Practice games

15 January, 2019

Yesterday I caught up with Joel for some very enjoyable practice games. In the first two games Mithridates squared off against Sulla. I took the scythed chariot to assess its potential, as well as an Armenian ally of a 4Kn amd two LH: Cv (gen), SCh, four 4Bd, two 3Ax, Ps + 4Kn, two LH.

  • Mithridates v. Sulla

In the first battle, Mithridates was the defender, and went for a battlefield of two gentle hills, a hamlet and a patch of rocky ground (both RGo).

The two armies arrayed.

Mithridates.

Sulla.

This battle opened fast, with Roman psiloi advancing to face the scythed chariot. I opted to go after it with the Kappadokians, who were supposed to face the Roman cavalry. They killed it, but then were facing Roman legionaries, and the whole battleline was disordered. My combat dice were bad, but they shouldn’t have saved me from being dragged into such a disruptive effort to save the chariot. I lost.

  • Sulla v. Mithridates

The second battle saw Mithrdidates on the offence facing an impressive city in the Balkans (Diocletian’s palace).

The Roman defenders.

Mithridates.

This time the chariot got stuck into some blade, along with the cataphracts. In short order the chariot had destroyed some blades and advanced into overlap onto some psiloi that the cataphracts routed.

The Romans were limited by PiPs in their response, but they managed to destroy an Armenian LH (these had rushed forward to cover the cataphracts, and avoid being attacked by the Roman cavalry).

The Roman response on their right flank.

Mithridates decided to continue the attack with the cataphracts, and to send the chariot out to the left to attack another legionary element. The remaining light horse retired. The chariot failed this time, and the cataphracts got a draw with the legionaries — not good. Now we were 2-2, but I had only 9 elements to the Romans 10.

After combat, the chariot and cataphracts are destroyed.

There was a lull while we both reorganised (and battled low PiPs).

The armies regroup.

The Romans won this one too, as I committed the imitation legionaries at little chance of success. The psiloi on their right fled, leaving its neighbour to be overlapped. I was pressured into this, as the two Kappadokians in the woods were risking being overlapped when the Romans advanced against them. On reflection, the Kappadokians would have been better on the other flank to face the cavalry. They did little in the woods. Overall, the verdict on the chariot is that it’s not a super-weapon, but could add some interesting wrinkles to a battle.

  • Samanids v. Aztecs

After lunch it was the turn of the Samanids. First up they faced Aztecs (in the New World too, a first for the fabled Samanid navy!). The Aztecs deployed between two woods, while the invaders chose to deploy in the open.

The Aztec hordes (literally).

The Samanids

The Aztecs advanced beyond the woods. The Samanids saw an opportunity for their archers against the Aztec psiloi and moved them to their left as they advanced and methodically began to destroy hordes with their spear and cavalry.

Contact against the hordes.

In time we succeeded in killing all but one of the hordes (that one being the one that Joel had hoped would go, as it had a warband behind it, waiting to attack). We also got the two psiloi with two archers and a psiloi. In the centre one enemy blade had also been destroyed. However, one of our cavalry was destroyed, as had a bow. The enterprising enemy blade rushed through the gap he’d created and attacked our reserve, an element of archers. It survived the first round of combat, and then we surrounded it.

The blade is surrounded. The enemy general had retreated a little, and the remaining horde and warband can be seen in the background.

It survived, forcing us to recoil. The next turn it got that archer, while the general was able to attack my remaining archer that was in a wood, which broke in terror. I lost 4-3, though 8 of the Aztec elements had been broken! An excellent game.

  • Samanids v. Cortez

My last game saw the Samanids face Cortez (IV/19c) and his Tlaxcalan allies. This time they were defending. Their hills and rough going was all in one part of the battlefield, which they were defending.

Cortez.

The Samanids.

I hoped to neutralise the artillery with my spearmen, while the archers shot from the protection of the hill. Getting into position on the hill took time, and the first element of archers to make it over the crest advanced into a hail of arrows and fled. The other two did get themselves into position, but did not feel they had the numbers to advance, especially as an element of spearmen had been shot away by the artillery.

What saved the Samanids was the slow reactions of the Spanish. In desperation the Samanid cavalry moved to outflank on their right flank. The response was a series of 1 PiPs. On the first, a single archer turned and shot at the Samanid LH, who recoiled to the edge of world. They paid for this by being fallen upon by the cavalry, who double-overlapped it and routed it. Another 1 PiP by the Spanish saw Cortez advance to face the cavalry. They ignored him and destroyed another archer. This continued until all three archers on that flank had fled. The Spanish response was to advance in the centre, but it proved too late; fast blade advancing uphill against solid bow in bad going made no headway. And the Samanid spear survived a round of combat against the Spanish solid foot.

Cortez advances on the Samanid foot.In the background the dire state of the Spanish left flank can be seen.

Meanwhile, the Samanid cavalry surrounded the Spanish artillery, while one cavalry sought to delay Cortez (they’d recoiled when facing him with LH flanking; now the LH joined the fight on the artillery. Cortez could only look on as his artillery joined the rout.

Cortez is unable to save the day as his artillery is destroyed.

The Spanish notice their left flank has broken and start to flee.

The final battle of the day was my only victory, and it owed a good deal to luck, but I enjoyed all the games, and learned a lot about using these two armies. In particular, I can see mastering archers as taking a while. Also, the scythed chariot is a challenge to use so that it disrupts the enemy, and not my own army.

Samanid spearmen

12 January, 2019

The spearmen are finished and the Samanid army is ready to take the field.

Samanid spearmen.

Another angle.

And another.

The whole army is now done, and I’ve updated the Army Page  for it.

The Samanid army.

Samanid archers

11 January, 2019

I’ve almost finished the Samanid army. It’s taken a little longer than it might have, and that is possibly because I had such high expectations of how it was going to look. I’m reminded of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, where Calvin is anticipating a propeller-head hat. It’s a brilliant sequence of cartoons; Watterson captures the wildly exaggerated expectations perfectly:

The whole sequence can be seen here.

I had been wanting to get these figures for some 8 years or so. I had just painted the Syrians and really enjoyed how they turned out. I wanted to capture that style with these figures, but I wouldn’t be able to use LBMS transfers. The VVV transfers seemed a bit lonely on the shields, and my attempts to encircle them freehand doesn’t entirely please me. The Dailami looked good, but not exceptional. that comedown, explains why I didn’t sprint to get the next six elements done. These archers may look a bit better (and it may be the different phone’s camera that has helped). The spearmen are very close to being done; just some webbing and basing to go.

Samanid archers. I’m please with how the axemen have worked out.

Another angle.

And another.

From the rear.

Painting hasn’t been helped by the hot weather. The wet palette has helped, but it is a struggle to keep paint a working consistency, and I have to keep cleaning dried paint of the brush. When the spearmen are done, they may be the last for a while!

Samanids

7 January, 2019

My Syrians are making progress towards being able to double as Samanids (III/43c). this is an army that has been a long time in the planning. If you click on the category of Samanids on the side bar, you will discover Shamanid Goblins as their precursor! DBA 3.0 removed the option of an elephant, but I do have two to paint, so in time this can become a Ghaznavid army too.

I’ve always liked the Khurasan figures, but their cavalry is being remodelled. However, a spur to getting this army was the idea was that the Syrian Ghulams could be used for the core mounted elements, and it is the ghulams that make this army look so cool. By rights the ‘noble cavalry’ should have less armour than the ghulams, but that’s not possible to see! At a pinch I could take a Central Asian Turkish (III/11b) and use the Syrian Turkomen to avoid painting an element of Khurasanian horse archers (as well as get an extra LH). However, I have got those horse archers, as well as an element of slingers (Ps) and I’ve done the first of the core foot, an element of Dailami javelinmen (4Ax). The remainder of the army are similar to these javelinmen, being Khurasan figures, and are close behind — three elements each of spearmen (Sp) and bowmen (4Bw or Ps, but I’m only doing the 4Bw). The peasant levy is an element that would be the Syrian Adhath militia, if I chose to take it, but I see the slingers as being more useful. Therefore, the army is now halfway complete.

From left to right, slingers, Dailami javelinmen, and Khurasanian horse archers.

The slingers are from the Khurasan Arab range, the Dailami javelinmen are from their Khurasanian range, and the horse archers are Essex.

Another angle.

The Khurasan figures come in packs of 12; in order to justify getting the pack of figures with axes, I’ve sprinkled them through the other elements, as a form of officer. I’ll also be able to paint another three elements of these Dailami to use as a Dailami ally (III/58c) if I want.

The other side.

The shields have VVV transfers, which are probably designed for smaller shields. I’ve tried to compensate by painting the rims in a matching colour, but these don’t look as crisp. The photos of these and the previous post are taken with a phone, and not as good as I normally manage.

In this day of the competition I took my Komnenan Byzantines, whom I didn’t expect to do too well, but who actually surprised me. I suspect if I was more observant of my opponents, I’d have picked up that they were nervous of their potential mobility.

  • Tim’s Italian Condotta

This was a fun game, where Tim insisted on having a littoral landing. His knights arrived in a block in the middle of the field. We surmised this was at the Doge’s insistence, as they had no plan after this. They looked splendid, however, and the Doge perhaps enjoyed the spectacle from his galley.

Nevertheless, the knights, aided by two light horse, put up a good fight and my attempt to encircle them did not succeed in eliminating them. One of their light horse went down, and I chased the other to the far corner of the board with a cavalry and a light horse. One of the knights was also destroyed, but I had lost three too, and had to fall back on my archers, who destroyed another knight. In the last turn, Tim attacked the cavalry facing his light horse with a psiloi overlap. The odds were 2-1 to me, but a win to him would give him the game. The dice gods smiled, and I doubled the light horse.

Attempting to stop the knights from getting away from the waterway almost lost me the game. It became a slog where overlaps to me only gave even odds against the knights. Still, letting them get out to deploy would not necessarily done me much good either.

  • Adrian’s Samanid Persians

My next game was against an army I’d considered taking myself (if I’d decided to buy and paint it!). I like the Samanids; they remind me quite a lot of the Later Carthaginians. I was the attacker and deployed with my archers in some rough in the middle of my line. Adrian’s forces came out between two small steep hills with the centre of an elephant flanked my auxilia on the open side and psiloi-supported spear in the centre with two bow next to them, then the general. On his right flank, he had two cavalry and a light horse.

I attempted to go after his right flank with the knight, a cavalry and a light horse. He then reinforced it with his general, and I pulled a light horse across to help, deciding also to retire. Unfortunately, the speed of the knight meant I was still in range. He attacked and I lost the cavalry; I was lucky not to lose the others. I had three PIPs, I could not retreat them out of danger and if I lost them I lost the game. It looked grim, so they decided to go out fighting. The light horse facing the general stayed put and gained a bow support. The other two charged into combat. The knight stuck, but the light horse rolled a 6. Adrian rolled a cocked 5; it wasn’t badly cocked, but it saved my life, as his reroll was a 2. The next turn my knight destroyed the opposing cavalry and his general beat a hasty retreat. I must have got the other cavalry on that wing, as I was three up. I decided to charge his elephant with my general and the rest of the cavalry. This was to get a 3-1 attack on his flanked auxilia. The first time this didn’t succeed, but my line held and I got it on the second try to give me a lucky win.

  • Jason’s Anglo-Normans

The third game was a disappointment, as I attempted to redeploy my mounted from one wing in column. I’d made it too, it seemed, but when I went to check they were not ZOCed by his advancing knights (they weren’t), Jason said he had the move to make this happen. I had no way of knowing if he did, but it wasn’t really a question of proof; he had moved the knights, taken his hands off, gone on to another move. If he wanted to redo his move, he had to ask my permission, which I was perfectly entitled to deny (p. 8:  ‘a legal tactical move cannot be taken back once the element has been placed’). I shouldn’t have let him turn it into an issue of whether he was telling the truth. Caught in the ZOC I went down 0-4G, ending my run and tarnishing the morning, indeed the whole event!

  • Stan’s War of the Roses English

Stan deployed on a low hill with a blade centre and two flanks of three 3Bw. On his right flank was a large wood. I advanced two 2Ps into it on the first turn, and then advanced the auxilia and blade after them. However, with little movement from Stan (he finally advanced just off the hill) and 6 PIPs, I advanced my cavalry only this left flank. It was anchored by a light horse in the centre to avoid a bad overlap, and it had an overlap on the left flank. However, I had no success. I was thrown back along the line, losing two 3Cv, though the light horse only recoiled.

On Stan’s turn he advanced on the light horse, hoping to flee it and set up good odds on an overlapped cavalry with psiloi-supported blades. The light horse didn’t flee, but recoiled to provide an overlap and keep the odds at 3-2 in his favour. A 6-1 in my favour brought me back into the game, and even though I only had a single PIP, I was able to take out an unsupported blade to set myself up for an unlikely win. Unfortunately, my General rolled a 1 when shot at by supported archers, going down on a 1-4 roll. Stan got another element and took the game. I felt my initial attack was unlucky, though its odds weren’t stunning, but my comeback more than made up for this!

  • Stephen’s Later Crusaders

Stephen deployed his camp in a corner and spent most of the game advancing his bow in column up through a wood on the flank onto a road. They saw no action. Nor did his knights. However, with five spear and a cavalry he nearly beat me, owing to my overconfidence that combined with lacklustre early combat dice saw my general back into his cavalry with no room to spare.

The cavalry and a spear on a gentle hill looked an easy prize and would open up the left flank. I had all my cavalry against it and a light horse. That seemed more than I needed and I had the PIPs, and the poor judgement, to pull off two cavalry to advance on the main body behind this attack. Sure enough I was driven down the hill and lost two cavalry to blocked recoils. I feel Stephen was a gentleman not to push how much room my general had on his second recoil, as it had no room to spare. At this point I hung on, eventually killing the cavalry and one of the spear, but my knight twice could not destroy an unsupported spear even with an overlap to help. There was some desperate fighting, and my general survived the risk of friction kills. In my last turn, with one PIP and the crusader knights and bow finally getting in range, I charged this spear again; this time it had rear support and finally we swept them away to take the game 4-3.

The winning moment from Stephen's side. The knights, supported by light horse, have just destroyed two spear.

If I’d taken my time with the troops on the hill, it could have been an easy win, though the melee that developed consumed all Stephen’s PIPs as he fed his spear into the fight. Had it developed differently, his knights and bow might have got into the action and changed things.

  • Rhys’s Early Burgundians

(Going down in a flurry of 1’s)

While my early battle results had gone against me in the previous battle, any hope they would come right in this battle were soon disappointed. Artillery shot a knight to death (1-4 dice). Low PIPs stopped quick closing for action and I lost on both flanks fast. A light horse destroyed by knights made it two (another 1 for combat, think); mutual shooting destroyed a bow (low again) and an attempt to salvage some dignity in what was likely to be my last turn was not aided by PIPs. A light horse charged bow, only to be doubled, while a flanked light horse did survive an attack by cavalry for some pride. Overall, though, this was a battle I never even got a chance in, as it was over so fast.

  • Review

Overall this was a really enjoyable day that capped a really enjoyable event. However, the incident in the third round really has left a bad memory, as that player went on to win the competition and his trouncing of me gave him the points to do it. I feel I let down others by allowing such unsporting behaviour to prosper. It shows, perhaps, my inexperience, and the fact that in DBA I’ve not previously run into players that would try something like this. I can’t believe that he didn’t check for himself when moving them that he ZOCed me if it was that important. It’s the sort of thing I’d have  measured carefully; I’d certainly not dream of asking to extend a move that couldn’t be measured—but he wasn’t even asking, rather assuming I was seeking to question his right to do it, and challenging his integrity in so doing, very shabby!

The other night I got to have a game of DBA with my friend Steve, who was briefly over from Melbourne. I used my Komnenans, as they are now complete (though the latest units are still awaiting flock). Steve used my Goblins, opting for the Shamanid list over the Gobnovids. This has few options, and he took 3x3Cv (1=cmd), 1x2LH (spider), 1xEl (Trolls), 3x4Sp, 1x2Ps, 1x3Ax and 2x3Bw. I took 4x3Cv (1=cmd), 4x2LH, 1x4Bd, 1x3Ax and 2x2Ps. The Ax and Ps option seemed better than the 3Bw for dealing with the elephant.

I was the defender and went for very little terrain, a central gentle hill and two small woods. I deployed with all the light horse on the right wing, the cavalry in the centre and the infantry on the left. The Goblins deployed with the auxilia in the woods, followed by cavalry (and the general), the trolls, the spear and finally the archers. On the right flank wolfriders and the spider were in reserve. In response to this I swapped two of the light horse for a psiloi and the auxilia.

Initial Deployments: Komnenans on the left.

PIPs were plentiful at the start  (as were the photographs!)  and we advanced rapidly.

Turn 1: 6 PIPs apiece.

Turn 2: more high PIPs; those goblin auxilia ZOCed me in such a way that I couldn't contact them this turn.

Turn 3: PIPs continue high. the Goblins retreat and it's the turn of my auxilia to do some ZOCing. Out of camera the two light horse have shot around the woods.

Turn 4 (Goblins): the auxilia hold off the supported attack by the wolfriders.

Turn 4 (Komnenans): the PIPs dry up (1 PIP), which the Varangians use to destroy some archers. If that 6 had been rolled by the auxilia, it'd have been bye-bye wolfriders.

Turn 5 (Goblins): the spear put an element of Kavallarioi to flight and the auxilia (and their support) are now overthrown.

Turn 5 (Komnenans): Eek, another 1 PIP; the Varangians only recoil the other archer.

The Goblin wolfriders and trolls now attacked, as did their spider, which the fearless Varangians put to flight. The trolls recoiled the Kavallarioi they faced, but next to them the wolfriders, even with overlap support, were driven back.

Turn 6: (Goblins): No great success for the Goblins.

In response The Komnenans had 4 PIPs and retired their Kavallarioi. The Goblins then got only one PIP, which they used to try to shoot the Varangians from behind, without success. The Varangians got to use the only Komnenan PIP to go after these unsportsmanlike Goblins.

Turn 7: PIP drought all round.

The Goblins used their 2 PIPs to straighten the line and to recall the spider from its flight. The Komnenans then got 5 PIPs and went after those archers with hammer and tongs, straightened their line and moved the stalled light horse.

Turn 8: Some signs of movement by the Komnenans.

With three PIPs the Goblins advanced their main line and retreated the wolfriders on their right. The Komnenans had 6 PIPs and tried to pick off the auxilia on the Goblins line, while chasing wolfriders and spiders with their light horse.

Turn 9: The auxilia hold firm.

With two PIPs the Goblins start to close in on my light horse. When he 6-1s one, it starts to look very grim! The auxilia continues to stick.

Turn 10 (Goblins): Oh dear, those light horse are not in a good spot!

The Komnenans are desperate to win this turn before the next light horse goes, but it’s all too much of a forlorn hope; there are no sure kills. Although the auxilia are recoiled, the wolfriders resist the combined attacks of the light horse on the left wing.

Turn 10 (Komnenans): Lucky dice don't save the Komnenans.

Two PIPs are enough for the Goblins, and they close on the light horse; the commander slips in front of the spider, freeing from the light horse’s ZOC and allowing it to flank the light horse. Despite rolling a 6, the light horse are destroyed, and on the left flank the wolfriders in similar straits continue to hold.

Turn 11 (Goblins): Game over, as the second light horse is destroyed.

  • Review:

Sending the light horse around the flank was a big mistake. They could have kept my auxilia alive and killed his. Their unsupported, PIP-sucking death was what cost me the game. When I finally got some PIPs, they should have turned back and supported the main battle, getting back into command range. Some learning to be done there!

Although I lost, I felt that the Komnenans were very competitive, and it was mistakes on my part that undid me. That said, those Goblins are proving tough to beat; in DBA they’re still unbeaten!

Last Friday my Goblins had another outing at John’s. I was going to trial the Samanids (III/43c). John had decided to surprise me by fielding some Eastern Patrician Romans rather than his Swiss. These are a very attractive mix of Khurasan and Splintered Light figures. However, they weren’t painted, but only blutaked to the bases. Cries of horror all around! As the ‘Samanids’ had a fairly unconventional appearance themselves they made no complaint. Both are low-aggression armies and on this occasion the Shamanid Goblins were the aggressors. The terrain was something of a wall of woods with a gentle hill to one side and a road on the edge of the field. I managed to get the woods running along the table rather than between us and watched as the Romans deployed: 1x3Cv (cmd), 2x3Kn, 2x2LH, 2x4Bd, 2x4Wb, 2x4Ax and 1x2Ps. They met this with 3x3Cv (1=cmd), 1x2LH (Spider), 1xEl (Trolls), 3x4Sp, 1x3Ax, 2x3Bw and 1x2Ps.

The armies deploy: Goblins on the left. Oops, no flash!

I wanted to stop the Auxilia from getting into the woods on my side and advanced my spider (2LH) to do this. This created a standoff in the open between his two Auxilia with psiloi support and my auxilia and spider. I intervened with my wolfriders against his psiloi which evened the odds, but got the wolfriders close to his knights. This was a move that was on the edge of legal; there was about a millimetre in it to allow legal contact with the psiloi. The difference that such measurements can make is one of the downsides of DBA and is probably more extreme in the 15mm scale. The battle went the goblins way, though narrowly.

The first time in a while I've won the opening combat—a refreshing change!

The Romans countered by attacking on that flank with their knights and the Auxilia. The goblins were ferocious and drove the knights back, avoiding a ‘buttocks of death’ situation.

Look at those 6s—can it last?

In reply the Goblins had only 1 PIP and tried to win against the Auxilia, but the attack was thrown back (as it had been the first time).

The spider is repulsed again.

The Romans advance at speed on their right flank, while trying to incommode the Goblin auxilia, but events on that flank reverse the outcome of the previous combat.

This time the Auxilia fall back. Note the Roman commander on the hill moving into command range for his right flank.

Again the spider attacks, and again it is repulsed. The Goblin commander moves up to support his wolfriders, and the other wolfriders attack the Roman light horse, but only recoil them.

Indecisive combats on each flank.

Then the Romans try to snare the wolfriders on their right flank, going at them with warbands in the rear and the flank, but the Goblins hang on for a ‘stick’, much to the displeasure of the Roman commander.

Goblins unfazed by hordes of smelly unpainted Germans.

At this point I decided that warbands were too attractive a target for Trolls to ignore (sporting be damned!). Despite the support from the Trolls, the wolfriders couldn’t keep up their resistance and were destroyed, but so was one of the warbands. Attempts to change things on the other flank had reached an impasse; clearly the Auxilia and the spider weren’t really interested! I attempted to beat the knights by sliding my commander in front of them and moving the wolfriders around to provide overlap; I was at 4-3, but think I was recoiled, though it’s out of the camera shot.

Urgh, squished Germans!

The Romans now attempted to destroy an element of spear, and they planned it well: uphill against a cavalry general with a light horse in support, but if they were hoping for dawn at Helm’s Deep, they were disappointed, these Goblins didn’t break, but threw back the cavalry in disarray! The Roman knights have the wolfriders at 4-2, but only recoil them (again, largely out of camera).

Grrr, sissy horseboys!

And then it was all over! The Trolls went after another set of Germans (yum, yum!), and Goblin archers, after spending the whole battle trapped behind the spear, get to turn around and double some clearly disaffected light horse.

Victory to the Goblins!

Gracious in victory, the Goblins made a tasteful cairn of the skulls of the dead Germans on the hill, and tucked in to a nutritious meal of horsemeat (not stinting on human flesh either, it has to be said!). The Roman commander, as his forces retired in defeat, cursed Fortuna (much to the disapproval of accompanying clerics).

  • Review:

After the analysis I did of the dice rolled in the last game, I did the same with this one, and the results were interesting (I missed a combat that were outside of the zoomed-in camera, but it was inconclusive). My total combat rolls were impressively better (52 to 38 in 15 combats). Accordingly they favoured me in 9 of the combats and John in only 4 (two were tied). The distribution of each dice result should be 5 of each number, but there were slightly more 1s, 2s and 4s (7 of each), slightly fewer 3s and 6s (4 of each) and only one 5. Isn’t Excel fun! It’s interesting that the 1s were overrepresented and the 6s slightly underrepresented, as those numbers get noticed. Who ever notices that 5s aren’t being rolled?

Anyway, the results do confirm John’s complaint that the dice were against him. They kept my surrounded wolfriders alive for one turn and they saved a beleaguered 4Sp (but 4Sp have a refreshing habit of doing that for me); all of which gave me time to win. Having said that, it would have been a different game if the legions had faced the Trolls and not the warbands!

The moral of the story is don’t expect the dice to favour unpainted figures! The better they’re painted the better they fight, though John warned his figures ominously last week they’d have to earn the privilege of paint!