When Inspiration is Failing … along comes Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy 97

Like all good wargamers I have about 30 half-started; half-completed; or part-planned projects either in the painting queue (that will be those boxes over there), or scratched as notes on a piece of paper as the planning sessions start (and the figures for those will be in those other boxes over there or manufacturers catalogues filed away in the file system here).

And then along came Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy Issue 97 and I was saved – or at least project number 31 started to take shape in my mind’s eye.

The main theme of this issue is “Weird War”. Basically, alternate outcomes or what-if scenarios based around World War 2, and there are seven articles on that subject, articles such as a “What if?” assassination mission – Kill Stalin; Weird War II airborne operations – Operation Redrow; or Weird War II pulp adventures – Lieutenant Liberty and the Doom Platoon.

However, there were some other more mainstream articles included such as the perils of Ptolemaic Pachyderms – Elephant Archos; the Swedes vs. the Dutch in North America – The Battle at Fort Mosquito, 1655; and the one that caught my imagination, the Empress Matilda’s flight – Bitesize battle: escape from Oxford.

The article about Stephen and Mathilda caught my eye principally because several days before I had watched an historical piece on Netflix on the Empress Maud and Matilda. Coupled with that is a desire to have a reason to get some Normans (not that I ever really needed an excuse to buy more figures). The article discusses the escape of Mathilda from Oxford Castle in the winter when the castle was invested by Stephen’s forces. I am sure this provided the idea for Sansa’s escape from Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones.

Anyway, I digress, and who doesn’t like a good digression? Mathilda and Stephen tilted for the English crown in the mid 12th century. Both were Normans and this period of Norman history makes a change from William’s Wars or the Normans in Sicily. Anyway, as the tale goes, Mathilda was the daughter of King Henry I of England, and was his sole legitimate child after the death of his son Prince William in the ‘White Ship’ disaster.

She was married to Henry V of the Holy Roman Empire (hence the title Empress), and then when he died in 1125, to Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou.

She was supposed to be the heir to the English throne, however in 1135 Stephen of Blois claimed that Henry I had changed his mind on his deathbed and recognised Stephen as successor to the throne. The English barons backed this claim.

That is when the trouble started and a period known as The Anarchy commenced.

Stephen was more popular than Mathilda, as she was viewed as a foreigner and a woman who was married to one of the hated Angevin enemy. She was also proud and overbearing, arranging everything as she thought fit, according to her own whim.

Trouble started in 1141 when the Battle of Lincoln took place between Stephen and Matilda’s half-brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester. After fighting bravely, Stephen was overcome and captured and taken before Matilda who immediately had him imprisoned in Bristol Castle. He was later released.

Both Stephen and Mathilda were captured at various stages and escaped (the escape from Oxford being one such).

Henry, Mathilda’s son by the Count of Anjou also got involved, bringing some knights to England but they were defeated by Stephen’s men.

In 1153 Stephen agreed to the Treaty of Westminster with Henry of Anjou. This stated that Stephen should remain king for life (in the event this was less than one more year) and then Henry should succeed him.

Upon Stephen’s death in 1154, Henry was crowned King Henry II, the first of the Plantagenet line of kings.

So, what’s not to like about this period? A few armies of similar structure bouncing around England and a reason to expand the lead-pile … curse you Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy!

As for figures, well it will be 6mm scale for the space challenged and Normans of an appropriate ilk are available from:

  • Heroics and Ros – a range I remember from many years ago – Normans, Saxons, Vikings and a Medieval range
  • Baccus 6mm – a lovely range of 6mm Normans, Vikings and Saxons
  • Irregular Miniatures – a large range of figures but where the casts as not as clean or detailed as H&R or Baccus

For those interested, Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy have a number of well known folks from the wargaming world writing regular columns in the magazine as well such as Rick Priestley and Henry Hyde.

The magazine is recommended … as are the Normans!

Advertisements

Dux Bellorum – Tonight’s Reading

img-823114410-0002 I pre-ordered Dux Bellorum from Amazon.com a few weeks ago. I have been reading the author Daniel Mersey’s blog over recent weeks and frankly, with all the hoo-haa over DBA version 3.0 and Phil Barker’s intractable desire not to move with the times with regards to writing style (1920) and format (1815) I was looking for something new and simple and that would not require a major investment in time or figures. Lest I be unfair, I was also dismayed with the hoo-haa that came along with the DBA 2.2+ extension as well. Good bye DBA, hello something new.

The rules cover the period 367-793 CE, Britain’s Dark Ages and even provide for the legendary Arthur. The armies specifically mentioned in the rules include Romano-British, Picts, Saxons and Irish. There is no preferred figure scale for these rules either, or base scale for that matter as they use the concept of Base Widths for movement – so each side should be based on the same frontage bases but that is about the only requirement.

The book itself is in typical Osprey 64-page format printed on nice shiny paper (yes, I know that I have become a eBook/PDF magazine tragic lately but sometimes a little paper is nice). OK, enough of the technical stuff, down to the details and content.

Like most Ospreys, the book contains illustrations from previously published Osprey works that are relevant to the period the rules cover. Also included are photographs of various Dark Age warriors in differing wargames’ scale – the eye candy. It’s obvious that the eye candy is there to pad out the book to take it to 64-pages but hey, I ain’t complaining, especially as the price was excellent at Amazon.

The rules themself are well laid out. The first chapter deals with the background and I guess design philosophy of the rules. This is followed by a chapter explaining the basics of the rules, the unit types and statistics, basing, measurement and best of all, a couple of sample army lists to get the newbie started.

The crux of the rules are covered in the next chapter, “Playing the Game”, which covers setup, deployment, moving, missile fire, brawling and such. There are the joy of all wargamers, army lists, in this chapter along with ending the game, and strategies and tactics.

The next chapter of the rules covers some pre-set Scenarios as well as providing some ideas for further scenarios. The rules are rounded off with some quick reference sheets and army roster.

The rules throughout have diagrams next to the rules explaining points of movement and combat. They are also liberally laced with tables making the information clear and easy to understand. Overall, it looks like learning the rules without an experienced player around will not be an onerous task. I for one am really looking forward to getting into the meat of these rules over the coming days.

As for Prices, the rules are available at:

  • Osprey for £11.99 ((Osprey also offer an ePub or PDF version for £9.98)) plus postage
  • Amazon.com for US $12.21 plus postage
  • Book Depository for £11.96 postage included

I’m sure there are other Wargames stores offering this for sale as well. I purchased my from Amazon along with a copy of Paul Eaglestone’s A World Aflame which I will look at tomorrow or Saturday.

From what I have seen and read so far, I think I am going to like these rules.