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.

BBDBA007

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.

BBDBA008

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.

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The Picts sail south

18 October, 2009

After defeating Madog and his Vikings, Bridei continued on his way, which was as far as he could tell westward. The process of island-hoping continued, and on the way they met a group of wise men (clearly monks!), who suggested that such bold warriors should make for a place called Konkwest, where they could match their skills against many other warriors. These sages were vague as to where this place was to be found, but suggested it might be in a southerly direction. Bridei altered his course accordingly and noticed that the weather became warmer.

Eventually they put in at an island that was noticeably tropical. Upon this island they encountered an army of hideous monsters. No diplomacy was attempted and both armies drew up for battle. Bridei finally was the aggressor. The goblins, for that’s what they were, put out the minimum of terrain, a small wood, two small marshes and a road. Bridei rolled 1 for his edge, but it made little difference.

The goblins were led by a monstrous giant. He flanked himself with trolls and ogres (El) and these in turn by giant spiders (HCh!). On each flank of these were archers (3Bw) and wolf riders (3Cv) and an element of close-fighting goblins (3Bd). the cynical observer might remark that they were attempting to impersonate Classical Indians.

Bridei met this deployment by putting his skirmishers to meet the giant and his companions and the LH to meet the spiders. On each flank of these were the spearmen, while he deployed behind the LH on the left flank.

Deployment before the goblins make two swaps.

Deployment before the goblins make two swaps.

The goblins decide to move the spiders to face the skirmishers and the ogres and trolls to face the LH. In the first two turns Bridei manages to swap LH and Ps to meet this change, though as a consequence the right flank falls behind. However, with 6 PIPs the goblins swap back again!

Turn 2: The goblin centre is back to its starting formation, though the flanks have fallen behind.

Turn 2: The goblin centre is back to its starting formation, though the flanks have fallen behind.

Bridei, in a panic, rolls one PIP. Unable to do anything to improve matters in the centre, he decides to move the right flank up to give overlap support if the goblins attack quickly.

The goblins, with 3 PIPs, finish their redeployment.

Turn 3: The battle lines are now very close.

Turn 3: The battle lines are now very close.

Bridei continues to lose his nerve (1 PIP), and decides that the best he can do is extend his right flank. The goblins decide that it’s best to attack before the Picts can sort themselves out. They destroy a skirmisher with the spiders on their left flank and a LH with the ogres.

Turn 4: The Picts are in disarray.

Turn 4: The Picts are in disarray.

Bridei has still not recovered from the shock of such a hideous array (1 PIP). He orders the skirmishers that fled from the giant to attack the ogres. However, despite the overlap support, they cannot beat the ogres. The LH facing the trolls fight bravely and are pushed back. The goblins also suffer PIP drought (2 PIPs) and this time the trolls destroy the LH, while the ogres push back the skirmishers again.

Turn 5: The Picts are on the point of breaking.

Turn 5: The Picts are on the point of breaking.

Still Bridei dithers, with his fourth consecutive turn of 1 PIP! He advances two spear against the isolated wolfriders on the right flank. These push the riders back, while the skirmishers flee from the ogres. Luckily, the goblins lose momentum too, and have only one PIP. The spiders attack the skirmishers but are repelled.

Turn 6: The Picts are advancing on the right flank.

Turn 6: The Picts are advancing on the right flank.

Finally in the eleventh hour Bridei galvanizes himself and orders a proper response (6 PIPs). The skirmishers return to attack the ogres, while he flanks them. The spear on the left flank shift to the right to contact the spiders, while the skirmishers support from behind. The spear on the right flank continue their attack on the wolfriders. And showing contempt for the spiders, a lone spear attacks them on the right flank. Out of this, the skirmishers fail yet again against the ogres. On the both flanks the spiders are driven back and the wolfriders are destroyed; at last they’ve drawn blood! Bridei is fortunate that the goblins can organize no serious response (2 PIPs). They draw the wolfriders and some archers into line with the spiders. The ogres are in a stalemate with the skirmishers.

Turn 7: The Picts awaken and on the right the wolfriders are driven from the field.

Turn 7: The Picts awaken and on the right the wolfriders are driven from the field.

Bridei is now buoyed on by desperate hope (6 PIPs), and advances on the left almost to within contact. He attacks the ogres yet again, and masses the spear on the right against the spiders. The ogres are resilient and push the skirmishers back again. The goblins remain bereft of idea (2 PIPs), though they finally decide that the ogres have nothing to gain from fighting the skirmishers and retreat them (I suppose it took so long because retreat’s just not in their nature!).

Turn 8: The giant and his mates bumble in the centre, while on the wings the Pictish spear starts to look dangerous.

Turn 8: The giant and his mates bumble in the centre, while on the wings the Pictish spear starts to look dangerous.

Bridei has 3 PIPs, enough to attack on both flanks. On the left he destroys the other wolfriders and drives back the bow and spiders. On the right he destroys the spiders, and suddenly the battle is in the balance! Finally, sensing things are slipping away from them, the goblins get 6 PIPs. They reorganize on the left to bring the goblin blades and archers into line with the spiders and they send the trolls to sack the camp.

Turn 9: The battle in the balance with the goblin wings crumbling.

Turn 9: The battle in the balance with the goblin wings crumbling.

Bridei has 3 PIPs again and attacks the ogre yet again, as well as sending the spear into the left flank again. On the left flank the archers are destroyed, there is a stalemate against the spiders and the blades are forced back. And against the ogres the skirmishers finally figure out how to destroy them. Bridei wins a remarkable victory, 5-3, after all appeared lost!

Turn 10 (Bridei): Victory for the Picts!

Turn 10 (Bridei): Victory for the Picts!

  • Review:

The PIPs in the middle game almost defeated Bridei, but the decision to bring up the right flank proved crucial. Whereas much of the goblin army was out of range of the battle, what survived of the Pictish one was ready to get stuck in when Bridei recovered his nerve (actually it was on turn 7 that I realized I’d been abbreviating him as ‘M’ instead of ‘B’, when I corrected this he came to life! Such is fortune!).

This is the first time that I’ve faced ‘elephants’, and the decision to advance fast to prevent them redeploying was fairly sound, as it lead to them outdistancing their infantry. Once they start pursuing different base depths they have real trouble sorting themselves out. They’re also very deep-based, so it’s not easy for them to turn sideways. One option was for the trolls to attack the spear to their side, except that if they had to recoil, they’d have done so into their commander—messy!

The battle was an object lesson in not assuming things are hopeless until the game is actually lost. After four straight turns of 1 PIP I was sure the Picts were doomed. I was really only hoping that they could go out with a bit of respect. I had no idea they’d make such a come-back! However, it’s possible that, as with the ‘Marian Romans’ last time that their victory owed as much to my inexperience in handling the elephants as anything else.

Prince Madog in Vinland

3 October, 2009

The story goes that Prince Madog set out from Gwynedd in 1170 and sailed to America. It now seems likely that he actually sailed through a temporal vortex to an unusual archipelago that was made famous in the account of St. Brendan. Madog planned to reach Vinland, which he’d heard about through family connections with the Dublin Vikings. It was also through these connections that he’d developed his proficiency at seafaring and his knowledge of Norse, both skills that would stand him in good stead on his voyage.

The first island Madog came to was one occupied by some very forlorn Vikings, who confessed, shamefacedly, to being leaderless and lost. Madog, clearly a plausible chap, declared with great confidence that he knew how to get to Vinland. He was so persuasive that he was made leader of this new combined expedition, even though the Vikings were contributing twice as many troops.

They sailed until they came to large and fruitful island, which Madog confidently asserted was Vinland. However, they soon found they were not alone on this island; others had sailed there before them. When Madog’s scouts reported back that the others on the island said they were Picts, Madog was deeply skeptical, “There’s not been Picts for hundreds of years. What are they playing at?”. When he saw the ‘Picts’, his suspicions only increased, “These don’t look like Picts! What’s their game? Those are Scots!”. The ‘Picts’, of course, were none other than Bridei mac Máelchú and his army that had encountered Patricius to their detriment the week before. They were enjoying some R&R after that encounter, and when word of this got back to Bridei, he was deeply offended; after all, Scots were those pesky invaders from Ireland! He refused to extend any hospitality to these visitors and demanded an immediate apology.

No apology was forthcoming; Madog addressed his troops, “There’s something shifty about these so-called ‘Picts’. I say we teach them to go around pretending to be what they’re not”. The Vikings needed little persuading. With that, they rushed out to do battle with Bridei’s men. Speaking of being what they’re not, Madog’s army consisted of 8x4Bd (Vikings), 2x3Cv (Madog and some more horsemen) and 2x2Ps (skirmishing Welsh). A skeptic might suggest that they were trying to replicate a Marian Roman army.

Madog narrowly beat Bridei in his decision to attack (he rolled 6 to Bridei’s 5; both had an aggression of 3). However, he did not get the edge that he wanted, and Bridei, cautious after his last choice of terrain, had gone for two small woods in opposite corners of the board, and a low hill to one side near the middle.

Bridei deployed with his spear in the centre flanked by light horse and skirmishers, while he stayed in reserve. Madog met this deployment by placing his Vikings in the centre, with himself in reserve, and a skirmisher in the woods on the left flank and his other cavalry and a skirmisher on the right flank.

Initial deployments

Initial deployments

Bridei felt no need to alter his deployment and the battle got under way. Both rolled 6 PIPs for their first turn, and Bridei attempted to contest the hill with some of his light troops.

Turn 1: Bridei sends his skirmishers forward on his left.

Turn 1: Bridei sends his skirmishers forward on his left.

Bridei then remembered that those weren’t 2LH, but 3Cv he was up against, and his skirmishers suddenly felt very vulnerable, but he decided to push on with the attack. If he could ZOC the 3Cv, it wouldn’t be able to attack the 2Ps.

Turn 2: Bridei’s left flank are in position to contest the hill.

Turn 2: Bridei’s left flank are in position to contest the hill.

Bridei with only 1 PIP decides to attack the hill to make the most of his slender advantage of an overlap. He does well to force the Welsh cavalry back, almost destroying them (2+6 v. 3+2).

Turn 3: Positions after the hill is assaulted.

Turn 3: Positions after the hill is assaulted.

Meanwhile, Madog, with continued good PIPs has rushed Vikings to support his men on the hill, and Bridei abandons his assault.

Turn 4: Bridei’s left flank retires before the Viking reinforcements.

Turn 4: Bridei’s left flank retires before the Viking reinforcements.

Madog continues to advance, and commits himself to trying to overpower the Picts on his left flank. Bridei responds by ordering his spearmen to fall back.

Turn 5: Bridei retires before the advancing Vikings.

Turn 5: Bridei retires before the advancing Vikings.

Madog with only 2 PIPs moves to the left flank and orders the skirmishers out of the woods to support him. Bridei, by contrast, gets 6 PIPs, and continues the retreat of his spear, while his right flank light horse race between the battle lines directing rude gestures and taunts at the Vikings.

Turn 6: Bridei gambles on overpowering Madog’s left flank with all his cavalry and most of his skirmishers.

Turn 6: Bridei gambles on overpowering Madog’s left flank with all his cavalry and most of his skirmishers.

Madog recovers his composure (5 PIPs), but he’s now out of command range of his right flank. He orders a general advance. Bridei, with another 6 PIPs, organizes his forces on the left flank, and brings his skirmishers in behind the spear on the right flank to support them against Madog and his retinue.

Turn 7: Bridei masses his forces on the left wing.

Turn 7: Bridei masses his forces on the left wing.

Madog continues to plough forward, trusting to speed to overcome the enemy before they can do too much damage on the right flank. Bridei is let down by the PIP dice (1 PIP), but decides to strike at the weakest point in the line, personally riding down the Welsh skirmishers that are the link between the cavalry and the Vikings. He succeeds. First blood to the Picts.

Turn 8: Bridei has broken through on the left flank.

Turn 8: Bridei has broken through on the left flank.

However, the Vikings have finally made contact with the Pictish spear with an overlap on their left flank. They anticipate a rout, but the Pictish spear prove surprisingly doughty. The second element along from the left is held to a stalemate, while the others only manage to push the Picts back, scarcely what they’d hoped for. Madog orders his cavalry on the right to retire to the hill, while he moves across to try to repair the damage.

Meanwhile, Bridei decides that the Viking line looks most inviting. He orders the spear that had fought the Vikings to a standstill to retire to the Pictish line, while he and his light cavalry attacked the left flank of the Viking line. In a savage encounter (both rolled 6), he destroyed the Vikings, giving heart to his spear.

Turn 9: Bridei leads by example, routing an element of Vikings.

Turn 9: Bridei leads by example, routing an element of Vikings.

Madog redoubled the attack on the Pictish spear, while he drew alongside the other cavalry in preparation for driving out Bridei’s cavalry. However the second attack was even less successful. That second element along, although still overlapped, actually pushed back the Vikings this time and at the end of the attack battle honours were shared, with one stalemate and each having two push-backs, a truly dismal outcome for the Vikings.

Bridei attempted to repeat the flank attack of the previous turn, but was this time repulsed with his light horse recoiling towards Madog. Meanwhile, the Vikings continued to underperform, with those in the stalemate conflict now being recoiled.

Turn 10: Madog’s attack is in disarray, but Bridei’s light horse are now vulnerable.

Turn 10: Madog’s attack is in disarray, but Bridei’s light horse are now vulnerable.

Madog continues to issue orders (5 PIPs), attacking the exposed light horse with his cavalry. This succeeded, but the attacks of the Vikings were woeful, two being repulsed and the other a stalemate.

Bridei’s attempted to strengthen his right flank, while launching another flank attack, this time supported by spearmen. However, this attack was a stalemate and two other attacks by spear on Vikings resulted in one being driven back and the other element throwing back its attackers, despite being overlapped on both flanks.

Turn 11: Bridei’s attack on the left flank ends in stalemate.

Turn 11: Bridei’s attack on the left flank ends in stalemate.

Madog now had a chance to defeat Bridei by flanking him against the Vikings. The odds were still in Bridei’s favour, but defeat would destroy him. Bridei triumphed in a cautious encounter (both rolled 1s!) and his spear on the right flank remained composed, despite being flanked, fighting the Vikings to a stalemate.

Turn 12 (Madog): Madog’s desperate roll of the dice fails, and his army is at the point of breaking.

Turn 12 (Madog): Madog’s desperate roll of the dice fails, and his army is at the point of breaking.

Bridei decides to attack the Welsh cavalry while leaving his spear to flank an element of Vikings. His attack is indecisive and he’s forced back. The spear, however, destroy the Vikings that they flank. At this point, despite finally destroying the left flank of the Pictish spear, the Vikings have had enough and break. Bridei’s troops hail their leader’s inspirational victory.

Turn 12 (Bridei): Bridei’s spear destroy another element of Vikings, while on their left flank the Vikings finally, but too late, defeat some of the Pictish spear.

Turn 12 (Bridei): Bridei’s spear destroy another element of Vikings, while on their left flank the Vikings finally, but too late, defeat some of the Pictish spear.

  • Review:

Bridei won the only way he could in a spear vs. blade match-up — on the flank. He made good use of the opportunity Madog provided when he committed himself to his left flank. This gave Bridei his first two victories, against the skirmishers and the Viking’s right flank. By contrast, Madog, perhaps, overestimated how long it would take for his advantage to tell in the close-order infantry contest. Having said that, the Pictish spear proved unexpectedly tough. By being drawn forward by the Picts, he also lost any terrain help he might have got from the hill and the woods. He believed that if they could only close with the spear, the Vikings would soon overpower them.

The terrain placement by Bridei was much better, in that there was no edge that would severely disadvantage him.

Bridei was possibly stung by comments at the end of the last battle that his command element was ineffectual, as he personally put to flight three of the Viking elements. His element was the most effective one the Picts had against blades, and he used it to good effect!

The Picts sail forth

28 September, 2009

This weekend I finally finished the Picts, and what I need for their opponents, so it was time for them to get into training for the competition next month. I’ve decided that the Picts will be led by Bridei mac Máelchú. He was converted to Christianity by St. Columba in the 6th century. Not long later, as the story now goes,  he decided to set out for Ireland for a spot of raiding, only to get sucked, along with his army into a peculiar temporal anomaly. Having heard rumours of voyages like that of St. Brendan, Bridei and his men were unfazed, deciding that perhaps they were having their faith tested.

In due course they came to an island where another similarly confused time-traveller had already arrived. This was a Norman adventurer called Patricius, who’d used his name to claim some highly dubious connection with Ireland and one of its saints. Setting out from a similar place in Scotland to Bridei, he took with him an army of Norman knights and scouts along with some Islemen who were keen on the idea of loot. These Islemen, in turn were supported by a proportionately large number of Galwegians and Irish mercenaries. A dubious observer might comment that the combined force bore a peculiar resemblance in troop-mix to an Eastern Patrician Roman army!

Patricius was not about to share this island, and the two sides drew up their battlelines to contest control of it. He got off to an ominous start, rolling higher to be attacker, despite a lower aggression, and then getting the edge he wanted. Bridei was forced to deploy side on to the two low hills and with a small wood in the centre of his line.

Bridei deployed with two blocks of three spear elements each backed by an element of skirmishers on either side of the woods. He placed the other skirmishers in the woods and both his light horse on the the right flank. He himself deployed behind the spear on the right flank. He chose to ignore the hill on the left flank as likely only to cause his force to be split.

Patricius responded to this by deploying in a line with all his light horse on the left flank to meet their Pictish counterparts. He deployed in the centre with the Irish between him and the light horse. On the right flank he drew up his Islemen and Galwegians with skirmishers on the outer flank. Bridei didn’t alter his deployment.

Bridei deploys on the left to meet Patricius

Bridei deploys on the left to meet Patricius

Bridei started well, with enough PIPs to get ahead of the woods. There was some initial inconclusive skirmishing between the light horse. The Norman light horse then retired to the hill behind them and the rest of the Norman battle line had the opportunity to line up (after the cavalry and Irish had got ahead of the slower-moving foot). Bridei had moved himself to the centre of the line, linking the two blocks of spear. He then got high PIPs and decided to pull himself out to move to the right flank, where he hoped to overpower the enemy light horse. One of his own light horse had also decided to charge the Irish, who had been left exposed by their own light horse hanging back. He succeeded in destroying the Irish as they had no room to recoil because of the knights next to them.

The Normans responded by attacking the victorious light horse with the remaining Irish and flanking it with one of their own light horse. The Picts shrugged this attack off. Their other light horse was less fortunate, being attacked and doubled by the other Norman light horse.

Bridei had wheeled his left flank backwards in an attempt to gain time for his attack on the other flank. He himself attacked the victorious light horse, but without doing more than forcing it back. Meanwhile, the Normans finally attacked the left flank with overlaps on each flank and Islemen facing the centre spear element. The hope was for these to knock back the facing spear and remove the skirmisher support for the other two spear, as well as leaving them overlapping on both flanks. The spear they faced resisted them manfully, scotching this plan. With skirmisher support the spear to the right fought the knights opposing them to a standstill, but on the left the spear went down to a wild charge of double-deep Galwegians.

Bridei, in desperation, sidled the skirmisher support across to face the Galwegians, and brought the other skirmishers out of the woods to take their place. These skirmishers had the potential to really upset the Galwegians, who were overlapped through their advance, but the dice allowed them only to feebly push the Galwegians back. The spearmen locked in combat with the knights forced them back.

The Normans returned to the attack on the left flank. The spearmen were now overlapped by the Galwegians against the Islemen and were forced back. This left the spear facing the knights in a terrible position and they finally broke.

Bridei had good PIPs in a turn that would probably be his last, and returned to the attack on the light horse that he faced. He also peeled off an element of spear to give flank support in another attack by his light horse on the Irish. And in a desperate roll of the dice he sent the other two spear against the knights that had as yet not seen combat. The dice continued to scorn him and his light horse were destroyed by the Irish (2+1 v 1+6)! He continued the mediocre form of the Scots command element and only pushed back the Norman light horse. However, some pride was restored by the spear that had charged the knights succeeding in destroying one of them.

Bridei and his men took to their ships and found another island where their strength was miraculously restored,  ready to continue their voyage.

  • Review

Besides having a lot of bad luck in getting such an unfavourable location to set up in and then in the ensuing combats, Bridei should not have tried to redeploy himself, as he left a hole in the battleline, and there was not enough time before the Norman attack came for him to make the difference he was looking for. He hoped to win on the right flank, but short of getting lucky against the opposing light horse he had no special advantage there, and yet he had weakened the left flank to this end.