A couple of battles.

17 November, 2010

In the next while I’m going to have less time to give to the blog, as I try to get some other publishing done. Therefore my battle reports will be much briefer, though I’ll try to keep posts on figures finished coming. Last week I cancelled my flight to the Medieval Open in Christchurch. This was mainly due to JetStar mucking me about, and changing my flight times was the last straw. However, I realized afterwards that getting the refund was really cutting off my nose to spite my face, as I’d like to have got down there. Still more time to work on that other publishing (in theory!).

Last week Steve was over and we got three games. One was of Dux Bellorum, the play-test version of the revised Glutter of Ravens. It was quite fun, but really something that you need to do again to avoid all the tactical errors we made. In particular, skirmishers are quite fragile; they can’t evade, and as they move first, they have to avoid moving into charge range of the enemy, or they will probably be destroyed. I won with one element left! However, as Steve’s commander destroyed mine more decisively than I destroyed his, he could claim the more glorious defeat! I charged his general with mine when it was almost broken and on the last turn I destroyed his, but he rolled about three sixes, absolutely destroying mine! Morale tests saw only one element (mine) survive!

The other two games were 15mm DBA played on a 30″x30″ game cloth. Now I’ve got a cloth of that dimension I figured I should give it a try to be able to pass judgement on it.

The first was my Komnenans against Steve’s Sicilian Normans. This is a historical match-up, but the Normans have quite a job with so many psiloi. Despite this, owing to a bold attack as I approached him, Steve had me at 3-2 and might have won had he a few more PIPs. In the end I got a narrow win taking out two elements that I managed to flank or force to recoil into themselves. The larger board was not a factor.

For the second we chose a foot heavy army, the Polybians, to face a mobile army, which was the Ancient Britons with four LCh and two 2LH. I was the Britons and the defender. I managed to get a wood on a flank. I deployed and then after seeing the Triarii on one flank swapped the two 2LH that faced them with a pair of 3Wb. Despite this, my PIPs were atrocious and I was barely able to move, while the Romans taunted me with more PIPs than they could use!

However, in combat the dice were as one-sided in reverse. I must have rolled sixes for my first two combats at least. The warband destroyed an element of Triarii and its psiloi support and the other one would have gone as well, but we decided that light horse don’t get the QK against spear on the larger table.

Steve had a chance to get some good attacks on overlapped chariots, but proceeded to roll a one and recoil his psiloi support! I was then able to attack an unsupported, overlapped 4Bd with double-ranked warband. Again the dice went my way and the game was over. The combat dice made it a very one-sided affair. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve seen warband win when they’ve been given good odds! Mine seem to need their backs against the wall to do anything! However, again the larger board was not a significant factor, though had my PIPs been better, who knows.

Retrofitting hopla

17 November, 2010

I’ve been looking for good hoplite figures for a while. I guess I could go with Xyston, which are doubtless very good, but likely to be too big and are a hassle with their undrilled hands. I got some Gladiator hoplites, but am not really satisfied with them (though I’m yet to paint any). I actually like the Essex hoplite, but its shield is a travesty, being too small and having no rim. What’s a hoplite with a crap hoplon?

The old Essex hoplites.

I found a way around this when I got some of the hopla from Freikorp (for their HG17). I found it was actually quite easy to remove the Essex shields, although the spear had to come off as well (and it’s a whole lot easier if the figures aren’t based!). I used a craft knife and as the metal is very soft they came off without much effort, better still the arm stayed on! I painted the Freikorp shields up quite a while ago, but did nothing until last weekend about actually attaching the shields to the hoplites. I only have 8 of the Freikorp shields, so I painted up another element of hoplites and attached the shields using green stuff (as the concave backs made for poor contact with what remained of the figures’ arms.

The retrofitted hoplites.

One thing I’ve found with the Freikorp shields is that they seem to be quite porous, and washes are very dark on them, even after adding a transfer. By contrast, the Essex figures have very shallow detail, which means washes don’t pick up as much detail as on some figures. For all that, I like the pose of the Essex figure and the variations of armour and helmets that stop them being too uniform.

From another angle.

The hoplites are going to be used for a Syracusan army, though I’m sure they can morph into quite few other hoplite armies. Before I order any more shields, however, I have to paint some of the other Freikorp figures I’ve ordered, to check they’re a range I want to get more of. I’m working on a Seleucid elephant (HG10a), which I think has great animation, and compared to the CB one is a breeze to put together. I’m also working on a scythed chariot (HG27), which is very attractive, though a little big for the base. I’m also painting a command for the Later Macedonians from HG20 and HG21 and some Tarantine cavalry for these and the Syracusans (HG25).

Finally, I’m doing an element of Macedonian pike (HG03). These are nice figures, with a good pose and variations on the head position and helmet. The shield is also appropriately smaller than a hoplon. Once these are painted I’ll order some more of those hopla and the figures I need to complete the Hellenistics as Syracusans, Seleucids, Ptolemaics and even Pyrrhic (I only bought samples of the cavalry first up, but based on these I’m very happy with their range).

And another angle.

2nd Punic War Day at AWC

8 November, 2010

Today MEDBAG had its biggest event to date; that said, it involved as many participants as the event at NSWC, and there were even as many games; however, this time they were themed, which added a good deal of interest to the event.

There were six of us, and Andy provided the armies (with a few Gallic warbands from John, as Andy’s were double-based). I’d decided I’d like to go Syracusan, as they were an army I’d not tried before, and Steve expressed an interest in Spanish, so it occurred to me that we could make the two sides IWC DBA competitors v. the Rest. So we made John our leader with the Romans and faced Andy with the Carthaginians, Joel with Numidians and Mike with Gauls. We decided to go with three opening rounds, then lunch followed by the BBDBA to decide the ruler of the Mediterranean. It was a good format that wasn’t too hurried; we had everything finished around 3.00, and we must have had our first battle under way around 10.45.

  • Round 1: the war begins.

First up I faced the Carthaginians. They’d gone with two elephants, two warbands and two psiloi (1x3Cv (Gen), 1x2LH, 2xEl, 3x4Sp, 2x3Wb, 1x3Ax and 2x2Ps). I’d decided that we should have to settle on one army for all the battles, as half of us had no choice, so why should the other half. Therefore I went for a spear general, a warband, a cavalry and an auxilia (7x4Sp (1=Gen), 1x3Wb, 1x3Ax, 1x2Ps, 1x3Cv and 1x2LH). Joel decided that speed was of the essence and went for six 2LH (including the commander) and six 2Ps! The Gauls were 3x3Cv (1=Gen), 8x3Wb and 1x2Ps) and the Romans and Spanish were as per the book.

I reasoned that I was unlikely to get a cavalry advantage with a cavalry general and a foot general was less likely to get in trouble. He would also give the bulk of my army more oomph and force me to attempt to win with the spear, rather than try to ignore them and their psiloi support and win with the rest. It was an approach that received some comment from other players. At worst, I hoped the sight of a general in the midst of those tasty spear would provoke the warbands and elephants to do something rash and allow my higher factors to prevail over their QKs!

I was the defender in this battle, a situation I maintained (everyone want to have a piece of Sicily!). This was even though we all had aggression 0 for the purpose of the campaign. I placed only one wood and a pair of gentle hills, but Andy kindly got the wood in the centre of my battleline. I decided to deploy on one side of it and the Carthaginians lined up opposite me.

Initial Deployments: Syracusans facing the Carthaginians.

No inspiration came to me for swapping elements, so we started to advance on each other. I expanded my line, and the crafty Carthaginian wheeled to endanger my cavalry, who risked being recoiled off the edge of the world by his general.

However, first blood went to me on the open wing, where I sent in the Gauls, Spanish and Tarantines (dressed as Numidians!). The Gauls put the Libyan skirmishers to flight and the Spanish doubled their fellow countrymen, while the heavily disguised Tarantines recoiled the Numidians.

Go Spanish! Opportunities are created on the open wing.

Nevertheless, the Carthaginians got to make contact, which was less than ideal, but given their greater mobility always likely to happen unless they rolled a 1 when within 200 paces of me. Despite this, I weathered this storm, although a spear fell to the Gauls. I was then able to overlap the Gauls with the valiant Spanish and drive them to perdition!

Looking good at 3-1 to the Syracusans.

Then it went crazy; my misdressed Tarantines routed the bemused Numidians and I had enough to win, but the elephants creamed my spear, taking out the general, another spear and the psiloi support. It was now 4G-4 to the Carthaginians and my turn!

The elephants make a big ugly hole in the Syracusan line!

Fortunately the Spanish continued to excel and with 4 PIPs they were able to charge an elephant with spear support and rout it. A narrow victory, won by mercenary valour!

The Spanish had a hand in four of the five kills—outstanding!

Meanwhile, reports reached us that the Romans had defeated some Gauls, despite the Gallic psiloi destroying an element of Roman cavalry. 4-2 to the Romans.

Initial Deployments: (Blurry) Romans facing the Gauls.

The battle with the Numidians was still underway.

Initial Deployments: Numidians facing the Spanish.

The Spanish were on the ropes, three down, but at this point, they obviously finished their siesta and demolished four of the Numidians to win; most of these were psiloi killed by their general, who was more than once flanked by the pesky blighters, but ended up swatting three of them. In fact, the last combat was 2-2 for the game, and it went the Spanish general’s way.

The Spanish general shrugs off swarms of psiloi!

The Carthaginian side had been whitewashed, though two were very close affairs.

  • Round 2: the whitewash continues!

Next it was the turn of the Numidians to visit Sicily. I saw no benefit to giving them terrain to play in and lined up my spear to meet them.

Initial Deployments: Syracusans facing the Carthaginians.

After seeing how the Numidians had deployed, I thought better of contesting the woods, and swapped the mounted over to that flank.

Initial Deployments: after the swaps.

I opted to steamroller down the field with my slow-moving foot to leave the Numidians less room to play in. This was a strategy aided by cripplingly low PIPs on their part and redoubtable defence by two elements of hoplites that didn’t deign to flinch before mere skirmishers, even when overlapped. For all that, things didn’t start well, as the Spanish, heroes of the last battle, made an early departure. At this point, the Numidians had control of the woods and the freedom to turn my flank. My mounted were off repelling an attack on the camp. However, despite all the numbers they brought to bear, the two elements of hoplites they turned to face just kept on recoiling or fleeing the skirmishers.

Attempts to dislodge that unsupported element of hoplites only got them angry!

At the same time my cavalry were slowly driving an attempt on my camp off the table.

At this point it all started to look quite easy, as the Numidians didn’t have the PIPs to trouble me. The cavalry took out a lone psiloi (or two) and the foot just kept trundling down the field. It was all Joel could do to slide one light horse a turn out to the side. One, however, didn’t get away in time, and was chased off the table, giving me a surprising victory.

Victory to the Syracusans; in the centre the Numidians must have finally got one of those redoubtable hoplite elements whose steadfastness gave me the game.

Again, the Romans had wrapped it up very fast, and we learned it was a 4-0 victory to them.

Initial Deployments: Carthaginians facing Romans.

As for the Spanish, they again waited until they were 0-3 before getting serious, and then in a twinkling they made it 4-3!

Initial Deployments: (Blurry) Gauls facing the Spanish.

The Carthaginian confederation was handed their butts on a plate again, and there were rumblings of discontent about their leadership.

  • Round 3: the Carthaginians are deposed!

Feeling very confident I faced off against the Gauls. After dealing to light horse and elephants, I was confident I wouldn’t be troubled by some naked barbarian warbands. Again we had to deal with unwelcome foreign holidaymakers on our beautiful shores, and again I put down a minimum of terrain.

Initial Deployments: Syracusans facing the Gauls.

As the battle developed I attacked the Gallic psiloi with my Spanish, but they were not able to regain their mojo from the first battle and only recoiled them. We also attacked their cavalry, getting two recoils, but then the Gauls hurtled into contact, scorning overlaps. We held up pretty well, losing only one element of spear that lacked psiloi support.

After the Gallic charge.

There was a round or two of tense encounters until I had my big chance, I had double overlaps on a warband, 5-2 to me … and he 6-1ed me. I should have known; in my experience warbands love to have their backs against the wall! That destroyed my psiloi support and it was all getting too horrible.

The dreaded 6-1!

Although we held our own in the cavalry encounter, the warband shredded us, and we lost another two spear to them, including the general! 5G-0 to the Gauls.

All over, rampant Gauls.

The dice went Mike’s way in the combat that mattered, but he’d effectively made my longer left flank ineffective, so it was a well executed victory.

Meanwhile, not caught on film were two more victories; the Romans were 3G-2 to the Numidians, catching their general, and the Spanish, showing more alacrity this time, were 4-2 to the Carthaginians.

  • Round 4: Master of the Mediterranean.

Over lunch the Carthaginians yielded control of their faction to the Gauls. In fact, with heavier losses than the Numidians, they dropped to the bottom of their faction. With the only loss, I was clearly the loser of our faction. The Spanish, with their habit of waiting until they were three down before getting serious were second, and the Romans retained their supremacy.

The Romans decided that the Gallic upstarts needed to be put in their place, and led us into Gaul to do this. They had a reinforced command (two extra 3Cv), and I lost two elements of 4Sp, but kept my foot general. The Carthaginians dispensed with their Gallic mercenaries, and the Gauls took more 3Cv. The battlefield had two woods on each flank and some gentle hills in the rear. The table was 6’x4′, so we started 9″ in compensate (that should have been 12″, perhaps).

Initial Deployments: Gallic Empire on the left, Roman on the right.

After seeing where the Gauls placed their camps we decided to meet them repeating the match-ups of the last rounds. John was somewhat dubious of the wisdom of my facing the Gauls again, but I suggested that his cavalry was better able to stop the Numidians than anything I had, and if he formed up close to me, I could rely on his blades for support. I joked that this was the Cannae stratagem; I had the weak centre that would suck the Gauls forward while our wing closed in on them.

The Romans had to deal with greater numbers of Numidian light horse (5) with three cavalry, and it got bloody. Eventually, however, his superior factors prevailed and the Numidians broke. Meanwhile, the Carthaginians were attacking the Spanish auxilia; they had better odds generally, but they were not able to find an attractive target for those elephants.

In the centre I’d formed up with a narrow frontage to face the Gauls. Just before contact I thought my light horse would be better to face them than single-ranked warbands; however, the light horse, unnerved at such brazen nakedness, fled. Not a good start; fortunately the spear held firm and flung back the warbands. In fact, they took two of them out on the left end of the line, as the Carthaginian elephant wasn’t able to get close enough to prevent an overlap.

Despite those Tarantines, the Gauls are repelled with heavy losses!

In my turn I think I only had a few PIPs, but was able to get the Romans to attack the Gallic cavalry opposite mine. Mine were then free to attack some Gallic foot; at 3-0 on these rash overlapped fools, they ought to have done some damage, but instead only got a recoil (or was I actually recoiled?).

While a cavalry battle is fought near the trees on the right flank, the Syracusans stand firm in the centre.

Fortunately the Gauls were now engaged with their cavalry against the Roman legions, and didn’t have the PIPs to contact my spear. On the downside, I had only one PIP and could only attack with my cavalry again, this time with success. The Gauls were now 3 down, though I lost a spear to one of their warbands (but had a reserve behind it!).

Action photo! One Gaul falls to the Syracusan cavalry.

Victory came to my general, who redeemed himself for the last battle, when he broke the two warbands opposite him, demoralizing the enemy C-in-C’s command.

After having his bodyguard routed in two of the previous battle, the Syracusan general, not afraid to return from a battle without his shield, finally secures victory for his Roman masters.

When the Gallic warbands fled, the rest of their alliance turned tail. Soon, they were sending ambassadors to sue for peace with the Romans. The Syracusans, despite playing an important part in the Roman victory, could look forward to being sacked by paranoid Romans at a future date if they should appear too powerful, but such is life!

The battlefield at the end. The Numidians had been in flight for one turn when the Gauls broke.

This battle brought to a close a very enjoyable day. The Syracusans remained frustrated in their dreams of empire, but being Greek, of sorts, could count on better historians (as Sallust famously admitted) than the Romans, and secure a victory in words, at least, over their masters! The success of the IWC-bound DBA players I took as a good omen for us at that competition! It was interesting that, like at NatCon, one side was markedly more successful than the other; this time, by contrast, the armies were more different to each other. Anyway, I’m already planning future events on this model. Thanks to all who took part, and Andrew, in particular, for providing the figures.

See also the reports at Steve and John’s blogs for reports and more pictures:



The last event of Conquest was a game of BBDBA. This was hosted by Keith and attended by four of the tireless Timaruvians. After an enjoyable barbecue, where I got to try a local beer, Harringtons, that I’ve kept an eye out for up here, we retired to The Wargames Room for the battle. As Keith and I provided the armies we were appointed C-in-Cs. I went Roman and Keith went Carthaginian. We each had a subordinate command (of equal size to the senior one) and an ally. The Romans had Numidians, and the Carthaginians Gauls. The Romans were the defenders and opted for very little terrain, a single wood on one flank and a number of gentle hills.

Initial Deployments: the battlefield from the perspective of the Roman C-in-C.

The Roman C-in-C, myself, deployed on our right flank (mainly because that’s where I was standing). In the centre was the Junior Roman command, Lewis, and on the left flank was our Numidian ally, Stephen. Facing us were the Carthaginians, with their C-in-C, Keith, on their left flank facing me, the Gauls, Simon, in the centre, and their junior command, Dave, on the right flank. This created an interesting dynamic, as the two low-PIP commands on each side faced the opposing allies (and when we talk about ‘low-PIP’, I mean cripplingly low-PIP!). This PIP situation was particularly acute for the Carthaginian command facing the mobile Numidians and having a pair of elephants.

The game moved along at a fast pace on the Roman left wing. While the centre and right were still advancing, the Numidians had already broken the Carthaginian right flank. I believe they did this by destroying the Carthaginian commander. With the left flank in retreat, the Numidians started to bring their auxilia against the Gallic warriors. However, these were already hard at work on the Roman centre, which, owing to rivalry between the two consuls, was getting terribly low PIPs! They quickly blew away one of the legions and had this command on the verge of collapse. On the right flank, I was just making contact with the Carthaginians perched on a hill. My cavalry was split as one tried to support the centre against the Gallic mercenaries that were fighting in support of the Gallic ally command and the other tried to resist the overwhelming odds of the Carthaginian horse.

The Roman centre hangs on by the skin of its teeth after losing two 4Bd and a 2Ps to the Gauls.

At this point the Roman centre seemed doomed, and as C-in-C I did nothing to help it, giving it a succession of 1 PIP dice to work with! Despite this, it miraculously held on. In fact, it did better than that! While beleaguered legions threw back savage Gallic charges, in one place, even one uphill, the commander rode into battle, and was able to come to grips with the Gallic commander and best him in combat. In the turn the Roman centre finally folded, so did the Gauls.

The final situation: the general of the Roman centre, supported by Numidians, has defeated the Gallic commander; just in time, as the Gauls had finally broken two more elements of legionaries.

At this point we awarded the victory to the Romans. The two demoralized commands of the Carthaginians had lost their commanders and would struggle to stop the flight of what remained of their army. It was a victory that I’d done virtually nothing to contribute towards. It was owed to Stephen’s skilful use of the Numidians, and Lewis’ refusal to break for a miraculous length of time!

This was a fun game. I enjoyed the company and have a good deal of respect for the Timaruvians, who had a long drive ahead of them when we finished that evening. Their club, the Timaru Armchair Generals, seems to be doing a few things right, as they have number of younger members who are playing ancients, of which Lewis was one at this event. DBA may be a factor in encouraging this, but I’d be interested to know what else they do. There was some discussion around this at dinner, and Simon got a good deal of ribbing for describing, by implication, most of us as elderly, something he was not allowed to forget for the rest of the evening!

I found the group from Timaru very hospitable, and 2/3 of my opponents at Conquest were from there. I hope I can get to TAGCon next year. It’s a bit of a haul for me, but I’d like to see more of what they do down there.

  • Review:

This was a game in which both the Romans and the Carthaginians could have benefitted from mixing and matching their troops. In hindsight I should have deployed in the centre, as I had a foot command, with more blades and no cavalry, while Lewis could have taken all the spear and the cavalry onto the right flank. I could have also given him the high PIP dice. The Carthaginians could have done something similar, perhaps putting their elephants with extra mounted in a high-PIP command. Still, at the end of a long day, none of us were too sharp (except my able Numidian ally!).