Monday, September 2, 2013

Swords Behind the Scenes

 Where to begin? Lets start with the changes to Stout Hearts. The first 12 Prince Michael games were all played using Medieval Mayhem by Rob Dean with input from yours truly, (See Battlegames Issue 6). This set featured variable length moves, shooting during enemy movement, opposed die roll combat with armour saves, and a bunch of morale tests.  

I was a proponent of variable length moves from the early 80's until recently but have now gone off them. I'll still use them, I'm just not a big fan anymore but that's another post someday. I like the missile fire and the melee is ok but occasionally tedious as each pair of figures fights in serial fashion with 2 rolls each time. The morale tests are what I never really cared for never the less the rule work well enough that I was planning to continue using them. 

That changed with Rattle of Dice which I enjoyed enough that I did up an ancient/medieval/fantasy version with 1 die per 4 figures whether shooting or meleeing with armour being a modifier and heroes getting extra dice. It appeared to work just fine in early tests until it came to duels between heroes. While not inevitable the mechanism tended to leave one hero dead and the other badly wounded.  Rather than having a separate mechanism for duels, I switched to opposed die rolls for melee while leaving everything else the same. This was an inconsistency which is often a problem and sure enough, during the first game, I kept accidentally reverting to dicing for each shooter instead of firing by group. I needed to either revert to group melee or switch shooting over. Since I had decided that the games were about as big as I wanted to get, going with single figure combat made sense but to prevent missile fire from being too deadly, I needed to do a better job of capturing the effect of armour. Rather than being clever, I fell back on armour saves which I associate with Don Featherstone but which many will associate with the much later Warhammer. As it turns out the saves made melee better as well but the advantages over using Mayhem with magic and heroic add-ons have become trivial. None the less the rules work the way I want and the work is done.

The Saxon raiders advancing quickly in loose order before stopping to form shieldwall for the final approach.

Something else I wasn't happy with was the shield wall rule which had been in and then out, finally becoming a modifier which basically assumed all "heavy" infantry would be in shieldwall.  That wasn't really what I wanted and anyway during the first game I kept forgetting that rule too!  So I reinstated a shield wall rule for heavy infantry in base to base contact.

As usual, once I started tinkering I adjusted various details and modified the one morale test merely to be consistent with Rattle so as to ease brain strain when I switch back and forth.

So much for rules.  The post containing the rules has been updated. When I'm sure they are stable I'll put them into dcument form for download.

Last game I made the 4 fur kilt, bare chest Saxons elite giving them a plus in combat and morale but I found myself calling them berserkers as I was deploying them and then wanted to show the resilience to wounds which that state seemed to confer. Hero status seemed to be just the thing and its lucky I did. The 2 slingers at the wall got off 2 shots at medium range and 2 more while being charged needing 5 or 6 to hit. They hit all 4 times! Then they proceeded to win several melees against the berserkers despite being classed as non-fighters! 

It was definitely  a game for non-average die rolls  but luckily spread evenly between the 2 sides. For example one of the Saxon archers, the one that can be seen in some photos sneaking into the back of the farm, also never missed  a shot, killing 2 farmhands and 2 soldiers. The 3rd soldier caught the arrow on his shield then whacked the archer over the head. His helmet saved him and he nimbly skipped back to safety. I may have to name and promote him for the next game. Prince Michael and his knights were the opposite, their dice were loaded with 1's and 2's. Only their heavy armour kept them alive long enough to eventually do some damage.

Look out Princess! If the initative switches the big bad Saxon will close the extra inch and catch you!

Now the Snow White thing, that wasn't actually planned. Since I was re-using the Hook's Farm terrain I was going to leave the church in place but discovered that the only 40mm priests I have are armed with muskets. Converting and painting one has now been added to my todo list, I suppose I'll need a celtic tonsure. A cottage or village with peasants seemed a fair substitute but while I have a number of fine ladies, I have a distinct lack of medieval peasants painted up and those were already taken by the villa. More for the todo list!  The next best thing was  a witch or similar. I ended up making a small deck of cards with the Queen of Spades indicating an evil witch with a grudge against the centurion and/or Michael, the Queen of Hearts would be a good witch opposed to the Saxons while the Queen of diamonds would indicate a lady worth ransom money if captured. Two jokers were included to allow for loss of time while the Saxons tried to figure out who the character was.  When I went to take one of my newly painted ladies/witches my eye fell on the Snow White figure with her little bluebird, I looked at the cottage and the woods, and, well, I was sunk. I would have swapped her out if revealed to be an evil witch but dice and cards can't be trusted and the story developed as told.


A quick look ahead at Prince Michael.  I have a few more figures to convert/paint for the current setting but I am nearly done. I do need to add more civilians, especially peasant types for which I intend to supplement the remaining Elastolin kits with 40mm Prince August women and peasants. There are also a handful of fantasy figures. My new target date for the enchanted forest game will be New Year's or thereabouts. 

I've never been happy about using Huns in Britain, even when trying to call them Sarmatians or Picts and they will now be dismissed and allowed to return home. My initial thought was to raise a Hun army to allow Michael to slip over the channel and emulate Val's exploits against the Huns but there is something else that has been haunting my dreams like a white elephant.

Oh, wait, it IS a white elephant. Prince Valiant took various trips to the Med (not to mention North America where he met some Prince August Skraelings), so I see no reason why Prince Michael can't journey to the Black Sea and encounter Persians. I just need a Persian hero General with a small body guard of Knights (clibinari), some infantry, some Hun mercenaries, and, of course, an elephant!


  1. I can see where this is going.

    Time to fire up the Mede-Lydian Campaign!

    1. Oh contraire. I bought the pachyderm 10 years ago for the Sikh Wars but he was a bit rambunctious for a command elephant and has been trying to drag me into 40mm ancients ever since. This is my out. A place for the beast and some unused figure kits and a release on the 25's.

      Time to fire them out!

  2. I'm really enjoying these posts, Ross. Thanks, as always, for sharing them. I can't wait to get enough Vikings painted to try out your rules myself.

  3. Might I offer a wee little idea to percolate in your brain?

    Think about the Arabian Nights stories . . . surely Sindbad might have sailed north of the Mediterranean on one of his voyages, eh?

    -- Jeff

  4. Traditionally Sinbad was from Basra and sailed the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean long before the Suez Canal and hundreds of years later but but you are right. Hal Foster was a little vague on timelines and no reason why a similar character could not be created, ships made, figures created. I'll file the thought for later. hmm ship to ship combat....hmmm

  5. Ah, yes. But he could have traveled overland to the Mediterranean and then acquired a ship there and sailed west then north, could he not?

    -- Jeff

    1. Not easily as a Persian travelling through Roman territory. Even reaching the Black Sea would have been tricky but but possible, more likely would have been sailing around Africa. For that matter I could have Prince Michael cross the Sinai through Roman territory and set sail into the Red Sea where he encounters Sinbad or his grandfather.

      Luckily there are lots of other figures to do before I worry about a new hero and crew that I have no figures for.

  6. I wanted to pass on a thought that occurred to me, before it died of loneliness: has anyone ever thought to record Prince Michael's adventures during his little-known (VERY little-known) time on Atlantica? I would imagine he encountered all kinds of strange beasties while he was there, not to mention exotic and previously unknown tribes such as the Vulgarians, the Yada Yada Yadas, the Canadians, etc....


    1. hmmm, as far as I know it has generally been assumed that his trips across the Atlantic were to North America but all histories of Atlantica point to the Vikings as the first European settlers so it is quite possible that Prince Michael might have been there. I shall have to look into it! Thanks.