The feast of St. Crispian and this wargamer’s life.

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Alan and Michael Perry’s amazing diorama in the Royal Armoury to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Agincourt. 

October 25th is the anniversary of Agincourt, fought in 1415, 601 years ago.  Agincourt is one of the best remembered of all British battles, one that recalls good King Hal with his tattered band of yeomen drowning a vastly superior French army in a sea of mud, while raining down a storm of arrows that left the French broken, dispirited and leaderless. That’s all hokum of course, according to the new research about the Hundred Years War and this most English of battles.

But this post isn’t to revisit Agincourt and our changing perceptions of the battle, it’s really about me. I don’t claim to know everything about the battle.  In fact, I’m regularly confronted with the fact that I know little.  But learning about Agincourt set me on a road I remain happy to follow: a healthy obsession with the Hundred Years War I play out in reading and miniature wargaming.

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My battered 1976 copy of the Face of Battle. It wlll be the last book I ever part with. 

No work influenced my connection to this period more than John Keegan’s 1976 book, the Face of Battle.  Intended to be a look inside battle, from the soldier’s perspective, Keegan devoted about 37 pages to breaking down the experience of archers, men-at arms, and horsemen at the battle.  Drawing from mostly secondary sources, Keegan’s observations were vivid.  Though measured against today’s writing, it may seem wholly incorrect, The Face of Battle drew me into the period and put Agincourt on my list of must do’s.

I read Keegan’s book in 1978, the summer I graduated from college.  It is about this time I also plunged fully into miniature wargaming. Surprisingly, or maybe not, I didn’t leap headlong into the HYW in miniatures.  My friends and I played Napoleonics in 15mm, WRG Ancients, again in 15mm. Later I did George Gush’s Renaissance rules, Lynn Bodin’s Imperialim, my first flirtation with 25mm figures. But no Agincourt.

In 1989 I saw Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V. And then I saw it again.  I bought it on VHS, I have it on DVD.  I can stream it on Netflix. It is not historically accurate, but the words mean so much to me. Whether it is Exeter reminding the Dauphin that young King Henry has matured and will “make your Paris Louvre” shake with gunstones, or the brilliance of the Crispian’s Day address, it still gives me chills. I’ve watched it at least a hundred times. Maybe I’ll watch it today, make it an even 101. If you’ve never watched Branagh at his finest, it’s here for you to view. If you don’t want to become one of his “band of brothers,” check to see if you have a heartbeat.

I began my Hundred Years War project at least 15 years ago.  I have more figures painted for it than any other, and far more unpainted miniatures than for any other period. I’ve hosted skirmish games and chevauchees.  I’ve run naval battles.  My goal is play Poitiers, rather than Agincourt, because the circumstances of the more famous battle are so difficult to recreate on the game table. While I have plenty of unpainted figures, I really want to take advantage of the new Perry plastics, which have the dual virtues of being beautiful AND cheap.

Though I’ve given up on Agincourt as a game, without my exposure to it, the passion that will always inspire me for the period would never have begun. What began with Keegan and Branaugh continues with Jonathan Sumption and Anne Curry, with the superb miniatures by the Perry brothers, and watching my friend Chris Craft roll his beautiful miniatures out on the table to play Verneuil, and of course, Agincourt itself.

Like most wargamers, I am easily distracted.  My interests change with the moment-new rules, new miniatures, what my friends are doing–but my desire to continue with the project, paint what I have and more, find new ways to game the Hundred Years War, will never die.

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A few of my favorite projects

As Quetzacoatl Rampant begins to wind down, I’ve already started looking at some of many unfinished projects and what to work on next.  I’ve promised myself I won’t start anything new until at least next summer. My copy of The Men Who Would Be King, the next installment by Lion Rampant creator Daniel Mersey, arrived from Amazon yesterday.  I’m pretty sold on the Sudan Campaigns with all the various elements from Hicks to Kitchener, maybe even Tel-el-Kebir.

Another project, probably need like a hole-in-the-head.  I’ve done started lots of projects.  Parted with many of them too. 15mm WWII-couple of them-gone, sold them both. 15mm ACW, gave them a good home to an old friend. 15mm WRG Ancients and Renaissance-parted with decades ago. I only have a couple of 15mm projects anymore.  I have 30+ DBA armies I haven’t played with in years, plus a few unpainted for good measure. There is my 15mm Spanish Civil War army I’d like to rebase and perhaps play Osprey’s A World Aflame. I also have a bucket of 15mm fantasy figures I always intended to make into a Middle-Earth campaign built around the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

But my heart is really set in my 28mm projects.  I have more than I wish to name.  All of them have importance to me, and together with various air and naval projects will be what keeps me in the hobby until I can no longer see well enough to paint.

Even so, I have some favorites that are finished or nearly so, sort of. Maybe. Here are six in no particular order:

Cogs

In 2011 I was utterly consumed by the Hundred Years War.  Today I only have an unhealthy obsession. While reading and painting anything I could get my hands on, I decided I ignored the naval aspects of the conflict and needed to do something about it.  After all there were the naval battles at Winchelsea and La Rochelle, and the decisive engagement at Sluys. I set out to acquire some very nice cog miniatures available from Outpost games.  Unfortunately they were about 3.5 pounds apiece, and needing about 80 or more ships began to consider a better way.

I decided to build them myself.  In the winter and spring of 2011 I did exactly that. I set up a cog shipyard, building nearly 100 ships.  I also built a half dozen galleys and all the terrain for the scenario.  British author David Manley graciously provided me with a beta copy of his medieval naval rules, and I was off to the races.  It was a wonderful accomplishment.  We playtested it once, ran it at Enfilade, and used the ships in a medieval naval campaign at Dave Schueler’s house for his annual naval games.  Just got to get those babies out some more.

It is a completed project that was all my own work.  Perhaps my proudest moment in the hobby.

Lewis and Clark and the Great Spanish-American War 1797-1810

No, there really wasn’t a Spanish American War 1797-1810.  But there could have been.  This project came about because I had another unhealthy obsession, the Lewis and Clark expedition from about 1997-2010.  After some reading Donald Jackson’s Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and running across the authorization of a Spanish force to arrest Captain Lewis and his followers, I decided there was a game in it. I tried it with mixed success at Enfilade and Drumbeat.

But the project really grew further reading about the Burr Conspiracy, the treason of General James Wilkinson, and some additional stuff about the Spanish frontier in America.  The country was so close to war with Spain before and after the purchase of Louisiana Territory, why not put together some forces for a hypothetical conflict.  I put together some Chickasaw allies for Spain, hundreds of militia for the Americans, and regulars for both sides. I also added some home built terrain.  The crowning glory was the game based on the Burr Conspiracy I hosted at Enflade in 2013.  It was simply the most interesting game I’ve ever run.

I have about 200 Indians, Spanish and Americans left to paint for this period.  I should probably just get ’em done.  Don’t see adding to it, though.

Any project with Daveshoe

I am blessed with some really wonderful friends.  Almost all of them are gamers of one stripe or another.  But our friendships go deeper than the gaming table. Dave Schueler is one of those guys. Whether we are talking games, baseball, politics or life in general, Dave is someone I want to grab a beer and hang out with.

We’ve done projects together for Enfilade at least the last ten years, and all of them have been memorable.  Dave is so much better at designing games than anybody I know.  If I have a harebrained idea, he can usually build a game around it that is balanced with intriguing options for both sides.  He is amazing.  And when I say projects together, I’m mostly the painting mule, because that’s what I’m good at-though Dave does his share and more.

The Channel Dash, the air attack on the Tripitz, a naval action in the Straits of Hormuz, hydroplane and air racing, these are some of the projects Dave and I have worked on together.  My favorite, however, is the 1942 Raid on St. Nazaire we hosted at Enfilade 2014.  We discussed it for years, usually over beers at the Elliott Bay Brewery in conversations that began, “Ya know, we outta . . .” The result-I became very familiar with the shade of paint known as Mountbatten Pink, and the game won best raid-themed game at the convention.

One last thing, Dave is always there to help me run games at the convention.  He always knows what I’ve got going on, and helps gamers walk through my crazy schemes.  He was there for the Burr Conspiracy game, a diplomacy/miniatures game which only allowed written diplomatic communications.  He helped out David Sullivan and I with our Fort Pickens game last year, an attempt at a convention style Ironclads game with simplified fort rules. Both went surprisingly well, but chiefly because we had extra hands.

We haven’t discussed plans for 2017, but I’m sure we will.  I think I have one more slot open. Maybe we should re-run an oldie but goody. There are so many to choose from. Nothing left to paint at the present time, except a dozen hydroplanes.  But there could be . . .

Mars and the Red Captains

I don’t know how many years ago it was, maybe as many as twenty, Mark Waddington and I began talking about our unpainted collection of RAFM figures for Frank Chadwick’s Space 1889 Soldier’s Companion Rules.  About ten years ago, or maybe longer, we agreed to get after it and turn it into a game.  All it took was a partner to really get me going.  I painted all my minis and got them ready to play.  But Mark was the true evil genius.  All I can do is paint, but Mark made the toys and caught the eyes not only of gamers, but of Frank Chadwick himself.  Museum quality air ships, steam tanks, earth-boring vehicles all magically appeared at his finger tips like so many shiny quarters

We were hosting games at Dragonflight, ConQuest, and Enfilade and regularly attracting crowds.  Games of 18 or 20 or more gamers would show up at our tables begging to play, with the two of us running games-we couldn’t swat ’em away. The game at Enfilade, however long ago, had 22 players, four GM’s and is the only non-historical game to win Best in Show.

But more than that, the Martian games really created a cottage industry of mostly South Sound gamers who wanted in on the fun.  We hosted regular games supported by guys who were quietly, but rapidly amassing their own RAFM, Parroom Station.  Venusians, Martians, European allies, various mechanicals, even Gene Anderson’s efforts to do the 1/1200 Sky Galleons of Mars in 28mm are all by-products of this project.  All the interested parties called ourselves “The Red Captains” for those non Martians seeking fame and fortune on the Red Planet.

Though our ardor has cooled a bit over the past few years, the interest never dies. Gene’s work was the last big thing, until our efforts to put together gunboat rules for the Canals this summer.  Still a project I’m proud to be a part of. Almost all of my stuff is painted.  About 40 figures of flying Martians left to complete, and a unit of steam-powered mechanical horse.  Less than 50 figures in all.

Hydroplanes

You almost have to be a native Northwesterner to understand my passion for this racing game.  It grew out of an air racing game designed post-9/11 when we were looking for a non-lethal game to run at The Museum of Flight. It morphed into hydroplane racing while a group of us were sitting around one Sunday afternoon at Enfilade, waiting patiently for the crowds to disperse.

Dave Schueler designed the game around a simple series of choices gamers could make constructing their hydroplane and driver, and in-game choices driven by probability as the game progressed.  I love running it.  I love playing it.  But most of all I love painting boats and promoting it to others. We’ve been fortunate to see the game played in other places, including the U.K., learned of through blog posts and other ‘net sources.

I really want to run a game at Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Museum in Kent.  I’d paint pretty much any boat I can.  I have twelve unpainted boats at the moment, including classic ’50’s and 60’s boats and the 70’s pickleforks.

The Hundred Years War

I’ve gone through various phases with the HYW.  I am completely fascinated with the history.  Every time there is a new book available I snap it up.  It is interesting, it is complex, and it has constantly evolving scholarship.  More than any other period, I am completely hooked.

That said, I’ve been working away on figures for this period for a decade or more.  By far, I have more figures for the Hundred Years War than any other period–probably 600 painted figures, with maybe another 400 unpainted. I started with semi-skirmish, looking for rules that would allow me to do some hundreds of small actions of the period.  I cobbled together a homegrown set of rules called Arrowstorm, mostly inspired by Arte Conliffe’s Tactica Medieval Siege rules. But then Lion Rampant happened, and I was completely sold on those rules with their ease of play and interesting quirky randomness.

But my real desire is to build, not only my semi-skirmish, singly mounted, armies, but armies for large scale battles.  My dream is to do Poitiers, 1356.  I have a fair number of multi-figure based units, but lots more are needed.  I also need a set of rules I’m comfortable with that take into consideration the uniqueness of the period. Medieval combat mostly gets rolled into ancients rules that mash everything together and decide that Mauryan Indian longbows that fought against Alexander the Great at the Hydaspes and 14th Cenury English bows are the same,  and had the same tactical use. I think that’s stupid and lazy. So I’ll probably end up doing something on my own. I’ve run a sample example using a Fire and Fury engine.  It didn’t work well first time out of the box–another game Daveshoe helped me with.  I’d like to try it again.

Literally hundreds of figures left to paint, and I can see myself acquiring more of the Perry plastics that are recently released.

There are lots more projects I didn’t write about-American Revolution, Maxmillian in Mexico, ACW Naval, air and coastal gaming.  I love them all, but I’ve already blathered on too long.

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Bins of stuff that needs paint 

 

 

 

Regimental Fire and Fury in the 100 Years War: Playtest One

Marshal Clermont tries to coax his shaken mounted men-at-arms across the hedge to attack the English dismounted knights.  They don't seem to want to follow.

Marshal Clermont tries to coax his shaken mounted men-at-arms across the hedge to attack the English dismounted knights. They don’t seem to want to follow.

As promised, I’ve been tinkering with a set of rules for the Hundred Years War.  I turned to a set of rules I really like, Regimental Fire and Fury and purloined some of their rules engine to help me move this project forward.

There are some basic principles I wanted to incorporate in my big battle rules.

  1. Longbow fire was devastating but not in the way many believe.  It wasn’t masses of bowmen shooting and Frenchmen suddenly dying–unless you happened to be lightly armored troops like crossbowmen.
  2. The effect of longbow fire was to render the French knights, on foot or horseback, less effective (well sort of, horsemen mostly died.) They would slow, clump together, close their visors, be less aware to flank attacks, raise their shields against the rain of arrows-they might be pounded by arrows, but most would be deflected by armorer, though some would find soft spots, wounding and in some cases killing.
  3. The real killing would happen when the French went into melee, impaired by their pounding, blundered into the English lines as an ineffective mass–unable to fight their waiting English cousins and would be dispatched accordingly.

What I hoped to capture with my rules was this idea that English bow fire could be very tough on the French, without masses of stand removal.

I’m not sure I did that.

Yesterday I met Dave Schueler at Game Matrix in Tacoma.  I set up the English behind hedge on top of a hill a la Poitiers with one flank covered by a stream and a marsh.  We played on an 8 X 5 table, which was probably too wide for the number of figures I had.  I ran the English, of course, and Dave ran the French.  He had two units of mounted knights, three units of dismounted knights, a couple of units of crossbows and a unit of town militia, rated as light infantry.

The English had three units of dismounted knights, a unit of Welsh foot, rated as light infantry, four units of longbows and a small unit of Gascon crossbowmen.

Together it represents everything I have painted–I need more.

Dave started his advance to dislodge me from my position, knowing that charging across the hedge line offered a significant tactical advantage.  As Dave advanced, I began firing my longbows from their position on either flank.

The two chief “engines” I used from the Fire and Fury rules were the Maneuver Chart and building of the fire around target quality rather than the shooter. I did change a couple of things.  I did not use the Fresh/Worn/Spent designations, and instead gave a simple -1 for each stand loss on the maneuver chart.  Rather, a unit would be in good order/disorder/shaken based on fire and melee combat results.

Dave had no difficulty moving his fresh units, but in defensive fire, began to suffer disorder from long range fire.  More fire in my movement phase was pretty ineffective, mostly because of bad die rolling.  As Dave advanced, his horse increasingly took a pounding, I seemed to have a few really great die rolls and a bunch of really stinky ones.  But it was enough to shut down the French advance.  Only one of Dave’s dismounted knights made it to the hedge.  It was untargeted by bow fire, but became disordered as it crossed the defended obstacle.  The defenders had a slight advantage and the roll off was also close resulting in a repulse.  At that point the French attack stalled out.

The results were a bunch of shaken and bloodied French units and the English relatively untouched.  We talked through some changes to the fire table, and I’m thinking about additional fire changes.  I made allowance for an arrow storm rule that wasn’t needed under the current structure of fire, so I need to look at that too. But Dave suggested not making too many changes at once, because it becomes unclear whether the correct problem is being dealt with. But in most respects I feel like I’m on the right track. Movement rates and missile ranges seemed to work. It was an encouraging beginning and I hope to try it again soon.

My silly Welshman moving out on the flank are about to be shot full of crossbow bolts.  Mostly took this as a look at the battlefield from the flank.

My silly Welshman moving out on the flank are about to be shot full of crossbow bolts. Mostly took this as a look at the battlefield from the flank.

Upcoming Hundred Years War Titles

I’m kind of in a leaving my books alone moment.  I haven’t bought any in almost a year, and find myself with plenty to read.  But out on the horizon are some must have Hundred Years War titles.

Before I leap into discussing the books and their importance, let me just offer this warning.  Act fast. These will be limited pressings on small publishers and when they are gone, they’re gone.  Case in point: Edward III and the War at Sea: The English Navy 1327-1377 by Graham Cushway snuck under my radar when it was published in 2011.  But at 200 or so pages, this extremely useful sounding book was probably a lot less than its current $98-$115 price tag.  Don’t miss out because you didn’t act quickly enough.  Both titles are on my Amazon Wish Lists.

The first book that will come out is Henry V’s Navy: The Sea Road to Agincourt and Conquest  There are bajillions of books on Agincourt, fewer on the Conquest, but none focus on Henry V’s naval campaign.  Though there was an active naval campaign throughout the Hundred Years War, simply mounting a new land campaign in France became a gigantic naval undertaking for the English.  By the end of Richard II’s reign in 1399, the English navy, through relentless budget cuts by parliament, ceased to exist.  Learning about English shipbuilding under Henry V, as well as assembling the 1,500 ships necessary to move the English army to Harfleur in 1415 would be fascinating. This book will be released February 1, 2016.

The second book tackles a well-known topic, the Battle of Crecy.  But is it really the battle we think it is. Americans Michael Livingston and Kelly DeVries have edited The Battle of Crecy: A Casebook.  This book will re-examine over 80 contemporary sources from the Battle of Crecy, and most importantly, challenges the traditionally held site of the battle, placing it more than five miles from the currently believed site.  In his biography of Edward III, Richard Barber acknowledged the lack of certainty about the battle site,  This is some serious shit.  It challenges what we know about the topography of the battlefield and how it must have influenced the English defense and how Philip VI must have committed his troops to action.  This book was released earlier this month in England.  It is scheduled for an April 1 2016 release in the States.  Trust me, it will not last long. $101.62 in hardcover, $36.43 in paperback. I’d keep an eye on it too, the release on Amazon doesn’t seem certain.

What’s on Your Painting Table

Baueda's medieval tent for 28 mm.  Try not to look too carefully a the markings.  Not my finest moment.

Baueda’s medieval tent for 28 mm. Try not to look too carefully a the markings. Not my finest moment.

I finished the Miami earlier than planned, so I took on a couple of new tasks.  The first was painting up a Medieval fancy, schmancy tent for my Poitiers army.  It is in colors for Prince Edward at that same battle.  It’s the 28mm offering by Baueda.  The chief colors are Vallejo Vermillion and Vallejo Prussian Blue.  I practically brush my teeth with these colors, I use ’em so much.  The yellow is Vallejo Deep Yellow.  The cover is lined with Purpleheart Red, also by Vallejo.  It wasn’t super hard to paint, or even particularly time consuming, but let’s just say I rushed through the heraldry and am not too happy with the yellow lions. But if you look at it from a distance . . . The miniature is nice, as Baueda stuff tends to be.  I’d like to have three of these for each side.  Of course, if there was a wargaming god of fairness, Baueda would make a 28mm version of their awesome King’s pavilion. I still need to add the Prince’s standard.

I also got my next little project ready to go.  I’ll be painting the

Perry's excellent Volunteers of Ireland.  I'm anxious to paint these guys.

Perry’s excellent Volunteers of Ireland. I’m anxious to paint these guys.

excellent Perry Miniatures version of the Volunteers of Ireland.  This Loyalist unit served in the South in the British army and appeared in a number of “my battles,” including Hobkirk’s Hill and Eutaw Springs.  As you can see, their uniform is unusual with the tall leather cap and the Brandenburg lace.  Haven’t gotten much further than priming and mounting the fellas for painting, but I’ll keep you posted.

Troiani print of the Volunteers of Ireland

Troiani print of the Volunteers of Ireland

And Now For Your Listening Pleasure

About 15 years ago I picked up a used cd copy of Waiting For Columbus by Little Feat.  I absolutely loved it and have moments when I just blare it from my car or at home.  It’s one of the few records I purchased to duplicate my cd when I ratcheted up my vinyl collection in February.  But dang it, Little Feat just doesn’t sound a lot like that live album.  The songs are the same, but Waiting is just a little over the top, with for focus on the instrumental jams, something that lead singer Sailin' ShoesLowell George really didn’t like.

If you want to hear a more typical Little Feat record, grab a copy of Sailin’ Shoes. It was their second album, and is a great mix of musical styles-country, blues, folk and rock. My favorite song is a “Tripe Face Boogie” which has a lot of energy and is fun.  But one of the band’s trademark songs, recorded by everybody seemingly, is “Willin.” The rest of the record is very good too, with contributions from George and the rest of the band. A very pleasant listen while painting medieval heraldry.

Dipping your toe in the Lion Rampant pond.

If you’re thinking about trying out these rules, whether you have stuff or not, I hope, with this post, to offer some guidance to you.

First, a bit about my decision to go with this game rather than another. I am the owner of some 500 singly mounted Hundred Years War figures.  I have more than a hundred painted longbowmen.  I have more than a hundred painted dismounted men-at-arms.  I can field seven units of foot sergeants and multiples of most other units from this conflict.  I am also a devoted student of the period.  My interest in these rules was only natural.  All I needed was to try them out to see if they met some simple requirements

  1. Were they easy to play?  Could I easily run them at a convention with folks who didn’t know them at all?  The answer was a simple yes. I’ve played with at least a dozen of my gaming friends. Of those only one has had a less than enthusiastic response.
  2. Were they suitable for making well thought out scenarios?  I didn’t want a game that was really designed for head to head games.  Again, I’ve tried several multi-player games and have reported on the Agen scenario.  I’ll likely run that one at Enfilade, together with a second scenario based on the 1340 raid on the Boulogne docks.

I find Lion Rampant to be a great set of rules.  Of course, I feel fully prepared to play them with figures, high interest and research material galore.  What if I wasn’t?  How could I get started?

First, some basic parameters.  If you’re interested in refighting Agincourt, or Bannockburn, or Mortgarten, these are not the rules you want.  These are small unit actions.  No archers behind stakes, no Flemings defending ditches, no massive schiltrons of Scots spearmen driving foolish English knights into swamps. Those troop types might be available to you, but they won’t quite function the way they would in large formations. I confess I haven’t quite found the right set of rules for fighting big battles in the late middle ages, but Lion Rampant won’t do the trick either.

I always worry about the cost of rules sets. Rules books that cost forty or fifty bucks really annoy me.  They better come with their own electronic service like Siri to answer my questions, a useful painting guide, complete army lists and an introduction by Anne Curry.    Worse than rule books that cost forty or fifty bucks are rule books that cost forty or fifty bucks and will require the forty or fifty dollar expansion or two.  I don’t care what the logic is, it’s ridiculous and inexcusable.

If you’re worried about the cost of Lion Rampant, you can buy it at your local game store for $17.95.  You can order it at Amazon for $13.62.  You can order it for your Kindle or Kindle ap for $10.49.  I bought two.

What do you get for your dough? A complete set of mechanically simple, grammatically clean set of rules. There are some quirks to the game, but nothing that is unreasonable or unfathomable.  There are a plethora of handy color plates and game photos.  There are eleven troop types and 40 sample retinues to muster them into. Finally there are twelve sample scenarios. That’s a lot for less than twenty bucks.

This is a highly adaptable rules set.  Though the sample retinues cover England all the way to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Thomas Mallory Arthurian legend, there is definitely room for more.  I see these rules as something to experiment with, as many did with The Sword and the Flame. A friend has been playing Korea and Japan.  I plan to build something around the Spanish conquest of  Mexico.  It should work for any region up through the early gunpowder age. Not only that, but author Daniel Mersey is highly accessible, regularly answering questions on a Lion Rampant forum on BoardGameGeek.

So what is the cost to get in on Lion Rampant? Units are either six figures or twelve figures.  I’d suggest starting out with a retinue which is usually 4-6 units.  If your army is infantry-heavy, like the Swiss you’ll need more figures, say 60 figures.  If you have expensive troops, like the English you’d have fewer, say 42.  Armies with cavalry like the French Hundred Years War army, the Normans or the Ottoman Turks makes an army more costly in real dollars. Be sure what you buy fits in with your friends, and is an army you are really interested in.

There are lots of great figure manufacturers for the Hundred Years War.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Old Glory Miniatures–They have a huge range for this period.  They are relatively inexpensive per figure, especially if you are an Old Glory Army member. They are also quite nice and draw a distinction between the early period of this war (say until 1380) and later.  The drawback is that you have to buy the figures in pretty large quantities.

Front Rank Miniatures–A very nice range of miniatures for the Hundred Years WAr and the Wars of the Roses.  The range is older, so not tons of variety between figures of the same type, but a huge range of troop and armor types.  The mounted figures are really awesome.  They also have some great accessories and wagons. The downside is their size.  They are huge.  They don’t mix well with other manufacturers in the same unit.

Crusader Miniatures–Some great figures, but not tons of different troop types.  Sized well, all the major troop types are covered. Some very nice command figures too.

Perry Miniatures–The Agincourt to Orleans range is geared strictly for about 50 years of the conflict. Absolutely stunning miniatures, but a little spendy. The Perrys have a number of plastic boxed sets that are super reasonable covering the Wars of the Roses.  They plan to release an English boxed set for Agincourt to Orleans before Christmas (hark, I hear sleigh bells.)

Before I close, I’d simply add that no I am not an Osprey employee, nor do I hang out with Dan Mersey.  I do believe this is a great set of rules. Not perfect, and with limitations that are clearly stated.  If you believe you’d enjoy a skirmish set of rules for the late middle ages, these may work for you.  They definitely work for me and my interest in the Hundred Years War.

 

 

Lion Rampant: The Agen Scenario

A quick shot down the 14' board at Game Matrix.  Enough going on to make it look good, without too much clutter.

A quick shot down the 14′ board at Game Matrix. Enough going on to make it look good, without too much clutter.

It’s rare that I’ve fallen utterly in love with a set of rules.  Maybe only one other time.  About twenty years ago I played the original Fire and Fury Rules for American Civil War and I continue to believe they were the most influential rules set in my life.

But, for the moment, at least, I am consumed by Daniel Mersey’s Lion Rampant, published by Osprey. In my previous post I mentioned my idea for a game involving a raid on a small town, a castle and too many troops.  Yesterday, with the help of many friends we tried it out.  It was sort of like buying an awesome car-maybe one of the new Chevy Camaros. It looks cool.  It sure drives nice between Tacoma and Seattle, but you really need to get it over the pass on a trip to the Gorge to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to air it out and see what you’ve got.  Yesterday was our trip to the Gorge.

First of all the basics:

  • This was a scenario based game-cooperative in the sense the three French players and three English players had to decide on a plan.
  • The table was 5′ X 14′. That was the table mix available at Game Matrix so I went with it.
  • There were three retinues for each side.  None of the retinues were the same.  I have no idea of the total retinue points or quite how even they were.  There was one additional retinue composed of four serf units.whose primary mission was to stay alive. All in all, there were 12 French units, 14 English units and the 4 Serf units for a total of 30 units on the table.
  • The game was played “out of the box” with one exception I’ll get to shortly.  I did add some rules to the scenario.  The rules were chiefly added to allow the English to sack the settled areas on the table.  These included rules for looting and burning. There was also a rule that allowed peasants to panic and flee toward the castle, violating the 3″ ZOC around French units.
  • Each side earned victory points-the English chiefly for destroying/looting/killing, the French for saving property and killing English.  The French also received points for killing Englishmen, of course, the peasants, scored separately, won points for stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive, ah, ah, ah ah, stayin’ aliiiiiiive. (sorry couldn’t help myself.)

The game was large and pretty elaborate.  I made sure to get to the shop as early as I could and allow about an hour’s set up.  I used two buildings for each of two. I put the castle on a hill near the three building town.

One of the English retinues.  Five units 54 figures is a pretty typical retinue size for Lion Rampant.

One of the English retinues. Five units 54 figures is a pretty typical retinue size for Lion Rampant.

The English forces, who had a pretty complex bunch of tasks to choose from, were allowed to set up 6″ from each of the three settled areas.  The French were allowed to set up 18″ on to the table. The challenge for the English was to make a plan from a variety of point scoring options, and fight off the French.

Though there was complexity in the scenario, the game devolved mostly into retinue on retinue combat, though the English were also burdened with devoting time and resources to looting and burning. On the English left, things went badly, mostly through bad die rolls. The French attacked with their cavalry, eventually destroying the English unit of mounted knights and killing the leader.  The English couldn’t activate their archers, and failed key courage tests. Though they were able to burn one of two structures, they couldn’t make key die rolls when needed.

English retinue in the center comprised three units of dismounted men-at arms, two units of expert foot sergeants and a unit of bidowers. Nasty stuff, but they faced supporting fire from the castle.

English retinue in the center comprised three units of dismounted men-at arms, two units of expert foot sergeants and a unit of bidowers. Nasty stuff, but they faced supporting fire from the castle.

In the center, the English burned all three buildings in the town, driving the serfs into the castle.  However they suffered from crossbow fire from the castle walls losing a vulnerable unit of bidowers. They also drove off a counterattack from the mounted sergeants coming from the French left.

On the English left, they easily burned the farmstead and held off the French advance.  The French were content to stay away from the English bowmen and siphon some of their mounted troops to the center of the board to support the castle.

We played for about two and a half hours.  All but one of the players had played at least one game of Lion Rampant, but I don’t think anyone had played more than one game. We carefully walked through the first turn, and pretty much after that, players ran on their own, with occasional questions.

A tighter shot of the English assault on Agen town. They successfully drove the peasants out of the buildings and burned them, but didn't try to take the castle. ,

A tighter shot of the English assault on Agen town. They successfully drove the peasants out of the buildings and burned them, but didn’t try to take the castle. ,

We did struggle a bit to keep everyone on the same game turn.  Multi-player games are a bit of a mystery and aren’t covered much in the rules. I set up the game so the English retinues went first, then the serfs, then the French. There was a little more thumb twiddling than I’d like as folks from one end of the table who weren’t involved with combat waited for those who were.

All agreed the rules were fun, the scenario was enjoyable and easy to figure out. The serfs, based on the victory points I’d set up won easily, with the French edging out the English for second. I made some mistakes in the rules that were quickly brought to my attention (gotta work on that.)  This is a scenario I’d really like to run again, and possibly at Enfilade.

English on the left have burned one of the farm structures, while mounted French advance on them.

English on the left have burned one of the farm structures, while mounted French advance on them.

A couple of quick changes I’d make:

  • Adjustments in the victory points. Not a big deal, that’s why you play test is to make adjustments.
  • Would like a shorter table. 5′ X 14′ was too long, 5′ X 12′ would probably be optimal.  5′ X 10′ would probably be crowded.
On the French left, a unit of crossbowmen huddle, unsure of what to do against the English

On the French left, a unit of crossbowmen huddle, unsure of what to do against the English

For myself, I never looked forward to running a game as much as this one.  I had my troops perfectly organized to pull out of boxes.  There was plenty of terrain-Barbs Bunker vineyards and fields, Pegasus and Miniature Building Authority buildings including a castle with a breached wall. I wrote over two thousand words worth of retinue charts and scenario notes.  I painted 24 figures worth of foot sergeants in four days. I came home exhausted, but extremely satisfied.  Thanks to all the players-Dean, Bill, Ron, Scott, James, Lawrence and Gene.  They were great to work with and were willing to take the time to debrief the game with me.  Ron pointed out the rules errors I was making-thank you.  It was just a great day.

So, we got that Camaro out of the garage and let it rip.  We drove like mad from North Bend to George, and though the WSP was out in force we didn’t get caught speeding. Petty was awesome and I  can’t wait to do it again.

French sergeants take shelter behind the vineyards.

French sergeants take shelter behind the vineyards.

Lion Rampant Again

English longbowmen confront French mounted troops

English longbowmen confront French mounted troops

402In our neck of the woods (Washington state, Puget Sound region)  many gamers are very interested in Lion Rampant.  For some of us, Lion Rampant is competing with SAGA as a rules set of choice for medieval warfare.

Confession: I am not a fan of competitive, one-on-one rules sets with points-based army lists. I know many of my good friends really do enjoy that gaming environment.  I’m not one of them.  No slam on those who do, but that’s not what it’s about for me.  SAGA is that kind of game.  Lion Rampant could be, with its points-based retinues, but it doesn’t have to be, at least not from my perspective.

I’ve had the good fortune to walk through four games of LR over the past ten days.  I believe the rules can be a very capable vehicle for scenario design.  In each of the games we had multiple players in games-four players, three players, up to eight players.  The games all proceeded fairly quickly through simple scenarios finished in less than two hours, and in some cases even faster.

For those of you just picking up these rules, or trying to decide if this is the rules set for you, there are some important things you should know.

  1. These are skirmish rules.  Though author Daniel Mersey suggests they could be sort of semi-skirmish, they are intended to be 1:1 scale.  Each unit of 6 or 12 figures represents 6 or 12 guys.  They are a collection of dudes, not intending to represent a formation one would find on the battlefield at Agincourt or Tournai.
  2. Mersey uses an interesting device in the rules–a 3″ zone of control around each unit that may not be crossed by friendly or enemy units (unless you are being attacked.)  This keeps the combat unit to unit, and fairly tidy, but it does create some interesting problems. This extra 3″ footprint takes up extra space on the table, likely requiring more room than one would think at this scale. Resist the temptation to toss this requirement.  The 3″ rule is sacrosanct and gives the game real flavor and uniqueness, on the one hand, but it doesn’t complicate the simple, but clear game mechanics
  3. One would think that with such small units on the table it should be easy to throw loads of them out there. Careful. The 3″ footprint does rob lots of valuable space from the tabletop.  I would suggest two 24 point retinues on a 5′ X 4′ table. Four 24 point retinues on an 8′ X 4′ table.  Six 24 point retinues on a table at least 10′ – 12′ long. This is an important  consideration in scenario design.  Most foot units only move 6″ per turn and due to activation rolls may not move much at all in a turn. Mounted Men-at-Arms move 10″ per turn, but are fairly disdainful about moving. Missile fire extends 18″ from the shooter.  So, if you’re counting on your units covering great expanses of the table, think again. And the 3″ zone of control makes it more difficult to throw lots of units into an extended skirmish.
  4. Missile fire can be deadly.  Putting terrain on the table to break up line of sight is critical.

For my purposes, I feel like the rules work well.  In the Hundred Years War there are endless small unit battles in Gascony and Brittany over strong points and market towns. English chevauchees left many small towns in ashes, while local French commanders scratched together troops to drive off the invaders. I have an idea for a raid on town guarded by a derelict castle, though I also fear it may involve too many troops.  We’ll just have to see.

I confess the rules have really captured me. I like it that they are inexpensive.  I like it that the mechanics are easy, though there is some subtlety.  The activation roulette means that no unit alone is queen of the battlefield. Suggested retinues should be considered just that, suggestions subject to contact with history.