Sunday 28 April 2024

Battle of the Belitung Islands: a G&G affairs of galleys, mostly

The Sultan of Songkhka is fed up with the piratical activities of the Knights of St Michael of Singapore in the waters around Sumatra and Kalimantan. He sends a strong squadron to suppress them, commanded by his current court Favourite, Lala Mustafa. Clued in by reports from irate merchant shipowners, they catch up with the Christians near the Belitung islands off the SE coast of Sumatra. The Knights are commanded by Don Oliver Starkey, who, it will be remembered, was commander (in the Portuguese service) of Kupang fortress when it fell and subsequently turned up in the service of the Knights of St Michael (go back and check out the SIEGE OF KUPANG here).

Vessels marked * are flagships. Lala Mustafa is a Swaggering commander. Oliver Starkey is a Dashing commander.

The Songkhka squadron (323 points) comprises -
2 x Galeasses (Hat Yai* & Banda Aceh) 72* & 59
Q4 C5: Drilled soldiers, Bow guns, High castles, Square rigged, Sluggish, Sweeps, Veteran NCOs

4 x Galleys (Ayutthaya, Borobudur, Songkhla, Srivijaya) 48 each
Q3 C3: Drilled soldiers, Galley, Swashbucklers, Yare

The Knights squadron (325 points) comprises - 
1 x Galeass (San Miguel*) 89
Q4 C5: Chaser guns, Drilled soldiers, High castles, Master gunner, Square rigged, Sweeps, Veteran NCOs

3 x Galleys (Cervesa, Corona, Stella Artois) 48 each
Q3 C3: Drilled soldiers, Galley, Swashbucklers, Yare

2 x allied wako War junks (Conch Shell, Green Eyebrows) 46 each
Q3 C3: Derring-do, Intimidating, Lateen rigged, Reinforced hull 


The two squadrons met near a chain of smaller islands, each side approaching in rough line abreast. The wind is from the NW, and the view is looking NE, so the wind is blowing across the photo, from R to L.

After 3 turns and a wind shift to N>S (now blowing across the table from far side to near side) the battle seems imminent. With the wind favouring the Songkhka squadron, Lala Mustafa has been able to keep his formation intact by restricting the galleys to only 1M per bound. Starkey has the San Miguel under sweeps, so his galley captains are restricted to only 1S to keep the line.

The war junks are out on the Knights starboard flank, and the recent wind change will make it easier for them to join the fight. Last turn they tacked to starboard and are in course to go for the Songkhka port wing.

The two main battle lines are just over 2L apart, on average.

On turn 4 the Knights line advanced 1S as before, Starkey ordering all vessels to hold their fire until the enemy are closer. Then the Songkhka line also continued its advance, still moving 1M, then all vessels opened fire. In the centre the galeasses each targeted an enemy galley. Two galleys targeted the San Miguel, and two the Corona on the starboard end of the Knights line. 

Much gunnery table consulting, and dice rolling, ensued. When the dust had cleared the results had been devastating. The galeass San Miguel had taken 1 damage and suffered rigging damage. On its starboard side the galley Cervesa had been blown to pieces by shooting from Banda Aceh. Stella Artois had escaped damage, but Corona had taken 2 damage + was taking on water. 

Turn 5. The Knights line staggered, but they’re made of stern stuff and kept coming. San Miguel led by example: giving the galley Srivijaya 1 damage from shooting  (chaser guns) then closing and grappling. Stella Artois focussed on the galley Songkhla. Its shot missed, then it closed , grappled and boarded. The first round of boarding action went the Stella’s way. The heavily damaged Corona, too far off to get a morale boost from the Flagship, stayed where it was, but shot at the Ayutthaya, though causing no damage. The war junks are on the way but still around 1L from the nearest enemy.

In the Songkhka bound the boarding action between San Miguel and Srivijaya got under way as Srivijaya rolled 3 activation successes, and was fully up for it, at first. However, the help she was hoping for, from neighbouring vessels  Borobudur and Banda Aceh was not forthcoming, both ships having enough activations to contact, but not to grapple or board. This seemed to demoralise the crew of Srivijaya, and the San Miguel captured her in two boarding rounds (+ damage inflicted from shooting).

The tokens indicate: Red = damage, Blue = captured, Yellow = Critical damage, Green = grappled.

The other boarding fight, Songkhka v Stella Artois, continued as the Songkhka used 2 activations for this. One was a draw, the other saw the Stella Artois win another round. But, the Hat Yai changed course and came into contact and grappled the Stella Artois on her port side. 

Then the last galley to activate, Ayutthaya, shot at the heavily damaged Corona, but missed, then also closed and grappled.

Turn 6. The Knights war junks are in position to attack next time. But back to the galley & galeass action …

The prize crew that had captured the Srivijaya knocked scuttling holes in the hull, scrambled back on the San Miguel, and cut the grapples. Then the San Miguel fired a full broadside from her starboard guns into the enemy galeass Banda Aceh, which was in contact but had not grappled last turn. The Banda Aceh took 2 damage + Rigging damage. Then the port battery shot at the Borobudur, also in contact but not grappled. Somehow the shots missed, all the best gun captains must have been on the other side. 

The Stella Artois continued her fight against the Songkhka, capturing it on the first boarding round. The other two activation points were used to scuttle the prize and return to the Stella, cutting the grapples. That still leaves the huge Hat Yai, grappled to the port side and ready to board.

And lastly the new boarding fight between the Ayutthaya and Corona. The Corona may be down (2 damage + taking on water) but it’s not out. It rolled 3 activation successes despite the coloured dice. Ayutthaya has thoughtfully done the grappling work, so Corona “seized the initiative” and boarded, winning the first boarding round. 

Here’s the position at the end of the Knights bound of turn 6. In the whole game we haven’t had any early turnovers at all, yet. The two smoke markers show the Songkhka galleys that were captured then scuttled and abandoned by the Knights. The gunnery smoke markers from San Miguel are also still in place.

Lala Mustafa isn’t happy with how his vessels are performing at close quarters. After an excellent opening salvo from the guns, he’s now lost 2 galleys, against 1 for the Knights. 

His flagship, Hat Yai, gets 2 successes and boards the Stella Artois. Each side wins one round. Then Borobudur gets 2 activations, and grapples and boards the San Miguel, winning a foothold on her deck. The Banda Aceh gets only 1 activation, so also grapples the San Miguel, which frankly looks overmatched now. Ayutthaya gets 3 activations, so ought to be able to capture the Corona easily enough. And does, tho not before taking a second boarding damage.

So at the end of turn 6 …

Turn 7 and the Knights get a lucky break as the wind turns two more points, now blowing from the NE, so obliquely from upper R across the table. This helps the war junks, which turn, move, and contact the Ayutthaya and Hat Yai, but don’t have the activations to grapple or board. 

The galley Stella Artois initiated boarding against the Hat Yai, where Lala Mustafa is personally swashing his buckle at the head of his own close quarters crew.  The first two rounds are one win per side, so both vessels are now on 2 damage. The third round is a draw. Nail-biting stuff. 

The San Miguel continues its increasingly one-sided fight against the Banda Aceh and Borobudur. It gets only 1 activation, and uses it to carry on with the boarding fight against the enemy galeass, but loses, takes a third damage, and is captured. The fate of Oliver Starkey is currently unknown (contingent roll). He may be under the pile of bodies on San Miguel’s quarterdeck.

Now it’s the Songkhla bound. Lala Mustafa and his exhausted crews can see the enemy flagship has been captured, and are inspired to a final heroic effort.

Ayutthaya cuts grapples with the captured Corona, which backs away, and prepares for a boarding attack from Green Eyebrows. Hat Yai (2 activations) tries to finish off the Stella Artois before a fresh wave of boarders from the Conch Shell intervene. This succeeds, Stella Artois is captured, and then the Hat Yai gunners fire a broadside (not a full broadside) into the Conch Shell, but cause no damage.

The Banda Aceh and Borobudur don’t get to activate because the former failed 3/3 activation dice. Our first early turnover.

Turn 8. The crew of the war junk Green Eyebrows grapple Ayutthaya, swarm on board, and capture the already-damaged galley though not without taking 1 damage point themselves.  The Conch Shell crew also swing aboard the Hat Yai. This is a tougher nut to crack, but they manage to gain the deck, and this takes Hat Yai to 3 damage. 

In the Songkhka bound, the crippled Hat Yai still gets 3 activations thanks to Lala Mustafa’s swaggering leadership, and it continues the boarding fight. The first round is drawn, but the Conch Shell wins the second and captures the Hat Yai. Both flagships are now crippled captures. Mustafa was killed fighting at the head of his men (contingent roll). The Borobudur backs away from San Miguel and turns. The Banda Aceh fails to activate.

So. At the end of turn 8 the Knights  squadron has lost: 1 galeass flagship captured, 1 galley sunk, 2 others captured. Only the allied wako war junks are in good condition (1 unharmed, 1 with 1 damage). The Songkhka squadron has lost 1 x galeass flagship captured, and the other heavily damaged (2 hits + critical), 2 galleys sunk, 1 captured. The only intact vessel is the galley Borobudur.

I’ve run out of Red damage markers and am using Brown as well.

Removing all crippled captures simplifies the picture. None of them are seaworthy enough to get to port. Knights losses are parked to the R, Songkhka losses at the back.

The four surviving vessels represent 92 points (Knights) and 107 points (Songkhka), not discounting for damage. I believe I’ll call it a very bloody draw, advantage Songkhka all things considered.

Cheers from Pattaya (ca2,000km N of the battle site),

Tuesday 23 April 2024

ProjectSeleukid - Blitzkrieg Phalangites

Over the last couple of weeks I've been slowly plugging away at my first 28mm pike phalanx. These are 3D printed sculpts from Blitzkrieg Miniatures with 80mm metal pikes (sized to fit in the allocated storage box). I don't really enjoy painting large block units like this which is why I originally built a 6mm Seleukid army and was hesitant to do a Hellenistic project in this scale. However, having finished them, I think they do look good.

The sculpts are clean and well printed, although delivered with quite a few supports still in place. The detail on the linen cuirass is crisp, but overall the minis don't have the deep over-exaggerated cloth folds typical of ranges like Victrix (and that's a good thing - I don't like the deep cloth folds). 

There are four different heads/helmets - not including the command pack which has a fifth - and a little variety in the shield straps/baldrics, but the rest of the sculpt is identical throughout. This is really not a drama with massed pikemen.

My one issue with them is that the shields and the rest of the one-piece-print were printed in different resins. Once glued together (after painting), the undercoat came away from the inside of several of the shields with just the lightest of touch meaning the shields fell off. Not sure why that would happen, and having reapplied glue to the bare plastic/resin, they seem to have stuck better to the main figure.

In terms of scale, here we have a 1st Corps priest, Aventine command, Blitzkreig pikemen, converted Victrix Persians, and converted Perry Mahdists. The Blitzkrieg chaps are larger than 1st Corps, and scale well with Perrys. They are a tad smaller than Aventine and Victrix. 

Finally, here is my progress on ProjectSeleukid to date. I have some thorakitai, Cretans and Trallian slingers still to do for the infantry, and then all my mounted units except the camelry.

Sunday 21 April 2024

More mythic Macedonians vs rotten Romans - 10mm Fantastic Battles

My early Macedonians took on Roger's Early Imperial Romans in a hard-fought Fantastic Battles rematch recently down at Lisburn Gaming Club recently. The first time they met, the two armies were at 1250 points each. This time, we raised the points to 1,500, including a few mythic units on each side. The Romans had a breakpoint of 14, the Macedonians were up to 18.

The Romans (top) deployed with German cavalry and infantry on their right, stiffened by some minotaurs, soldi shieldwall units of auxiliary spearmen, legionaries, and praetorians holding the centre, with archers, slingers and a hydra holding their left. There were two batteries of onagers behind the main line, and as many captains and other characters as the coffers of Rome would allow.

The Macedonians deployed with Illyrian infantry, companion cavalry and Cretan archers on the left, two hoplite phalanxes in the centre led by Herakles (a character company), with skirmishers and the Macedonian tribal levy on the right, along with a camp (two-company formed unit in tortoise formation), a cyclopes and a flock of sirens. A unit of Thessalian cavalry and mercenary peltasts were sent on a flank march around the left flank.

Mishaps saw a few units enthusiastic - notably the unreliable Macedonian levy - and a couple late, but no units suffering from disease. A rare occurrence indeed.

The opening turns saw the onagers open fire on the exposed Macedonian levy, while the sirens made a dash for it up the Macedonian right flank. On the left, the Illyrians started towards the woods, but found them filled first with harpies, and then with Germans.

As the harpies flew over their heads to attack the Macedonian cavalry in the flank, the Illyrians turned to engage them in the rear, soon to be sandwiched between harpy bottoms and hairy whooping Germans.

The Romans used a prophesy dice to prevent the Thessalian flank march coming on in turn one, but they couldn't prevent them arriving in turn two, sweeping on with much flair and style.

The Roman slingers turned to pursue the Macedonian Sirens running up the side of the table.

After one pretty savage round of shooting, they charged in, the sirens turning to face.

Further along, the hydra attacked the Macedonian levy, pinning the entire horde in place.

Meanwhile the Germans on the far flank turned about and headed back towards the Thessalian flankers.

The messy combat by the woods on the Macedonian right got more hectic as a unit of Macedonian companions launched themselves into the fray, completing the harpy-Illyrian sandwich.

Both the harpies and the Illyrians broke and scattered under the pressure from the rear attacks, leaving the companion cavalry to counter charge the furious German infantry.

Minotaurs (Roman) and Cretans (Macedonian) both converged on the battle in the woods, while the heavy infantry in the centre started to close. 

The struggle between the levy and the hydra was all going a bit one way. With the levy's minimal attack dice, and the hydra's regeneration, the tribesmen were starting to get a bad feeling about all this.

The Romans launched a shower of flaming pigs (summoned by a magic-user) just in front of the Macedonian skirmishers.

Having dispatched the German Infantry, the Macedonian companions were them faced with the minotaurs. Despite having the support of the Cretans on the flank, the worn cavalry were not much of a challenge for the fresh monsters.

To the rear of the Roman lines, the Thessalians were pursuing the onagers and their crews, when the German cavalry were blinked into their rear to disrupt the fun.

The epic clash of heavy infantry started in the centre, but as everyone was fighting in a shieldwall, there would not be a huge deal of movement in this section of the battlefield.

The cyclops closed with the burning pigs, smashing them to a standstill, while the Macedonian levy teetered on the edge of breaking.

The sirens finally scattered the Roman slingers in combat, and tried to continue their flight up the right flank and into the cover of the nearby woods.

The minotaurs turned to scatter the Cretan archers on their flank while the second unit of companion cavalry started the wheel into the flank of the auxiliary spearmen. To the Roman rear, the Thessalians finished with the onagers and turned to confront the German cavalry head on, quickly showing the barbarians the best way to fight on horseback.

Casualties and broken units were beginning the stack up on both sides now. As the Macedonian levy was held together only by the Resolve of an attached character, other Macedonian units started to pull away the reduce the impact of the ripple of resolve loss that accompanies scattering units. The the Roman rear (again), the unit of sirens had finally made it into contact with the second battery of onagers, while the Roman auxiliary archers turned to face them.

The remaining companion cavalry crashed into the flank of the Roman auxiliaries, only to be blinked out of the way, and into the flank of their own hoplites. Into their rear came a column of minotaurs; not something you want to experience given the choice.

The companion cavalry turned to face the minotaurs to their rear, but were blinked beyond them into the woods before they had a chance to fight a full melee. Then a lot of units started to break on both sides, and it was all over. The Macedonian levy finally scattered. The sirens broke the onagers, and were in turn shot down by the Roman archers. The Roman auxiliaries, slowly worn down by the hoplite to their front, were charged in the rear by the Thessalian cavalry and they too scattered. 

By the end of the turn, both armies had reached their break point and the battle was decisively proclaimed a bloody draw. In other words, both warlords could return home and proclaim a glorious victory to their ignorant subjects. 

The Romans were plagued with some pretty mediocre rolls when it came to their magic users, but otherwise outfought the Macedonians in general. Their hydra did a particularly stellar job of holding up the huge horde unit of tribal levy all on its own. In the end, it was the Thessalian flank march which saved the Macedonian army from what could have been a pretty ignominious defeat.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Devilry Afoot - The Harrying scenario

This week, Andrew and I played a couple of games of Devilry Afoot, beginning with an adaptation of one of the 13 scenarios that will be in the book, 'The Harrying'. The scenario is normally set in the wilds between settlements, but I really wanted to use Andrew's cracking ruined city terrain. 

We started with four new characters:
  • Fr. Hans, the devout religious whose drunkenness is mitigated by his penitence. Fr. Hans was equipped with a lantern and holy item, and also carried a dagger hidden beneath his vestments.
  • Cpl Gruber, a sadistic veteran soldier who is now a skilled hunter, equipped with a dragon (horseman's pistol) and dagger.
  • Dr Crilly, the lustful scholar whose studies focus on law, demonology, and banned (but tasteful) French illustrated manuscripts. Dr Crilly carried a sword and lantern.
  • Goody Doyle, the pistol-armed gallant goodwife, renowned for being swift on her feet, but less well known for her sadistic tendencies.

For this scenario, a group of six innocents are fleeing from the destruction of their town trying to make it to safety. They start on one side of the table and must escape via a designated exit point. However, they are exhausted and their movements are therefore randomised (1/2 d10 per action). Four of them must exit the table for the scenario to be a success. There is a barghest in one corner, a group of outlaws in another, and the hunters deployed at the centre of a random edge. In our case, between the barghest and the innocents.

From previous experiences, we decided that the very fast moving barghest would be the greatest threat and so the first activation saw Goody Doyle move towards it and fire her pistol through a doorway. The shot landed, causing two wounds and giving the hunters first blood for the hunt. Easy. Maybe it would be all much simpler than we thought.

The outlaws activated next. Two of them rolled shoot actions, but while they were in line of sight, they were out of range, so their actions became 'attacks' and them menacingly moved towards the innocents . The third outlaw, with the matchlock, rolled a stalk action, and so just moved along with his gang.

The barghest had the next two activations, it used the first to leap through the door and lash out at Goody Doyle, but missed her. She counterattacked using her pistol as a club, but also missed. The hound's second action was to skulk back to the shadows of the wall. Goody Doyle again tried an opportunity attack, but again failed to land a blow.

Full of misplaced confidence, Dr Crilly ran into the fray, attacking the barghest from behind, but his lack of martial abilities made a mockery of his bravado and he failed to even hit the beast. At that point, Fr Hans demonstrated that the word of God is more powerful than any weapon. He deftly quoted a bible verse (something about many-headed angels), and the barghest fled down the alleyway and off the table. All still part of turn 1! Too easy.

Finishing the turn, Cpl Gruber ran to try to insert himself between the fleeing innocents and the outlaws who also moved again to get closer to their quarry.

Starting turn two, Gruber offloaded his dragon, killing the outlaw in the blue coat outright. The remaining outlaws all yelled out with intimidate actions, scattering the nearby innocents, most of whom ran back towards their deployment zone. Unhelpful.

As the other hunters tried to get back towards the scuffle with the outlaws, Gruber ran in with his dagger where he found himself outmatched, overcome and, promptly, out of action.

Crilly, Doyle and Fr Hans all tried to leg it back to protect the innocent, but there was now nothing stopping the outlaws from laying into the fleeing civilians.

The outlaw in green activated, intimidating the innocents, but leaving Doyle and Hans standing resolute. The outlaw in red rolled an shoot action and fired his matchlock, hitting Goody Doyle and taking her out of action. Suddenly, the odds were not looking quite so much in the hunter's favour.

Without stopping to consider which bit of the sword was for holding, Dr Crilly leapt into combat with the green outlaw, failing to hit, and being badly wounded in the ensuing opportunity attack. The third hunter was down, but all the civilians were still alive, so all was not lost.

Until it was. Fr Hans, rather than attempting to lure the outlaws on a merry game of chase away from the civilians, drew his dagger. He strode into the the outlaws full of fire and brazen with the belief that he carried out God's work. His barely breathing body was found slumped in an alleyway the next morning.

So that didn't go quite according to plan and ended with a total party kill.  In the post-game sequence, we found that Cpl Gruber failed to recover from his wounds and died soon after. Dr Crilly recovered with a nasty arm wound, hampering any chance for him to wield a two handed weapon. Fr Hans did recover fully, while Goody Doyle, appearing ok, was permanently weakened, reducing her future carrying capacity.  

The second game of the evening is better left unrecorded. Each running three characters, we set out to find a troll hoard. The troll found my characters first, and despite me carrying out shenanigans to interrupt Andrew's plans, his characters found the treasure and made off with the loot...