Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Of Huscarls and Hearthguards

A favorite troop type of mine, from both historical and gaming perspectives, is the armored huscarl. Originating as the household guards for Dark Age Scandinavian warband leaders, the huscarls were traditionally armored in chainmail, and were noted for their use of the two-handed war-axe. Huscarls were more highly trained and disciplined than other typical Northern European Dark Age warriors, and were extremely loyal - often fighting to the death to protect their sworn leaders. Over the years, the use of huscarls were transplanted to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in England, but most of these were tragically wiped out on Senlac Hill during the Battle of Hastings protecting the body of King Harald against the victorious Normans. Some survivors eventually went on to fight in the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperor, in numbers significant enough, that for a time, this unit was actually referred to as the "English" Guard.

I have a unit of these bad boys in my Norse-Irish army for Field of Glory, as a component in a Viking ally, anti-cavalry wing.  For Field of Glory, they are rated as Heavy Foot, Superior, Armored, Offensive Spear. I took them as Offensive Spear for that weapons ability to stand up to cavalry, and since for now at least, heavy weapons are very ineffective against charging cavalry. I don't view this weapon choice as inaccurate, since in my opinion, the weapon definitions in Field of Glory are not meant as literal descriptions, but more for the purposes of establishing troop type and weapon interactions. In order to get the huscarls to stand up effectively in shield wall against a cavalry charge, which they did historically (e.g. the failed Norman cavalry charge at Hastings), then this is how they need to be defined.

Here is a photo of my just completed huscarl unit, deployed in a typical formation for Field of Glory:

There are eight stands in the unit, deployed with three stands in the first two ranks and two in the last. This allows the unit to lose up to two stands, and still gain the tactical advantage of spear fighting in at least two ranks.  The unit can also be deployed four wide, as in the photo below, in order to cover more ground when protecting a flank:

The above formation is also how the unit would be deployed in Battle Line formation using the Hostile Realms fantasy rules. With those rules, the huscarls will act as my Hearthguard, of which only one unit can be selected, and it must be deployed with the Warlord commander-in-chief. Here is a photo of the unit deployed two wide in the Battle Order Hostile Realms formation:

And finally, a more close-up shot:

The figures are 15mm scale, as manufactured by Museum Miniatures. I think they are pretty decent sculpts, although unfortunately in a single pose. I got them for a very economical price though, during a show special offered by Silver Eagle Wargame Supplies during the Field of Glory US Open - only $2.50 for a pack of eight figures. I hope to get them seeing action on the tabletop soon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fantasy Game Plans and a Warchief and Shaman

The latest gaming plan I've proposed with my local HAHGS gaming friends is for a fantasy game. I'm going to use an army of Northern Barbarian types (Conan, Fahfrd, Vikings) against an army of fantasized Romans with a Centaur ally. I've been trying to settle on a go-to set of fantasy rules for awhile, and the more I read the Hostile Realms rules, the more I think these might be it - especially with the already established group of Piquet game players in my area. But there are also quite a few locals who have picked up Hail Caesar, and I like those rules quite a bit myself. So now, the idea is to fight the same battle twice - once with Hostile Realms, and then again using Hail Caesar with the fantasy modifications that have been posted on the Yahoo forums for the base game, and a specific fantasy one called Hail Sauron.

So far, I've worked up 1500 point lists for both the Barbarians and Romans under Hostile Realms, but I still have to do the work to figure out the stats using Hail Caesar. The date for the game is going to tough to coordinate too. June is crazy for me with all the kids' end of school year events, but I'm hoping to arrange something for 4 players, two on each side, sometime in July. We'll see how difficult that is to do with everyone's summer and vacation schedules

Once I settle on the lists, I'll post them here, and of course, there is still tons of painting that I need to do before the game can take place. In the meantime, here's a photo of a warband chieftain and a Level III shaman for the Northern Barbarian army (again, both by Copplestone):

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hostile Realms and More Barbarians

In addition to rounding out my Norse-Irish army for Field of Glory, working on my Copplestone Barbarians has reignited in my a hankering to do a little fantasy gaming. After all, "Sword and Sandal" isn't that far from "Sword and Sorcery". My first hurdle with this though, was figuring out what set of rules to use. I'd love to see a fully playable fantasy version of Field of Glory, but given the abstractions of that rule set, and the lack of color that a fantasy game demands, that's probably unlikely to ever surface. Hail Caesar could probably easily be modified for fantasy, but I didn't want to do the work myself. Then finally, I realized that a gaming friend of mine had already written a really nice set of fantasy rules - Hostile Realms, by Peter Anderson. These rules have all the stuff in them that a fantasy game needs, and they also have the advantage of several players being in my neck of the woods who already play them. As additional bonuses, the rules are easily modified for Ancients gaming, use WRG standard basing, and allow for a lot of creativity modifying historical armies into fantasy versions of themselves. In fact, for a first game, I hope to set up something that uses my Barbarians as Cimmerians against a border garrison of fantasy Romans (with maybe a few Eureka Centaurs thrown in as allies). For more information on the specifics of Hostile Realms, and how the rules play, the author has posted a detailed description of them on his blog, "Blunders of the Danube", which you can read here

Continuing in this fantasy reign then, here are a few more photos of another Copplestone Barbarian unit that I've added to my collection:

The above are arranged in a Hostile Realms Battle Order formation, which is good for melee, but more sensitive to missile fire. Below is a photo of the unit arranged in a typical formation for when I use them in Field of Glory:

Here's another one where I've doubled the number of stands for a Hostile Realms Battle Order Formation in order to give the unit more of a warband look:

Of course this means that I'll need double the Barbarians, but in my opinion, you can't have too many of these hairy ones.

Finally, here's a photo of a large warband squaring off against a unit of Late Republican Romans (figures by Testudo):

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Irish Dark Age Spear

Another unit for my Norse-Irish army is completed, even if too late to be used at the FoG Open. This one is all composed of Irish spear-armed warriors from Splintered Light - some bare-chested, and some from the pack with cloaks. When I use them with Field of Glory, I'll probably keep the spear-armed troops in the rear ranks behind the axe-armed troops, but still rating the entire unit as a heavy weapon one.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

US Open 2012 Results

The US Open has come and gone, and I had a really great time. Three days of non-stop gaming is getting to be a bit much for my old bones, but it was all worth it in the end. My experiment playing the Norse-Irish was, all things considered, a success. I only won one game, while losing three, and drawing one, but I felt like I had a chance in each game, just that I needed a bit more practice with the army before entering a tournament with first-class competition. Bottom line though, is I had a blast playing the army, and I think that I offered my opponents games that were out of the ordinary and tactically entertaining. Can't wait to do it again. The Norse-Irish most definitely have not seen their last appearance on the table top for me.

I wanted to post more detailed AAR's of my games against the following armies - Medieval German City Leagues, Free Company, Dominate Roman, and two Alexandrian Macedonians - but most of my photos came out too blurry and dark. In any case, below are the reasonably acceptable ones showing some of the action, and shots of the participants in the act of crossing swords.