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.