29 January 2023

To the Strongest: Punic Wars

Slowpainter John and I enjoyed our first game of To the Strongest this week- club mate Gav hosted us and put on a massive table's worth of 15mm Punic Wars for us. Sporting a few thousand figures it was quite something to behold and shows that even in this day of cheaper plastic 28s, 15mm still has something to offer as a scale in terms of 'the massed battle look'.

Army wise John and I played the Reublican Romans with a core of 4 Legions and 2 Allied Legions, some Allied Cavalry and a small ala of Roman Horse.  Arrayed against us was a colourfully diverse group with everything from Gallic tribesman to Carthaginan Heavy Horse to no less than nine War Elephants.  All laid out on 12 foot or so of table, it was an impressive layout.

Republican Romans drawn up for Battle

Commander of the "COVID 11th Legion" - a resilient fellow!

I've watched Gavin build these two armies over the last year with great interest, and to be honest the odd needling about the extra attention he lavishes upon his beloved Carthaginians :-) Some of the details he puts into the elite units is really impressive.

Carthaginian Heavy Horse with wonderfully painted shields

We used To the Strongest by Simon Miller (of Big Red Bat Cave blog fame) which I have read something of but never seen in the flesh.

There are numerous reviews about the net so I wont go into specifics here other than to say its a gridded game that aims to play big games fast.  While we had a few questions and didnt get everything right, I quite liked the flow, and use of chits to give a 'push your luck - diminishing returns' feel

Elephants advance under cover of skirmishers - very imposing!

At this point I got involved in learning the rules and thus forgot the camera - broadly the Roman skirmishers won the screening battle, allowing the Romans to seize the initiative and start to advance in the centre. Meanwhile the Carthaginians were pushing the cavalry engagements on the flanks were they outmatched the Romans.

Skirmishers and Blades form a barrier to repel the elephants and the Carthagnian centre is desperately weakened

Seizing the initiative, the Legions advance strongly in the centre

One of the things I liked about the setup of the Romans is that each line is a single hit unit, unlike their enemies. However, on activation, the lines can exchange to volley pila from the fresh rank - giving a very thematic feel to using them. In contrast, the Carthaginian units felt more robust but less flexible/trained.

Roman allied cavalry on the left flank seeing off their Numidan harassers

Cavalry clash on the Roman right

Gaul horse finished off the smaller Roman ala

A Roman Legion advances before their flank can be turned, destroying their enemy

Like dominoes, the Carthaginian centre and left flank dissolve - Roma Victor!

It was a simple meeting engagement, but What did I like about the rules?
  • Quick Play, even with thousands of figures.
  • The battle felt like I had Command but not Control, reminding me quite a bit of General D'Armee 
  • Liked the chit system (vice dice) for diminishing returns
  • Different units felt and fought differently but without additional complexity
And 15mm offered a great massed battle look...I just don't want to paint them!

That said, I can see that for some ancient types it could bog down quickly where armies are very similar - this had been Gavin's experience to date with linear Hoplite battles. For this and many other periods though, I would be keen to try them again - perhaps with a view to our stalled Civil War project which I am keen to reignite. 

Thanks Gavin for the great game and for sharing such a wonderful table and set of armies. Thank you to my Co-Consul Slowpainter John - with our Victory, re-election for next year is all but assured!

23 January 2023

CanCon and Warhammer ahoy

Another January, another CanCon. This year I spent it in close company with Reilly and Slowpainter John, enjoying the hustle and bustle.  Caught up with a broad range of fine folks - I always enjoy these annual reunions, though a few of the usual suspects were conspicuously absent (you know who you are!)

Among the great goodies on offer, the 6th edition Warhammer tournament caught my attention with some wonderful eye catching armies:

Thoroughly inspiring, and yes I did go immediately to the bring and buy and acquire some old school metal Warhammer Black Orcs...

See you next year CanCon!

17 January 2023

AHPC XIII: War of the Roses Mercenaries

Last Challenge I started a War of the Roses project which has progressed steadily this year, and I wanted to add to it this challenge with something different - European Mercenaries.

Sell swords from the content were features on all sides of the war, and while the Burgundian support to the Yorkists pretenders is the best known, a raft of independent companies from Flanders, France and elsewhere were engaged.

I've done mine up in bright livery to reflect their more flamboyant nature, and because that how I see those 'proto-landschnekts': advertising on the battlefield for future employers, as well as warning others of their prowess as a deterrent. Plus the bright colours pop nicely on my winter bases. While my rules usually have figure removal, pike units like these look so much better packed tighter so I went with 3 group bases for each unit

This unit has a secret weapon - a crossbow bolt to the face. Surprise!

The flags are all hand painted naturally, using tin foil from the necks of champagne bottles. Yes collecting the raw materials is a drag but somebody has to do it (and who doesnt like a round of French 75s?!). The foil allows great three dimensional shaping and has some good strength to it. With the flamboyant theme in mind, I gave all their weapons pennants so no one would miss them on the field of battle!

Thats as much of a mini War of the Roses bomb that you'll see from me! 

13 January 2023

2023 - Back to the Dark Ages!

Happy New Year to all!  I hope 2023 is good to you.

When I first met Alan (which the Lad says was also in the Dark Ages) I was kindly gifted the newly published rules Dux Bellorum to tempt me to the Dark Ages way of things; not that I needed much of a push, admittedly. And while we have played many Dark Ages games with Lion Rampant and SAGA we somehow never got back to Bellorum.  Our first game of the new year seemed a good way to rectify that omission and scratch a growing Dark Age itch once more. 

Some of Alan's fabulous Post Romano British army

Its always great to play with Alan's extensive collection of fantastic Dark Age models, which is not small. We decided to leave the Mounted troops at home to simplify our first game and I got to field his Saxons, taking Companion Foot, 2 Noble Warriors, 5 Ordinary Warriors and 2 foot skirmishers (with bows).  Alan took his Post Roman Britain/Arthurians with Companion Foot, 2 Noble Shieldwall, 4 ordinary shieldwall, 1 foot skirmisher (with bows), an 1 extra Leadership point and the Experienced Leader Tactic. It made for an interesting matchup of Warriors vs Shieldwall

We learned much along the way and the mechanics reminded me of a mix of SAGA, DBA and Lion Rampant (no surprise on the latter!) that flowed well, though we still have a few questions!  I liked the  Leadership points resource management, and the battle did indeed feel like a big battle as opposed to a large skirmish. We also saw that Shieldwall units did not stand up as well to Warriors as might be expected, though I did roll an unfeasible number of 6s which skewed the outcome (in fact there was 6 of them across 2 x 5 dice attacks!)

Overall I enjoyed Dux Bellorum and would like to play more. Unfortunately they do suffer from Osprey 'Blue Book' syndrome in which they are published, have a couple of follow up articles but then left behind and unsupported. With some tweaking they could forward in time into the Viking Age, or earlier in the Roman period. Certainly not 'beyond the wit of man' if we get around to it anyway...

The return of Dux Homunculorum!

Thanks mate, that was fun! #makethedarkagesgreatagain :-)