But first, a brief intermission. This Saturday just gone, I caught the early coach from Leeds down to the Sheffield, the city of steel, for the Triples war-games show, hosted by the Sheffield Wargames Club. This is the first games show i've managed to get to, and I must say it was a great day out. After a quick and easy trip on the Sheffield Supertram, I wandered down to the English Institute of Sport. The entry to the exhibition hall was flanked by two groups of reenactors, some Napoleonic fusiliers of the 21e Regiment de Ligne, and a couple of Great War Tommies from the 18th battalion, Durham Light Infantry. I had a chat to both groups, and they were all really friendly and knowledgeable guys. I grabbed my ticket and squeezed past the daleks which were making the rounds, and ventured into the hall. The exhibition space was great, well lit and, to me at least, huge (Rich from Toofatlardies later told me that Salute is around 8 times as large. My antipodean mind boggles.)
The traders were well represented, and I really enjoyed being able to wander around and see the figures, terrain and rulebooks in person. Our hobby is really well supported on the net, don't get me wrong, but I did really enjoy being able to spend some time just browsing. I could have spend a whole load of cash there, but as not only is money running a little low on our trip - and we've still got a fortnight in Spain and another in Italy to go - but i've got to carry everything in a backpack with me. Shipping to Australia is usually pretty reasonable anyway, at least less than paying for excess baggage!. Despite the lack of funds, it was great and I had a chance to browse through Sam Mustafa's Maurice rules. I'll be putting through an order in July, as they look like the set i'll be using for my Seven Years' War venture. Speaking of which, I ordered a couple of bases worth of Prussian grenadiers and dragoons from Frank at Minden. The figures are astonishingly good, and I can't wait to get them painted up and get the project underway.
The games which were on were a mix of display and participation. After a bit of a wander around, i made a beeline for the Toofatlardies table, where Rich, Sid and Panda were putting on a game of the upcoming Dark Ages ruleset 'Dux Brittaniarum'. Dux Brit is aimed at recreating large skirmishes in Post Roman Britain (so roughly 410CE to 650CE).
As most of you will know, i'm a bit of a lardite, and an occasional contributor on the Lardies yahoo group, so it was great to meet Rich Clarke the face and eminence gris of TFL. Rich has been described as one of the true gentlemen of our hobby, and this was definitely the case. He was friendly, funny and knowledgeable, wasn't averse to a bit of 'Pom v. Aussie' rivalry and he didn't even pick me up on my atrocious mathematics when adding up die rolls! It was also great to meet Sid Roundwood, the man behind Roundwood's World, one of my favourite inspirational blogs (seriously, if you haven't checked it out do so. The Great War terrain and figures are amazingly good) and another all round nice bloke. It was also great to be able to put some faces to names - it's quite strange to meet people in person who you've 'known' in their online persona for ages. I also got a chance to check out the new version of the I Ain't Been Shot Mum rules, which are also on the 'to order' list when I get back to Oz.
Anyway, after watching the conclusion of one game of Dux Brit, I asked Rich if I might have a go. He was happy to oblige, and even pulled out some cavalry so I could see how those rules worked.
My impression of the rules was really positive. They played smoothly, and had the right 'feel' to me, (just think of Cornwell's Arthurian trilogy) infused with the mix of historicity and fun which seem to be a lard trademark. I was commanding a small force of Romano British defending a farmstead against a saxon raiding force commanded by two friendly blokes from the Rollbahn Ost team (sorry guys, I'm terrible with names!). The action centres around key commanders, or the Big Men, a factor common to Sharp Practice, TW&T and IABSM. My troops consisted of levies, comitatenses type foot infantry, some bow armed skirmishers and a few donkey wallopers. Commanding this force were five Big men, including Gaius Ambrosius, the 'last of the Romans', his champion and the superbly named cavalry commander Noggin ap Nog. I was facing off a fairly balanced war band of Saxons with a mix of elite hearthguard and less well trained warriors. The Saxon king, the rather portly Cyddic, was aided by a equal number of Big men. My troops started off in column on the roman road, and quickly deployed into shield wall, with their flanks anchored on the farm and a copse of trees. The skirmishers were forward, and Noggin and his cavalry covered the open ground, ready to ride down the Saxons once they emerged from onto the plains.
Above: Romano-Brits under Gaius Ambrosius move out and form up into shield wall, while the saxons move into the farm through the undergrowth.
Which, of course, they didn't :). The Saxons flanked around the farm, using the undergrowth for cover. After a game of manoeuvre, I was forced move from the strong defensive position to prevent the Saxons sacking the farm - which was, after all, the Romano British objective!
The unwieldiness of a formed shield wall is well modelled, and after a futile attempt to get the mix of levy and seasoned troops to move as one, I broke the shield wall and tried to race them into new positions. The built up farm mean't my force was broken into two, one group charging into the central courtyard, and another flanking around the outside. Meanwhile, my skirmishers had engaged in a contest with the saxon archers, which ended with three of their four archers out of action. The skirmishers seem to work well also. They're supposed to represent the boys and youths too weak / small / young to join the shield wall, and while their efforts against a formed shield wall are negligible, they can cause a nuisance, inflicting 'shock', which in turn limits the combat ability of the troops.
Photos above: 1) Sid and the Saxon commanders deliberate. 2) Rich describes the rules with literally lightning speed. That, or my camera exposure was set too long. :)
As the Saxon hearth guard formed up to charge my small group of levies and millets in the courtyard, which I hurriedly formed into shield wall. A fortuitous hand of 'Fate cards' allowed my troops to charge the forming saxons. The 'Fate Cards' are dealt each turn, and contain certain combat advantages. They are also in suits, and gain extra bonuses when played as part of a suit. I played three cards of the same suit. The cards, together with a very lucky fall of the combat dice resulted in the decimation of the Saxon hearth guard, who lost their bottle and fell back in the face of the Levy attack! The cinematic nature of Lardies rulesets is really great, and I could imagine the farmer levies, perhaps defending their own farmstead, egged on by their commander and the veteran milites beside them in the shield wall, charging into the overconfident Saxon veterans.
Unsurprisingly, the Saxons reacted by furiously charging more troops at the impertinent farmers, shattering the now disordered levies and heaping shock up on the milites. A detachment of Saxons had attempted to outflank the shield wall through the farmhouse, but had been distracted by the loot to be had within. With my main detachment struggling over farm fences to support the flagging sheildwall, now was the moment for Noggin and his cavalry. Again, these seemed to play very well. The initial charge ploughed through the Saxons, sending them in turn fleeing from the field. However, cavalry take a lot of shock in combat, and are unable to charge until this is removed. This feels right, and seems to replicate the 'one shot' nature of cavalry in this period. In order to charge them again, they need to be pulled out of combat and rallied. If the enemy can attack them in their blown state, they go down quickly, representing men among the horses hamstringing them and whatnot. Noggin managed to withdraw the remainder of his mounted force, but with what was left of the milites, along with the first of the relieving troops quickly set upon by resurgent Saxons, it was decided that it was best to fall back and preserve what was left of the force.
Above: The glorious but futile charge of Noggin ap Nog and the Romano-British cavalry.
So that was the game. As i've said, the rules play fantastically. Units perform as you'd expect historically, while still providing those exciting cinematic moments. Rich also mentioned that the rules will have an inbuilt paperless campaign system centred around the Saxon conquest, and these sound great. After thanking the Rollbahn Ost guys for a great game, I said bye to Rich and Sid and headed off with a head full of new plans to use my Impetus troops for a Dux Brit Late Roman and maybe Frankish force. The game caters for Romano-British, Saxons, Picts, Scotti and Irish, but I figure Franks and Saxons weren't THAT different in their fighting styles, and throwing axes are even catered for in the rules.
I wandered about the rest of the afternoon, alternately chatting to people and snapping photos. Inspired by the basing on Sid's blog, I picked up some bases from the Warbases guys, which I plan to use for a Dux Brit force, also for my Sharp Practice troops. I really like Sid's idea of using hex shaped bases to make the big men stand out on the table. Speaking of Sharp Practice, I picked up a bunch of the new Front Rank Napoleonic Wurttemberg Jagers which will be added to my 1809 Danube campaign troops - i'm hoping to get the guys at the club back home to have a go at some Sharp Practice, and then hopefully Dux Brit.
There were some great display games going on, here a couple of pictures. Below is a fantastic 28mm medieval battle put on by the Lance and Longbow society.
Next up, a great looking 20mm (1/72) Force on Force Afghanistan game by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wargamers.
A 28mm War and Conquest Ancients game of Achaemenid Persians v. Greeks.
A 20mm Force on Force Vietnam game.
A huge 15mm Napoleonic game, this was the Battle of Borodino, 1812.
Some of the guys from the 21e Regiment de Ligne group.
A great looking 15mm WWII game, this one was set in Crete 1941 and used Flames of War rules.
A Fantastic looking 28mm WWII Ostfront game, 'Operation Kutusov' by 1st Corps and Society of 20th Century Gamers.
Last Valley terrain store. If only I had more cash and didn't have to carry everything with me in a backpack, I would have bought a load from these guys. The trees and hedgerows were great, especially considering it is all but impossible to source the rubberised horsehair in Australia.
A very different, but equally amazing looking 'Old School' Seven Years War game. I think the figures were the delightfully retro Spencer Smiths.
A 6mm Napoleonics game, the Battle of Salamanca 1812 by the Huntingdon and District Wargames Club. Those 6mm figs are TINY! I'd seen lots of pics online, but the size is amazingly small. There's also a Baccus 6mm Dutch-Belgian brigade from the Baccus trade stand.
A great little 15mm Napoleonic diorama.
Some of the offerings from Front Rank miniatures. I know people love or hate Front Rank, but I for one love them - they were the first miniatures I bought and painted up. SYW Prussians if I recall correctly. I'm looking forward to adding those new Jagers to my 1809 Sharp Practice collection.
Some of the new 20mm offerings from the ever prolific Pete at Plastic Soldier company. Those Sd.Kfz 251s look very tempting. Bring on the Bren Carriers!
And last, but by no means least, an amazing 28mm Great War game. This game, titled 'Daschunds and Bulldogs', was put on by the Like a Stonewall Wargames Group and recreated the Battle of Mons in 1914. The terrain was not only immense (over 20 2'x2' terrain boards!!) but had hundreds of figures, and was amazingly detailed. There were loads of little dioramic bases as well, with fleeing Belgian refugees, german riflemen using Belgian schoolgirls as human shields, a German divisional HQ, field hospitals, artillery batteries, a monoplane and a fire crew working to extinguish a burning house. Absolutely stunning terrain (the buildings are apparently also from warbases, being laser cut MDF), and the guys putting on this demonstration game were friendly and approachable, willing to answer all of my questions. I'm thinking I may have to dig out my Great War project one of these days!
So, that was my one day experience of the British Wargames show. Thanks to Rich, Sid, Barry, Pete, Dave, Tony and everyone else whose names I've forgotten. If any of you find yourselves down under, we'll have to catch up for a pint (or rather 'schooner'), a curry and a game. One day I'll be back for Salute!