Monday, 31 August 2015

A late August SAGA

At the Hamilton Road Games Group, SAGA has really caught on. Quite a few warbands have been fielded with a lot of variety in the look and feel of each army. Saturday was no different.

For unknown reasons, we got a late start. Andy suggested a scenario from the main SAGA book called "The Feast of Crows." This consists of four opposing players in a free-for-all donnybrook where it's every player for him/herself! It seemed like a good way to get the game introduced to a new player and some practise for those still learning. Andy and Martin have sucked the ink of the pages of the rule books and battle boards, so Bear and I are still learning and Beth wanted to try the game for the first time. Score was kept by the number of enemy "killed" with the different types weighted differently.

So in each corner we had:
#1  Martin and his Byzantine force - Cataphract lancers and horse archers with peltastoi and javelin-armed levy

Looking good, but the emperor does not live on Coke Zero alone!
#2 Bear and his "Milites Christi" - crusading knights and dismounted sergeants

Black habits - either Hospitaliers or commandos
#3 Beth and her Welsh war band - based on one of the theories of the "real" King Arthur - mounted elites and warlord, heavier warriors, and levy with missile weapons.

"Oy, Llewellyn, we gots clothes and pointy sticks."
#4 My Irish warband - Warlord and Fianna with some armour, bonnachts pretending to have armour, and kern armoured with good wishes and fury. Brian and Ralph came and watched. Ralph is also our local supplier of SAGA goods and he made a sale or two. Our son, Rob, intended to come but was called in to work a special 12 hour shift! He can always use the money!

Faugh a Bellagh! Clear the way!

One of the options for the Irish list is to field a pack of hounds with their handler as a warrior unit.
I couldn't resist.
We all started off after rolling SAGA dice and priming our battle boards. My pack of hounds ignore terrain so I sent them off toward Martin's Byzantines. It took about three turns for them to get there. When they did they attacked a small unit of Martin's levy. He intended to us his support archery ability to cut up the doggies, but one of my abilities blocked that. As it was they didn't do much anyway and had to fall back.
Martin moved some of his cavalry toward Bear as did Beth. Bear's crusaders are cavalry-heavy so he had horse to spare. Beth put some warriors and levy to hold down my side of the board and that proved to be enough for most of the game. Martin and Bear skirmished with Bear's crossbow-armed coming through the small woods separating them and peppering the Byzantine cavalry with bolts.

The dogs begin their approach, accompanied with the fastest pack handler in existence.

A Martin's-eye view of the pack attack and the frustrated warriors supporting the levy.

The Knights Hospitalier with the cross-bow armed levy move toward Martin's neck of the woods.

The Welsh hearthguard (elites) lead the way toward Bear. The figures are drawn from Beth's Late Roman/sub-Roman British/Arthurian army for larger battle sets of rules. She did the majority of the painting herself.

"Arthur" exhorts the troops on.

Bear's Knights of the Hospital spreading the good news in a way unacceptable today.

Arthur was heard saying: "Alright, you lot of fresh-painted slingers! Get the range!"

As the game went on, Martin wiped out my dog pack, threw back my one levy unit, and engaged one other unit of my warriors. He also took damage from Bear, but gave as good as he got. Bear played the sea-saw game against Martin while sending a unit of knights against Beth who responded with her hearthguard. The wiped each other out. Meanwhile Beth and I skirmished with missile weapons on our shared flank.

Another view of the attack by the dogs. (Old Glory figures I believe with a Foundry handler.

Martin's cavalry comes up to face the threat from Bear.
The striped item in the background is a measuring stick with the various distances (very short, short, medium, long) set off by colour. That's actually a knitting needle. I did the same with some dowel.

My kern face the Welsh warriors. (Old Glory Irish; Gripping Beast/Old Glory/ Essex warriors with a Foundry commander.

Bear's flanking force of knights is met by one surviving levy (who survived the game) and cataphract horse archers while the crossbows move through the forest.

Looking through the woods at a scattering of the Irish with the Byzantines in the background. Andy set up the scenario and served as rules encyclopedia.

My fianna (hearthguard) and warlord were too much of a tempting target for Beth's warriors.
So we slugged it out in the middle. Her troops had to fall back but her warlord joined in, bringing troops as well.
The Warlords ended up killing each other.
We played 9 turns even though the scenario called for only 7. Since the board was bigger, we all decided that a longer game was appropriate. In the end, these were the scores: Beth - 15 points, Bear - 16 points, Martin & your humble blogger - 17 points each. (Killing Arthur bumped up my score.)
Beth said she liked the game. She also decided to continue to use the Welsh and learn the intricacies of the faction. She was considering using a revised Byzantine list as true Arthurians, but felt the Eastern army was too cavalry heavy and the cataphracts would not be right for the proposed list. I need to be more familiar and practised with the Irish. I like them... not least of all because the figures are all bought and painted! I still think they could surprise someone.

Arthur looking very "Arthur-y." A Gripping Beast figure

The Welsh moving through rough country.

I had to show this shield pattern. If I recall correctly, it's taken from the Notitia Dignitatum and there was a small unit of either auxilia or legionary skirmishers painted up. We called them "the Fox Boys" for obvious reasons.
My son asked me if any company made "realistic" female vikings. Now there are plenty of "cheesecake" girls in viking kit, but not much in the line of shield maidens who look more real. It seems he found an article somewhere noting that in viking graves, roughly 40% were females buried with armour and weapons. The upshot of this is the theory that viking women accompanied the men on expeditions and into battle. So "Dad, can you find any female vikings?" I searched and found the "cheesecake" figs but little else. Andy suggested that I do a head swap, putting female heads on viking figures. I did just that, using the bodies and weapons from Wargames Factory's viking huscarls and the heads from Wargames Factory's female apocalypse survivors. Not all the female heads have short hair and the bodies look a bit blocky, but I doubt that all viking women were svelte and the chainmail hauberk is not that flattering to anyone's form. I finished one and tried to take photos of it to show Rob who now lives and works in the larger city north of where my wife and I do. None of the close-up settings on my camera worked well... until I found one titled "Food." Food? Yes, and the light is adjustable. Here are the first photos of Brunhilda or whatever he'll name her.

The Viking in the "non-Food" camera setting. A "Cheesecake" viking stands in the background. (a Reaper figure)

Now the "Food" setting. I'll do some light testing later, but the setting allows me to focus on objects much closer to the lens than any other setting I've found. It also shows how messy my painting table is.

Side view - The Wargames Factory vikings have a "dished" neck hold on the torso and a rounded neck stem on the head. The female apocalypse survivors have longer and more slender necks with a flat end and a flat bottom on the head where the two join. Some filling and goo-work was required.
The back of the figure in better light. Not perfect, but quite acceptable, I'd say!

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Iron Horse Festival 2015

For the second time, the King's Company of Historical Reenactors put on a display at St. Thomas' Iron Horse Festival. This is a late-August festival of rides, shows, and displays put on in the city of St. Thomas, ON to celebrate the railroad heritage of the city. In year's past, St. Thomas was a hub for the Canadian Southern Railroad, the New York Central Railroad and the Michigan Central Railroad. Trains westbound to Detroit or Chicago out of New York City would come across the state of New York, cross into Ontario, Canada, proceed to Windsor, ON, and cross into Michigan at Detroit and continue west. The terrain was relatively flat, especially when compared to the washboard-like series of ridges that fill central Pennsylvania between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. It's far easier -and therefore less expensive- to lay track on flat land, naturally.
This year and last, our reenacting group set up a display at the Festival. We were closer to the centre of the Festival this year and we fired muskets, read a proclamation from President Madison on the reasons for the invasion of Canada, and explained the history and historical artifacts of the War of 1812, especially as it touched St. Thomas and Elgin County.

Engine 5700 - part of the collection of the local railroad museum.
A classic beauty from the age of steam.

Lining up the troops for a volley.
On the far end of the line, Tyler got to wear the red coat of the British Regulars.

Preparing to volley later in the day.
From the left - your humble blogger as first sergeant in summer kit, Kevin in militia kit, Nick as a Kentucky volunteer,
Tyler in the uniform of the US regulars, Andy in the same uniform with the 1813 "tombstone" shako.

A good volley!

Beth's display of her embroidery and woman's clothing.
We were set up in what was called "Kid's Junction" as part of the children's activities. Sad to say, the pre-festival advertising made the mistake of saying we were going to have a battle reenactment. Well, we had neither the numbers nor the space to do that, but we did see quite a few young people with their families, many of whom were quite interested in the musket volleys and the table of "Please Touch" equipment. We also ran a few mini-milita drills.

The "St. Thomas Select Embodied Militia" prepares to volley in the defence of the city.

With fine troops such as these, Canada will remain "The True North, strong and free."
At one point, most of the uniformed reenactors went up to the midway to mess with the people. We tried to recruit a number of people, but they had documents proving them to be apprenticed to various trades... or their moms and wives wouldn't let them. After a blast on my bugle, Nick read the actual proclamation penned by US President James Madison in 1812. Only a few people were impressed. Well, "God save the Republic" anyway!

Soldiers of the Republic! We've liberated the poutine wagon!
(For the uninitiated, poutine is a French-Canadian dish of french fried potatoes, cheese curd, and a sweetish brown gravy.
Tasty and artery-blocking; just the thing for a cold winter's dinner!)

Kevin, the ol' first sergeant, Nick, and Tyler in a photo taken by the tourist board.
We look pretty good, in my opinion.
The building behind us is the original railroad station which is an architectural gem and is still being restored.
As the day wore on, Andy had to leave because of other commitments, but the rest of us struck camp about 7:00pm. It was a good day;  we got to talk to folks and educate on the local history. We got to burn some powder and drill some young folks. We met some army cadets who were quite interested in what we were doing. We added some 'colour' to the festival and we supported the home town. Since we see ourselves as a community group with a educational role, we fulfilled our purpose. And we had fun, which is our REAL purpose for doing this!

Another volley... Make ready! Take aim! Fire!

A misfire! Andy's musket had some trouble during the day.
Again you can see Tyler in the red coatee of the 10th Royal Veterans Battalion.

Our full camp under the small fly.

A family looks over the equipment and tries on some of the head gear.

The look on the little girl's face is enough reward for what we do.
Every so often, a railroad handcart would pass by. It was fun to see and we considered walking up and "commandeering" it, but we never got around to it. We think they were selling rides from the far end of the property to down where we were.

Last and least, your humble blogger, as he takes a breather. It wasn't too hot but the uniform always makes me perspire.

"A face for radio and a voice for print."

Another view of the 5700, since it is a railroad-themed festival.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Pike & Shotte while on holiday

Saturday, I was not "otherwise engaged" so Martin and I took our periodic grudge match to the table at the Hamilton Road Games Group. Bear assisted me with my Swedish army and Martin's French were on the table with Kevin joining in later in the game. We used Warlord Games' Pike & Shotte rules.
We realized that a good portion of both of our armies were actually Germans. The French (with Martin standing in as "The Red Eminence") hired loads of German mercenaries. The Swedes under Gustav Adolph did as well and also hired Scots. The odd part of this game is that during the "French phase" of the Thirty Years War, the Swedish army was bankrolled by the French who wanted to keep the Hapsburg power in check, even though one might think that the Catholic French would not side with the Lutheran Swedes. By that time in the war, it was all power politics and religion was far down the list.
We laid out just about equal armies, while both acknowledging that the Swedes should have been outnumbered. Martin had just purchased the Thirty Years War supplement, The Devil's Playground, and that allowed some special rules for the Swedish army (like salvo firing for the infantry) and reconfigured the army list a bit. The Swedes are limited in how many cuirassiers they can have on the table, but the supplement added a category of "Swedish light horse" to the list - actually cuirassiers with lightened armour. The number of Finnish Hakapelli regiments is increased, although I only took one. Much of Martin's cavalry were the heavily armoured cuirassiers but my lighter horse can countercharge when attacked. We were not able to try out the salvo rules due to circumstances.

The Swedes had the first move and I attempted to throw my flank guards out quickly. Bear's left flank horse and arquibusiers moved well as did the medium guns of the artillery. My infantry moved slowly, but my right flank guards of cavalry skirmishers, Finn, and Scots, refused to move. It's so annoying when an entire battaglia "falls asleep." This continued later into the game.

Martin's French infantry advance in column while his German regiments advance in line of battle.
In Pike & Shotte, column does not move quicker, but it will always move at least one move even if the battaglia commander fails his command roll.

Bear's artillery and Gustavus Adolphus with his bodyguard of the day.

My Swedish infantry attempted to advance in column.
The commander failed his command roll a few times, but I forgot about the "move anyway" ability of the column.

Bear's cavalry of the near left flank - Cuirassiers and Swedish light horse.

My right flank - mounted skirmishers, Hakapelli (with the sky blue flag) and mercenary horse.

The advance of both sides was ponderous at best. Martin's right soon engaged Bear's cavalry. I wasn't clear on an order and the Swedish cuirassiers came up to menace the French-paid German infantry. I had wanted them to go the other way, but it turned out all right and was probably for the best. The Germans soon formed hedgehog and the French regiments did the same soon after. Bear moved his guns to the edge of the central hill but since they were medium guns, they never did get the range on the French army. Martin's artillery was similarly less than effective for the most part. My light battalion guns never even got into range since the infantry wouldn't move!

Martin's German troops

The bodyguard follows the general and the artillery.

Martin's far right wing faces Bear's far heavier cavalry. Those are Croat hussars 'way out by the edge of the table.

Bear moved the cuirassiers and the Swedish light horse to the right. I hoped they would move to the left and crush Martin's wing, but this actually worked out better since it imtimidated all the infantry. If I could've moved the Swedish infantry up, their battalion guns and salvo firing musketeers would have made mincemeat of Martin's foot troop.
That was not to be.

French troops form the classic hedgehog at the command of their great captain, Turenne.

The Hand of God resets a German pike-and-shot regiment. Bear's one cuirassier unit menaces the battalion gun in the background. The dice keep track of unit casualties.
When my right flank cavalry woke up ("Good mornin', boys. Coffee and herring perhaps?"), I realized where Martin had placed his cuirassiers - right, just in front of my skirmishers, mercenary harquibusiers, Hakapelli, and commanded Scots shot. I was in trouble. My skirmishers engaged Martin's and my troops threw Martin's back. As I continued to move forward, the next move's command roll was "12" - Box-cars - a blunder! Oy vey! The entire wing had to move to the right, which took the skirmisher and the mercenary cavalry off the table. I guess they had a dental appointment or something. Anyway those two units were lost to me, leaving the Hakapelli and the commanded shot holding the bag. I was able to send a small unit of dragoons to their aid but it was too little, too late.

French and Swedish cavalry skirmishers fight. Martin's troops are proper TYW harquebusiers firing from the saddle.
My unit is ECW Scots dragoons who will be used for this purpose.

After the skirmishers and the mercenaries fell of the edge of the world, the Finns grimly held the line.

Swedish dragoons changed direction, crossed the ford, and attempted to add something to the right flank.
By this point in the battle, Bear's command on the left was a bit scattered, but was also threatening the French infantry. My guns were out of range and my infantry had just started to slowly advance. (Low command rolls, but at least they were moving.) My right was in trouble, but a forest there made for a bottle neck without a ford behind it that would coup up the French cavalry if it came on.

The swirling cavalry melee on the left swirls on.

Heavy-weight French cavalry facing much-lighter right flank.

Finally the infantry decides to move... and they weren't even mercenaries on strike!
(Irish pikes from my ECW Irish Conferate army impressed by the Swedish part of my brain.)

Bear's cuirassiers take on one of Martin's battalion guns. Hail shot was too much for the horse and they fell back,
but in decent order at least.

The cavalry reserve eyes the French hedgehogs, hoping for a break.

Bear's German mercenary cavalry had turned to face Martin's German mercenary cavalry which had originally turned to face some Swedish light horse that broke and took off. There was more fighting to come out here.
It was getting on to cerfew time at the library, so we called it. The centres of either army were hardly engaged. The Swedish left was in good shape and the cuirassiers were busily (although a bit impotently) threatening the French infantry. The Swedish infantry was taking it's bloody time coming up while the Swedish right was in serious trouble. It probably was a draw at best. And it was fun - always the best part.

Lessons learned:
  • Don't forget the rules, especially when they actually allow you to move!
  • Our tables are probably too wide. We should start further in.
  • The Swedish strengthd are aggression and fire power. The salvo rule permits them to fire just as they charge then come on with pike and musket butt. I want to see it happen; it should be messy. The same thing with Swedish artillery; it's lighter and has to move closer to be in any way effective.
  • Gustavus Adolphus can cause and entire battaglia/brigade/division to move with a "Follow Me!" order. I've got to do that.
There will be a next time. I told Martin I wanted to play some time using my O'Neill's Irish from the Great Rebellion of the 1590's. Yes, the shot are arquebus armed, but the galloglaich could make things interesting.

No gaming for a while with a number of reenactments and previous engagements coming up.

One final photo of Martin's French regiments... who are actually French serving France with French command.