Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Flea Market Find

I found a bag of bits on a stall in the local market that sells second-hand model railway accessories.

The farm animals and civilians will do nicely as additions to Andreivia.  I think we may have a female Andreivian police officer there.  The suitcases and trunks will make great Plot Point markers for Pulp Alley.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Another Go At Mursa

Jamie and managed to fit in one more game before he headed back to York for the new University year.  It was a replay of the Mursa scenario that I ran at Berkeley recently.

Jamie led the forces of the eastern emperor Constantius, furthest from the camera in the picture below.  He had the advantage of me in cavalry, particularly in the form of a six-element command of Goth foederati on his left flank (extreme top right of the pic below).

I, on the other hand, as Magnentius, had a stronger infantry command on my left and began the game trying to push them forward with a view to cutting through to Jamie's camp.

Sadly, I drew an ace early on leaving one of my legionary units isolated on my extreme left well in advance of the min line.  That's it in the picture below, the red unit on the extreme left of the field. However, my German auxiliaries (centre of the table) were able to make considerable ground.

Jamie pushed forward his cavalry and began working on pushing me off the hill on my extreme right flank.

Goth horsemen approach the base of the hill. 

Eastern cataphracts advance

Magnentius's Auxilia Palatina advance alongside Gaulish auxiliaries.
Once again Fortune spits in my eye. On game turn two I draw a 10 counter to advance my second Legionary cohort to support the first, which is still exposed on the left.  This allows me to move but makes it most unlikely that I'll be able to activate a second time later in the move.  Magnentius is with the unit, though, and I decide to use his ability to redraw the counter and get something lower."  It is lower.  I draw a one and that command's turn is over.  Grrr!

Fierce fighting develops as Constantius's central cavalry command takes on Magnentius's German infantry.

Constantius's infantry form a thin line to defend their camp.

The armies are now engaged all across the field. Diagonally "cocked" units have become disordered as a result of the fighting.

The two lines of Legionaries square off. (Square off, you see?
To The Strongest!  Square Grid?  Oh please yourself!) 

On my right, Jamie's small unit of cataphracts (yellow cloaks) charge into the flank of the Roman heavy cavalry commanded by my attached general Marcellinus.  Marcellinus's unit was disordered and in the pic below you can see that I've withdrawn it (bottom left).

I then charged the flank of the cataphracts with the other heavy cavalry unit in Marcellinus's command.  The cataphracts are a small unit and can therefore take only one hit to destroy.  Despite their excellent save value (5+ as they were veterans) the flank charge was too much to resist and the Western cavalry swept over them.

The first successful attack on the infantry flank saw Magnentius's second cohort (now caught up with the first) disordered by their Constantian opposite numbers...

To the right of my legionaries, my Gaullish auxiliaries started to make progress.

The cavalry melee continued but one unit of Germans (extreme far left in the pic below) made it through a gap in the Constantian line...

And breached the defences of enemy camp.

This wasn't enough to break Constantius's army but with time running out we decided to call it a marginal win for Magnentius.

So that's one win for each side in our refights of Mursa.  I now need to find another suitable Late Roman action to have a go at.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Yet More Late Romans

I finished the last of my unpainted Late Romans yesterday.  This is the Schola Gentilium Seniorum; another guard heavy cavalry unit.

Having completed the Romans I now want to get the rest of my 18th Century Poles painted. I think that means a couple more units of Pancerny and a few Generals.  Then it will be on to the Swedes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mursa, 351CE

On the Saturday evening at Berkeley I ran a game of To The Strongest! to demo the system to some new players.  The scenario was the battle of Mursa, which took place in the year 351 near what is now Osijek in Croatia.

This was only a very approximate version of the battle with my main source being Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire with a bit of help from Wikipedia.  The battlefield is described as a featureless plain alongside the Drava River.  I added a Roman road as it seemed appropriate.

On the left, the army of Magnentius with two infantry commands
closest to the river and a cavalry command on their right flank.
To the right of the picture, the army of Constantius; Infantry command
with fortified camp, central command of German cavalry, and
left flank cavalry.
The Army of Constantius right) had its right flank anchored on the river and was commanded by Josh Jones as the chamberlain Eusebius. He was ably assisted by his Pete Duckworth as Sylvanus the Frank and Owen Webber as General Gallus.

Opposite them, Benedict Sharrock took on the role of the western emperor Magnentius.  Nigel Jones assisted him as General Marcellinus.  General Decentius, commanding the German infantry in the centre of Magnentius's line was commanded by whichever of the western players finished first with their own command.

I didn't get as many photos as I'd have liked as I was too busy explaining the rules and keeping the game moving.

I'd added an extra wrinkle to the battle in the form of Menelaus who is said to have directed the archery of Constantius's troops and played an important part in their victory.  In consultation with Simon Miller I decided to treat Menelaus as a non-standard type of Hero who, once per turn, could retry any missed shooting attempt by his unit.  This seems to work OK.  It certainly didn't unbalance the game.  Sadly it didn't prevent Magnentian legionaries later overrunning his unit.

Menelaus at the far end of the Light Infantry (bow) unit.
True to history, Eusebius put his cavalry on the left.  In this case with a large command of Germanic foederati (mostly Goths) nearest the "hinge" and a smaller command of Roman cavalry (including a small unit of veteran cataphractarii) on the extreme left.

The Goths hit the junction of Magnentius's infantry centre and his right flank cavalry command.

Gothic cavalry charge their Western Roman opposites
and disorder them (hence the canted position of the latter).
On the river flank there was bloody fighting.  There was no decisive breakthrough but there was a steady trickle of casualties on both sides.

On the other flank the easterners' superiority in cavalry enabled them to break through and threaten Magnentius's camp.  With only a unit of Ballistarii to defend it, the camp looked threatened.  Its three Victory Medals would probably win the battle for Constantius.

However, the artillerymen fought like lions.  Turning to face the attack (they can do this though they can't move from square to square) they fought off the eastern equites alares.

And suddenly it was over.  Somewhere in the centre of the battlefield an eastern unit routed.  Their example was contagious.  As Eusebius surrendered his last Victory Medal the army of Constantius started to disintegrate.

And so a reversal of history.  I learned a few things from this game.

One - have two separate cups of activation counters.  It's a pain in the arse passing one cup back and forth.

Two - for a quick demo game it would probably have been better to miss the names of units off the Army Sheets. They just got in the way of players identifying the unit types.

Three - I need some specifically ancient terrain items to give the battlefield some character.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Berkeley HOTT 2015 Report part 2

Post-sausages-and-hash-browns I was informed by Jane Williams that Sunday's first game would see us playing another Gloranthan game, this time with her Lego armies.  These have Lunars and Sartarites fighting for Whitewall on 40mm wide bases.

Of course given Jane's long-held allegiance to the Sartarite cause, it was inevitable that I would play the Lunars.  Sadly Jane, bless her, had put together armies based on the Lego mini figures she had available.  This left me with any army that could quick kill almost nothing in Jane's army whilst everything in the Sartarite any could quick kill something in mine.

A plan was needed and that plan was to make sure I could anchor my flank on some impassable going and fight a defensive action.  I might get lucky and if nothing else I could play for a draw.

I set up the terrain to represent Dragon Pass with diagonally opposite areas of impassable mountain ending in woods, and a couple of areas of Bad Going.

Jane was slightly freaked when I rolled a six on game turn one and opted to do nothing.  She advanced her Sartarites led by her two-headed eagle flyer.

Turn after turn I remained in place.  Eventually Jane's army arrived within bespelling range but a couple of attempts failed to get me the 6:1 that would see her Hero General ensorcelled.

What did happen, though, was that Jane's Paladin managed to leave her rear edge in the woods.  At -2 to her combat factor the Paladin was suddenly worth attacking with a pair of double-ranked Spears.  Two attempts saw me fail to kill the Paladin but the third time I rolled the number I needed and took out the Paladin and with her the anti-magic protection of Jane's Hero General.

A successful bespelling roll saw me win the battle but the victory was achieved mainly because of the steadfast courage of the Lunar Hero at the right hand end of the battle line.  He held on for several turns despite being flanked and overlapped.

After Jane I faced Chris Pryme and, once more, the Gloranthan Chaos army.  I don't recall a lot about this action except that it was long and intense.  Chris handled the Chaos army well and I struggled to target his vulnerable Beast elements.

Avoiding his Behemoth, I decided to go for a right hook.

But then I veered left and a lot of the action took place on the lower slopes of a hill.

Whilst Amy and Jamie played a 15mm lizards vs Samurai game in the next table.

In the end I think I managed to take out Chris's General for the win.

Two wins on Sunday put me in with the big boys at the top end of the table.  This is where the members of Coventry's Scimitar group are to be found.  They are all excellent players and I usually expect to plummet back to Earth at this point.

Tony Green had a very nice Boudicca's revolt army.

Unfortunately for Tony they were inhibited by Tony's consistent inability to roll anything but a 1 or 2 for PIPs throughout the game.

It came down to a duel between Tony's Knight General and my Hero General.  This situation...

... with Harrek flanked and hit in the rear by Druids resulted in a drawn fight and allowed me to turn Gunda into combat contact with Boudicca's flank thus guaranteeing a kill if I won.

Of course I was dead if Tony won.  Equal factors and who ever threw higher won the battle.  Mine's the blue die!

So with one game to go (against reigning champion Pete Duckworth) I was up among the leaders.  If I beat Pete and Tony beat Steve Price the unthinkable could occur.

Pete fielded a Lord of the Rings army that was as nice as Tony's Britons.

Sadly for Pete his die rolling was as poor as Tony's.  Somewhere along the line I managed to take out Aragorn to finish the weekend with six wins and a draw.  And with Steve losing the last game to Tony  I'd most improbably won the tournament!

I have to say luck played a huge part.  If Mark Fry hadn't had to leave after Saturday to attend a family function and if Tony and Pete hadn't been struck down by the great PIP drought of 2015, I think I'd have struggled to get third.

As always HOTT Berkeley was a joy.  The people are great and, to be honest, the only reason I've carried on attending as HOTT doesn't really excite me that much any more.  My thanks to all concerned and especially to Steve for his continued efforts in mustering us each year.

Berkeley HOTT 2015 Report part 1

Jamie and I are back from Slimbridge and the annual Berkeley HOTT competition with very different positions in the table but with another enjoyable weekend with friends behind us.

For those who don't know, the Berkeley competition (so called because it was played in the Gloucestershire village of Berkeley for the first two of its fifteen years of existence, is probably the world's largest Hordes of the Things Tournament.  It's the only tournament gaming I do and it's a very relaxed event with competitiveness generally a long way behind good conversation, fun gaming and good beer.

After Saturday morning's drive down from Yorkshire I was paired with Nigel Jones for the first game.  I'd brought my Gloranthan Wolf Pirates to play with as my main army and Nigel very kindly offered to use my, also Gloranthan, Morokanth despite my telling him I didn't know how balanced they were as a pair.

I set up intending to trundle forward through the Bad Going with my Warband whilst Argrath, Gunda, and Harrek made a dash through the good ground to either take on Nigel's three Magicians or force their way into the Morokanth stronghold.

In the end Nigel's Magicians advanced to meet the Wolf Pirate Heroes and in one round of combat it was all over!  Heroes and Paladins only need to beat Magicians to kill them (though if they lose the Heroes are ensorcelled and the Paladin is lost).  I started with Harrek, who as a Hero General had a +2 advantage, won and killed his opposing Shaman.  With +1 for the overlap thus created I was able to out dice Nigel twice more for a 12-0 win.  Sorry Nigel!

In game two I faced James Ewins who (as he had when we both played our first ever game at Berkeley back in 2001) was using Aztecs.  Sadly I couldn't find a Troll pool army to complete the nostalgia-fest.  Instead I picked a pool army based on a Wild West cattle drive.

A nice touch here was James's use of Aztec skirmishers as an area of Bad Going.

James nibbled away at my army taking 8AP of elements but in the end neither of us could force a victory.  We were timed out with a draw.

Next up I was paired with the ever-charming Mark Fry.  Mark was using his lovely Rohirrim army (I borrowed them for a game last year).  Mark, little did either of us know, was heading for four wins out of four on day one.

As we were in 15mm scale I grabbed my Saunders-V Colonists army.  This starts with three shooters, two Warband and a Rider whilst the embattled colonists wait for the Colonial Marines to arrive in their (Dragon) grav tanks.

Mark got to defend and placed a minimum of Bad Going for me to hide in.

And hide I did.  For several turns as Mark drew near.  In retrospect I should have pushed forward despite the fact that Mark's army was full of Knights who could quick kill all but one element of my starting force.

By sitting in my area of Bad Going I allowed Mark to dominate the areas where the grave tanks would eventually arrive.  When they did arrive, there were only two places where I could squeeze them in and Mark had Heroes and Magicians waiting to pounce.  I was rapidly down three Dragons and 12 AP.

And so on to the final HOTT game of the day.  Owen Webber used a Gloranthan Chaos army (six Broo Warbands plus a Broo Hero General, a Behemoth (giant Jack O Bears) and two scorpionman Beasts).  Of course I met this with the Wolf Pirates.

With equal numbers of Warbands, the obvious plan was to use my Heroes and Paladin to target Owen's Hero General and Beasts.  His Beasts would die if beaten by mounted and Heroes and Paladins both count as mounted.  On the other hand Behemoths kill Warbands so I needed to keep the Jack O Bears away from the rank and file Pirates.

Pleasingly, the plan worked.  I scooted off to the left leaving just enough Warband to defend my beached dragonship.  As the picture below shows, a quick advance saw Harrek slaughter one of the Scorpionman units and Gunda take out the Broo Hero General in what was by then a +7 (Paladin uphill) vs +5 (overlapped Hero General) fight in which the loser died immediately!

So I ended Saturday with two wins and a draw.  Mid-table mediocrity looked guaranteed for another year.  

On Saturday evening I ran a game of To The Strongest! and Jamie ran Saga but that's a story for another time as, indeed, is the tale of Sunday's games.