Tuesday 18 November 2014

The Fate of Alt Clut – Parts 2–4

A long overdue report on how things stand in our Dux Britanniarum campaign "The Fate of Alt Clut".

We managed to play four games, before taking a break for the summer way back in June. And now, here in November, we're still on that break and I don't think we'll be able to continue with the campaign until some time next year.

Anyway, rather than a detailed account of each game, I'll just do a quick summary and then finish off the post with some thoughts on Dux Britanniarum and the campaign.

The first game was a Pict raid on an Angles village, which ended in a marginal victory for the raiders. You can read more about that game here.

In the second game, it was time for the Picts to test their might against of the Britons of Alt Clut proper. And what an interesting game this turned out to be – it became very clear that playing in a campaign poses and imposes certain challenges on it's own, which is exactly the thing I'm after!

The battlefield, with the church in the middle,
surrounded by fields and a garden.
The Picts arrive from the top edge, and the Britons
from the right edge.

The Picts had their eyes set on a newly erected church just outside Mygedawc, where the holy relics were said to be of much value and the church's roof clad in gold.

I took command of the raiding Picts while my good mate Dalauppror commanded the staunch Britons – suitably reinforced with some heavy cavalry to hunt down the fast raiders.

Things didn't start too well for the Picts when I rolled two ones in a row: one for my morale roll and one for how many rounds headstart I would get. It seemed I would have to press forward as much as possible to try and get to the church before the Britons could form up a solid defense with their pesky shield walls.

The Britons making a swift advance with their levy,
trying to intercept the slow moving Picts screened by
their skirmishers and horsemen.

Unfortunately, my skirmishers got a little too enthusiastic while the other troops advanced far too cautiously. This meant the skirmishers got neutralised pretty quickly, even though they managed to tie up the Briton's cavalry for a while, buying me much needed time. As I found out, the skirmishers were badly needed as a way to soften up the Britons in shield walls before going in with the regular raiders.

The Britons cavalry arrive and immediately get locked in a lengthy
chase of the Picts' skirmishers.

After a couple of rounds of slogging towards the church, with some truly abysmal rolls for movement, it was clear this was not the Picts' day and I decided to withdraw to fight another time. But not before trying one last desperate attempt to get the upper hand: the Pictish Lord lead a mad attack against the British levy in shield wall. However, the only result of this attack was an honorable wound for the Lord and, predictably, some more fleeing Picts. The Britons tried to hunt down the fleeing raiders but only managed to inflict some minor losses after all. Result: a slight win for the Britons.

The Pictish Lord leads a suicide attack on the British levy in shield wall.
With predictable result ...

The Britons closing in on the raiders.

The Britons' cavalry, finally having destroyed the last skirmishers,
makes short work of the Pictish Lord's unit.
In face of the staunch British defense, the Pictish raiders
decide to call it a day.

And once again peace is restored.
Maybe even with a little help from The Man himself?

The month after the Picts were at it again, raiding a Romano-British farm. This time we switched sides, with me commanding the Britons and Dalauppror the Picts. Once again the raiders came up short as the British cavalry proved just as effective this time – a couple of well-placed charges saw the Pictish morale crumble and they were once again forced to withdraw in humiliating defeat.

Below are some pictures from this game:

An overview of the battlefield: Picts to the north
and Britons to the south.

Pictish cavalry rushing ahead of the main force.

The Picts arrive first and start to swarm all over the farm,
looking for things to knick.

Eventually the Romano-Britons arrive and everything degenerates
into that familiar mosh-pit of Dark Ages fighting.

Choo! Choo! You're about to get charged by some very angry cavalry.
What do you do?

With the Picts slightly weakened, the Angles (who were now up to full strength) saw an opportunity for an easy victory. They made a quick raid into the Picts' lands and stole some cattle. On their way back they were attacked by the returning Picts, who were eager to prove themselves after the failed raid against the Briton farm. However, the slightly under-strength force – no cavalry – proved no match for the aggressive Angles and another Pictish defeat was a fact. Sadly we didn't take any pictures of this game.

And so after 4 games and 3 months "in-game time" we have 2 victories for the Romano-Britons and 1 victory each for the Angles and the Picts. As is my general experience the attackers/raiders really need a good plan and some lucky dice rolls to win. It's also obviously of importance where the objective is placed – if it's placed far from the entry point of the attacker, it's going to be a tough match for them to win even with a couple of rounds of head start.

As for the rules themselves, they work fine for the most part but suffer somewhat from under-explanation. The added/adjusted rules for cavalry in the Raiders book, and the following confusion, really highlighted this I think.

I won't blame all the problems on the text though, as some of it is us, the players, coming to the game with a pre-conception of how things should be. When things aren't very clearly spelled out, we tend to fall back on how things usually work in our interpretations, which with rules such as these – with hidden depths, and elegant interactions between the different parts – makes for a somewhat confusing experience. It's easy to miss the smaller nuances, glossing them over in a quick read-through, when you think you already know how things work.

To be fair, the author has tried very hard to try and answer any questions but I really think there should be an updated version, with better explanations, or maybe simply a compiled FAQ-document like the one for Chain of Command.

I must confess that personally, my initial excitement for Dux Britanniarum has begun to wane a bit. Maybe this break was a good thing after all, giving us time to let the excitement build again. Because eventually, I really do want to continue with this campaign. The fate of Alt Clut still hangs in the balance ...

Thank you very much for reading!

And finally a big thank you to Michael/Dalauppror for supplying me with all the pictures for this post!

Update: Hey everyone, I didn't mean for this to turn into "let's bash Dux Britanniarum" and scare anyone away from this most excellent game. We've played close to 20 games of it by now – more than any other game I've ever played! – and it's really been tremendously fun.

My comments on its shortcomings were just to say that I think a great game could be even better. I would be very happy with an updated version with some tidying up of the text, together with some more and better explanations/clarifications and examples. Failing this, I'd be satisfied with a regularly updated FAQ-document.

Monday 10 November 2014

WSS #75

On Friday I received the new issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy. An issue which is of special interest to me, not only because this time the theme is the Thirty Years Wars – an era I have long wanted to take a closer look at, but the timing has never been right (too much other stuff going on) – but also because it features an article by my good mate Dalauppror on the Danish invasion of the island Gotland in 1361. The fact that it even made the cover is fantastic!

This really is an excellent feature, with a comprehensive historical background, lots of nice pictures of lovely painted Danes and four scenarios for Lion Rampant that could be easily adapted to your rules of choice. It's well worth checking out by anyone with the slightest interest in Scandinavian medieval history.

I have contributed by some proof-reading and help in play testing the scenarios, as well as lending parts of my Dark Ages collection to be used as Gutes. If I had known the miniatures would end up on the front cover of WSS 2,5 years later I would have spent some more time on them ...

Anyway, this is not my show but all Dalauppror's – nice work mate and congratulations!

Monday 27 October 2014

Tales of Darkwood – Ruins of the Forest

As I mentioned in my previous post on the fantasy project, I have done some terrain pieces. Starting off we have some arcane ruins that harbor strange artifacts from the fallen empire, together with crumbling statues of long forgotten kings and a mysterious stone circle that still seems to emit an eerie power.

The ruins and statues are all from Citadel's Lord of the Rings range, while the stone circle is from Ziterdes. The buildings look like they have been purposely destroyed rather than having crumbled of old age, which makes for an interesting effect I think.

The kits are nicely detailed, but the fitting between the different parts are less than perfect – or maybe it's just my mediocre modeling skills ...

Going with the forest theme of the project, I went for an partially overgrown look with these. It was fun playing around with different tufts, ivy and foliages. You just have to be careful not to overdo it and remember these are not dioramas, but rather war-games terrain – you have to be able to place the miniatures somewhere!

In the future I want to do a couple of more terrain pieces, a bit smaller this time, and maybe some trees as well.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday 19 October 2014

A New Project

On Wednesday night we could finally welcome the newest member of our family – little Svante – all in glorious 1:1 scale and pre-painted too. Since then it's all been a bit of a blur really ...

I haven't been overly active blogging lately, and obviously this will now continue for the foreseeable future. However, I have a backlog of a couple of posts I'm planning to publish during the coming weeks. After this, we'll have to see what I can manage – with regards to both blogging and painting! – in-between changing diapers and serving the rest of the family.

Hopefully things will eventually settle, and I can get at least some hobby time now and then. But it's still a good while before I'm there.

Have a great week everyone!

Saturday 4 October 2014

Tales of Darkwood – Ragnar Blodsärk and His Men

And now for something completely different.

As I mentioned in another post I lost a bit of my painting mojo over the summer. I don't know if it was the slow progress of the Italian Wars project or just general painting fatigue. However, after some serious surfing on various blogs and particularly the fantastic Lead Adventure forum, I found my inspiration slowly being reinvigorated: I was going to do a fantasy skirmish project.

You see, I'm a bit of a fantasy buff. Ever since I laid eyes on that fantastic map in The Hobbit, I've been hooked on imaginary worlds and made up languages. It's a genre with lots (and lots!) of crap for sure, but in the hands of say a LeGuin, a Tolkien or a Leiber there's nothing quite like it.

I already have some experience with the excellent Song of Blades and Heroes rules from Ganesha Games, and they fit this project perfectly. A standard war band numbers some 8–12 models, which meant I could paint it up pretty fast and still spend some time on conversions etc without it getting overwhelming.

As for the background and setting, the "fluff" if you like, I was very inspired by the newly released Swedish pen-and-paper RPG Symbaroum, which centers around a vast brooding forest, harboring strange remnants of a former empire. So shamelessly stole this idea and adapted it to a (short) campaign: various groups searching a spooky forest for strange artifacts and clashing with each other and the mysterious guardians of the woods. And so "Tales of Darkwood" was born – the name of the forest obviously being an homage to the old Fighting Fantasy book "Forest of Doom".

After presenting the idea to my mate Dalauppror, he immediately responded: "So when do we play?" He was keen to use one of his war bands from an older project, which would fit perfectly for what I had in mind. He also had some custom built terrain we could use.

My own idea for a war band was a tribe of "barbarians" that's been living on the brink of the forest, but never venturing into it because of old taboos. Now however, with the arrival of explorers and missionaries from a southern kingdom, they are desperate to find ways to battle the newcomers and thus enters the forbidden woods in search of something to help them in their fight.

The models are a mix of Ancient Germans from Foundry (the riders) and Black Tree Design, together with an old Citadel wizard. I did some simple conversions on some of the riders. I sculpted fur cloaks over the regular cloaks on two of them, and the leader got an imposing spiked mace from a GW Chaos Marauder. The wizard/shaman I left as he was, as it's such a fantastic model full of that old school charm I'm so fond of. I really dig these old Citadel miniatures, and after finishing my first proper "Oldhammer" miniature I certainly have an itch to do more of them!

As the leader got a red shirt I decided to name him Ragnar Blodsärk ("Blood shirt"). Simple and straight forward, just like Ragnar himself I imagine.

I choose to use some Pagan Rus shield transfers I had laying around. In part to give the models a bit of a different "non-western dark ages"-look, but also to add some colour to the miniatures.

For the bases I wanted to try some new toys and experiment with a new look. I went for the thick moss of the forest floor, together with thick underbrushes with a slightly alien feel. I think the red leaves work particularly well against all the green on the bases, and the slightly muted colours of the miniatures.

And no, the irony is not lost on me – even when I decide to do a fantasy project all my miniatures look like they belong in the Dark Ages ... Sigh.

I'm now in the process of finishing some terrain pieces for this project, and of course I'm looking at doing another war band or two! These projects have a habit of getting out of control once you start.

Hopefully I'll be able to get a game or two with Ragnar and his men before the new baby arrives.

As always – thanks for reading and I hope you'll all have a great weekend!

Sunday 21 September 2014

Lion Rampant – It's Here!

I'm lucky to have been a play tester for the medieval large scale skirmish game Lion Rampant by Dan Mersey, of Dux Bellorum fame. I have now received my complimentary copy and had quick skim through the book. This is the first time I have my name in print in a wargames book, which of course is very flattering indeed. I had to show it to my fiancée who was suitably impressed (or at least pretended to be).

Lion Rampant has the usual high production values of Osprey's Wargames series – the layout is the same used in the other books in the series and it's filled with a smattering of gorgeous illustrations taken from their regular reference volumes, together with some really nice pictures of painted models and terrain used both as illustrative examples and as pure eye candy.

We've played a fair number of games of Lion Rampant by now, in various iterations, and the rules give a fast and fun experience – highly recommended for a club night or similar. You can find a bunch of AARs from our games on the excellent blog of Dalauppror. He has been even more involved in the development of the game than me and have a couple of picture of his stunning minis in the book – very well-deserved if you ask me.

A standard 24 points retinue, as the armies are called, numbers around something like 40–50 models, depending on how you choose to organize it. This means it's pretty easy to get into the game, as you don't have to paint up droves and droves of models. My own retinue – the medieval host of the Novgorod prince Alexander Nevskij – is 42 models strong, with a mix of mounted and foot troops.

The book is out now, and well worth checking out.

Monday 1 September 2014

Italian Wars French 3 – Reisläufers 3

Hot on the heels of the last update, here are another two bases of mercenaries for my French army for the Italian Wars. As before, these represent either Landsknechts or Reisläufers (Swiss mercenaries).

The models are yet again from Foundry's classic renaissance line. Some lovely sculpts by Alan Perry that certainly have held up well over time.

These are in a more attacking pose, and will form the front line of the pike blocks. Originally I had planned to do the second line in standing poses, and the first line in advancing, but after reading about the very aggressive tactics of the Swiss mercenaries – they would often recklessly charge across the battlefield before smashing into the enemy – I decided to forgo all standing poses for a more dynamic look of the units.

Here is an almost finished unit, just the command stand left to do. There's really nothing quite like the sight of a pike block on the wargaming table!

After this it's another two attacking bases, and then two command stands and my pike blocks are finally finished. It's been a bit of a chore so far, but the end result will be well worth I think.

Thanks for reading – I hope you'll have a great week!

Monday 25 August 2014

Italian Wars French 2 – Reisläufers 2

Here are the next two bases of pike armed mercenaries for my French army for the Italian Wars. They are either Landsknechts or their Swiss counterpart Reisläufers.

I actually finished these earlier in the summer, but I just now took the time to finally photograph them.

The miniatures are from Foundry, the classic sculpts by Alan Perry, and I have to say I like them a lot. The models looked a bit dodgy in the bare metal, so I wasn't too sure about them, but they painted up really, really nice. In my opinion they certainly hold up well against the much more recent Pro Gloria.

After posting up the first batch, I got some comments on the basing – more specifically some people thought they looked too regular and ranked up, and lacking that "push of pike" feeling. In hindsight, I do agree and for these new bases I tried to position them in a more irregular manner. I think they look much better for this.

As you may remember, I had some problems with the first bunch I painted using the straight Foundry triad system. For the new models I reverted back to my standard method, relying more on washes and sharper highlights. As a result, I'm much more happy with the look of these. The problem now is of course they have a slightly different look than the first bases – a bit darker or dirtier and with more contrasts between the layers. I haven't yet decided if the difference is too noticeable or if I can pass them off OK.

Here are some shots of the finished bases to date. You can clearly see the difference in painting styles.

Lots of pointy stuff.

I will not field the pike block like this, but nevertheless it's nice to get a feel for the finished unit.

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you'll have a great week!