Last night I caught up with John for some DBA. We’re both going to the IWC DBA competition next year and are keen to get in some practice. I’m still getting to grips with my Carthaginians and John’s not played much DBA with figures for a while (he’s mostly been playing DBAOL). He’s thinking of using Late or Patrician Romans at the IWC Comp and as his armies are still in the process of being painted, or planned, I put together some Pseudo-Patricians, much as I did last year when I was practicing with my Picts. Clearly the Carthaginians have encountered that temporal anomaly that Bridei’s Picts ran into last year!

Hasdrubal was feeling somewhat better about things after defeating the Giant and his minions. He decided to sail back to Carthage, but when his fleet set to sea, it was caught in a peculiar storm and when they emerged from it they came across an unfamiliar island. On this island they found some very annoyed inhabitants. These were Lord Duncan, his retinue (3Cv) and light horse and skirmishers (2x2LH, 1x2Ps). He had managed to convince a motley crew of Norman adventurers (2x3Kn), Islemen (2xBd), Galwegians (2x3Wb) and Irish (2x3Ax) to join him on a piratical expedition, but they had run into a storm and been stranded on a miserable island until their tempers were very short.

To account for the anomaly in the size of the armies, one must assume that Hasdrubal’s forces had been scattered, yet he could muster a force that was proportional to his original force—remarkable! He fielded 1x3Cv, 1x2LH, 2xEl, 3x4Sp, 2x3Wb, 1x3Ax and 2x2Ps.

Despite the foul mood of Duncan and his men, Hasdrubal took the initiative and was the attacker. Duncan was forced to deploy with a wood in his battleline. He chose to put most of his BGo troops in it, with his cavalry on the right flank and his Islemen on the left. Hasdrubal positioned his Elephants to meet the Scots mounted, with the Caetrati to provide support in the BGo. He had his spear in the centre, flanked by the Numidians and the Gauls and Scutarii next to the woods on the right flank. Duncan swapped his light horse with his Islemen.

Initial Deployment: Duncan on the left and Hasdrubal on the right.

The woods proved no hindrance to Duncan as he surged ahead with a succession of high PIPs, while Hasdrubal struggled after an opening 5 PIPs, which allowed the Caetrati to advance quickly along the steep hill and try to ZOC the advancing cavalry.

As the Scots advanced, Hasdrubal became uneasy at the sight of the wild Galwegians, and ordered his psiloi forward to stop them, while trying to block one with an elephant.

Strangely apprehensive of the hairy Galwegians, Hasdrubal orders his elephants to intercept them.

The Galwegians showed a heroism that has not been present for a long time in battle records. In their early days they had a ferocious reputation, but recently they have fallen out with the Scots; perhaps it was absence of the Thegns that helped, but they went against the elephants with a little help from some Normans, and slaughtered them (dice = 6-1!). Only later did they hear that Duncan had only want them to go boo, which could have resulted in three casualties for the Carthaginians!

The Galwegians dance over a greasy patch left by the elephant; the Carthaginians behind are torn between feelings of horror and relief!

Still struggling with PIPs, Hasdrubal decided to see if he could break the centre of the Scots line, but first the Numidians, then the Libyan skirmishers got sticks, while the Gauls got a pushback, but if those Numidians had shown the fervour of the Galwegians …

Hasdrubal throws his light troops against the Scots centre, leaving his spear unsupported. In the foreground the Caetrati are shown recoiled from the last move, forgotten in the excitement of the slaughtered elephant.

Gallic fervour did not stand them in good stead when their pursuit led to being double-overlapped and destroyed. Both the Numidians and the Libyans fell back too, while the Caetrati fled.

Dismal performances by the Carthaginians, falling back on all fronts!

Fortunately things slowed down at this point, as the Scots struggled with PIPs. Hasdrubal continued his good form from the previous two battles when he destroyed those pesky Galwegians.

Some order is restored as the Carthaginian line reforms. The Libyan skirmishers return to the rear of the spear.

When the Scots barrel in on the next turn, the spear hold firm, but considering they were 5-1 against the knights the recoil was a disappointment.

The Scots' attack sees the Numidians fall back and the spear stand firm.

In the next round, the spear fall to the Galwegians, who continue their heroic performance. The spear were confident of routing them as they were overlapped, but at odds of 5-2 they made the elephant killers look soft!

Unnerved by the Galwegians, the Libyan spear breaks.

The Galwegians then got to close the door on the Numidians who had stuck, but the Numidians, with the game in the balance, flung back their attackers.

The Numidians remain staunch.

At this point the Numidians were ZOCed by two enemies, and went for the Galwegians (after some discussion). However, these Galwegians were unfazed, and threw back their attackers. I only had 2 PIPs, and retired the Caetrati, who were struggling against the Islemen.

Numidians fail to capitalize on their advantage.

The tables were turned on the Numidians, who in turn had nowhere to recoil, and with the support of the Irish the Galwegians clocked up their third kill, a truly heroic effort!

Clearly Duncan is a son of Galloway, as his Galwegians performed magnificently for him!

  • Review:

I admit no fault of my own in this loss! Instead, I’ll attribute it to a welcome return to form of the Galwegians, some of my favourite warband figures (no slight intended, John)! At the Battle of the Standards, the Galwegains demanded their ancient right to lead the Scots into battle. That was certainly what they did here. I should warn John that his Patricians will struggle to find warbands of such fine pedigree as these Galwegians. I’m sure my elephants would have trampled scurvy Goths or whatever detritus the Patricians wheedled into their service, and the spear would have sent them packing!

In a less forthright tone, I’d have to admit the elephant advancing was rash, and could have been much worse, though they had over 50% odds of crushing the Galwegians and leaving the Normans hanging. That said, the risk, the 1/4 chance of destroying three elements, and the 1/36 chance of being destroyed, were worse. I guess I didn’t think John would dare—perhaps he knew the Galwegians’ mettle better than I did! It was a gamble that came off well, and could have been even more catastrophic for me. Otherwise, John very effectively neutralized my surviving elephant so that I made no progress on that wing. A good bit of learning to be had from this battle!

Choosing DBA armies

28 May, 2010

I’m in the throes of choosing a post AD 450 DBA army for competitions. I want one that’s reasonably competitive, but that’s not its only requirement; I have to like it. I’ve been trolling the lists looking at armies and have found a few with combinations of troops that suit my tastes, such as Samanids (III/43c), Uigurs (III/11a), Early Muslim North Africa and Sicily (III/33) and even Hsi-Hsia (III/66). These have a nice balance of mounted, heavy foot and BGo infantry, but for none of them do I have much historical affinity, which is to say that I know next to nothing about them. I know the Samanids have lovely armour and I know a little about their troop types, but not one of their commanders’ names.

I already have some knights I could use as Anglo-Normans or Medieval German, which have a good balance of troop-types too, but I’m not enamoured with either. I know little about the German historical background (it doesn’t interest me much), and I can’t help but think of the Anglo-Normans, despite some nice looking armour, as the enemy! This all complicates the job of choosing an army somewhat! I’m tending towards the Byzantines, particularly the Komnenans, as I know a bit about their history. I could be persuaded to try an early Byzantine army, as that too has some interesting history around it. However, it seems it’s more historical to take them with loads of 2LH, which would be less attractive. Also the army would be an orphan, as I’m building armies around two periods: c. 225 BC and c. AD 1050, so that favours the Komnenans.

After my experience learning to use the Carthaginians, I think an army should have two important qualities: it should look good and it should be one that you like even when it’s losing. I think I the Komnenans have these two qualities (when I get the figures from Khurasan Miniatures), and I’d enjoy refreshing my acquaintance with Anna Comnena. It also will, in time, fit in with a lot of other armies around that period.

Thinking about all the mistakes that contributed to the Carthaginians failure against the Classical Indians last night, I decided to refight the battle solo. I don’t have any Classical Indians, so I resorted to my Goblins, as I’d done some time ago. The Goblins this time used wolves for the HCh, but were otherwise led by a Giant along with ogre and troll cohorts (3xEl) and had goblin archers (4x3Bw), wolf riders (2x3Cv) and as I didn’t have enough archers to replicate Joel’s army, I took a 5Bd(!)—I didn’t have any 3Bd, as they’d been cannibalized for SBH.

The Carthaginian leader, one of the numerous Hasdrubals, was in retreat from India. Fortunately most of his casualties had been skirmishers. But he still wasn’t looking forward to explaining his defeat to his superiors. After all, now that the Carthaginian Republic was the supreme power in the Mediterranean and was even extending its influence east beyond the Hellenistic world, it took a dim view of unsuccessful generals. Hasdrubal was hoping for some success on the way back to balance this defeat. He reinforced his army with some Gallic mercenaries that had been foraging during the previous encounter, so there were two 3Wb instead of two of the 2Ps. These Gauls brought some disturbing news, claiming to have seen a Giant with a horde of hideous green-skinned people. Hasdrubal was disinclined to take such a report too seriously, given the Gallic propensity for exaggeration; he also suspected that their foraging had gained them a little more wine than was wise. Nevertheless, he sent forward his Numidians to confirm this report.

The Numidians brought back news that there was indeed a host of these foul creatures and they were camped near an area strangely similar to the battlefield on which they had met the Indians. Upon ascertaining the nature of this army and drawing on his experience in the previous battle, Hasdrubal succeeded in forcing the Giant to deploy with the marsh in the middle of his line. This gave Hasdrubal a handy wood on each flank. This time he took care to position his camp centrally and watch the Goblins deploy. The Giant chose to deploy on his left of the marsh, so he would have clear ground in front of him. He put the wolves to his left and the archers to his right with the wolf riders in reserve and the blades on the end of the line. After he saw the Carthaginian deployment he shifted one archer to the left to try to meet the threat of the Spanish Scutati.

Hasdrubal deployed with the Libyan spear on his right flank with the Spanish Scutarii ready to go out wide from them. In the centre were the elephants with Libyan skirmishers in support. On the left were the Gauls and in reserve were the Numidians and Hasdrubal’s Libyphoenician cavalry.

Initial Deployments: Goblins on the left and Carthaginians on the right.

The opening manoeuvres favoured Hasdrubal, who had good PIPs, while the Goblins started very slowly, struggling to get out of the marsh. However, Hasdrubal moved his spear and elephants a little closer than was sensible before they had support on the left flank and the Giant was able to launch a general attack. Shooting in Hasdrubal’s turn had recoiled one of the spear, but the archer was not able to advance with the line, being ZOCed by the Scutarii. The Giant started by having the psiloi in front of the trolls put to flight. This left the elephant on the left overlapped against archers, who destroyed it. Elsewhere it did not go so well. He was recoiled against elephants, as were the ogres against spear. The poor wolves faced long odds and were routed when the dice went 1-6 against them.

The Giant's charge sees each side lose an element, but the Carthaginians can be relieved to have got off so lightly.

In Hasdrubal’s turn he attacks the archers with his Scutarii and brings the Libyan psiloi in front of the spear. He also advances to reform the line on the left along with the Gauls. In the only combat the Scutarii rout the opposing bow.

With good PIPs Hasdrubal restores some order to the Carthaginian line.

The Giant advances his archers to shoot at the Gauls, destroying one warband with concentrated fire. He advances on the Libyan psiloi, but only recoils it, rather than making it flee.

Accurate shooting sees some Gauls break and run.

Hasdrubal decides to gamble on a charge into the archers. The Gauls use a move sideways to join him (avoiding the archers’ ZOC), and then uses their second move to charge into combat. They are followed by Hasdrubal and the Libyan psiloi, who on the right have overlap support from the spear. Hasdrubal goes first and destroys the archers in front of him, the Gauls then recoil the archers they face, but the Libyans, despite overlap support on both sides, get a ‘stick’ against the trolls and are recoiled again against the ogres.

Hasdrubal succeeds in his charge on the Goblin archers.

In the Giant’s turn, he flanks the Gauls and advances on the elephant and spear. He rather foolishly leaves the trolls in combat with the psiloi, though with his overlap the odds are now better (3-2 rather than 2-2 of the turn before). The Gauls shrug off the attack of the archers, chasing after them. The Libyans facing the trolls finally prove too much for them, and although the Giant recoils the opposing elephant, it’s not enough to help the ogres against the Libyan spear, who recoil them. With their battleline now in tatters the goblins take to their heels.

The trolls have had enough, and with their departure the goblins flee.

Hasdrubal has a victory, and some strange trophies to restore his standing in the republic.

  • Review:

I had a plan this time, and the Giant didn’t really counter it effectively. His wolf riders were not really effective on the right flank, and should probably have been on the left where they would have made a very useful reserve. However, they had the hope of flanking the Carthaginians, which they had neither the PIPs nor the time to do.

The idea of facing the elephants with elephants was one I got from the Fanaticus Forum. I thought putting the psiloi in the middle would be a good way of neutralizing the general and keeping it safe from other mounted. Otherwise, the dice were kind to me this time, though it made a difference that the psiloi were only exposed to elephants (of sorts!) this time, as they were my downfall in the last game.

The Carthaginians were overdue for a win, even if a solo one. I should get to use them again this Friday when I visit John. After that there won’t be many battle before my trip overseas removes me from gaming for a few weeks. Then I hope to get them down to Christchurch for the Christchurch Wargames Club’s DBA Open Championship. After all, I need the practice before the IWC competition.

Last night I got to use my Carthaginians after quite a break. Joel was able to get some time for a game. He asked if I wanted to face the Marians, or would I like to try something else. Rather than offer him my Ancient Britons, I suggested he try out his Classical Indians.

In this encounter I was the aggressor; not sure how that would have happened, unless the Carthaginians turned mercenary themselves and went way way east; or perhaps Hannibal won the Second Punic War (or the Second Roman War, if they got to write history!) and expanded east, again, way, way east!

Joel laid out a pair of woods and a marsh for the terrain. I got the edge I wanted, and set my camp behind a wood, which seemed a good idea at the time. Joel then deployed, with the elephants in the centre, flanked by archers and his cavalry in reserve.

My deployment was to put the spear in the centre, flanked by one elephant, the Spanish in the woods, the Numidians behind the marsh, and the commander in reserve with an elephant. I had reservations about using an elephant in reserve, but the battleline seemed too short to fit the spear and the elephants. In response to my deployment, Joel shifted his HCh to his right flank.

Initial Deployments: Carthaginians on the left and Indians on the right.

Very quickly I started to see problems with my deployment, as Joel’s cavalry advanced on my right flank, threatening my camp. It was hard to protect, and it blocked access in GGo past it (well done me!). He also threatened the other wing with his chariots, and I had only the Numidians to oppose them. I decided to retire the Numidian cavalry to buy me time and to send the general and his elephant across to stop the Indian cavalry (and hopefully attack some of his archers). This took me quite a while, and as I was doing it Joel advanced an archer to shoot at my Numidian foot; on the first shot he got 6-1 and they were off; my left flank now looked very exposed.

The Carthaginian general moves across to the right flank, cursing the subordinate who positioned the camp!

Indian archers prove too much for Numidian psiloi.

I finally managed to get my general and elephant around to face his cavalry, who began to back-peddle. But by then I had an archer and some chariots to the rear of my spear. I did my best to launch an all-out attack. Unfortunately, my Spanish were not terribly valiant, and the Scutarii were recoiled, leaving the Caetrati overlapped. Like the Numidian foot, they weren’t terribly resilient. However, the general did destroy an element of archers. Yet, when Joel’s archers recoiled my elephant, the spear looked all the more forlorn.

Looking grim as the Carthaginian centre advances against elephants.

Joel in reply got 6 PIPs and he was able to attack on all fronts. His chariots did not manage to destroy the Numidians, who recoiled before them. His archers recoiled the elephant some more, and his elephants ploughed into my spear. His general sealed the victory by leading the attack and destroying the centre spear and its psiloi support. One spear, despite being overlapped, recoiled the elephant in front of it; the other was less lucky.

The Libyan spear are destroyed by the Indian elephants (one spear element is shown as having recoiled, reflecting a level of confusion!

  • Review

I have to confess that I didn’t really have much of a plan, but what plan that did arise in response to Joel’s deployment was reactive to the bad positioning of the camp. If it was more central I could have defended it with psiloi from the woods. I then would have had the elephant and general free to stop any mischief by the chariots. I would have been better to have kept the spear behind the marsh, I think, and had the elephants in the centre. This might have led to something of a stand-off, as Joel would not have wanted to advance between the wood and the marsh. I might have kept the game going another turn if I’d had the PIPs to get the Libyan psiloi in front of the spear to face the elephants. Actually, Joel revealed a surprising confusion about the quality of his elephants, as he’d forgotten they QKed spear. He held off attacking the spear for quite a while because of this. This is all the more surprising as Keith assures me Joel’s elephants have trampled his hoplites many times!

Anyway, this has given me much to think on, as my Carthaginians continue to be winless after five battles, especially as I want to use them for competitions.

Goblins and horses

23 May, 2010

Last Thursday I got over to John’s again for some SBH. I’d based quite a few figures over the previous weekend and worked out a number of warbands: goblins, a vampire and his minions and an angry mob. I’d also reworked my two Byzantine warbands and created one of ‘average’ figures: none with factors better than 3.

In preparation for these encounters John had reworked his warband of knights, making them all slow to reflect their armour, dropping one of them and reintroducing his two archers. I decided to face them with the goblins, who consisted of quite a horde:

1 Hobgoblin Boss Q3/C4 [42 points]
Evil, Savage, Greedy

1 Large Goblin Shaman Q3/C1 [40 points]
Evil, Magic User

2 Hobgoblin Overseers Q3/C2 [28 points]
Evil, Overseer, Greedy, Coward

3 Hobgoblin Warriors Q4/C3 [24 points]
Evil, Greedy, Gregarious

1 Large Goblin Standard bearer Q4/C2 [17 points]
Evil, Greedy, Gregarious

12 Lesser Goblins Q4/C1 [6 points]
Greedy, Gregarious, Coward

Overseers were treated as similar to Beastmasters, but only able to affect figures of lower points than them of a related race. This allowed them to affect the Warriors, the Standard Bearer and the lesser goblins, but not the Shaman or the Boss.

We used the terrain placement rules from SDS, which led to  quite a lot of terrain on my side of the board, as I was the defender. I deployed with three groups of a warrior surrounded by four lesser goblins, each the maximum for a group move. Behind these were the two Overseers, and the rest of the warband. As we advanced I found one knot of goblins ended up separated from each other when they tried to move without an order and one of them failed an activation. Very quickly Woodsman Wayne got within range and started popping of lesser goblins, fortunately without any gruesome kills. Nervous about the effect of such a kill I hurried to get the goblins into contact, but was betrayed by dice and repeatedly had only two actions for the two groups (even though as gregarious in range of a leader they were 2+. This stopped me from actually hitting any of the knights and only meant I was in range for them to hit me. It wasn’t long before the goblins had to make a morale check and started to scatter.

Woodsman Wayne shoots his first goblin. The two clusters of goblins can be seen advancing. The boss and standard bearer are close behind, while the overseers keep a safer distance from the from line. One group is stranded on the base line, as is the shaman, whose failure to activate had prematurely ended the turn!

Luckily they could regroup on the standard, but they were not making progress and the attrition on the lesser goblins was growing. I had one point where I surrounded one knight and killed him, but when I tried to get the boss to move into contact with a neighbouring knight, the useless slug managed only one action. In fact, he never used his weapon in the whole fight, as after that turn a knight inflicted another gruesome kill and it was all over, as the goblins scattered in all directions, with another morale check as they went under 50%.

The casualties start to mount as the goblins regroup after the first morale check.

This was an interesting encounter as we saw how dross performed. I’d had high hopes of a group of five goblins descending on a figure, surrounding it and causing a gruesome kill, but things didn’t go so smoothly. I often only got a pushback or fall and then didn’t have someone to exploit it. Also three mobs proved too unwieldy with only two overseers, and against quality troops the shaman would have been lucky to transfix anyone (he only got to try once). I’d not been expecting the archers, who proved very discomforting (I should have put the wood in the way of them! Next time a little less dross and perhaps some shooters might help. And of course better dice!

One aspect of the rules we were unsure of was fleeing near evil leaders. Can the fleeing figure move to avoid the evil leader or must it head past it if that is the most direct route? We played that they could seek to avoid the leader.

The next encounter was using the Byzantines again, and we decided to use all of them to make a warband of 500 points:

Isaac (Leader) Q3/C3 [100 Points]
Leader, Long Move, Mounted, Shooter (M)

George and John (Kavallarioi) Q3/C3 [2×68 Points)
Long Move, Mounted, Dashing

Alexius and Michael (Turkopouloi) Q3/C3 [2×70 Points]
Long Move, Mounted, Shooter (M)

Attila and Arpad (Pechenegs) Q3/C2 (1/3) [2×64 Points]
Long Move, Mounted, Shooter (M), Sharpshooter, Greedy

They faced a group of Scots, led by Gordon:

Gordon (Leader) Q3/C3 [60 Points]
Leader (Gordon)

Duncan (Magic User) Q3/C1 [40 Points]
Magic User

Brian and Derek (Archers) Q3/C3 [44 Points]
Shooter (L)

Philip (Knight) Q3/C3 [68 Points)
Long Move, Mounted, Dashing

Malcolm, Donald and Fergus (Warriors) Q3/C3 [3×30 Points]

Gavin (Standard Bearer) Q3/C3 (2) [30 Points]
Standard Bearer

Angus, Rex and Lucky (Dog) Q3/C2 [3×40 Points]
Animal, Long Move, Dashing

This was on an open field, apart from a wood and a piece of rough in one corner. I got off to a terrible start, having moves end prematurely about three times in a row. At one point Isaac was stranded from the rest of the group due to a complete failure to activate and surrounded by dogs by whom he was lucky not to be torn to pieces. Gradually, after much loud lamentation and complaints the dice started to behave, and I abandoned group moves, though almost always rolling 3 dice, which did, however, allow me to leave the leader till last.

Gordon leads his men into the rough, while Isaac tries to circle around them.

In the middle of the game my two Pechenegs were soon killed, by shooting. An attempt to attack a shooter by charging and then retiring only got a push back (of which, in fact, there were an unusually high proportion in this game). After that I concentrated on the rest of the warband, killing Philip with some aimed archery and one of the warriors with a charge. I got a lucky break when Gordon failed an activation roll leaving himself in the middle of the field on his way to reinforce the fight as he advanced from the patch of rough. Quick as a flash Isaac fell on him and killed him. The Scots fell pack on their standard (Gavin’s horn), but without a leader their efforts were hampered. Soon they were down to only three after another morale check (though they did manage to use a dog attack on George when he fell to good effect). At this point these three were scattered and I was about to ask if John wanted to concede; however, one of the remaining figures, the archer Brian, had passed in his flight quite near Isaac, and took an aimed shot that toppled him. With that single arrow the tables were turned and the remaining Byzantines scattered, giving a narrow victory to the Scots.

This was an interesting game, in which I was sure at the start I was going to get slaughtered, as I couldn’t get any actions going. The mounted proved useful in their mobility, but vulnerable to archery, and I would have been wise to concentrate on the archers, although that would have taken me into the heart of his warband, so I ended up fighting the warriors that came at me. The Pechenegs were particularly vulnerable, and really needed to be sheltered.

Another tactic might have been to attack his dogs and seek to scatter them with a gruesome kill, though they were out of range of the rest of their warband, so this would not have affected the rest of his warband, and I was kept occupied with closer enemies.

Although this warband did fairly well, it is fragile, as none of the figures are cheap; This makes it hard to have any back-line troops, such as a standard bearer, even though one is really needed, as their long move in flight is game-ending. I suspect a balance of foot and mounted might work better, but that really requires a larger warband. I also didn’t get to use the move-hit/shoot-retire tactic very much or to any great effect.

Last Thursday I took my two mounted warbands around to John’s to see how they performed. He had rejigged his warband, demoting Sir Cumference and recruiting 6 more knights, all dismounted. They had very regular stats: almost all of them were Q3/C4, except for the standard bearer.

The first encounter was with Isaac’s squadron. I charged into his group and caused a gruesome kill, but he rallied to the flag only metres behind where I’d attacked. In his turn he cut my mounted to pieces, and it was game over in no time. My squadron did not have very high qualities and they really needed to attack and retire in the same turn, which would need 3 actions each. It was a very quick encounter in which the standard proved vital. Also the size of the battlefield worked against my mounted, who fled off the board in two moves (if they failed their morale twice)!

The second encounter was shaping up for a great group firing on one of John’s warband when my leader had a critical failure, and it was John’s turn. He charged into contact and cut me to pieces without a loss! My two Pechenegs went very quickly, as you’d expect when they’re sharpshooters. I never even got to fire!

Well played to John, who in both games kept his warband together and moved in effectively. We probably could have played another game (or two), but instead we talked and I planned a dross warband, of Goblins. This weekend I based them, scavenging two hordes from the HOTT army and the two warband elements. I had some unbased archers, so now I have some 13 small goblins, three archers, two overseers, a leader, a standard-bearer, a musician (witch-doctor?) and three warriors. I’m working on a warband for them which should be interesting, as I’m making the small goblins C1, but gregarious. They should be able act well, but stand to be slaughtered in the opponent’s turn.

I discovered that 15mm diameter bases were too small for regular figures, but good for goblins and dwarves, and I now have quite a stack of figures for SBH, as I decided to turn a medieval human horde for DBA into SBH figures. John was talking of taking some really crap figures as ballast, so that it would be harder to get the warband to 50% casualties (provided the dross stayed out of range of any gruesome kills!). Now I’ve settled on 18mm washers for the human foot, I’m ready to tidy up the bases, which makes a big difference in getting a disparate collection of figures look like they belong together (many of them were samples).

While we get familiar with the rules we’re likely to stay with 300 point warbands, but my assessment of mounted after these two encounters is that they’re too expensive to use easily on their own; however, one, or perhaps two, might work as support to some solid foot. Mounted leaders, in particular, are too expensive to work well in a 300 point warband. Still, perhaps I should try again; I did have some bad luck! Certainly, I’d rejig the shooty warband to give them long range shooting, as otherwise they really risk getting cut up by the enemy too easily. Alternatively, I need ones with higher quality so they can move in, fire and retire.

  • The Importance of Terrain

I should add that yesterday as I set to rebasing my SBH figures, or basing more figures for SBH, my 10 year old son and his younger friend were using the figures for a game of their own. Terrain was much in demand, and they really wanted more than the five trees that I had. They supplemented with the camps from DBA/HOTT, which added an economic element, as these became farms or supply-trains to feed their forces. I’m sure they would have been happier if I had a few buildings done or some better dungeon tiles; it’s a reminder of how important the visual aspect of the hobby is, and how much a part of that is terrain (which I’ve yet to do very well!).

Getting all Byzantine

12 May, 2010

By some sort of coincidence I’ve started to get interested in the Komnenan Byzantines for SBH and for DBA at the same time. For SBH it’s really a matter of finding some figures from an unfinished DBA army that I can pillage for SBH to try out how mounted figures work. I’d started a DBA army of Komnenan Byzantines last year, and I’ve even bought the figures, but I’ve gone off Outpost figures, and if I get this army it will be with  other figures. Anyway, I constructed a couple of SBH warbands out of the Outpost figures I’d painted:

  • Alexius’ Squadron (SBH Warband)

1) Alexius (Tourkopoulos) – Personality Q3/C3 [100 Points]
Leader, Long Move, Mounted, Shooter (Medium)

2) Michael (Tourkopoulos) Q4/C3 [53 Points]
Long Move, Mounted, Shooter (Medium)

3) Attila (Pecheneg) Q4/C1(3) [45 Points]
Coward, Greedy, Long Move, Mounted, Sharpshooter, Shooter (Medium)

4) Arpad (Pecheneg) Q4/C1(3) [45 Points]
Coward, Greedy, Long Move, Mounted, Sharpshooter, Shooter (Medium)

5) Basil (Psilos) Q4/C3 [29 Points]
Shooter (Medium)

6) Andreas (Psilos) Q4/C3 [29 Points]
Shooter (Medium)

I don’t think that ‘sharpshooter’ is good value, but I wanted the two light horsemen to be good archers but weak in HTH. Their greed and cowardice is to reduce the cost, but fits with what Anna Comnena says of them on occasions, so seems well justified!

  • Isaac’s Squadron (SBH Warband)

1) Isaac (Kavallaros) Q3/C3 [98 Points]
Dashing, Leader, Long Move, Mounted

2) George (Kavallaros) Q4/C3 [51 Points]
Dashing, Long Move, Mounted

3) John (Kavallaros) Q4/C3 [51 Points]
Dashing, Long Move, Mounted

4) Basil (Psilos) Q4/C3 [38 Points]
Forester, Shooter (Long)

5) Andreas (Psilos) Q4/C3 [38 Points]
Forester, Shooter (Long)

6) Argus (War dog) Q4/C1 [24 Points]
Animal, Dashing, Forester, Greedy, Long Move

This squadron seems stronger to me with better foot, who are good in woods and have more range (and a dog!) and with mounted that have good combat factors on contact. I’ll be interested to see how the two warbands play tomorrow when I try them out against John. The two archers are mounted on 15mm washers, smaller than the 18mm washers I used for the Dwarves; they seem almost too small, particularly against the cavalry, who are on 25mm disks.

Byzantines for SBH: (from left to right) Atilla and Arpad (Pechenegs, John, George and Isaac (Kavallarioi) and Alexius and Michael (Turcopouloi).

Basil and Andreas (not shown is their dog Argus—it's Gifr from last week).

So much for SBH, by coincidence I started to think about an army for the IWC competition in Welllington next year. It is a two day competition with an Ancients day (armies up to AD 450) and a Medieval day. I’m pretty settled with fielding the Carthaginians on the first day (assuming I can start winning with them!), but I’m unsure who to take on the second day. It needs to be an army I like, but it also has to be reaonably competitive (most of my Dark Age armies like the Welsh wouldn’t do!). In particular it has to be able to face elephants and knights. I’m thinking of the Komnenans, who probably have the mobility to handle knights (if I learn how to use 3Cv and 2LH!) as well as some 4Bw, and the 2Ps and 3Ax could probably handle elephants (and the greater mobility could outmanoeuvre them—in theory).

The Komnenans (IV/1a) tick the most important box: for some reason I like them; I’m not sure why I should be attracted to the mottley army of an empire in decline; but it occurs to me they share with the Carthaginians a large number of Mercenaries, so there’s a theme there!

Another choice is the Samanids (III/43c). I think these figures look lovely. It’s also actually quite similar to the Carthaginians: 3x3Cv (1=cmd), 1x2LH, 1xEl, 3x4Sp, 1x4Ax and 3x4Bw or 2Ps. If I can master the Carthaginians, I should be able to use this army too.

The obvious manufacturer for the Samanids is Khurasan Miniatures; and I reckon I could get the Komnenans there too (I’ve spoken to them, and they’d be happy to supply the Nicephoreans with kite shields; I’m only waiting for them to cast their Pechenegs). However, there is also Alain Touler, and I’ll actually be in France next month, making getting them cheaper, as well as Legio Heroica. Decisions, decisions!

Last night Beli’s Band met the Knights of George St. in a couple of encounters at John’s place. Despite promises, Keith never showed, so what was to be a three-way encounter was just between the two of us. There was a ‘treasure’ in the centre of the field, which was worth VP for the one that opened it. Surprisingly, despite short moves, I got there first (John had trouble with activation rolls). John also didn’t have much luck in combat, as Woodsman William was killed by Lhadr, when he was in combat with both Flakki and Bofor as well. Then Snorri and Holgar defeated Sergeant Bob, who had fallen, so his armour did not protect him in a close fight. Lhadr took on Sir Cumference ably supported by Gramr (I think Flakki or Bofor may have shot at him first); anyway, it was a gruesome sight, and the rest of Sir Cumference’s band did not stick around.

The scene of the carnage; the dwarves get massed around three corpses, while the remains of Sir Cumference's command are about to flee on their second morale check).

Gramr and Lhadr (both Greedy) prepare to despoit sir Cumference's corpse while the rest of the band look on.

Squire Robert, Woodsman Wayne, Squire Geoffrey and Squire Micheal beating a hasty retreat.

In the second encounter we sought magical treasure. The terrain was similar to the last encounter, but moved a little more centrally. We placed three corpses to indicate the possible location of the treasure. Two were in a central wood and one was atop the crag on the side. I went after the two in the wood, reaching one with Lhadr (his greed seemed to get him to these things quickly!) and one with Gifr. Both proved elusive, and it was left to Squire Geoffrey to climb the crag and find a ring (I think) of regeneration. Given he’s already tough, this seemed less useful. Anyway, he was soon shot at by the two crossbow armed dwarves and took a kip (fell and never stood) for the remainder of the encounter.

The real action was between Woodsman Wayne and most of the dwarves, who went after him with a will, but despite the numbers, couldn’t beat him. Holgar was in the thick of it, and Gramr went in to provide first support. Wayne despatched Gramr messily, causing his handler, Bofor, to retire a little, but the rest were unmoved (actually, I forgot that Holgar was not Fearless, so he didn’t take a morale check as he should have. At one stage Wayne was surrounded by Holgar, Snorri, Lhadr and Nar (he’d forced Grifr to retire (lucky dog!)); at odds of 3-1 or 4-1 he won each encounter until finally Snorri, I think, proved too much for him. Certainly, it was the last of the four combats; a very valiant fight; he was spurred on, no doubt, by the rude gibes of the dwarves, ‘Pick on someone your own size’ and so forth.

With Wayne down, Sir Cumference, who’d been trying to direct an encircling attack, found himself isolated. Beli attacked him, supported, I think, by Gifr, and he went down in a gruesome mess—again! At this point resistance collapsed, although Woodsman William was not routed, but chose to retire, as he had no support.

This was the first time we ventured into difficult terrain (because of the treasures), which was hard work for the dwarves, and created command and control issues for the leaders.

  • Review:

The dwarves proved a tough warband (though good dice helped them); the short move was not much of a problem, as their warriors had high qualities and could usually make two moves. The high combat scores made them pretty tough as well. The dogs did well, though they didn’t succeed in killing anyone while he was down (they got at least one attack like this). They did get to add numbers to others’ attacks, though they are very vulnerable if the enemy gets to hit back.

This is a fun warband and I’m keen to use it again, though next week I’ll probably try out a mounted one to see how it works. I’ve got a few Byzantines I’ll use for this. John, after having Sir Cumference die horribly in each encounter, is planning to revamp his warband’s stats. Wayne’s valiant performance has got him thinking of a promotion (assuming the dwarves gave him a restorative brandy and bandaged his wounds).

We’ve now played three games of SBH and are starting to get the hang of the rules. What slows us down is the search for clarification in the FAQ that are scattered around the rules and the Free Hacks. Anyway, we’re getting faster and starting to see different tactics.

I’ve made a SBH warband out of the three elements of dwarves that I’d got done for HOTT. I’d like to get a HOTT dwarf army done, but I reckon I won’t have much time for painting in the next while as I get ready for a trip to Europe. I’ve spent a bit of time naming and describing the figures in this warband, and I’ve even made cards for them, a novelty that might wear off:

The figures are all 15mm Chariot apart from the dogs which are Peter Pig (Gifr) and Irregular (Gramr). The cards were prepared using CCG Maker, which is fairly flaky to be honest. The novelty of it may wear off. I should get to try this warband out tomorrow with John and Keith.

Last Saturday I got down to Christchurch and got to see The Wargames Room that I’d read reports from without realizing it was also a physical location. Keith had organized for two other Society of Ancients members to come over to fight some battles as part of the SoA Championship. We each got to play each other once, making for three games each. Keith has already described them on his website, but I’ll add an account of my three battles.

I’d brought my Carthaginians down, complete with their freshly painted elephants and full of confidence. My first battle was against Brian, who also had a new army, Lydians (I/50). I thought this would be a walk in the park for me, as my elephants and warbands would have the edge over his spear, and my elephants would be the bane of his knights, who would also not find my psiloi-supported spear an easy target (I had 1x3Cv (cmd), 2xEl, 1x2LH, 3x4Sp, 2x3Wb, 1x3Ax and 2x2Ps). I was the attacker and I got to have Brian fight with a wood in the centre of his line. He had his spear on one side and his cavalry on the other side of the woods with a psiloi in the woods and two behind the spear. I deployed with my spear on the left, facing his cavalry, and my cavalry and warband up against his spear. Brian decided not to advance the spear and to retire his knights behind the woods, leaving just the light horse on that flank. By the time I got my elephants across to his spear, the knight were behind them and the general was on the flank, facing my Numidians. My spear were fairly ineffectually shielding the two 2LH. This meant that on the flank that saw the main action I had half of my army facing most of Brian’s, not a sensible proposition. Anyway, I hoped that the QK of the Gauls and elephants would carry me to victory. I had some success; the psiloi that met his in the woods routed it and the Gauls charged to victory against an element of spear, but the elephants, flanking my general, were both repulsed. I now had a very ragged battle line that would need a lot of PIPs to sort out. My Gauls, overlapped on both sides by their pursuit, were ridden down by knights. I then got few PIPs to rearrange my battleline. I’m a bit hazy about how it all played out in the end, but I know his general destroyed the overlapped Numidians and I think I lost my psiloi, who lacked elan, rolling a 1! So I lost my first victory largely due to overconfidence.

In my next battle I faced Keith, who chose to field Numidians to give me a historical opponent. He took 6x2LH (1=cmd), 5x3Ax and 1x2Ps (I think—there was no elephant and only 1 2Ps). I took 2x3Cv (1=cmd), 1xEl, 1x2LH, 3x4Sp, 1x3Wb, 1x3Ax and 3x2Ps). Keith was the defender and chose a battlefield with a wood that was between us on the right flank and a steep hill on my side on the left flank. The other terrain proved irrelevant. Keith had a pair of 2LH on each flank and a group of 3Ax on a hill to his rear. He got a pair of 3Ax into the wood on my right flank. I deployed with the 3Ax and the 3Wb on the hill and a 3Cv on the left flank next to the 3Wb. My spear and elephant were deployed in the centre with the general in reserve, and I had a pair of 2Ps on the right flank; against 2LH they were had equal odds, though they were slower.

As the battle unfolded, Keith sent a pair of 2LH around each flank. I tried to head off those on the right flank by sending my psiloi towards the woods, but they were met by the 3Ax and outclassed. On the left flank Keith didn’t have the PIPs to advance (the other flank kept him busy, especially with command and control issues), so I brought my cavalry round to support the centre (though it never actually got into combat); meanwhile my general went LH hunting and had some success (he was supported by my 2LH, I think). However, one of these proved very resilient and delayed any progress on that flank. I advanced my centre by wheeling on the 3Ax that stayed on the end of the hill. This didn’t achieve much beyond encouraging Keith to attack the elephant with his general. This was a risky manoeuvre, but luck was with him and he got that QK before I could overlap the general with a psiloi. By the time my 3Cv was in a position to help it was too late, and his general had killed another psiloi, making my losses an elephant and three psiloi.

The last battle was for the wooden spoon, as Andrew had not had any success either. He chose to be Pyrrhus, again giving me a historical opponent. He took the early army (1x3Kn (cmd), 1x3Cv, 6x4Pk, 2x4Sp, 2x2Ps). I was the defender and decided on a waterway (as it looked so nice!). I then took a pair of small marshes and a small wood as the rest of the terrain. I had 2x3Cv (1=cmd), 1xEl, 1x2LH, 3x4Sp, 2x3Wb, 1x3Ax and 2x2Ps. I decided to risk a littoral landing, but a conservative one; I intended to land the two 3Wb, the 3Ax and a 2Ps next to a central marsh on the right flank. I got off to a shaky start with two 1s for PIPs and the littoral landing only just made it into the marsh before Pyrrhus and his knights arrived. I had an early success by killing a 2Ps that came into the marsh, but that was the end of my success. Andrew attacked my Wb with his Sp and destroyed one (who had his front out of the BGo—oops!) when the dice failed me. He then boldly went into the BGo after the other one and repeated the exercise at much more chancy odds. And before I could really react with the rest of my army my ‘conservative’ littoral landing was destroyed by decisive and daring work by Andrew’s hoplites, supported by Pyrrhus himself. It was a comprehensive defeat (not in the least Pyrrhic!), and one I simply would not have anticipated. Andrew had a certain amount of luck, but he deserved the victory with his unhesitating reaction to the littoral landing. I didn’t have time to reinforce these troops, who were not much over halfway down the field.

  • Review

It was a great evening. I enjoyed all the games, despite finishing last. I can see I’ve still got some learning around how to use the Carthaginians, particularly how to use those elephants, who did nothing of note in any of the games. Perhaps they could be used for trampling the unsuccessful generals (a variant on the more traditional crucifixion)!

With hindsight in the first battle I should have taken the time to get my spear where it could face Brian’s spear and then I would have had the odds and the favourable match-ups to win (his spear still had superior odds to my elephants, although vulnerable to QKs. As he was static, this needn’t have been too hard. Against Keith the biggest change I would have made would have been to put the 3Cv next to the general in the centre; then I could have intervened more decisively on the right flank. Against Andrew, I think the littoral landing was not so risky, but I should have had some cavalry ready to support it on that flank; the 2LH would have been the obvious choice.