Saturday, August 15, 2009

DBMM Battle Report - Komnenan Byzantine vs. Later Crusader, 14 August

Dave wanted an excuse to use his Crusader and Byzantine figures, and brought along the typically professional-grade painted armies for tonight's DBMM match-up. The battle was one of massed knights on the Crusader side against the smaller and more maneuverable, but still knight-heavy army of the later Komnenan Byzantine on the other side. A few of the usual Friday Knights crowd showed up at Game Kastle for the fight.

Bruce and Jim were the Crusader generals. (Bruce is the bearded fellow, for those who don't know us.) I don't have any pictures of Dave and me playing the Byzantines. The battlefield, with the Byzantines invading the Crusader territory, was generally open, though hilly. In the end, the only hills that had any even remote effect on the battle were a pair of tiny rocky hills on the Byzantine right.

The Crusaders deployed with the mass of their infantry, mostly poor-quality spear and crossbows, holding the right. The commander's force of irregular knights held the center, while the Order knights (Hospitallers and Templars) were on the left flank.

The Byzantine Latinikon and Kavallarioi were spread between the Byzantine left flank and screening the Crusaders in the center, supported by the commander leading a force of archers. The picture above shows the Byzantines, on the left, advancing on the Crusader forces, with the left flank in the distance, trying to outflank the Crusader infantry. A force of mounted Varangian guardsmen formed a mobile reserve on the rear of the Byzantine right.

The Byzantine knights flanking the infantry, intending to follow the Skythikon light horse after they overran the weak Crusader flank guard of Frankish archers, ran into troubles as the archers refused to give into overwhelming numbers. (Bruce just kept on rolling 6's on every combat they fought!)

Meanwhile, the Crusader knights in the center advanced, forcing the Byzantines to charge or allow the Crusaders to spread out and get the advantage of numbers. This looked very promising for the Byzantines initially, until the Latinikon suffered terrible losses (Bruce rolled yet more 6's), followed by the loss of the commander of the Kavallarioi on the Byzantine right.

Soon after that, the Byzantine right cavalry command broke, but through sheer luck, the Byzantine commander, supported by a single element of bow, broke the Crusader center command. (A 6-1 by the bow against knights, allowing the general to double-overlap the Crusader C-in-C and destroy him.)

While the center collapsed on both sides, the Order knights on the Crusader left were making very slow progress. The knights had the lowest of the regular command dice, and Bruce was making up for his incredible rolling with the archers by rolling a long series of 1's for Jim's Hospitallers and Templars. To further complicate things, the Templars were trying to run behind the Byzantine flank, only to find the Varangians firmly in control of the rocky hills to the Byzantine rear. (And in case anyone is taking a careful look at the pictures - yes, that is a stand of Ancient Greek peltasts leading the Varangians. We were missing a couple of stands of skirmishing archers and needed to use something.)

Finally, it came down to the battle on the Byzantine left. Against all odds, the Byzantine bow were being pushed back by the Crusader crossbowmen, allowing the spear to begin to outflank the Byzantine knights. The Byzantine Kavallarioi made a reckless charge into the spear and crossbows, doing significant damage, but failing to defeat the infantry command before being broken themselves. I'm not sure the image to the left looks like anything other than random chaos, which it basically was. But trust me, it's a definite Crusader victory there.

As usual, this proved to be an enjoyable game and showed that DBMM moves pretty quickly once everyone is acquainted with the rules. We managed to finish this with enough time to spare to pick everything up before the store closed. This doesn't mean that there weren't a few lessons and, in retrospect, a couple of rules I think we missed. (Has anyone, anywhere, managed to play through a complete DBMM game without realizing that they got something wrong along the way?)

Stratagems - We still haven't worked out the best way to play strategems. I purchased 20 points worth, because it just doesn't seem like Byzantines without strategems, does it? The scouting was mostly done to prevent another Elephant Stalks at Midnight night battle (a game we failed to write up anywhere). All that accomplished was to kill the one light horse sent scouting. I never really saw an opportune time to use the feigned flight. The hidden path through the rocky hill was useful to slightly annoy Jim by racing the Varangians onto his flank, but I'm not sure it was worth 10 AP.

Breakpoints - ARRGH! Biggest thing we forgot was disheartened commands! I only realized this long after the game. That would have broken the Byzantine center earlier.

Outcomes - I'm also wondering whether we forgot to check for fast knight losses any time. I remember the Kavallarioi fighting a fair number of battles toward the end, and I can't recall whether we ever had a -1 for losing in enemy bound.

Finally, a quick shout-out to the fine folks at Game Kastle, who provided the venue. Bruce, Dave, and I all bought copies of the DBMM book 1 army lists. (Just trying to let the GK folks know that the historical minis crowd aren't total skinflints. And Jim probably would have bought a fourth copy if they had one.) I don't think any of us has a DBMM-sized army of Book 1 chariot forces. I did note that the Early Lybians may now be fielded with 144 stands of superior horde, for anyone who wants to spend the enormous amount of time painting up that much lead for something so idiotic. Wow. That's kind of tempting, isn't it?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

DBA Tournament - Before Columbus

I will be hosting a DBA tournament at Pacificon this year, with the theme, New World Armies and Old World Invaders Before Columbus.

The tournament will be round robin, with 45 minute rounds. Scoring will be explained at the tournament. (i.e. I haven't decided on the exact scoring system yet.)

The scale is 15mm.

Feel free to bring any New World army. If you don't have any, loaners will be available. If you want to use an Old World army, feel free to bring one, with the following restrictions:
  • Any dismounting element must be deployed as foot.
  • Any list allowing an option of mounted or foot elements must be deployed as foot.
  • One (only) remaining LH element may be deployed as LH.
  • Any remaining Kn elements (including HCh) must be deployed as Bd or Sp.
  • Any remaining Cv or Cm elements (including LCh) must be deployed as Bd, Sp, or Bw.
  • Any remaining El elements must be deployed as Bd, Sp, or Ps.
  • Any remaining LH, Art, SCh, or WWg (other than Litter) elements must be deployed as Ps.
Players are expected to provide the appropriate replacement foot figures.

In addition to the above rules, the following will apply to players using Old World armies:
  • Any player with a New World army facing an Old World army does not need to dice for aggression, but may decide whether to be attacker or defender, and always uses the New World army's home terrain type.
  • The player with the Old World army must provide a supporting theory (crackpot or otherwise) as to how and why they made it across the ocean.
I will provide some Old World armies as well, including:

Hawaiian (IV/12c): Polynesians may very well have reached the American mainland at times.
Portuguese (IV/68b): Portuguese ships were certainly capable of reaching America before Columbus, though there is little evidence they did.
English (IV/83a): Some English claims to have reached "Brasil Isle" before Columbus are unsubstantiated.
Malian (III/68): The expedition of Mansa Abu Bakr II in 1311 is claimed to have left Africa to sail west, and never returned.
Ming (IV/73): If 1421 wasn't enough to demonstrate that Gavin Menzies is a bull-goose loony, then 1434 should clinch it. Still, the Ming certainly had the know-how to cross the Pacific had they wanted to.
Hebrew (I/34c): Apart from the Book of Mormon, there's also the Bat Creek inscription for those looking for a justification to play this army.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Messing around in boats

Most of the gaming I do is DB*-based, and one of the features of those rules systems is that many of the army lists include the option to field naval elements. The rules are highly abstracted, and I've never been able to use them effectively. Still, it's a good excuse to paint up some naval models, and I finally got around to doing up some lead I've had lying around for a variety of armies.

Xyston's collection of classical-era galleys are excellent additions to my various Hellenistic forces. The trihemiolia and galley here are both mounted on the standard DB* 40mm X 80mm base. Much too big to field enough to refight Salamis, but good enough to shuttle my Antigonid Athenian allies around a flank.

Our local gaming shop recently stocked up on Valiant's line of Armada-era English and Spanish ships. I added a couple of Carracks and Caravels to fill in on my various DBR armies. These have been painted with vaguely Portuguese markings so they can be used in an Imperial or Spanish army of the sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries, or as Porguguese colonials, if I ever expand out my collection of Grumpy Porguguese colonials sufficiently to field an entire army of them.

The same Valiant line also includes some Mediterranean Galleasses and Galleys, which could be handy additions to any of my fifteenth or sixteenth century Italian armies.

Finally, I got around to painting up some Chinese junks, made by Irregular, which could appear in the Ming army I've finally finished painting. This looks a bit small for the typical war-junk of the era, but it will have to do. Lindberg Models made a really nice plastic junk model that's just the right size. I have one of these, and whenever I get around to waterlining it, I can add it to the growing fleet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tumu Crisis (planned for KublaCon)

I'm back, if only so I can post pictures of the Old Glory Ming Conscripts. Please no snide remarks about the paint job. This was 72 infantry figures painted in the space of less than a week, so I'm not all that proud of the quality.

The reason I'm working on Ming figures at such a frantic pace is because I'm planning on running a Field of Glory scenario at Kubla Con (May 22 to 25). My scenario is running on Sunday, May 24 at 10:00. It is based on the Battle of Tumu in 1449, in which a Ming Chinese army was destroyed by the Mongols and the Emperor was captured.

Most of my Ming figures are from Grumpy Miniatures of Australia. Even given that my good paint jobs are not much better than my ten-figure-a-day wonder above, the quality of the paint job just makes the Old Glory figures look worse by comparison.

In fact, I'm usually down on Old Glory 15's, and I can't quite figure out what it is I find so unimpressive about them. They're very large, dwarfing almost any other nominal 15mm scale figure apart from Xyston. They're a bit blobby, though I can't fault the sculpting as being truly bad - just not all that inspiring. Most annoyingly for the Ming figures, they don't come with a couple of standard-bearers in each bag of infantry. For once, that's an army for which having every other stand include a banner is historically accurate.

The Grumpy figures, by comparison, are well-proportioned and beautifully sculpted. The ability to purchase figures individually makes it easy to construct an appropriate army. Of course, the cost is more than Old Glory, but I don't find it too bad, even after adding in the shipping from Australia.

Then again, convenience trumps all else. When I went to put together the Mongol opponent to the Ming, I ended up relying on Old Glory again.

I probably shouldn't complain. These didn't come out all that badly, after all.