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Wednesday 14 August 2013

He who carries the sword falls

The vikings believed that at least one raven banner was so cursed that one who carried it to war would die. In Artesia it seems that the one wielding sword of Maece is not much luckier. The thessid say that king Belenos of Maece beheaded king Yorick of Mizer with one great blow. And the men of Mizer say that their king went down only after a poisoned arrow had hit the horse and dark spirits were unleashed against the wounded hero, who finally went succumbed fighting alone against the traitor of Pallawyn and his bodyguard. No-one agrees with the artist's version, but here it is anyways. Again, many thanks to Heikki. So ends a very memorable campaign.

Joric_Viimeisin.jpg ((c) Heikki Karttunen, 2013)

Tuesday 13 August 2013

He lies on a bed of roses

I am very fortunate to have many artistically talented friends. One of them, Heikki, captured the last moments of prince Fionne Thurias (see story) in a drawing. Many thanks and stay tuned for the fall of king Yorick of Mizer.

Viimeisin.jpg ((c) Heikki Karttunen, 2013)

Tuesday 11 June 2013

The day Volbrae ran red

The story this far: A war between king of Pallawyn, calling himself the king of Maece that once was, backed by the Thessid-Golan empire, waged war against the Middle kingdoms. The kingdom of Dain Dania and most of the watchtower kings fell during the Black Day battle, but as Belenos also lost many troops, an uneasy truce was called. Few months ago war was rekindled, with the thessid host attacking the kingdom of Angowrie and Belenos plotting a surprise attack over river Volbra against the kingdom of (Erid )Dania. This plot was uncovered and many a bloody battle was fought at the fords of Volbrae, where the outnumbered agallite fanatics threw invaders back time after time. Tower king of Calan Toss, Mikkel the Gaunt, used this time well and planned a counter-strike against Belenos' supply lines. In the battle later known as King Euwen's Gambit the thessid army was decimated and Belenos suddenly was without supply, forced to attack. After some raids towards Angowrie, thessids tried to reopen the lines, only to be foiled by a determined old man. This forced Belenos hand and he committed his army at the bridges of Volmore. An attempt to flank the defenders failed, so most of his alchemical engines and black magic were used to blow a way through the fortified bridge and river Volbrae ran red.

(Game is based on the graphic novel Artesia by Mark Smylie and rules are modified Ager Sanguinis by James Roach. They invented the good bits, mistakes are ours.)

The night had been bloody in the marches north from the Volmore, and in the morning fog many a fierce skirmish had been fought along the riverbank. In the south king Yorick of Mizer had charged sharply and driven the thessids back, while in the north lord Palmer had been forced to withdraw due to open flanks.  Ser Graham of Volmore still hung to his ancestral manor by the crossroads, a thorn in thessid flesh. His men knew that probably none would escape from the litte fort, but it would buy a lot of time for the Danian army plus her ladyship had given orders that men better not return home, if the rose gardens were lost. By the north road, agallite horns blared their salute to the raising sun, while Yorick gathered his outnumbered forces, once again. It would be a bloody day.

Dramatis Personae

Generals in the Dain army:
* King Yorick of Mizer, baron of Greenwall, general and marshall of the danian army
* Lord Palmer, commanding the right flank
* Lord Konrad of Agall, grand master of the agallite brotherhood, champion of Agall, the first hero
Independent champions and heroes of the danian army:
* King Eolred Elfram Thurias , Dain king
* Brother-captain Willem of Agall, hero of the Volbrae fords, slayer of ghuls

7 companies of cavalry
8 companies of dismounted men at arms/pike
12 companies of medium/light troops

Generals in the army of Maece
* King Belenos Brightstar, king of Maece
* Janos, Unicorn marshall of Maece
* Amir Panj Hysayn, thessid general
* Brennos Brightstar, king's father, self titled bandit king.
Independent champions
* Oerthing, dumeghal champion, fist of the witchking, marching with the thessid host

8 companies of cavalry
11 companies of heavy infantry with pike
11 companies of medium/light troops
2 batteries of heavy guns

(Some units are still carrying flags from wrong world, it is an ongoing project.)

Belenos' heavy infantry was massed by the south road in three lines, badly disorganized by the bridge crossing under fire, facing Yorick's bowmen and the billmen protecting them. Green of the king's guard facing the green tabards of galians, red and white of royal host on both sides, brothers few years ago, now eager for blood. In the centre Belenos had drawn his bloodied cavalry around the unicorn banner of his marshall  Janos, while Yorick's was regrouping behing the infantry line.  Lord Palmer stood by the northern fields, trying to cover both the road and the center, being threatened by the border troops under Brennos. The horns of Agall could be heard from the north, but their columns had not reached the field. And from the south, just ominous silence. Cries of "Yhera Victoria! Wargara!" were met with "Dain king for Islik! Islik in heaven!" and armies started advancing. 

Yorick's right flank. Lord Palmer's host facing Brennos and the southeners plus cavalry led by Janos.

Yorick's left flank. Danian royal guard facing  thessids and  daradjans.

Overview of the battlefield, as viewed from south.

Iron fist of  Maece, listening to Belenos' speech.

The traitor king of Pallawyn, Belenos Brightstar, usurper of Maece, with his rowers' guard.

Dain army had sent a small group of heroes and sellswords to the enemy side of river to burn their artillery train with alchemical fire, but these hopes were shattered, as rest of the siege engines slowly arrived to field. Their shots soon hitting the bailiff's manor, causing even the grey stone to catch fire. The manor was manned by volunteer's from Volbrae, lead by the aging bailiff and for a moment they stood, responding with withering bow fire, causing enemy to abandon one battery of guns.

King Belenos had just drawn his sword and started with the customary "Men, today.." when Yorick signaled general advance and fell upon the thessid front line. Light horse charged forward to engage the thessid skirmish line, while most of Yorick's reserves were thrown towards his left flank, royal men at arms in front, led by the king himself..

Meanwhile it dawned to Belenos that this might be too late for speeches. His mages were told to unleash everything, missile troops to fire at best possibe rate, while heavy infantry started to untangle themself from the traffic jam. Maelite engineer were thrown at the manor house and the main pike block turned to face the danian royal billmen. 

Battle is joined. (Coins mark units that have fired, rounded stands contain casualty markers.)

And casualties start to mount, royal knights push forward and are almost cut off. Manouver cards are in high demand.

On the other flank, 2 cautious men stared at each other over a stretch of sunken road. Lord Palmer felt that he did not have the numbers to force a crossing, while Brennos was afraid that his troops were not of sufficient quality to face Palmer's heavy troops. And thus began a barrage of missiles which was to last for the most of battle.

Standoff by the sunked road.

In the middle, thessid light horse had a sudden bout of machismo, changed formation to battle mass and charged over the field against the danian militia. Initial volley from long bows made short work of one company, but two other made contact. To everyone's great surprise, both desert raiders and danian militia showed bravery and stuck to the battle which raged for a better part of an hour.

Light raiders charge.

While Yorick was methodically hacking his way through the thessid flank, killing or routing several units, bailiff's men had had enough of alchemic engines and black fire they were spewing and abondoned their position. Maelite engineers were quick to take advantage of this and occupied the manor, to everyones disbelief. One unit of royal men at arms, led by dain king's youngest son, prince Fionne Thurias, was given the task of driving them away, while Yorick himself led the frontal attack against the pike block, hoping to buy enough time for someone to flank it.

Take that manor back!

At this point a word came from south - the danian volunteers making a flank march had found a hidden command of dreaded dumeghal knights and their retainers. King of Mizer quickly assessed the situation and grimly ordered young men to their deaths  "ser Liam went to find glory, he has found it now. Tell him to engage the enemy. Islik be with you all." - volunteers were to slow down the dark champions while rest of the army was dealing with Belenos.

During all the fray, the king of Dania was chatting with his royal guards, guarding the king's road and generally having a good day. He had no intention of joining the fight unless absolutely necessary and his guards were not about to argue. Fortunately for them, thessids saw this as the formidable guard unit blocking the main road and decided to go around.

At this point prince reached the manor with his dismounted knights and attacked, eager for an easy victory. To everybody's surprise, the shovels and pickaxes wielded by almost naked southeners beat back the flower of danian chivalry time after time - at first it was a good joke, after second go it got serious and after the prince's company broke and was chased by the engineers, Yorick got really frustrated, turning several units to face the maelites, and even then it took reserves and  several volleys at point blank to scatter them.

Prince runs, maelites seal their fate by pursuing.

Royal casualties by the rose gardens, prince Fionne falls. Behind them the guild militia skirmishers covering king and his green guard.

This unfortunately distracted Yorick and his own men at arms were suddenly in the danger of being overrun by the big thessid pike block, even if another units of knights flanking it. Most of the knighs were already running, when Duras, champion of Mizer, grabbed his majesty's standard, hurled it towards the thessids and cried "Come, let us step forth, 'lest we lose the flag!". Both sides froze, as a single hero ran towards the thessids, brandishing his sword. A few of the thessid champions stepped out of the pike front to meet him and were unceremoniously cut down. This bought Yorick just enough time to rally his troops and renew the press, cursing his champion who had once again saved the day alone. (Dain army had one reroll to use, presenting the few champions they had. Yorick roller 1 (d10) and thessid 8 (d12), meaning that sorely pushed unit was about to rout. Reroll changed this to 10 and the thessids started to collapse. This has been a recurring occurence in the campaign, champion of Mizer stepping forwards to buy few seconds, beating the odds alone and then coming back alive.) This broke morale of the thessid Amir and his troops were soon running, only to end up being massacred along the riverline.

Yorick starts to turn the flank, daradjans prepare to receive their charge.

At this point few of the young knights from the Yorick's left flank arrived, bringing word that their command had been massacred and arrival of the dumeghal would be imminent. Yorick renewed his attack and started to turn some of the militia to take the initial impact, cursing the tardy agallites.

And then Sunbull broke the clouds, golden horns blared and the host of Agall arrived - led by the grand master of the order, many of the finest knights of all the middle kingdom riding by his side. His troops swept towards, scattering the light troops Brennos had and generally doing wonders to failing morale of Dania. (This far both armies had been bleeding morale about equally, being down to 10 chips or so. But the charge of agallites put Belenos to 0 morale and game was basicly over, even if the thessids still made a worthy try.)

Agall! Agall! Agall for Islik!

Brennos grimly turned his heavy troops around, presenting a wegde towards agallites and lord Palmer. Lord Palmer saw his moment and ordered some of the pike to charge, but was beated bloodily back by the javelinmen guarding the hillside. Simultaneously the thessid ligh horse finally broke through the militia, effectively cutting the danian line in two parts. Thessid and Belenos' own heavy cavalry tried to exploit this, but were forced back by the crossbows.

Brennos reforms his line and prepares to withdraw.

After the thessid line was broked, the daradjans on the secod line presented pike and went forward, meeting Yorick's host. Losses were about equal, when Belenos himself rode forth and challenged Yorick to a duel. Duel was accepted and two kings spurred their horses forward. Yorick had already been fighting for a good hour but was driven by his hate towards the traitor of Pallawyn, while Belenos was fresh and cunning as ever. Great was the clash as they met. Belenos swiftly parried the blow towards his head and brought his own sword down at Yorick. No mortal steel, no protective invocation was enough to slow down his anger and Yorick, king of Mizer, guardian of the Wall, went down. Brave Duras charged forwards to recover the body, braving arrows and taunts from the daradjans, but was soon lost in the general confusion. And to make the situation even worse, the dumeghal finally arrived. Armor black as night, horses and men silent as death, weapons cursed with the blood magic of Ceryx. Across the field the golden sun of Agall, blue shields and weapons blessed with sunfire. And between them two armies trying to think of a way out from between the fanatics.

King of Mizer has fallen, enter dumeghal.

Brave Belenos weighted the situation for a moment and then sounded a retreat. His daradjans were holding ground against the danian foot, but the dumeghal were faced with several lines of bowmen backed by mounted knights and his other flank was holding but already demoralized by the agallites. It was time to save what little was not yet lost. (Army morale card was turned just as dumeghal arrived, halfway through the turn 2. The morale difference was so huge that Belenos could have caused severe casualties but victory had already fled.)

Daradjans form the rearguard and prepare to sell their lives dearly.

The count of heroes fallen was long.
Yorick king of Mizer fell, whereabout of his body and champion unknown
Many a fine lord of Dania gave their life, amongst them the youngest son of  the Dain king, his body lying below the manor walls on a bed of blood red roses.
Ser David, standard bearer for lord Palmer took a quarrel meant for his lord.
Ser Liam of Timbridge, lost fighting the dumeghal, finally found glory.
Amir Panj Hysayn, lost amongst the dead by the riverside.
Many a brave daradjan captain gave their life guarding the retreat
Rose gardens were lost to the alchemical fire, bailiff's wife is not talking to him anymore.

Overall quite happy with the game. We had a 3 hour setup time which included sorting roughly half of my cupboard and then 7 hours of actual game, including teaching the rules, going over tactival plans and playing with 2 players per side. Closer to 60 units on the table, so quite a few figures. It was a tense game, probably decided by that one reroll and the fact that after the dumeghal arrived (a special card), it took over 30 impetus for before Belenos again drew a move card and then it was all over - we were joking before that drawing all the move cards in one go is a risky strategy. Like is drawing all the command cards before anything happens. But such is piquet and Belenos' speech was suitably magnificent. (We play so that turn ends only when impetus dice are equal or one deck is empty.) Lull cards worked brilliantly here, as both sides were able to grab initiative for short periods to really mess other's plans.

The skirmish for the preceeding night were played as a minigame, determining where the thessid would cross. And then the opening of battle was played solo by GM according to orders given by the opposing generals. Both generals had their own problems: for Belenos it was an awfully cramped setup whereas Yorick had line that was split into two and many of his better troops were demoralized."This is the royal retinue? I suddenly understand why king likes to drink.."

More pictures here.

Friday 22 February 2013

Before the bravest fall, or how to build an impromptu mini-campaign

The final showdown in Artesia-campaing is waiting for the tabletop rpg to finish, so that we get the final OoBs for the good guys. And to kill time, we decided to have a small game or two. It would of course be possible to just throw together 2 armies, but some backstory is always a nice thing to have. So we decided to try a mini-campaign. An email turn per day, until a suitable engagement was generated - both sides would have bandits and light troops with a mix of "heroes" and a very free format map to play and plan with.

A simple map to help in planning. Had we had few more hours for planning, both players would have had their own version of this.

So begun the tale of Upper Volmore Marshes, a place where bandit captain Smilin' Rob had hid for many a year. A small marsh, such an insignificant place that it is not even marked on the maps properly, a few kilometers in each direction. A sketch of map was made during a coffee break, just noting down few notable places and relative distances. (In effect, this is hiding a map with nodes/towns and routes between them. I just find that when the routes are not explicit, people do not get too attached to them and improvise better.) Both players had their own description of it. For the defender, Smilin' Rob, it was a home - not a best place, but ruins had history, Lizzie Isle was called so due to very angry old witch by the nickname of Lizzie living there, Old Wells was Old because new ones were elsewhere etc. So he had a reason to defend it, as it was his domain, not just a marsh. And for thessids, it was a desolate and miserably wet place, standing in their way, nothing made any sense. The thessids were tasked with scouting a place for pontoon bridge over the shallow river and danians with finding out what the thessids were up to.

Both players had 2 gangs on outlaws and a couple of heroes to go with them. Each turn was an arbitrarily long period of time starting from the end of previous turn and ending when something of importance was reported to one of the leaders. Each gang could be divided to teams and assigned a leading hero and given a free format task. Each hero would then intepret his task and report when ready, taking into account both instructions given and his personality. (Each hero had a single adjective describing him "bold", "cunning" etc) There were also a couple of events from the outside world: thessid angineers arriving, danian marshall enquiring about the situation, etc. Map area was so small that most troops would get to their assigned position during a turn (and back next by the latest) until someone prevented them.

First turn was during the midday and both players knew real armies would clash probably during the next day, so there was some sense of urgency. Both sent out small teams to scout the opposite side of river and find what opponent was up to. Sto farm saw the first encounter, but thessids were outnumbered and withdrew without a fight.

During the afternoon turn, thessids decided to take the Sto farm and danian piquet withdrew - second gang of danians started fortifying the Vey ruins, while thessid engineers started building the pontoon road in the south. At this point, danian player started to suspect that he had a wrong map, as marshall from king's court was again asking things like "What do you mean ghuls by the Wells? What bloody wells, nearest well is in Volmore, right? Vey castle, Vey family is dead for centuries!" And thessid commander was driven to desperation by report like "Yes, a horse patrol got to ruins. They looked mean and it was not MY duty to attack them, you said no-one was to get out!" (By a hero classified as "cautious") By this point, both commander had roughly 50% of troops under direct command, 30% performing some appointed task and 20% "somewhere" after skirmishes and other factors.

When the darkness fell, thessids left a token guards with the engineers and decided to make a big noise in the north by attacking Vey ruins with almost everything they had. Unfortunately for them, Smilin' Rob had scouted the engineers, left half a gang at Vey under lord Francis and attacked the pontoon road with his own gang.

So for the campaign, thessids did not get heavy elements over the pontoon bridge, but had to use 2 pronged attack: using their artillery to demolish the fort at the main bridge and light troops coming ove the marsh. And we got out small battle at the Vey ruins, where badly outnumbered badit baron Lord Francis and his men faced the thessids led by Three-Skulls Tim and his dark skinned allies. (Despite having a good 2:1 advantage in troops, Tim managed to lose by getting his other commander killed and promptly failing anything looking like a morale roll - unless of course it involved his lightest skirmishers fighting lord's few mounted sergeants around the cabbage patch; skirmishers were given the duty of annoying the single cavalry unit and drawing it away from the fight and the did it well. Defenders were down to throwing stones with the few remaining non-routed units when Tim decided to call it a night. But that is another story.) .

Monday 31 December 2012

Modifying rules for a fantasy setting - when does it stop being speculative historical gaming?

I have now had both discussions on how to modify a historical system for a low fantasy world, and on how the system we use actually differs from speculative history games. It is always a good thing to try to figure out what you are actually trying to do, so next few posts will try to clarify my thoughs on the matter. Mainly about conversion to Artesia's world, but probably easily applied to other settings.

As for speculative history gaming, pitting those army book I hittites against book IV Burgundians is not in my books very different from fantasy games. We have magic rules, that is true, but firearms and cannons probably would have been quite magical to poor hittites, too. And frankly, most low fantasy armies have reasonably close historical counterparts and most of the magic is abtracted to rules in a same way, say, heavy cavalry could cause morale checks in some Piquet rules. But using fantasy world gives us much wider marging in flags, livery etc - I have always loved the looks of Napoleonic armies, but painting few hundred miniatures where I actually have to worry about shades of blue, color of buttons and having whole regiments looking the same never inspired me.

As for modifying the rules, these were the rules of thumb I tried to use.

  • This is a high level view of the battlefield. Bob's skill of melee 5 vs Jack's skill 3 does not matter, if they are surrounded by 500 men of Volbrae's volunteer with average skill of 1.
  • Magic in Artesia is not very flashy, so no fireballs.
  • I want a system that plays usually out like I think medieval battles went - no single units doing fanciful manouvers out of command, no wheeling with millimeter accuracy to determine if there is a fight, etc
  • Units are representational - daradjan pike block might contain also halbardiers, swordmen etc, no need to represent those as individual units.
  • Variable scale - 1 figure might be 5-20+ actual men. Scale might be bit different for each unit. A small unit of fanatic knights probably have combat ability far exceeding a huge mob of disinterested farmers, so one fig of knights might be 5 men whereas for farmers it might be 20 and both still remain usable as units in same setting.
  • Ground and figure scale do not match. This is obvious for most historical gamers, and not obvious to fantasy gamers, in my experience. So things like LOS, missile coverage etc might work differently.

Ager Sanguinis (AS) is probably the best wargaming system I have come across - easy to learn, fast to play and yet complicated enough. So it was an obvious starting point, even if it portraits an earlier period. So things we needed to model were:

  1. What are needed unit types?
  2. How do we want units to interact?
  3. How do armies differ and how are they classified?
  4. How does magic work?

1-3) are basicly modifications to existing AS.

1) Artesian battles seem to be mainly engagements between heavy infantry and heavy shock cavalry, with skirmish action happening in the opening phases. Masses archers exist, but are not very prelevant (they do stop a disordered cavalry charge during the night raid in Abenton) . And artillery (black elixir) exists, but we have not seen the effects. Pikes and their supporting weapons, polearms and off sword&buckler seem to be the main infantry weapons - real pike blocks or tercios do not yet exist, they are used in small numbers.

In the end, we arrived in the following classification:

  • Close order infantry: heavy infantry in shock formation - mercenary pike, thessid and palatian regulars etc
  • Loose order infantry: heavy infantry fighting in open formation or non-shock troops - militia spear, massed bows.
  • Skirmish order infantry
  • Close order cavalry: knights
  • Loose order cavalry: armored non-shock cavalry like thessid heavy horse archers, Tower Kings' scout cavalry
  • Skirmish order cavalry: light cavalry using harassment tactics

Heroes and how they interact with normal units is still on the drawing table.

2) This is still under construction, with each game testing few concepts. Each period and world has its' own look and feel. Even if fantasy world is reasonable realistic, it will probably have its' own quirks, whether is the near immortality of heroes or shock cavalry's ability to take on any infantry unit.

We started with basic AS, with initial games focusing mostly on infantry to infantry mechanics. Then we added cavalr to the mix and stirred.

  • Close order troops manouverability has been reduced, as we had some problems with whirling masses of pikes doing 180 degree wheels on manouver card.
  • In the comics, heavy cavalry is seen charging set heay infantry a few times, this is one of the main points I think Artesia differs from history. Pikes still have an upper hand in melee, but good shock cavalry stands a chance.
  • Low quality skirmish cavalry seemed to be a bit too resilient, so they now have a higher chance to rout when trying to evade.
  • armor quality is much higher that in crusader period, so off with shield bonuses/penalties. There is a reason plate armored troops did not carry shields.
  • We are still somewhat unsure of the effects of massed archery - it might be that base defence die vs archery should be upped +1.
  • Artillery testing would be easier, if someone could roll above 1 when firing a cannon.
  • Nicked rule about commanders testing for wounds on Command card. Not sure about this yet.

3) As it seems that most Artesian armies have a historical model, we decided to try and find those.

Middle Kingdoms were reasonably easy with generic early renaissance European. Units feature mounted and dismounted knights and sergeants, lots of various militia units and a wide selection of mercenaries. Low on magic and only few heroes or good leaders.

Thessids are a bit more problematic, with a mix of Ottoman and Timurid. A huge selection of troops from around the realm, infantry core is heavy imperial pike, supported with various light auxilia troops. Cavalry consists of heavy shock units and lots of light nomad cavalry. Artillery is available when needed. Leaders are usually regulars but often low on motivation, as this is not yet a real war for them. (So good deck, but command ability is lower). Reasonably much magics.

Tower Kings are interesting, as comics don't tell us too much of them. Euwen of Angowrie seems to have heavy crossbows at his disposal in addition to other troops, so we started working from there. They have waged a long war against thessids for several generations, so army must be capable of:

  • operating against nomad cavalry
  • almost always outnumbered
  • based on multiple small castles along the wall
  • high enough morale to die to a man during silly crusades

So we ended up with an army having a core of heavy regulars, usually fighting on foot, but travelling mounted. Hevay crossbows with pavises supporting knights. Bulk of army consists of good quality militia (border troops), both mounted and on foot. This seems to give a good balance, they can have a go at thessids on equal footing, but both armies have very different flavor. Good leaders, not as much magic as thessids. Very low ability to absorb casualties over the campaign.

Having comics to work with, flags and heraldy were quite easy for main participants. And when in doubt with MK/TK, just use quartered red/white and add motif.

Next post will be about modeling magic & related stuff.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Old man's battle

Old man's battle

Dramatis personae:
  • Ser Hugh, old Baron of Enidmore (Tower Kings)
  • Ser Lewis, champion of Har Gaill (Tower Kings)
  • Imram Khan, Emir of 3rd Galian green regiment (Thessids)
  • Sujeet Shizu, chief of cavalry (Thessids)

  • 17 morale
  • 14 magic
  • 15 units

Tower kings, defenders of Enidmore
  • 17 morale
  • 6 magic
  • 9 units

After king Euwen's great victory, traitor of Pallawyn, king Belenos Brightstar, was trapped between the hills of Pavas Mole and river Volbrae, forced to try a crossing to secure supplies. Most of the thessid high command was quite ready to abandon the upstart, but Ceryx, necromancer king of Ugeram wanted both Euwen and high king of Therapoli crushed NOW, so yet another standing army from the south was thrown to fray. Aamir al-Ajid of Galia was given the high command of the green army of Galia, while Imram khan, emir of the 3rd regiment was given the van and tasked with attacking the northernmost of free Angowrian castles, Enidmore, before it could be reinforced for siege.

In reality Enidmore was more an old tower and less a castle, but it could still force the attacker to a lengthy siege, if enough time was given to defenders. So Imram khan led his forces to a forced march, to take the defenders by a surprise. Unfortunately for him, hills of Pavas Mole and dark forests of Gra Wold had many eyes and ears. The hillfolks, either call freefolks or bandits, had no love towards Angowrie and baron, but they hated thessids with burning passion, so before nightw as over, Ser Hugh of Enidmore had been warned. His son and most knights were in the north with the young king, so only his own guard and some border militia remained. Two companies of bandit agreed to a temporary alliance and fast riders were sent south to ask for reinforcements.

So when the Sun Bull looked down to earth during high noon, he saw the strong thessid army with 2 strong companies of heavy pike and numerous supportig troops marching from west, while the men of Enidmore had hidden themselves in the badland for ambushes and ser Lewis of Har Gail leading a strong company of knights and sergeants to relieve the defenders. Thessids were probably too strong to be beaten in a fair fight, but relieving force was aiming to reinforce the defenders and to keep lines of communication open as long as possible. Old ser Hugh knew this would be the last time he would ride to battle and he had no intention in losing his son's inheritance to foreign devils.

((4 players, 2 each side. Thessids had a big advantage in numbers and in amount of magic available, while defenders could deploy hidded and had better commanders and troops. Thessids were tasked with preventing reinforcements from reaching the castle and if possible to take the castle by storm. And TK would win by etting troops to castle. ))

Ser Hugh deployed his meagre forces to guard the bridge, while ser Lewis was told to hurry up with the main troops, baggage could be sacrificed as a decoy, as castle already had more than enough food supplies. Thessids on the other had decided to attack the bridge with bulk of the infantry, while Sujeet's cavalry would hit the relief-force.

The setup. Flags used to mark hidden units/dummies.

The omens read by thessid priests were most favorable, but waiting for the readings meant that Imram khan spent better part of the early battle trying to divine their exact meaning. This gave ser Lewis good time to deploy his cavalry in screening position while heavy infantry trudged towards the safety of the castle.

Cavalry screens the convoy.

For a brief moment it looked like the relief force would get to castle without opposition, but young Sujeet, fox of the northern desert, was just waiting for the enemy to make a mistake. As soon as the screening border horse presented a flank, his mounted archers surged forwards with lancers in tow. The border horse shook off the hail of arrows without major casualties, but the charging light lancers forced them to retreat. For a brief bright moment the border horse fought back, causing enemy some casualties, but finally they had to retreat hastily. This left the mounted knights and the road perilously open for attacks and Sujeet did not hesitate. The mounted knights soon ran with the border horse, having lost many of a bold knight to withering hail of arrows and their courage to black magics. And the baggage along the road did not fare any better, but was soon abandoned.

Sujeet strikes, cavalry screen is shredded.

Imram Khan on the meantime was pressing his infantry towards, but as the light infantry was ordered to keep pace with heavy pike, they soon fell behind the cavalry. Some light archers, a band of brigands called Fatherless Sons was flushed from the forest, but every time the big thessid block would start to advance, emir would stop it again so that his priests could summon more black spirits to harry the defenders.

Main body advances ever so slowly.

Thessids lights eager for battle and loot. Once again led by an overtly cautious man.

Situation looks grim for defenders. TK CiC is urging his men to "Return to basics. Roll high, pick only good cards!"

For a moment the situation looked very perilous for ser Hugh. The relieving force was being torn to shreds by the horse archers and enemy pike was closing in. But then ser Lewis rallied the cavalry and managed to organize a rear guard from the archers, so that the heavy sergeants could relive the castle. The baggage was left to enemy, it had fullfilled its' role as a decoy.

Ser Hugh started to withdraw his own troops towards the castle, when the dark magics and thessid war-spirits routed the border horse and knights again, just as ser Lewis was riding to them to lead them westwards as a raiding force. Unfortunately for the thessid this came too late, as the bulk of defenders were inside the castle. Imram Khan called off the attack, happy to report that enemy mounted troops were crushed and castle was being surrounded. Ser Hugh on the other hand prepared for a siege, his walls manned by many a bold knight, castle stores brimming with supplies - Thessids would have to pay a bloody siege and traitor of Pallawyn would not have his reinforcements.

The end, convoy got to the castle, just.

((Game had 3 separate parts: in the beginning mainly TK forces moved, then thessids got a few good move cards and put them to good use, scattering the heavier TK cavalry forces with ease. And just as they were starting to mop up resistance, luck again turned and TK were able to form a rear guard and withdrew to castle. A close game, where thessids were hampered by constantly losing initiative, whereas  TK were completely unable to cause any casualties to thessids. In the end, thessids had still over 10 morale while TK were down to few pips, so few more move/missilery cards to thessids in the early phases might have changed the whole game. Now it ended as tactical victory for defenders.

Also, the thessid CiC wanted to keep his infantry together and moved everything at heavy infantry rate, so archers never got into range of the road. Had they rushed forwards, the road would have been targeted by several good archers units and moving there would have become much harder. TK players did not have too many troops to chase skirmishers with.

The magic rules  were mainly used to harry lone and vexed troops and worked quite nicely. Lone out of command units had really bad time, while steady in-command unit were almost immune.

This was also a test run for new hex terrain. The thessid CiC decided that the part covered by hexes looked like ambush area and decided to stay away from it. So much for that terrain..
Hexes by GHQ, buildings (apart from quickly scratchbuilt castle) by Orange Scenics - I have never come across a company providing gaming terrain with such high quality/price ratio. Very highly recommended!


Sunday 23 September 2012

Ballad of Cian the Unmoving, marshall of Maece that once was.

After the disasterous defeat of thessid army at the hands of seated king of Angowrie, the wrath of Ceryx of Bloody Steps, king of Isliklidae, was raised. His dark envoys were sent south to raise a new army, this time led my one of his demeghal generals while his dark magics awoke Cian the Undefeated, once the grand marshal of kingdom of Maece, later an undying hathaz-ghul champion of dark armies, his body stolen from holy crypts. Cian gathered a strong raiding force from his dumeghal vassals and remnants of thessid army and headed towards Angowrie, to recover the alchemical cannons lost in the previous battle.

Loot belonging to the king of Angowrie was being escorted to the capital by young baron Cadier of Herta. The convoy was already within the sight of castle Herta, when Cian's scouts finally reached it. Baron turned out to give fight against numerically superior force, hoping that his sacrifice would be enough for the convoy to reach the walls. Unknowns to him, some of the thessid auxilia had already force marched to wadis between castle and delying force - the convoy was heading towards a trap.

Initial setup, with baron leading a delaying force and border horse escorting the suspiciously napoleonic looking guns. Thessid horse on dumeghal's right flank. (Some of the scenery supplied by my 3yo son, who really likes to paint with daddy.)

Fearless men but few.

The battle did not start well for young baron, as the thessid light cavalry immediately started enveloping them while the dumeghal and supporting maelite spears closed. And then the dumeghal turned towards old Cian for commands. Dark magic had yet awakened him only barely, and the ghoul stood unmoving, growling. And the dumeghal stood, maelites with them, waiting for the signal for the final charge that would sweep arrogant upstarts away.

This left the poor thessids to fare alone. The light horse was met by angowrian border horse, like thousand times before. Already low on motivation, thessids left their commander to fight the battle and suddenly only the thessid medium cavalry remained, locked in battle with angowrian crossbowmen. Hail of bolts was met with black magic, following charge with lance and sword with wards of sungods and so it went, neither side able to gain upper hand. (Light horse tried to evade the slightly heavier border horse, but ended up routing off the table.)

During this time the meagre reserves from castle were thrown into the battle. Knights and border horse raced towards the convoy, only to accidentally flush out the ambushing elements from thw wadi. Captain of knights did not have time to engage the thessid auxilia (odd move die did not permit turning..) and so some spirits of war were sent to harry them. Thessids had already seen how their brethren had run, so had no inclination to stand and die. The enemy was between them and the dread hathaz-ghul, so now was a good time to run. (I was able to force 3 morale checks on ambushers who were already vexed by being out of command. d8 vs d6 favored me 3 times and the whole ambushing element started running. So much for thessids. Sometimes just trusting your luck is a reasonably good battle plan.)

Meanwhile the lone thessid medium cavalry was flanked and had to run, as not even black magic was able to keep them alive for much longer against numerically superior and heavier enemy, even if they fought first few units off.

Last of thessid horse deciding that man can take only so many crossbow bolts from close range. Ghoul still tries to kill all opponents by stare alone.

This meant that baron Cadier was free to dress his line and slowly withdraw in front of the howling maelite horde and their dumeghal masters - behind them wagons slowly and methodically trundled towards safety. (Most of my moves being even and triple did somewhat help here. Opponent commented that he was reminded of a parade field practices.)

Wagons getting to safety, while thessid auxilia practises long distance running.

Thrice the dumeghal turned to old Cian for a command to attack and thrice they were answered ghoul's inhuman growl. After the fourth time captain of the dumeghal turned and withdraw his host, leaving the unmoving ghoul behind. (At this point, dumeghal player decided that enough was enough and we ended the game.)

All in all, this was just a test game for new magic rules. As a game it was boring, as most of the move cards avoided dumeghal player while angowrian forces had all the moves they wanted, but not enough troops to charge the professional fanatic "rolled 12/12 for quality" dumeghal knights while simultaneously keeping the wagons safe. But as test for magic it was reasonably ok - we allowed separate magic pips to be used by command stands, each pip could add bonus to melee/missilery, force a morale check, or similar lowish level effects. This allowed player to keep lone units in combat for a moment and turned out to be quite nasty way of harassing vexed units. Thessid/dumeghal had 20 morale and 14 magic points, while angworians had 14 morale and 7 magic.

"A proof that dumeghal got at least 1 move card. So it was not completely one sided."

In campaign terms, the alchemical engines will end up as pretty decorative pillars in the Angowrian court and thessids are still searching for that one commander whose CV and actual behaviour on battlefield fill professional requirements. And somewhere in the badlands there is one lost ghoul champion, trying to make sense of this strange new world.

Monday 16 July 2012

King Euwen's gambit

(20 units of Tower Kings vs 25 units of Thessids. 51 morale for Thessids, 33 for TK.)

Dramatis Personae:

  • Euwen, seated king of Angowrie
  • Mikkel the Gaunt, watchtower king of Calan Toss
  • king Llew of Har Gail, later known as Llew the Last.
  • Ashar Khan, of Gadine

Old khan of Ganide led army of ten thousand back from Volbrae, confident in his strenght, never thinking that anyone would be foolish to stand in his path. Several companies of his personal guard, both mounted and dismounted, 3 regiments of imperial pike with support and countless hordes of southeners, both mounted nomads and sunburnt desert-dwellers in light arms.

But old fox of Calan Toss, Mikkel the Gaunt, thought differently. Thessids were maybe countless, but the brave agallites had demoralized them at the crossings of Volbrae and if they were beaten again, Brennos of Pallawyn, traitor and oathbreaker, would find himself withour supply and trapped between two armies. Thus he massed his men and let young Euwen of Angowrie know that laurels of renown wre there for a bold king to grasp. Their numbers counted over five thousand, mounted knights from all the free towers, light horse from the border, several companies of dismounted men at arms and heavily armed crossbows, plus companies of free men, maybe lightly armed, but strong in their manhood. They arrayed themselves at the hills overlooking the King's east road, forcing the khan to attack. (25 thessid units with 55 morale vs 20 tower king units with 31 morale. It did not look too good for tower kings, even if setup greatly favored them.)

Armies deployed. Thessid still bunched up from waking up in the camp, TK throwing most everything as forward as possible to constraint nomad cavalry.

As the Sunbull rose to sky, horns started blaring at the Thessid camp, signaling that enemy was sighted. At first khan thought this was only a minor raid to probe his strenght, but as the angowrian heavy crossbows opened fire and forced most of his guard cavalry to retreat in disarray, it dawned to him that tower kings were serious and he was in serious risk of being flanked.

Khan's center, just before crossbows opened fire.

As the heavy cavalry was suffering in the center, the light nomads started probing for weaknesses in enemy line - only hasty withdrawal of Euwen's main cavalry body prevented the breakthrough. Thessid left flank was secure and pressure could be applied in the center. Light cavalry tries to break through. Heavy cavalry trying to get away from crossbows.

From behing the guard cavalry came the imperial pike, units of green, blue and rainbow marched forward supported by heavily armed bowmen far outreaching the crossbows. One unit of Euwen's personal guard crossbows got caught, but others wisely withdrew behing the massed lines of pikes and dismounted knights led by king of Calan Toss. Central hills saw a great clash, as the veteran knights broke the deep lines of pike. The pikes withdrew in disarray and many a proud thessid knight was taken as a hostage.

Pikes clash, daradjan mercenanies were supplied with substandard pikes, but did well.

But this did not come without a cost, as brake Mikkel fell leading the charge, his armor broken by point of thessid steel. His body was recovered and he was taken off field, alive but unconsious. For a moment situation in the center looked precarious as the next line of thessids, khan's dismounted guard, prepared for assault and confusion reigned amongst the watchtower troops, but then marshal of Calan Toss raised his lord's banner and rallied the troops effortlessly. (managed to get replacement commander and rally all 7 units with one card.)

''Heavies clash, Mikkel falls at his moment of triumph. ''

On the thessid right flanks, the desert dwellers and watchtower light troops were also gettin to grips. Spearmen led by Llew of Har Gail routed the heavier troops marching through the orchards, but his bowmen fled before the darkskinned spearmen. And on the other hand, young king Euwen had finally got himself organized and pushed his cavalry forward to flank the enemy.

King Euwen starts to roll up the flank. last of nomads are surrounded, but go down fighting.

Light troops clash, nothing conclusive.

Just over an hour had the Sunbull looked down to earth as the last of the thessid center fell under marshal's attack. The skirmish around the orchard was still bloody and neither side was unable to gain foothold, but on the other flank Euwen was methodically rolling over any resistance, so khan was forced to recall his final reserves to cover the retreat - ever the great alchemical artillery machines were abandoned, the tower kings had achieved their greatest victory in century, wiping out the dishonor of the Black Day battle. Later historian would know this battle, masterminded by wounded Mikkel as King Euwen's gambit.

Too little, too late.

The end

All in all, this was mainly a test how quickly we could play a 20+ per side game. With setup it took just under 5 hours, so quite bearable. Thessid player's cunning plan of throwing only '1's in important melees was their undoing, as the tower kings won the battle in center without almost any losses. Looking at the pictures, whole setup should have been moved a bit towards Thessid side - the idea was that scouting rolls indicated that TK army was almost able to pull off a flanking manouver before Thessid's were alert and setup areas reflected this. Now this meant that good 20% of table saw very little use. Might have been different if nomad cavalry had been able to get there, though.

Rules were modified Ager Sanguinis by James Roach of olicanalad.blogspot.com

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