On Sunday, my friend George called up to check on me and see if I was up for a visitor and a chat. Since the table wasn't completely cleared after Friday's solo play through of TTT12, I figured that I might as well spring a game on him. I didn't want to do an exact replay though and since we talked a bit about George's 1/72nd medieval project as well as ECW and other stuff, I decided that Medieval Mayhem was in order. That in turn meant my 40mm Elastolin Prince Valiant figures or rather The Adventures of Prince Michael in The Days of King Arthur. (follow the link for a tiny bit more about the background but for those not familiar with Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, the comic strip supposedly took place in the 5th century after the last Romans had left Britain but 12thC knights, Victorian lithograph Viking, Saxon and Hun barbarians, Romans and what not all appear jumbled together. )
This episode takes place 18 months after Episode 9 (Game of Week scenario 48) in which Prince Michael wins the tourney. (Prince Michael doesn't actually appear in Episode 10 which features a cameo appearance by Prince Valiant himself). Word has arrived at the court of Count Hector that Dearg Mor, the Pictish Chieftain has allied himself with a new Saxon pirate, Geowolf the Ravisher. The Count sends out his eldest son, Duke Stephen to hold the enemy in the Avon valley. The Duke assigned 2 archers to Prince Michael and he and his 3 followers hid in the rocks to the east of the river. The Tribune with 3 soldiers and 2 archers took a post on the reverse slope of the hill just west of the main bridge while the Eagle bearer and 3 more soldiers were placed behind a wood west of the rickety wooden bridge. The Duke and Sir Jeffery The Barve (as in bravely ran away ran away - see scenario 21) took post near the bridge and waited. If even 8 of the enemy raiders got through, they would cause mayhem amongst the peaceful villages of Count Hector's subjects, the Duke was determined not to let this happen. (The scenario indicates the attackers win if they can exit 1 unit from the pass, since there are 9 attacking units in the original vs 25 attackers here, 8 men is steeper % wise but since there are no fixed units in Mayhem or zones of control, it seemed a fair translation and indeed it ended up a close game.)
Pictish nobles ride ahead of the Saxon advance guard.
Geowolf the Ravisher chose to deploy all of his raiders on the West bank. Buidhe and Ceol, 2 Pictish 'knights' in advance, then himself with the Raven bearer, 6 Saxon warriors and 4 archers, then Dearg Mor with 4 pictish archer/slingers and 4 Pictish spearmen and finally a rearguard of Wrothgar the Nameless with 6 more Saxon spearmen. (You would almost think he didn't fully trust his Pictish allies which is interesting given the outcome).
The column soon came under bowfire from both sides of the river and spread out, Picts on the right, Saxons on the left. The Pictish cavalry split up and set out to chase off the archers. Buidhe on the left ran both archers down with minimal difficulty but Ceol had trouble summoning up sufficient courage to charge over the bridge. (5 or less to pass the pre-charge morale for a knight.) By the time he crossed over the archers had nipped safely back to cover and Prince Michael emerged from the rocks to charge the Pict. A fierce melee broke out until one of Michael's followers came around the flank and together they brought Ceol down,
Across the river, the Count's soldiers held the hill as long as possible, but with the Saxon's moving past them, they backed away, delaying the enemy while avoiding combat. (it turns out this may have been a mistake on the Duke's part, it might have been better to have charged the Picts relying on their superior armour to win the day and breaking their formation. )
As the Saxon's narrowed their column to cross the bridge, the Duke gave his battle cry, and calling to Sir Jeffery to follow him, rode ahead. Jeffery's horse apparently stumbled (rolled low on movement) and the Duke had to rein up to maintain formation (they were moving as individuals). Seeing the knights hesitate, the Saxons charged forward, Jeffery, remembering the feighned flight tactics practiced by the Count's Sarmatian mercenaries, fled leaving the Duke to face the enemy alone. Rearing up his stallion the Duke struck down the enemy standard bearer then turned his horse and rode back to the bridge to organize the defence.
The invaders surged forward all across the line now. One of their few remaining archers saw Sir Jeffery pull off his helmet and coif to mop his brow and shot an arrow through his cheek causing the brave knight to retire from the field (ok ok he hit then rolled a 6 on his impact die, the attacking archers had no trouble hitting this game but this was one of the very few kills they scored). Buidhe, having cut down the archers spurred after the retreating defenders. Getting over bold he rode up into the rocks after 1 who turned and dragging him from his horse, cut him down. .
It is unfortunate that the chroniclers did not learn this man's name as the same brave soldier later took on Dearg Mor and 4 Pictish soldiers, slew one and held the rest at bay for what seemed like an eternity, waiting vainly for help, until finally a Pict crept up behind him and ended his heroic fight.
By now it was clear that no more enemy were going to attempt the main bridge. Prince Michael headed for the rickety bridge calling for his men to follow, each as fast as they could. (ie moving as individuals rather than in formation). Headstrong as usual, and trusting to his heavy armour. he charged over the bridge and into the enemy without waiting for any of his men. A party of his Uncle's soldiers stood by but with no one to lead them, they hesitated to charge in support. (failed morale, 4,5,6 for a group without a leader to charge). Once again, however, the heavy armour did not help and the first blow left him prostrate on the field. (Michael was +1 on the combat die then the Saxon needed a 6 to over come his armour
The Saxon's joy at their enemy's fall was short lived, enraged by the fall of his gallant leader, Nathanial Hawkeye drew back his bow and declaring that he would plant an arrow in Hrothgar's eye, unleashed his shot. The Saxon's shocked by their leader's sudden death, broke and ran to the rear. (The archer followed up his pre-shot boast with boxcars on the dice!) Michael's men came forward and carried the young knight back to the castle to recover. (Otherwise the series would end!)
To the left of the Wood, the Duke and a handful of men braced themselves to meet the remaining Saxon horde but Hawkeye stepped forward, promising that Geowolf would share Hrothgar's fate, drew his bow and made good on his pledge. These Saxons were made of sterner stuff though and stood their ground. Dearg Mor was now the last remaining Pictish-Saxon leader but he was a seasoned raider. He knew that there was little profit in fighting the Duke's men head on, and he cared little for the songs of the Saxon bards. Once the brave but un-named soldier was cut down, the right side of the pass was open. The eagle bearer who had been tasked with blocking it had dithered and neither charged into combat nor moved to close the gap. Swiftly Dearg gave the word and his Picts scattered and raced for the gap, followed shortly by the Saxons who were not slow to catch on. (individuals move 1d6 faster than groups and may move in any direction)
Swearing various oaths which I may not repeat here, the Duke urged his men to scatter and run back to cut off the enemy's path. But, his men were tired and lacked the initiative of the raiders (in a 16 turn game, George moved first 14 times! It wasn't crucial early on and in some cases where I won the initiative die roll I let him go first so that I could shoot first but in the last few turns when he won the crucial rolls, it robbed me of my best chance to counter his final gambit by getting between his men and the board edge. It didn't help that his men rolled as if inspired on those last 2 turns and on average moved nearly twice as fast as mine!.) and though the Duke himself caught a few more of the raiders, the morale of enemy seemed unbreakable now that their goal was in sight. (the last chance I had to save the game was if the Duke's charge managed to panic 4 or 5 of the scattered enemy one after the other but suddenly they got brave and each time the first of the scattered raiders stood and fought meaning the rest didn't have to check, not being past of a group.) Dearg Mor himself and at least 12 other raiders slipped past. There would be missing cattle and worse by dawn.
A close game and won by some good decisions on George's part but you will note that George himself and most of the Saxons were cut down while the wily Dearg Mor and his Picts went a- roving behind the wall.
We played at a relaxed pace and with breaks and since all the figures were plastic, there was no heavy lifting :) but I will confess to taking the evening and all of the next day to recuperate. Damn! Worth it though and they do suggest resuming normal activity. 3 weeks down, a 1,000 or so left to go. .