Thursday 27 December 2012

Irregular Wars: Conflict at the World's End - battle recruitment

It is the third decade of the 17th century. While the Spain of His Most Catholic Majesty, Philip IV, squanders its riches in fruitless wars against heretics and rebels in Europe, her possessions in the New World are increasingly under threat of sea-borne depredations from various piratical nations.

Into this New World of sweat, blood and God enters the king's royal agent, Don Diego Diablo del Mar, sent to bring order to the defences of the colonies and lead the king's subjects to righteous victory.

Our hero has word of the approach of a flotilla of Calvanist Hollanders cruising along the Miskito Coast, searching for trading partners among the local savages and seeking to undermine the commercial hegemony created by the Grace of God and held by good king Philip. It is about time that somebody called out the militia...

The following post is design as an example of the recruitment process for Irregular Wars: Conflict at the World's End. It will outline the basic concepts of battle recruitment and provide a specific example of a Colonial Spanish battle (a small army) for a so-called 'set piece action', an engagement between two opposing battles where the only objective is the defeat (and humiliation) of the opponent.

The first job of the player is to draw a chance card from the deck of 32 cards provided with the core rules. In this case, Don Diego has drawn the 'Inspiring Lord' card:
The Lord’s well spoken words stay 
even the most shaken hearts. +1 to
 all rolls relating to the Lord during
As a result, the lord (or leader) of the battle, i.e. Don Diego himself, will be more effective when rallying his men during Rally phases throughout the game. 

The player is next required to recruit companies to lead into battle. The Colonial Spanish appear on page 8 of the battle lists. The list has two sets of compulsory company types which must be recruited by the player. The first (combining conquistadors with rodeleros) applies only to battle recruited in or before 1606; the second (herreruelos and militia pike) applies only to battles recruited in or after that year; players wishing to use a Colonial Spanish battle in 1606 are at liberty to decide which list is more appropriate. 

As our game takes place in the 1620s, the player uses the second list. Don Diego therefore has immediate access to two companies of herreruelos (armoured cavalry fighting with sword and pistols - these might be considered the colonial aristocracy), and two companies of militia pike (the standing colonial militia drawn from free colonists, indentured servants, African slaves, Moriscos and Mestizos).
Two companies of herreruelos - one led by the Don
two companies of militia pikemen
In a set piece action, each player has access to five 'options' from the list of possible optional companies. For the Colonial Spanish, this list includes the following: 
  • 1 Harquebusiers (mounted soldiers armed with an harquebus)
  • d2 Targeteers (infantry fighting with swords and small shields)
  • d2 Militia pike (further pikemen)
  • d3 Militia shot (infantry armed with a mixture of shot weapons)
  • d2 Crossbowmen (infantry equipped with crossbows)
  • d3 Armed mobs (colonial residents not organised in formal militia companies)
  • 1 War dogs (mastiffs or wolf hounds and their handlers)
  • 1 Priest (Catholic missionaries prepared to bless their congregation as they enter battle)
  • d3 Indian mercenaries (indigenous warriors armed melee weapons and throwing weapons)
  • d4 Indian archers (indigenous warriors equipped with bows)
  • d6 Indian porters (indigenous servants pressed into military service)
  • 1 Saker (5-6 pounder artillery piece)
  • 1 Ship's guns (portable naval artillery brought ashore temporarily)

d3 militia shot
Don Diego decides that he will first call out the militia shot. As d3 militia shot are available, he must roll 1d3 (usually a d6 or six-sided dice treating rolls of 1-2 as a one, 3-4 as a two and 5-6 as a three) to determine the number of companies who are able to be mobilised. In this case he rolls a d6 and scores a 3; he may thus field two companies of militia shot in the coming engagement.

d3 armed mobs
He decides to supplement the organised militia with d3 armed mobs from the local citizenry. Again, there is the possibility of one, two or three companies of mob being recruited depending on the recruitment dice roll. As he rolls a 2, only a single company of armed mobs will be available for this game.

1 priest
As the Spanish will be facing heretic Hollanders (whom all men know are the servants of the Antichirst and have been forsaken by God), Don Diego recruits a priest to provide extra blessings to his men in battle. Only a single priest may ever be recruited in the Colonial Spanish list so there is no need to roll a dice.

d3 Indian mercenaries
To give his men a little more profane punch, Don Diego decides to hire d3 companies of Indian mercenary warriors. On this occasion he scores a 5 on his d6 dice roll and is therefore able to recruit all three companies available.

1 saker
Finally, the Don uses his last few dubloons to recruit a saker battery to provide some long range fire support. As with the priest, only a single battery of sakers may ever be recruited in a battle of Colonial Spanish, there is no need to roll a dice, their appearance on the battle field is assured.

As a result of his mixed rolling during recruitment, Don Diego Diablo del Mar has assembled a battle composed of the following 12 companies: two herreruelos, two militia pike, two militia shot, one armed mob, one priest, three Indian mercenaries and one saker. Had the rolling been better he may have been able to field additional companies of militia shot and armed mobs, but it also could have been worse and seen less militia shot and less mercenaries.

Don Diego's Colonial Spanish assemble
Early in the new year I will post a detailed battle report of Don Diego's altercation with the Hollanders and recount the various deeds of courage and cowardice on both sides.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

SBH - the new girl (and Season's Greetings!)

Just a quick update to show off a little 28mm Eureka Amazon that I picked up to round off my Wardens of Olympos warband for SBH. She has been painted up for some time, but it is only today that I managed to take photos of her, and a bunch of other stuff for posts in the very near future.

She survived her first battle last month. Bless her. As always, she and her gagng can be followed over at the battle honours page HERE.

Oh, also I'd like to take the opportunity to wish all readers a festive holiday season and a fruitful New Year!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Irregular Wars: Hoplite Ascendancy playtesting

About a month or so ago, a couple of my Antipodean comrades-in-miniature-arms did a little playtesting of the Hoplite lists for Irregular Wars: Hoplite Ascendancy, the Classical Greek adaptation of my Renaissance rules. I have been meaning to post the results since then but have been exhausted coming in out of the frozen mud in the evenings and haven't quite managed to post before now. Hypothermia is seriously exhausting....

Photos re-posted courtesy of the Old Gnome.

It was a classic match up between Michael's Athenians and Steve's Spartans. Michael set up terrain, placing two large woods a large marsh and a large area of rough going. 

The intial setup. Athens vs Sparta, with Athenians in the foreground.

Armies advance to do battle.

Some more maneuvering. Note that one of the Athenian Hoplite units decided to go out of control and head east..

 Battle is joined, with the Spartan cavalry trying to out flank the Athenians. The game at this point became a slogging match as the hoplites just pushed and shoved for little effect.

It wasn't until the Spartans gained the ascendancy on the right flank and was able to get my two Hippeis behind the Athenian lines that it started to unravel for the Athenians. Meanwhile on the Spartan left flank, the Thracian horse and peltasts held up the Athenian Hippeis until Steve was able to withdraw some hoplites and shore up that flank.

That spelled the end of the Athenians as the Spartan’s continue to roll up the flank. The game ended with the end of all the Athenians, whilst the Spartans had only lost the Thracian horse and the peltasts.

After the game, the Steve posed the following questions and comments (in Italics). My responses follow.

A comment regarding the lists. The Spartans were able to field two Hippeis and a Thracian horse, which was exactly the same as the Athenians. Should the Spartans have a restriction re mercenary cavalry or did they really field as much as the other Greek states?

Regarding cavalry, with the exception of some of the northern poleis, Peloponnesian states (generally allies of Sparta) had as good a potential to field mounted troops as their opponents, even if Sparta itself never fielded very many. Boiotians tended to field better cavalry than southern Greeks (and more of it), the Thessalians were the best mounted Greeks of course and were almost on par with the Macedonians.

Depending on the theatre of the war, Spartans might have Greek allied cavalry from the Peloponnese, from central Greece, from the Greek cities in Thrace or Asia Minor etc so there's no real issue with a Spartan led force running multiple cavalry companies.

During the game, the Spartan hoplites advanced through and fought in the terrain as they still had the advantage over the Athenian light troops. We were unsure as to whether this was your intention. 

In short, no. The balance that will have to be achieved (through play testing) is how to to treat Hoplites. In rough terrain they already drop their movement down to 1" per turn, so Michael's peltasts should theoretically have been able to skip around flanks and pepper you with javelins.

Perhaps a further melee modifier is needed for hoplite companies; maybe -1 in rough and -2 in woods?

So Hoplite Ascendancy is still obviously a work in progress, but it's good to see the game evolving and adapting beyond its original mandate.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

The Annals of the Relic of Saint Pius

Chapter 1,Sorviodunum
Read stranger, the apocryphal words of Saint Neot the Lesser, servant of God and compiler of this, the Annals of the Relic of Saint Pius. It is a tale of Britons and Saxons, of Irish pirates and valiant knights. A song of holy relics and vile heathens, of the bravest of deeds and the most villainous of treacheries.

I should know, for I was there...

Flavius Constans, a man who fancied himself descended from a line of Roman Emperors, stared contemptuously down the slopes of Sorviodunum at the rabble gathering below. Sure, the combined Hiberno-Saxon host had driven him out of Venta of the Belgae– a centre his opponents were now calling Venta-chester, as if they thought he would let them stay. Sure, the barbarous hoards had forced him to seek shelter within the crumbling defences of Sorvidunum – but he had not gone down without a fight. Now, only two enemy warbands remained in any condition to continue the fight: Æthelwulf's band of Angles and a boat-load of Irish pirates led by the fearsome Irish prince, Dubh Fiach.

Behind Flavius, one of his spearmen chuckled quietly at some jest uttered by his fellows. The last of Venta’s stout-hearted militia sat around a collection of small fires, speaking quietly while they prepared themselves for the onslaught that would come at first light. Every man there knew that this, their last stand would be a bloody affair. The only real hope of the British cause was that Flavius’ distant cousin, the Magister Equitum of all the Britons would bring his mounted host to sweep away the opposition.

This is the first battle of a four game linear campaign featuring the competition between four warbands for the control of the territory of the Belgae, one of the minor princedoms in southern Britain that struggled to survive in the wake of the Roman withdrawal. For the purposes of the campaign, the warbands are fixed. In each battle the will return with a full complement of warriors regardless of the outcome of the previous games. The details of the four warbands are provided below, but this campaign could, of course, be run with different warbands or in an entirely different setting. 

The chapter title of each scenario is a clickable link which will take you to the 'after action report'.

Theme: Romano-British milites

Points: 599
Models: 17

Personalities: 169 (28%)
Morale check: 9

Warriors: 430 (72%)

Flavius Constans, the Penultimate Roman
Points: 103
Special rules: group fighter, heavy armour, leader

Calpurnius Draco
Points: 66
Special rules: fearless, leader, standard bearer

Pedyt (x10)
Points: 22
Special rules: shieldwall

Archer (x5)
Points: 42
Special rules: sharpshooter, shooter long

Theme: Romano-British Knights

Points: 597
Models: 7

Personalities: 175 (29%)
Morale check: 4

Warriors: 422 (71%)

Artorius, Magister Equitum
Points: 150
Special rules: combat master, dashing, heavy armour, hero, hero’s horse, long move, running blow

Saint Neot
Points: 25
Special rules: leader, slow

Companion (x3)
Points: 90
Special rules: dashing, heavy armour, long move, mounted, running blow

Companion Archer (x2)
Points: 76
Special rules: heavy armour, long move, mounted, shooter medium

Theme: Irish raiders

Points: 596
Models: 13

Personalities: 168 (28%)
Morale check: 7

Warriors: 428 (72%)

Dubh Fiach mac Eóghan of the Eóghanacht
Points: 90
Special rules: forester, savage, terror

Iseult the Raven
Points: 78
Special rules: assassin, forester, free disengage

Eóghanacht raider (x8)
Points: 43
Special rules: coward, forester, free disengage, savage

Wolfhound (x3)
Points: 28
Special rules: animal, berserk, savage

Theme: Anglo-Saxons

Points: 598
Models: 13

Personalities: 156 (26%)
Morale check: 7

Warriors: 442 (74%)

Æthelwulf the Boar
Points: 106
Special rules: heavy armour, leader, tough

Sigtrygg Silvertongue
Points: 50
Special rules: bard

Godgifu Wōdensdottir
Points: 66
Special rules: distract, long move, mounted

Anglian Champion
Points: 52
Special rules: fearless, shieldwall, shooter: short, standard bearer

Anglian Ceorl (x9)
Points: 36
Special rules: shieldwall, shooter: short

The battle of Sorviodunum is loosely based on the Battle of Badon scenario outlined in SAM p.40 except that the game is played with two 600 point warbands per side. The warbands, though allied, are treated separately and any benefits from special rules (such as quality bonuses caused by proximity to a leader) apply only to the warband containing the character with the special rule. All of one warband activates (until turnover) followed by their allies before handing over to either of the opposing warbands.

Defender 1:       Romano-British Milites of Venta Belgarum
Defender 2:       Arthur’s British Equites
Attackers:          Dubh Fiach's Irish Raiders
                        Æthelwulf's Angles

Defender 1 deploys in the village at the centre of the table. The two attacking warbands deploy anywhere on the table, no closer than two long move from any of the defender’s figures. As in the SAM Badon scenario, roll 1d6 at the start of each of the defender’s turns. Keep a running tally of the result. When the results total 12 or more, Defender 2’s warband may be deployed on the table within a short distance along a randomly determined table edge. The deployment of Defender 2’s warband constitutes its entire turn. Defender 1 may now activate their figures as normal.

Victory conditions: The game lasts for 8+1d6 turns. 1 Victory Point for every 50 points of killed opponents; 1 extra Victory Point for every enemy personality killed; 5 Victory Points for the player with the most points of figures within the village when the game ends.


The heroes of Sorviodunum gazed anxiously at the ring of standing stones before them. They had surged forth following their victory to this, the repository of the little toe of the left foot of Saint Pius the Significant, brought and hidden here two hundred years ago by Nikolaos of Antioch. The heroes’ pitiful allies had shadowed their every move and now skulked in the mist beyond the stone circle. The recovery of the holy relic would bestow great prestige on its new owner, not just with their followers, but with the backwards inhabitants of the land – the search for the saint’s toe would not go unhindered.

The second game of the linear campaign, this scenario is based on the Treasure Hunt scenario found in SAM p.25. In addition, a thick mist envelopes the battlefield conferring a -1 modifier on all shooting and on all morale rolls. In addition, shooting is limited to medium range. The mist clears as soon as any player rolls a double five or a double six during activation.

The treasure, when found, allows the warband which controls it to re-roll any or all dice for any quality check (be it for activation, morale or for any other reason) once per game. This bonus applies to this game and is carried forward into games 3 and 4 of the campaign by the victor of the previous game.

Defender:         Warband from Sorviodunum with the highest Victory Points
Attacker:           Ally of the warband from Sorviodunum with the highest Victory Points

Victory conditions: The game lasts for 6+1d6 turns.1 Victory Point per 50 points of killed opponents, plus 5 Victory Points for holding the relic at the end of the game.

Having dispatched their erstwhile allies, the holders of the toe of Saint Pius had enjoyed little of the expected prestige. Instead, they found themselves harried by their defeated foes from Sorviodunum, recovered now and seeking cold vengeance and slavering at the chance to get their thieving hands on a holy relic. So now, with the smoke of their home cooking fires drifting on the light westerly breeze, the holders of the toe just had to make it across one last stretch of wilderness to home, hearth, and a stout palisade.

The third game of the campaign follows the Hunt scenario found in SAM p. 35.

Defender:          Victor of the Dividing the Spoils
Attacker:            Loser of Sorviodunum 1

Victory conditions: Play continues until one player concedes or all models on one side have run away, fallen or are dead. Attacker: 1 Victory Point for every 50 points of enemy killed/fleeing. Defender: 1 Victory Point for every 50 points of model making it to the opposite table edge alive (but not fleeing). Play continues until one player concedes or all models on one side have run away, fallen or are dead.

Chapter 4, The Last Battle
Unrest reigns across the kingdom.

Rival warbands march across the hills while the country folk have fled their homes and taken shelter in the marshlands and the woods. Ten years have passed since Sorviodunum and the affair of the Holy Toe of St Pius. Victorious against their weaker foes, the proven and legitimate rulers of the land had demonstrated their worth and ruled well for three long glorious Summers.

That was before the Year of the Rains and the three Years of the Famine which followed close on its heels. In those dark days it was only rumours of the reappearance of an old enemy which filtered through to the prince’s court, brought by travelers, bards, priests and merchants. Then, as the prosperity of the land dimmed, the visitors grew fewer but the rumours continued. Women, children and livestock started to disappear and shadowy figures were seen crossing the fields in moonlight. The Prince of Venta’s prestige faltered as he failed to protect his people and the enemy grew ever bolder until now they show no hesitation at stalking the land in broad daylight.

Thus, the prince and his loyal warband saw no alternative but to hunt their enemy and pursue them back to the untamed wilds where they had been sheltering this last decade. With this, his last push, the Prince of Venta, the Holder of the Holy Toe, must destroy his opponent and restore order to the land, or die and be succeeded by whoever has the strength to take his place.

The fourth and final game of the campaign will decide which warband will permanently seize control of the lands around Venta. At least for the foreseeable future; until someone stronger or move cunning appears on the scene. The game is based on the Ride of the Gododdin scenario (SAM p.41) with the slight change that the set warbands should be used without the addition of a free bard.

Defender:          Victor of Ambush
Attacker:           Loser of Sorviodunum 2

Victory conditions: Play continues until one player concedes or all models on one side have run away, fallen or are dead. 3 Victory Points for killing an enemy personality or for each gruesome kill imposed on an opponent; 1 Victory Point for each member of own warband killed Gruesomely; 1 Victory Point every time an enemy fails a Morale test; -1 Victory Point every time member of own warband fails a Morale test.

The warband with the most victory points accrued in the course of the fourth game will win the campaign and be enshrined in the apocryphal annals of Saint Neot the Lesser for all time as the last legitimate ruler of Venta Belgarum.