It’s been a while since I posted any progress updates so this is a bit of a summary of what I’ve been up to the past 6-8 months. There’s a fair bit more not pictured as they’ve still to be based, but those should be done in the near future.
First up some new command elements for my Crusaders and Saracen forces. I have an idea on using these guys for a campaign so you’ll be seeing them again in future complete with names and backgrounds when the Barony of Nusquam and the Emirate of Lamakan come to blows in the far reaches of the Middle East.
Figures are a mix of Pendraken and Irregular I believe.
And as a bonus a few marker units to represent spears/lances/heroes:
Next up filling the major gap in the forces of Islam is a whole lot of light cavalry and hordes of horse archers.
Around Christmas last year I went on a bit of a rare fantasy binge after watching too much Critical Role and playing a few fantasy games like 4 Against Darkness. I plan to use these for Sellwords and Spellslingers if the fantasy urge comes round again.
I had a lot of fun with the Pendraken fantasy range and used it to experiment with different techniques for painting and basing, for instance airbrushing, different use of dry brushing and highlights as well lighting and metallics. Was a nice change of pace from batch painting large armies.
Shambling slowly up to the plate, some undead:
The necromancer I spent a fair bit of time experimenting with, especially the glowing eyes on his staff and the light and shadow effects from that.
And now the good guys:
And given the time of year I was painting these added a bit of festive cheer:
Next up we’re taking a bit of a diversion into another scale and looking at my 2mm forces for the British and some Turkish allies in the Crimean War. I’m fairly sure I’ve another 10 or 15 bases of these in a box with the start of the French army but there’s enough here to get the gist. I also have around 50 bases of Russians to prime and paint at some point and the French to assemble. All in all, should have enough to cover most of the BBB Crimean War scenarios.
The single line is for veterans, the double line standard infantry:
The Turks in the back:
Artillery, cavalry and general:
And finally we travel to Mexico for some of the glorious Aztec range. These models are beautifully sculpted and a joy to paint given the detail and opportunity for colour. I fear I don’t do them justice.
In the one’s below I’ve picked a colour theme for each group but I have some more awaiting finishing touches that are a riot of colour and will be adding even more units soon.
Eagle and Jaguar Warriors:
The atlatl thrower on the small base is a shock missile marker.
City infantry with attached hero marker:
Some “wargamers eye view” shots:
Close-ups of the markers, some of these came out a little darker than I’d hoped but the heroes have face paint and tattoos:
And these poor sods who were mangled in the name of casualty markers:
One thing I’m planning to work on over the next little while is some additional terrain and a battle board for the Aztecs (and others). As I plan to use To the Strongest! for this a grid is required, so experimenting with some options on gridding before committing to putting it on my actual board (which is a repurposed wedding table plan).
I asked on a couple of forums for ideas and some good ones popped up like using tile spacers or magnets.
I initially used single spacers then added filler around them but they got hidden after painting. At the top left I’ve tried with doubled spacers and waiting some bits to dry. May need another layer of flock on it. At the bottom I’ve just stuck some new spacers on top of the hidden old ones and flocked around.
To the right of that I’ve hidden a magnet under the flock and have a small clump on ferrous paper drying at the bottom to see how it works. I used a fairly small thin (10 x 2 mm I think) magnet as I don’t want to interfere heavily with any of my magnetically based units. Some of those thicker rare earth magnets would have units sailing across the table as if my magic!
Since taking these pictures I’ve also painted up a small unit of Early Imperial Chinese halberd men, and primed a unit of Mycenaean spear men so will showcase them when based up. My master plan of basing to a 40 x 20 mm standard is somewhat scuppered by the forward pointing weapon, which would cause issues with base to base contact, so will have to do these on a 40 x 30 mm base and hope it still looks distinct enough from a 40 x 40 “deep” base.
One of the most difficult and daunting aspects to any new wargaming project for me is the question of how to base the armies. I spend a considerable amount of time with bases and figures and blu-tac trying out endless combinations then once I settle on one end up changing it or rethinking it soon after. Having been overthinking it again the past few nights as it’s causing a holdup on a number of projects I think I’ve come to some conclusions. What follows is mostly a bit of a ramble to sort out my thinking on it, but perhaps others may find it interesting, or have gone through similar issues themselves. I can recommend a couple of other blogs looking at “downsizing” that provide some inspiration, namely https://inredcoatragsattired.com/2020/03/13/making-alterations/ and http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/.
When I first got into wargaming a few years back my first rule set was Hail Caesar. In it, it recommended 40mm squares for infantry and 50mm squares for cavalry, using a few to make up a unit. After plenty of Googling I didn’t find any issues with this so started to use it for my crusades armies. Typically an infantry unit would be a 120mm frontage and a cavalry 100mm. Over time I was exposed to different rule sets with different basing requirements ranging from the complete agnostics (e.g. To The Strongest!) to the very strict (e.g. DBx). With my second project, the English Civil War, I agonised a long time over basing. I ended up maintaining the 120mm frontage, but as a combined unit of pike and shot. For the horse, I kept the 100mm frontage, but with a 40mm depth and did end up with something I’m happy with.
I had some concerns on the basing choices for the crusades, however, namely:
50mm squared cavalry for 10mm is a bit silly. The frontage difference is negligible for gameplay, the depth is unnecessary, and rules that do require multiple bases and matching frontage (e.g Soldiers of God) mean some things need fudged.
Most 10mm packs come as 30 infantry. With 3 40mm bases per unit, that’s 10 infantry on each, which can look a bit loose on the base. Okay for irregulars but not for close order or formed infantry.
Bigger bases are more awkward to apply basing material to. Maybe I’ve a poor basing technique but trying to get PVA into the nooks between figures in the centre usually results in flock and sand attached to figures rather than bases.
It takes a long time to make an army. As I’m generally making both sides myself the time from starting a project to having something to put on the table is considerable. While I’m not necessarily a slow painter, I’m usually only able to get a few hours painting in a week, which means I’m maybe averaging one unit a week.
Larger bases means larger table. While I do have the means to set up and play a large game, it usually requires the guts of a day to do it, as need to rearrange furniture, get fold up tables from the roof space, then set it all up, play the game and then pack and return everything to normal. At such I’m only getting a game in every few months at best.
So with these in mind, for future projects I want to explore a different basing style and standard that will allow me to get armies on the table quicker and allow me to play on a smaller space, while still looking visually appealing and be scaleable if I ever want to go larger in future. I’ve already start implementing some changes to new units in my crusades forces, switching to 40mm squares for new cavalry and will likely rebase the existing cavalry at some point in the future. For the moment I will keep to the 40mm squares for the crusades, given how heavily invested in it I am and future expansions will likely be only a few units here and there. I’ll have some updates on this in a future blog post once I get the varnishing can out!
For the moment I’m mostly thinking about ancients, as gunpowder armies and beyond will have different considerations. The primarily drivers for this are twofold:
The first is my Aztec project. I planned and purchased a large collection of figures for this based around a new basing style of 25mm squares, making units 3 or 4 bases wide and two deep. On getting the first unit painted up and test based I dislike it. Too fiddly and just didn’t look right. As formations aren’t of much importance to the period I tried a few larger single base options, which looked okay but would have the awkward flocking issue mentioned previously and the game size issues.
The second is my desire to do the ancient world. All of it. My love of history started at a young age with the classical Greeks and that never went away, though it’s spread much further and wider since then. I want to fight battles with armies across the breadth of the ancient world, all on the same basing system, and to try and do so at my current rate is just unrealistic in any reasonable timeframe.
So… where does that leave me? I recently picked up a copy of Horde of the Things and DBA 3.0, which use a basing style commonly referred to as DBx basing. This is mostly aimed at 15mm figures and generally has units on a single base 40mm frontage, with varying depth and figure counts to indicate different unit types. E.g infantry are typically 15-20mm deep while cavalry, chariots, etc tend to be 30-40mm deep. I had encountered this before and been unimpressed as 3 figures on a 40x15mm base doesn’t look like a unit of troops to me. In DBx this isn’t a concern as a base is not quite the same as a unit, but for use in other rules it doesn’t pass the “looks right” test. However, having seen some people using the basing in 10mm at a higher number of figures the look does get a lot closer to what I’d expect a unit to look like at minimum size. It also satisfies several of my requirements in that it would be quick to get an army put together and need less space to play so I wanted to experiment a bit and see how well I could represent everything I wanted using similar basing sizes.
I started with some of the most complicated units in the ancient world, the Republican Roman maniples. How do I represent them in a way that is historically and visually accurate but in a small space. A Roman maniple was 120 men strong, arranged ten men deep as best we can tell. It was made up of two 60 man centuries, but always fought together so the maniple is the smallest tactical unit required. I’m sure I’ll go into more details on the different types of maniple and method of fighting another time but essentially the were 20 maniples arranged in two lines in a chequerboard pattern with a screening force of light infantry in front and a line of veteran spearmen known as the Triarii behind. The spearmen were half the size of a standard maniple at 60 strong. So a basing system that represents those differences is important. It would be reasonable feasible to a roughly 1:10 ratio here, 12 figures to a unit definitely satisfies some requirements and arranged in two or three ranks will generally “look right”. But these are small units, tiny in the case of the 60 spear. What happens when we move to a Macedonian phalanx? It’s a 256 strong 16×16 man square, so would probably need 25 figures per unit in a 5×5. Not unfeasible by any means but getting into larger territory. What about a Greek hoplite phalanx? It would vary frontage and go for 4 to 50 men deep in extreme cases, though as standard it would be 8 men deep up to 12 men deep for larger units. So roughly half the depth of the Macedonian, but often a much wider frontage, with probably a lot more men still.
Attempting an accurate 1:10 ratio would prove a step too far, especially given unit sizes outside the Greco-Roman sphere are patchy at best. That way madness lies. A better approach would be a method that gives the appearance of this without being tied to strict numbers. Can I represent each of these and more on the same frontage and similar depth? What are the key visuals for these? A Macedonian phalanx should be a square and around twice the size of a maniple. A hoplite phalanx should be similar depth to a maniple but wider and more densely packed. Looking at other unit types, a warband should be big and irregular, while skirmishers should be loosely formed. Javilinmen, medium infantry and formed bowmen should be more regular than skirmishers but not as dense as heavy formed units.
To that end I’ve mostly settled on the following approach for infantry:
Maniples will be 4 figures wide by 2 deep on a standard base.
Triarii will be 3 figures wide by 2 deep or 4 wide and 1 deep on a small base.
Macedonian phalanx will be 4×4 on a deep base.
Hoplite phalanx will be 5×2 on a standard base.
Warband a loose formation of 12-15 figures on deep.
Skirmishers a very loose 5 figures on standard.
Medium infantry a loose formation of 8-10 figures on a standard.
What size for a standard, small and deep base? 40×20 or 50×25 are the best options for standard and 40×40 or 50×50 for deep. 40mm is more standardised across the industry while 50mm gives more space without figure squeeze. Small bases cause some issues as in some games they’re expected to be narrower frontage, while in others narrower depth. At the small scale there are being constructed at any such differences will be negligible though, so again it will be more about getting the look right.
Buckle in, things are going to get numerical. Most gaming systems using tape measures can be easily modified to allow large battle fields in small areas. For instance, converting inches to cm can give you the equivalent of a 10ft x 6ft gaming table on a standard 120cm x 70cm dining table with small frontage units. The main issue comes from grid based systems. For the purposes of this, I’ll be using To the Strongest! as a basis. In TtS it recommends a 50mm grid box for a 40mm frontage. This works, but is a bit tight, and wouldn’t quite fit the three lines of the maniples, plus the various counters and tokens required for the game. On the aforementioned 120x70cm table I could go all the way up to 100mm grid squares and still fit a 12×8 grid as required by the rules. I find the best choice is to go with grids about 20-30mm bigger than the frontage. With a 120mm frontage I’d tend to use 150mm squares. Extrapolating this down, for a 40mm frontage I’d probably want a 60mm grid square, and for 50mm frontage a 70-75mm grid square. With a 60mm square the 12×8 grid would feasibly fit on a large coffee table or pin board. While you can of course use smaller bases in bigger squares, it starts to look a bit strange. If I was to use a 40x20mm unit in a 100mm grid square there’d be around 60mm between each unit and it’s nearest neighbor in the line of battle. That just doesn’t quite sit right.
For a 100mm grid square my maximum base size would probably be 80mm frontage. This fits well with a 40mm frontage original basing as doubling a 40×20 up as armies grow can lead to a 80×40 quite nicely, which will still fit well on a dining table size play area.
I still have some testing to do, but it is looking more and more likely that a 40x20mm standard will be the route I take from a speed, ease of use, visual appeal, and scaleablity perspective. I do have a few more questions to ponder though. What of cavalry? 10mm cav will fit happily enough in a line on a 40×20, but a 40×30 would give a nicer visual appeal. This would however make a 60mm grid box a squeeze for two units to occupy. I could push up to a 65 or even 75 grid box, but then the 40×20 infantry may start to look a little lost. I need to think some more on small units too, whether it’s better to drop them to 30x20mm, or keep 40mm frontage but drop the depth to 15mm or even 10mm.
Well done if you got through this far! I’d like to say you get a gold star, but really you probably just get a pile of regrets from the time you just spent reading this. As you can see I spend far too much time over thinking these things. If you did read all the way to the end and have any thoughts or comments please do share them as I’ll be keen to hear from those with more experience in the hobby than I have and those who’ve gone through similar thought patterns themselves.
I hope my next post will be much more colourful and interesting, with lots of pictures of what all I’ve been working on these past 6 months or so once I get everything photographed. There’ll be the next installment in the Crusades history series coming at some point, I’ve just to base up some infantry to fight out the battle of Dorylaeum to inspire the accompanying historical post.
To tie in with my post on the history of the battle and siege of Nicaea in the First Crusade, I thought it would be a good time to play a small battle set up in a similar way. As a ruleset I used Soldiers of God and I’ll give some further thoughts on that at the end. The battlefield was set up with a steep ridge at one end (treated as rough ground and a hill) along which the Turks deployed with the Crusaders deployed in the plains below. The armies were built to reflect the forces used in the real battle. It’s been five months since I’ve played any battle, and longer still since I last used SoG, so was a little rusty on a few bits, however I got to grips with things again pretty quickly and the battle proceeded well. I apologise for the poor lighting in the photos, the sun did not want to play ball.
As the battle opened the armies began their advances towards each other. Kilij kept his better trained cavalry on the ridge top awaiting an opportunity to use them while the Turkoman light horse on the flanks swept down the ridge. The crusader knights surged forwards, with the infantry moving up slowly behind. The advance began to test the resolve of both sides, the crusaders right flank had a minor wobble but recovered while a handful of Turkomen on the Turkish right fled from the field completely!
The crusader knights move up to charge the light horse. The left flank unleashes it’s missiles but the Knights plow on undeterred, causing them to scatter. The Turkish left is more successful and manages to cause disorder amongst two charging units of knights, slowing their advance.
The beleaguered knights call on God for strength and prepare to surge forward with renewed effort and despite taking heavy losses they make contact with the enemy in a crushing blow, shaking off any trepidation in the bloodbath they enter, routing the tribal horse. The rest of the light horse flee and scatter from their charge. Kilij, seeing the crusaders are reaching the bottom of the ridge, starts sending his trained cavalry down to take advantage of any weaknesses in the Christian lines.
As the Turkish ghulams close with the crusader knights they start to feel a little wary of these heavily armed monsters and have no desire to charge headlong into a melee. Instead they take potshots with their bows, doing no real damage. The Turkomen cavalry are more effective with their archery, causing some consternation amongst the crusader ranks, though one unit strayed too close to the infantry crossbows and took some damage for their troubles, before being caught by the crusader infantry in a melee. They took some damage but their speed and maneuver ability kept their confidence high.
The Christian knights were stalled at the ridge edge, being unable to maneuber over the steep ridge and seeking a path they could use to assault the enemy lines. The infantry move up, pushing out on the flanks and assaulting the light horse. The Knights regroup and pull back to give themselves space to move and the ghulams move away from the Knights to focus on the infantry. On the Turkish left, the horse caught by the infantry is destroyed and flees from the field.
The additional space allows the Knights to turn about and line up fresh charges at the flanking Turks. All hell broke loose. Knights charged into enemy formations left, right and centre, the Turks responded with mad charges of their own to deflect some of the impetus of the knights. Arrows tore into advancing lines as the melee crashed and circled. As the dust cleared, it was evident the fight had been a bloody massacre. A unit of knights and crossbowmen were clearly wiped out, but so to were a unit of ghulam, not to mention Kilij himself along with another of his generals had been wounded and dragged from the field. The morale of both sides was spent and they withdrew to lick their wounds. On any other day this would be a mutual defeat but as the goal of the crusaders was to prevent the Turks getting into the city, they could just about claim a pyrrhic victory. Barely.
All in all it was a good game. It went a little bloodier than historically for the Crusaders, I think due to not giving enough plains space on the table. The Turks were able to quickly retreat up the ridgeline, when in reality the knights had time to charge them before they got there. Nevertheless it turned out out well. After a slow moving turn or two while the knights repositioned, violence erupted across the battlefield and in a single turn the battle was over. Both sides were reduced to below zero morale (though much more negative for the Turks with the loss of two commanders) so it was a mutual defeat.
In the past I’ve had issues with Soldiers of God being a bit of a slow paced game at times, there was a bit of that here, but given the higher ratio of cavalry than in previous games things did move a lot faster and the battle turned vicious in the blink of an eye.
I’m not sure if I’ll do every battle I write about this way, but it might be interesting to do some of the main ones. I’ll need to paint up a lot more forces though, especially horse archers of whom I never seem to have enough! Hopefully there’ll be more of that to come in the near future.
In the last post, we looked at some of the key players in the First Crusade on both sides and how the various Christian leaders made their way to Constantinople (Byzantium).
A brief summary of where we are so far: The Byzantine Emperor Alexios sent a request to the Pope to put out a call for some good Christian knights to aid him in his war with the heathen Turks who had overrun eastern Christendom. Rather than a small contingent of elite nobles as hoped, thousands of cross-sworn soldiers of all levels of social standing turned up at the Emperor’s gate. Alex, wary of what such a horde of heavily armed troops might do if left to their own devices, asked the leaders to swear oaths to him that they’d return all reconquered territory to their rightful owner, i.e. him, and ferried them across the Bosphorus with much haste. Their first target? The ancient city of Nicaea.
Nicaea (or Nicea) at this time was under the control of the Seljuk Turks, specifically Kilij Arslan, Sultan of Rum. The lands of Rum covered much of modern-day Turkey and were so named because when they conquered the area from the Byzantine Empire, the Byzantines rather confusingly called themselves the Romans, so the Turks assumed that was the name of the land they had conquered – Rum.
Nicaea, a great city on the edge of a lake going back to ancient Greek and Roman times, was the Turkish capital for the region and where most of the Sultan’s treasures and family were kept. This was somewhat unusual for the nomadic Turks who valued pasture land for their vast herds of horses over pesky immovable cities, which they viewed as little more than tribute givers to provide funds for the army. On the whole, they tended to work like a national scale extortion racket1, sideling up to a city and passing suggestive comments in how flammable those thousands of buildings looked, all it would take is a few hundred clumsy oafs dropping torches and we’ve had such a long ride and our arms are tired holding these flaming sticks and what’s that? You’re wanting to give us all your precious belongings just out of the goodness of your heart? Well, thank you so much!
This did, however, show an increasing trend towards a more settled status for the Turks and indeed when the Crusade arrived, the Sultan was off at the other side of his domain, attempting to forcefully settle some land away from another group of Turks known as the Danishmends. When word first reached Killy that a force of Christians had arrived, he dismissed them. His previous experience with the recent People’s Crusade lead him to believe this was another rabble of troublesome peasants who could be dealt with after he was done with the Danishmends. He was very much mistaken.
The crusaders besieged Nicaea on 14th of May 1097. Godfrey was the first to arrive but was soon followed by Bohemond and the others as they were transported over from Constantinople. They were joined by Peter the Hermit, who was still floating around with the remnants of the People’s Crusade2, as well as a small Byzantine contingent sent along to keep an eye on things. Raymond and his large army was, however, several days behind as was Robert. The city was well defended with multiple tall, broad walls, a deep water moat fed by the lake and by hundreds of towers equipped with ballista (giant crossbows firing huge heavy bolts).
As was standard for the time, the crusaders launched an attack as soon as they arrived to try and overwhelm the city, but the city had known of their coming and had time to prepare the defences and barricade the gates with earth and rubble. The attack was thrown back by the defenders and the Christian forces settled down for a siege. As Nicaea was bordered by marshy ground to the south as well as a large lake to the west and they hadn’t any ships to blockade the port, the crusaders focused their siege to the north and east.
By this point, Killjoy Arslan had received word of the real size and strength of the first crusader armies and gave up his squabbles in the east to rush back to his capital, arriving just a day after the first Christians. Scouting out the crusader position he realised the south was poorly defended and the armies were not all there yet, so he could attack quickly and move his forces into the city to bolster the defence. Things started to go poorly for the Sultan when several of his scouts fell into Christian hands and after a little “gentle persuasion” revealed the Turkish plan, allowing the crusaders to prepare a defence and send word to Raymond to stop dawdling and move his arse along to get there in time for the attack with the rest of the army. A forced march ensued to arrive just in time for the battle the following morning.
The elite core of the Sultan’s army, around twenty per cent of the troops, were the personal household troops, the Askar (army), along with some Ghulam/Mamluk3 slave soldiers. These were well-armoured, well-equipped and well-mounted troops, highly trained and veterans of many battles. They were armed with powerful composite bows, sharp swords, and sturdy lances and were highly proficient in their use. They could ride rings around crusader infantry, unleashing storms of arrows into their ranks, then go toe to toe with the knights in a melee. They were exceptionally badass and looked the part with golden shining shields and jewel-encrusted standards that glittered in the sunlight. The rest of his army, the vast majority, was made up of the Turkomen, light tribal cavalry archers, who would swarm across the battlefield like wasps, using their arrow stings to wear down the enemy then melting away in feigned retreat if charged, only to circle back and attack again when the coast was clear. This made for a fast and flexible force that could cover large distances in short times and outflank and outmanoeuvre their enemy.
The crusader forces, in contrast to the all-mounted Turks, was primarily an infantry force. This infantry would be equipped with a wide array of weapons and armour and was well supported with large contingents of crossbowmen known as arbalists. The crossbows of this time were weaker, less accurate and couldn’t keep up the rate of fire of a bow. Regardless, crossbows were cheap, lightweight and easy to produce and they didn’t require the years of and experience that a bow experience. This made them an easy and obvious ranged weapon to equip masses of inexperienced peasants with and could be devastating when used effectively in combination with the heavy European infantry and cavalry. So much so in fact that various Pope’s over the years tried (unsuccessfully) to prevent Christians from using them against other Christians4. Around fifteen to twenty per cent of the armies were made up of the knights. These heavily armoured cavalry troops were the cream of European society, equipped with the finest armour5 and weaponry of the time period. Their horses were also larger and heavier than the nimble horse of the Turks, which gave increased weight to their charges when they crashed into Turkish lines. While these weren’t quite yet the “tanks of the medieval battlefield” they would soon become, they were a force to be reckoned with and the impetuous charge they so loved would break many an Islamic army in battles to come.
Ray-Ray arrived just in time to take up position to the south and as the Turkish horses poured over the ridgeline to the south, instead of a wide-open space and a sleepy camp of dozy Christians, they were met with the fully armed lines of Raymond’s army, and the rest of the crusader armies moving up in the east. The Turks surged forwards and unleashed a hail of arrows at the Christians, before turning back and fleeing in what seemed to be wild panic. The crusaders cheered and surged forward, assuming their ferocious presence had scared the Turks into flight. They were met with another wave of horsemen who unleashed their arrows then turned in feigned flight. The crusaders were meeting for the first time the famous hit and run, feigned retreat tactics of the nomadic horsemen. Archers would move in and out of the battle, attempting to disrupt enemy lines and draw contingents out into the open, where the heavier horse could ride them down.
The Christian knights, well trained and well-disciplined, held their lines and moved forward as one, rather than splitting into scattered and easily defeated groups like they were supposed to. The knights churned into the Turkish lines and this time the Turks fled for real, having no desire to cross swords with these heavily armoured monsters. They charged back up the ridge and disappeared into the mountains. The knights, on their larger and heavier horses, were unable to follow and went back to resume the siege, though not before beheading all the Turkish dead and wounded and parading the severed heads back through the camp. Some of these were kept as trophies on saddles and spears, some catapulted into the city as a message of fear and warning to the inhabitants, and a cartload or two sent to the Emperor as a gift.
Kilij had had his fill of killing (being primarily on the receiving end of it) by this point and abandoned the city to its fate. He would encounter the Christians again soon but he was out of the picture for the moment. The crusaders then put their full efforts into taking the city. They started using stones instead of heads to launch at the walls and built various battering rams, mobile sheds, and siege towers to break down, undermine and assault the walls. These were generally ineffective as the rough ground around the city and the numerous defensive towers made the approach treacherous. The sources tell of one of the first engines, “The Fox”, a heavy mobile shed full of sappers to burrow under the wall tipping up at an angle when reaching the wall, then collapsing in on itself, killing all inside. While the walls were hard to approach, they were equally difficult to breach and the stone-throwing catapults hadn’t enough force to do any serious damage to the thick walls. Hunger and disease ravaged their camps, as although the Byzantine supply lines kept the flow of goods coming to them, the hefty price tags they attached meant those who could afford it had enough to eat. Bobby Blah and the last of the crusaders arrived at this time, completing the encircling of the city. Well, semi-encircling, as the lakeside of the city was wide open allowing the inhabitants to resupply easily.
There are several tales of individual heroism recorded during the siege. One tells of a mad knight who was so frustrated with the inability of the siege engines to breach the walls that he ran up to the wall by himself and started hacking away with a pickaxe in one hand and a shield held over his head in the other. He shouted encouragement to the others to join him and hack down the wall themselves without the cover of the useless mobile sheds. Sadly he soon learned why his colleagues preferred a bit of cover for such tasks when after weathering a hail of rocks and javelins from above, he was crushed by a large rock. The defending Turks had their own heroic madmen, including one who single-handed stalled a crusader assault by firing crossbow bolt after bolt down on them, then switching to rocks and whatever else he could find when his ammo ran out. Despite going full Boromir and being pierced by around twenty shafts from the attackers, he still fought on ferociously, to the point that Duke Raymond himself, an expert marksman, had to be called to the assault and under the shield cover of several knights, delivered a mortal shot on the hapless Turk.
Assaulting the walls was never a pleasant task as would require weathering hails of missiles and showers of naphtha, a horrific flaming liquid known as Greek fire in the west, that stuck to and burned everything. One particularly embarrassing defence tactic for the attackers was to throw down hooks on long lines to snag on crusader armour, then to pull them up the walls, kill and strip them and then hang their corpses over the wall to discourage the enemy. Despite this, over time some of the besiegers began to undermine the walls by tunnelling under them, building wooden braces, then setting fire to them to weaken and collapse the foundations. Unfortunately for them, burning out the tunnels to collapse them could take some time and often the walls would subside during the night, giving the defenders time to reinforce and rebuild them before the morning assault, leading to more fruitless deaths and having to start the mining efforts anew.
The siege had been going on for about five weeks when the crusaders finally admitted they couldn’t take the city by force alone. After some discussions back and forth with the Byzantines, Alexios agreed to send some ships to finish the encirclement by taking the lake. The only problem was that the lake wasn’t connected to the sea, meaning these ships had to be transported at great effort overland. Along with these new ships the Byzantines sent more troops along, primarily archer contingents armed with more powerful and efficient bows than the crusaders to drive the defenders from the walls. The harbour now fully blockaded, and the siege engines beginning to weaken the walls again, the Sultana6 and sons of Kilij attempted to flee the city but were captured by the Byzantine fleet. With this and the ongoing crusader attacks, the Turks realised the situation was hopeless and sent word to the Byzantine fleet commander that they were willing to talk terms. Crucially at this point, the Byzantines failed to inform the crusaders that this was happening, leaving them to continue dying in their assaults against the walls.
As the crusaders prepared for another assault someone shouted out and pointed to the walls. Where the battered flags of the Turks had once stood, new flags with Byzantine markings now flapped defiantly. The city had surrendered, not to the crusaders who had been fighting and dying in the assaults the past six weeks, but to the Byzantines who turned up at the end to take the city and the credit. To add salt to the wounds, the Byzantines allowed the Turks safe passage with all their personal possessions and even enlisted many of them into the Byzantine army, leaving the crusaders next to nothing to show for all their blood, sweat and toil. There’s a reason that Byzantine is a byword for deception, craftiness and manipulation. The Byzantine commander, Butumites (I am sure that the Crusaders came up with many unpleasant nicknames for him) was given the title of Duke of Nicaea. Emperor Alexios, wary that the crusaders were a tad upset, reminded them of their oath to return the former Byzantine lands to him and gave them a large sum of money for their troubles, drawn from the Sultan’s treasury that had been left in the city.
This did assuage a few noble egos, but many of the soldiers were left with a bitter taste as they had nought to show for their endeavours but a handful of copper coins rather than their well earned looting and pillaging. This was only one of many encounters between the Eastern and Western Christians that would turn their relationship increasingly sour, but with nothing left to do at Nicaea, the crusaders turned south and began their long trudge through Anatolia.
Hopefully it won’t be quite so long until the next one, but in the meantime if you’re interested in a battle fought in simulation of the battle of Nicaea, please check out this post!
1 Or “government” in modern parlance.
2 Who by this point were probably wishing this mad Pete fellow had stayed a hermit rather than leading them all into a Turkish bloodbath.
3 The terms are used interchangeably depending on time and region but they were essentially non-muslim slaves (that’s all the words mean) who were trained from a young age to be a powerful military caste, completely loyal to the Sultan. This practice began with the Abbasids in the 9th century and would continue in various forms, such as the Ottoman janissaries, up until the early 19th century. Some would become powerful figures in their own right, even founding their own dynasties in Afghanistan and Egypt.
4 Their use against heathens and pagans was, of course, completely fine and even to be encouraged.
5A brief note on armour. The word knight often conjures images of men on huge horses clad head to toe in plates of gleaming armour charging with lances couched. This would be centuries off at this point. The knights here were primarily those of the Norman style, as seen in the Bayeux tapestry, in steel mail over thick cotton gambisons with kite shields, swords and spears. They were, however, the most heavily armoured people on the battlefield of the period.
This morning I was able to get FK&P onto the table for the first time. Been working on the ECW troops for the last year so it’s good to finally get them out.
Unfortunately the second table I’d ordered didn’t arrive but was able to get a decent setup using the one I had and the kitchen table. For those who aren’t aware, FK&P by Simon Miller and Andrew Brentnall is a playing card driven, grid based game for the British Civil Wars. It’s based on the To The Strongest! Ancients ruleset with many additions and tweaks to suit the period. The basic concept is you activate a unit by drawing a card, then continue to activate units drawing cards until you draw an Ace or a lower card in a unit with a higher card. Those activations can then be used to move and attack, drawing various cards for hits and saves.
Below is a picture set up with the grid. The grid corners are laid out using small stones and tussocks made from glue and flock – glue gun blob, flock, PVA spray.
The Royalist order of battle consists of two standard units of foot, Prince Ruperts Bluecoats and the King’s Lifeguard of Foot, as well as a pike heavy unit of mixed regiments, the various leftovers of broken battalia from a long war forming a tercio under Sir Henry Bard. There are also two units of horse, Sir William Vaughn and the Northern Horse. All units are rated as veteran and the horse have attached shot, small units of musketeers to provide some extra initial firepower.
The order for the Parliamentary side is three standard units of foot, John Pickering’s, Sir Hardress Waller’s and Phillip Skippon’s own, as well as a unit of commanded shot, two field artillery and two units of horse, Nathaniel Rich’s and Edward Whaley’s.
The miniatures are all 10mm Pendraken and based on 120mm frontage for foot and 100mm frontage for horse and commanded shot. The grid was 150mm squared.
The Royalists make the first move and press the advance. Cautious of the enemy artillery the horse sweep round the flanks while the infantry surge forward to try and close before too much damage can be done. Bard’s motley crew lag behind the other foot but still press forward. The Parliamentary horse rush to greet the advancing Rupert but both sides draw off after an initial clash ends in stalemate. The Parliamentary foot move up on the flanks hoping to envelop the smaller enemy force while the concentrated firepower batters their centre, but at this distance the shooting from both sides proves ineffective.
The Royalist advance moves up to closer range, exchanging fire with the ill-prepared artillery and driving them from the field, but Skippon and Waller fill the gap and lay down retributive fire, inflicting heavy casualties. The Northern Horse join the flank fight and both sides battle hard, neither giving any ground.
Vaughan breaks Whalley and sets off in persuit, but the arrival of Cromwell gives Rich’s men a fresh burst of vigour and they press the fight against the Northern Horse, breaking them and setting off in a persuit of their own. While Rupert’s foot fall back to regroup from the fight, the King’s Lifeguard launch a brutal salvee charge into Waller’s men. The sturdy Roundheads take the punishment and push the redcoats back, turning their muskets on them and unleashing wave after wave of shot until their red coats become redder still. The Lifeguard break and flee the field.
As the foot start to tire from the heavy fighting, Bard launches a half arsed charge, but is driven back by the concentrated fire of the enemy. They have no desire to press the advantage though and take the respite where it is available. Rupert, in a rare moment of awareness, realised the foot were struggling and managed to rally his remaining horse while Cromwell charges after the jubilant horse calling them back to the fray unsuccessfully.
Cromwell finally manages to pull his horse back in line and gets them turned round and back towards the fight in short order. Rupert struggles with his own horse as, unused to continuing the fight after a good rout, they mill around in disarray but eventually get turned in the general direction of the enemy. The foot battle back and forth, slowly grinding each other down.
The bluecoats surge forward in a last ditch effort and break the heavily disordered Parliamentarians. With renewed effort they launch an attack on Pickering’s reserve troops but are thrown back by the fresh troops. Rupert urges his horse onwards towards the exposed flank of Waller’s regiment but the long day has tired them and Waller has time to turn his men to face the incoming attack, stopping it short. With a ripple of musketry from the Parliamentary shot, Bard’s beleaguered troops finally break and flee from the field. Seeing his centre broken and Cromwell’s imminent return, Charles sounds the retreat. The day goes to the Parliamentary forces, but the Royalist veterans put on a brave fight.
Overall this was a lot of fun. The difference between the staying power of the veteran Royalists vs the numerical superiority of the Parliamentarians gave for an interesting balance. The fight got pretty close at the end. Had Rupert got one more activation and managed to hit Bard’s flank it might well have been a Royalist victory.
As far as the rules go, I do think they’re an improvement over TtS! and can see a lot of the modifications that have been added to the predecessor come to their fruition here. I suspect we’ll see those come into the ancients rules too in the next version.
The game started a bit slowly, partly due to my constant checking of the rules for things like range, and what numbers I needed to get, but after the first turn or two I didn’t need to check them again and got in the swing of things. The first few turns had high cards for activations and low cards for attacks, the opposite of what you want, so that slowed things down a bit too, but once the range closed the fighting got much faster and more furious. I particularly liked the persuit mechanism as it was something very important in the outcome of fights of this period and something not all rules cover well.
The most awkward part of it all is the set up process. The tussocks and stones worked well to not distract from the game, but laying out the grid with measuring tapes was time consuming and awkward. My two options going forward are to either use my felt cloth and mark out the grid directly on that, or else make some form of template to make it easier to lay out quickly.
I know I made some mistakes with the rules, but hopefully only a few small ones. I’ll have to have another read of the rules now I’ve had a game to put it all into context. I’ll definitely get some more games in the future and have a few more units in the queue to add to the forces in future. I didn’t use a few of the rules available as this was a test game, but will be more confident with using then in future.
This year has been one of the busiest of my life, both in work and personally. Hobby time overall has been pretty small compared to what I’d like due to time and budgetary constraints.
However, while work continues apace, my personal life has become a bit quieter and a bit less expensive for the moment so all being well I can focus some more time on hobbies!
The past few weeks I’ve been getting into my lead hillock and clearing it down a bit. First up, some additions to the Islamics for the crusades. This was primarily Arab tribal units and horse archer units with figures mostly from Irregular miniatures, though a few from Pendraken too.
I’ve also made up a few “minor” command bases for the Crusaders. These can operate as sub commanders, though I intend to use them as the main commanders in a campaign that I plan to do between two minor (imaginary) Crusader and Islamic states. Figures are again a mix of Irregular and Pendraken.
Next up a little preview of some work in progress. I’ve settled on the Crimean War as my 2mm project and have started putting together the British units. Still toying with basing design and flags.
There’ll be plenty more to follow in the near future. Initially I’m doing the Battle of the Alma with BBB so will need to fill out the British, French, Russians and a few Turkish too. Depending how I feel about things after this I may expand the forces out to cover the entire set of BBB Crimean War scenarios.
This week also marks the arrival of a fairly large order from Pendraken:
This contains the seeds of multiple projects to keep me going for the next little while, plus expansions to existing ones.
The main new project is from their Aztec range, where I’m hoping to do some of the pre-Columbian wars between the various states such as the Mexicans, Tarascans and Tepanecs.
There was also a few models from their early 20th Century ranges and a copy of Blitzkrieg Commander IV to experiment with a “Very Nor’n Irish Civul Whar” project, more on that in future posts.
There’s a stack of figures from their fantastic fantasy/dungeon ranges to have a stab at some fantasy RPG games. I’m mostly interested in historical, but the odd foray into fantasy can be fun and it’s a good way to draw others in.
There are several figures to round out my ECW armies, as well as some packs from their newly (re)published TB Line medievals to expand out the Crusader armies. Their figures, especially the cavalry, are a bit bigger than Pendraken’s normal cavalry figures, which works well as most of my knights are currently from Magister Militum, which are generally a bit chunkier and taller anyway.
Lots to keep me busy! I’m sure I’ll also be getting back to the Flippant History posts at some point too, though they’ll probably take a back seat for a while to painting.
As I’ve mentioned a few times in past blog posts, I’ve been working on an English Civil War, or British Civil War, or War of the Three Kingdoms (but that just makes me think of China and all the potential there…) project. It has been somewhat slow going, mostly due to this being a pretty busy year (one of the busiest of my life to be honest) so in the past ten months I’ve only been able to produce a couple of small forces.
I’m basing the project on the Battle of Naseby, a turning point in the Civil War that saw the Parliamentarian New Model Army overcome the rag tag Royalist veterans. I de-scoped my initial plans a bit to focus on producing two smallish forces that I can game with, then add to and expand into the full order of battle I want.
I’ve now (finally!) finished these small forces and as of today have them varnished and drying. I decided this would be a good time to photograph them as well. Alas my photography skills are poor, and I’ve only my phone camera and poor lighting. Though typically the sun came out after I was finished! Awh well.
I’ll be putting together an order to “finish” the project in future, but want to take a break from the period for a while and focus on other things. I’ve a bunch of odds and ends for the Crusades projects to paint up and I think I’ve settled on a 2mm Crimean War project next.
So without further ado…here are the pictures. You can click on them to enlarge.
Parliamentarian New Model Army
Bits and Bobs
Various markers that can be used for attached shot, hero markers, etc. I’ve some casualty markers too, but I haven’t photographed them, so you’ll have to wait for when I get a game in for that!
I’ll be expanding there forces gradually over time. More horse, more foot, some dragoons are all on the agenda. I’ll also try and get a game in at some point as I’ve been looking forward to trying out the For King and Parliament rules.
Last week I was able to roll out some of the 2D armies for some games. I’d put together forces for the Boyne, Culloden and Gettysburg and got a chance to play a couple of games with my father.
Culloden didn’t get onto the table, though as it was the one I was least interested in I wasn’t too concerned. For the Battle of the Boyne I used the Pike and Shotte rules with my own custom scenario for the battle. For Gettysburg I used the excellent Bloody Big Battles ruleset with a scenario from the BBB Yahoo group.
The magnetic tape the paper counters and labels were attached to worked well, giving the playing pieces some weight and other than perhaps cutting some of my flexible ferrous paper into movement trays to keep them all together on hills, I’m pretty happy with them. I’ll definitely be using the tape for future projects, provided I can find a way to cut it a bit more regularly square. I suspect patience and care is the answer but life’s too short for taking your time!
I’d initially scaled the games for dining table play but the discovery of a table tennis table at the place we were staying was too good an opportunity to pass up. With a little tweaking I was able to stretch them to suit the larger space.
I’ll be sharing all the resources I used here at the bottom of this post so stick around if you’re interested in any of it for yourself.
The Battle of the Boyne
The Battle of the Boyne is quite the appropriate one to play given the proximity to the 12th July, the traditional “celebration” of the battle in my home country, complete with bonfires, bowler hats, orange sashes, marching bands, protests, riots and flags on every lamppost (I counted no less than sixty on my short walk to work). If you don’t know of what I speak, Wikipedia is a good place to start!
Controversial as the “celebrations” may be all these centuries later, it is still an important turning point in the history of the British isles and as a battle offers a lot of fun opportunity to game.
Queen Mary and her consort, Prince William of Orange, had recently been welcomed by Parliament as the new Queen and King of England when the last King of England, James II, having the audacity to declare himself a Roman Catholic, was promptly deposed. It’s said when William turned up on England’s shores for some light invading, King James decided to do nothing about it due to having a bit if a nose bleed, which was enough to make even the most loyal of royalists rethink their position. Supporters flocked to William and Mary in droves and James, in a petulant temper, chucked the the king’s seal* into the river and fled the city. This gave Parliament the convenient excuse of claiming James had abdicated. Huzzah to the Glorious Revolution! All nice and neat. Now William…er well his wife Mary (James’ little sister) could be Queen and after some legal wrangling and red faces in the House, William and Mary were declared joint monarchs.
James ran off to Ireland to drum up support with the help of the French and started making trouble in his neighbourhood. He got in one little fight and then got scared and ran off to be the king of … nothing. That fight was the battle of the Boyne, part of a wider campaign by William to bring the unruly Irish (who seemed to think they should be allowed to practice religion however they wished, the horror!) under full control. In truth the battle was less significant at the time than the battle of Aughrim a year later, which ended the Williamite War in Ireland, but as James and William were both present at the Boyne it tends to get all the press.
Interestingly, it was the anniversary of Aughrim that was originally celebrated on the 12th, with the Boyne taking over in importance a century later and stealing the date (it was fought on the 1st by the Julian calendar). Also, if seen in the wider context of European politics it is interesting to note that the Pope at the time was in fact an ally of William in the League of Augsburg arrayed against the French, a bit of an odd quirk of history given the sectarian nature of the war and remembrance of it.
The battle was preceded by a feint by William, sending a small contingent of cavalry far down the river to ford while bringing his main force towards Oldbridge where the river was more easily forded.
James mistook the feint for the main attack and sent around two thirds of his force to intercept. They pulled up opposite sides of an impassible marsh and stared at each other until word reached them that William had crossed already at which point James promptly ran away.
* The kind used to stamp things, not the noisy sea mammal, who would be unperturbed by a dip in the river.
I decided to focus the battle at the Oldbridge crossing, here are some shots of the setup:
Oldbridge Town, the main objective of the game to hold/take. The fields in the distance cover the whole area enclosed by the hedge (as I said, expecting a smaller table!)
I’ve set up two crossing points, one a ford, the other an island with slightly different rules for each. There’s marshy ground on the other side of the island.
The sheep in their enclosures. No sheep were harmed in the making of this battle.
I took on the role of James’ understaffed defenders while my dad decided to lead King Billy’s forces across the river. William started his advance by sweeping the cavalry round towards the island, and moving his elite infantry up to the ford. He opened combat with a somewhat ineffective artillery barrage. The defending forces deployed the dragoons along the hedges and moved the cavalry over towards the ford to try and support the Oldbridge defence. The infantry fired a few potshots across the river to no real effect. William’s cavalry moved across the island with great elan, only to end up mired in swampy ground and milling about in skirmishing disorder for most of the battle, while the Irish dragoons picked them off one by one. The infantry began their inexorable advance across the river ford under the fire of the defenders. The Dutch guard advanced up to the walls and hedges of Oldbridge before being thrown back by the king’s foot guard. The Irish cavalry tore along the river towards the encroaching enemy but stalled in confusion under the harsh battering from William’s artillery barrages, eventually becoming broken and scattered. William’s infantry kept advancing under heavy fire and getting thrown back by the elite King’s Foot Guard at the walls. Confident in the defense ability of the guard, two units of infantry hopped into the open to enfilade the enemy and managed to break a couple of units before getting bogged down in combat. A shaken unit of Williams infantry (mistakenly) advanced on the guard and despite drawing combat, the support of the units coming up behind was enough to cause the foot guard to take a break test, inexplicably breaking completely without having taken a single casualty. Luck of the Irish…
The Williamite forces surged forward seizing the town and taking the victory. James turned up at the end to see what was going on, far too late to do anything worthwhile.
Some shots from the game, Dutch in Orange, Irish in Green. Obviously!
William’s forces advancing towards Oldbridge
Some milling cavalry
The advancing cavalry, looking frisky, unaware of the artillery barrage about to cause them some consternation
All in all the scenario played out well. I think I managed to organise the forces well and the terrain added a lot of flavour to the game and helped balance the overwhelming numbers of William. I did get a few rules wrong, only one of which really altered the overall play, but was a good close game regardless.
I might make a few tweaks to the scenario if I play again, but all in all, I was pretty happy. This was my first time playing P&S but found them to flow as well as the HC games I’ve played. It would have been good had I time to play them solo first to iron out a few rough edges as was teaching my dad as I went. His summary was it was good but a bit too complicated to remember all those rules!
Next up was the Battle of Gettysburg using BBB. This as a cracking game played over two days and was a close one in the end.
I’ll not go into the history as I did with the Boyne as my ACW knowledge isn’t so deep (an area I’m working to improve) but this is another attacker Vs defender scenario with the fresh faced Union troops attempting to hold their ground against General Lee’s Confederate veterans.
Dad took the dirty rebs, I took the upstanding army of the Union.
Here’s some pictures of the layout, ran out of brown tape (having used it at the Boyne) so grey and brown indicate roads, black is railway (and later rifle pits) and blue the streams. Sorry about the poor lighting, though as you can see by the light it’s been a glorious day outside.
The rebels swept in from the north but fell like wheat to the scything gunfire of the Union forces. All day they pushed forwards but couldn’t make ground on Gettysburg. They did better on the western flank, after a bit if a stalemate over ttje railway line, they broke it and proceeded to push the Union back from the railway, forcing them to retreat up Seminary hill and pushing forward to threaten the west of Gettysburg.
Night fell with nothing more gained and the forces pulled back to recover their troops and give space for reinforcements to.make their way to the field. Day two opened with a smattering of ineffective gunfire from the Union on the west, but a devastating barrage on the east against the rebel artillery position caused some damage.
The rebels pushed forwards with great gusto, advancing on Gettysburg from the north and west but the concentration of fire from the Union lines held them at bay. A Union assault up Benner’s hill was repelled by the rebel artillery but a further Union barrage swept the hill wreaking havoc amongst the rebel artillery corps.
Some shots of where things are halfway through “day 2”:
Fighting intensified in the second half of day 2. Pender lead the assault from the west of Gettysburg while McLaws and Anderson pushed from the North and Rodes advancing cautious from the North East. Early and Heth sat back and licked their wounds. The invincible Hood charged the rifle pits of Barlow against withering fire from across the hill, pushing them back to the river then obliterating them in a follow up assault.
The assault on Gettysburg was a success and in the closing hours of day 2, despite the valiant defence from the Iron Brigade they were shaken out if Gettysburg and the victorious rebels swarmed into the town for a well earned night’s rest. The forces consolidated their positions over night and brought in their last reinforcements. The cavalry was still engaged in battle on the east field so didn’t make an appearance.
Day three opened with the Union moving swiftly up to defend their western flanks and trying to take the round tops and devils den against Pickett and Hood moving up the West. The northern lines sent a smattering of fire into Gettysburg without much impact. The rebels launched their assault on cemetery hill, throwing everything they had at the position and quickly overwhelming the defending Union troops. Good and Pickett, overcautious of the Union artillery after the damage they’d done in the previous day’s hung back, attempting to silence the artillery position before assaulting up the steep slopes of the round tops. They succeeded in silencing them but we’re unable to take advantage of this before the fresh Union reinforcements made their way to the hills and the den. The Union made a failed attempt to retake the cemetery and as the day drew to a close the rebels in the North threw their forces against Culps hill in one last desperate charge but was thrown back by the combined firepower of the Union.
The battle ended in a draw. The rebels had fought hard to take Gettysburg and cemetery hill, but were completely spent by the efforts. Both sides drew back to leave the fight to another time.
All in all a close run thing. Had the rebels taken Gettysburg earlier in the game they could probably have swept to victory. As it was, the solid defence put up by the Union troops broke the Confederacy troops down and managed to hold in to a draw.
Assault on Gettysburg
Assault on Cemetery Hill
Pickett’s not charge
Below are links to download the labels, scenarios and templates I used for these games.
As promised, I’ve rolled out the new 2D armies to try out the Bloody Big Battles ruleset. This let me put together a game to play the rules out despite the fact I don’t have a proper miniatures army.
The scenario I picked was the Battle of The Alma from the Crimean War. The French, Turkish and British forces are attempting to overrun a defended Russian position to open the road to Sevastapol.
The terrain is very much rough and ready, much like the armies themselves!
The Turkish position arrayed for the defence:
And the allied forces entering the field:
Turn one begins with the allies advancing on the two bridges to try and sweep aside the Russians.
The Russians move in to block the way:
Turn two the British push across the river but take a heavy beating from the Russian guns in the process:
The Russians are pushed back by the French but the Russians are still preventing them from crossing the river.
On turn three the Russian assaults continue to hold the French at the river while the British seem to be stalled exchanging fire with the Russians across a stream.
The British occupy a small village and repel an assault by the cavalry.
Turn four and the pressure is on, there are only six turns to take the roads and the allies are far behind where they need to be.
The French slog across the river slowly while the British seem to do little. It seems like they have forgotten they can cross streams without a bridge!
Turn five and the French continue their grinding slog towards the objective while the British slowly, cautiously try to outflank the much weaker opposing forces rather than getting their feet wet and storming them across the stream.
The surge of Russians against the French throw them back from their hard won ground.
Turn six, the final turn and the British finally realise that they can just hop over the piddly stream and give the Ruskies their cold steel. Too little, too late.
The French flail around in disarray. The fight is over, night draws in and the allies retreat in disgrace. There is much to celebrate in the Russian camp that night.
The purpose of this game was threefold. First to try out the cardboard counter armies, second to try out BBB and third to give one of my potential periods for a next project a go.
On the cardboard armies, they fared well enough. My two main issues came from the lack of weight and lack of identification. The identification issue can easily be solved with a bit of prep work to create labels but the weight issues may need some more work. The issue being that the light card tends to bunch up and overlap making it difficult to move about. This could be solved with MDF counters as someone suggested, or by using some sort of sabot system. I’m pondering the use of some old painting sticks to make labelled sabots for the counters to solve both these issues. Regardless, they worked well to get a feel for the conflict and I didn’t mind the abstracted nature of it so I’m sure they’ll come out to play again in future. Best of all, the entire project fits into a small zip up food bag!
As suggested in comments of the previous post and a related thread on the Pendraken forum, there are some great paper armies out there as well as a load of excellent looking paper terrain on http://www.juniorgeneral.org so I’ll be definitely checking that out. Thanks to everyone who commented, the feedback and suggestions are always welcome!
Regarding the Bloody Big Battles ruleset, I really enjoyed them. They’re intuitive and fun to play and keep the action moving at a good pace. I played the entire game with just two dice, rolling against a table for movement and combat rather than the buckets o’ dice or single resolution approach that I’ve encountered previously. I probably did many things wrong (like forgetting that you can cross streams until turn six!) and I’m looking forward to reading the rules in depth now I’ve a sense of the core concepts. I always find the best way to get to grips with a rule set is to get it on the table and fail fast. You learn more from where you go wrong than obsessing over knowing it all before you start. It’s all in the name of fun so no harm in fudging things here and there using common sense where you’re uncertain! I’ll do a proper rule review in a future post once I’ve had another go with them. I’d enjoy playing this scenario again and trying different approaches to see how they fare. There’s plenty of other scenarios to choose from too!
Finally, the next project. I reckon that BBB will be a lot of fun to play in 2mm where you can represent the scale of the conflicts involved. The Crimean War is a potential option. As are the Prussian wars (Austro- and Franco-). At 2mm you can easily proxy armies without it looking out of place so it wouldn’t be too difficult to field multiple conflicts with the same sets of figures. There’s plenty of other rule sets out there too covering these periods that they will adapt well. Some more research to be done!
One of the issues I have with being a relatively new gamer is a lack of materials to play games with. Now I know for many people this gap in their own collection can be covered by combining with friends or joining a club, but for the moment I’ve been pretty much a solo gamer, roping in the odd friend or family member for a battle here and there, but providing everything myself. At present that means a sizable set of armies for the Crusades, a small set of English Civil War armies in progress and no scenery other than a could of bags of unbased trees and a few bags of base scatter.
There are clubs in my area, but having had quite a busy year so far I’ve not really had the time or inclination to go along to any. The aforementioned busy period also means progress has been fairly slow. Last year I managed to put together a couple of usable armies for the Crusades in a few months, however my follow up project, the English Civil War, has been going on for 6-8 months now and I’ve still a few units to finish before I’ll have even a small army to play with.
I’ve not posted yet about my ECW project on this blog yet (though have some progress updates on the Pendraken forum) so there’ll be more on that in a future post and hopefully an outing with them to the battlefield using For King and Parliament rules in the next couple of months. I really need to make some hedges though…
Regardless, this means getting into new periods and rulesets has a steep entry if I want to have two usable armies put together to face off. As I’m getting towards the end of “Phase 1” of the ECW project* I’ve been looking into researching a Horse and Musket era conflict next, to continue my core coverage of the difference periods of warfare. In order to speed up the process (and save some money) I’ve been looking into doing it in a very small scale, getting samples of both 6mm and 2mm. I think I’ve settled on doing the project in 2mm though haven’t decided where to focus it just yet. Mid to late 19th Century is the likely choice given the general uniformity of the… uniforms, compared to 18th Century and Napoleonic periods. This will look better at the very small scale and the scale will also give a better sense of the sheer numbers of people involved in the conflict. If I enjoy it I can plan a more visually appealing project using 10mm at a leisurely pace as I’ll already have a usable army to scratch the gaming itch if it arises. Assuming I don’t fall in love with the massed troops at the micro scales and do more projects there!
This weekend I received a copy of Chris Pringle’s Big Bloody Battles and its scenario counterpart covering the major European conflicts of the 19th Century. The game looks like a lot of fun and is very different from the rule sets I’ve been playing so far, being primarily ancient/medieval focused.
So how to decide what conflict to do? This gets me on to the title of this post. If I want to get a feel for what it is to play games in this period I need something to play with. If I want to do this with miniatures then I need to pick a conflict and spend time and money putting forces together. Bit of a catch 22 if I’m trying to decide what conflict. I’d have to just pick one that seemed interesting and dive in. Or…
Alternatively, I could make some very abstract units out of cardboard counters and use them to play some battles and get a feel for different armies and periods. With some different markers and clear differentiation I could even use these counters to represent just about any conflict I wanted.
While 2D counters will never give the same look and feel and satisfaction that painted, based miniatures would give, they do allow test games, rule teaching and versatility at a very abstract level. So rather than spending a rare free Saturday afternoon painting and basing my ECW Royalists as I’d intended, I instead went “back to school” with cardboard, rulers, scissors and colouring pencils to put together some cardboard troop counters and scenery pieces to use.
Simple red vs blue set up. Those with a horizontal line across the top represent infantry. Those with flags can be used as centre point stands or command as needed. The diagonally halved ones represent cavalry, the triangles artillery (despite looking a little like sail boats) and the circles with flags are generals. I can add markers or different symbols to show different units and statuses as well. If I use these for ancient battle I can use crossed swords, spears, bows, etc on the reverse to show different troop types.
To make up for my lack of scenery I’ve also started creating some 2D terrain to work with these.
This also has the added bonus of being highly portable. I’ve a family get together for a week next month that I might be able to get a battle or two in with some family members. While it would be impractical to transport miniatures while traveling, cardboard counters have no such issues.and would allow me to put on games in periods that might peak their interest.
Now, not only did I have some free time today, but I should have a few hours free on Sunday too and hope to put these troops into action in one of the scenarios from BBB. So stay tuned folks for the next post covering how they were to use in battle, how I found the rules and any other general ramblings that spring to mind.
Thanks for reading!
*There’ll likely always be more added to the armies as I play out scenarios and want to expand more, as I have been with the crusades and continue to do so. Indeed I’ve a stack of Saracens on my painting sticks along with the ECW at the moment.