Big Battle Weekend – Punic Wars with To the Strongest

On Saturday four of us (Goat major, Essex Boy, Count Belisarius and I) played a big 15mm Punic Wars game at Wargames Foundry’s premises near Newark.

We planned the weekend months ago, and more recently did the final prep to ensure we had everything we needed on the day – scenery, tokens, army rosters, and so on. As these things tend to, it came around very quickly at the end but fortunately there was little last minute panic painting to do (except for the Count of course!)

We chose the Punic period because 3 of us had suitable figures (most of which hadn’t seen the light for day for a lot of years), and To the Strongest because it offered a relatively quick-play experience and, being grid-based, wasn’t going to be fazed by mild variations in people’s unit basing.

 

We collated a list of available figures and drew up two armies, each about 550 points in game terms. As a first go with the rules (apart from a solo test game I played a while back) this was rather ambitious, but we wanted a bit of a spectacle and the look and feel of a big battle. Hopefully the pictures give the impression that we achieved this.

 

You do need quite a few bits and pieces to play TtS – playing cards, activation markers, ammo markers, as well as a gridded battlefield. We chatted through all this beforehand and were able to turn up with the right items on the day. We used two 6’x4′ Mat-o-War cloths, foliage clumps placed at 6″ intervals, and some other scenery, then deployed the armies and got stuck in.

Inevitably we were playing more slowly at the beginning than we were by the end, but we soon got the gist of things and enjoyed the way the rules worked.

EB and I drew the Carthaginians, with their various Spanish, Numidian and Italian allies (plus some elephants of course). GM and CB each had two Roman legions, plus hordes of Gauls and other allies.

 

 

Naturally everyone advanced and got stuck in, infantry in the middle and cavalry on the flanks. 4 or 5 hours of play later we hadn’t quite got a decisive result, but we had had a lot of fun. Elephants had rampaged back through friendly troops, generals had died and hat-tricks of aces had been drawn (an unlikely occurrence but repeated several times – mostly by the unlucky GM). By the time we had to stop and pack up I had a slight positional edge over GM’s Romans/Gauls, and hadn’t committed many of my doughty African Spearmen, while to my left EB and CB had fought out a fairly bloody draw. A close thing all-round then, and a very enjoyable day.

 

 

 

 

 

Great company as always and the game was played in a friendly spirit all-round. We had a good night out in Newark too, with a few ales and an excellent curry.

There are some tentative plans for games next year, which will hopefully happen. It’ll probably be mine and Simon’s turn to travel, if EB and the Count can get their gaming spaces sorted!

Trying out To the Strongest

Although I’ve been pretty idle in terms of painting, I have managed to play a few more games recently. There were three goes at Dragon Rampant last weekend with a good friend, which were excellent fun – my first non-solo battles with these rules. We used the various forces I’d been trying out in solo games, pairing them off and fighting it out. Lots of fun, and plenty of beer. Fortunately I don’t have any pictures of that 🙂

That was after a visit to Hammerhead on the Saturday, which was worth popping along to. It’s good to see the enthusiasm of the participation games at this show, the venue is pretty good and there are plenty of traders too. I didn’t buy much but it was nice to wander about and bump into some friends – Purps, GM and Gary, for a catch up. I missed a ‘hi’ to Henry as he was embroiled in hosting his 18th century paintballing game!

Since then I’ve been investigating the To the Strongest rules from BigRedBat, and very interesting they are too. There are plans afoot for a 4 player get-together later this year for some 15mm ancients gaming – specifically the Punic Wars, and we’ve decided on (not without some debate!) using these rules for their benefits of grids for movement, ease of learning, and flexibility in terms of figure basing.

Quick pic here, and I’ll follow with some observations on my initial playtesting in the next post.

 

A Few Extras Painted

I’m happily lacking any hobby deadlines at the moment, so have been dabbling with whatever takes my fancy (ie. whatever is already prep’d and undercoated).

The latest minor additions to several projects include:

Two units of skirmishers for my 15mm Punic Wars armies. Numidians (Corvus) at the back and blurry Carthaginians (Strategia e Tattica) at the front:

A unit of 6mm Grenzers for my Seven Years War Austrians, which I might finally make a proper start on soon. Heroics and Ros figures.

The first 3 Austrian battalions for my 6mm 1859 army, H&R again. Two of these units need flags, which I’ll be making from pin and foil – so I can scrunch them up and not have to paint perfect double-headed eagles, etc! I’ve tried the Baccus ones and, for me, they suffer from being printed – the symbols are a bit pixelated and they’re faded rather than full of colour.

Who knows what I’ll do next, more soon.

Lion Rampant – First Game

I’ve only heard good things about these rules from Dan Mersey/Osprey and have decided to have a go with them. I bought them when they came out and was impressed by the clarity of the writing and many of the basic concepts behind the rules.

I didn’t have a clear idea of how/when I would get into gaming with this ruleset but then along came an idea among the LAW forum and Ayton crowd to plan for a multi-player Lion Rampant weekend in 2017, and I started to think about a 28mm force (or 2 opposed retinues, you know how it is..). Now, 2017 is a long way off (the 2016 game being already planned), but as is to be expected with wargamers, excitement has already built up to a point where a late 2015 get-together is being discussed. I’d better get cracking then!

A friend has been working on a 15mm Medieval project and kindly sent me a QRS he’s written, which incorporates some post-publication clarifications, and a unit/troop type roster. With the table still set up from the Sambre game I decided it would be silly not to have a go, so removed a few terrain boards from one edge and swapped out the Roman fort for a couple of thatched cottages and some scattered scenery.

I’d be playing the game in 15mm, with all distances halved. This meant a board of 3 feet by 2-and-a-bit feet would be fine for a game that recommends 6’x4′ for 28mm. For figures I raided some fantasy and Dark Ages forces to gather together a fairly traditional Feudal retinue to fight against a slightly less colourful, and more warband-like mob from the fringes of civilisation.

The rules offer plenty of troop types and, on top of that, a number of equipment and upgrade options to customise things further. A sensible person would tackle a first game with smaller than standard forces and just a few unit types. That’s why I decided to go for full 24 point retinues and loads of variety. Well, I was in no hurry and would work through things over as much time as needed.

The forces are as follows:

Feudals
2 x Knights (Mounted Men-at-Arms @ 6 pts) 12 pts (1 incl. Leader)
1 x Spearmen (Foot Sergeants @ 4 pts)                   4 pts
1 x Crossbowmen (@ 4 pts)                                       4 pts
2 x Woodsmen (Bidowers @ 2 pts)                           4 pts

24 points, 48 figures

Raiders
1 x Heavy Cavalry (Mounted Sergeants @ 4 pts) 4 pts (incl. Leader)
2 x Light Cavalry (Mtd Yeomen w/Javelins @ 3 pts) 6 pts
2 x Warriors (Fierce Foot @ 4 pts)                              8 pts
1 x Archers (@ 4 pts)                                                    4 pts
1 x Skirmishers (Bidowers @ 2 pts)                            2 pts

24 points, 60 figures

Naturally the scenario for this first game was based on the standard encounter clash – called ‘Bloodbath’ in the book. Sounds like it should be about right. The cottages would inevitably offer a focal point to fight over, and the wooded hills would both channel the main forces towards each other, while offering cover and concealment to the rest.

Here’s the table and (hopefully) pretty much everything I’d need to play the game.

Next post: some pics from the game and thoughts on how things went.

Battle of the Sambre

At the weekend I thought I’d fit in a solo game of some sort, and after a bit of prevarication over a coffee I decided to dust off some Romans and Gauls and try out a modest re-fight of the Battle of the Sambre. This is something I’ve fancied doing for a long time, since first reading about the battle and the wargame re-fight in Charles Grant (Snr)’s ‘The Ancient Wargame’ – which I must have owned for over 30 years.

The Romans (6 legions of them), commanded by Caesar, have marched up to the river Sambre in northern Gaul/Belgica and are busy working on their overnight fort when they’re surprised by a huge horde of hairy locals intent on mayhem and blood. The Romans have to try to form up and defend themselves while hoping that the remaining 2 legions, who are following with the baggage, arrive in time to help.

I used home-grown rules, written by a friend, to play the game in 15mm on a gridded board. It played as a fairly standard-sized game, to which I added a few scenario-specific rules and of course played around with the initial deployment to reflect the Romans’ state of unreadiness.

So, what happened in my re-fight? I’ll aim to tell the story with more pictures than words..

The Romans in the process of constructing their marching fort. The leaders had to use the majority of their early command ‘pips’ just to reform their troops, leaving little scope for forming up a sensible battle formation – or even a full line.

 

 

 

The tribes burst out of the opposite treeline slope on turn 1 and ploughed into the river. On the left the Nervii made up the largest contingent (which was to give them some command and control challenges), with the smaller Viromandui and Atrebates contingents making up the rest of the coalition army. The river was a minor obstacle, but moving fresh and eager warbands towards an enemy is never that difficult!

 

 

 

 

Caesar did manage to make some semblance of order out of the chaos before the Gauls hit, but it was tough fighting from the start and isolated VII Legion on the right wing was steadily pushed back, creating a real risk of the whole army being outflanked. The few Roman skirmishers did quite well, causing a delay here and there and buying some time for the heavy troops to form up.

 

 

 

The Roman auxiliary light cavalry had clearly done a very poor scouting job, and although they passed their ‘flee’ test when the enemy charged out of the woods, they contributed nothing to the battle – basically due to the Roman generals being too busy elsewhere to try to get them to do anything. Reasonably historical really.

Caesar posted himself with his best troops, X Legion, on the left, trusting his sub-commander to hold the right flank.

The XIII and XIV Legions were on their way though, and the retreating right wing was clearly where they were most needed – and where they’d be able to make the earliest intervention. The death of the Roman general on this flank was a nasty set-back at a crucial point but the army’s command structure soon organised a replacement and disaster was averted.

 

 

Fighting was very fierce over and around the unfinished fortifications in the centre. The Gauls had the best of the initial clashes, but couldn’t quite destroy any of the legions to enable them to break through in the centre. Eventually the Roman fighting discipline told and, although it was touch and go until the end, they held firm and saw off the enemy here.

On the right it continued to be tougher, with the King of the Nervii leading a furious attack which looked likely to win the day.

The late-arriving column comes into play, with VII Legion on the brink of collapse and about to be saved by a timely Roman quick-step unit replacement manoeuvre. After this the Nervii tried to re-group for another attack but the Romans had effectively shored up their line and the right flank was secure.

On the left Caesar got stuck in and helped to keep the lads steady, and fortunately just when the line was about to give way, the King of the Viromandui was struck down atop the ramparts and the rest of his tribe melted away. Although the Atrebates had made progress against the Roman left flank, they were now isolated and decided to follow their allies back across the river.

 

The end of the battle, with the Romans victorious – although many of their units were on the brink of being destroyed. The Gallic alliance had just fallen short in some key combats, and couldn’t make their greater numbers tell. History had repeated itself, and although Caesar had had a bit of a scare, he knew his invasion of northern Gaul would now proceed more smoothly. He’d just need to give some thought to how he’d write things up for the Senate and the People…

All in all it was an enjoyable game, and it was nice to play a scenario I’d been keen to do for so many years.

A Couple of Punic Battles – part 2

The first game ended in a Roman minor victory, with them scoring 15 victory points (14 being required for a win) against the Carthaginians, with the latter scoring 10 in return.

With the terrain and figures already to hand it would have been rude not to play another game so I made a few minor changes to the table (ie. clearing a bit more central space) and re-deployed. This time I upped the armies by half again for a 150 point game involving a total of just over 500 figures. The Romans had now recruited a force of Spanish and the Carthaginians had bought in more Gauls and Numidians.

On the assumption that the Carthaginians were coming back for more, and the Romans were happy to oblige (and confident from the first battle), I decided that both sides were ‘up for it’ and there was no defender as such. I didn’t take many pictures this time, but did capture the deployment and some of the early moves.

 

 

The lines getting closer:

First clashes:

This time the Romans were faced by a first line of seething Gauls who charged in hard as they always do. The elephants were in the Carthaginian second line, as were the best of their infantry. It worked; despite the Romans using their unique ‘Legion’ rule which allowed them to swap tired units in combat with fresh reserves, and cutting up most of the Gauls, the attrition was too heavy and their right and right-centre crumbled. Both sides were forced to commit generals to the melee, and several were lost.

What’s Latin for ‘not this lot again!’?

 

 

 

When the dust cleared the Carthaginians had got their revenge. Both Roman flanks were crushed and although they still had a reasonably viable second line still able to fight, the enemy had achieved a decent victory: 23-15 (first to score 21 being the winner in this bigger battle). I think the Romans would have been able to fall back on their camp, and march away during the night or the following day – the enemy were too hard hit themselves to prevent it.

It was very enjoyable to return to this period, collection and rules. I hope not to leave it so long next time.

A quick note on figures;

The Romans are made up of Essex and Old Glory infantry, Essex cavalry and a right old mix for skirmishers, including some 10th Legion and (now defunct) Strategia e Tattica.

The Carthaginians are even more of a mix – most are Corvus Belli, but there are some Lancashire, Essex and Old Glory in there too.

They all go together well as far as I’m concerned, which makes picking what to buy a matter of preference rather than being restricted by size, etc.

A Couple of Punic Battles – part 1

In the end I played two solo Rome vs Carthage games on Friday evening, finishing off on Saturday morning.

The first was a 100 point game (100 points per army as per the rules I was using). I played it as a standard attack-defence game, having previously rolled to determine that the Carthaginians would be the attacker. The game set up gave the Romans a handy hill in their deploy area, and provided for a couple of woods towards the flanks. There would be plenty of open space in the middle for the infantry to come to grips, and just enough open ground to either flank for the Carthaginian cavalry advantage to be a factor.

The Roman commanders have a quick pre-battle pep rally:

The deployment and battlefield:

 

The Roman infantry (2 lines rather than 3, but I think most rules and wargames have some compromise here):

The Carthaginians:

The Elephant brigade:

Spanish and African infantry:

Cavalry:

True to their mission, the Carthaginian army advanced, pushing cavalry ahead on the flanks and skirmishers into the woods to fight their Roman counterparts. The Romans used more velites in an attempt to delay the crunch of elephant on hastati, but couldn’t hold them up for long and soon the battle was in full flow as the front ranks crashed into each other. Gauls and Spanish charged the Roman wall and heavy cavalry closed in on the weaker Roman left.

 

 

 

 

 

The fighting was tough everywhere, and the Roman cavalry in particular fought back tenaciously despite the odds.

 

The elephants, having swept aside the velites (who did at least cause some casualties and disruption) got stuck into a unit of principes, pushing them back in disorder.

A freak result for some of the Spanish against heavier Roman infantry!

The battle lines surged back and fore and each side had their share of triumphs and disasters. After 8 game turns though, the Romans had dealt with the nellies and held on despite their vulnerable flanks, winning a close victory (15-10) and forcing the enemy to retire from the field. There would need to be a re-match, but in the meantime it was definitely beer o’clock..

 

Game Decision for Friday

Although I hadn’t intended to run a public referendum on what game to play on Friday evening, there’s been a landslide vote in favour of the Punic Wars in 15mm. Or rather Count Belisarius said he’d like to see it, so lacking a better reason to do something else, how can I refuse?

Rome vs Carthage then, with the usual assortment of allies for the latter to keep the Romans on their toes. I’ll set up a standard sized game of 100 points per side, using my house rules (By Force of Arms, written by my friend Jase, and which have seen plenty of action over the years).

I’ve already selected the armies, and a dice roll has determined that the Carthaginians are the ‘attacker’, meaning that for strategic reasons they need to get their skates on and win decisively before they run out of time. Good job they’ve got a cavalry advantage and, of course, some nellies to throw at the enemy!

More soon..

 

Army of the Month – A Hairy Horde

I realised I was running out of time for the inaugural Army of the Month posting, which I said would be before the end of Janaury. So here goes..

I’ve chosen my 15mm Goths for my first AotM. This army is a good few years old, and although not big by many wargamers’ standards, it’s not bad for me. It’s been added to over time and has crept up from a single DBA-sized force initially, to its current strength of about 90 mounted and 160 foot figures. The vast majority are from Lancashire Games which, although they can be a bit flimsy at the ankles and with some of the weapons, for me they capture the look of the period very well (and they were cheap to buy!) There are a few Old Glory command and cavalry figures in there too.

The army is based around the Ostrogoths of the late 4th century onwards, containing as it does just 3 basic troop types; heavy cavalry, close order foot, and light archers. This means it can represent, or contribute units to, almost any dark age army which has these types, such as Gepids, Vandals and so on. The cavalry is nicely generic and the infantry can either represent fiery warband or poorer clumped spear-armed tribal levies. The archers are a mix of larger unformed ‘units’ and skirmishers, allowing for massed bows, a loose swarm, or a combination of both.

The army is based for the in-house rules I use (By Force of Arms), written by a wargaming buddy. These use a gridded board and a system where unit strength, morale and cohesion is defined visually by the number of bases remaining (plus any disorder markers added). Most units (skirmishers and light horse excepted) have 2 main bases which remain until the unit is destroyed or routs, and a number of smaller single or 2-figure bases to be removed as losses mount up, and otherwise add a bit of visual bulk to the unit. That’s a brief explanation of why the army looks as it does for those who are interested.

I decided to take 2 sets of pictures, one ‘dramatically’ posed and telling a story, as it were, the other with the army deployed in a typical formation as they would under the rules (albeit in a narrower, deeper space than would usually be the case). I also dug out some old pictures of the army in action, including one where they were playing the part of Rohan-esque types in a fantasy battle with my friend’s Orcs. Hope you like.

With their warchief slain by the enemy, his men bravely form up around his body while the rest of the army pours forth to avenge his loss..

Deployed for a game of By Force of Arms

 

Doing battle with the Orc hordes in 2008

Facing off against Late Romans in 2006

 

Taking part on both sides (as Visigoths and Ostrogoths) in a 2011 re-fight of the Battle of the Catalaunian Plans (Chalons) between Aetius and Attila