Tuesday 21 February 2012

Kings of Northumbria

For the big game I painted a couple of commanders (as well as finishing off/enlarging a few units). One of them I wanted to do as commander of my force, and one James volunteered me for. I did try and point out that given Matt Parkes, James, Steve, Andys Hawes and McTaggart and Scrivs were all taking part there were probably better painting candidates than me for the job of anything really, let alone Aethelfrith king of Bernicia and overall leader of the Saxon horde. However no-one else offered to take my place, so a mounted Saxon was added to my list.
And here they are.
First up, Aethelfrith of Bernicia and his army standard bearer

And next King Aethelric of Deira and his retinue

And finally a sight no Welshman (or Romano Briton, or Pict) would wish to see, the kings of Northumbria bearing down on them!

They are all from Bill's lovely Musketeer Miniatures Goth Range, but with Saxon bucklers, as sorted by Darren at Gripping Beast. I figured one hairy Northern barbarian was pretty much indistinguishable from another back in 600AD.
I think I'd like to go back and touch the flags up a little, and maybe tweak a few more highlights, but overall I'm very happy with them.

Sunday 19 February 2012

James Top Secret Project (tm)

So just over a week ago a select team of "Dark Age A Listers"* and me were invited by James Morris to join him at a Top Secret location just next door to the Wargames Illustrated Office in Nottingham to play a huge game of Hail Caesar featuring loads of Scottish Welshmen cantering headlong into a mass of Teutonic Angles.
The whole spectacular event will be appearing in a special edition of Wargames Illustrated to mark issue 300, and 25 years, of the dear old magazine.
I am thus sworn to secrecy about the details of the whole thing until August or September of this year when the magazine comes out.
However the kindly despotic tyrant of the WI domain, or Dan the Editor as his nearest and dearest know him, has given us all permission to show a few sneaky peaky type pictures.
So here they are:

 Filthy Pagans. Coming over here, taking our cattle...

 Aethelsomethingorother leads the Saxons to war!

 Some fighting occurs

 More stabbing, slashing and maiming


I took about seventy pictures. Then my battery ran out.
Dan had taken around three hundred by the time the bloodshed ceased.
Here's one of his:
Lovely, innit.

It was, I think we all agreed, one of the best day's of gaming any of us had ever had. It looked spectacular, Hail Caesar gave us a great game, the company was excellent, Dan was a splendid host and the banter flowed. I'm really grateful to have been asked to take part.
I am intending to publish a larger write-up when the magazine comes out, but you'll just have to be patient.
In the meantime some of my fellow players have scribbled a few words too:

Finally there are plans afoot to stage the whole thing "live" at Partizan in September. I can't wait.

*James words

Thursday 2 February 2012

Still More Hail Arthur! Dark Age Hail Caesar Report

And so to another warm up for James' Top Secret Project(tm).
This one featured myself and James down Lovers Lane.
Stop giggling at the back, it's where the Newark Irregulars have their meets. In a Scout Hut - great sense of humour Lord Baden Powell.
We were joined in our endeavours by three of the Newark Irregular Regulars, whose names I have already forgotten. Sorry chaps.
Once more I was to take charge of the unwashed pagan Saxon hordes, attempting to stop the clean cut Christian Welsh from breaking through. We were able to retire my Goblin Green board and play instead on the rolling expanse of a very nice 6x8 board, complete with lovely trees and the like.
Most of the figures were James', with a set of Gripping Beast loaners on each side, and some of my Musketeer Saxons also in the mix. Each side had four commands, and two players per side. Most of the welsh force was mounted, with their spearmen having rules to reflect their reluctance to fight unmounted.
The Saxons again had to test not to charge on initiative, and we were supposed to be checking out some rules for bards - the idea being that they award glory for things they witness, and the winner is the general with the most glory at the end of the game.

Some eye candy now follows:


More Saxons
Welshmen (actually Pictish allies, closest)

The flower of Welsh Cavalry

The Saxon welcoming commitee

The battle commenced with a flurry of failed commands from the Welsh side. However the Welsh general bravely led his commitatus forward in the centre, screened by skirmishing marksmen light horsemen.

One of the Saxon units duly broke ranks and the horse inevitable evaded, leaving them a little exposed...

Come back you fools!

Over on the Welsh right, James' command advanced cautiously.

The welsh general promptly ordered his cavalry in, but declined to join the combat himself. The nearby bard duly scribbled some unflattering verse to record his actions for future generations.

The Picts remained largely imobile.

The cavalry ploughed through the exposed Saxon unit and crashed into a unit behind. The nearby Saxon commander, conscious of his Scop performing vocal warm-up exercises, rushed in to aid his men, and the Welsh general finally felt obliged to get his sword dirty too.

At this point James and I began to realise that our knowledge of the rules wasn't perhaps as clear as it might be and quite how much we depend on Scrivs to be on hand to tell us how it all works. Fortunately he'll be there on the big day, so no need to actually go and learn the rules or anything.

The Welsh cavalry duly killed off a second unit of bearded Saxons, but at quite a cost in casualties themselves, and the Saxons soon hit back, crashing infantry into their flank and cavalry into their front. In all the mayhem the Saxon warlord was wounded and could no longer add his weight to the struggle.

On the Welsh right James' cautious approach continued.

Whilst the Picts remained imobile.

In the centre the light horse of both sides came together with the Welsh proving superior.

However the Welsh General and his commitatus fared less well with the former being wounded and the latter destroyed.

And with that, after a couple of hours hard fight, we again called a halt.

The Welsh left (or rather their Pictish allies) had failed to engage, and the Gripping Beast command had dawdled behind as well. The Welsh right was poised to crash home, but the Saxons still held firm and would be a tough nut to crack.

In the wrap-up we discussed giving the Welsh some rule that allows them always to move forward, to reflect their eagerness to get to grips, and we've some plans for characteristics for the various commanders to give still more variation.

Once again the HC rules allowed us to move lots of soldiers around in short order and get lots of killing and death resolved simply and elegantly.

There may just be time for one more playtest before the big day.