Thursday, 27 December 2018

2018 Scoreboard

In a year l did little, I at least did something, and while the middle of the year was a near total wargaming blank, the year opened and closed on a note of wargaming interest, activity and optimism. There were a lot of little achievements (noted on my Workbench page) but here I'll just revisit the headline interests I outlined back in January together with the usual tally of games played and a note on the readership of this little blog.

The Men Who Would Be Kings

I didn't get into the Boshin War but I did accumulate Pathans and Egyptians and reinforced my Zulu War armies.


Rommel has been put on ice indefinitely owing to lack of local enthusiasm. Life is too short to flog dead horses.

Chain of Command

I remain interested in Chain of Command but never got round to it and probably won't pursue it in the near future unless another local gamer emerges to champion it.

Thirty Ýears War

This came a little closer with the publication of Twilight of Divine Right, and I've been giving it some thought.

Games played

This has been the year of Rampant/Dan Mersey games which accounted for no less than 7 of the 10 games played:

Dragon Rampant 2
Dux Bellorum 1
Lion Rampant 1
The Men Who Would Be Kings 2
Pikeman’s Lament 1

The other games were:

Art de la Guerre 1
Command & Colours Great War 1
Corvus 1


Lastly, this blog's audience has maintained an overall upward trend despite the five month gap in publication.

That's enough looking back. I'm now looking forward to outlining my 2019 interests which I'll do in my first post in the New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Sabots for Dux Bellorum

Some of my 25mm Late Dark Age Vikings on a sabot base.
I was originally planning to do some 10mm armies for Dux Bellorum, but when my friend Ian recently bought a load of 28mm plastic Early Dark Age figures and said he was going to base them individually on 2p coins but also group them on sabots for playing Dux Bellorum, I decided to get some sabots myself so I could use my 25mm Late Dark Age armies.

Long, long ago my Vikings were based for WRG Ancients but more recently I rebased them individually for Lion Rampant.

To be honest I didn't use to like the idea of sabots and I'm still not keen on movement trays, but I now appreciate their utility and might also start using them in Rampant games too. I don't personally find moving lots of individually-based 28mm figures a burden, but some people like to speed things up.

The sabots were supplied by the nice people at Products for Wargamers.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Dux Bellorum: The River Battle Scenario

The Dux Bellorum Shooting query featured in my last two posts absorbed our attention but didn't actually stop our game because the only shooting was from a hill and all targets were completely in arc...

We were playing the River Battle scenario which has a river running across the table and a ford towards its centre. The object of the game is to be nearest to the ford at the end of the game or to rout the enemy before that. Unfortunately, no game length is specified but as this game was essentially a rules refresher we decided to just start playing.

I chose Late Romans while Ian had Early Saxons. The armies comprised:


1 Mounted Companions
1 Noble Riders
1 Noble Warriors
5 Ordinary Warriors
2 Foot Skirmishers (Bow)


1 Mounted Companions
1 Noble Riders
1 Cataphracts
2 Noble Shieldwall
2 Bow

As expected, Ian ended up as the Aggressor while I was the Repeller. It's not a good idea for Shieldwall units to to attack into rough ground so I formed a plan to block rather than occupy the ford, at least initially.

As Repeller I was able to place two additional pieces of terrain. I chose hills and placed these either side of the river overlooking the ford, so I would get use of one of them regardless of which table edge Ian chose. Sneaky or what?

The armies deployed. The 28mm plastic figures are Ian's and only recently acquired. They were undercoated in two contrasting colours so they could be used in the game. I like these figures!

 The armies advance towards the river.

The Romans Bow gain the hill as planned but the Shieldwall troops didn't quite reach the river. At first I thought this was a failure but it turned out to my advantage.

The barbarian Companions characteristically but rashly attack across the ford.

3:1 is not good odds and Ian's Companions are severely mauled and withdraw. Had I been more up to speed in playing the rules I should have interrupted this retreat and finished them off.

More fodder for the Roman meat-grinder. (The cavalry have not yet been properly fixed in their bases and were prone to falling over - they are not casualties).

They keep coming...

...but there are less and less of them...

Thanks to my Bow, local superiority on my side of the crossing and good dice, Ian's units were getting chewed up one by one and he conceded the game.

Ian could simply have occupied the ford without attacking thus fulfilling the victory condition. I would then have been forced to attack at a disadvantage, but I would gradually have chipped away at the occupying unit with my Bow. Whether that would have worked would have depended on the game length so that really needs to be set.

Anyway, apart from our one big, seemingly resolved, rules query, the game flowed smoothly and we were pleased to be playing it again.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Dux Bellorum: Stumped by a rules query 2

My plea for help in my last post didn't elicit any responses so I'll move onto the next stage...

My playing companion, Ian, has argued that the problem is a simple contradiction. On the surface this does appear to be the case. He has suggested we adopt one option or the other, that is that to be eligible as a target (1) a unit's nearest edge must be wholly within Line of Sight (LoS) as implied by the bullet point,  or (2) a unit need be only partially within LoS as implied by the diagram.

I have tested both these options, but neither of them seem to work.

(1) Target wholly within

In this example A cannot shoot at B because B's nearest base edges is not completely within A's LoS. This would be ridiculous!

(2) Target partially within

At first this seems more realistic. A shooting unit would not have to see all of a target unit in order to shoot at some of it. But what happens when the target is obscured by other units or terrain? Is there a point at which a gap is so small that shooting becomes negligible and shouldn't be allowed?

A are shooters. B is the target. C and D are intervening units. B is within A's LoS but it's not exactly a clean shot.

Basically, neither of these interpretations seem to work.


Billchuck (on Lead Adventure Forum) had  problems replying here but sent me a private message in which he said:

'...keep in mind that often there will be two “closest edges”. I would play it as “if all of one of the nearest base edges is entirely visible"...'

In the diagram from the book, the unit on the left would be a valid target because you can see all of the left side of the unit. The unit on the right would be valid because you can see all of the right side of the unit.

This approach would solve the problem. A target can be partially within sight but you have to be able to see the whole of at least one of the nearest sides.

I had more-or-less assumed that the diagram was probably right because the author would have spotted any inaccuracy in something so visual.

I had also assumed that the bullet point had some sensible and necessary intention behind it, and that it was probably introduced to avoid the 'shooting through gaps' problem illustrated by my second diagram.

I was thus very reluctant to accept the idea of simply jumping one way or the other without resolving the apparent contradiction. I was not able to resolve the issue myself, but this is a very elegant solution and I am eternally grateful.

Postscript 2

On further reflection I'm not entirely sure that seeing the whole of one of the nearest edges is a complete solution...

If you look at my second diagram but imagine that B is shuffled along so that its right-hand edge is opposite the gap between C and D, A can then see the whole of one of B's side edges and it becomes a valid target.

I think the time has come to consider a house rule.

I am thinking about adding: you must also be able to draw uninterrupted straight lines between the front corners of the shooting unit and two corners of the target unit. (Obviously the two lines shouldn't cross and there should be a clear field between them.)

Nothing is going to be a 100% fix.

Postscript 3

Billchuck has suggested:

Or just “the entire front of the shooting unit must be able to see some part of the target unit.”

Interestingly this shifts the test from the target to the shooters.

Postscript 4

I've finally arrived at:

“A target is valid if at least part of it is in range, one of its (nearest) base edges is entirely visible, and the whole front of the shooting unit can see some part of the target unit.”

Beyond that one might be forced to just use common sense! It seems to work for most people.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Dux Bellorum: Stumped by a rules query

The stumbling block
I enjoyed Dux Bellorum but haven’t played it for a long time. I was keen to start playing again, but our first game was almost immediately stymied by a rules query which I don’t remember encountering before. The query stopped us in our tracks and we have been debating it ever since without agreeing on a solution.

The query relates to Shooting but also concerns Uncontrolled Charges as the rules use the same wording. (It also touches on an optional rule, Line-of-sight Charges.) It is thus pretty fundamental.

I would normally hope to get an answer from a forum, but Dux Bellorum was published in 2012, the world has moved on, and the Tapatalk board is pretty quiet.

According to the rules, a unit's Line-of-sight is constrained by a 45 degree angle and the whole of the nearest edge of the target unit must be visible to the shooting unit. In the accompanying diagram, however, valid targets are indicated even though their nearest edges are not wholly within the Line-of-sight.

I’ve tried all sorts of ways to make sense of this, but I won’t confuse the picture with my speculations.

If anyone reading this still plays Dux Bellorum and can explain it, please help us out so I can enjoy a relaxed Yule!


Please see the Postscript 4 at the end of the next post for a solution.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

'Rebels and Patriots' for 1798?

The latest and last set of Rampant rules - Rebels and Patriots - is due out in January 2019 and will fill the gap in the Rampant range between The Pikeman’s Lament and The Men Who Would Be Kings. The rules have been written by Michael Leck and Daniel Mersey.

Osprey wanted the rules to be focused on North America for commercial reasons, but they should be perfectly applicable beyond. One possibility amongst many hundreds is the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in which I have had a long-standing interest, especially since watching the TV mini-series The Year of the French which was shown in the 80s. I go back a long way!

At one point I started collecting 15mm figures for this conflict with the intention of using the Maurice rules, but it would have meant doing another mass army and the rules weren't really suited to pitching a predominantly pike army against musketmen.

So I was quite excited by the prospect of a Rampant set for the horse-and-musket period which would once again allow me to satisfy an historical interest with a relatively small game. I had assumed/hoped that R&P would have some type of 'charging infantry' that would accomodate Irish pikemen but from what I can tell the 'Natives' type in R&P is essentially a shooting type.

At first this put me off and I was wondering about creating a custom unit type or maybe using The Pikeman's Lament instead. However, it is possible to increase Aggression and make Natives Poor Shooters. This would represent a small number of firearms mixed in with the pike in addition to the firearms otherwise fielded by skirmishers, so I think I should be OK after all.

Trent Miniatures (currently available from North Star) do a good range of 28mm figures specifically for this conflict, so I've already begun to use my £5-a-month Wargames Illustrated credit to (slowly) accumulate forces.
Croppy Boys: Trent Miniatures 28mm Irish insurgent pikemen.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Comparison of 28mm Border Reiver samples

The 28mm Timeline Miniatures from Hoka Hey Wargaming will be forming the heart of my Border Reiver collection for playing Pikeman’s Lament as they have that true Border character but I will be supplementing them with some other useful Elizabethan models from the Foundry 'Sea Dogs and Swashbucklers' range which were said to match in height and bulk.

Before sending large orders I decided to get a sample packet of each just to check. I can now personally confirm that both ranges conform to the so-called 'heroic 28mm' size, i.e. they are really 30mm from top of the head to soles of the feet.

Top: Timeline. Bottom: Foundry
The Timeline Reivers were originally sculpted by the late Jim Bowen and are now sold by Alan Rudd. I had a minor query about horses which Alan kindly answered by phone. Foundry is of course a much more corporate enterprise.

Both ranges are nicely animated, clean, and robust, and this style is very much to my taste. I guess the Foundry ones are a little chunkier and deeper-cut but they won't be distinguishable by the time they are fully painted and based.

The seadog-style ‘shorts’ worn by some figures in the Foundry range may need a little conversion to better represent the more baggy hose worn by the 'lower orders' on land. There will also be Garrison troops, and everything may also double up as English Royal and Rebel armies if I want a change of scene.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Twilight of Divine Right

I never got round to playing Twilight of the Sun King but I’m currently looking for a set of Thirty Years War army-level rules and had no hesitation in ordering the 17thC variant of TotSK - the equally evocatively entitled Twilight of Divine Right - together with the scenario book of TYW battles.

The rules are written by Nicholas Dorrell and published by the Pike & Shot Society.

Regardless of how the rules might play, my first inclination with any new rule set is to look at the unit types, basing, and overall game ‘size’ in terms of elements and playing area.

ToDR offers a good range of unit types including four types of infantry formation. Units can also vary in quality and size, and infantry can have different firearm ratios. This is all good, and in a very clever special rule, the short-lived Swedish Brigades can switch dynamically between different firearm ratios during a game to reflect their flexible formations.

The game measures in Base Widths (BW) which can be any reasonable size, but 60mm is suggested with most base depths half that. However, most units consist of two bases and would thus occupy an overall footprint of 120mm x 30mm. As the bases are always placed side by side it isn’t really necessary to use two physically separate bases. A single base would suffice while remembering that a BW is half that. Using two bases would maintain more compatibility with other rules and would be fine for Regiments drawn up in two Battalia with one Battalia on each base, but would not be so good for Early Tercios which I wouldn't really want to split across two bases.

If using 60mm wide bases (120mm-wide units) the table typically needs to be 6’ x 4’ and can go up to 9’ x 5’. I’d certainly want to use smaller bases/units and a smaller playing area, as long as that didn’t make measurement and movement too fiddly. I wasn't quite sure what that size should be but I received some very helpful advice on the TotSK Yahoo Group.

The smallest measurement in the game is the range of pistol cavalry at a 1/4BW. Assuming you didn't want this measurement to go below 1cm, the unit bases would have to be at least 80mm wide (i.e. BW of 40mm). That would reduce the table size to two-thirds which would be 4' x 2'8" up to 6' x 3' 4", which would be much more manageable sizes for the space-challenged.

So how many units would you need for a battle? The smallest scenario has 21 units while the largest has 80. With numbers of that order and my preference for smaller unit bases, I’d probably go for 2mm blocks, Kriegspiel-style blocks or MDF counters, but all these musings are highly provisional.


Rules author Nick Dorrell mentioned a possible reason to stay with 2 bases per unit, rather than 1 large one. For the largest battles you can then use a single base as a unit.  That's a very interesting option as it instantly halves the figures and playing space you need for larger battles while retaining visual impact for smaller ones.