CLIMB BRITISH CAMP 2016
For Gavin Pearson’s 25mm competition in the Herefordshire hills, I decided to take an army that would look nice but would probably not be very effective – Later Crusaders, 1191 AD. Richard the Lionheart (the figure actually represents Edward Longshanks) commanded as Reg Kn(S), with Irregular knights, crossbowmen and spearmen in his command. The Grand Master of the Temple had the main strike force of Superior Knights supported by spearmen and a few crossbowmen; the Grand Master of the Hospital had only one other Kn(S), four LH(S) Turcopoles and some Regular crossbowmen, and was entrusted with Richard’s Wwg(I) standard wagon. A small army depending almost entirely on knights, with the handicap of no light infantry and very little rough going capability. Having submitted the list, I was dismayed to see that most of the other entries featured combinations of pikes, elephants and/or Superior Bows.
However, the first round put Richard’s men up against David Sheppard’s Medieval Portuguese, who had some Bw(S) in an English allied command but no pikes! I defended, and the only significant terrain was a gentle hill on my right flank and a small area of rough going on my left. I deployed Richard’s crossbowmen there, with his spearmen towards the centre and the knights behind. The Templars were in the centre and the Hospitallers held the hill on the right. David had knights, auxilia and spearmen facing Richard, the English knights (Gascon Irr Kn(O) with a Reg Kn(I) general) against the Templars, English longbowmen facing the Hospitallers on their hill and a second Portuguese command shaping to outflank my right.
David’s early PIPs were very poor; the English were reliable, but to move the longbows forward he had to advance the Gascon knights, who were soon broken up by crossbow shooting. They charged in, rode down a couple of Sp(O) but were beaten off by the other Templar foot and destroyed by these and Templar Kn(S). The English general was trapped by spearmen and killed; the English command broke. The Portuguese knights also advanced ahead of their foot and were cut up by the Hospitaller light horse and knights – three of the four Portuguese knights died, blunting the Portuguese attack on my right.
My Regular PIP dice enabled me to move Richard and his knights around the rough going, where his crossbowmen were shooting up Portuguese Ax(O), face off the enemy knights and detach a couple of elements to attack the auxilia which they did with great success. The Portuguese C-in-C’s command broke for a 10-0 win to the Crusaders.
Unfortunately that success brought me up against Richard Jeffrey-Cook with Burgundian Ordonnance – Maximilian version with massed pikes, longbowmen, field guns and knights. I’d have very little chance frontally so I’d have to try working the flanks. I invaded, and Richard placed a large area of marsh on my right flank; I put a gentle hill on the left. The Lionheart’s infantry held that hill with his knights in column behind, with the Templars in the centre and the Hospitallers on the right with their crossbowmen in the marsh.
Right away the Hospitallers’ Turcopoles rode around the enemy flank, doing no damage but forcing them to spend many PIPs reacting. The Lionheart’s knights galloped forward and deployed to attack the enemy knights; the artillery bagged one but the rest charged in and tumbled the Burgundian men-at-arms to ruin. My crossbowmen outshot the longbowmen, destroying a couple of elements, and the Burgundian command on my left broke. That was as good as it got – once the pikemen (missing a couple of elements shot down by the crossbows) got to grips they slaughtered the Templar spearmen and broke my central command; the Grand Master of the Temple rode down two elements but was eventually killed. The Grand Master of the Hospital charged into the flank of a pair of pikes for a 4-4 combat, failed and recoiled into the marsh where he was slain. The command held, but it was now a race between massed landsknechts and the Crusader knights to loot the opposing baggage. The landsknechts were much closer and got there first… my army collapsed for a 1-9 defeat. The Lionheart was again victorious, though!
Not so in the third game, with another unwelcome match up – against an Alexandrian Imperial army commanded by Neil Hepworth. More pikes, and elephants too! I defended and placed gentle hills, all of which landed on Neil’s side of the table and severely limited my attacking opportunities. I shaped to attack on my left with Richard‘s knights and the Hospitallers, while his infantry held the centre and the Templars the right. The Macedonian pikemen advanced in the centre; Richard’s attack was opposed by assorted light horse and auxilia on a hill. On the right three elephants, some Skythian horse-archers and a Kn(F) general attacked the Templars – in a bloody exchange one elephant was shot by crossbowmen, another trampled a Kn(S) and was then killed by spearmen, and the third destroyed two Sp(I). The Templar knights despatched some light horse and the Macedonian command broke, but Alexander had sent his Companions to reinforce this flank and they trapped and killed the Templar general, whose command also broke. Honours even so far, and in the centre the Crusader crossbowmen had shot several pike elements and they and the spearmen held up well when the thinned-out pikemen finally got to grips.
On the left the Hospitaller Turcopoles destroyed some horse-archers and Richard led his knights uphill against auxilia. To disaster, as he was flanked and killed! Only two elements gone from his command, but his next PIP roll was 1 so his command and the army broke for a 1-9 defeat.
In the last game I faced more promising opposition in the form of my own Middle Imperial Roman army led by John Calvert. I placed gentle hills and John added some patches of rough going, one of which on my centre-left was an excellent shelter for the C-in-C’s crossbowmen. The Templars were on my left, facing Roman LH and Kn(F), with Richard in the centre facing legionaries and Praetorians and the Hospitallers on a hill on the right against cavalry and auxilia. Their crossbowmen shot one cavalry element and the other Roman cavalry retreated, leaving the Praetorians’ flank unsupported. There was an early setback in the centre when a bolt-shooter destroyed one of Richard’s Kn(O), but the Templar attack went very well; they rode down light horse without loss and after a long struggle killed both Roman Kn(F) to break that command. Legionaries attacked crossbowmen in the rough going without loss on either side, and the Praetorians went for Richard’s Kn(O) only to be attacked in the flank by the Hospitallers and Richard in person. Some fortunate dice destroyed six Bd(S) elements in rapid succession, breaking the Praetorian command for a 10-0 win.
Every game was played at a fast pace and each was over within two hours – my army was hard-hitting but fragile. Given the opposition, the Crusaders did very well to get 22 points but it may be some time before they take the field again…
For the last round of the year’s Doubles League, the organisers had decided on an unusual theme – all the armies had to be dated 1016 AD, a thousand years ago. Russ and I chose Italian Lombards: a typical early feudal array of Fast Knights, Inferior Spears, Inferior Bows and Hordes, but with the addition of a Byzantine ally who had some useful drilled infantry and cavalry! Two of the Lombard commands had knights as well as masses of infantry (the C-in-C also having some Ps(O) light archers), and the third was just infantry so the general could deploy dismounted as an Ordinary Blade.
The first game was against Martin Golay’s Early Serbians. These also had Kn(F), Sp(I) and Bw(I), plus decent numbers of Ps(O) and Ax(O) which should enable them to dominate any rough terrain. Only three large commands. We invaded and placed no terrain; Martin tried to scatter rough going about but nearly all of it landed on the far right and we ignored it. Our foot command deployed on the right with the knights concentrated on the left and the Byzantines in the centre.
Martin’s plan was obvious – outflank our right with auxilia coming through the rough going. However, he had impetuous knights in each command which drained his PIPs, and this attack took a long time to get going. Meanwhile we advanced all along the line and the Byzantine Bw(X) decisively won a shooting exchange against Bw(I), destroying five elements for the loss of one. Serbian knights went out of control and were badly shot up by our Bw(I) before crashing into the spearmen; they killed a few but were soon obliterated. On the left our knights beat smaller numbers of Serbian knights and broke a command there, and soon a second Serbian command went in the centre. 10-0 to the Lombards.
All the remaining armies were Asiatic… our next opponents were Dave Madigan and Chris Smith with Khitan-Liao. They had no knights, but lots of cavalry and light horse plus some Chinese bowmen and Bd(F) swordsmen. Again we invaded and placed no terrain; the only significant terrain was a small area of rough going on our left which we occupied with Bw(I). Most of our front was a wall of spearmen, with the Byzantines in the centre and large numbers of Hordes guarding the flanks against infiltrating light horse. One group of knights was in the front line on our left centre, with the C-in-C’s knights in reserve; they soon moved to the left to get at the Chinese foot.
The first action saw an opportunity for Khitan cavalry to set on a column of Byzantine Cv(S) who had no recoil (blocked by knights at an angle behind them). Fortunately we won that combat and were able to destroy both of the isolated cavalry. Then a force of Bd(F) swordsmen attacked the Byzantine Bw(X) in the centre; they quickly destroyed two double elements but after that had no luck – shooting got a couple of them and others were destroyed in combat by the Byzantine foot and cavalry. Our C-in-C’s knights were eventually able to attack the Chinese on the left, supported by our archers shooting from the rough going, and managed to ride a few down but took heavy losses themselves. Elsewhere our knights defeated cavalry but again took losses. Eventually one of our Lombard commands was one element from breaking and the Byzantines were two off, but a Khitan command broke and another was close to going. As we went into the last bound almost any result was possible, including a 5-5 mutual break – but we had the last bit of luck when a trapped Cv(S) was destroyed by spearmen, breaking the Khitan army. 10-0 to us in a very close, exciting and sporting game.
Our next opponents were Paul Apreda and Nick Coles with Tamil Indians. This was the Chola Empire version, with elephant-mounted Regular generals, Regular infantry and a Hindu Indian ally. Not ideal opponents for the troops we had. We invaded and the terrain played little part in the game. We put a strong force of knights on the far left flank where they faced the Hindu cavalry; unfortunately there was also a Tamil general on his elephant, as a single-element command, supporting them. The knights advanced with spearmen in close support, the Tamil general came to meet them and we attacked him with our Kn(F) general and two overlaps. 5-4 up, but we lost on the dice and our general died. The command held, but was now pretty much paralysed as most of the knights stood looking at the elephant while he steadily trampled them one by one. However, a couple of them did go for the Hindu cavalry, slaying four elements.
To the right of this imbroglio the two Hindu elephants confidently rumbled forward but were pulled out of position and attacked by spearmen; a 4-2 combat to kill both elements and probably break the Hindu command. We lost the dice again, and the Hindus survived. Meanwhile the Byzantine Bw(X) in the centre were again attacked by Fast Blade swordsmen and again beat them off, with some assistance from the Byzantine cavalry. Heavy losses on both sides on the right, where our spearmen and archers repeatedly beat off elephants and swordsmen but incurred serious casualties.
As in the previous game, any result including a mutual break looked possible. Unfortunately first our left-flank command broke and then the infantry on the right went, for a 0-10 defeat. Another hard-fought bloodbath.
Finally we defended against an invasion by Ghaznavids led by Steve Aspinall and Peter Connew. We put down steep hills and the Ghaznavids added woods: the terrain which mattered was a small hill on our far left, which we garrisoned with psiloi, and a wood opposite our right flank which might conceal an ambush. We had to gamble on where the Ghaznavid elephants would be, and luckily this turned out to be on the right facing the Byzantines. Our knights on the left and in the centre would have free rein.
We deployed the Byzantine cavalry to screen any ambush in the wood (we discovered after the game that there were Ax(S) there). The elephants came forward and were shot to ribbons by the Byzantine archers – all four were shot dead in a few bounds. This enabled our knights to get at Daylami Ax(S) and ride them down, breaking the Ghaznavid command. In the centre our archers shot repeatedly at cavalry without killing any, but they did break up the enemy line so there was unlikely to be any decision there. The decision came on the left where our C-in-C’s knights swept all before them and broke a second Ghaznavid command for a 10-0 win.
Excellent games, full of action and nail-biting decisions. 30 points got us second place, one point behind Paul and Nick. The Lombard army was mainly made up of fragile troops and really needed the Byzantine ally to make it viable.
Up to the Norfolk Broads again for Coltishall Cowards’ regular doubles competition. Russ and I took my Marian Roman army, last used at Anderida in 2000 where it did rather well, as the Lucullus variant with all Superior Blades legionaries. Each of the three commands had 8 or 10 Bd(S) elements, with supporting light infantry, cavalry and light horse; the C-in-C’s command had no mounted troops but a couple of Art(O) bolt-shooters.
Lucullus’s veterans lean nonchalantly on their shields as they await attack. 1990s figures by Irregular Miniatures.
In the first game Lucullus invaded Britain against Boadicea in the persons of Kevin Everard and Robin “Swampy” Honey-Frazer. We marched along an ancient trackway through the hills, which our auxilia and psiloi dominated, and stood confidently to receive a massed warband charge. The warband started well by knocking a couple of holes in our line, but reserve legionaries stepped forward and the British warriors started to go down… eventually one of our commands was close to its break point of 7 but its opponent reached its break point of 14. Big gap in the British centre, but time ran out before we could take full advantage and the game ended at 6-4 to us.
Then we moved on a couple of hundred years to face another female war-leader: Zenobia of Palmyra, represented by John Brooker and Mark Allison. Our road and steep hills gave us a good defensive position but attacking into the desert beyond would be a problem – especially as the enemy evidently had a flank march. We guessed that this would be on our right and would include fearsome troops such as cataphracts, and prepared a reception committee while refusing the left flank. The flank march was long delayed, and the Palmyrans used the time to switch numerous mounted troops from their right flank to their left, reinforcing our expectation of a flank march there. Then the flank march finally appeared – on our left, and consisting mainly of crummy infantry (Bd(I) and Bw(I)). We immediately attacked in the centre and on our right, destroying some traitorous Roman legionaries and cavalry and Palmyran cataphracts, but there was insufficient time to gain a decision. The game ended at 5-5 with no casualties to our army.
Against Paul Apreda’s Welsh (the date allowing North Welsh warband, South Welsh archers and Ostmen mercenaries) we again invaded and the terrain was helpful; our auxilia and psiloi would dominate the steep hills and woods. The Welsh had a command of bowmen backed by Bd(O) Ostmen on each flank, and a large warband command in the centre, plus either a flank march or an ambush in a big wood opposite a steep hill on our left. We refused the right, with just a few light horse and cavalry to delay the lumbering Welsh command, and advanced elsewhere; Ax(S) on the steep hill screened the wood. The Welsh had excellent PIPs and their command facing our skirmishers advanced rapidly, eventually getting into position to chase off our light horse and shoot a couple of cavalry elements. In the centre our artillery provoked a warband charge, and once again our lads proved that Bd(S) are more than a match for Wb(F); we lost only one legionary element and soon killed 10 warband to break that command. The Welsh flank march (cavalry and mounted archers) turned up on our right but couldn’t do any damage there, while our victorious legionaries set about Ostmen and archers. We needed another bound to kill the last two elements needed to break the Welsh army, but the Welsh were saved by the call of time. 6-4 to us, with very light casualties.
On Sunday afternoon we faced Timurids commanded by Dave Madigan (his usual partner, Chris Smith, couldn’t make it this year). We defended and placed steep hills, one of which landed on each flank. We manned the hills with auxilia and psiloi, and formed up the legionaries, mostly one element deep, between them. Our cavalry and some more auxilia formed the reserve.
Dave started with an attack by three Expendables (stampeding cattle) which charged the legionaries but were all destroyed. He brought up two Art(S) stone-throwers to try knocking a hole in our line, without success, and spent many PIPs getting into position to charge the legionaries with massed cavalry and a couple of elephants. Meanwhile a force of our auxilia and psiloi attacked up a steep hill on our left manned by half a dozen psiloi, killing several of them and taking the hill. Also on the left, the elephants found themselves faced by psiloi and with only light horse to take on the legionaries on each side; they attacked anyway and were both destroyed, while a couple of light horse were trapped and killed. This plus the psiloi broke that Timurid command. The massed cavalry charge did some damage but was beaten off with loss.
Dave now had the option of settling for 4-6 and keeping out of reach, or charging in the hope of breaking our damaged C-in-C’s command for a win. Sportingly he decided on the latter option and came back in – disastrously, as gaps opened in his line allowing our legionaries to turn flanks and destroy many cavalry. The Timurid army collapsed for a 10-0 win to Lucullus.
Other results went our way so that 27 points were enough to win the competition – our third win at Iceni in five years. An excellent weekend – thanks to the Coltishall Cowards club for the organisation and the first-rate catering.
Recently I created an 8’ x 5’ playing area by taking the ends off two 6’ x 4’ boards – there’s plenty of room for it on the large table in my cellar. We christened it with a 500 AP 25mm game with two players a side, Pete Howland and John Mee leading Seleucids against Russ King and Ralph Graham-Leigh with Early Imperial Romans. The proper opponents would have been Polybian Romans, but my Polybian army isn’t big enough to make 500 points. The board seemed to provide acres of space, and the larger than usual armies made a fine sight.
General view at the start of the game, Seleucids on the right
The Seleucid army had four Regular commands. Two consisted of pikes, together making a massive phalanx (36 elements, 12 of them Superior), and these formed up together in the centre; one was preceded by three scythed chariots. The C-in-C’s command of Fast Knights, light horse, Ax(S) thureophoroi and an elephant held the Seleucid right flank. The fourth command on the left had two more elephants, cataphracts, light horse and psiloi.
The Romans held a large area of rough going on their right with auxilia, flanked by legionaries with a bolt-shooter and psiloi in front of them to oppose the scythed chariots, and some cavalry and light horse at the rear. More legionaries held the centre, with auxilia on their left. The left flank was held by another legion plus auxilia in a large wood on the far left, and more mounted troops (cavalry, light horse and a pair of Fast Knight lancers) were in reserve.
The scythed chariots are about to meet their doom
The Seleucids attacked in the centre and on their left; the scythed chariots galloped forward, impervious to artillery bolts, and psiloi advanced into the rough going to support the cataphracts and elephants which moved to outflank the Roman right. The pike phalanx advanced to clash with the opposing legion. On the Roman left their cavalry and light horse moved around the wood and were faced off by Seleucid light horse and an elephant.
The massed phalanx crashes into the legion
One bolt-shooter failed against the scythed chariots, but the other two destroyed a pike element and one of lancers. Then as the scythed chariots were about to charge the third shot destroyed one, so they had to charge in with overlaps against them and were destroyed. The Romans had time to pull their psiloi back and replace them with legionaries to face the pikes. On the Roman right their auxilia defeated the psiloi and threatened the flank of the advancing pikemen; the Seleucid command on this flank was starved of PIPs and the cataphracts and elephants never got into action.
Stalemate on the right flank
John Mee manoeuvres his cataphracts
When the massed pikemen charged the legionaries staggered back, losing two elements immediately, but the gaps in the line were plugged by reserves and the flanks of the phalanx were exposed; the Seleucid thureophoroi, coming forward to help, were attacked and damaged by Roman lancers and auxilia. The Pk(O) phalanx was attacked in the flank, lost its general and then broke, but the Pk(S) argyraspids continued to destroy legionaries and broke the central Roman command.
The central legion is crumbling, but the right-flank legion is enveloping the phalanx
Then the Roman cavalry and light horse were finally able to attack the Seleucid light horse and elephant, with devastating success; the elephant died against very lucky light horse and the Tarentines were mown down by cavalry. With a couple of auxilia destroyed in the centre, this broke the Seleucid C-in-C’s command and with it their army. A classic phalanx versus legion battle: the mass of pikemen was irresistible frontally but was eventually eroded from the flanks.
The victorious Roman commanders, Ralph Graham-Leigh and Russ King
The game made a fantastic spectacle and I’m sure we’ll have some more big battles in the near future.
Russ King and I took a Khmer army to the Attack! competition in Devizes. I’d bought the army on impulse at a bring-and-buy a couple of years ago, and never used it until a couple of days before the competition when it lost a practice game. The army relies on elephants – lots of them. Each of the three Khmer commands had three elephants (two of them also had elephant-mounted generals), two El(O) and one El(X) which could shoot as artillery. Supports in two of the commands consisted of auxilia and psiloi, while the C-in-C also had a few Fast Blades swordsmen and some Bw(O) archers. One command had a few cavalry. The fourth command was a Thai ally with an elephant-mounted general and six Fast Warband. I brought some nice-looking jungle terrain, bought for WW2 games set in New Guinea and Burma.
Our first opponent was a relatively local army, Hindu Indians commanded by Steve Aspinall and Pete Connew. Their elephants were mainly concentrated in the centre, where we were able to put two of our El(X) in a position to shoot at them; the Thai warband had plenty of attractive targets in the form of Bd(F) swordsmen and Bw(I) archers. The enemy planned to use their numerous cavalry to envelop our flank, so we attacked hard in the centre. The El(X) destroyed several Indian elephants, and the Thai and some of our Ax(S) massacred Bw(I) before some lucky archers managed to kill several warband and break the small Thai command. Two Indian commands broke shortly afterwards for a 9-1 win.
Then we played Andy and John Brooker’s Italian Condotta army – Venetians with Swiss allies. The terrain gave us a good defensive position but it would be difficult for us to attack as we had nothing that could take on the Swiss. However, the Swiss were unreliable and this tempted us to rush out at the various knights, archers and light troops; sniping with the El(X) again proved effective, and the Thai headed for some vulnerable Bw(X) and Sp(I) while the elephants deterred the enemy knights. A Stradiot command of light horse got round our flank and roamed behind our line, but did no damage beyond picking off a couple of auxilia elements; on the other flank Venetian LH(I) tried to do the same and were chased off by our cavalry. The Swiss eventually came on line and columns of pikemen tried to get to grips, without success. The Thai crashed into some Blades and Sp(I), but rolled disastrously and lost four elements, breaking that command. The game timed out at 4-6.
Next came Dave Madigan and Chris Smith with their well-practised New Kingdom Egyptians – early version without the impetuous infantry. We wanted lots of terrain and were happy to be the defenders, but the only piece on our side of the table was a small village. All the jungle and rough going belonged to the Egyptians, leaving our army on a bare plain. We put the Thai warband in the village, reinforced them with some auxilia, and awaited the Egyptians’ attack with trepidation. On our right all went well: the first shot killed a Blade element, and several more Egyptian swordsmen and chariots went down to bow-assisted artillery shots. The Egyptian Blades attacked piecemeal and were defeated by our swordsmen and auxilia. The Egyptian command on this flank retreated, eventually escaping while half an element from breaking.
It was a different story on the other flank, where the Egyptian attack took longer to get going but proved much more effective against our weaker commands. Archers moved to the edge of the village and started shooting the Thai warband, who charged out to disaster – three elements died, breaking the Thai command. Towards the centre our elephants were too few to support the auxilia adequately against chariots and swordsmen, and soon a second Khmer command broke for a 0-10 defeat.
The fourth game was against Duncan Thompson’s Later Carthaginians. This time the terrain was useful; the village on our left, a large area of jungle in our centre and some rough going on our right. We manned the village with Ax(O) and psiloi, put a line of elephants and our few cavalry next to it, then the Thai ally next to the jungle which was full of auxilia. On the right our archers held rough going and were able to block any flanking manoeuvres by light horse; between there and the jungle we had a line of seven elephants supported by Ax(S) and the Bd(F) swordsmen. The Carthaginians deployed to attack the village with a large command of Gallic warband, then spearmen, screened by psiloi, to their right with cavalry and light horse behind, large numbers of auxilia facing our elephants and swordsmen, and a small Numidian allied command facing our right flank.
On our right the Carthaginians rushed forward and attacked all along the line. The first big combat round saw many of their auxilia and psiloi die, then – bang! – three successive ones resulted in the deaths of three elephants including a general. The command held, though, and our remaining elephants, Ax(S) and swordsmen gradually gained the upper hand. A couple of Numidian light horse were trampled and the allied command broke. Fierce fighting continued with the Carthaginians being gradually whittled down.
On the left the Gauls stormed into the village, at a disadvantage in the difficult going but relying on numbers. They managed to destroy a couple of Ax(O) elements but took serious losses themselves, eventually losing 8 elements. The spearmen also pushed forward and caused some losses; our Thai warband attacked but yet again met with disaster and broke. Our central command, general-less and depleted, also broke; two more losses elsewhere would break our army. But the Carthaginians were also teetering and finally our swordsmen killed two more Ax(S) to break their army. 8-2, and one of the hardest-fought games I can remember.
BHGS CHALLENGE 2016
There were 18 DBM players at the BHGS Challenge in Oxford. I entered the 25mm section with a Seleucid army: a small pike block (13 elements including the general) and two commands each with light horse, auxilia and psiloi. The C-in-C’s command had some Kn(F) lancers and the Bd(O) “Roman Argyraspids”, and the other had cataphracts and elephants. Break points of 6, 6 and 5.
Once again I faced Jeremy Morgan in the first round. He was using my Early Imperial Roman army, with a small Armenian allied command. The terrain was quite helpful, with some rough going in useful places for my auxilia and open space on the right flank where my cataphract command faced the Roman cavalry and some legionaries. The Armenians were unreliable but soon came on line. As the game shaped up, evidently Jeremy planned to envelop my C-in-C’s command on the left while screening the pikes and endeavouring to shoot the elephants on the right.
I scored an early success when a charge of lancers and light horse against two-deep legionaries slew two elements – of course, it was the horse-archers who did it with an overlap and 6-2 dice. Balancing this, the Roman artillery got a couple of shots at elephants, killing one. However, Jeremy positioned a cavalry element partly in front of the artillery to block its view of its Auxilia priority target, enabling another shot at an elephant; it missed, and the elephant then trampled the cavalry and artillery. Two more cavalry went down to cataphracts, breaking that Roman command. The Armenians tried to shore up the flank but the destruction of one cataphracts and one horse-archer element broke that command too.
In the centre the pikes got into action against legionaries, but two Pk(S) pursued into overlaps and were destroyed. On the left my Thracian Ax(S) fought heroically against superior numbers of Roman auxilia – they lost two elements to a 6-1 dice split but then held out for the rest of the game. But the Kn(F) lancers went down against legionaries and light horse, and my C-in-C’s command broke.
The game then timed out at 4-6. Each army was a single element from breaking on total losses. What a terrific game, with a very fair result.
Next came Gavin Pearson’s Mithridatic army, which I’d fought before. This was the late version with Bd(I) imitation legionaries instead of pikemen. Its main strength was in Kn(F) lancers, numerous auxilia and light horse, plus a substantial Armenian allied command.The Armenians were not deployed, evidently flank-marching; the terrain dictated that this would be on my left.
I decided to attack rapidly, but first had to do some redeployment to ensure that the scythed chariots were faced with psiloi rather than more vulnerable troops. This worked – the four chariots killed only one psiloi element before being destroyed – but the delay proved to be costly. The Armenians arrived and promptly attacked my reserve of Kn(F) lancers and light horse – disastrously, as my lancers slew two cataphracts elements. Then my Thracian auxilia drove off two Armenian horse-archers which fled off the table, breaking the Armenian command. However, my C-in-C’s command was now dispersed over a wide area and lost some auxilia to enemy auxilia and light horse, then the demoralised Armenian general killed two of my light horse, breaking the C-in-C’s command. The phalanx attempted to attack but was outflanked and lost two elements. With a few losses from the third Seleucid command this made half the army, so I lost 1-9. Great game, though.
The third game was against John Calvert, who’d borrowed Jeremy’s Later Swiss. Loads of pikes, mainly Superior but some Inferior, a few Bd(O) halberdiers and assorted psiloi. The terrain consisted of a large rough hill on my right and some areas of rough going in the centre. John formed up one block of pikes facing the central rough areas, and the others angled to face each flank. His opening PIPs were poor; he might have rushed the central block through the rough going, where it would have faced my Blades and elephants, but its flanks would have been covered only by psiloi. He decided to stay put, and as his hedgehog formation was unassailable by my troops we agreed a 5-5 bloodless draw.
Finally I faced another of my own armies, the fearsome Suevi, commanded by Duncan Thompson. Obviously I knew all about this army and decided to refuse my left flank while attacking strongly on the right where there was plenty of rough going. As luck would have it, the enemy cavalry faced my right, with Ps(S) javelinmen in the rough going. The masses of warband plodded forward and I met them with Ax(S) peltasts, who put up a stout resistance, falling back slowly with only the occasional loss, and elephants who managed to trample a few and keep a Suevi general occupied for most of the game. On the right I attacked the Ps(S) with Ax(S) Thracians and my own psiloi; after a long struggle all the Suevi psiloi were wiped out. My Kn(F) lancers attacked the enemy cavalry and destroyed a couple on impact, then gradually wiped out the rest. With a couple of warband elements destroyed by my pikemen that broke the Suevi C-in-C’s command. Immediately after that an elephant and some more peltasts died, breaking my left-flank command. There was no prospect of any further commands going, my largest command having lost nothing at all, so we finished the game at 7-3. Another rip-roaring encounter.
17 points wasn’t a great score, but I had three excellent games which is the main thing.
WESTBURY WARS 2016
I like using lots of different kinds of armies, and last year I acquired a large number of 25mm Arab/Muslim figures for the early medieval period. I added to them, particularly with a pair of nice armoured elephants, so I decided to field a Samanid Khurasanian army at my 25mm competition. The army had two commands based on Superior Cavalry and light horse, one with some bowmen and the other with a few auxilia and the elephants. The third command had spearmen, Dailami auxilia and psiloi and a couple of light horse. A small army with only 44 elements and each command had a break point of 5.
The first game was against Jeremy Morgan’s Armagnacs. An equally small army based on knights who could all dismount as Superior Blades, with some Bw(S) English longbowmen and Ax(X) brigans. Four small commands. The terrain wasn’t helpful but the game started well with knights falling to my archers and light horse – including the Armagnac C-in-C. Three elements gone from that command, so an even chance that it would break resulting in a probable 10-0 win, but unfortunately Jeremy threw a six and the command held. Shortly afterwards I lost a pair of bowmen which broke my C-in-C’s command, and it was all downhill from there. 0-10 defeat, but closer than the score suggested.
That brought me up against my own fearsome Suevi army which I’d lent to Duncan Thompson. Three large blocks of warband with Superior front ranks, a strong force of cavalry and plentiful psiloi. This time I had a large orchard in my centre, which I manned with auxilia, and prepared to take on the warband with my Cv(S) while the archers shot at the enemy cavalry. Several Suevi cavalry were shot down and I bagged the C-in-C – 5 elements down but Duncan threw a six and saved the command. I’d lost some cavalry and light horse, and my C-in-C’s command broke. However, large numbers of warband had gone down in the centre, some of them having rushed into the orchard against the Dailami and others trampled by elephants, and the central Suevi command broke. The Suevi C-in-C’s command was out of control and I managed to pick off enough stray elements to break the army for a 7-3 win.
John Calvert’s magnificent Samurai army presented a different challenge: enormous numbers, lots of Ax(X) spearmen who would be practically impervious to cavalry, Bw(S) archers and a strong force of Bd(O) swordsmen, supported by plenty of cavalry. For the first time I invaded and was able to pick the matchups, putting my archers opposite enemy cavalry; my auxilia defended a couple of handy orchards. Some nifty shot-blocking by light horse enabled my archers to get in some telling shots, destroying several Bw(S) elements and then the enemy Cv(O) C-in-C – this time his command broke. Another Samurai general died in a massive cavalry melee and that was that: 10-0 win.
I’d played Gavin Pearson’s Picts before and didn’t like them… my Samanids were heavily outnumbered and couldn’t cover the table so were vulnerable to outflanking. The Dailami in a small orchard protected my left flank, but on the other flank I didn’t have enough light horse to fend off the numerous Pictish LH. My archers did well on the right flank, shotin down numerous Ax(X) spearmen, but numbers would get them in the end. The decisive action in the centre was Cv(S) against Saxon warband, which the Saxons won decisively; first my centre and then the right collapsed for a 0-10 defeat.
The Samanids aren’t really suited to 25mm games on 6’ x 4’ tables: the army is too small and there’s not enough space to manoeuvre, while there are no killer troops. I might try the Saffarid variant with fewer expensive cavalry and more cheap infantry.
VENTA SILURUM 2016
For Paul Apreda’s doubles competition in Corntown, near Bridgend, Russ and I used a Rus army. Not an easy army to win with, but should be difficult to beat. It comprised three Rus commands each with large numbers of Irregular Spears and supporting psiloi, one including some Ax(S) javelinmen and another some LH(S)Bulgar tribesmen, plus a Pecheneg ally with LH(F) horse-archers and a couple of war-wagons. The Rus army relies on the enemy either presenting a solid target for the mass of spearmen or be willing to attack frontally; unfortunately this competition presented a large number of manoeuvrable cavalry armies which were unlikely to oblige.
However, our first opponent did attack. Ed Gilhead commanded the forces of the Chola Empire, Tamil Indians with lots of elephants and Fast Blade swordsmen. They rushed forward and crashed into our line of spearmen; the elephants trampled several and brought one command close to breaking, but we were able to outflank both ends of the Chola line with light horse and slay many Bd(F). Two Chola commands broke for a 10-0 win to the Rus.
Next we faced Martin Golay and Tony Green with Late Romans. They left a big gap in their centre, with infantry holding terrain on their right and two massed cavalry commands on their left opposite the Pechenegs. Our spearmen moved to support the Pechenegs, who fought well against enemy light horse but were beaten by cavalry. The Pecheneg command went down; we needed half an element to break the main Roman mounted command but its survivors kept out of trouble. The game timed out at 4-6, just as our psiloi had secured an area of rough going in the Roman centre which would have enabled them to turn the flank of the legion.
Nick Coles’ Khurasanians defended and placed several woods. We added some more which turned out to give us a perfect defensive position, with psiloi and auxilia defending the woods and spearmen filling the gaps. Nick tried to turn the flanks, but brilliant PIPs enabled us to march spearmen across and block this. After an hour and a half we agreed a 5-5 draw – Nick had no prospect of breaking through and if we advanced we’d be cut to pieces in the open plain. Then we played on anyway. Nick sent in some sacrificial light horse to tempt us out, and our own light horse with supporting spearmen and auxilia broke a Khurasanian command, assisted by our Cv(I) C-in-C who slew two elements. 6-4 to us (but of course counting as 5-5).
The last game was an exercise in frustration against Kevin Everard and John Vaughan’s Sassanid Persians. They presented no target at all, just a smallish C-in-C’s command hiding behind a large wood and an Arab ally skirmishing against two of our commands. Either a flank march plus an ambush in the wood or two flank marches. We scouted the wood with psiloi and found nothing. A flank march arrived on our right and attacked the Pechenegs; their two war wagons and two LH(F) were trampled by elephants but the rest of the command had moved to the other flank, chasing the Arabs, and the flank-marchers were held up by our Bulgar LH(S). Our spearmen were doggedly tramping forward and driving back cavalry and light horse, but weren’t likely to gain any decisive advantage. The second flank march arrived and was just in time to destroy one more Pecheneg element, making a quarter of the command. 4-6, with hardly any casualties.
I don’t think the Rus army suits our style, though its score of 23 points was respectable.
January brought the usual trip to South Wales for Richard Bodley Scott’s doubles competition, this time featuring four different rules sets. The DBM contingent comprised 17 players in ten teams, up from 12 players in 2015.
Russ King and I brought Late Imperial Romans; two commands centred on psiloi-supported legionaries and auxilia, plus a cavalry wing with numerous light horse and some cataphracts and a small Arab allied command with light horse and camels. Each Roman command had one or two Art(F) bolt-shooters.
Our first opponents were Paul Apreda and Nick Coles with Hannibal’s Carthaginians, including a large force of Gallic warband and a Numidian allied command. The terrain was fairly helpful, with plenty of rough going for our auxilia, but the main action was likely to be in the centre where the Gauls faced our legionaries. The Numidians threatened to envelop our right flank, so we sent some light horse and our few Kn(F) Gothic lancers to see them off. This worked, as the lancers destroyed several Numidian elements, but then two Kn(F) elements were destroyed by light horse and the others hastily withdrew. The warband crashed into the supported legionaries with mixed fortunes; after a long struggle the warband command broke, but it had done serious damage to our C-in-C’s command which had also lost the two Kn(F). As the time limit approached we were leading 6-4, but in the last combat of the game we lost a LH element which broke our C-in-C and reversed the score. 4-6.
Next we faced Graham Bull and John Nicolson commanding Ottomans, including a small command of Serbian knights. Their centre consisted of the Janissaries flanked by two war wagons, with large numbers of cavalry and light horse on the wings. The Janissaries suffered from our artillery shooting, which also bagged one of the war wagons, and played little part in the game. On our right our light horse and cataphracts attacked Ottoman light horse and cavalry, and in the first clash some excellent combat dice destroyed four Ottoman LH without loss, opening a gap which could not be filled. The bolt-shooters continued to destroy Ottoman cavalry and bowmen, and soon one command had gone. On the other flank our lancers and legionaries slew more light horse and bowmen to break a second Ottoman command for a 10-0 win.
The third game was against David Sheppard’s Later Sargonid Assyrians. This was a straightforward game in which the terrain all landed in the wrong place for us and we had to face the fearsome Kn(S) chariots in the open – mostly with psiloi-supported legionaries so the combats should have been even. We had planned to attack on our right with the Arabs and cataphracts, facing mainly cavalry, but the Arabs were unreliable so that couldn’t happen. The chariots crashed into our line and swept all before them; we did manage to destroy several, the Gothic lancers performing heroically, but the legionaries rapidly went down and a Roman command broke. That ended the game as the Arabs changed sides: 0-10 defeat.
We wound up with a game against Duncan Thompson’s Early Burgundians; huge numbers of bowmen backed by Bd(S) dismounted knights, a few mounted knights and a small French allied command with more knights. The terrain gave us an excellent defensive position with rough hills to defend, and we used the artillery to provoke the enemy into attacking. The French eagerly rushed at the artillery in the centre, losing one element to the shooting, and eventually lost control so that two elements charged up a rough hill against legionaries. The French command broke, but their demoralised general survived for a long time as a nuisance behind our lines, before our cataphracts eventually slew him. Everywhere else the volume of arrows pumped out by the Burgundians stopped us getting properly to grips, and even the legionaries failed to beat a mass of Bw(I). Although a command up, we were on the back foot when the game timed out at 6-4, leaving us in mid-table on 20 points.