FIRST COMPETITION –THE OTHER SHIELDWALL, 1997
Russ King and I decided to get into competitive DBM in late 1997; for some years I’d been completely immersed in work (you know, that stuff one has to do to bring in the money) but the load had eased lately and I felt I could spare a few weekends. I persuaded Russ to join me at Keith McGlynn’s competition at the Berkeley Arms Hotel.
The format was for five games, three on Saturday and two on Sunday, with 300 AP 25mm armies. I scraped up a Feudal English army with old Minifigs knights, Horde spearmen and crossbowmen, Warrior spearmen, some rather nice archers from the “Cry Havoc” people and an assortment of Airfix figures making up the numbers. At about 58 elements it was the biggest army in the competition. The generals were the Lord Edward (future Edward I), the Earl of Surrey and the Earl of Norfolk.
Our first game was against Derek Whittenbury who had French Ordonnance – a small army with only two commands, but containing nasty things like Kn(S) and a Swiss allied command which had, I think, 8 Superior Pikes and 4 Exception Blade halberdiers.
Russ threw the PIP dice for our first-ever competition bound – three ones. With impetuous knights in every command, off they went straight at the enemy. With our complete lack of experience we didn’t realise how risky this was against superior troops, but the dice gave us no option anyway. Edward’s knights hit the Swiss, bounced off the pikes but slaughtered all the halberdiers (Bd(X) were quick-killed by knights in those days) which was enough to break the Swiss command. The pikes, fleeing, were massacred by pursuing knights and ever since Russ has bragged about “riding down Swiss pikemen”. On the other flank, however, Surrey’s command of mainly archers and Ax(X) spearmen soon got into trouble against Kn(S) and quickly broke; Norfolk then charged to disaster for a 1-9 defeat. Quick, decisive and fun.
Next we faced Steve Neate with a Nan-Chao army. This had pikemen (only two ranks deep, the front rank being X, with big shields), cavalry, Fast Warband and some other odds and ends. Steve knew what he was doing and sent the warband against our bowmen, who shot some down but soon crumbled, one command breaking. Then the Earl of Surrey brought off a great charge – uphill into two-deep pikes. He rode down two elements and his accompanying knights got some more. Surrey charged on, over the crest, and hit the Nan-Chao general (Ordinary Cavalry) who’d moved across to cover the gap. Down went the general and the Nan-Chao command broke. With the losses Steve’s army had already taken, that made half so we won 9-1. Much congratulatory back-slapping ensued.
The Saturday evening game was against an experienced player who had Rus. He placed a river which restricted the table width, and filled the table with edge-to-river spearmen plus supporting psiloi. All we could do was charge and hope… the knights did their best and knocked some holes, but not enough. Two of our commands broke for a 0-10 defeat.
On Sunday morning we were up against a husband and wife team with Late Imperial Romans. Our knights should give us the edge, depending on the terrain, and this was reasonably clear with just a village on the right and some rough going on the left. Two commands’ worth of knights thundered forward to get at the Roman legionaries and auxilia. Auxilia suddenly appeared from ambush and hit our knights in the flank, slaying two elements, but we were undaunted and the rest of the knights crashed into the enemy line, rapidly breaking a Roman command. Surrey rashly pursued and was caught and killed – his command broke. But Norfolk looted the enemy camp and ended the game for a 9-1 win.
The last game was against Seleucids – a horrible opponent for our troops. The knights were speared by pikemen and trampled by elephants, for a rapid 0-10 defeat.
Despite the disappointing end, we greatly enjoyed the weekend and have since played in over 150 more competitions. Our success rate was very poor for the first few years and we didn’t win a competition until 2005, but since then, either solo or partnering Russ, I’ve finished first or second in around 30 competitions and used 81 different armies ranging from Mitanni to Wars of the Roses English. A great hobby.