6).

Turn 7 (Harald)

Turn 7 (Harald): The Saxon left flank is swept away.

Harold in reply advanced on the hird, but despite recoiling the enemy he destroyed none (had he not retired the skirmishers to prevent them getting flanked, however, with their overlap he would have!).

Turn 7 (Harold)

Turn 7 (Harold): Harold and his household troops force the Viking hird back.

On the next turn Harald finally assaulted the hill. With the end fyrd flanked he had a good chance of destroying another element, which he did. Otherwise he forced the fyrd to retire up the hill. However, on the left Harold, despite being overlapped on both sides, fought to a stubborn standstill, rolling his second 6 in combat. The fyrd in the centre also fought to a stalemate. Significantly, Harald had committed to this fight the hird that had been hanging back in the centre to stop flanking attempts on either half of the Viking battleline.

Turn 8 (Harald)

Turn 8 (Harald): Harald assaults the hill. Note how the central element of hird has been pulled into the battle.

Harold was staring defeat in the face: the fyrd on the hill was on the point of collapse. Nevertheless, he launced himself into the fray and destroyed the hird in front of him (his third 6!).

Turn 8 (Harold)

Turn 8 (Harold): Harold fights back, making it 1-3.

Harald, low on PIPs (2), could only react to Harold’s attack on the fyrd, but with the skirmishers having fled, he was able to flank Harold’s huscarls. These, however, proved stubborn and fought to a stalemate (4-5).

Turn 9 (Harald)

Turn 9 (Harald): Harold's huscarls stubbornly fight off a flank attack.

With this reprieve, Harold was still hanging on. He was now able to flank the hird in the centre. This resulted in another element of hird being destroyed. He continued his ferocious form rolling another 6, but the hird in front of him only recoiled, rolling 3. Better still, the huscarls that were flanked threw back their attackers (3-1).

Turn 9 (Harold)

Turn 9 (Harold): Harold's turn to flank! Now it's 2-3.

Harald continued to have low PIPs (2 again), and decided to end things by sending the berserks against the fyrd on the hill. It’d make a good spectacle from his vantage point. This used both his PIPs. Unfortunately, these fyrd, buoyed on by what they saw their king doing below them, completely routed the berserkers (1-6)! Suddenly the battle that had looked to be all over for the Saxons was in the balance!

Turn 10 (Harald)

Turn 10 (Harald): Harald has a grandstand seat of his berserks getting routed. It's now 3-3

In contrast to Harald’s dithering, Harold was all action (6 PIPs). The element that had flanked the hird last turn now rounded on the huscarls, while he moved the fyrd on the hill and the skirmishers to shore up his flanks. Harald’s huscarls proved as tough as Harold’s, though fortunately it was a stalemate (5-5), as otherwise the flankers would have recoiled into their own men! However, on the other flank it appears the hird were losing heart against Harold’s household professionals, having failed to break them when they were flanked. Harold rolled his fourth 6 and broke the hird in front of him (who rolled a 1). Remarkably the huscarls that had fought off their flankers repeated the exercise (6-1)! Harald’s hird was in flight and he was forced to retire from the field surrounded by his huscarls.

Turn 10 (Harold)

Turn 10 (Harold): Victory to Harold (5-3) as his huscarls show their professionalism.

  • Review

What a remarkable battle! I really thought the English didn’t have a hope, and I wasn’t happy with their plan, which was to sit and wait. When the flank on the hill crumbled, there was nothing they could do about it. In hindsight it was the committing of the hird that was ZOCing the two fyrd at the corner of the English line that was Harald’s undoing, but he was also handicapped by poor PIPs and some very dogged fighting by the English huscarls. It was quite neat to see how the huscarls on both sides fought—on both sides they shrugged off flank attacks. Otherwise, Harald’s gamble with the berserks only confirms the essential solidity of spear; they’re no walk-over.

  • Where now with the King Magnus’ War campaign?

I knew it was tempting fate to fight this battle. Still, Harald’s still alive and it’s reasonable to think he could retire from the field with his huscarls in good order. He would then retreat back to Norway, leaving Harold to meet William. As Harold has fought so valiantly it’s only reasonable that he get to refight this battle. If he loses (not a forgone conclusion by any means) I’ll assume that the Battle of Navenby that I fought a while back was Harald’s return to the North and rallying of the fyrd there against William. The campaign would then be back on track, assuming that Harold does as he’s supposed to against William!
I’m not sure what to do about Harold’s casualties. Do I allow him to make good the loss of the 3 fyrd, or do I fight this like a campaign with him down 3 elements? Alternatively I could give him some hordes to make up the numbers (though I’d have to paint them!). While I’m at it, I should really repaint Harold’s standard! The St. Andrew’s Cross dates back to when he was going to be a Pre-feudal Scot!

Serious Flash

15 November, 2009

Yesterday I cleaned up all my new Corvus Belli Ancient Britons. I found out what serious flash is, as they had heaps of it and it was very thick in places. I’ve read figure reviews where the reviewer comments that the figure had little flash and I hadn’t paid much attention to it. Until now most flash that I’ve encountered is a thin crest that can be scrapped away with a blade. Not this stuff. It needed to be hacked off. Fortunately the metal was very inflexible and didn’t bend or break as I cut large chunks of lead off the bases. The experience left me with a new appreciation for flash!

I then cleaned up the figures I need to finish the Komnenan Byzantines and a stack of Black Raven figures that my son decided he wanted to paint. I’m not sure if this sudden interest wasn’t a ruse to avoid going to bed, but they’re now ready if he decides he wants to paint them. They a pack of orcs and a pack of dwarves. The dwarves are taller than my humans so I’ve not used them, though they look nice.

This morning I undercoated them all, and was surprised at how much of the detail this brought out. I’d noticed that the Old Glory figures on their website were a curious grey colour as though they were plastic, but I think they’ve been undercoated for just this reason. It’s much easier to see the detail than when you’re looking at shiny metal. I’m now really keen to make a start on those Britons.


The arrayed figures that were undercoated this morning. I've found putting the riders on nails with Blutak is a convenient way to paint them. I use flat-headed nails for the foot and round-headed ones for the riders. I find poking them into polystyrene a handy way to stand the nails up.

Irish and Byzantines

12 November, 2009

Norse Irish

The complete Norse Irish army with 4 Kerns, 2 Ostmen, 8 Bonnachts and 1 Rising Out

I did my first bit of painting in a while last weekend and finished off some figures I’d started month. I now have a Norse Irish army with all the options: 8x3Ax and even 1x5Wb for the Rising Out, which isn’t in the DBA list but is in the DBM one. The two extra elements of Bonnachts will allow the Scots Isles and Highland army to field them as Irish mercenaries against the Norse Irish in the King Magnus’ War campaign. I’m almost ready to start that campaign and am working on the last lot of figures for it now: 1x3Sp (Welsh spear), 2x3Bw (Welsh bow), 2x3Bw and 1x2Ps (Viking archers). When these are done, hopefully this weekend, I’ll be ready to start.


Two more Bonnachts and one Rising Out

I also finished off 3Kn for the Latinikon of the Komnenan Byzantine army. The rest of the figures for that have arrived, so it should be my next project, but I’m getting attracted to the Classical period. Blame Conquest for that, and winning a Corvus Belli Ancient British army there. Now I’m wanting to get some more Corvus Belli armies (Late Carthaginians and Ancient Spanish) as well as Hellenistic and Roman armies for them to fight. If this goes ahead, I may end up running a pre-history to the Hesperia campaign with them!


Outpost Crusader Knights for the Komnenan Latinikon

The day before I left for the DBA competition at Conquest in Christchurch, Keith, the organizer, sent out a list of “runners and riders”. This showed a lot of pike armies, something I learnt with some trepidation, as I’d not faced them before and felt I’d have trouble finding a weak element I could get an advantage over (certainly my spear were outclassed against the pike). I had no time to practice and trusted I’d get to learn on the day.

I had a great time at Conquest. I found all my opponents very friendly. I would like to thank Keith for organizing the event. We had 11 registered before the day, so there was a bye round; however, we picked up another player early on. He’d never played before and used a loaner Spartan army. He clearly enjoyed himself, even with a fairly ill-favoured army given the opponents, as he’s asking about where to get figures. He even managed a win against the Athenians, which is only right and proper!

The competition had as many players as the FoG one there, which shows the game has a good following in the South Island. Along with a Wellingtonian, I flew the flag for the North Island, and I’m keen to see if I can’t get something off the ground for DBA in Auckland now. Who knows? Sometime soon we might be able to have a genuinely national competition.

I didn’t bring a camera, nor did I take many notes, so the following battle reports have the character of an observer whose recall of detail is not always perfect. I welcome correction by any opponents with a more secure recall.  I have been able to add a few pictures kindly supplied by other players.

  • Game 1: Late Achaemenid Persians, II/7 (Nick Sutton)

Bridei mac Máelchú finally found the fabled land of Konkwest, or so he thought; he certainly found opponents in profusion, particularly ones with very long pointy sticks. There was no diplomacy; more often than not he was being attacked, though on occasions he threw the first stone, so to speak. This was certainly the case with the first army he met, who were an army of Late Achaemenid Persians, led by a Satrap of the Great King, Nick Sutton. Bridei spotted this army, took an instant dislike to it and got stuck in.

Nick set up a pair of hills and a wood on one side between two quarters. Bridei succeeded in getting him to deploy with this wood on his baseline, a situation that he’d found disadvantageous in the past . Nick set up with a cavalry wing on one side of this and his spear in the woods and psiloi on the other flank. Bridei responded by deploying his spear on a hill opposite the cavalry, his psiloi opposite the wood, and his LH on the right flank against the psiloi.

Low PIPs on the first turn prevented any attempt to trap the Persian spear in the woods with a fast move against them. However, the LH went after the psiloi, who are evenly matched, only a little slower. This combat didn’t come to much, though the LH did consider going after the Persian camp. Nick had to spend a lot of PIPs getting his spear out of the woods, and I think Bridei did send his psiloi after them, catching some of them just at the edge of the hill.

It was Nick’s attack on the hill where the battle was decided. It was recoiled without loss. In Bridei’s turn he was able to engineer an attack on the horse that left the Persian Satrap overlapped on both sides against psiloi-backed spear (from memory). He was doubled and the Picts started with a victory.

I caught up with Nick at lunchtime and asked how his Persians had fared. He confessed to being somewhat at a loss against the pike and elephant armies. I encouraged him to see the advantages of his army—its great mobility, especially if he took the auxilia, and the advantages they gave, along with his psiloi, in bad terrain and against elephants. Others encouraged him to use the scythed chariots as the properly Persian thing to do. His performance improved after lunch, which he put down in part to all the advice he’d got.

  • Game 2: Alexandrian Imperial, II/15 (Jim Morton)

Relaxing after routing the Persians, Bridei’s rest was interrupted by the imperious demand to submit. Or at least that’s what he thought. His interpreters were not too competent, though they reckoned the ambassador was speaking Greek, a language his monks had a smattering of. It transpired that some fellow, Alexander, was upset that Bridei had been beating up Persians, which was his job. Bridei decided he was quite mad and suggested he go boil his head.

Alexander was the attacker and Bridei met him on a field with two hills in opposite corners and a wood in the centre. He then set up his spear on one of these hills, the psiloi behind the woods, and the LH on the other flank. Bridei himself was in the centre.

Alexander countered this very successfully by putting his entire army against the flank with the LH. The spear spent the whole battle trying to move to the action. This was a deployment error Bridei didn’t repeat!

The battle, however, did not reach a conclusion before dusk, though I think Alexander probably had the upper hand. Bridei was attacking his pike with LH and his elephant with psiloi, but with no luck. Alexander had sent some LH behind the Picts’ the hope of my recoiling into them. However, as this was one of those multi-PIP moves they couldn’t go within a base width of the rear. The Pictish LH were recoiled and then couldn’t retreat because of these LH so they went against the pikes again, hoping to flee, which they could safely do past the enemy LH. This worked for one of them, and I think Bridei later gave the enemy LH a spanking.

Alexandrian Imperial

Alexander's response to Bridei's deployment leaves his spear attempting to move to the action in two columns. the psiloi dominate the woods and Alexander's LH can be seen between Bridei's (one has succeeded in fleeing past it).

This was the Picts’ first battle against pike and a good learning experience.

  • Game 3: Late Hoplite Greek, II/5b (Andrew Taylor)

After this encounter with Macedonians, the Picts made themselves scarce and in the process bumped into some more Greek speakers; these, the monks sagely informed Bridei, were somewhat easier to understand. They were Athenians, and they weren’t pleased to see the Picts.

The Athenians were a match-up that Bridei’d been hoping for, as he thought he’d have the advantage. They were both spear armies, but the Picts had more supporting troops, and looked forward to winning on the flanks.

Bridei was the attacker and he encounter the Athenians on a beach near two steep hills facing each other. I rolled for edge and as luck would have it got the very one I didn’t want—the beach! The Athenians forbore a littoral landing, though they did try to intimidate the Pictish camp by having their triremes cruise past it!

I soon learnt that Andrew’s claims to being a DBA novice were only partially correct. He’d used the Athenians in Keith’s recent Greek campaign and soon showed he knew more about hoplomachia than I did. The two hills created a corridor that neutralized the Pictish LH and largely their psiloi. It turned into a spear-fight in which numbers and a spear general gave the Athenians the advantage. The game ended in a draw but the advantage was with the Athenians; in fact I was luck not to lose a fourth element in the last turn.

Andrew was interesting guy to play. He may have lost the extra turn he needed to win by telling me about triremes; he’d been on the crew of the Greek navy’s recreation of one. After the game he pointed out to me that the Picts had advanced into the valley between the hills to their disadvantage; if they’d hung back a bit they might have been able to harry his flank from the hills with psiloi. It’s ironic that when I’d come to see the virtues of spear I’d have thought that another spear army would be an easy match for me!

  • Game 4: Pyrrhic, II/27a (Alastair Penney)

After encountering the Athenians, Bridei returned to the spot where he’d met Alexander. There he waited while I had lunch. This was interrupted by yet more Greeks! These had a few among them who had a smattering of Latin (though the monks wisely informed Bridei that it was very rough—not that they knew it was in fact archaic!). It seems this wood held some significance to the Greeks, but Bridei was in no mood to listen to them, and repeated to the ambassador of Pyrrhus the suggestion he’d made to Alexander to go boil his head. Pyrrhus was understandably unimpressed.

This time, however, Bridei deployed the Picts with the LH on each wing with a group of 3 Sp next to them, In the centre was the psiloi and the general. This way he could react to the enemy deployment more easily. It proved quite a good deployment.

I confess that I don’t really recall much of this fight. Perhaps it was the beer and the sun at lunchtime and the meal that I ate during the game (catering were overwhelmed!). Pyrrhus’ pike were forced to deploy on one flank where they did nothing. However, in the fight on the other flank against his cavalry Bridei had the upper hand until one LH turned aside to deal to a Ps that looked like it could become annoying. Despite having it flanked with Ps it lost (and may have been doubled). This left Bridei and his retinue able to be flanked and he was destroyed. In hindsight that was a mistake; Bridei should have kept the pressure on Pyrrhus, and also kept his flank protected.

  • Game 5: Asiatic Early Successor, II/16b (Keith McNelly)

Having met Pyrrhus, yet more Greeks showed up at this wood. This time is was Demetrius Poliorcetes. Bridei again had to defend the wood; he adopted the same deployment as he’d used against Pyrrhus. This time Demetrius deployed with his pike, himself and one Cv on one flank and his elephant and a Sp and Ax on the other, along with a LH. Bridei reacted by swapping a LH for a Ps to face the Kn and pikes and then the LH and a Sp to the other flank.

Bridei had enough PIPs to race the psiloi into the woods (the next turn I noticed a confused Sp had tagged along with them; he was promptly sent back to the start!). The attack on Demetrius’ left flank started well: the Pictish 2 LH destroyed his one, and then they destroyed the Ax, though his Sp caused a LH to flee off the field. However, then they could not destroy his elephant. Despite having overlap support from Bridei and then the LH to the elephant’s rear, for some 5 turns it stubbornly resisted. Even more bizarrely most of the results were ties!

The Picts close in on Demetrius' elephant, while over on the other flank Demetrius turns to come to their aid and the phalanx contiues to bear down on the Pictish spear

The Picts close in on Demetrius' elephant, while over on the other flank Demetrius turns to come to their aid and the phalanx contiues to bear down on the Pictish spear

Unable to destroy the elephant Bridei’s initial advantage began to slip away. Demetrius came to support the elephant and his pike reached the Pictish spear. When dusk fell Bridei was lucky only to have lost a Ps to Demetrius and his companions and have held on for a 2-2 draw. I was pleased, though, with the plan—I had a good shot at victory, but for that stubborn elephant.

Demetrius' Phalanx

Demetrius's phalanx approaches the Pictish spear

  • Game 6: Alexandrian Imperial, II/15 (Stephen Malone)

In his last two battles Bridei fought armies led by players from Timaru. The first of these saw the return of Alexander. Bridei was again the defending that wood, taking care to keep it in the middle of the battlefield. He deployed as he had against Demetrius. As Alexander had two 4Ax (although the list only permits one!), he steered clear of the woods and instead decided to attack his left flank, which had the elephant and all the cavalry on it. Bridei ignored Alexander’s right flank with the pikes. He advanced a block of spear with psiloi support against the Macedonian mounted, supporting it with the general and a LH. He was able to pull the other LH over from the other flank during the advance.

As the battle developed Alexander moved his elephant so that it attacked an element of spear that had had to turn (I think) to face the peltasts in the woods. In this combat the spear recoiled the elephant to almost touching the side of Alexander’s element. In response Bridei was able to advance one of his spear towards Alexander, where they gesticulated rudely at him. They also made noises that the Macedonian was not able to interpret, but seem to have been their approximation of the sound an elephant makes in reverse. With these blocking Alexander’s ZOC Bridei moved another spear with a psiloi support to provide overlap support for the spear that had faced off the elephants the turn before; these spear now advanced back into contact. The odds were good (5-3), with only a 1/6 chance of being killed, a 1/6 chance of killing the elephant (not the desired result) and over 1/2 chance of squashing Alexander. I got the result I wanted, though I refrained from making squelching sounds.

This battle only confirmed for me the solidness of psiloi-supported spear. And also the aggressive use of spear, not waiting to be attacked, but taking the initiative. Whereas against Keith’s elephant the odds were at best even and usually less, here the odds favoured me heavily. Still I can’t claim to have killed an elephant, though Stephen’s one was probably fairly contrite!

  • Game 7: Mark Bradley (Patrician Roman II/83b)

Having finally staked an incontestable claim to that wood, Bridei next went in search of more fights. He was the aggressor when he met some Romans. His monks were sure of this; they could even talk readily with them, though they’d not known the Romans to have any real army to speak of for some time (except those further east!), though a good third of the army were smelly Germans—a good deal smellier than the Picts! Bridei faced these Romans in a wooded area—two woods diagonally opposite each other. Through one ran a road with a small villa on it at the other end of the road. Opposite this wood was a low hill.

The Romans deployed along this road with a Bd in the villa, the general and the other two Kn between the wood and the villa, the four Wb in the wood and the two Ax, the Ps and the LH on the right flank near the villa.

Bridei responded to this by positioning his Sp backed by Ps on the hill, a LH next to them on the left flank, the other LH behind the wood to protect it and Bridei and the last Ps next to the right flank of the Sp.

The Romans sent their light troops into the woods, but otherwise showed no indication of advancing. This really gave the advantage to Bridei, but tired after a long day he muffed it. First he advanced his LH on the right flank where it met the Roman LH and was defeated. It would have been better to stay put and protect the camp if the Roman LH got adventurous.

Then he attacked the Roman Kn too soon. He had a LH behind their lines who could have got into the rear of the Roman Kn commander, almost ensuring his destruction. Instead the attack did little beyond forcing a few recoils and being destroyed the next turn. This overrecklessness was similar to what led to the Picts being roughly handled by the Athenians and is something to watch for in future!

  • Prizes

Comics Compulsion, the sponsors of Conquest, provided prizes for the first three places in the competition. Keith then gave the DBA armies provided by Magister Militum and Corvus Belli to the rest of us determined by different criteria. Stephen Malone won a Chariot Early Imperial Roman army for having the most generals destroyed (those of his enemies and his own). The other two armies were allocated randomly (I believe). I was lucky enough to get a Corvus Belli Ancient British army. The figures look really splendid and I’m looking forward to painting them. I think it’s great that these two figure manufacturers sponsored the competition so generously, and I’ll certainly be getting more figures from them both. it looks like my collection of Dark Age Celtic armies is now extending back in time!

  • After Dinner (BBDBA)

Half of us were still keen for more after the competition ended (the Timaru contingent, myself and two from Christchurch), so after a meal at a Thai restaurant, we got out the rest of my armies that I’d brought down for such an occasion and set up a BBDBA encounter between two Anglo-Norman armies each with allies. The first of these armies were commanded by the Timaruvians led by Stephen Malone, who had North Welsh allies led by Dave Batchelor and Norse Irish allies led by Mark Bradley. Against them Keith McNelly led the other Anglo-Norman army with Pre-feudal Scots allies led by Nick Sutton and Scots Isle and Highland Allies led by myself.

I had given a little thought to a possible scenario for this encounter, something along the lines of the Islemen going after a disputed kingship in Ireland and drawing on the support of a Scots lord and a Norman magnate. The Irish contender for this title also called on the help of a Norman marcher lord, who, most unusually, had good relations with a North Welsh prince, presumably one from Powys.

The Timaruvians were the defenders and deployed first. Initially they had the Anglo-Normans in the centre flanked on their left by the Welsh and their right by the Irish, but they then decided to swap the Anglo-Normans and the Irish. Their deployment left a lot of free space on their right flank.

It is indicative of how tired we were that none of us though to match their swap, and my Islemen faced a few Welsh archers fighting for the Anglo-Normans that were on a steep hill, while Keith’s knights faced a combination of Irish in a woods and knights.

The fighting on our right flank got off to a quick start, but the Scots, weary from their exertions as Picts during the day were not able to shift the Welsh from a low hill.

The Point of Contact

The Point of Contact: Keith's Spear and Bow meet Stephen's knights.

On my flank I made slow progress towards the hill, where my numbers were largely neutralized by these few archers. By the end of the game I’d only just started to attack them with my Islemen and it would have been a slow process to have driven them back.


In the foreground Galwegians charge the Welsh, in the centre Keith's Anglo-Normans have evaporated and in the background the Islemen have finally contacted the archers on the hill.

However, in the centre Keith’s Marcher infantry squared off against Stephen’s knights. They were in a formation of alternating archers and spear, and the odds were in their favour, but Keith’s wretched luck stayed with him, and the knights swept these troops away without any trouble. With his command now demoralized, it was only a matter of time before it was all over. Had we swapped positions, Keith could have exploited the open flank while I could have gone after the Irish in the woods. As it was Keith fought the Irish and a good portion of the Anglo-Normans on his own, and my troops were too slow to intervene.


The Islemen force back the archers, but the battle was already lost in the centre.

It was an interesting introduction to BBDBA. At this stage I don’t have enough troops to create one command that is larger than the rest. Had I had more feudal troops, Keith’s command might have had more staying power.

This battle brought to an end a really enjoyable day of DBA. I’d like to thank Keith again for organizing it and I look forward to getting along to the next one. I may even try to get to Tagcon in Timaru as well.