Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Return to the Western Front

After quite a bit of "faffing" around with various gaming projects (mainly buying figures and thinking about painting *sigh*) I think I might have settled back in to a familiar era ... The Great War.

Chums Dave and Steve have had a few games recently so I was delighted to join in a larger game with them. The basic scenario was that having broken through the more lightly held front lines (this is set in 1917) the British now arrive at the main German lines. Consider it perhaps similar to days 2 or 3 of the Cambrai offensive.

Anyway, the Germans (Dave) are holding three key objectives; a fortified but ruined village, a pillbox and fortified hill with trench system. The British objectives were "simply" to take and hold as many of these objectives as possible.

In order to make up the points for a 1917 game I opted to use the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) list from "Over The Top" as I could take HMGs but leave them off table to gain artillery support support options. Steve used the conventional 1917 BEF list (including cavalry - which was held ready at Cambrai to exploit any breakthroughs).

Here's the deployment. I should point out that the cloth we used is actually quite brown rather than the reddish hue it appears in the photos... Steve's BEF on the left, my CEF on the right.

A closer shot of Steve's army.

A closer shot of mine, complete with 'A' company Mk IV male tank "Arthur".

Here are Dave's Germans in their trenches.

More Germans in the village.

The first few turns of the game consisted of the BEF/CEF bravely rushing across No Man's Land, making best use of the scant cover, relying on their support weapons and artillery, whilst the Germans fired everything they could. But Dave's artillery support was definitely having an off day, or perhaps they were deliberately landing shots in the most open and uninhabited parts of the battlefield?

Steve's chaps also dash towards the enemy, but some of his difficult terrain tests rather slowed his attack.

A view along the lines. Note how our preliminary bombardment has opened a few small gaps in the barbed wire.

Turn 4 or 5 and Arthur rolls up to the German trenches, pouring HMG shots into the startled Germans. But it's supporting infantry company were being punished by German rifles and HMGs, spending most of the early part of the game 'pinned'

Towards the centre, A company of the CEF close in on the pillbox, but that barbed wire could prove a formidable obstacle.

Steve continues his steady advance. His HMGs, along with rifle shots from the closer platoons, inflict significant casualties on the enemy despite being holed up in the village.

A view from the German held village.

A German officer dodges the hail of HMG bullets to draw his comrades attention to the clanking behemoth about to overrun their position. However, some well placed grenades dislodge a track and literally halt the Mk IV in it's tracks.

Then an assault platoon (with flamethrower!) move up to deal with the tank.

The BEF close on the wire but yet another round of dreadful difficult terrain tests brings them to a halt just in front of the German positions.

The CEF are across the wire and ready their grenades.

But as you can see in background of the picture below, their assault detonated the pillbox ammo store resulting in a spectacular explosion, and the destruction of most of the attacking troops. Bother! Also worth noting in the foreground are Steve's gallant cavalry negotiating the rubble and the wire to mount an attack against the German held buildings.

C-h-a-r-g-e! (dakka-dakka! .... kerboom! Aaaagh!)

Noble but ultimately doomed: the cavalry were greeted with grenades and LMGs. With predictable results!

With time pressing we decided to call a halt to the game soon after. The pillbox was destroyed and both the other German positions were held only by a few determined troops. The BEF and CEF had taken terrible casualties yet could still continue the attack, so we decided that a draw was the fairest result.

A splendid game full of good humour and high drama. Many thanks to Dave and Steve for great evening of Great War gaming.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Three Kingdoms - More "fighting"

Keen to get things going, Dave and I played a second game of SAGA. This time I led my Bret... ahem... Normans against his Welsh. But things did not quite go according to plan.

A letter from Guillame de Reblochon to his cousin Baron Alain de Chavignol in Winchester

"Dearest Cousin,

I have bribed one of my guards to bring you this letter. Please ensure that he is amply rewarded as he could prove to be a valuable spy; ever have the Welsh been ready to turn their coats for gold.

As you know I set forth with the intention of teaching the Saxon pigs a lesson after they were almost caught poaching deer in my woodlands. But we then heard tales of Welsh raiders led by the vagabond Caradoc ap Theoden who had crossed the Saefern and ambushed Hrothgar Godwinson. (Remember him? One day I shall cut out his chitterlings!). We heard the Welsh were so laden with gold that they had been forced to leave some of it hidden in a nearby deserted village - another Saxon pig-sty by all accounts.

We approached cautiously yet were seen by their look outs. Perhaps they were expecting trouble from the Saxons? Some of my men were tricked in to a headlong rush in to the village by shouts and taunts from the Welsh. Fools! They were cut to pieces before we could reach them. We doubled back around a wood where I hoped to best Caradoc in noble, single combat. Alas, the sky was darkened by showers of javelins from their almost numberless cavalry. This was no mere raid; it was an army, a horde!

Bravely we fought but their numbers prevailed. My knights and crossbowmen were cut down and, despite slaughtering a good number of the enemy, I was eventually beaten and captured.

I have promised Caradoc that I am worth far more alive and that you will pay a rich ransom. So hurry dear Cousin and bring your men west, but with weapons instead of gold. My new 'ally' will guide you so look after him.


Here's what happened...

A nice simple Clash of Warlords to see who was the best. The Welsh started in the village where they had been celebrating a "win" against the Saxons by drinking ale and bothering the local livestock. Guillame's plan was simple... C-h-a-r-g-e!!! Well, he is a Norman after all.

The picture above shows the field after the Normans have advanced in their first turn. Guillame, with his fellow knights, intended to head straight for Caradoc whilst his mounted warriors held off the Welsh left. But alas the Welsh rolled a few dreaded "dragons" on their Saga dice and promptly taunted the lighter Norman cavalry forward a full 12". (Possibly with comments about Elderberries? ;o)).

This put them well within javelin range of several Welsh units. The few warriors that survived the clouds of sharp, pointy sticks were cut down by the Welsh Teulu. Not a great start for the Normans.

With the Welsh taking control on the Norman right, Guillame headed back around the woods with his knights whilst his crossbow armed warriors held the centre. The larger number of Norman elite must surely prevail?

There's a reason that I didn't take any more pictures ... that's because it was all over so quickly!! The Welsh used some good combos of SAGA abilities whilst I rather mishandled my SAGA board. The result was a crushing win for the Welsh. I must admit (somewhat grudgingly ;o)) that Caradoc was the hero of the field. The bards will have a great time composing this battle song.

To make things more interesting we agreed that, as Guillame had fought so bravely (if perhaps rather briefly), then he would be captured rather than slain.

Another good game against a splendid opponent! Orange Dave played really well and the first games of the campaign have given me much to consider, as well as being great fun! Will Alain head west to save his kin? Will another Welsh faction try to grab Guillame and gain the ransom? Maybe the Vikings will appear on the scene?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Three Kingdoms - First Battle

The campaign for the South West begins...

Leofric of Glastonbury, Book of Days, Spring 1068.

The Norman invader continues to strengthen his grip upon our blessed realm. Already his ugly towers spring up across our lands like some heaven sent plague of boils. They have even fooled our holy leaders in Rome in to supporting their cause. It is well known that Harold (may he rest in the company of angels) was tricked in to swearing fealty to William on the bones of the saints.

But that is not all. The accursed Welsh, instead of standing with the men of this land and opposing our common foe, are raiding across the marches taking cattle, women and anything else they can carry off.

Brother Eadberht, our most revered scholar reminds us daily that we must not despair and must continue to place our faith in or Lord and Saviour. By the power of prayer and devotion we shall yet triumph against our enemies!

To this end, our Lord Hrothgar Godwinson, youngest scion of that noble house, has taken a valuable relic to the house of St Ecgwine near Glouceastre. It was there in the year of our Lord 702 that true Saxon men, guided by the divine light of the holy Ecgwine, triumphed over a host of Welsh and Irish raiders. Not only that but after the battle, with the countryside lain bare, the holy Ecgwine did command the Salmon to leap from the river Saefern. Thus fed, our soldiers chased the raider back across the hills and inflicted a terrible slaughter. Thus, where better to renew our faith? The Good Lord will look kindly upon the donation of the Blessed Toe-bone of St Cuthbert to so worthy a place.

Lord Hrothgar summoned his best soldiers, clad in shining mail with keen spears and sword. He also considered it wise to take further supplies as a gift for the monks - for has not this winter been cruel indeed. Hearing of most holy cause, a number of ordinary folk took up arms and accompanied them. It was clear that Lord Hrothgar thought them of dubious military value, but such zeal cannot be ignored.

Now some pics of the game...

For this game we played the Escort scenario from SAGA. As you can see in the (clickable) picture below. Hrothgar, crossing the farmlands near the Abbey of St Ecgwine, and hearing tales of Welsh raiders, has formed his men in to a tight guard around the monks and wagons.

The raiders were the Welsh, led by none other than the fearsome 'Caradoc ap Theoden'. He had brought his ships across the Saefern in search of loot and plunder. The wagons of Hrothgar's force were simply too tempting a target.

Hrothgar decides that he cannot possibly get all three sets of baggage safely across the table. Especially as many of the enemy are mounted - on stolen Saxon horses no doubt! In the picture below you can see that one of the wagons (with a fine pig) has been abandoned save for a small guard of warriors. Perhaps the enemy horsemen will be tempted to capture it?

Yes they are tempted! Caradoc "bravely" sends his men forward to deal with the baggage guards whilst he ... er ... shouts encouragement? Not that they needed it, they swept in a slaughtered all eight warriors.

They they set about the wagon and pig itself. In this scenario the baggage must be destroyed in combat. Hrothgar and his trusty Huscarls look on with some dismay. However, the Saxon's clever plan was working! Good sets of SAGA dice rolls were mostly used to keep the force moving towards the safety of the opposite board edge.

In this picture we see that Hrothgar continues to keep his men heading north. One group of Huscarls accompany the remaining wagon, whilst another forms a defensive screen around the monks carrying the relic.

With only one poor Saxon warrior remaining on the southern edge of the board Caradoc shows his true mettle and decides that this is a fight he might win ... as long as he has some help. Needless to say the Saxon was slaughtered although with his dying breath he slew one of the Welsh Teulu!

With much of the Welsh force busy elsewhere, Hrothgar kept his force moving, though a timely attack by a large band of Welsh warriors 'lurking' near the northern edge of the field ransacked the last of the wagons. But this did mean that the monks were able to hitch up their robes and make it to safety.

Technically this was a draw, but since the Saxons were able to get the Blessed Toe-bone of St Cuthbert safely through to the Abbey of St Ecgwine and the Holy Salmon, I think this is clearly a moral victory for the Saxons.

Leofric of Glastonbury, Book of Days, Spring 1068 ... a few days later.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Allelujah and rejoice! Messengers bring news of a great slaughter of our foemen and the success of our Lord Hrothgar! Safely has the Blessed Toe-bone of St Cuthbert been brought to the Abbey of the Holy Salmon at Glouceastre.On the roads to the north our brave men were waylaid by Welsh raiders, but through stout Saxon heart and sharp Saxon sword has the enemy been routed. They will think twice before the cross the hills in search of our treasures again.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Dark Age Campaign

The recent 1066 themed issue of Wargames Illustrated has finally given me the nudge that I needed to collate various ideas I've had for running a Dark Ages campaign with some of the chaps at the Bristol Big'Uns club.

In some ways wargaming can be a little like gardening... bear with me here! What I mean is that you can spend so much of your time busily working on the latest project that you forget to take time out to enjoy the work you've already completed.

To this end, rather than hurrying to add Normans or Welsh to my collection, I plan to spend some time enjoying a mini campaign using Anglo-Danes and Vikings. Plus some the chaps at the club have Normans, Welsh, etc. The campaign is (perhaps rather grandly) entitled "The Three Kingdoms", representing the Saxons, the Welsh and the Normans.

So what's it all about then?

The Three Kingdoms campaign is intended as a simple framework for playing two of my favourite wargames; War & Conquest and SAGA. It doesn’t have to be those rules, any suitable rules that players enjoy could be used, but W&C and SAGA are my preferred options.

When & Where is The Three Kingdoms set?
The campaign is set in the South West of England, soon after the 11th century Norman conquest. During the early years of William’s reign there was plenty of opportunity for bold leaders to claim land, gold and glory!

Why run a campaign?
That’s easy to explain. Playing ‘one-off’ games is all very well, but having a series of battles set within a wider context – and allowing for one game to lead on to another – is when both the games and history can really come alive! The result of one game may affect another – or at least help decide upon what sort of scenario is to be played. This helps to give each game more meaning. It allows characters and reputations to develop. This desire is probably due to me playing various RPG’s for many years, although none recently.
Games will hopefully be a mixture of small skirmishes or raids, using SAGA, with larger battles, using War & Conquest, in between.

I'll be producing a map and some basic background information to set the scene but there’s no concept of daily movement rates, supplies, baggage, etc. No need to record the exact location of any particular warband at any specific point. This is what I term a “narrative campaign”. The players use the campaign background, along with their own figure collections and their personal view of history, to create their characters and forces. Players are encouraged to adopt the persona of their characters and to develop their background or history as the campaign progresses. It’s a bit like creating an action drama, but the script is written by those taking part, as they fight battles, win victories, settle grudges and ultimately gain glory in Dark Age warfare!

There are no winners or losers in the traditional sense. Although each battle should usually result in a win or loss, the most important aspect is creating an exciting story and playing some good games with friends.
The games can be played anywhere, at the club, at home, even at one of the gaming days as long as players are in agreement and are happy to create another part of the campaign story. Nor is there any need to impose a schedule, players can play as infrequently as they wish. It’s a very flexible approach! Players are also encouraged to think up new scenarios or other special rules.

How does it work?
SAGA requires as few as 30 or so figures making it an ideal springboard for a larger War & Conquest force. Also, Rob has some great deals on a range of the excellent Wargames Factory and Gripping Beast plastic boxed sets.

For example, you may have a small Welsh force whilst friends have Anglo-Danish and Norman forces. The first game could be a skirmish using the SAGA rules. The Welsh have raided the lands of the Saxons and, laden with booty, livestock and slaves, they are headed for a ford and back to their own lands only to find a vengeful force of Saxons blocking their path. Perhaps the Welsh go on to defeat the Saxons and in so doing, they ‘kill’ the Saxon warlord. However, the players both agree that instead of being slain, he is wounded and held captive by the Welsh. So what next? Will a large force of Saxons be mustered and march West to find their fallen Lord. If so then play a 1,500pt game of W&C. The Saxon objective is to capture and hold the Welsh rally point, representing the building where the Saxon Lord is being held. Events within this battle can then lead to other skirmishes or battles, and so on.

As you can see it does require a small amount of planning and some imagination on the part of the players, but the result is a series of more meaningful and satisfying games of toy soldiers.

Keeping track of the Campaign
As for chronicling the important battles and events of the campaign; the exploits of my forces will be recorded by a West Saxon monk, Leofric, writing at Glastonbury Abbey. You can be sure that any such writings will be heavily biased in favour the Saxon cause! I will encourage others in the campaign to publish their own version of events in some form – replete with some dodgy heroic poetry perhaps? A good example of this sort of thing can be found on Andy Hawes’ blog ( where he records the events of a series of Dux Brittaniarum games.

One person could try to chronicle the whole campaign, but I think it is more fun if several different accounts (suitably biased of course!) are published. Lively discussions are bound to follow and will prove to be yet another source of ideas for future games.

Orange Dave and I have already had our first battles, so in the next few days I will publish the first chronicles of the campaign.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Saxon (or Norman) Archers

At last, some more painting! These are part of the batch of Dark Age figures that I want to complete before starting on a new project. They're from the Perry's Crusader range and I think they make ideal generic Dark Age bow armed warriors.

Painted like all the other Saxon/Viking figures - block colours, dip and some quick highlighting. I can use them as levy for either my Norman or Anglo-Danish SAGA forces, or as a skirmisher unit to support my Saxons in War & Conquest.

Still on the table awaiting paint are some villagers and a few casualty dioramas.