Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The Dark Ages Campaign - Master Map

A short post as Nundunket and Jolly Broom Man are interested in the map.  I took a few minutes to unfold the master map I created back in the early 1980's and to get some photo's.  Its a big beast printed out on three sheets of A3 or maybe A2 paper, I should have measured it shouldn't I.  The original was hand copied from the OS Britain Before the Norman Conquest map (now sadly out of print).onto tracing paper selecting the details I needed and adding a few other things.  I then took it down to a printing and copying shop in York (when they still existed in most towns) who copied it onto paper for me on a dyeline printer.  I hand coloured the dyeline print  and taped the three sections together.  It has spent most of the last 35 - 40 years folded up which is why it hasn't faded too much.  I got bored with colouring in the hills and mountains within Scotland which is why the detailing stops at the line of the Firths of Clyde and Forth.  Most of the rest of the map would have been brown and for the solo campaign I don't need that level of detail anyway.

Dyeline was a system used before digital printing to copy and print large plans. Because it pre-dates digital imaging technology there is no electronic back up copy. which has always worried me.  I really should get a back up although who would need it is beyond me.

The entire master multiplayer version of the map

I'm quite proud of it to be honest.  I was a geology student and then worked for a very short time in a County Council road planning department and was taught a bit about drawing up plans which helped a lot with this.  It's the only evidence I have of my abilities as a map maker from before the computerisation of imaging and storage.

The South Eastern part in detail

The South West part in more detail

Southern Scotland & Northern England
The bit of the map showing Northern Scotland doesn't seem to want to load at the moment.  I will try again later.

Be safe and take care of yourselves

Monday, 25 May 2020

The Dark Ages Campaign - some background

I’m pretty sure the campaign will make more sense if you have some idea of the various locations.  The original map was drawn in the 1970s using the Ordnance Survey historical maps of Britain as a basis.  The map for the multiplayer campaign has settlements, roads, religious sites and centres of royal power.  It also has the physical geography the forests, hills and mountains.  I added some sea routes from off map to some of the coastal provinces and chances of ships being lost sailing those routes.

In the multiplayer campaign leaders were to have political ability/reputation points which would impact on the allegiance of the game provinces.  This meant control of provinces wasn’t just about military control and it would have required the players to allocate points to spread their influence both at home and in neighbouring nations to ensure stability at home or disunity abroad. In the solo games that doesn’t come into play and so only military control is important so the map simply shows the connections between the provinces. The combats are from connected province to province with the winner taking, or keeping, the province.

The sharp eyed will have noticed two provinces in central England without names.  There is an error in this copy of the map as the area is actually one province - Tomsaetan which is an arable area.  The boundaries are also incorrect.  the southern half of the two unnamed provinces are parts of Hwicce and Hendrica, the northern is Tomsaetan.  I will update the thumbnail in due course. The white sets of islands  (Manu and Dolman) are unallocated to players as they played little part in mainland affairs other than as bases for Norse viking raiders.

At the start of the campaign each of the Welsh provinces (Pouis, Guinned, Seisyllwch, Devet, Brecheniaug, Morgannwg and Gwent) along with Dumnonia are all independent native Welsh princedoms.

Cant and East Seaxe are Mercian sub-kingdoms but were claiming independence from Mercia.  The Kingdom of The East Angles (North Foulk and South Foulk) is a larger Mercian client kingdom now also claiming independence.

Wessex (Defnas, Sumersaete, Dorsaete, Wilsaeten, Hampton Scir and Bearruc Scir) is an independent nation previously under Mercian influence.

Northumbria (Lothene, Berneich, Dere, and Amonderness) is more difficult to model as it was actually undergoing an internal dispute over the Royal succession at the start of the game.  The two Cumbres are disputed lands probably within Strathclyde Welsh influence if not out right control historically, but also claimed by Northumbria.  Betwixt Ribble and Mersey is shown on the map as under Mercian control but is a Northumbrian province supporting the deposed king Oswald and is outside of Northumbrian control for the moment.  Elmete could be Northumbrian or Mercian land.  In the original campaign it would have been disputed land with both kingdoms having the same influence levels there.  In the solo campaign I have allocated it to Mercia but have special rules ready in case Northumbria makes a grab for it.

The rest of England is the kingdom of Mercia.  Still the most powerful of the English kingdoms but about to enter a period of weaker and less able Kings.  It’s geographical position is both a strength and a weakness.  It is surrounded by potential enemies, but has good internal lines of communication and large military reserves.  The rule limiting where troops will serve is as much to prevent Mercia steam rollering it’s enemies into submission as it is a reflection of the true historical limits on raising armies.

In Scotland there are also problems in modelling the political and military realities of the late 8th century. Historically it was on the verge of unification under a single King (which was complete by 845 AD).  The three playable states Strathclyde, Pictia and  Dalraitia  were more akin to different branches of a single Royal household each disputing which represents the line of the High King and which are Sub-kings.  The Picts seem to have used a strange system of succession with Kingship passing to male heirs but down the female line so that nephews succeeded uncles rather than Sons succeeding Fathers.  This wasn’t entirely sorted out until very late in the Viking age, much of the later disputes about which was the legitimate Royal house stem from this period having created two competing lines.

Starthclyde (Rheged, Start Clut and Galloway) is a Welsh state formed from the rump of a sub-Roman kingdom.  Originally it stretched from the Mersey all the way to the Clyde along the western side of the Pennines.  By the start of the game its centres of power lie along the Clyde valley.  Dal Raitia (or Dal Raidia) (Baetain, Comgail and Ile)is a Scots-Irish kingdom  with dynastic connections to the the North-East of Ireland.  The rest of mainland scotland is Pictish.  As far as I know the Picts were a Proto-Celtic people, not of the same ethnicity as the Britons who occupied Modern England.  They expanded into the highlands of Scotland from the far North West to fill the void left after the defeat of the Caledonians by Rome, probably acting as a ruling elite over the remnants of the Caledonians.

This leaves one small province, Orcades, which is subject to loose Norse control at the start of the game.  It essentially gives a toe hold on the game map to allow a base of operations for the Norse vikings.  Vikings operate in a different way to all of the other states.  Initially they have to raid and use the loot to 'hire' more troops once they have enough manpower they can create the Great Heathen Army and invade and settle.  At that point they raise troops like everyone else, or at least thats the theory.

So now you have some idea of the geography and the political entities.  Onwards to 798 AD where the Strathclyde Welsh attack Pictia.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

The Dark Ages Campaign - 797AD

The Borderlands of Dumnonia 797AD
Dumonia (reduced to roughly modern Cornwall by the late 8th Century) a rump Brythonic Celtic realm has suffered over the last century.  They have been steadily pushed back losing ground to the West Saxons, seeing Somersaetan and Dorsaet falling to them.   King Hernam has decided to attempt to block further expansion and perhaps regain some ground by attacking Defnas (modern Devon).  Although Defnas was loosely ruled by Wessex  in the late 8th Century, it would be something like 30 years before they had complete control of the area and some kind of hold over Dumnonia.  Because of this the men of Defnas although drawn from the middle Anglo-Saxon list count as allied to Wessex and are being led by the Ealdorman of Dorsaete with his Hearth troops and Select Fyrd in tow.  I'm stealing the rule from DBM/DBMM for the possibility of unreliable allies to use in the campaign.

Gathering the men of Kernow to his banner Hernam crosses the Tamar.  He has a reasonable force at his disposal consisting of:

1 x General's Teula - 3Wb
7 x warriors - 3Wb
1 x light Infantry - Ps

Facing him are the Fyrds of Defnas and Dorsaete

1 x general's Hird - 4Bd
1 x Hird - 4Bd
3 x Select fyrd -Sp
1 x Youths - Ps
1 x Hird 4Bd (Ealderman od Defnas)
3 x Select Fyrd - Sp
1 x General Fyrd - 7Hd
1 x Youths - Ps

As a house rule the two county's fyrds must be treated as two seperate forces but with a single pip roll between them (as the combined force is only 11 elements).

I drew the men of Kernow as the player army with the Anglo-Saxons run using the solo DBA rules.  I decided that I needed to try to deal with the Dorsaetan Fyrd first and hope that a combination of difficult terrain and warbands rapid movement would allow me to rush forwards and engage before the Defnas Fyrd could roll up my line.  I stacked my line two elements deep to gain the rear support factor.  This narrowed my front but warband are resilient little devils and I might get away with it.  The Anglo-Saxon default was for defensive tactics, so I hoped that they would let me have freedom to determine how the action developed.

The terrain selected was a river, a road, two enclosures and a village.  The river was across the frontage of the Dumnonians with the road running between the two deployment zones.  The largest set of enclosures lay to the left front of the Anglo Saxons.  The remaining terrain wasn't going to have much effect as it lay out on the left and right edges of the the battlefield.

The Dumnonians started by pushing forward across the river aiming for the enclosures to the front of the Dorsaetan Fyrd.  With only 1 pip available there wasn't much else they could do.  The Anglo-Saxons rolled well getting aggressive for the turns tactical stance and 4 pips, meaning the men of Defnas would fight.  They push forwards towards the edge of the enclosures.

I continued pushing forwards until I came to contact as you can see in the photo below.  The Anglo-Saxons are hampered by poor throws on tactical stance and pips so they struggle to get their right flank into action.
The Warbands storm forward through the enclosures 

The fighting in and around the enclosures see-saws back and forth until the Dumnonians manage to quick kill a select Fyrd element.  The Wessex lines bend but they hold.  While this is going on the flanking move has been stalled from a lack of pips, but that couldn't last so the Dumnonians disengage to tempt the English to push into the enclosures where they will be fighting at a distinct disadvantage

The fight for the enclosures from the West Saxon side
Next turn the Saxons kill the Dumnonian light infantry and with good dice get aggressive tactics and high pips.  Despite seeing the risk the men of Kernow cannot deploy enough troops to fully cover the attack and the West Saxons of Dorsaete slam into the end of the Dumnonian line which is engaged against the Fyrdmen of Defnas.  In the ensuing combats they loose 2 warband elements which is enough to break the army.

The men of Wessex spring the trap and the flank attack goes in
The Dumnonian line breaks and the survivors flee back towards the Tamar and home.

Defeated warbands stream to the rear in panic
Gwent, South Wales 797 AD
Historically Morgannwg was connected to Gwent through dynastic marriages and the two regions were often under the control of one ruler.  In reality the region I called Morgannwg would be better termed Glwysing with Morgannwg being used when the region is merged with Gwent.

Morgannwg's ruler is nervous as alone he will struggle to resist pressure from his larger neighbours.  His advisors suggest, a 'union' with Gwent to the east.  Gwent is a smaller region and unable to defend itself so someone would be bound to attempt to help themselves to the spoils before long.  Why not Morgannwg and why not now?  So in the spring of 797 AD the Lord of Morgannwg called out his fighting men and headed east along the coast.

Morgannwg's Host consists of the Lord Prince himself - General (3Wb) 5 x 3Wb, and 1 x Psiloi.

Gwent can only muster the Teula of King Athrwys ap Ffernael- General (3Wb), 1 x 3Wb and 1 x Psiloi.  This should be a push over.  I diced to see which side I would control and got the short straw; Gwent.

Gwent's terrain type is littoral so a waterway is mandatory.  I also took a river, a wood and a marsh.  I elected to fight on the smallest board area and to have the waterway narrow the board by 3 base widths.  With only three elements I needed to narrow the frontage I would be attacked across and have a linear obstacle to defend.  I placed the river down the centre of the board hoping it would be across my frontage.  The woods went on the far side from the waterway as did the marsh but in two different quarters of the board.  The dice for choice of side was kind and I had the water way covering my left flank and the woods my right.  Using the Solo DBA amendments Morgannwg rolled an overall tactical stance of 'Normal' meaning no adjustments to the tactical stance check each turn.

Long story short for the first three moves the invaders threw low for tactical style getting defensive and also threw low for pips.  So they moved forwards piecemeal and couldn't attack.  That allowed me to get in place on the river bank. I took the decision to deploy in a single line hoping the river would aid my defense.
The enemy Psiloi reach the river.  Their warband is slow to advance (low pips)  

My Light Infantry face off  against their opposite numbers. 
Light Infantry destroyed my Warband steps up to the river

On turn four the enemy Psiloi attempted to cross the river and dicing for it's effect rolled a 5 making it difficult terrain and adding plus one for defending the river bank.  So far so good.  There was a chance, albeit a slim one, of defending the rich and fertile lands of Gwent, well not that rich and not that fertile,  otherwise I would have had more than a measly three elements to defend hearth and home with!  The enemy psiloi double the brave men of Gwent and clear the bank forcing a crossing. In the centre the warbands attacking me are stacked up two deep to get the rear support bonus, but my position defending the river bank off sets that.  Their attack is repulsed they are forced to recoil.

My warbands retreat to avoid flank attacks
Next turn Morgannwg roll aggressive and have plenty of pips they split their Warbands to try to work around my left flank and push the light infantry forwards along the wood edge. I hang on for a turn but my flanks are being turned. Next turn  I only get 1 pip so I choose to retire and consolidate to avoid being hit in the flanks.  It can't last and despite falling back under pressure and an attempt to take out the enemy light infantry eventually the weight of numbers tell and my commanders warband is destroyed.  That's game over!

The begining of the end.  I risked attacking and failed
I lost this combat and couldn't recoil - scatch one warband.
After the game was over I diced for Arthrwys and he had died with his Teula.  I chose a simple test; roll a d6 when the commanders element is destroyed.  On a 5 or a 6 he is killed.  Brutal but straightforward.  The first nation falls and Gwent is united with Morganwwg.

The chroniclers have two new entries for the year 797 AD

And in this year did Hernam ap Oswalt Lord of Dumnonia come forth from Kernow to dispute with the men of Defnas and Dorseate in battle and though they strove mightily the men of Wessex had the victory.


Athrwys of Gwent was slain in battle with Arthfael of Glwysing and the land passed to him to rule thereafter. 

Onwards to 798 AD.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Dark Ages campaign. Rules and the opening moves 797 - 801AD

Although the game is mostly an excuse to get my 6mm Early Medieval troops into action I needed some basic rules to control which troops would be available for each game.  Fortunately I had already created a troop availability roster for each administrative area that the game map is broken down into.  That is based on the type and number of settlements and the general terrain type in that area.

In common with the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms most nations have a three part division to their military manpower.  First are the personal household troops serving the local leader such as a Viking Jarl or an Anglo-Saxon Ealdorman or even the Royal Household. These are professional fighting men and go where their lord goes.  Then there are the better off landholders such as the Anglo-Saxon Select Fyrd (The term is outdated, but it works for the context of dividing up the game's manpower pool, and service obligations).  Lastly are the ordinary peasantry equal to the Anglo-Saxon General Fyrd.  The Select Fyrd and equivalent will deploy in their own region and surrounding ones (think counties here), the General Fyrd equivalents in their own region, unless joining an army commanded by the King when they will deploy in adjacent regions too.

Lastly an order of activation is needed.  The system is to draw a playing card for each 'nation' and that determines the order in which they take action (for what it's worth cards are valued ace to king with suits ranked as for bridge bidding).  Obviously there is an advantage to activating later as it is clear what the nations who activate earlier have decided to do.  The order of activation can be amended if the current national leader is particularly able or inept.  Once an action has been decided on it must be carried out even if the results of earlier battles are unfavourable.

Each game turn is 5 years long so turn one covers 797 to 801 AD.  Each nation activates once and can decide to attack one or more adjacent regions, but doesn't have to decide which of it's own troops are called out until they actually activate.  Troop losses stay in effect all turn so a nation which lost troops in an earlier combat fights without access to those troops for the rest of the turn.  Come the start of the next turn all troops are available again although lost regions no longer contribute to the manpower pool of the original owner instead being available to the new owner.  There is scope for alliances between groups who share the same heritage as a kind of mutual defence pact.  A conquered region's troops are classed as an ally until the start of the third turn after being conquered when they become normal troops of the new owning power.

Leaders (Kings, Princes etc) may be killed in combat or die of natural causes but I will explain those rules when the need arises.  If I need to deal with any other events I will make up a rules as the situation arises.

Turn one kicked off with a number of acts of aggression (well it wouldn't be much of a wargaming campaign if it didn't).

The activation phase
As the campaign opens there are 16 separate 'nations' in play which will reduce as states cease to exist.  Some are very much stronger than others. The first activation sequence and decisions were as follows:
  1. East Anglia - Defend
  2. Dal Raidian Scots - Defend.
  3. Dumnonia - Attack Defnas (Wessex).
  4. Morgannwyg - Attack Gwent.
  5. Devet -  Defend.
  6. Strathclyde - Attack Menteith (Pictia)
  7. Wessex - Attack Hwicce (Mercia)
  8. Cant - Defend
  9. Essex - Defend
  10. Pictia - Attack Comgail (Dal Raidia)
  11. Seisssllwch - Attack Devet
  12. Pouis - Defend
  13. Northumbria - Attack Rheged (Strathclyde)
  14. Guinned - Attack Seissllwch
  15. Mercia - Attack Cant and attack Essex
  16. Danes - Raid Bernicia (Northumbria)
So ten field actions to play out and potentially some Viking raids.  The system means that Guinned may be facing a reduced Seissllwch army if they takes a beating against Devet, or an enhanced army with allies from a defeated Devet if they defeat them.

Overall I'm happy with the system its nowhere near as detailed as the full campaign rules but it will generate battles and has a vaguely historical background to tie everything together.  If it needs tweaking on the fly I doubt my opponents will mind, that's the beauty of a solo campaign

Friday, 15 May 2020

First Sight -Tumbling Dice 1/2400th Ironclads

I received my order of early Ironclads from Tumbling Dice Miniatures yesterday.  I only ordered on Monday so that's a really fast turnaround by anyone's standards.  Packaging was in a padded envelope which is more than adequate for 1/2400th ships as they are not exactly huge!

I spent a couple of hours preparing and assembling them.  Not that they needed a lot of prep work, a few lead strings from ait channels to remove and a tiny bit of flash plus smoothing the base of the huls so the fitted nice and snugly into the bases and that was it. Assembly was limited to supergluing some sails in pace and fitting the hull into the sculpted base, which was a doddle as they fit really well.

Not a great photo but this is the fleet so far.
My order covers the first Ironclad action from the ACW so I have confederate rams Virginia (ex USS Merrimac) with the Texas coming in that pack as well.  Three Monitor class ...er....Monitors so that gives me the USS Monitor (there is a pattern here don't you think), plus some steam screw gunboats and steam harbour tugs.  Then for the Great Pacific War of 1879-80 the four main Peruvian and Chilean Ironclad Frigates.  Last but not least a generic steam screw sloop. 

I have found a couple of tutorials on line for painting these so I will give it a go over the next few days.  As a bonus Mrs E thinks these are 'cute', she normally takes no interest in my gaming purchases whatsoever, so that's a major step forwards.

First go at painting them.  L-R a steam screw gunboat, CSS Virginia and USS Monitor.
I will have a go at the Pacific War ships tomorrow.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Offa was dead to begin with - Mercia 796AD

There are several points where the the development of a single English kingdom could easily have gone a different way.  One of these is the aftermath of the death of Offa the Great,  King of Mercia.  The history of the early England went through a number of stages where different English kingdoms were in the ascendent.  First Northumbria, then Mercia and lastly Wessex whose kings eventually became the first rulers of a unified English or more accurately Anglo-Danish Kingdom.  Although a unified english Kingdom would probably still have arisen it could easily have been under a mercian or Danish royal house and it's borders could have been very different to those that actually developed.

Offa king of Mercia 757 796.jpg
We don't know what Offa looked like, but this is a contemporary coin from his reign
The year 796AD is one of the points where things could have gone onto a different track.  This could have happened for a number of reasons.  Firstly Offa had been the overking of most of the other English Kingdoms and with his death they sought to regain their independence, his death followed in months by the death of his son left a power vacuum.  Secondly the first serious Viking raids had started only three years earlier, lastly it sees the start of the rise of Wessex, but it didn't have to be Wessex.

Here is a point here where the eventual direction of this island hung in the balance.  Would Mercia regain her ascendency, would the Danes conquer the whole of lowland Britain, which kingdom would become the next leader of the English.  If you have been watching the Last Kingdom or have read the Bernard Cornwall books the series is based upon, you will know the general outline of the history from around 865AD to 900AD already.  But, what if Wessex hadn't survived, what if Mercia had regained their position, what about the other English Kingdoms, the Scots, the Welsh, and the Danish and Norwegian Vikings?  What if the early Viking raids hadn't concentrated on Northumbria?

That uncertainty makes 796AD to 1066AD a great period to set a wargame campaign in.  As those who have followed this blog will know I have been interested in the period since long before Bernard Cornwall put pen to paper.  I started a campaign way back in the 1970's but as often happened with these things it stalled.  I could have started in 866AD with the Great Heathen Army, the first substantial Danish army, but the period between 796AD and 866AD has a lot going on outside of England itself, In Scotland the Strathclyde Welsh, the Scots of Dumbarton and the Picts are in an uneasy dynastic dance, with conflict and intermarriage of the royal lines leading to the emergence of the modern kingdom of Scotland by the late 840's.  Wales too was in flux as the various princedoms fought amongst themselves and against the English.  In England the kingdoms of the Heptarchy struggled to fill the gap left by Offa's death, and the Danes throw everything into flux.

The Death of Edmund the Martyr - that's some serious flux that is
In the absence of players to take the part of the other kingdoms (Plus I don't have the time to run a campaign) I have decided to run a solo campaign using DBA3.0 (initially although I am likely to try out some of the other DBA spin offs and ADLG as things develop) but with a different force selection mechanism.  The history will be simplified and the game will be based on a very simple campaign model of moving troops from area to area and fighting a battle where one side invades another's territory.  Basically its an excuse to get my Dark Age toys on the table.  I will leave out the politics, the finances and the personalities which I built into the original campaign rules.

The game starts in the immediate aftermath of the death of Offa and subsequent death of his son.  The initial objectives are:

Mercia has to stabilise it's position and take back control of the subsidiary kingdoms of Cant (Kent) Essex and East Anglia while cowing Northumbria, Wessex and the Welsh.

Cant, The East Saxons and East Anglia need to remain independent and expand

Wessex needs to expand into the South West and weaken Mercia to the north

Northumbria needs to weaken Mercia, and hold off or absorb the Strathclyde Welsh and the Picts south of the Clyde-Forth line.

The Strathclyde Welsh need to take control of Cumbre (modern Cumbria), and at least weaken the Scots and Picts.

The Picts are aiming to become the sole power north or the clyde and Forth line and then expand south.

The Scots just want to survive.

The various Welsh Princedoms all want to be the sole power in Wales but more importantly want to survive, oh and it would be nice to recover some of the lands stolen from them by the English.

Last but not least  the Cornish want to stay independent.

The Vikings don't come into play other than as raiders for some time and are going to be played as a random event until they can muster enough force to launch the Great Heathen Army invasion.

The game's afoot Gentlemen.


Monday, 11 May 2020

Random Thoughts #3 - Reading choices during lockdown

Lockdown and a couple of long Bank Holiday weekends has allowed me to catch up on some reading.  It's been a mix of rereading  old favourites and trying out some new material.

I read a lot of science fiction and have done since I was a teenager.  I started out on the books I could find in the local library, children's Science Fiction and once I had read everything the children's section had to offer I moved onto the adult shelves.  Some of the children's science fiction was complete tosh, more fantasy than science others were more rooted in actual physics.  After that I moved onto adult SF with paperback reprints of the greats of the post war science fiction scene Clarke, Heinlein Poul Andersen Asimov and their contemporaries mixed with the newer writers of the late sixties onwards like Larry Niven.

Kings of Space: Johns, W. E.
He didn't just write Biggles! (by the way this is tosh!)
That gave me a taste for slightly harder edged SF with at least some connection to actual science although I do like a good page turner in the tradition of 'Space Opera' stories from the golden age.  I am currently working my way through the Expanse series. I have enjoyed the Amazon TV version and as I will probably have to wait another year for the next series thought I should try the books.  They came well recommended and so far they haven't failed to keep me turning pages (well actually scrolling through screens).

43462058. sx318
Well worth a read especially if you enjoyed the TV version
My other current reading is a new set of rules, well new to me anyway.  'Dahlgren and Columbiad' by David Manley.  These are quick play Naval rules for the Ironclad era 1860 to 1885.  I had been toying with doing ACW ironclads for a while and Jim Jackman's excellent blog 'Jims Wargames Workbench' tipped me over the edge.  His blog can be found here http://jimswargamesworkbench.blogspot.com/ .

The rules look really easy to use and are simple to read through so I suspect that I will be buying some teeny tiny ironclads from Tumbling Dice in the very near future.

So that's it for this post Remember stay safe and be alert, as the man said ...'We need lerts'