Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Medieval Wargaming at Guns of August

[ODMS has held it's 2016 Guns of August convention.  The convention was in a location, and while the gaming and other activities were better than ever, there were some problems with the location (hotel).  Rumor has it that they are looking for somewhere else for the Williamsburg Muster in February of 2017.]

At the recent Guns of August convention, I hosted an event called "Introduction to Medieval Wargaming".   It was an event where I referee'd two different Medieval battles, using the Neil Thomas rules, Ancient and Medieval Wargaming.  The rules are available from Amazon, and a host of other locations, and provide a great introduction to the period.

The Neil Thomas book is divided up into four sections, with Biblical, Classical, Dark Ages, and Medieval making up the sections.  Each has background, historical notes, specific rules, and army lists.

For this event, I chose the Dark Ages chapter for my two games.  Some might argue that the Dark Ages are not medieval, but I would argue otherwise.

The first battle was between Vikings and Welsh (I adapted the army list for Picts/Scots for the Welsh).

Viking Army - players: Gisselle and Bill
2x units of Huscarls (with Berserkers in the units)
4x units of Bondi (each with one stand of archers)
2x units of Thralls

Welsh Army - players: Alex and John
1x unit of Mounted Nobles
1x unit of Light Horse
4x units of Shieldwall Infantry
1x unit of Huscarls (viking mercenaries)
1x unit of Archers

The vikings were quite aggressive.  At one point, a unit of Huscarls even got close enough to charge the Welsh Nobles (mounted).  Due to this aggressiveness, and also some very lucky combinations of dice throws (good for the Vikings, bad for the Welsh) it was a sound, and quick, Viking victory.  However, I believe that the players really enjoyed the game, and the armies.  All of the players were miniatures gamers, and medieval gamers, but none had played the Neil Thomas rules before.  It was a fun ruleset for them, but (for experienced players) it was extremely light and missed some things they thought should have been present in such a ruleset.  Still, the simplicity and speed of play was appreciated.  For armies of this size (8 units is standard), two players per side is really only suitable in a learning situation.  One player is perfect for 8 units, in these rules.

The second battle (although both were played simultaneously, while I refereed) was between Carolingians and Moors.  This would have been something similar (although on a much reduced scale) as the battle of Tours, or one of the battles between Charlemagne's descendants and an encroaching Muslim army out of Spain.  (truth in advertising: my Carolingian knights were actually Normans, so they had kite shields.  If they had sported round shields, they would have been much more accurate, but I have several dozen stands of Norman knights, and often use them for western knights/heavy cavalry for this period regardless of the army).

Carolingian Army
4x units of Carolingian Knights
1x unit of Retainers (light cavalry)
2x units of Shieldwall Infantry
1x unit of Archers

Moorish Army
2x units of Nobles (elite heavy cavalry)
2x units of Moors (heavy cavalry with bow)
1x unit of Jinettes (light cavalry)
2x units of Spearmen
1x unit of Archers

Here (and I apologize for not recording the names of the players), one of the players (the Carolingian) was an experienced medieval player, and the other (the Moor) was completely new to any wargaming other than WW2 skirmish games (he is new to the hobby).  It went pretty well, and both appreciated the rules.  The experienced player liked the streamlined rules, and how quickly they played, and the new player liked how the different unit types had different stats, but it all worked well together as a system.

The battle went well, and was extremely close.  There were several amazing cavalry clashes, and the inexperienced player had an army that requires a little bit of finesse, but he still performed well.  The Infantry on both sides ended up fighting opposing cavalry as much as opposing infantry.  A good fight, and it came down to the last dice roll (the last turn could have seen either side win, with the right luck, but it was slightly weighted towards the Carolingians).  The Moors lost, but only barely.

It was a successful event, exposing some fun, fast rules, teaching and discussing little history, learning from the players, and watching the excitement of contested battle lines.  In short, medieval wargaming.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Solo Miniatures Game: Clontarf 1014!

Having recently rebased and reorganized my dark ages collection, it is time to host a game with the figures.  Much of what I have in that collection falls into five categories.
  1. Vikings - many figures are clearly vikings, as depicted by shield and banner designs.
  2. Normans - a decent sized Norman, or West Frankish, collection.  Could also be early Germans (i.e. Carolingian East Franks - Alemagne, Saxons, Austrasie, Baviere, etc)
  3. Saxons - armed like the Vikings, with with the Christian motiffs suspected in Alfred's kingdom, etc.
  4. Irish - The Irish are definitely the Irish, you can tell by their odd shaped shields.
  5. Generic - There are many, many fellows wearing a chainmail byrnie, with a round shield (or sometimes, occasionally, a kite shield sneaks into a group), and a variety of weapons.  They are not immediately identifiable as Irish Nobles, Saxon Fyrd, Viking Thegns, etc - but could be any/all of the above.
One battle I would like to fight is Clontarf, pitting the High King (Ard Ri), Brian Boru, against the rebellious  Leinster King, Mael Mordha, and his viking mercenaries.  Mael Mordha was also allied to Sigtrygg Silkbeard - the Viking king of the city of Dublin (a Viking settlement, as prior to the Vikings building up towns, Ireland did not really have any).  While the armies were not so very different, at some levels, in composition - it is tempting to think of Brian's army as "Irish" and Mael Mordha's army as "Viking" - but the truth is that the Vikings had been in Ireland for two centuries, and had strongly influenced Irish warfare.

A fantastic resource about Brian Boru, his rise, the battle, the sides, and the results is at the online gallery hosted by Trinity College, in Dublin.  The presentment at the College, during the 1000 year anniversary in 2014, must have been fabulous.  Here is an example of one of the outstanding paintings commissioned for the various chapters of Brian's life and the retelling of the battle:

From the time, we know about the battle from near a half dozen different places.  The first three are "annals" that were being composed at the time, and they all mention (to different extents) the battle.
Next, there is Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh, or the history of the "War of the Irish with the Foreigners".  Finally, there is Njal's Saga, which has towards the end, a description of the book.

A great map of the battle appears in History of Ireland, in an article by Sean Duffy.  It shows the key occurrences of the battle.
Se├ín Duffy, 'What happened at the Battle of Clontarf?' in History Ireland, vol. 22, no. 2 (2014), pp 30-1: 31.
Aside from their fantastic online gallery about Brian Boru, Trinity College also has a fantastic online gallery about the Battle itself, and it will have much more information than I can recreate here.

The Battle
The battle itself was fought on Good Friday, April 23, in the year 1014.  The two sides, as mentioned, were Brian's army, and the Viking alliance against him.

The Viking alliance against Brian's army had four chief commanders.  First, was Sigtrygg Silkbeard - the Viking leader of the Hiberno-Norse settlement/town of Dublin.  Allied with him was Mael Mordha, the king of Leinster.  Their Viking mercenary compatriots were commanded by Brodir of the Island of Man, and Sigurd of Orkney.  Between them they had about 6,600 men, although 2,000 (the Vikings of Orkney and Man) had freshly landed for the battle.  Sigtrygg (who was, by the way, married to Brian's daughter) and Mael Mordha (whose sister, Gormflaith, was Brian's third wife) were in revolt against Brian, the High King of Ireland.  There is some legend about Mael Mordha being mad about losing a chess game.  The Vikings of Orkney and Man were fighting under a Raven Banner that was stitched for Sigurd of Orkney by his mother Eithne.  There is a great set of commemorative stamps (with art by Victor Ambrus), celebrating these personalities and their history, described in Frontiers Magazine.

Brian Boru was High King due to having subjugated Connaught, Munster, and both parts of the Ui Neill land - in short, most of Ireland.  Added to that, Leinster was a vassal land, although ruled over by Mael Mordha.  Brian Boru's army consisted of about 5,000 men.  These consisted of about 2,000 Munster men, and the rest split between Connachts and Dalcassians.  The Dalcassians represented Brian's tribe (which in modern days also gave us John F Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan), which is where he got his start as a leader around the mouth of the river Shannon.  The Connachts were men from Connaught.

Brian's men set up north and west of the Viking line.  The Vikings were spread between the shoreline and the Tolka river.  The Vikings of Orkney and Man were at the front, and the Leinster men under Mael Mordha were on a second line.

Here is an interesting 19th century map, interpreting what comes to us from the primary sources.

The Battle itself was a blood bath - with almost all the Vikings having been slain, and a good 25% of Brian's army.  It was a victory for Brian, except that after the battle while Brian was praying in his tent (and taking a rest - he was 84 years old at this time), Brodir of Man snuck into his tent, and murdered him.  Brodir was chased down by Brian's men, and put to justice.  Other than the many men, one of Brian's sons and several other relatives also died during the battle.

I plan to recreate it using 15mm miniatures.  Pictures of the battlefield and miniatures to follow in another post.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Article at Wood Planet Gaming Lodge on OSR

Jason, over at Wood Planet Gaming Lodge asked me to write an article (very kind of him!) for his gaming web magazine.  I played around with some ideas for an X-Wing campaign, and maybe a variant for Pandemic I have been fooling around with, but in the end I wrote a short piece on my history with RPGs and also why I like Old School Roleplaying systems, and OSR gaming in general.

Check out the other good stuff over at WPGL while you are over there - a great site!

One thing I didn't mention in the article, that I should have, is how much of my memories of gaming 4 decades+ ago involved some of the (now dated, but at the time extremely cool) Judges Guild products.  I could have talked about the current games I have been running (updates at Sword and Potion) in the City State of the Invincible Overlord setting....

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Recent Miniatures Projects

At GwC headquarters, recently there has been a lot of work going on at my miniatures workbench.  I have been painting and rebasing large quantities of my 15mm collection, and have started painting on some 28mm projects.

First, starting really before Christmas, and only finishing sometime during the winter convention season (re: MarsCon and Williamsburg Muster), I had rebased and flocked my Mexican American War collection.  This amounted to about 2000 miniatures, mostly infantry (although a decent amount of Mexican cavalry), rebased from cardboard and balsawood onto MDF bases, of the variety I usually purchase from resellers like GaleForce9 at wargames shows.  I have, in a manner very similar to many of my other 15mm age of rifles armies, based the infantry on 25mm square stands, with three miniatures per stand, and the cavalry on 30mm square stands, with two miniatures per stand.  The guns are on 40mm bases, with crew.  I have not hosted a game (solo or otherwise) with this collection yet, although this rebasing project is complete, because I needed to finish up some suitable terrain in 15mm.  All my adobe/desert style terrain is in 28mm for The Sword and the Flame, and most of it has a distinct middle eastern flavor (some could swing to Mexico or California, but not all).

Second, I had interrupted my projects with a really satisfying game of Renaissance, using the Neil Thomas rules, and my figures for the Italian Wars (covered in this blog here and here).  A very satisfying game, but at the time I did not do anything to rebase that collection of Renaissance figures.  That could be a project in the future, and would make them compatible with other figures that I have for the period.

Third, I have begun a large project of rebasing and organizing my Dark Ages figures.  This is chiefly figures for four armies - Vikings (very large collection), Saxons, Normans, Welsh and Irish - recently added to my collection.  This allows a large variety of different battles and campaigns to be waged, but it also adds to an already decent sized collection of Vikings and Western Franks (Normans) that I had already owned.  Again, the rebasing is an attempt to bring a uniformity to the combined collection, and because I really prefer my own mix of flocking and MDF bases.  Here are a couple of pictures of figures from the new addition to the collection, in process (recently glued to the new bases, but not flocked yet).
New figures based - old bases on the slingers at the top right
In the first picture (above) you can see about seven units of figures, assuming 6 bases per unit.  Some of the units in the collection are this size, some larger, but it is very flexible, as there is very little to differentiate units, except for armament and some national characteristics in shield design, clothing, etc.  For instance, the three units in the upper left could be used for just about anything (Irish Bonnachts, Welsh, Saxon Great Fyrd), but were included with the Irish figures.  The presence of a priest and some of the banner designs indicate a Christian nationality.  On the other hand, the figures in the other units of the picture could just as handily serve as either Saxons or Vikings.  And considering, for instance at some of Brian Boru's battles (such as Clontarf), there is little difference between the Vikings on either side of the battlefield, these could also serve in an Irish army.  Notably, the Welsh also employed Vikings in their ranks as well.

The buildings in the picture feature on their bases my own mix of flocking.  It is made from a mixture of two different colors/grades of woodland scenic turf, and then has some small amounts of foliage mixed in, and some ballast to represent rocks.  I have been using a variant of that mixture since the late 1980s, off and on.

The old style of bases in the collection I recently acquired are pictured here, in the upper right of the picture.  It is a thin balsa style base, with a dark green grass used as flocking.  This is the same style that was employed in the Mexican American War collection, and also the Renaissance collection (they are from the same painter).  The style is good, and the look en masse is fine, it is just not what I prefer to use.  And rebasing gives me an excuse to spend time at the workbench, while listening to music and enjoying a pipe, so why not?  Below are some more pictures of the figures in progress.

[A word on the painting style - it is very different from my own.  These figures were painted with a white primer base under all the figures, and it leads to figures that have a very light look, overall, compared to my painting.  I will try to post some pictures of my own 15mm dark ages figures, in comparison, very soon.  I usually go for black primer, with white dry brush over it, and then paint in sold block colors, adding washes and detail last.  These seem to have a lot of wash style color areas added, which have a very good effect at a wargames table distance, and give a very colorful appearance to the army. It is just a different effect from my own figures.  I don't think the soldiers will mind, at all, being on the same battlefield, however.]

Very nice mixture of poses and manufacture - but I suspect a lot of Splintered Light

Closeup showing bases, wet glue(!) and figures.  Nice job on the banner!
I will be playing a solo game, very soon, as soon as the last of the Dark Ages figures are completed and off the gaming table (I rebase on the gaming table, and flock at the painting table - a sort of assembly line).

Considering that the theme for the Guns of August convention this summer is Medieval Battles, this collection should definitely be seeing some action at the convention.  I am considering a big multi-player Battleaxe-Blitz!  Details to follow, but think of a large many-factions Duke Siefried style game.  It seems proper.

In addition to the 15mm dark ages collection, I recently started painting some 28mm Foundry viking characters to use for SAGA and Lion Rampant as leaders.  Speaking of SAGA - this past year's Williamsburg Muster had some really great SAGA games going on, I really need to get an army finished up.  Here is a picture of Glenn from the Richmond Leisure Society, having a great time.

Great looking figures, Glenn.  I hope to put some of my own out there (I have a decent sized collection of older Ral Partha 25mm vikings, and such, but I really want to get my Foundry, Crusader and Old Glory figures painted - I have had them since Georgia, and keep putting them off).

I will most likely be missing Historicon this summer (although I do plan to be at RavenCon, playing some RPGs and boardgames, at the end of April).  The reason for that is because of my Daughter's schedule - summer camps and college preparation activities (she is in 11th grade, and deep in the process of picking a school for after she graduates).  Considering I have such a great time with her, it takes all the sting out of missing Historicon, but it means that I am deeply involved in getting prepared for Fall In as my next major (non-ODMS) convention.

Time with my daughter, the best reason to miss out on gaming conventions

In preparation for Fall In, I am working on two painting projects.  The first (to be detailed in a later blog entry) is 28mm Napoleonic British.  This will be my first Napoleonic project using plastic figures.  I am using the Warlord figures, and they are great to work with.  More details and pictures later.  The second project is getting ready for a Hail Caesar game.  This entails two things - getting my Early Imperial Roman figures rebased from individual mounts (used for Warhammer Ancient Battles) to group stands (4 men on a 40x40 base, for the formed infantry) that will be useful for a variety of different rules, including Hail Caesar (and still quite useful for WAB).  The second, and more exciting thing, is getting some Celtic units ready for a large Briton's army.  I am, again, using plastics for this (because I have the figures stockpiled already, and I have been *meaning* to get around to painting them for about 7 or 8 years now).  The first up are some Wargames Factory cavalry.  Here are some pictures of the figures I have assembled.  Yes, I know, I should have painted the riders and horses separate, but I really wanted to see what the assembled figures looked like, and I got carried away.  I think they look splendid!

Yes, you can see the gory details of the painting table, but the figures look absolutely splendid.  Can't wait to get paint on them.  Expect to see more pictures of them, once completed, here at Gaming with Chuck.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Solo Campaign Idea

In thinking about a solo campaign, I am of a mind that many of the actions that one would want to do in a wargaming (military) campaign should be adjudicated through some stochastic method - a dice chance, or probability chance - of success.  This keeps too much mono-thought and knowledge of what the other side (i.e. - the same player - me) is thinking, from creeping into the calculus of what a turn consists of.  If every action has to be diced for, then there is necessarily a layer of artificial constraint introduced that will keep actions from always being successful.

Okay, enough philosophy of solo game design.  Here is my idea.  Have a map, based on point-to-point movement, which is marked up with a number of key pieces of information. Initially, I am thinking that the information would be numbers reflecting the chances of completing a military move, and also of recovering casualties and recruiting new figures.  Here is an example of what I am thinking of.

On this map, the hexagons represent campaign locations.  The castle symbols represent either cities or fortified areas (the actual symbols used would be based on what time period, and what sorts of locations are important to know about for that time period).  The black numbers are the difficult of completing a move along that route.  If you decide to try and move an army from location G to location H, for instance, you see that the route has a "9" marked on it.  That means, in this simple example, that if you roll 2d6, and score 9 or less, then the move is successful.  Sea routes are also marked - notice the score along the river between B and E, and the score along the coast between E and J.  The Anchor symbol represents that the location has access to water based movement along the waterway that the anchor is connected to.

So much for movement.  But the locations on the map are also marked with pairs of red numbers under each.  Those represent two things - the first is the chance to recover troops.  This could be a chance to recover lost stands from a unit, after a battle.  Again, this is based on a roll of 2d6 or less.  The numbers used are purely for example and discussion in this article, but the numbers I used are 8 in regular locations, 10 in population centers (cities), and 6 in ports (or economic centers, but none were marked on this map), where I reasoned that there are more demands for work would mean it is harder to recruit men to serve in a unit.  The second number is the chance to recruit a whole unit if it is available to an army to recruit such a unit.  Limits could arise from the tactical rules used (i.e. - in some games, and army only consists of a maximum number of units), or could be introduced as part of the campaign (each leader is given an Operations rating, which represents the maximum number of units he may have under his control).

This system could easily be expanded by introducing resources (gold, food, ore, magic, etc) to represent the particular time period.  Different types of routes could be introduced (rail lines, which would also have a number representing how difficult it would be to plan a military move over a stretch of rail).  By having different routes, different rules on how many different types of moves a unit could make, could be introduced.

That brings me to the last point - action points.  I was originally thinking something like 3 action points.  It would cost 1 point to move one segment by land, and 1 point to try to recover a lost stand to a unit, but all 3 points to try and recruit a new unit, and maybe 1/2 point to move by a sea route.  In this way, if using a 2d6 system to adjudicate actions, then if rolling a 2, one would have a critical success, and would be able to recover an additional action point to use this turn.  If rolling a 12, it would mean abysmal failure in planning, and no additional action points may be spent that turn.

Finally, the added element might be characters, or rulers.  I always liked the idea, based on the original Tony Bath concept, of having all the major characters in a campaign nation to be developed.  This was done in very nice way in the board game Blood Royale, many years ago, and also in many miniatures campaign systems.  One of the things by having a dice based campaign system, is that some characters might be better at some actions vs others, not to mention skills at tactical combat (either command bonuses, or combat bonuses).  For instance, Lord Whistlebird is a harsh tyrant, but a bit of a coward. He gains a +1 bonus to target numbers when trying to organize a march (he pushes the men into a forced march), but gets no bonus from being in combat with a unit.

Many possibilities are here with even such a simple system.  I think I might put together a map, and try it out with the Renaissance troops.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Italian Wars wargame (pt 2)

In part 1 I talked about the game I set up, along with the army lists.  This was a game, set in the 1490s, between a rather generic French force, and a rather generic Italian force.  In looking at the history a little closer, and also looking at the units in the armies (from the lists by Neil Thomas, in Wargaming: An Introduction) I think it is fair to say that a good inspiration for the army lists that I settled on could have been representative of the Battle of Fornovo (July 6 1495, near the city of Parma).
Battle of Fornovo

The Battle of Fornovo was fought between the forces of Charles VIII (of France) and the Republic of Venice, with help from the Duchy of Milan and the Margravate of Mantua.

In my case, rather than having a river extend between the two armies, I had it run down the table, from the Italian side of the battle field to the French.  The battlefield looked something like this:
The battlefield, using new Terrainguy tiles, purchased from Hal
With a couple of hills, and a cross roads.  There are some small patches of woodlands, and the villa to the right side of the table.  In the image, the Italian army is set up at top, and the French army at the bottom of the picture.

The battle opened up, with a turn of maneuver, and then the two battle lines were within artillery range of each other.  The French army had two modern (for 1495) pieces of artillery, and the Italians had an older, mid 15th century, bombard.  The French artillery was used, to good effect, against one of the units of Italian Gendarmes.  The Italian Bombard blew up.  Yes, the first time it was attempted to be fired, the Italian bombard exploded.

The Neil Thomas rules play very fast, and since there is no order writing, or maneuver planning, it is pretty well suited for solo play.  With the very simple army list and troop type structure, and no points values, I don't think it would make for a great basis for a solo campaign.
The Swiss Pike - 2 units, 6 stands each
The Swiss, in this period, are fierce - they have to advance towards the enemy each turn, but do not have to take morale checks while in melee combat (which means they fight to the slow, terrifying death). In these rules, morale checks for losing a base reflect the dwindling resolve of the unit - for each failed morale check, another base goes away.  Since infantry units have only 6 bases, taking a loss of one base to Melee casualties, and then failing a morale check to lose another, means you've lost 1/3 of your combat effectiveness.  It is worse if you take more than one stand loss in a turn.

The Italian Shot, armed with crossbow, inbetween the swordsmen and the Italian pike
The French cavalry in this army are divided up between two types - Gendarmes (typical, high morale, and extremely well armored in plate mail and metal barding for the warhorses), and also a cavalry type known as Mounted Bow.  Evidently, following the Hobilars of the earlier (100 Years War) period, the French still experimented with mounted archers. But by the time of the Italian Wars, the units still existed within the army, but they no longer carried their bows into combat, preferring instead to fight as second rate Gendarmes (something akin to a medieval Sergent).  The French Army, according to Mr Thomas' rules, can also include some mounted crossbow, but I did not include them in this battle.

French cavalry, to left, encounter Italian Gendarmes. Swiss Pike, at bottom, still approaching
The battle saw the French Gendarmes split up.  One unit went in to the Italian line, avoiding the pike, and attempted to engage the Swordsmen and the Crossbow.  They were partially successful against the Swordsmen (mauling them), but were eventually swarmed by the Italian Crossbow, and the Italian Pike.
Mercenary Italian Crossbowman, in French Service
As mentioned in Part 1, I have a wide variety of renaissance figures, although I recently acquired a good many of the Late 15th/Early 16th century variety from a friend - thanks Mark.  Where I needed to, however, I filled in for this fight.  The Mercenary Italian Crossbow, for instance, are actually about 50-100 years out of period (they are early figures, I believe originally sold by Mikes Models as Early Swiss?).

French Gendarmes encounter Italian Swordsmen
One thing about the Neil Thomas rules for this period - they were written in reaction to his own Medieval (and Ancient) rules.  Those rules featured all units (except artillery - which have only 1 stand) to be comprised of four stands - in a 2x2 formation.  That holds true of the renaissance rules with regards to cavalry, but infantry is typically a 6 stand unit.  To make the rules work without a lot of fuss about multi-unit combats, lanes of advance, flank definitions, etc - he kept the units to a simple 2 stand frontage, but now infantry is three ranks deep.  When the unit has to engage, it rolls combat dice for all stands, making the Renaissance infantry twice as tough as the earlier infantry.

Used as French Mounted Archers, without their bows
The cavalry in these rules, hit pretty hard, against everyone except fellow cavalry of the same grade (i.e. Gendarmes v Gendarmes, or Stradiots v Stradiots), and against Pike (to be understood).  However, against everyone else they hit pretty hard.  For instance, Gendarmes roll 2d6 per stand vs. Swordsmen, and 3d6 vs Shot (either arquebus or crossbow).  But only 1d6 vs other Gendarmes, or vs Pikemen.

Mercenary Crossbow preparing to cross the river
The terrain tiles I recently acquired from Hal are very nice to put under a game.  Other than the persistent pattern of the surface of the foam rubber tile, the paint and grass coating are very nice, and the color is great.  The tiles are thick enough to provide a nice surface on top of the table, and they lock together well.  If there is a complaint I have it is that the pattern of the rubber DOES show through (not a big deal), and also that the seam where the jigsaw edges lock together is apparent.  But that isn't too big a deal for a nice, portable surface.

In the picture above, you can see some of the terrain elements I used.  Of course, I used felt for the road, which is always serviceable.  I used my commercial river, which looked good on the tile surface.  I also used a painted bridge and villa, both in resin originally.  And woodland scenics trees, mounted on fender washers.  The hills are beadboard, with paint and grass applied.  I did not make the hills, but I do have a series in the works - they are awaiting final finishing, and I hope to feature them in a game later on this spring or summer.

Mounted Crossbow in the Italian army
I am not sure of all the newly acquired figures, but many of the figures I had that I merged together for this battle were Table Top Games (TTG), Minifigs, and Mike's Models.  They all look great on the tabletop, but the Minifigs and TTG look really good together.  Mike's Models always look a bit squatty, although I love the look.  It is like merging together the squatty Essex figures together with the old series 1 Minifigs.  Yeah, they are both ~15mm, but they might be of a different species - even though they both look great separately.

During the game, I only had painted one unit of mounted crossbow available, and the Italian army called for two.  The army also had a unit of foot crossbow, so I made the decision to dismount one of the mounted crossbow units, and field it (for the battle) as a foot unit.  I actually have (recently dug out, and based for priming) enough Minifigs mounted crossbow (in the 15mm Renaissance line) to complete a unit.  Pictures to follow, as they get completed.

I use nylon upholstery rings for casualty markers
The ruleset from Mr Thomas has a variety of different figures per base, and used basing sizes to make it fully compliant with the typical WRG style basing (used in everything from WRG, DBA, Might of Arms, to more modern things, not to mention Armati, Impetus, etc etc etc).  So that means that a stand will have anywhere between 2 figures (for light infantry, and light cavalry) to 3 or 4 figures (for denser, heavier formations of troops).  An artillery piece has a gun and the crew.  In the rules, each stand (regardless of type) takes four hits.  So your 2 figure light infantry stand takes four hits, and my 3 figure arquebus, and my 4 figure halberdiers all take four hits.  I mark the casualties with plastic upholstery rings, and there is no paperwork.  Casualties carry over - if I have three hits on my unit, and I take two more hits (total of five), that is one removed stand, and one hit carried over.

Stands come right off the unit.  The rules allow for mixed units (halberd/bow, and pike/shot, for instance).  The rules are, when a unit loses a stand in melee combat it is always either a pike or halberd stand.  When it loses a stand from fire combat, it is always either a bow or shot stand.  When you lose a stand to shooting, that is all. But when you lose a stand to Melee combat, then you have to pass a morale test (the only morale tests in the game) - for instance, Levy troops require a 5 or 6 on a D6 roll.  No such rolls are required for losing a stand to Fire combat.

French Gendarmes ride past an Italian Villa
One thing I don't have, that I would like to, for further Italian Wars wargaming, or campaigning, and that is additional suitable Italian wargames terrain.  Most of what I have works just fine, but I feel like to get that Italian countryside feel, I need some stone/brick buildings with roundtile roofs (like the white building above, but that might be more Mediterranean or Iberian (or Mexican).  I have a few more like that, and they'll do, but more is better.  Oh, and poplar trees.  All the paintings I have ever seen of the Italian countryside, always feature Poplar trees - either manicured groups of them in farm country, or growing along roads, around farm buildings, etc.

The Italian Condottieri leading the Gendarmes
One of the things I really like about this time period, is the preponderance of really, heavy hitting cavalry.  There were certainly a LOT of different types of light cavalry during the period (mounted crossbows proliferate through the Italian Wars, as well as Stradiot, Genitors, and others).  The introduction of gunpowder is the peeling of the death knell of the bells of history, as far as formed cavalry is concerned, but it will take military science four more centuries to lose its love affair with the deadly effective massive cavalry charge.

Charles VIII Enter
For the purposes of developing scenarios, the fact that the Imperialists, the French, and to a certain extent the Spanish all viewed the wealthy Italian cities as plump ripe prizes for the taking, it is a great time and a great place to set wargames.  There have been many folks who observed and commented, over the years, that pike and shot wargaming is rather rare, considering it is a colorful period, and has a unique (identifiable) combat style with strong, distinctive combat arms in each army.  One of the reasons I think it is rare is this - many people view Renaissance warfare (tactically) as one of Rock-Paper-Scissors (I even had a dealer at a convention remark that to me, many many years ago, as I was buying some figures from him).  If you have Pike, they automatically defeat Shot and Horse.  If you have Horse, they beat lesser Horse, and Shot.  If you have Shot, they can defend your Pike from flank attacks. Etc etc etc.  But I think it is more subtle of a period than that.
The Situation in Italy
The game was immensely satisfying, and I have been looking for a historical situation to base a solo campaign on.  Ideally it would be based on a situation where there were multiple independent political units, with armies of roughly the same technology,  in a confined geographic space.  Italy at the end of the 15th century is almost perfect.  Time to consult with my Machiavelli map.

Great images of soldiery from the time, in this set of German prints showing city flags and heraldry.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Italian Wars miniature wargame

(Note: Part 2 of this article is posted here).

Recently I have been organizing and working with my 15mm Renaissance collection.  I had a decent sized collection - split about evenly between early 16th century figures for an Italian War type army (pike, arquebus, bombard, swordsmen, gendarmes), and a mid 17th century conflict (later Thirty Years War, or English Civil War - with soldiers in buff coats and breastplate, or unarmored, with pikes, early muskets, reiters with plate mail and pistol, and buffcoat cavalry with sword and pistol).  I have played games, and even written rules and campaigns, for both periods in the past (in the years before Gaming with Chuck existed, mostly).  A fantastic time period, full of all sorts of military pageantry and great history. Gaming With Chuck published an earlier article on Renaissance Wargaming, with links to great reference material.

In addition to the collection I already owned, I recently came into a large collection of 16th century types that really buff out my collection.  Hundreds of infantry (mostly pikemen, but also some with polearms and swords, as well as a generous amount of arquebus/musket troops).  Also many, many cavalrymen - mostly of the gendarme variety but also a solid number of reiters.  This really fills out my collection nicely, in the late 15th and early 16th century.

So I thought it prudent to set up and play a game, since I have spent so much time lately oohing and aahing over the figures.  Especially the new figures, but also how many different armies I can form, from the period, given the troops that I now own.

I set up a 4x6 table, with a river, a crossroads, and a small villa/farm - with a few gentle hills and some scattered, but small (probably sheared back) forest areas.  It  could be Northern Italy.  I find myself wishing for more poplars, and more houses with an Italian architecture (possible modeling projects for the future).  See Part 2 of this article, for pictures of the wargaming table, and the game in action.

This is the look I was going for - must get more poplars...
 Then I set out two armies.  At first I was considering the Terry Gore rules for Renaissance, and then I opted for the smaller, but very fun to play, Neil Thomas rules for Renaissance in his Wargaming: An Introduction (discussed and reviewed many times here at GwC).  What I did not have with me was a phone or camera, but I will be playing out the game over the next week or so, and I will post pictures of the game in progress.

The French army has the following units:
2x Units of Swiss Pike
1x Unit of Crossbow
2x Units of Gendarmes
1x Unit of Mounted Bow
2x Cannon

The third mounted unit (the Mounted Bow) is interesting.  It is named mounted bow, but by the late 15th/early 16th century they did not use their bows from horseback.  Instead they are lighter, less elite version of the knights (the gendarmes) - nobility mounted on armored horses, and carrying a military grade lance.

The Italian (Condottieri) army has the following units:
2x units of Gendarms
1x unit of Mounted Crossbow (should be two units, but I converted one to a foot unit)
2x units of Foot Crossbow
1x unit of Italian Pike
1x unit of Swordsmen
1x Medieval Bombard (primitive compared to the cannon)

The pikemen and swordsmen will not be a match for the Swiss in French service.  The Gendarmes are of a higher grade than the French Gendarmes, so that might be the key to winning.
THE Condottiero - from Da Vinci