Saturday, August 17, 2019

In the Absence of a Story Teller

What a ballad could have been told of the stand of Tribune Johan and the White Cohort. Alas, no bards were available after all and my inner bard is too tired to weave a narrative. All I can offer tonight is a quick recap with  technical details.

Turn 8..ish? The game is 1/2way through. All forces are now on hand. Duke Stephen has been wounded slightly and the first charge by his household knights has been held. The spearmen of the rearguard suffered grievious losses in that first charge but stubbornly refused to give an inch.

The game was Scenario 13, "Escape", from Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames. The game sees a single defending unit facing the enemy who is tasked with getting...hmmm..2? units off the far end by road by turn 15. Why by road? Maybe there's a bridge? I made a pass between rugged wooded and hill terrain just off table, something that would certainly be an obstacle to the ...Picts??  well maybe to the Saxons? hmm,  anyway, "Why?" isn't the point, its just what they have to do to win.

The defender gets reinforcements according to a fixed schedule, the entry points are largely behind the retreating party except for one unit (the White Cohort in this game) that reinforces the original road block.

The Raiders rearguard has been scattered and Duke Stephen's troops are hurrying as fast as the dice will allow to save the small blocking force. 

I started playing with the 2018 version of my Castle Dangerous which I had used for some games I ran but never actually used in a solo game. (Delinquent!!) . By turn 7 I decided that I didn't like them, rest the table to turn 4 and reverted the rules to the original version without saving throws and a few other differences and then applied what I had learned over the last 3 years about my current likes and dislikes. They still need alot of work (and a forever name) but they were just the sort of thing I wanted for this kind of quick scenario game with traditional units. (Current draft here for the curious).

The game was played using my usual initiative deck which tracks the number of turns and decides each turn who will go first, allowing the occasional double move when initiative changes. In this game several of the initiative switches gave temporary, but potentially critical, boosts to one side or the other.

The only wild card I used was the Joker which means the turn ends immediately but still counts as a turn played for scenario purposes. In this case, two jokers turned up early meaning that the raiders lost two turns to clear the road block before the last reinforcement arrived. The game went to turn 14 of 15 before being decided and I suspect that those 2 turns were what gave the Romano-British the chance to make it be in a position to win on turn 12 and 13 if Lady Luck hadn't annulled the advantage by suddenly turning their dice cold on turn 12 AND 13! Got to rally and move? Nope, not today. Needing 1 hit on 6 dice needing 4's+ to hit? Nope! No hits!   Don't think you can do that twice in a row? Here let me show you...... 

The Saxon? Well, she was cruel to him earlier with those aces but she did smile on the barbarian morale and rally tests, including letting Helgin's standard bearer and guard roll a 6 and rally despite being the last survivors. Then when it was his last chance and he needed a hit with his last die, no problem. OK Tribune and the remnant of the White cohort, 2 or better to not break. Oh! So sorry but the Tribune allows you to reroll....look at that! Another 1! 

Dice! Never trust your life to them!

The local soldiery who had arrived first to hold the pass had bravely stood and repulsed charges by Dearg Mor's household cavalry and a band of Saxon raiders but were eventually driven back and broken by subsequent charges. By then however, Duke Johan and the armoured veterans of the  White Cohort had arrived. These proceeeded to repulse Earl Helgin's Hearthguard not once but twice, cutting them to shreds. Follow up attacks by Saxon warriors and continuous showers of arrows and javelins slowly whittled their numbers but by then the Duke was at hand!
More technical stuff. The OHW  scenarios are designed to be played on a 3ftx3ft table with units being 4" to 6" wide. Since my table is 4.5ftx6ft, I just use a 4.5ftx4.5ft area with the last 18" being "off table" and use roughly 6" wide units which each take up the same relative space as 4" ones on a 36ft sq table. Seems to work well when translating the scenarios for my own armies and rules.

I sometimes roll on his charts to see what units are available but this time I just went with what was ready to go. Units of 12 infantry or 6 cavalry or archers.

The Barbarians had Earl Helgin and his Elite Hearthguard infantry, a unit of Saxon infantry and a unit of archer. Dearg Mor, the Pictish (ish) King had his bodyguard of light cavalry, a unit of spearmen and a unit of archers. 

The Romano-British had Duke Stephen with his Elite Armoured knights, a unit of garrison light cavalry, Tribune Johan with a unit of armoured infantry, 2 units of infantry and one of archers. Earl Helgin Dearg Mor, the Pictish king, Duke Stephen and Tribune Johan were all rated as commanders.

All figures are vintage 4cm Elastolins, mostly repainted with a number of conversions. 

Alas for the Guardians of Britain, fate intervened and just before the Duke could launch his knights into a charge to sweep away the remnants of the enemy force, a change in initiative allowed a final desperate charge by Dearg Mor at the head of his remaining light cavalry which broke the square and swept it away allowing the remaining raiders to escape. 54 men had entered the pass,  11 escaped but the leaders, despite having been in the thick of the fight all day, were amongst them. Their fame would quickly gather new recruits to their banners.
(Uhoh, those bare washer bottoms! BB Jeff my friend, I will get the underside of those bases painted! Soon!)


  1. I do like those figures , wish they were still available .

    1. I never thought I would end up with enough of them to play wargames.

  2. The dice can be so cruel. Looks like an enjoyable bloodbath of a game.

  3. Looking great, as usual. The Elastolins had a quality of sculpting well beyond the available wargame figures of the era...

    1. and beyond most contemorary figures though the historical accuracy is more Hollywood and comic strip than most modern ranges.