EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches

The hobby plan for this weekend had been to spend time putting my room in order and then set up and play a semi-skirmish MacDuff game.
Hmm, no, that doesn't look like your typical MacDuff game to me either. 

On the plus side, I now have 1 of my HotT armies sorted and based. I will do a separate post detailing the armies of Cinneadh na Craoibhne later with detailed pictures.

My original thoughts for this  sudden mini-project was that it would allow me to keep some favorite old figures but still free up some shelf space and make it easier to start getting those that are going, organized and sale-able. Well plan A & C are coming along nicely, B is a little shaky.   The plan as we saw in the last post was for 4 armies, each of which was to be able to provide a standard 24 point army with a limited choice. If I were to play a double size game such as we played at Rob's, then 2 alliances  would see all 4 armies in play.

Once the word got out that any figures included in a HotT army would be spare the auction block, my recruiting teams were immediately swamped with figures seeking sanctuary. The refusal of some old character figures to serve under or in some cases, even beside other old characters was an unexpected wrinkle. In no time at all, I was looking at five 48 point armies, or more.

This, of course, made nonsense of the original plan so I put it all aside for a bit and gave some thought to things. The first thing I decided was to spend a bit more time and effort on picturing who each army was and what made it different as well as what I would ask from such a project if I was starting fresh.

One of the strengths of HotT is its flexible, generic troop types that allow you to easily slot almost anything in to the simple system. Ironically this is also its biggest weakness, if an elephant is the same as a giant or a pair of trolls or a Steam Tank, why have one vs the other?    The answer is to look beyond the details of the individual stand and look at the character of the army as a whole. So its not how your behemoth looks, its how it fits in to the army (in purely game terms, looks are important for setting the scene and getting the feel for each army). An army with 3 behemoths supported by shooters and some cavalry will have to act differently from an army with 1 of each type.

Given the number of troops at my disposal and my preference to have figures of a similar size and style, I started to get a bit more ruthless about sorting things out. I also decided to try to use dress to make each army distinct in addition to  having a different make up. Lastly I decided to try and have space for at least 1 of each troop type and to try to have each army have at least 1 unique unit type, and to limit each army to as close to 30 points as possible without being too mean. This will leave a little room for expansion in future.

My old early, mostly minifigs, Valdurian army had naturally clumped together with the Moose Knight (nee Alexander Nevsky), Queen Joanna, my Pictish archers (S range), Dalridian tribesmen (Irish) and Valdurian light cavalry (Ancient Britains and Gauls led by Vercingatorix).  Well enough, but the nearly naked woad covered Picts were more what I had in mind and the 2 male general/hero characters  just were not going to work together. (the Moose Knight, one of my most successful ever, having  replaced the other, one of my least successful ever, never mind the clash in style). I had quickly made uo the City army from plate armoured and late medieval types and had planned to do another army from my Flodden Scots (actually Heritage fantasy figures but drawn precisely, pose and all from the Almark book on Flodden) but I also had enough earlier Scots to confuse things. I was soon in danger of having 3 too similar armies of men. I also had not allowed room for my historical-ish  Arthurian troops.

I started by taking all the trousered, Celtic figures from the forest army and moving them to support my Arthurian cavalry and the old Valdurian Royal Horse Guards who had been trying to work their way into my Persian armies rather than face extinction. This gave a new army of the Sky, 7 stands of riders, and 3 of knights supported by a handful of poorly equipped (apart from the foot guard) infantry, a magician and an eagle. The magician had been painted all in black apart from a dark red cloak and had never really fit in anywhere. I decided to bite the bullet and repaint him in sky blue with white cloak then stood him on a tall stone pillar to recite satires on his enemies.   I still need to base these but for now the army is complete. The theme is somewhere between Swords at Sunset and Men Went To Catreath with a touch of magic.

To fill the gaps in the woods army, I dug out the last of my Pictish cavalry, the ones that had been providing recruits for my ECW Scots lancers.  Taking only those with weapons intact, that provided 3 stands of cavalry. The highlanders from my Scots provided enough figures to flush  out the army with all but 3 leaders being barelegged if not bare-arsed.   This army has behemoths, beasts, lurkers and sneakers but no armoured troops. I had enough archers to field an army of shooters but that didn't really sound right. Hordes was what I really wanted with the Song of the Pict playing in my head (actually it was Leslie Fish's original playing in my head but that one's not half bad), especially since I could field 12 figures on 2 bases for the same points cost as 3 warband figures. However, Hordes are pretty useless in woods, and while they aren't likely to spend much time in woods on the table top, it just didn't seem like an appropriate choice for the People of the Trees so a mix  of 4 man warband and shooter stands it is. I wanted to include another old favorite from the Nevsky range, an armoured axeman who has led many a unit. To keep with the lightly armoured look, he now commands 2 stands of nearly naked spearmen, the fulcrom of the army.  

Turning my attention to the City Folk and the pile of Scots pikemen, I decided to sort them into 14th C and earlier and 15thC and later and see where that got me.   The City army now has plate armoured pikemen instead of archers and halbardiers in jacks and after my eye fell on a plastic toy rowboat, has an aerial gunboat manned by handgunners in the slips. Having both a cleric and a wizard seemed less than optimal and after some thought it occurred to me that the effect of the rich merchants bribes are probably more like the effect of a sneaker than a magician, hard to stop but they do little harm unless he gets to the general or buys out the stronghold.  This nicely allows the use of all 4 special units at once in a 24 pt army.

The 13th-4th  C army of bows, blades and spears with a few cavalry seems a little bland even with  paladin but it fills a niche and keeps some troops that I like even if they aren't that old.

This brings me to 4 armies, however, and I still have my Black General, a McEwan model I think, based on the Frazetta Death Dealer painting. He's never really had a place despite his long service but I had been going to give him my Irish and Saxon raiders. Five armies is an interesting number for a campaign. With only 4 you get either an even 2 vs 2 or a lopsided 3 vs 1. With 5, things are never in balance and if all are involved you get 3 vs 2, hard but not impossible. Still, its that much more shelf space needed. Once I started hauling out the chunky Viking and Carolingian of forgotten make,   it became clear that with a bit of hard mindedness, I could incorporate some of the Irish as mercenaries and light troops and dispose of the sea raiders. Perhaps the water people came by sea, farmers from a nearby island or the shores of many lochs?

 The remaining 3 armies, trying hard to sort them selves into 2.

I'm only short 1 or 2 troop types and have more troops than originally planned (with room allowed for a few more). I've decided to be harsh about the many broken figures, the Heritage and Citadel (I think, possibly) figures being especially prone to broken bows. Those that appear to have good metal will be melted down for recasting instead of being repaired, the rest will ceremioniously dumped. What is left is enough for 2 DBA armies to go up on ebay, Medieval Scots and Sub-roman British (assuming that I can find the remaining dozen, clunky, unknown make heavy cavalry again.) and of course a few stragglers.

I will, however, have to put up another 4 foot shelf to avoid over crowding, luckily there is just room.


  1. Ross,

    Okay, a few thoughts to make things more difficult for you (heh, heh, heh).

    Larger figures (54mm, 42mm) are great as Gods or Giant-type figures.

    If you have Arabic-looking figures, an "Arabian Nights" army is possible and can include "flying carpets" and Djinn (in a HoTT campaign I ran in California, one fellow did this and used a plastic "blue djinn" toy (ala the Disney movie) as a djinn . . . it looked great!

    Hordes are particularly useful as lead elements first in breaking up enemy formations (particularly against "impetuous" troop types); and secondly in then getting resurrected in position to help defend your Camp.

    Speaking of Camps, have you thought about them? Some of your odd figures can survive on the Camp base . . . and the Camps really do add a lot of "character" to each army.

    Food for thought, I hope.

    -- Jeff

  2. Ross, you've got it bad! Over the years I have used HOTT for many games - all of them vaguely historical (I can't quite bring myself to play games with goblins or spacemen...). It's not a bad system - I was an early advocate of DBA when it was launched 20+ years ago.

  3. Thanks Jeff, I did try put a 40mm Viking as a God but haven't got the theoretical place for him now. I'll keep that in mind, esp the 54mm bit, 40 was a bit small. I do have some Arabian figures, but not mine and they weren't planning on staying and I squashed the 1st suggestion that they joined in!

    I am hoping to use a few spare figures in camps, haven't worked out the details yet. You are right that they can add character.

  4. Yes Tim, all these pent up fantasies out of the cupboard! I did play a fair bit of DBA when it was new but moved on to Armati for bigger armies and less fiddliness. Till we got tired of that....

    Rules change, the toys remain.