Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Scots Wha Hae

Last night was the big run out for Hammer of the Scots at the club, its appearance was met by sounds of appreciation as several mentioned an interest, and of course expressed a further interest in my being soundly thrashed being the only Scot in the club.

The Rebellion begins.
 We set up and played the William Wallace campaign, I refuse to call him Braveheart, I of course was Wullie while Simon played Edward I. I had a slight edge in that I knew how important it was to maintain territory in order to get as many Nobles on your side as you could but Simon had picked this up by the end of the night. The Scots 'rebellion' is strongest north of Stirling while the English control most of the land to the south, my initial aim was to clear out all the English supporters from the north and then make inroads south of Stirling. I started well and handily won several battles in 1297 and 1298 and only missed having enough Nobles to induce the French to turn up, after that it all went horribly wrong. As I tried to clear out the few remaining English supporters I suddenly found my troops had run out of enthusiasm e.g. could not kill the enemy, so quickly found myself on the back foot as Edward took over the Lowlands. Around 1303 I managed to make another aggressive push against the English garrisons but once again my efforts were in vain and all I could see to the south was English red. We ran out of time with just a few years to go, although Simon looked the strongest we both had six nobles each so the game ended in a draw.

Winter 1303AD and Wallace has a long way to go.

We started off throwing men into battle, but as we progressed we both started to understand that you had to position yourself for the upcoming Winter, or the end of the turn, otherwise you could lose forces or Nobles would change sides, bringing the enemy back to an area you thought humbled. Quite a bit of thought has to go into winning the game and each player has to look to the future while gaining ground in the here and now.

So how does the game compare with Robert the Bruce, not bad actually, my only real complaint and it is merely a game mechanic is that in RtB apart from your core faction when you try to compel a Noble to join you they will either do so, remain neutral or immediately join the other side, the heirs of dead Nobles may also turn Neutral or defect rather than meekly return to their fathers choice. The movement and combat in HotS is far easier, even if the latter is a tad awkward at first from other games I have played.

Overall both games are good, HotS is simpler and not as much fuss as RtB while still providing a challenging game, the latter however has a more historical feel to it if you know anything at all about the period.

Simon, being a boardgame fan, mentioned that the map and cards had been done on the cheap, and I have to say I did not expect a simple card map when I opened the box, even Robert the Bruce all those years ago had a hardbacked map. I am not too bothered about the cards but then I don't have anything to compare them with and have no idea what to expect quality wise these days. You can buy a board but that will have to wait.

I am painting again, not a new army, but the finishing touches to one, the troops belong to my son who, with moving house, does not have the time to complete the extra figures he has left so I have volunteered myself. They are Carolingian foot and mounted, they are a mixture of Norman, Carolingian, Saxon etc. with some hero types from Footsore, I don't like Normans but these figures are really nice, I am not in a hurry so pics much later.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

View from the Window

No View this morning due to visitors. Normal service will be resumed next week, I have a few chestnuts on the fire.

Have a nice Sunday.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Aetius' Army

Some time ago at one of our wargame weekends I wandered over to a table where Rob Broom was playing against my son's Carolingians with his Patrician Roman army, and very nice it looked too, as he pointed out some of the units I thought the choices were very cool, all Rob's army are nice but this one caught my imagination. Having finished my Early Imperial Legion I began to turn my thoughts to an army of the 5thC, the Late Roman army has become flavour of the month recently, ignored for years in favour of the lorica segmentata wearing, empire extending army, it is now taking its rightful place in the ranks.

The army in the late 4th and 5thC in the West has a very bad press, the idea of it being overwhelmed by constant Barbarian hordes as it is found wanting and the Empire in the West is lost is the default position. The truth of course is different, this army was still very powerful and most barbarians simply could not defeat it in open battle, it was well equipped and for a time still trained to a higher standard than its enemies. It did boost its numbers with allies and the recruitment of newcomers but still had a Roman heart. The most dangerous foe the army faced was itself  as civil wars took their toll of the veterans and the army lost the ability to recruit and retrain men to the same standard, also the loss of revenues from areas populated by even friendly barbarians had an effect on the army.

A number of leading generals (Patricians) took command of the field armies and usually campaigned successfully against the Empires enemies, but this only brought the enmity of ambitious courtiers and most of them paid for this with their lives, assassinated by hangers on and men with no vision.

Before I bought a figure I bought several books on the Late Roman army including a history of the Fall of the West, I also bought two books on the most well known of Patrician generals Stilicho and Aetius and chose Aetius as my man. Aetius lived with the Huns for a time and was known as a friend to them and I wanted Huns in my army.

I got most of my figures from Footsore, many the same ones as in my Romano-British army but these troops would be more uniform, the Huns/Alans I got from the beautiful Aventine range of Steppe Cavalry. I built the army around four Roman Legions (more like a cohort at this time) as a core, many wargamers use the Christian Chi-Ro sign for this period, I decided not to, as far as I can tell it was only daubed on the shields of Constantine's men at Milvian Bridge but as this was in 312AD and the Notitia Dignitatum with hundreds of shield designs came out in 395AD then it's the military shields for my men. In support I brought in a contingent of Goths along with their own chieftain and likewise a couple of units of Huns or similar nomads.

Roman generals of this period began to recruit their own bodyguard or household troops, not that they ever seemed to do them any good when the assassins came calling, these units were known as Bucellari and unlike the later Byzantine Bucellari seem to have operated with their general in the field rather than as seperate commands, so if Aetius is on the field he has to be attached to either Hun or Goth Bucellari, one or the other, not both.


I have fought several battles with this army since its completion and it is a joy to play with, I thought putting Aetius with a cavalry unit would be detrimental to my command but it hasn't been so far, the Roman infantry are the backbone and the cavalry and the Goths are very good strike forces to destroy the enemy flanks. At first glance the army seems a little light in skirmish forces but this is made up for by the fact that the Nomads can all take bows and are experts with them, also you have the two bolt shooters which no one can ignore on the War and Conquest battlefield. Looking at the whole army arrayed for battle I am thinking perhaps one more Legion......

"A Bruce, A Bruce!"

Back in the mid 70's I went to one of my first wargaming shows, probably Claymore, at that time I was an SNP supporter when it was all a bit of fun and pie in the sky, unlike the fanatics in charge today. Nigel Tranter's Bruce trilogy was still a vivid memory and I had completed my first ever, proper army, Scots naturally. At this show I came upon a game by Fusilier games of Aberdeen and it cost £5, a princely sum back then for a game, but as it was called 'Robert the Bruce' and covered the Wars of Independence (although we were in fact independent) I dug deep and became a proud owner.

I enjoyed many games and like a proper wargamer I wanted to spruce it up, I always wanted to use 25mm knights rather than the counters but never got around to it, I did however make some nice coloured cards and laminated them. My one bugbear with the game was the map, many of the hexes could be argued over whether they were highland or lowland so I designed my own map, but never got around to actually printing it off, looking back it was a pretty amateur job which was best left alone.

I became aware years later of the game 'Hammer of the Scots' a nod to Eddie One and always fancied getting it but never did, every now and again the idea came up and again it disappeared as whatever I was doing at the time took priority. Due to technology the next time I looked I could actually see the game and watch how it was played, niggling away at me was the idea that this was simply 'Robert the Bruce' updated, I even checked up the designers and they are indeed different, but believe me the similarities are too many for it not to be a clone.

So the other day I bought it, the price had come down and I was tipped off that it was now £43, so I jumped at it. I had hoped to take it to the club this week but the one day I am expecting a parcel Parclefarce don't turn up until late afternoon so way too late to sort the rules out, and guess what, the next day 0910 bright and early!

I like the look of the game and the mechanics are better and more streamlined than RtB, it is a block game and will be the first I have ever played. But, yes there is always a but, there is a touch of Braveheart in it, RtB was completely historical with HotS there are French knights, nope, don't remember them during the Wars, they don't turn up until the Stewart's are on the throne so why they should be Scottish allies niggles me. In the original the Lord of the Isles was a Bruce supporter and MacDougall a Comyn supporter, both had fleets and were a great way to move forces around, the English had a fleet as well, in this version for some reason the only fleet in the area is Norse, seeing as the game starts around 1297 and the Norse had not been seen on the Scottish mainland since 1263 and signed a treaty in 1266 I do wonder who came up with this. I have one other small, but important to me complaint, James Douglas is represented by a generic saltire and not his coat of arms, that will be the first change and I have the technology and skills to do it, a saltire indeed for the Black Douglas. (When looking for 100 famous black Britons a few years back the Good Sir James (he was only the Black to his enemies) was mentioned, I wonder if they thought the Red Douglas's were native Americans?)

So already I am thinking of introducing the Isles, Macdougall and an English fleet without even having played the game, so I shall have to rein in my enthusiasm until I play a few rounds.

Oh, and you can keep your Balliol supporting William Wallace, "A Bruce, a Bruce!"