Sunday, May 20, 2012

Battle report: The Harrying of the Northern Tribes

History, as is often said, is written by the victors.

From Dunstone's Chronicle containing the Annals of the Realm of Angaland

In the spring of the eleventh year of his reign and the thirtieth of his birth, Eddard, Fourth of His Name, King of All the Angalish, did make an expedition against the tribes of the north, necessitated by an ever-increasing number of raids and border encroachments perpetrated by the seemingly restless tribesmen.  With him did go his energetic brother, Rickon, Duke of Glockster, and his faithful constable Willem, Lord Aystings, along with a full contingent of fighting men made up of their household forces. These forces did number somewhere near 6500 men afoot, armed with bow and bill, and including contingents of pikes and handguns from the Lowland realms; therewith rode some 250 mounted men-at-arms for use as scouts, and a contingent of eight newly crafted black powder artillery pieces. 

The King did travel north with malintent, for he was greatly angered at the tribesmen's continued audacity against his citizens, and as the King was ever the loyal protector of his people, he set out to do rightful harm unto the tribesmen in recompense for their unjust and unprovoked assaults. He sought eagerly to establish a foothold in the northern lands by establishing a base for his harrying of the north at the shallow fords of the River Tine within the lands inhabited by the ruthless savage. The King, ever filled with daring in matters of soldiery, hasitly rushed with his own household and mercenaries to create a bridgehead to secure the crossing for the forces of both the Duke, his brother, and the Lord Aystings. The presence of so many men under arms did come to the attention of the inhabitants of that wooded country, and there was a great alarm amongst the men of the tribes. A hasty defense was mounted, as Errmann, Chief of the band who call themselves the Nordomanni, called for men to repel the southron invaders. To his summons came tribesmen in the thousands, and with promises of a portion of the ransom for the king which Errmann claimed he would capture, the chieftain did lure into his service the mercenary captain Durgorix, called the Veteran, accompanied by his band of tribal cavalry and his paid contingent of foul orcish creatures. So too came the warrior Horgen, known as the Audacious, all in jest; for on the field he was known to be overly bold or not bold at all--a characteristic which often led his men unto their early deaths. All told the savage tribes numbered some 20,000 tribesmen afoot, 1000 a-horse, and nearly 3000 foul-spawned creatures of orcish extraction [These numbers, like most which pertain to the enemies mentioned in Dunstone's Chronicle, have been exaggerated at about double the numbers considered likely by battlefield researchers.- Ed.]. 
Initial overview (Hi, kitty!!)

View from the corner of the table

The northron left, led by Horgen the Audacious
Close up on the barbarians in the village.
The ridge's crest, with Errmann in front of his bodyguard.
The foul denizens on the northron right: Durgorix can be seen behind the tray of goblins at the head of his cavalry, who would not see much action at all. Never trust a mercenary...
These did gather upon a long crest overlooking the river's crossing, near one of the southernmost Nordomanni hamlets. From there they did look down and see the royal host arrayed in the river's bend, where the King himself went afoot, clad in his gilded armor, amidst his loyal soldiery, clasping men by the forearm or clutching them upon the shoulder, whereupon he would call them 'Brother' or 'Friend' to rouse in them their battle-courage. The king, seeing the horde drawn up upon the ridge did know that to fall back beyond the river would surely mean defeat. If, however, he could hold long enough for his leftenants to make the crossing, and then with a mighty surge plant his banner upon the ridge's crest, he was assured that the day would belong to him.

Looking down from the ridge
Looking up to the ridge
When battle was at hand, the King did act swiftly and decisively, as did his wing battles. The Northron savage, however, stood rooted, unable to cope with the swift advances of the Angalishmen. When, at length, the hordes began to stir, it was from Horgen's quarter that the first push came. Seeking to bar the Lord Aystings from the completion of his crossing, Horgen's tribemen surged forward, only to break upon the Constable's forces as waves against Angaland's southern cliffs. Horgen himself was caught up in the rout, and just barely managed to extricate himself from its press to retain command over his men. The Lord Aystings did the King good service on the day, and in time, the newly forged guns would also tinge the northern soil red with northron blood.

The forced crossing of Aystings, and Glockster in the far background. Horgen advances.
Horgen's attack repelled; the advances.
The Duke of Glockster did advance at speed as well; some say he crossed more swiftly than Lord Aystings. His march across the ford was unopposed, as all men know that the orcish brood is a dull one, and is slow to react or understand a changing situation. Seeing his brother's swift advance, the King did rally his men and begin a cautious and measured advance towards the ridge. This advance was countered by the chieftain's forces, as at long last they stirred their courage to sweep down the ridge upon the combined forces of the King and his brother, who was also feeling pressure from the orcish contingent. These foul creatures, though large and apparently fierce, were no match for the young Duke's vigour [This will remain one of the mysteries of the battle. That a group of bloodthirsty orcish Toughskins should be so easily brushed aside borders on the unbelievable. Nevertheless, I think we must take Dunstone's word for it, as it fits with the overall depiction and result of the battle as a crushing victory for King Eddard. -Ed.].

Despite the horde's impetus, the king's men held, though some were troubled by a mob of painted savages who seemed to have worked themselves into a blood frenzy. The Nordomanni push came to naught, and then the King did turn the screw. With a mighty push, he himself led his men into the bloody fray. The courage of the savage is as the flash of a falling star, burning bright and brief, while the courage of the noble man, of which King Eddard was but one, is as the eternal sunne in all its splendour. The northron fled before the flashing armaments of the King, and a mighty roar did go up from the royal host as the King's banner was planted upon the ridge-crest, proclaiming the battle justly won with its words, "God's, and my right!"

The center collides. The Toughskins routed by Glockster's extreme  left.
The northron center crumbles. The King surges forward.
The King takes the ridge, chasing Errmann, who is in the process of running away with his bodyguard.
A great slaughter of the foe was made, and it is said that the day is remembered among the northern tribes as a black stain upon their history. The failure of the Nordomanni to bar the King's way resulted in a great harrying of the northern lands, the thought of which still causes the northron--be they man, woman, or child--to weep bitter tears.

The Major Morale check roll: can't get any lower than that!

[You have just read a narrative account of the most crushing victory I have ever secured on a miniatures table. The rules were Hostile Realms by Piquet. The opponent was the Official Wife, aided (if we can call rolling 1's aid) by our son. The scenario is based on Charles Grant's "Bridgehead Breakout" scenario. The tribesmen would win if they could repel the invaders back beyond the river, while the invaders would win if they could secure the ridge and hold it.

The battle was a walk despite sides which on paper were quite balanced. Between my wife and son, they managed to roll a total of around fifteen 1's. They were good sports about this however, and the weeping of bitter tears was left to their fictional charges. The game got off to a good start for the Angalish, as they won the first initiative by 11 (!!) and chose to act first. The tribesmen are an offensive army, and they were put on the back foot from the get-go. Amazing disparity in our dice rolling saw me rout unralliable 3 units, as well as the full destruction of 4 units. The Angalish lost only a single melee and a single morale chip. There was no need for tactical morale challenges: the tribesmen took care of the running themselves.

The poor wife saw only a single move card, and never got her berserker card, or anything else remotely decent. It also killed her when after going through many of her not so great cards, we tied on the initiative roll and we had to reshuffle the decks! Thankfully I am married to such a pleasant companion, who not only loves miniature gaming, but knows how to take a drubbing with grace. 

The battle ended on a major morale failure just after the Angalish took the ridge. I had just had a run of 8 cards, and when it was the wife's turn to flip, Major Morale was the second she flipped. And characteristically for the day, the roll was a 1. It was a day to remember for me, as the wife usually gives good sport, and beats me with regularity. But as we all know, the wheel of fortune continuously turns, and I know that those who crest its top will soon find themselves upside-down at its bottom.

Great rules, great company, and great fun!]

S. V. B. E. 
-The Fox

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Yorkists Have Landed

I have completed the basing of my Yorkist forces for use with Band of Brothers (2nd) by Piquet. I thought that now they are complete I would share some photos with everyone. This army is going to continue to expand, but I now consider it 'complete enough'--that is, enough to give a good game in the battles for which I am building it. It has ten bill and bow blocks, 2 mercenary units (pikes and hand-gunners), a cavalry unit, and a set of guns (14 total units). The Lancastrians are up next, and I already have two of their units done, out of the seventeen total planned.

With that said, on with the eye candy! Be sure to click through for bigger photos. All figures are from Old Glory 25s, except for the three commanders, who are by Perry.

An overall view 

A close up on Edward IV, leading from the front. 

The cavalry!

Organ guns!

Aerial shot

I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think!

S. V. B. E.
-The Fox

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Review: Corner Kick!

Corner Kick!: Rules for playing the world's most popular sport-- "in miniature"by Bob and Jeff Wiltrout (available from The Virtual Armchair General $25USD [bound]; $15 USD [pdf])

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that, though a born Yankee, I am an avid fan of the Beautiful Game. My weekend mornings are generally booked up from late August until June, occupied with watching the Premier League, and cheering on 'Arry Redknapp and the boys from White Hart Lane in North London. When, during one of my previous trips to Historicon, I came across a group of animated fellows playing what appeared to be a football match (we don't use the 'S' word in this house!) in miniature, I was quite intrigued. I discovered they were playing with an as yet unpublished rules system that was set to come out in the near future. Corner Kick! is that rule set.

I want to start off my review by first stating that I love these rules. The most important feature about them, to my mind, is the game that results from them feels like real football, from the tactics, the ebb-and-flow of the match, and the excitement which it generates.

The book itself is not flashy, but there are several useful and aesthetically pleasing pictures. Most importantly the book is well organized and follows the structure of the turns. And it has a table of contents (something all games should include, but unfortunately there are still many which do not).

The rules themselves are quite easy to get the hang of. The games last for a total of 30-34 'turns' (the variance is due to a clever stoppage time mechanic), divided into two halves of 15-17. Within a turn there is a clearly defined sequence of play: 1) The team with the ball moves their figures except for the player in possession of the ball. 2) The player with the ball moves half. 3) Defending player adjusts the angle of his keeper. 4) Player in possession of the ball decides to pass, shoot (if in range), or continue movement. 5) Defender moves all players and may attempt to tackle to gain possession.

A turn is only complete when ALL of the phases have been completed, so errant passes or defelections in phase 4 of the turn that result in a change of possession means that the turn starts over at phase 1. This gives the game a variable flow and turn length which is nice, as not all turns will be exactly the same length. It breaks up the sense of it really being an IGOUGO game.

All movement is in a straight line, and so may be handled with movement sticks of various lengths. Anyone who has played and enjoyed games like Song of Blades and Heroes will know how much quickly things move when movement sticks are being used. It makes the game quick-paced, and that goes along way when trying to capture the excitement of a live sporting event.

The basic mechanic of the game involves a simple d6 roll and adding the correct stat rating for the action as to that roll once modifiers have been added and subtracted. The modifiers make good sense for the most part, and are what any gamer familiar with war gaming would expect to find (positive and negative modifiers for distance, negatives for nearby defenders, people in the way, etc.). The quick reference sheets included in the set are well-organized and contain all the information you will need while playing. I suggest laminating, as you will be handling them a lot.

This brings me to what I find to be one of the best parts of the game, and that is that it requires you to stat out the attributes for the various players on your squad by yourself. The team sheets you create are entirely subjective and due to the participants' opinions of the abilities of certain players. This already creates good spirited sports debate, which is, I think, one of the good reasons to watch sports. (This may not suit the temperaments of those who like having things their way and only their way, or cannot see past the biases they have towards their favorite squad.)

Outfield players must be given stats for Pass, Shoot, Header, Control, Tackle, Fitness, and Awareness. Keepers have all these stats, and must also be given a Save rating. All stats range from 1 to 4 (higher being better, as it is added to the d6 roll), except for Save, which is rated 1 or 2 (hey, there is only so much a keeper can do!). So when creating stats, keep in mind 4 is world class, 2 i s roughly average in the EPL, as I see it. Luka Modric would be a 4 passer in my opinion, for example; Robin van Persie (as much as I hate to admit it, as a Spurs fan) deserves a Shooting of 4. Then there are special traits which may be assigned to players to give them more of their on the field personality: you can give Gareth Bale the Pace ability for example, which allows him to move an extra inch; Rafa van der Vaart gets the Curve ability for bonuses on corner kicks and direct free kicks. I have already thought up a few new special skills I would like to incorporate, which the rules encourage you to do. This subjectivity (for me at least) is a big part of the fun. I would be more than willing to share the stat sheets for the four teams I currently have (Spurs, Arsenal, Newcastle, and Sunderland).

EDIT: I also forgot to mention: the rules provide a points system for the creation of teams for those who are unfamiliar with the players of various teams, or who do not wish to bury themselves in stats. Differing levels of ability cost a certain amount of points to buy, and special traits have a point cost attached to them as well. This method can be used to ensure an evenly matched game. If you want West Brom and Man City to have at it on level pegging, go for it!

After the rules, there is an 'Arts and Crafts' section which details how to construct your own pitch, obtaining figures for your players, constructing goals, etc. (The book does come with paper goals which can be cut out and constructed. I opted to make my own. They are quick and easy, and look great on your pitch.) This is all helpful information, and well appreciated by this reader at least.

The book also contains many optional rules to vary the level of depth and complexity of the game. The ones I highly recommend are the flank movement rules (which really opens the game up) and the central defender recovery move. Both work well and are 'realistic.'

A game can be played (with experience) in about 3 hours, as my experiences have shown, which is only about an hour longer than it takes to watch an actual match. For your first few games, however, it can take up to 4 or so hours as you solidify the rules and get used to things. The game is family friendly: my wife and son both love it, and we have a good time playing. I have also got friends who are not necessarily in to wargames, but who are both football and board game fans to play, and they enjoyed it immensely as well.

It is also worth mentioning that the game could easily be played with counters until you have enough figures painted up.

I rate this rules set as excellent, and a great deal of fun. It is must have for any miniatures gamer who loves a good game of footy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

WOTRs: Yorkist Commanders

Accompanying Edward (who can be seen in this previous post) in his bid to retake the throne of England were his two steadfast companions, Richard, Duke of Gloucester and William, Lord Hastings, who had both been his companions in exile. The then eighteen-year-old Gloucester's first battlefield command was on the foggy field of Barnet, where he acquitted himself rather well; he would go on to earn a reputation as a sound warrior and skilled commander. As for Hastings, the overlapping flank of the Earl of Oxford (the fog had skewed the positioning of the troops, causing the battle to be fought in a sort of pinwheel shape) made quick work of his men who fled into the town. Fortuitously, the failure of Hastings to hold his men (to his defense, in admittedly perilous circumstances), however, did not win the day for the Lancastrians, as the Earl of Oxford's men did not capitalize; they instead set about pillaging and looting. The performance of Hastings at Barnet is the suspected reason for Edward IV's decision to reverse the deployment of his battles at Tewkesbury: he preferred to have the capable Gloucester facing the more experienced Duke of Somerset. Hastings did not go unrewarded for his loyalty, of course, as he was granted the lieutenancy of Calais once Edward had retaken his throne.

Here are some pictures (bases unfinished--par for the course). The commander figures are from Perry, while the others are all Old Glory 25s.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester

William, Lord Hastings


S. V. B. E.
-The Fox

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

WOTRs: Yorkist Mercenaries

When Edward IV re-crossed the Channel  in 1471 in a bid to reclaim his throne, (recall that the alliance of Warwick and Queen Margaret had driven him into exile in Burgundy,) he brought with him mercenaries from the Low Countries and Germany. In my building of forces for the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury to play with BoB2, I felt it necessary to paint up a little something to reflect the presence of these forces. And from a wargaming perspective, it opens the game up a little bit when you can include varied troop types (particularly in the WOTR period, wherein the board is covered in large part with various grades of bill and bow blocks).

I have a unit (certainly there would not have been enough men to constitute a whole pike 'block') of mercenary pikes, painted up to resemble a mishmash of Low-Countries fighting men. Here are some photos, and as usual, I apologize for not having their bases finished. (I hate basing so much that I avoid it as long as possible, and do it in large batches.) I also plan on adding a couple of flags to the pikes when I get around to it.

All figures are from Old Glory 25s. These are not from their War of the Roses pikemen, but rather the heavy pikemen from their Swiss and Italian Wars range. I thought the sculpts on these looked a little nicer.

We know that Edward was given a group of handgunners from the Duke of Burgundy as well, so I have painted some of those up too. They are done up in Burgundian livery, though how likely it is they would have worn it on the field while under Edward's command, I am not certain. I just really like the color combinations, and also, they can be used in a Low Countries army of the same period, should I choose to build it.

These too are Old Glory 25s, and from their Wars of the Roses range.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, and I hope to post later in the week with my recently painted command stands, featuring Richard of Gloucester, and William, Lord Hastings.

S. V. B. E.
-The Fox