Friday, 3 June 2016

The Arrows and Arrows of Outrageous Misfortune

If you are a proper, dyed in the wool wargamer who has been at it since you were in short pants then you will have several pet theories, these will normally fly in the face of accepted knowledge and if voiced will mark you out as deluded at best and a lunatic at worst. I have several.

One of my first is that Alexander the Great was not a great general but a very lucky one, there that may be the worst out of the way. Another which has bugged me through the years is that all medieval wargame rules or lists downgrade Scottish knights simply because they live beyond Hadrian's Wall. These men came originally from the same Norman families which took over England, they had the same culture and they knew a decent warhorse from a milk man's nag, so why on earth would they suddenly lose all their faculties and become worse on the battlefield than their English counterparts, yes I know there were not as many but that does not necessarily mean they were amateurs.

Moving on I inwardly smile when I read that the rifled musket was a game changer during the American Civil War and it caused horrendous casualties as a result. The weapon was a game changer but not during this particular war, where, despite the increase in range and accuracy most fire fights took place at 100 - 150 yards where even the old smoothbore musket was happy, which is why many units retained such weapons. The only general on either side who tried to get his men to use the rifled musket properly was Confederate Patrick Cleburne who was ex-British Army.

All this brings me neatly to the 'Slings and Arrows', I cannot believe that Dark Age armies in Northern Europe, not Spanish or any the of the other louche Mediterranean or Eastern peoples you understand, used skirmishers in the way classical armies did, particularly slingers. There is not one piece of evidence that the Anglo Saxons used the sling militarily and hardly any mention of it otherwise. These particular armies and warriors were not known for their patience, they took great pride in being first to attack the enemy, their shieldwall tactics and discipline were not conducive to letting a horde of skirmishers run through them as the enemy approached, raiders took the best and bravest, they didn't load up with herd boys who brought along a piece of leather or a bow for that matter and nothing else.

So there you go, a few of my pet theories, I have some others but that is enough for now, I mentioned my skirmish theory at the recent gaming weekend and have been suffering the slings and arrows ever since (in a good natured and oft times comical way). I of course kind of scuttled myself by using said slingers in my Saxon army but hey, when in Rome, needs must, good for the goose etc.

My theories won't change anything but they are mine and I like them. Oh, and I never, ever subscribed to the popular view of Bosworth and where it was fought, and look how that turned out.

I have now just about finished my Bolt Action stuff, I added some figures last night and boxed them up, I have about half a dozen or so to complete once my North Star order turns up, along with my Father's day halftracks but to all intents and purposes they are done. So I have now gone and given myself a rather painstaking new job.

 I am not a big fan of basing my armies on stony or hard ground as again I believe they were walking on grass almost exclusively (Northern Europe again), so my Dark Age armies are mainly grass, but I have had this niggle at the back of my mind for ages that the grass I originally chose was too green. Since basing my BA troops with Late Summer grass this has bothered me even more. So last night I brought out a Saxon cavalry unit and re-flocked it, it does look a lot better, so I am now committed, the long summer evenings just got longer.

After and before.


  1. You're a deluded lunatic George!!!!

    Nah, not really :-) Totally agree about the Scottish Knight thing, but because they're sweaties and we won the war, we get to say how good they are, or not!!!

    Think through the -1 to hit, that we use in 'the other' system, rather than the save bonus and you'll see one of the points that makes me enjoy it so much more.

    Lovely looking books by the way.


  2. You are lost to the Dark Side Luke.

    I must be a nut to re-flock these two armies!

    Thanks, the books are lovely, most of Helion's stuff is top notch quality wise. The are going to take a lot of reading, Randall has been researching for twelve years.

    1. It's so much more fun on the Dark Side!!

      If you're not settled with how they are, I think you'd be more of a nut to leave them the way they were. It's good to feel contented with our toys!

    2. It's not as bad a job as I thought, bit of watered down PVA, a shake of grass and a duller green around the edges, job done.

  3. George,

    If you have a look at the Bayeaux tapestry, there are loads of Norman archers and most of the Saxons are throwing javelins. There's a distinct lack of Norman crossbows or Saxon slingers, although in most army lists Normans get crossbows and Saxons get slingers. I suspect that the truth is somewhere in the middle, that the Normans had a few crossbows and the Saxons had a few slingers. This can be easily resolved, with Dark Age armies only being able to have a maximum of 5% of their army as skirmishers. Perhaps we should try it out !!

    1. You are of course right about the bowmen on the tapestry, maybe they were used like Dave Howes' massive murdering 36 man unit of Sagittarii :( that hurt. I did notice the reduction to 5% on the Heptarchy list, historically pretty accurate but from a purely wargaming perspective that also hurt :)

      You're up early for a Saturday Phil, and with such energy, have a good weekend.

  4. Nearly forgot .......

    Totally agree with Dave about the sweaties !!

    1. What's right is right Phil, after all!!!