Tuesday, March 30, 2010

FoG Illumination Number One

I've been playing Field of Glory relatively regularly now for a little over two years.  I think I have a pretty good grasp of the rules mechanisms (tactics are another matter though), and I can usually get through a game without any references to the rulebook.  But on occasion, a situation will come up in a game, or my opponent will point something out where I realize that the way things actually work is a bit different than what I had been assuming.  Suddenly, this puts a whole different light on how to play the game.  I think of these moments as FoG Illuminations, and I thought it might be interesting to post these experiences here on Sword and Sandal Gaming.  

FoG Illumination Number One

While getting soundly trashed by Mister the King at the HAVOC Field of Glory Tournament, at one point during the game, when I was maneuvering one of his light horse units up against the side table edge, I thought that eventually I would get him to evade off the board there.  For anyone who has played Mr. Iverson, any attrition point loss one can score against him can be a bit of a personal triumph.  But more the fool me!

Matt correctly pointed out that an evading unit does not need to exit the side table edge, or even the opponent's rear edge.  They are only forced to exit the table (resulting in a single attrition point loss) when meeting their own rear edge.  What the rules say is that when an evading battlegroup meets the side or opponent's rear edge of the table, the battlegroup can then "choose to turn 90 degrees and wheel parallel to the table edge in whichever direction is closet to directly away from the chargers".

Wow!  I can't believe that I was playing that incorrectly all this time, and the proper way of doing this gives new meaning to the Parthian shot.  Suddenly, the table is a lot larger for light horse armies than I had realized.  Thanks to Matt - the ultimate master in the use of light horse armies - there is Sword and Sandal's first FoG Illumination.

Monday, March 29, 2010

HAVOC Ancients Revival

The first Field of Glory Ancients Tournament was just held in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, last Sunday, March 27, 2010.  This event was a grand success, with 14 players, all from New England.  There was tons of good sportsmanship, no rules disagreements, and a wide variety of well-painted armies. 

From what I understand, back in the 1980's and 1990's, HAVOC was the location of a well attended Ancients tournament, but in recent years, after a drop in attendance, the tournament vanished from the Ancients gaming calender.  Given the success of this event though, the hope now is that a critical mass of gamers in the New England area has been reached, and that this will represent the revival of a very much missed, gotta-be-there tournament.

My Catalan Company did okay under my generalship.  I won my first game big, but then went on the lose my next two games against two of the best players in the country.  I finished in 8th place out of the field of 14.

The Almughavars move forward accompanied by some Turcopoles

Medieval French were my opponent in the first round.  Although I got the win 25-0, the game was really much more closely contested than the score indicates.  In the center of the battlefield, my opponent massively lost a dice-off between our knight units, one-on-one, and within a turn or two, unfortunately for him, his army completely collapsed.

The climatic battle between the French and Catalan Knights

Unfortunately for me, my big win in the first game meant that in the second round I would have to take on Mr. the King himself, Matt Iverson, playing a really nasty Santa Hermandad army.  As soon as I saw him deploy, I knew that I should have won by a narrower margin in the first round!  It could have been worse though - I did manage to break two of his units (the only player to do so all day), and I think I made him work a little harder than he may have expected to.  At one point before my army collapsed, I thought I might even have a chance to do even more damage, but it turned out Matt was only playing with me, and within several more turns, it was all over but the crying.

The Grand Company just after they thought they might make History...

Even after this trouncing, my score was still high enough to land me on the second table against another top player, Paul Georgian, playing Hundred Years War English (I hate those longbows!)

On top table, Matt faced off against Hussites, an army that I have not yet seen make a tournament appearance for Field of Glory.  It was very refreshing to see this kind of army diversity showing up for a competition.

Jacob Kovel's (of Silver Eagle Wargaming Supplies) Hussites, lined up for battle.

Like most of our friendly game's, Paul's and mine was a knock-down affair, where I did do some damage, but couldn't gather up a win when my knights and armored cavalry refused to make any hits in the key sector of the battle.  The win justifiably went to the English, 14.9 to 5.1.  I'll get you next time, Paul!

For those interested, here are the awards presentation photos:

Tom McMillen receiving the Best Sportsman Award

Hal Edgett gets the Best Painted Army Award

Mr. the King, of course, receives Best General

The Award Winners, Paul Georgian and myself (the organizers get to pose, right?)

So, HAVOC was a great time indeed.  Hopefully it happens again next year, and we pick up a few players from outside New England too.

Next up for Ancients gaming for me...Pointcon, at the United States Military Academy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mirliton Turcopoles

I'm still getting my Catalan Company army ready for the FoG tournament at HAVOC next weekend, and I've just finished a couple of units of Mirliton Turcopoles that I intend to use as its Turkish light horse component.  I had hoped to use these figures as Turcomans in my Syrian States army at Cold Wars, but I didn't finish them in time.  They will still serve that function when I bring the Syrians back out to play with, and I'm sure they will be part of whatever army I use in the "Terror of the Steppes" theme event at this upcoming Historicon.

Below is a photo of how they turned out:

I think these are great figures, like almost everything else that I have seen from Mirliton.  They did require a little assembly since the upper torsos are separate pieces from the bottom, and the lances and shields have to be glued on.  The two-piece torsos are nice though in my opinion, because one can then get some variety in the archery poses.

Although I love the Mirliton figures, I wish they were easier to get.  I don't know of a U.S. distributor, and I ordered these from Venexia Limited in the UK.  The order went off without any snags, but I still prefer not to go overseas if I don't have to.  It would also be nice, given the quality of Mirliton figures, to see the ranges get expanded, but I don't know if that has happened at all recently.

Now to wait and see how these guys will perform for me at HAVOC.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Syrian States - Humdrum at Cold Wars

Although I had a great time at the Cold Wars Field of Glory Armored Knights theme tournament, my performance with the Syrian States was at best mediocre.  Below is the actual list and order of march that I used:

4 stands Turcomans LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Turcomans LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Bedouin LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
4 stands Turcomans LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Turcomans LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Bedouin LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
4 stands Ghilman CV Armored, Superior, Drilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Ghilman CV Armored, Superior, Drilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Ghilman CV Armored, Superior, Drilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Lancers CV, Armored, Superior, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
4 stands Lancers CV, Armored, Superior, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
4 stands Lancers CV, Armored, Superior, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
1 Field Commander
3 Troops Commanders

The theme did not allow for any heavily armored knights.  My thought was to use the Turcomans to protect flanks while shooting at targets of opportunity, the Bedouin to run down light foot, the Ghilman to shoot and scoot against knights, and the lancers as a strike force.  I didn't consider the list optimized primarily since the three lancer cavalry units probably tied up too many points in counterattacking undrilled troops who would find it more difficult to position themselves for flank charges, and I thought the Bedouin light horse lancers, although characterful, wouldn't prove especially useful.  But rather than transferring the points to take more Ghilman and Turcomans (thereby building what would be really only another shooty horse army very similar to all the other ones out there), I thought it would be more fun to play with a force structure more representative of the historical Syrian States armies of the Crusader era in the Middle East - and in that case I just had to add in the cavalry and light horse lancers.

My first game was against Anglo-Normans, skillfully played by my opponent who surprised me by not only bringing the prerequisite offensive spear and medium foot archers, but also a Welsh ally armed with medium foot longbows.  Ouch!  I didn't realized that there was an army with longbows allowed in the theme.  Not the kind of battle groups that my completely mounted force was thrilled to face.  I was forced to keep running away from bad matchups, and when I finally found an opportunity to get a lancer charge into an unit of unprotected medium longbow, standing in the open, without taking any shooting damage on the way in, they whiffed completely, disrupted, lost a stand in melee, and then broke off in the joint action phase.  In the following turn, my opponent shot them to fragmented, and then in his next turn, broke them with yet another round of shooting.  And that was it - 2 attrition points lost by me and none by my opponent, resulting in a losing draw, 11.7 to 8.3.  The picture to the right shows my initial deployment with the light horse concentrated on the right ,and the Ghilman and Lancers on the left.  Note that my opponent, winning the initiative, was able to position protecting terrain on both his flanks.

My second game was against Feudal Scots - yet another wall of spear, but this time my opponent had very little missile capability, allowing me to use "shoot and scoot" tactics.  Most of my opponents miniatures were manufactured by Thistle and Rose, and were very characterful.  Too bad this manufacturer is now out of business, and it looks like the only place you can get these wonderful figures is at flea markets, or possibly EBay.  I would love to see this line get revived.  To the right is an image of one of the Thistle and Rose Dark Ages infantry units opposing me.

The Scots did deploy in what was essentially a shield wall, trapping their knights to the rear for most of the game, allowing my ghilman to ride up, stand out of  heavy foot charge range, and keep shooting into the ranks of the shield wall.

My opponent kept passing his cohesion tests, so my shooting had little effect on his large, 10 stand spear units, but this face-off at least kept the initiative on my side.  Fortunately for me, on one wing, the Turcomans and Bedouin were having much greater success against the Scottish Highlander ally and a couple of light foot archer units.  The Bedouin chased the light foot into some rough terrain, eventually killing both units, while the Turcomans shot one unit of Highlanders to broken while fragmenting another.

I did lose a unit of lancers to the Scottish knights when I got stuck in a fight I didn't want to have, but the Ghilman in the photo to the right, who were disrupted after being caught in the rear by a long rolling offensive spear charge, were able to break off and get away.  Once time got called, it resulted in a 15-5 winning draw in favor of the Syrians.

The third and last game was the worst performance of the day by the Syrians.  This time I actually did come up against the kind of army I had expected to face - Later Crusaders, with multiple units of superior, armored knights, but also with a Syrian ally.  I did line up my Ghilman in single line (to enable evades) opposite the wall of knights, and my light horse supported by a lancer unit against his flank protecting Syrian ally.

On my right flank, I was able to catch an unit of my opponent's Ghilman with my lancers, and I also forced it to fight in two directions by charging in with my Bedouin - but all to no avail.  The lancers got no hits, disrupted, and lost a stand while the attached general was killed!  Everyone seeing the general die either broke or fragmented, depriving me of a third of my army in a single combat resolution, and completely opening one of my flanks.  For the rest of the game, I was forced to shoot and evade with my remaining Ghilman until eventually being pushed to the rear table edge - I just couldn't get enough hits on his knights who were supported by an inspired commander anti-missile force field.  I was eventually able to get a flank charge in with lancers on a knight unit that was eventually broken, salvaging a shred of self-respect, but my army finally fled the field after a last desperate attempt to stand with the Ghilman against the knights at the end of the table.  Final score was an 18.3 to 6.7 point Later Crusader victory.

I've got no real regrets - the Syrian States were a lot of fun to play, and for a change of pace, I got some experience using a completely mounted army.  With a total score of 30 points, I think I finished in the lower end of the middle pack in a field of 16 players, but I would just love a chance to re-fight that last battle where my lancers and general died so early, suddenly, and unexpectedly on me.  Overall, the biggest lesson learned of the day for me was from the first game - and that is, don't underestimate the power of medium foot missile troops - even if unprotected.

I wish that I could have stayed for the Cold Wars double tournament - hopefully I can do that next year.

The next Ancients gaming for me will be at the HAVOC convention up in Massachusetts in two weeks time.  On the Saturday there, I will be playing Catalan Company in the Field of Glory open tournament, and the next day, I will be using Republican Romans in a Warhammer Ancient Battles two round tournament.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Khurasan Ghilman and Arabs

For a first posting showing painted figures, I thought I might put up some photos of some of my recently completed units.  These are for use in a Syrian States, Crusades-era army that I will be playing in the upcoming Field of Glory theme tournament at Cold Wars. By no means do I consider myself to be an expert painter, and like most everything I do, I would rate these to only an acceptable tabletop wargaming standard.  But I had several friends picking them up to look over at my last gaming session, and since the Arabs, in particular, are new figures from Khurasan, I thought these might be of some interest to Ancients gamers.

All of the figures are 15mm scale, and manufactured by Khurasan Miniatures.  I sprayed the bare lead with a flat  brown paint for a primer, and then dry-brushed them with white.  After that, the figures were block painted with a combination of Vallejo, GW, and craft paints before 'dipping' - which in my case involved painting on a diluted mixture of Liquitex Heavy Body Transparent Raw Umber paint and Future floor finish.  I think they all look pretty good, and I expect that none of my opponents at Cold Wars will complain.

To the right are three units of the Ghilman.  They are armored and drilled cavalry, armed with bows and swords.  These guys will compose the heart of my Syrian States army.

To the left, are a couple of closer views of the individual Ghilman units.

I think these are pretty good figures, except for having essentially one pose that varies only with the hand weapon chosen for use, but even to get that variety, the right arms have to be individually attached to the Ghilman bodies.  That is one major pain! The arms are too small for pinning and superglue only doesn't hold sufficiently.  Epoxy makes a nice bond, but takes too long to set. 
I finally resorted to using a tiny bit of green stuff in combination with epoxy to get a fast set and a hopefully strong bond.  So far so good.  I have heard rumors that Khurasan plans to reissue the Ghilman as a single piece casting, and if that is true, that would be a great improvement.

Here are some photos of my Arab Heavy Cavalry:

I have three units of these in the army, which is probably too much, but being armored lancers, they give me a decent strike force - something my most recently played armies have lacked.

To the right are two units of Bedouin light horse.  Being lanced armed and rated as swordsmen, these units can be used in coordination with Turcomen horse archers or the Arab cavalry to chase off my opponents light troops.

I used almost the same figures as for the Arab cavalry, except that these are the unarmored ones.  Of course, since the armored figures only have a bit of mail sticking out here and there from under the robes, it doesn't make that big of a difference to the finished look.

Finally, here are two more photos of my C-in-C command stand which will be in charge of the entire army:
I like the Arab cavalry even better than the Ghilman, and my only complaints are that the projecting horse tails make it a bit tough to fit the figures on standard 40mm x 30mm bases, and that the vertical lance poses seem a bit rigid.

So there you go.  Now to try and finish my Turcoman horse archers in time for Cold Wars - otherwise my Thracian Getae will be standing in as hopefully unnoticeable proxies.