Wednesday 30 October 2019

Galleys & Galleons - An-te Hai and his offensive carp

I'm really pleased to be able to present two new fantastic Galleys & Galleons reports from Mark in Thailand:


Hi all

At last I’ve hauled my Ming fantasy fleet into the water, ready for some G&G action. The attentive among you will recall (obviously) the sensational exposé in these pages of the secret report by Don Marco da Pattaya (at that time Acting Viceroy of Malacca) to the Portuguese high command at Sagres, reporting on Chinese moves to rebuild their fleet on novel, fantastic lines. It seems the Fleet is now ready for action ...

An-Te Hai, the Court Eunuch punished by being appointed Inspector-General of the Tribute Bearing Fleet (Captain-General of the Minor Southern Lands) has been ordered to sea to escort a most important convoy past that notorious nest of pirates, the Knights of St Michael of Singapore.

This game will have only about 160 points per side while I re-familiarise myself with the G&G rules and work out how to handle the novel characteristics of the Ming vessels.

The Ming fleet comprises:
Jin Liyu (Golden Carp) & Zuhong Liyu (Vermilion Carp) (Submarine rams)
Q3 C3; Ramming, Sluggish, Submersible, Unarmed, Unorthodox (62 pts each)

Hainan Trader & Ginger Jar (large armed merchant junks)
Q4 C3; Merchantman, Reinforced hull, Square rigged (20 pts each)

The pirates comprise:
San Miguel (Galleass)
Q4 C5; Chaser guns, Drilled soldiers, High Castkes, Master gunner, Square rigged, Sweeps, Veteran NCOs (66 pts)
Cervesa & Corona (Galleys)
Q3 C3; Drilled soldiers, Galley, Swashbucklers, Yare (48pts each)

Here’s the situation: the Ming squadron has to enter at the short table-end at L and exit at R. Any other exits assume the offending vessel runs aground and is lost. The two junks are laden with luxuries for the Imperial court and the loss of either would be a tragedy.

The pirates (Knights if you like) are based in their lair between the two headlands and cannot put to sea until their first activation roll includes a ‘6’. They have been caught by surprise by this bold move by An-te Hai to sail right past their front door.

The wind is blowing diagonally from the far left to the near right corner of the table, and won’t shift (it’s an early monsoon wind). The tabletop is 44x72”.

The photo shows the tabletop with all ships in posed positions prior to the kick-off.

The Ming convoy sailed on in two columns, the merchants in the lee column and the covering force in the weather column. This next photo shows the situation after about four turns. Ginger Jar leads the Hainan Trader in the tricky turn required to get past the Surprize! Rocks (the ! is on the original charts). The two submarine rams have fallen slightly behind due to their inherently erratic propulsion, and the Zuhong Liu has submerged (which won’t affect its speed).

The pirates were able to get out of port on the second move. The two galleys seem to be splitting up to take on one merchant each, no doubt hope of plunder has Trumped tactical wisdom. Sad. The galleass is switching from sails to sweeps and appears to be getting ready to run interference against the submersibles.

Both squadrons were determined to come to grips, and so only a few turns later it was an all-in melee. The next photo below is an update at the end of turn 8 I think, but that includes two zero-move turnovers, one for each side (first activation roll comprised 100% fails).

In the background the galeass San Miguel has been rammed - twice - by the Zuhong Liyu (it reversed and came in again after the first ram attack caused no damage). It has now inflicted 1 damage on the galeass as shown by the red marker. The Zuhong approached submerged and only popped up to ram, giving the San Miguel no opportunity to shoot. Then, when it did shoot, it totally missed at point blank range.

In the foreground the galley Corona has boarded and captured the Ginger Jar. The junk put up a fierce resistance, damaging the galley with its cannon as it came up, and winning a round of the boarding action too, but in the end it succumbed (yellow marker).

The Jin Liyu, staying on the surface the whole time, rammed the galley Cervesa, and with help from the cannon of the Hainan Trader, has sunk it (3 red markers). The Hainan Trader itself slipped past the galley and is now out-of-view to the R and nearly off the table.

Only one more Turn later and it was all over. Jin Liyu turned and rammed the galley Corona, already seriously damaged, and sent it straight to the bottom.

There was no prize crew about the Ginger Jar so the junk crew will be able to recapture their ship and get on with their voyage. And the Zuhong Liyu, having survived a half hearted broadside from the galeass, will be able to submerge and evade further damage.

So An-te Hai has won his first naval action. The Chinese squadron suffered 1 merchant junk temporarily captured (the manpower losses in the boarding action can be made good by the prisoners marooned on her deck when their galley was sunk) plus a single shooting hit on the Zuhong Liyu. The Knights lost two galleys sunk.

The Jianjing Emperor has expressed his satisfaction, and ordered An-te Hai to next extirpate the Southern Barbarians (Portuguese) from their base on the Birds Nest islands.


In accordance with Imperial orders, An-te Hai assembled a force to recapture the islands, the only source of a type of edible birdnest particularly favoured by the Imperial concubines. Four years ago (as I reported) the Portuguese led by Don Marco da Pattaya captured the islands from their traditional overlords, a shadowy cabal of Hakka pirates and Guangzhou merchants, and promptly raised prices sky high. It’s time to restore the correct order of things under Heaven.

The plan has been leaked to the Southern Barbarians however, and a defending force is in the offing, comprising an improbable alliance ... and commanded by Don Marco himself, no less.

The Ming squadron (total 226 pts) comprises:
Jin Liyu (Golden Carp), Zuhong Liyu (Vermilion carp), Fecui Liyu (Emerald carp) (Submarine rams) 62 pts each
Q3 C3; Ramming, Sluggish, Submersible, Unarmed, Unorthodox.
Hainan TraderGinger Jar (large merchant junks) 20 points each
Q4 C3; Merchantman, Reinforced hull, Square rigged.

The merchant junks contain convicts and military conscripts fated to be the garrison of the recaptured islands. It’s understood that if at least one junk can disgorge it’s load at the jetty, the troops, tho unenthusiastic, will overwhelm the few Portuguese defenders.

The Portuguese squadron (total 230 pts) comprises:
Santa Caterina da Goa (Galleon) 76 pts
 Q3 C4; Chaser guns, Galleon rigged, Master gunner, Trained gun crews, Drilled soldiers.
Santa Barbara (Fragata) 60 pts
Q3 C3; Chaser guns, Galleon rigged, Master gunner, Trained gun crews.
Moscato (Merchant brig) 18 pts
Lateen rigged, Merchantman, Master gunner.
And their allies, the dreaded Ngati Porou freebooters ...
Mangonui (Double-hulled canoe) 52 pts
Q3 C3; Flagship* Intimidating, Lateen rigged, Unarmed. * Commands the freebooters only.
AorakiNgaurahoeRuapehu (War canoe x3) 8 pts each
Q2 C2; Boats, Intimidating, Unarmed. [We have since discussed that the points  here are wrong as Boats are already Unarmed - thanks to Alan for pointing that out. Each canoe should be 28 points]

The wind is coming straight along the table from R to L, and (as usual on my tabletops) will not change during the game.

The first photo shows the opening positions of the game. The Portuguese and their allies are already on the table.  At R the Sa Caterina leads the Sa Barbara. In harbour the freebooters and the Moscato get ready for action.

The Ming squadron is shown at the points where they will sail on. All sailing vessels on both sides are under shortened sail as the games starts. An-Te Hai gets to move first.

And the next photo below shows what had happened by the end of a Turn 4. The Sa Caterina, Don Marco strutting on the quarterdeck in his finest armour, has been rammed bow-on by the Jin Liyu, and suffered two hits, tho the chaser guns hit the Jin Liyu as it came in. The crew have partially repaired the damage so the galleon now shows only 1 red hit marker. This has been at the cost of shooting or boarding the Chinese ship. The Sa Barbara, at extreme R, has shot at the Zuhong Liyu as the two sailed past, causing 1 hit.

To the L, the Moscato and the freebooters canoes are slowly come out of the port. The Chinese merchant junks have yet to make an appearance due to turnovers.

Tactically it seems Don Marco’s plan is to use his big Portuguese ships to take down the Ming submersibles, and leave the freebooters the task of dealing with the merchant junks. An-Te Hai seems happy with that. He believes his wonder weapons can cripple the Portuguese and then turn on the Primitives who, it seems to him and his entourage, have put to sea on tree trunks.

Turn 5 was full of action so I’ve inserted another photo. The Sa Caterina galleon was rammed again by the Jin Liyu (it backed off* and came in again) and by the Zuhong Liyu, and it has now sunk from too many holes below the waterline. At time of writing there is no news of the fate on Don Marco da Pattaya.

*I’m using the backing rule for galleys: 1xM straight back for 2 actions (see bottom of p20). Boats cannot do this, pity.

The Portuguese keep doing this in my games (!) - letting the enemy get too close instead of standing off and shooting them. It’s not as if the submersibles were submersed.

Elsewhere the Chinese merchant junks finally got their act together and  passed through the rest of the enemy fleet. They forgot to open fire as they did so.

The Portuguese response was ineffective. Moscato fired a full broadside at one of the junks but somehow caused no damage (won the firefight but the natural die roll was Odd). The freebooters were caught totally flat footed and are out of position, and (out of pic to the R) the Sa Barbara is stranded near the bottom table edge by turnover.

Three Turns later (end of Turn 8) I ended the game, because I had run out of time (need to collect Michael from school and go buy “trick or treat” lollies for school tomorrow). A pity as the end game could have been very intriguing. Here’s the end-of-game photo:
The Ming have recaptured the KhiNok islands as Ginger Jar has been berthed at the jetty for 2 Turns and her troops have debarked to overwhelm the scratch Portuguese garrison. So scenario-wise they have won.

But ... although the Portuguese have also lost their big galleon (a critical dent in their East-of-Goa capability) they have lost no other ships, but the Ming have lost two submersibles, Jin Liyu and Fecui Liyu, to boarding by the freebooters. Fecui Liyu (yellow marker) was captured but Jin Liyu, with An-Te Hai aboard, was sunk. So both commanders have fallen in the water. I’ll have to incorporate this detail into the ongoing G&G campaign. Also this could mean the Chinese technological secrets fall into Portuguese hands - if the freebooters don’t burn the Fecui Liyu after looting it. 

Elsewhere the Sa Barbara and Moscato have had a terrible day for gunnery, usually they do a lot better esp the tiny Moscato. Zuhong Liyu, thé surviving submersible, ought to be able to cover the retreat of the merchant junks. 

Losses and captures amount to 76 pts for the Portuguese and 124 pts for the Ming. The Ngati Porou will most likely head home now, canoes stuffed with Chinese loot, and the surviving two Portuguese ships aren’t strong enough to attempt a counterstroke by themselves.

Let’s call it a strategic win for the Ming Chinese, but a marginal tactical loss. And leave the mysterious fates of An-Te Hai and Don Marco da Pattaya for future episodes.

Cheers from Pattaya

Sunday 27 October 2019

ROMANES EVNT DOMVS III: Pilums for the poisoner-prince of Pontos

Andrew and I met up again this week for a third game of l'Art de la Guerre between his Triumvirate Romans and my assorted late Hellenistic principalities. After previously being steam-rolled by Tigranes II's Armenians, and then being only just defeated by the Ituraeans of Chalkis, this time the legions of Rome were faced by Mithridates VI of Pontos. If you're not already a fan of his, you should read up on him - a true hero of the Hellenistic world in the face of vile Roman oppression... 😇

This time around, the Triumvirate Romans were on the defensive, choosing to fight on a coastal plain broken only by three fields and treeless plantation (far right). The Romans had a small army consisting of 12 veteran legionary units (heavy swordsmen, armoured, impact, elite) supported by two heavy cavalry (one on each flank), two elite Cretan archer skirmishing units and a regular unit of skirmishing bowmen.

The Pontic left was made up of an infantry division: two javelineers, two pike, two thureophoroi heavy spearmen, two slingers and two scythed chariots. The centre was led by Mithridates himself and consisted of two units of elite Pontic heavy cavalry, two units of light horse with javelins, and two units of elite Galatian heavy swordsmen. On the right was the Pontic secret weapon - an Armenian ally division consisting of four units of cataphracts, three units of horse archers, and compulsory infantry dross (a javelinman and two units of skirmishing archers).

The first turn was a success for Mithridates, in that the Armenian general rolled a 2 for CPs. He might not have been very active in turn one, but at least he wasn't hesitant! In all other ways, the first turn was very messy with few CPs to play with. The Pontic and Armenian mounted units all charged forward while the infantry mostly stood around and picked their noses.

Being obsessed with linearity, and not wanting the legions to be caught in the field, the  Romans plodded forward.

The Pontic light horse made a dashing charge, chasing off the Roman skirmishers and clearing the way for the scythed chariots to crash, unhindered, into the line of legionaries. Amazingly, both chariots survived the clash and caused significant upset among the Latin ranks.

Inland, the Armenians screened their cataphracts with horse archers who fired very ineffectually at the elite armoured Roman heavy infantry opposite them. 

The Roman heavy cavalry (supporting the legions opposite the Armenians) charged forward and drove back the horse archers. 

While the legions on the Roman left and centre advanced, the left-hand corp held back to deal with the scythed chariots. At this point we hadn't remembered about furious charges yet, so only one cohesion point had been applied to the disordered legionaries. Andrew was beyond gentlemanly later on when he applied the extra hit to each unit.  

Having driven off the horse archers, the sole Roman heavy cavalry unit on the inland wing was charged by Armenian cataphracts. The horse archers then wheeled around and started moving up the flank.

On the Pontic left, one of the scythed chariots collapsed in the second round of combat, but the other one hung on, impeding the whole Roman flank. In the centre, the Pontic lancers charged home against their opposing Roman division, while the Galatian swordsmen were not far behind. 

Fed up with the remaining scythed chariot unit, the Roman commander sent his heavy cavalry into its flank, dispersing the last of the vehicles.

With the chariots gone, more Romans plunged on into the fight. The Armenian cataphracts obliterated the sole Roman cavalry unit and crunched into the legions behind. On the Roman left and centre, commanders were thrown into the melee to add their weight to the respective combats.

The cataphracts drove one legionary unit from the field forcing their attached commander to scurry out of the way of thundering hooves, seeking shelter with the  next unit in the line. The Galatians charged into the Roman line like the howling mass of crazy Celts that they were, but unfortunately they found that the Romans were elite, armoured and had the impact ability. Suffice to say, the Galatians did not have the same level of success that their mounted comrades had already enjoyed.

The Armenian allied commander couldn't help himself, and so joined in the fighting personally - just in time to see the Roman commander opposite fall under a cataphract's mail-clad horse. The Armenian horse archers, meanwhile, continued to execute a perfect outflanking manoeuvre.

The jaws of the cataphract trap slamed closed on the end of the Roman line, while the Armenian horse archers skirted the field. It is safe to say that at this point in the battle, Roman morale was pretty low. Several units had already broken and there were disordered legionaries all down the line ... 

... but it was very much a line. The Pontic army was still a mess of different groups, some struggling to get into combat, others struggling to keep out of the way. Both Galatian units had suffered in their first charge, and one of the elite units of Pontic heavy horse were being badly hurt by the solid swordsmen of Rome.

As the Pontic infantry finally reached the fighting, the tide slowly began to turn. Even disordered heavy swordsmen can hold their own in a prolonged fight - at least when they are elite, armoured and have impact. There was even now a Roman cavalry unit threatening the end of the Pontic line where the pikemen were the only units putting on a decent show against the legions.

As Pontic heavy cavalry and thureophoroi units began to flee, Mithridates pulled back his remaining cavalry to form a second line. He also sent forward his highland javelineers to impose their zone of control over the Roman cavalry, thereby preserving the flank of the Pontic pike.

The Roman cavalry charged into the javelineers, but the latter decided to hold their ground. Over at the far end of the battle, the Roman skirmishers in the field turn to exchange arrows with the Armenian horse archers - the only effective shooting all battle. However, at the same time, three more Roman legionary units broke and fled - those facing pikemen and thureophoroi (having been weakened by the chariots), and those in the cataphract vice.

The Armenian commander coordinated the the attack on the next Roman infantry unit vicious efficiency ...

... and Mithridates was not to be out-shone, leading another charge of the Pontic heavy cavalry.

Both commanders were unsympathetically successful, causing more legions to flee and breaking the Roman army. By the end of the turn, the Romans stood at 19 breakpoints against their threshold of 17, while the Pontic army was also at 19 breakpoints - but without nearing the higher threshold of 24. 

There is no doubting that Mithridates' army took a brutal beating and, had the fight continued, the Romans could have held their own against the scrappy Pontic units still on the field. Sadly for Rome, that is not how it works. The Romans were mauled and withdrew from the field leaving Mithridates VI of Pontos sovereign over all Asia Minor.

 And doesn't he look pleased with himself!

Thursday 10 October 2019

More 10mm Illyrians

It has taken some time, but I have finally completed some wee friends for my 10mm Illyrians (see previous posts HERE and HERE). Like their comrades, these are converted Pendraken Celtiberians. There are a few head swaps - this time using Magister Militum peltasts - and modelling putty was used to cover over belts to give the Illyrian-no-belt look. 

Beringia at the Barstow School

Kenneth Van Pelt has been using Palaeo Diet: Eat of Be Eaten with his 5th graders at the Barstow School, Missouri. It looks like it was a great experience for all involved - go check out the school's blog

As a rule designer, I always hope that my games will be fun. It's also nice if they are accurate to what they are trying to represent, whether that be history, or historical trope. However, to see a set of my rules used to educate - to help people learn through participatory entertainment - is a real joy and an honour. 

Tuesday 8 October 2019

ROMANES EVNT DOMVS II: Blood in the Beqa'a

Andrew, Jim and I got together last week for a 1st century BC game of l'Art de la Guerre (in glorious 6mm naturally). When last Andrew and I met, his un-tested Triumvirate Romans were tried, tested and found wanting by Tigranes of Armenia in a most embarrassing way. This time I thought I'd see if I could repeat the cull with an untried army of my own - no.74, Aramaeans. The Aramaeans were the defenders and we chose to hold the line where the mountains meet the sea.

My Aramaean army was inspired by the Ituraean tetrarchy of Chalkis in the Massyas Valley - the modern Beqa'a. I commanded the tetrarch himself (on the left), leading three units of elite heavy cavalry and four units of horse archers, as well as a strategos commanding four units of heavy swordsmen and four units of bowmen (holding the centre). Jim assumed the role of the sheikh of my nomadic division leading a motley crew of two units of medium camelry archers, four javelineers, two bowmen and two units of skirmishing archers.

Facing us, Andrew had three divisions each with four units of regulation legionaries (impact, armour), supported by two Cretan archers on the left, two light horse and two Roman rubbish medium cavalry in the centre, and three skirmishers armed with slings and javelins on the right.

The battle opened with the Romans advancing and sliding to their right to try to anchor their flank against the coast line. The legate obviously wanted to meet my Ituraean cavalry head on rather than allowing a flank attack. Pitty.

The horse archers and the camelry sped forward to get into bow range while the rest of the Ituraean centre tried to adjust to the shifting Roman lines. Over on the inland flank, the Arab nomad archers pushed up to secure the peak of a steep hill, while a lack of command PIPS meant that their javelineers sat about for a while.

The lines slowly realigned in the shade of a hundred thousand arrows. The Ituraean and Arab archers, horse archers and camel archers peppered the Romans with shots. Look at that beautiful formation in the centre, with the Ituraean bowmen supported by their heavy swordsmen, safe in the knowledge that heavy swordsmen and archers can interpenetrate each other's units.

Running out of beach on the left, two units of ituraean horse archers swung around behind the infantry block in the centre to support the camelry.

Inland, the Arab javelineers begin their advance towards the Romans. They were obviously hoping that the Romans would tire themselves out in the hot sun as they advanced the entire depth of the battlefield...

The lines start to close in as more arrows fill the sky.

And then the Romans clash home. The horse archers, camelry and javelineers all evade skilfully, leaving the Romans frustrated, while the Ituraean heavy cavalry counter charge to bring death to the Romans at the tip of wicked, needle-sharp spears.

However, it was about this time that I realised that bowmen can't actually evade, so there was not going to be any skilful interpenetration of the Ituraean heavy swordsmen. Rather, the archers were to start to fall under the Italian farmers (most of those barbarians can't even speak Greek like a civilised man!). 

It was also about this pint that the Romans remembered they were all armoured. That might have helped during that arrow storm earlier...

The Ituraean cavalry remembered now that they could disengage, and did just that, hoping to come back with better odds and allowing the horse archers to shoot a few more arrows. Inland, the Arab javelineers began a sweeping advance down the flank, held up only by the Roman light horse who refused to flee.

Meanwhile in the centre, the Ituraean archers fled. As they did so, they started disrupting the swordmen to their rear who turned around to pull back, only to be charged by the legionaries who had just destroyed what remained of the archers. Remarkable, an Ituraean's rear is no easy target for a Roman, and even at a disadvantage, the Ituraeans won the initial combat.

The Ituraean swordsmen turned back the correct way and began fighting in earnest.

The Roman legions kept pressing forward, but the Ituraean cavalry charged back in again. The Ituraean swordsmen more than held their own, while one brave unit of Ituraean archers managed to continue to not die, assaulted as they were by the Roman cavalry. The Arab camelry too stood firm before the Roman swordsmen, as nomadic javelineers and archers swept down from the hills to hit the Roman flank. At this point, The Roman break point stood at 22/24, the Ituraeans were on 23/25.

The Ituraean tetrarch leads his elite heavy cavalry into the slaughter one more time...

The Ituraean bowmen teeter on the edge of defeat...

The Arab camelry find themselves greatly out numbered by legionaries...

But in the distance can be made out the empty space where once fought the Roman light cavalry. With their destruction at the hands of the Arab javelineers, the Roman army broke and began its withdrawal. By the skin of their teeth, the Ituraeans had managed the most marginal of victories!