Up to the Norfolk Broads for the first doubles competition since January 2020. Russ and I took Later Sargonids, an Assyrian variety we hadn’t used before. When I saw the armies others were using I was disconcerted – far too many Bw(X) to face with an army relying on its Kn(S) chariots. We had 5 chariots in each of two commands, with various supports, then a command mainly of Spears, Bows and psiloi, plus the C-in-C’s mini-command with a few cavalry and some Hordes. Esarhaddon himself would stand at the back, merely sending cavalry to reinforce weak spots.
We started against Kevin Everard and Paul Holmes who had Later Achaemenid Persians – lots of mediocre cavalry and weakish infantry, but a large allied command of Greek hoplites. Their fourth command comprised a general leading four scythed chariots: these deployed at the back and manoeuvred to face suitable targets. We concentrated on our right against the main cavalry command; our few archers shot some down and the chariots disposed of more, soon breaking that command. On the other flank, however, the scythed chariots were seemingly indestructible and caused havoc, destroying various psiloi, auxilia and cavalry. Two of them eventually went down but two survived, one finishing the game on our base line. But the Greeks never got into action and we were on the attack when time ran out for a 6-4 win.
Andy and John Brooker’s Makkan masses looked formidable, with vast numbers of Fast Warbands, camels and skirmishers amid horrible terrain. The latter gave us few attacking options, but we did get an attack going on our right where the terrain wasn’t quite so bad. Our spear command held up well in the centre while the Wb(F) fell in numbers, and when time was called one huge Makkan command had lost a quarter of its strength (12 elements against a break point of 14.5), giving us a 6-4 win.
The next game started similarly, invading Britain against Boadicea’s army commanded by Dean Astillberry and Ken Warren. The terrain was forbidding, the most important pieces being a large wood opposite our centre and steep hills on our right. There would evidently be a flank march on the more open left. A large force of warbands and psiloi occupied the central wood, facing our spear/bow command, and the flank march was declared on the first turn. Fortunately we were ready for it and faced the newcomers with cavalry, light horse and a couple of heavy chariots, while our psiloi occupied rough going where they were assailed by warband from the flank-marchers and another British command. The psiloi did well, holding up large numbers of warband and actually destroying some, while the chariots and cavalry decisively beat the light British chariots. One Kn(S) pursued into rough going and was killed by Inferior Psiloi, but the flank-marching command soon broke.
Meanwhile our other chariot force attacked on the right against Cv(O) chariots and drove them back. All this time the central warband remained on the edge of their wood; a couple of psiloi and a warband element were shot down by our archers despite the shelter of the wood and intermittent rain. The decisive moment came when that command scored 1 PIP, giving a choice between holding the warband and having a long shot at two of our chariots (one a general). Our opponents opted for the latter; the Cv(O) destroyed one of our Kn(S) but failed against the general, while the warband rushed out in a disorderly mass. Our spearmen and their Kn(S) general attacked with double overlaps and destroyed 9 Wb(F) in the first combat round, then 8 more in the second. The British army broke for a 10-0 win.
Finally we faced Sung Chinese led by the skilled Jeremy Morgan assisted by John Calvert. A formidable force with lots of Bw(X) who were likely to be fatal to our knights. Again terrain was important, with steep hills protecting our right, and we refused the left while attacking with the spear/bow command in the centre. Unfortunately a strong wind blew in our faces and our archers were decisively out-shot, four elements dying for only two of the enemy. The central struggle bogged down in a Spear versus Blade shoving match. The main Chinese attack developed against our left, where a chariot and cavalry command was reinforced by our C-in-C’s cavalry. The Bw(X) shot well and the enemy mounted troops traded blows with ours – heavy losses on both sides, but more than we could afford and our command broke.
On the right a Hsi ally mainly of LH(F) with a few Cv(S) was attacked by our chariots and cavalry, with some success. We nearly finished it off, but the Hsi managed enough PIPs each turn to retreat out of reach. In the centre our foot command was being whittled down with the loss of its archers and various psiloi, finally being half an element from breaking when time was called. We just hung on for a 4-6 defeat.
A great weekend with four good games and second place (behind Jeremy and John, of course).
Justinian’s Wars, 14/15 August 2021
The 19th in my series of invitational themed competitions was a great success – 19 players all with armies or enemies of the Byzantine Empire during the reigns of Justinian I and Justin II. What an excellent weekend’s gaming, with a worthy champion and many thrills such as Jeremy getting two “mutual destruction” results and losing to Duncan, novice Dan avoiding the “Dead Hero” prize by his first competition win in the last game, John and Kevin travelling from Norfolk to Somerset only to play each other in the last round.
As Richard Jeffrey-Cook, one of only two ever-presents in the series, could be there only on the Saturday I played two games on the Sunday to even the numbers. I fielded one of the two Italian Ostrogothic armies – the earlier version for opposing Belisarius, with numerous Fast Knight lancers, Inferior Bow archers, Inferior Spears and a few psiloi. In the first game I faced not Byzantines but invading Avars commanded by John Mee. The Avars had Superior Cavalry, Superior Light Horse, a surprisingly large force of Auxilia and a regular command structure. With all those expensive troops it was a much smaller army than mine.
The terrain consisted of a small village, a large steep hill and an area of marsh, all of which was on my left flank. I garrisoned the difficult terrain with a small force of psiloi and attacked all along the rest of the line with my lancers and archers. The Avar infantry shaped to storm the steep hill, but lack of PIPs soon stalled this move. The early combats were disastrous, with my “knights” falling in numbers to light horse and cavalry while doing very little damage themselves. However, I was able to fill the gaps and soon Avar horsemen were going down. With their commands’ low break points first one and then a second command broke, giving me a decisive win.
Then I faced Russ King leading a Lombard army. The Lombards had Fast and Inferior Knights, psiloi, a few archers and two allied contingents, Bulgars with cavalry and light horse and Franks consisting entirely of warband. There was a large steep hill in the centre and a marsh on my right flank. On the left my C-in-C’s command faced a smallish Lombard command and the Bulgars; the centre was screened by psiloi who attempted to storm the hill, and on the right two lots of knights faced the Kn(I) Lombards and the Franks, with my archers facing nothing on the far right.
A see-saw struggle soon developed on the left; Lombard knights attacked my spearmen and mostly died, while knights fell on both sides. It was a near thing, but with my command one element from breaking I broke the opposing Lombard command. Then the Bulgars managed to finish off my C-in-C’s command. On the other flank large numbers of Ostrogothic knights crashed into the Lombard Kn(I) and the Franks; gaps appeared in both lines and this enabled the Lombards to slay a sub-general. Four knight elements and a psiloi gone from that command, but its next PIP roll was 5 so it survived. Right at the end my other sub-general was killed, but so was the Lombard C-in-C whose command broke, ending the game in a win for me. The score would normally be 7-3, but in these competitions we use 15-0 scoring so it worked out as 12-6.
Pete Connew won the competition with a near-perfect score of 58 points from a possible 60. Many congratulations to him. Next year’s competition will be “Alexander’s Successors”, all armies dated 322 to 270 BC, for a complete contrast with this year’s army types.
Westbury Wars 2021
The first DBM competition for nearly eighteen months was held on 24/25 July, after several postponements. Nine players, with eight present on each day, fielded 25mm armies: four of the nine were Roman and two Macedonian, so there were three civil wars in the first round. I used an army I’d never played with before, Teutonic Orders led by the famous Hermann von Salza. Two commands with Superior Knights, including two of the double-based wedges, plenty of crossbowmen, a few spearmen, auxilia, psiloi, cavalry and light horse, plus a German ally with Ordinary Knights and more crossbowmen and spearmen.
The first game was against David Sheppard who’d borrowed my Suevi army – mostly Warband with a Superior front rank, and cavalry and psiloi. David hadn’t used the army before, and placed several woods which hampered his deployment: there were woods in front of his main warband forces so he had to use many PIPs to manoeuvre around them. He refused his right flank, anchoring it on a small wood held by psiloi with cavalry behind. I turned this flank, successfully shooting the psiloi and then attacking the cavalry with the allied knights. Meanwhile the main force of Teutonic Knights attacked the deploying warband, riding down several elements then killing a general to break a large command. After that it didn’t take long to break the Suevi army for a 10-0 win.
The next opponent was Derek Bruce with Polybian Romans. The area in front of my left wing was cluttered with terrain so I refused that flank and concentrated in the open centre and right. Derek hastily withdrew his cavalry and light horse who were facing Kn(S) and crossbows, but couldn’t get them all away and I caught enough to break a small command. The victorious knights were then able to roll up his centre for another 10-0 win.
A tougher opponent was an Alexandrian Imperial army commanded by Jeremy Morgan. I defended this time and had to place some terrain – marshes, to which Jeremy added rough going. My army had no counter to the pikes; I did my best and slew numerous cavalry and light horse, but the pikes eventually got at my knights and smashed them. Lost 0-10.
The final game was the best of the weekend. Duncan Thompson’s Early Imperial Romans had been doing well, and were able to get plenty of good defensive terrain which stopped me attacking on the left. My ally in the centre was unreliable for the first few turns. On the right I advanced to shoot at cavalry, who moved away as fast as they could but were eventually attacked by the Teutonic Knights led by the Grand Master in person. Two of the Kn(S) died against legionaries and I also lost some light horse and crossbowmen, but the other knights caused havoc and von Salza eventually slew three cavalry elements. He pursued into trouble, but survived and broke the Roman command. On the other flank the Romans attacked after a long delay and legionaries destroyed one of my knight wedges, while the other wedge had to pursue into rough going against auxilia. But the small force of Ordinary Spears on this flank performed prodigies against Ax(S) despite being heavily outnumbered, and my general destroyed some legionaries. Then the victorious knights on the right crashed into the Roman centre, assisted by the allied knights who had dismounted as Bd(S), and broke the army for a 10-0 win. An excellent, tense game which could have gone either way.
Jeremy won the competition by one point, and everyone enjoyed himself, several remarking what a treat it was to get the figures onto the table again.
The complete absence of competitions, and even casual games, so far in 2021 resulted in severe withdrawal symptoms. Russ King suggested that we play solo games and exchange pictures, and so far I’ve played about 20 games, all with 350 points 25mm armies. I’ve had some “mini-tournaments” – each has four contemporary armies which all play each other. Here are pictures from some of those games.
West Franks v Vikings
Milanese v Medieval German
Medieval German v Feudal French
Feudal English v Ayyubid Egyptian
Early Crusader v Syrian
Komnenan Byzantine v Sicilian
Ottoman v Later Hungarian
Middle Imperial Roman v Late Imperial Roman
The results of the “mini-tournaments” were as follows:
12th Century Tournament
Crusader 7 Syrian 3
Sicilian 7 Byzantine 3
Byzantine 7 Syrian 3
Crusader 10 Sicilian 0
Byzantine 9 Crusader 1
Sicilian 10 Syrian 0
1 Byzantine 19
2 Crusader 18
3 Sicilian 17
4 Syrian 6
13th Century Tournament
Germans 10 French 0
English 7 Germans 3
French 9 Ayyubids 1
English 10 Ayyubids 0
English 7 French 3
Germans 9 Ayyubids 1
1 English 24
2 Germans 22
3 French 12
4 Ayyubids 2
The Muslim armies didn’t do at all well – not much room to manoeuvre in 25mm games, where the knights tend to dominate.
An 11th century tournament, with all armies dated 1066 AD, is under way.
As an “extra” game I tried Seljuks v Early Crusaders, both dated 1122. The Crusaders had all the luck and won 10-0.