Tuesday 24 February 2015

Modern Skirmish Gaming

After an enforced break caused by the usual clashes of work or family commitments, my regular gaming partner Craig and I were finally able to meet up for a game. We decided upon a game set in his fictional African country of N'Bote using the recently published free rules from Spectre Miniatures. I had played the Beta rules before and since then they have undergone quite a re-write according to Craig. They were fun to play first time round but lacked a certain something as I won the game easily without really having to do anything. So I approached the game with an open mind. As usual Craig had set up a lovely table with plenty of cover, but as I took the camera out the batteries died on me. Fortunately Craig has put up an AAR on his Blog, so you can see how the game unfolded there.

So how did I find the game? Well it was very easy to pick up again and had certainly improved over the last game. As usual we made a few mistakes with the rules, which in retrospect favoured my Militia forces. This did not take anything away from the game which had a certain cinematic feel about it, but with plenty of challenges for both sides in how best to use their troops. Actually having a printed rulebook to hand rather than a pdf. on a tablet etc made a huge difference as we were both able to read the rules at the same time as we went along. We both felt that the lack of spotting rules needed to be addressed, but some house rules should easily work to fix this. All-in-all a nice little ruleset that gives a fun and action packed game without constant reference to tables or the need to different die etc. I'd highly recommend that you download the free rules from the Spectre Miniatures website and have a look for your selves.

Post game Craig and I had our usual chat and one topic that cropped up was the current number of rulesets that deal with modern skirmish wargaming, mainly set in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now neither of these settings appeal to me, probably because the conflicts are too current for my taste and in game terms I don't find the scenarios that interesting. We both tried 'Ambush Alley' a few years ago and despite the rules being beautifully presented, they were awful to play and the scenarios varied in quality to say the least.

I've heard of 'Skirmish Sangin' by RadioDishDash, but as mentioned the setting doesn't float my boat. I invested in 'No End In Sight' by Nordic Weasel Games late last year as they seemed an interesting set of rules but importantly come with a very well thought out campaign system. Currently I enjoy playing linked narrative campaigns, either solo or as with Craig's N'Bote one, dipping in and out as time permits. I believe Craig is using this system for his campaign, but stand to be corrected.

I must be honest and find current African conflicts a little too close to home, given that I have a Nigerian wife, have lived in Nigeria and the current Boko Haram attacks have been rather too close for comfort at times to my in-laws. However I find Craig's setting to be one that I'm comfortable with and more convential as it were, without suicide bombers and IEDs, so something that would have happened in the '80s and '90s. Now these conflicts were brutal at times, make no mistake about it, but for me they are a period and setting that I'm comfortable to game. So much so that earlier in the year I bought some SAS and British Regulars from Empress Miniatures with the aim of joining in with the N'Bote campaign. I'm extremely tempted to buy some Militia as well but in all honesty I know that I simply won't have time to paint them.

I have yet to have a game of No End In Sight or have a proper read through of the rules, but from a quick glance they do look rather good. Of course the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Either way, it is nice to have found what look like two good, if rather different rules sets for Modern skirmish wargames, not something I had been expecting to play this year to be honest. But then unexpected 'finds' such as this are one of the pleasures of this hobby of ours.

Friday 13 February 2015

Annals Battle - Campaign Game 1

Dave Fielder and I have been playing some trial games of Dux Bellorum of late, as we awaited the arrival of his rulebook. Fortunately this arrived at the weekend, finally allowing Dave to tweak his warband to suit his playing style and also to get to grips with the nuances of the rules etc. So after a slight delay caused by Amazon free delivery, we were in a position to start our narrative campaign.

To make things easy and to fit in with the start of the campaign, we went for a straightforward Annals battle as per the rulebook. Both sides had 32 points to choose their warbands from plus up to 5 points of Strategies & Tactics. We diced to see who would be the Agressor, with my Welsh winning this and so Dave as Repellor chose the terrain, which can be seen below.

The three pieces were the hill, woods and small village. The fields etc are purely for decoration; afterall we all like to play on a nice table don't we?

In the end both our warbands were very similar in style and feel, with details below:

1 x Companions
3 x Noble Warriors
3 x Ordinary Warriors
2 x Ordinary Riders
2 x Sling Skimishers
1 x Wardogs
1 x Stampede

1 x Companions
2 x Noble Warriors
4 x Ordinary Warriors
1 x ordinary Riders
1 x Bow Skirmishers
1 x Javelin Skirmishers
1 x Monks
1 x +1 Leadership Point

The Irish deployed for battle, with skirmish units on both flanks and the cavalry on the left flank.
The Welsh in a similar deployment, with the Monks in the centre to make sure they were in 'range' as much as possible for their leadership points and the cavalry on the right flank.

Turn 1 Irish - 6 LPs Welsh - 9 LPs
Both sides managed to advance all of their units, with the Irish skirmishers on the elft flank rolling a double 1, thus allowing them to advance into the village.

The skirmishers on both flanks advance as quickly as possible to try and gain any advantage of cover offered by the village and woods.

Turn 2 Irish - 6 LPs Welsh - 9 LPs
The 'Killer' sheep failed their command roll, thus disrupting the Irish left flanks slightly. For the Welsh the Monks failed, which had the potential to disrupt their advance as well. All other units were keen to come to the 'party'.

Both battle lines start to fragment.

Turn 3 Irish - 6 LPs Welsh - 9 LPs
Once again the Monks faith in the divine rightousness of their cause failed them as they stayed rooted to the spot and prayed for deliverance from the Heathen Irish. Everyone else was happy to move towards each other.

The battle lines draw ever closer, with Irish skirmishers on the edge of the village and Welsh skirmishers in the woods.

The Monks possibly wisely praying hard for Divine assistance...

Turn 4 Irish - 6 LPs Welsh - 9 LPs
Combat was finally joined as the 'Killer' sheep lured the Welsh Nobles into an uncontrolled charge, seeing the demise of the sheep and once again another 2 points of cohesion lost as the Nobles gathered themselves together after their little 'dalliance'. The Irish skirmishers in the village decided to advance out of it, only to be charged by the Welsh riders who made short work of them. On the Irish right flank, the skirmishers got a double 1 and advanced through the weekds to threaten the Welsh rear. Fortunately a unit of Welsh warriors managed to engage them ,but failed to destroy them due to poor die rolling.

Battle finally joined across the board.

The Welsh battle line is badly disjointed, unlike the Irish one...

Turn 5 Irish - 5 LPs Welsh - 9 LPs
Right across the board combat was joined, mainly due to a rash of uncontrolled charges, but nearly all the combats were drawn. However the Irish lost the skirmishers on their right flank, causing another Leadership point to be lost.

Both sides battlelines are by now badly fragmented, with the Welsh in a worse postion but with more leadership pointes to play with.

The battles on the flank could be decisive for the game, plus could the lone unit of Welsh warriors on the hill hold out against the Irish Nobles and their support unit? If they lost, the Welsh right flank would be very exposed...

Turn 6 Irish 4 - LPs Welsh 9 - LPs 
The Welsh still had their pool of leadership points intact, which started to make a difference, as they could place them where it mattered most, whilst the Irish had to husband theirs. In combat, the Irish lost a cavalry unit, whilst the Welsh lost a unit of Warriors and skirmishers.

Somehow the Welsh warriors still held on on the hill, helping to protect the Welsh right flank. Elswhere things were tooing and froing across the board.

Turn 7 Irish 3 - LPs Welsh 7 - LPs 
The Welsh right flank saw the most action, with the Welsh warriors finally succumbing on the hill, but not before the Irish had lost their final cavalry unit and their wardogs.

The Monks prayers appeared to have paid off as things appeared to be going well for the Welsh...

Turn 8 Irish 1 - LP Welsh  - 6LPs
The Irish lost another ordinary warrior unit which put them on a break test, which they passed with ease. However they had no Leadership points left for the next Turn plus they were starting to be outnumbered where it mattered.

Turn 9 Irish 0 - LPs Welsh 6 - LPs
In the end the difference in Leadership points finally told, as the Irish lost two more units and then automatically borke as they had reached 75% losses.

With only two units left, the Irish unsuprisingly broke and took to the hills.

Post Game Thoughts
In the end an absolutely cracking game! With Dave having the rulebook in advance his warband was much more balanced and fitted his gaming style perfectly. We both thought it would finish around Turns 5 or 6, given our previous games, but we were both suprised it lasted as long as it did. We lost track of time as it was such an absorbing game, only being brought back to our senses as my Son came down to inform me it was time for bed! So as always some post game musings:
  • Warrior warbands are great fun to play as their 'uncontrolled charge' means that battle is joined quickly. 
  • Dave wisely used his skirmishers, wardogs and sheep to try and break up my battle lines, which they did. However the Irish skirmishers advancing out of the village unsupported probably cost him his left flank in the end.
  • Stampede is a favourite S&T of both of us, is fun to play and my 'killer' sheep just look great on the table. Dave is now off to try and track down some 10mm geese so that he can have his 'Wild Geese' unit to go up against my sheep.
  • Wardogs are very, very useful as they act like skirmishers but pack quite a punch. A unit definitely to be aware of in the future.
  • Monks are damned useful with their extra 2 LPs for units within 5 base widths. The only downside is that they have a Bravery of 6 and only move 1 base width per Turn. Great for the Repellor, potentially a dead weight for the Agressor. 
  • Skirmishers a perfect for attacking units in the flank or rear, if you can get them round far enough that is. Backed up by some cavalry and they are even more useful
  • I had not spotted that units charging into the flank or rear get an extra two die to roll in attack!!! I knew about units fighting to their flank or rear losing two die to their rolls. So given the point about skirmishers above, attacking a lone unit in the flank or rear makes them potentially very dangerous indeed. Skirmishing cavalry could be even more of a threat but I need to read up on these more as I haven't used them.
So depending upon family commitments over half-term, our next game will be next week. In campaign terms the Irish have only 4 points to spend on S&T, whilst the Welsh have the full 5 points. So the Irish will be at a bit of a disadvantage, but how much remains to be seen. In the mean time lets hope Dave finds his geese and he is also on the lookout for a Celtic cross for a unit of Irish Monks...

Sunday 8 February 2015

Dux Bellorum Campaign Game 2 - The Battle on the Via Julian

The following is an account of the second battle in my solo Dux Bellorum campaign game.  
The Keynsham Chronicle
Many brave warriors fell at Bassa's Ford, their shields splintered, their armour rent and their ash shafts broken. Our Noble Tiern Cynwyl Cadarn vowed to avenge them and stood firm on the Via Julian, steadfast in his resolve to halt the pagan Hrothgar and send him and his men to back the whence they came or to hell, whichever they would prefer...
1 x Companions
1 x Nobles Warriors
2 x Ordinary (foot) Warriors
1 x Ordinary (mounted) Warriors
2 x Bow Skirmishers
1 x Monks

1 x Companions
4 x Noble Warriors
2 x Ordinary Warriors
1 x Bow Skirmishers
1 x Javelin Skirmishers
1 x Wardogs

Scenario 11 - The Roman Road
Agressor 33 pts plus one free Strategy & Tactics up to 3 pts.
Agressor deploys on the road up to the half way point. The objective is to get as many units off the opposite board edge as possible. One unit of skirmishers may deploy off the road up to the half way point.

Repellor 21 pts plus one free Strategy & Tactics up to 3 pts.
Repellor deploys up to 6" in from his board edge. One unit may be deployed in ambush in either the village or behind the ford.


The Saxons advance down the road towards the Welsh warband deployed blocking the road.
With so few troops, the Welsh deployed with skirmishers on both flanks, with the Companions in reserve. The Monks would add much need spiritual resolve and leadership points where required.
The Saxons had their skirmishers in front with the wardogs on the left flank.
"Away Shep!" Jan Nokes and his dogs ready for battle.
The Welsh placed a mounted unit of Ordinary Warriors in an ambush position behind the ford.

Turn 1 Saxons - 6 LP Welsh - 8 LP
The Saxons got off to what seemed to be a bad start as their wardogs blundered, but the Gods were obviously with them as they retreated back towards their table edge, to be in a perfect position to possibly counter the Welsh ambush unit. The rest of the Saxons advanced as best they could, determined to brush aside the Welsh roadblock.

The Welsh for their part moved forward to engage the Saxons as quickly as possible, except the Companions who failed their roll, leaving their line badly fragmented. 

Both sides advance as quickly as they can.
'Shep' doesn't want to play ball, but the Welsh riders are out of charge range so advance into the long grass instead.

Turn 2 Saxons - 6LP Welsh 8 - LP
The Saxon skirmishers deployed to the flanks and Shep and Co decided to come back and play ball with the others. The Saxons in the centre deployed into a battle line with a small reserve kept to the rear.

On the Saxon left flank the Welsh cavalry rolled a Double 1 and so moved to attack the Saxon skirmishers, only to be charged by Saxon warriors in turn who were also charged by Welsh warriors. This proved to be a costly mistake as although the Saxon skirmishers were destroyed, so were the Welsh riders. However the Saxons took 3 hitys and were pushed back by the Welsh who followed up.

On the Saxon right flank the Welsh charged the Saxon skirmishers who had advanced too far and were destroyed, but at least they caused 1 hit on the Welsh unit. However the road was open to a determined advance by the Saxons...

Battle is joined on both flanks.
Both sides clash on the flanks...
... with losses on both sides. The Saxon left flank doesn't have much to stop its advance, talk less of the centre.

Turn 3 Saxons - 4LP Welsh - 8LP
With both warbands so close to each other, their were lots of uncontrolled charges with some advances by skirmishers from both sides.

Battle is fully joined, although the Saxons still have a good reserve force in the centre.
Despite being outnumbered, the Welsh bravely attack...
... seeing the Saxon left flank unit destroyed and pushing back the Saxon right flank.. However the Saxon reserve is yet to be commited.

Turn 4 Saxons - 3LP Welsh - 7LP
With the Saxons now on only 3LPs, would this hamper their attacks or their ability to soak up hits? The Welsh archers manage to score a hit on the Saxon Companions, causing them to use their sole LP to soak up the hit. With both sides engaged in combat, there was some movement as other units joined the fray.

'Shep' and the Saxon reserve join the battle on their left flank.
'Shep' sees off the Welsh skirmishers and the Welsh warriors on the Saxon left flank are pushed back. In the centre the Welsh manage to push back the Saxons, whilst on the right flank the Welsh destroy a unit of Saxons and nearly a unit of Nobles.

Turn 5 Saxons - 3LP Welsh - 5LP
Only 'Shep' is able to move as all other combats stay locked. A potentially crucial turn as the Welsh are close to their breakpoint.

No finesse in trying to move round the road block, the Saxons are simply happy to try and smash their way through.
The Saxon left flank is open as they finish off a unit of Welsh warriors, putting the Welsh on a break test. The Welsh Companions in turn destroy a Saxon unit, but the Saxons are still some way off their breaktest.
With the breakpoint reached, the Monks promptly fail their Bravery roll and flee the table, putting the Welsh at 75% losses and therefore automatically breaking. Given the Welsh had so few units left on the table and would be unable to prevent the Saxons leaving the table, the Welsh would have conceded the game anyway.

Well to be honest I was suprised that the Welsh managed to hold out for as long as they did, given they were so outnumbered.So as always a few post game thoughts:
  • Using the 'Hail Caesar' blunder table  is fun and adds more uncertainty to the game.
  • Monks are very useful for the Repellor with their 2 LPs as they have to move very little and so their low Bravery roll isn't really an issue.
  • Wardogs are fun but due to the blunder I didn't get to use them as much as I'd hoped. However as with my 'Sheep', 'Shep' & Co are great fun to have on the table.
  • Moving the Welsh riders too soon into battle cost them in the first turn of combat. I didn't think that they would be counter charged by the Saxons warriors. I know next time to be more careful before commiting them to combat.
  • The game could have had a very different outcome if the Welsh had managed to finish off the Saxon Nobles on the Saxon right flank. This would have allowed them to turn into the centre and potentially roll up the whole Saxon line.
Next Game 
Depsite the Welsh losses, I decided that the Saxons won a close run victory, so in the next game which will be 'Cattle Raid', the Welsh will have 30LPs and the Saxons 34LPs. Due to the nature of the scenario, the Welsh cavalry might come in useful to head off the Saxons and the cattle they are trying to steal. I've plenty of time to ponder things before the next game though.

Friday 6 February 2015

Dux Bellorum trial games

This year has got off to a great start on the gaming front. Dave Fielder whom I 'know' via various forums happens to be working locally for a few months and so was looking for any gamers in the area that might be able to put on a 'show' during the week. Fortunately for me SWMBO did not object so we have been meeting up over the past few weeks for some trial Dux Bellorum games. 

Dave is a top chap and great opponent but has been hampered somewhat but his rulebook still being 'in the post'. After a few games we decided to run a mini-campaign whilst he's around to add a bit of fun and narrative to the games. Our first game was to have been this week, but said book had still not arrived so we had a dry run game just to get Dave more au fait with the rules. Dave kindly sent me some pics he took of the game as I forgot to get the camera out and ready in advance.

We played a straight Annals game with 32 points per side plus 5 point for Strategies & Tactics. Dave chose Stampede, which happens to be one of my favourites, whilst I took Monks and Experienced Warlord, the latter of which I completely forgot to use. Hopefully the photos and captions will give a flavour of the game. All figures are Pendraken, with the Irish from the Ancient Britons range and the Welsh from the Late-Roman.

The Irish look towards the hill that really is the objective of the game. Control this and you have a good chance of winning.
To the right the Welsh await their deployment.
The Irish in all their glory and with captured Welsh sheep to boot.

Another view of the Irish.

The Welsh with Monks for much needed divine support.
The cross is painted gold but it doesnt really show up on the table or in photos:(.
The Irish send the sheep stampedeing towards the Welsh lines.

Agnos Deus. The sheep and their stampede rules are great in the game. It was with great pleasure that we both managed to get the sheep and the cross to the hill at the same time.

The Welsh Nobles cannot resist the lure of the sheep in front of them...
... their lust sees them lose two points of cohesion...
... it is the end for the sheep.

At a critical point the Irish Companions blunder. We decided to use the Hail Caeser! blunder table to add another level to the game...

... which works out well for the Irish as they charge into the Welsh flank. Not their intended target but not bad.

Battle is joined on the hill, with the Welsh managing to get there first, thereby gaining an advantage with the Irish having to attack uphill for the most part.
The Welsh warriors manage to hang on against the Irish chariot attack and have support as another unit charges downhill to their rescue.
The Irish attack suffers badly as they lose four units in one turn. With only two leadership points left and little prospect of a win, we called it a day.

As always it was a fun game, with the Welsh gaining the hill being the turning point. This was due to my rolling a couple of double 1's in two turns, which moved my units far enough forward to deny the hill to the Irish chariots. Units on hills are damned hard to beat, unless you can turn a flank. Any hope of Irish victory went in one turn as they lost four units, effectively taking them out of the game. The highlight for me was the sheep stampeding towards the Monks and their cross, which had a certain biblical feel to it.
Hopefully Dave's book will have turned up in time for the next game, so that he can have a chance to really read the rules and check out any nuances as well as have a good think about his warband. Fingers crossed our campaign will kick-off in earnest next week.