Sunday 29 September 2013

Raid on The Church of St Caradoc the Disappointed: Second Dux Brit Game

The church of Saint Caradoc the Disappointed is the scene of the next raid.
Aelle needs a win. And he needs money. The church should provide gold and silver, but if not brass, lead or even scrap iron will serve to line Aelle’s pocket. His morale is 6, good but not great. His force is up to strength with some good solid lads from across the North Sea. But Arthorius is a canny general and Aelle wonders what tricks he has up his sleeve. 

Arthorius is uneasy. Despite beating off the Saxons near the tower, he knows they will be back. His morale too is 6. He isn’t sure Aelle will fall for the same tricks again, and despite replacing his losses, he feels overstretched.

Aelle drives forward as hard as he can. He takes his two units of Gedricht, his hearthguard, along with his champion and heads for where he expects Arthorius to appear. His archers try to find a good position – they have been told to shape up or ship out after their last showing! Cenric takes one unit of Geoguth warriors, and sticks to Aelle’s flank. Aelle is no longer under any illusion of the power of the British shieldwall, and he is still smarting from the devastating flank attack Arthorius dealt him. He hopes that Cenric will prevent this, or even manage to give Arthorius a taste of his own medicine! Meanwhile Sigebehrt has taken the remaining two groups of Geoguth and is making a beeline for the church. It’s money or nothing for him! Aelle hopes to allow Sigebehrt to retreat rapidly with the loot and use the rest of his force to block Arthorius.

Saxon starting position

When the news of the Saxon raid reaches him, Arthorius is dragged out of his reverie, takes his elite knights and the two units of Combrogi warriors, along with his champion, his slingers and Bedwyr for support and tries to head off the Saxons. He leaves Cei with the three groups of Pagenses, with orders to protect the church.

Arthorius is in a bit of a bind...

Arthorius is in a bad position. The swamp protects his right flank, but he is pinned against the side of the table! Aelle moves to take advantage, closing the gap before Arthorius can get out into open ground.
It takes Cei the first turn to organise rabble of levy into a single formation, and he sits grinding his teeth in impatience as his men mill about and the Saxons advance!

Aelle attacks, playing Aggressive Charge, Strong Arm and Bounding Move along with Carpe Diem. He hopes to smash the Britons off the battlefield in one swoop. Arthorius plays Shieldwall Braced and hopes. Saint Caradoc is with him! Aelle loses three of his Gedricht, and withdraws!

That didn't go how Aelle planned...

Arthorius now plays Carpe Diem along with Hero of the Age, Aggressive Charge and Armour Bright (to protect against the risks of Hero of the Age). He is marvellously successful, routing both formations of Gedricht, although not without losses. He follows up with the knights and one group of warriors.

Cenric attacks the other group of warriors, routing them. Both sides’ morale plunges! Bedwyr brings up the knights and scatters Cenric, salvaging a little British pride. In the meantime, Sigebehrt has slogged his way through the rough ground to the church and broken in, ahead of Cei and his levy, who take up positions outside the church.

Take that!

Arthorius, his warrior force in tatters, moves to try to block the Saxon raiders’ line of retreat.
Cei attacks the church, but is driven off and one group of levy routs. The Saxons escape the church and run for the edge of the battlefield, laden with loot.

Bedwyr brings up the elite and attacks one group of raiders. After a couple of rounds, shieldwall has protected the knights and all are still alive, but they have gained so much shock they lose their amphora and run for the edge of the board! British morale falls to nothing and they all flee.

Who would have bet on that happening?

Aelle can’t believe his luck. He flees with his loot and such troops as he can salvage. Both sides have taken moderate losses, but the Saxons have won a minor victory, gaining a meagre (but welcome!) beggar’s bowl of plunder.

My takehome things from this? Two observations. First, the game can turn on nothing, and since it's quite possible to go from high morale to zero in a single turn, it really isn't over till the fat lady sings, so keep fighting! Second, the rules call for three large (2'x1') pieces of terrain. You really do need this. Even using all the smaller pieces I have, it's perfectly possible to play a game without the terrain having any effect, since you can skirt round it. So, some larger terrain pieces! I might make them modular so they're easier to store.

Merry meet again!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Here, There and Everywhere: Sub-Roman Skirmishers

For both the Sub-Roman British and the Saxons, the first specific group of reinforcements your army gets are a set of skirmishers. I've got enough assorted lightly-armed Saxons rattling around to fill this group. For the Sub-Romans, I've got a gap.

By the magic of arithmetic, if you add eighteen levy spear, fourteen warriors and four slingers, and take the total away from forty Gripping Beast Dark Ages warriors, you get... four skirmishers!

 Don't you throw those bloody spears at me!

I did a bit more maths, and the forty Dark Ages Sub-Roman warriors came to £21.50, including the West Wind heads, or fractionally under 54 pence each! Since I got a cracking deal on the late Roman armoured infantry that became the nobles and elite troops (via Ebay), the whole army went on the table for well under thirty quid. A bargain by anyone's standards, I'd say!

Skirmishers of the time would have been armed typically just with javelins. A good handful each. So to represent this, I drilled out both hands, and glued javelins in place, one ready to throw and a couple in the off hands ready to follow up. The javelins are made from hammered brass rod.

You'll have someone's eye out!

The last of the West Wind bare heads went on these. The shields fit nicely over the javelin hands, ad the shields are the usual white, but since these are low-grade troops, there are no fancy chi-rho's or anything like that.

Although no one can actually die from a skirmishers' attack in Dux Brit, the additional shock might just be enough to make a much-vaunted unit of warriors 'lose their amphora' and run screaming for the hills.

Should be safe from this angle!

Just out of interest, here's a shot of the selection of spares left over from the box of GB warriors. What a lot of bits for future builds!


Merry meet again!

Dux Britanniarum First Game - Raid on A Border Tower

I have finally managed to get out and buy the sheet of MDF I needed to turn my oval dining table into a 6'x4' Dux Brit battleground.

The dice roll called for a border watch tower, so the one I made here came out of the cupboard. Three big bits of terrain went into three areas (by dice roll, since I'm playing both sides it seemed the most sensible way), and four odd bits into the other areas. A roll determined the location of the tower, and a bit of jiggery pokery with the scenery followed to make it fit.

While the official title is a raid on a border watch tower, the actual motivations are different. Aelle is raiding in the hope of capturing a British noble for ransom.  Arthur wins by keeping all his nobles!

Arthur's army starts the game with a morale of 8 - they are confident and strong. He knows the Saxons are on the move, and has called out the levy. He knows the Saxons want to capture a noble and chisel some money out of him, so the sooner his patrol gets back the happier he will be.

Aelle's army has a morale of 6. Although his army has more, better quality troops, they are uneasy - he needs a win, not only for the money, but to bolster his men's morale.

Here's the table, set up, with the terrain pieces on. I could do with some more, especially bits like fields and such like.

Ready to go

 Arthur's tactics are to rendesvous with his patrol and get his whole army back to the safety of the tower as quickly as possible. Aelle's tactics are to close with the British patrol as soon as he can, before Arthur catches up with him. He knows his army will be split and doesn't want Arthur to beat him piecemeal.

Bedwyr drew the short straw and entered the table with the two units of warriors. He managed to move precisely seven inches, and dribbled up towards the tower.

The dice roll brought Aelle onto the table with his champion, his two units of elite hearthguard and his archers. This could be very bad if they catch Bedwyr... Among Bedwyr's problems is that there isn't much terrain nearby he can use to shelter or anchor his flanks on. He fancies the barn and fence, if he can beat Aelle there.

Here comes trouble!

 Turn one brings the rest of the Saxons onto the table. One formation of two groups of warriors under Sigeberht follows Aelle, forcing their way through the woods. Sigeberht plays Bounding Move to make sure he is hot on Bedwyr's heels! The rest, under Cenric, head for the middle of the table. Arthorius forms the three groups of levy into a formation, and go as fast as they can to help Bedwyr. The Saxon archers and British slingers do their own thing, heading to the middle of the table. Cei takes the elite British through the gap, to try to flank the Saxons.

Starting to look like a fight!

Bedwyr put himself into the courtyard near the barn, forming shieldwall against the fence. Neither side can break this down during combat (they're too busy!) and gives both sides a -1 to hit. The Levy are formed into shieldwall by Arthorius. Sigebehrt is in a bind - he wants to attack Bedwyr and help his boss, but Arthorius is getting a bit close. Cei hammers into Cenric with the elite in shieldwall. The Saxons retreat having lost four men (and Cenric was wounded!) to three.  This wound costs Aelle a point of morale...

Take that!

 Now it gets heavy. Aelle plays Carpe Diem, with Aggressive Charge, Strong Arm and (another) Bounding Move to hammer Bedwyr. Bedwyr plays Shieldwall Braced in the hope of resisting the Saxon rush, and manages to - barely. The combat continues without anything decisive happening. Both sides lose a couple of men, Bedwyr is wounded (but morale survives!) and both sides stay shield to shield.

Arthorius attacks Sigebehrt with the levy in shieldwall, playing Hero of the Age. The Saxons lose a lot of men and are forced back to the edge of wooded hills. Cei attacks Cenric. Cenric is killed and his unit flees. Saxon morale drops to 1!

Smash 'em!

Cei attacks and disperses the Saxon archers. Bedwyr attacks, and kills several of the Saxon elite, including Aelle's champion. However, Bedwyr dies. British morale plummets to 5! Sigebehrt retreats into the woods. Arthorius swings the levy into Aelle's flank. He plays Carpe Diem (he doesn't have any other useful cards, but wants the flank attack effect). The Saxon elite collapse, with a couple dying and the rest breaking. The loss of this group shatters Saxon morale and they all flee.


 Here's a closeup of the Saxon collapse, and Arthorius relieving the warriors.

And don't come back!

Arthorius won. A tot up and consulting the raid table gives him a three point victory. He would gain a thief's horde in plunder recovered from the battlefield, and replaces his (moderate) losses in a month.

Aelle's moderate losses will take him two months to recover.

The game ran easily, and I didn't have any headscratches over the rules. It might be that I missed one or two things, but never mind! The game took about 90 minutes, including setup. The deck-driven activation worked well, and the Fate deck makes things happen quickly - sometimes very quickly!

A few observations - shieldwall was incredibly useful - ignoring the first kill on a group makes a MASSIVE difference. Missile troops were useless, neither set achieved anything, not even inflicting a single point of shock between them! The morale table is a killer. The main thing that lost this for Aelle was some lousy luck on the morale table rolls he made. Better luck with this, and worse luck for Arthorius, might have seen a different result.

I'm definitely up for another go!

Merry meet again!

Monday 23 September 2013

Wagons Roll! Part 1, Two-Wheel Cart

Wagons were essentially the only form of inland transport in Britain until the development of the railways and canals, and in point of fact continued to be significant right up until the twentieth century. Wagons are therefore great for adding colour and interest to battlefields across a vast swath of time. Design obviously changed over time, but these are typical for the early medieval period.

Hot on the heels of Paul's wagon build here, I started this one. Actually I was palnning this ahead of Paul's post, to fit in with the Dux Brit wagon train raid scenarios.

The wagon dimensions are fairly crudely done, without plans or drawings or any very formal structure. One oneline source gave me a measurement for Roman wagon wheels (about 1000-1200mm). Drawings of Roman two-wheeled wagons then gave me a set of proportions I could use: length of the body about two wheel diameters; depth of the body about half a wheel diamter and so on.

This is the body - the box is made up of five pieces of 60 thou plastic card, with plank detail engraved with  a scriber and wire brush. The reinforcers are 40 thou card. The axle box is laminated from several thicknesses and drilled for the axles.

Here's another view, down into the body. The whitish stains are from cyanoacrylate vapour - just like CSI!

The wheels are simple discs. The Romans, Saxons and Vikings built spoked wheels, but these then disappeared from Britain for different periods. These very crude wheels, without iron tyres, represent a low point in British vehicle design and contruction not matched until the Austin Allegro in the 1970's! Two layers of 30 thou card, cut with a hole saw, are scribed for detail and sandwiched back to back with the plank detail at roughly 90 degrees on the two sides. I added bushings from plastic tube, and the plastic rod will form the axle itself.

The axle stubs got glued in place, followed by the wheels. The bushings and axles were trimmed, and some details added to the ends to represent the pins holding the wheels in place.

Since this wagon will be drawn by a single animal, there are two shafts, parallel, sticking straight out in front. In this case, I'll be using my Dark Age cattle. I carefully measured the width of the animals' bodies and the length required to reach the shoulders before adding any glue. Here it is, on its wheels, ready to be loaded and moved. Or nearly... Note there's no seat. You might rest your behind on a box or rolled cloak to sit and drive, or (perhaps more likely), lead /guide the beast as you walk beside the wagon

This piccy shows how the wagon looks next to the draft ox. Now, you could go with a complex harness, as close as possibleto what might have been used in real life. This has to be balanced against the need to be able to removed so the cattle can be used separately. So I went with the simplest possible harness - a single strap over the back, made from metalised plastic.

The basing was slightly tricky, as it had to be shaped to allow the pre-based ox to be in the correct position, account for the thickness of the bases, and allow me to use both ox and wagon separately when required. I came up with what I thought was quite a cunning solution.

I roughly cut and chamfered a piece of MDF, then drilled a suitably sized hole partway through it with a Forstner bit. 

Next, I carefully aligned the the cart with the based ox in place, checked it twice, then glued the cart in place. Then removed the ox, so that works, at least.

A bit of caulk here and there on the base, and some sharp sand was followed by a coat of black primer over everything. The cart was painted mainly by drybrushing, with a few places touched in to represent metal and rust. The harness strap was glued in place and worked to represent leather. Flock, burnt umber wash and drybrush were followed by a few bits of clump foliage and static grass to fix the groundwork.

So, here it is, ready to roll. But what happens when you want to use the oxen for something else, I hear you cry. You use this, is what you do. This little greebly sits in the recess, giving something for the cart shaft to sit on.

Just like this. So, you can use the cart without the ox! At some point, I'll make some cargo (sacks, barrels, baskets and what not) to load on board. But it works well enough.

Here's the finished article, with a Sub-Roman levy attempting to get a bit more speed out of the delivery vehicle. He's not having much luck, though.

Merry meet again!

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Nice, Steady Bunch of Lads - Sub-Roman Warriors

These chaps are the last of the basic units for the Sub-Roman / British Dux Brit army. Two sets of six warriors, armed with spear and shield, and distinguished from the rabble of levy troops by their helmets and the (relatively) uniform white-ish tunics. These are the main strength of the Sub-Roman army, professional troops, under arms at all times, provided with centrally-supplied weapons, and with some degree of training. Able to fight in shieldwall, these troops have a good deal of stopping power and it would be a mistake to underestimate them.

To no-one's great surprise I'm sure (and why change a winning formula?), these are Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors, with West Wind heads. This has given me a nice range of poses, with enough variation to make the men look like they are a Dark Age warband, not a nineteenth century army.

 All round defence - cunningly showing the backs of the minis!

I toyed with the idea of modelling spare hand weapons on these - swords or axes would have been appropriate according to my sources - but decided I would rather have the men on the table.

Bedwyr arrives to take charge...

I gave the shields a fairly good coat of white paint, although the slight unevenness and occassional brush mark serve to suggest whitewash applied with a fairly coarse brush. The shield decals are home-made, from a batch I prepared for the elite troops. A gentle drybrush helped to blend the decal with the background.

Drawn up in shield wall to defend the church - a tough nut to crack!

The more observant reader might notice there are actually fourteen minis here, rather than twelve. The pack provides enough figures to make eighteen levy, twelve warriors, four missile troops - and six spares. Two of the six are here, and represent the first pair of invidual reinforcements (as opposed separate reinforcement groups) as described in the Dux Brit raid or battle victory tables. So should I fancy a campaign (and be successful!) I'm getting ahead of the game.

Merry meet again!

Friday 13 September 2013

Sling your hook! Sub-Roman Missile Troops

A small but useful (if not perfectly formed!) unit in a Dux Brit army is the missile troops. These British ones are (to no great surprise I'm sure) made from Gripping Beast plastic Dark Age warriors, as per most of the Sub-Roman army. Some have West Wind heads as replacements, but otherwise these are "out of the box".

 At leastthat's a granary, not a glass house, with all those stones!

I found the process of cutting off the spear hands from the arms and replacing them with the sling hands works well. It was worth cutting the sling hands first, then gauging which arms would look "right". The hands, being plastic, are very light and the butt joint is plenty strong enough, in contrast to a metal mini where I would be thinking about drilling and pinning.

Rear view - simple, plain colours.

Slings are a cheap, but devastating weapon in the hands of a skilled user. Classical authors often rate them as more dangerous than bows - arrows are easier to see (and hence block or avoid), and if they don't penetrate, they do little damage. A fast moving rock is hard to spot, and the damage even though they don't penetrate armour  - concussions, broken bones etc, is no joke.

These chaps are probably shepherds or similar woodsy types who use the sling to protect their herds or get their lunch.

Oi, Aelle! How would you like one of these stones in your eye for a stye?

Merry Meet Again!

Friday 6 September 2013

If you will play these rough games...

So, last night I was fencing.

Step forward, extend to the attack. Opponent parries in quatre, I cut under and lunge, then my right knee gives way. I land in a big untidy pile on the floor. But I won the point!

Only sprained, fortunately, but painfully, annoying and so embarrassing having to hop round on crutches!

Well, I should get some painting done at least. Serves me right for playing rough games!