Long time no write!

Cripes – just realised that my last entry was the end of May just after the last Newark Irregulars Partizan show at Newark! Where did the summer go?

Fortunately the absence of blog entries does not mean that there has been nothing happening on the wargames front.

I have been playing more games of To the Strongest, now firmly there as my favourite Ancient/medieval set with its simple but elegant mechanisms giving realistic, fast paced and fun games.  One memorable game was Alexander v Porus as a refight of the battle of Hydaspes.   I used Philip Sabin’s Lost battles to create the OOBs – happily, using 2/3 of his lists for his scenarios, produced a couple of 140 points or so armies and it was simple to map the troop types across.  I intend to use his book for planning other scenarios.

The game did not start auspiciously for my opponent.  he played an ace when attempting to activate his right wing under Alexander and his companions – any other card would have done!  Normally this would not be a problem as a general gives a replay of the card for activation attempts in the same box as the general – but he went on to play another ace!

The game was a close one – Alexander’s right wing routed the opposing Indian cavalry and chariots and in the centre there was a brutal but even fight between the phalanx and the elephants.  Alexander’s left wing did less well and in the end it was a raw Indian bow unit, surviving against all the odds that took the final victory medal from the great Alexander.

The next game was a Romans v Ancient Britons.   Here the Britons could not avoid being ground down by the Romans and were well and truly trounced.  This was probably not helped by me forgetting to use the special move forward and fire activation for my light chariots.  But … another fun and engaging game.

There have also been a couple of good games of the 18th century rue set Maurice by Sam Mustafa.  I really enjoy this game but have yet to get my head round the right strategy – I keep getting distracted into fighting in the wrong part of the battlefield and losing the initiative!  The game is driven by cards and, if you haven’t played it, well worth investigating.

As far as the painting bench is concerned, my focus is building a few 15mm DBA armies for the 11th century – Early Muslim North African and Sicilian, Norman, Pecheneg, Communal and Papal Italian, Byzantine and Seljuqs – to fight campaigns for that part of the world.

I hope to get to the next Newark Partizan show on 6 September – Simon Miller will be putting on a huge Arthurian To the Strongest game and I would hate to miss that!


Partizan wargames show Kelham Hall Newark Sunday 31 May

Another good show put on by the Newark Irregulars.  I spent most of my visit there having a great time playing in the participation game using the To the Strongest rules by Simon Miller – and Simon was there in person to lead those who joined in through the rules.  The game was a Roman v Ancient Britons game with a large number of superb looking 28 mm figures, complete with a fortified camp for the Romans and a baggage camp for the Britons.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera and had to rely on my not very good phone but here is a photo of Simon explaining the rules to a young gamer who was actually on holiday from New Zealand with his family.  Brett, his father, played on the opposing British side with me – we lost gloriously!


I am sure that there will be lots of much better photos of this game – particularly as photographers from Wargames Soldiers & Strategy and Miniature Wargames magazines dropped by and showed keen interest – as did many other visitors to the show.  Historian and author Dr Harry Sidebottom took part in the afternoon game, so there was quite a lot of ancient warfare knowledge round the table!

For those new to To the Strongest, it is a grid based game (although the grid is very discreet) and uses playing cards to activate the units and quickly resolve melees, shooting and saves – so you can leave your dice and rulers in the cupboard.  The game that I participated in the morning moved at a fast, fun and furious pace and reached a credible historical conclusion in 90 minutes even with new players and the rules being explained and the large number of figures as shown in the photo above.  Another thing I really like about the rules is that the game can accommodate any basing convention and so you could equally play with, for example, 40mm DBx units on a 12 x 8 grid 24 inches by 16 inches.

There is more information, including free army lists, on Simon’s website at http://bigredbatshop.co.uk/ and there is also a forum at http://tothestrongest.yuku.com/ with the author being very helpful and willing to answer questions.

I will be playing more with these rules!

I ran out of time at the show and one game I regret missing was the SOA one.  Phil Steele was putting on a very good looking DBA 3 Byzantine v Arab game using 30mm flats.   I do hope that one is put on again at another show.

Visit to Sheffield Triples 16 May 2015

Living as I do near Sheffield, this is an annual pilgrimage for me!

This year’s highlights were getting a drop-in game of DBA 3 being run as part of the Northern Cup,  courtesy of Paul Mugatroyd and watching my great friend and wargaming partner, Sean Pratt, take part in a re-fight of the Battle of Grandson being run by the medieval re-enactment society Knights in Battle.

The DBA game was between Northern Welsh and Anglo-Normans.  I played the Welsh and went down gloriously to a 4-0 defeat against Scott Russell, proving that perhaps charging my army of mostly 3 Pike across a river against mutually supporting spearmen was not the right approach.  I was a bit disappointed to discover that the 3 Pike did not really get any combat advantages on steep hills as I thought that was where they were meant to be strong!  A fun game nevertheless and, as a relative beginner,  helpful to play against an experienced, informative and patient opponent.  I hope to take fuller (and more successful) part next year.

While I was being hammered in DBA, Sean was busy proving that the Burgundians can defeat the Swiss.  The game used a slightly modified version of Neil Thomas’ Ancient and Medieval Warfare rules.  This was a big battle with 16 units per side rather than the usual 8 and also included a rule modification, whereby losers in a melee were pushed back.  This made the game more dynamic as sometimes the original rules can result in a bit of a static slogging match – possibly the only thing I would want to improve in what I otherwise think is a simple and elegant rule set that gives credible results.

The table looked absolutely superb with great scenery and 28mm figures.  Sean took these photos:



The guys running the game were really helpful and interesting and well worth going to meet if you come across them at other shows!

As far as discarding cash at the trade stand is concerned, I picked up a pack of Donington Pecheneg Horse Archers and a couple of Asiatic wagons from Irregular with a view to creating a DBA Pecheneg Army to go with my Outpost Wargame Services Byzantine Army.

The next event for me is the Partizan Show at Newark on 31 May, when I hope to take part in a large To the Strongest game being put on by Simon Miller, the author of the rules.  Report to follow!

Neville’s Cross – the refight with Lion Rampant

So – I finally got round to having a solo re-fight of this interesting battle with the rather good Lion Rampant rules by Daniel Mersey.  The rules are intended to be for smaller actions but I was interested to see how they would work for larger ones.  My first intro to the rules was taking part in a game of the battle of Hexham in the WotR at the York wargames show – that was a good game!

Overall, I thought the game below played well and I think that the mechanics can give an enjoyable, quick and period flavour medieval game for a larger battle.

The table

I played this on quite a small table – roughly 3 feet by 2 1/2 feet.  The battle was fought on Crossgate Moor, which runs north/south and is steeply sided – see my photos in an earlier post about my visit to the battlefield.  As the moor is the main terrain feature, I represented its contours in 1/2 inch chip board as you can see below.  I added a building for Arbour Farm and a few trees on the west flank.  Neither of these had any impact on the original battle, or for that matter, my re-fight. The picture below is the initial deployment and shows the contours of the moor.  On the left is the valley below Arbour farm where the right division of the Scottish army was mauled by the English archers as they struggled across it.

nc deploymentp1

nc deployment2

Orders of battle and special rules

I changed my mind about representing the armies.  I decide to keep things simple and, rather than having several retinues a side, I went for just one as follows;

English – one unit of expert archers on the left flank, one unit of dismounted MAA in the centre with the leader, one unit of dismounted MAA on the right and drilled mounted MAA in reserve.  I made the latter drilled as historically they seemed to do what they were meant to and did act as a reserve, coming in at the right moment.

Scottish – two units of shiltron foot yeomen on the right, two dismounted MAA in the centre (one with leader) and one unit of dismounted MAA and one foot yeomen schiltron on the left.

My 12mm Kallistra figures are mounted on 4×2 cm bases for infantry and 4×3 cm bases for cavalry.  In a unit, each base represented 2 figures so the schiltrons and archers had 6 bases and the MAA 3 bases.  A base was removed when two figures were lost, with a little marker added when one figure was lost.

As far as rules are concerned, I added the following:

  • Flank/rear arcs applied.  -1 for armour if attacked in flank or rear
  • Archers can only fire in 45 degree arc
  • Movement out of front 45 degree arc at half move
  • Due to the size of the table, all distances were halved  ie normal move for MAA 3 inches rather than 6 inches.

How the battle played out This was my first run through with the rules and, even though playing solo, it was an exciting game that flowed well and “felt right.” The armies started in positions held in the mid-afternoon of the day of the battle.   As both sides were quite defensive in outlook, neither wanted to advance.  The Scots, however, were happy to delay longer and so it was the English, who after spending most of the day glaring at their enemy, advanced to extreme bow range and let fly to get the Scots to move towards them.

Turn 1

The English bowmen on the left shot their arrows causing 2 casualties and the Scots passed their courage test.  English centre and left stayed in position. The forward Scots right shiltron advanced into the rough ground of the valley but the rear schiltron failed to move so ended of turn for the Scots.

Turn 2

The English continued their arrow storm on their left causing 2 more casualties with the Scots passing the courage test.  The English centre and right once again stayed put.  The whole Scots army advanced with the poor Scottish right advancing across the rough ground of the valley. nc turn2p1 Turn 3

A bad turn for the English!  Their longbow machine guns jammed and they failed their test to shoot.  The  Scots right continued its slow progress across the valley floor and the Scots centre with King David advanced.   The Scots left failed to advance.

Turn 4

Unbelievably, the English left failed to shoot AGAIN!!  Perhaps they were desperately getting more arrows!  The Scottish right charged out of the valley to attack the English archers – the English benefiting from a +1 armour for being uphill.  One casualty each was caused and so the Scots, being attackers, had to fall back.  The Scots attacked in the centre – 2:1 to them and so the English centre fell back after both sides passed morale tests and no hits on leaders.  The front unit on the Scots left advanced, once again let down by the rear unit on that flank that failed to do so. nc turn4p1

 Turn 5

The English archers got back in the game and actually managed to shoot – hurrah!  Three casualties were caused and the front Schiltron on that flank was now at 1/2 strength and became battered.  As it retreated into the unit behind, it had to roll a dice for further casualties but fortunately got a six.  Had it scored below its courage, it would have suffered whatever the die score was in casualties.  The English centre failed to attack so turn over for the English.

The Scots right failed to rally so lost another casualty and retired into the unit behind – once gain scoring above its courage to avoid casualties.  The rear unit on the right backed up 1/2 move.  I played a house rule by which units moving other than forward could only move 1/2 distance fo the terrain they were in.

The Scots centre forward unit attacked the English centre.  Lucky rolls by the English resulted in a 2:1 win to them.  There were no leader casulaties and both were now at 1/2 strength.  The Scots retreated.  The forward unit on the Scottish left attacked the English right – a draw with one casualty each, no leader casualties, both passing courage tests and so the Scots retreated.

At this point I did wonder if leaders casualties were too difficult to get!

nc turn5p1

Turn 6

The English archers continued to maul the Scots right with three more casualties and a battered courage test result.

The English right attacked the Scottish left with 1:1 casualties – but the Scots failed their courage test becoming battered.  As, in the real battle, the Scots left were less than enthusiastic and finally refused to support David, I did not let them have the +1 from the leader for courage tests.

The English centre pulled back to allow space for the reserve mounted men at arms and the men at arms advanced.

The Scots forward unit on the left just managed to rally but the Scots right, after withering damage from the English archers routed.

The Scots centre charged the English mounted unit  – a bit rash as it was now at 1/2 strength!    The English successfully counter-charged and it was a 2:0 win to the English with the Scots just passing their courage test, suffering no leader casualty and then retreating.

The Scouts right – or what was left of it – proving Einstein’s maxim that madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results – marched down from the hill towards the English archers as their routed colleagues had done.

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Turn 7

The English archers caused three casualties on the remaining schiltron on the Scottish right.  It failed its courage test and did not benefit from the +1 leader bonus as it too far from the King.  Battered!

The English cavalry charged into the Scottish centre with the King in it – a 2:0 victory that destroyed the leader’s unit.  This triggered a morale test for the whole Scots army.  All passed except for the rear left unit that became battered.

The English right attacked the Scots left with  a 2:1 victory but the English failed the courage test and the Scots passed.

The Scots right then passed its courage test for being battered and removed its battered status.  On the left, the rear Scots unit also passed it courage test and then the less strong unit on the left moved back and to the right to allow space for the fresher unit to advance later.  The Scottish centre also advanced, ending turn 7.

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Turn 8

On the right, the English failed its test to remove battered status and then the reserve of mounted men at arms charged the Scottish centre, winning 1:0 and causing the Scots to retreat.  The English archers then shot at long range, so needing a 5+, to hit, inflicting two casualties and a battered result on the Scottish schiltron.  The English centre moved to the right – I played that movement out of the 45 degree front arc was at 1/2 speed.

On the Scottish left, the courage test was failed and the so stayed battered.  The Scottish centre bravely charged the English cavalry – who failed their attempt to counter-charge.  The English then recovered with a jammy roll and achieved a draw and so the Scots had to retreat.  On the left, the fresher Scots schiltron miserably failed to take advantage of the opening to advance, failing its move roll.

Turn 9

This was the last turn.  The mounted knights charged the Scottish centre who failed their courage test and routed, ending the game.  Normally play is until there are 5 units left on the table but I decided that the end would be when one side was at 50%

A visit to the actual battlefield

As I happened to be up near Durham for a couple of days, I took the opportunity to visit the actual battlefield.  There is a useful walk guide published and this can be found at the Durham tourist site here:


Although much of the battlefield is now built up, you can still get a real feeling for how steeply the moor fell away and gave good flank protection to both armies.  The steep slopes are now heavily wooded, which they probably wouldn’t have been in 1346.  It would have been much more of an exposed moorland habitat.

Here are a few pictures.

east flank

This is looking up to the moor from the eastern flank from Flass Vale.

arbor valley 2

This is the valley below Arbour Farm that gave the right wing of the Scottish army so much grief as they dropped down into it and were destroyed by rhe English bows above them.  The view is from the Scottish perspective – the English longbows would have been lining the top of the slope.

arbor valley 1

This is looking towards the Scottish right division, showing the valley they descended into the arrow storm.

nevwest flank

This picture gives you an idea of the steep slopes covering the English West (left) flank – looking up from the River Browney.

Having said all the above,  I did have an interesting conversation with a guy in the Durham Heritage Centre.  He told me that there is a theory that the battle was fought a bit further to the northwest – an area proposed for a new bypass!

Anyway, nearly time to build the terrain and get the toy soldiers on the table!

Scenario rules for the Neville’s Cross refight using Lion Rampant

Having read through the rules again, I don’t think many changes are required.  I intend to use Daniel Mersey’s extra rules for flank and rear attacks.  I would also  like to limit movement other than that within a 45 degree front arc to half normal distance.  This idea is pinched from the Bloody Big Battles 19th century rules.  The other change I will be making is to allow units from the same retinue get within 3″ of each other.  This is primarily due to the size of the table I will be playing on.  For the same reason, I will be scaling down all distances to half those in the rules.

A specific scenario rule is that the Scottish army cannot move until it suffers casualties from bow fire or is attacked by the English.  This is to represent the fact that both sides wanted to fight a defensive battle but the Scottish had more  time to wait!  The two armies stood facing each other for most of the day until the English bowmen moved forward to open fire and sting the Scots into advancing.

Next step is to get the table laid out with a representation of the contours of the moor on which the battle was fought using 1/2″ chipboard – pictures to follow.

Using Lion Rampant for the Battle of Neville’s Cross 1346

Although Daniel Mersey’s medieval skirmish rule set is not intended for larger actions, I did take part in a participation game at York wargames show this year where it was used for a refight of the Battle of Hexham – and good fun it was too!  I am intending to have a go at using the rules for a refight of the battle of Neville’s Cross 1346.  Having read up a bit about the battle, I decided to use an order of battle for a Warmaster scenario published in Miniature Wargames magazine in October 2005.

This gives three battle/retinues a side with  small cavalry reserve for the English.


Archbishop of York’s battle/retinue in the centre – 2 dismounted MAA (12 points)

Rokeby left battle/retinue – 2 expert archers (12 points)

Neville right battle/retinue – 1 dismounted MAA, 1 expert archers (12 points)

Ross cavalry reserve – 1 mounted drilled MAA (7 points)

TOTAL – 43 points


King David central Battle – 5 dismounted MAA (30 points)

Douglas right battle – 5 Foot Yeomen (Pikes) (15 points)

Stewart left battle – 2 dismounted MAA (12 points), 3 Foot Yeoman (9 points)

TOTAL – 66 points

I will now have a think about any special rules and put them in my next post!