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!

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Society of Ancients – Slingshot

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Society of Ancients members can stop reading now 😆

One of my favourite reads every two months is Slingshot. This is the journal of the Society of Ancients, based in the UK. The Society is a collection of wargamers, historians (military and otherwise) whose common interest is ancient military history and playing games with small soldiers (or similar).

Over the last couple of years the journal has changed its shape and the cover to the left here is the current iteration of the journal. It is now printed with a soft cover and colour throughout, with more colour illustrations to illustrate articles (we do live in a colourful world after all).

The journal now looks and feels more like a magazine than it has ever felt and whilst it avoids a look that is “slick” it does feel good reading through it.

The contents this month consist of the usual sections – editorial, guardroom (that’s the letters to the editor – some people still do write them), figure reviews and book reviews. In addition this month there are articles on the Seventh Crusade, the Role of the Mast of Dragons (Later Romans), a continuation of East Roman Cavalry Warfare and Tactics c. 410-641 as well as some specifically wargaming topics, such as the report from the 2011 Victorian Field of Glory Championship and perhaps my favourite article this month, the Ruleset Round Table where the authors of a number of wargaming rules were asked the same questions. Some interesting reading indeed in there.

One thing I was pleased to see was William Shepherd’s Plataea receiving a very high accolade from a reviewer, an accolade I agreed with when I wrote Plataea 479 BC – Part 2.

If you are not a member of the Society of Ancients but you have an interest in Ancient Wargaming or Ancient Military History, then I suggest you head over to their website – it is not expensive for a year’s subscription and worth every cent.

Cancon 2011 DBA – Rajputs v War of the Roses English

P1000721Round 5 arrived. For this round I had to face the Wars of the Roses English of Peter Braham. Peter’s two sons, Bas and Sam, were also playing as juniors in the competition and both finished higher up the table than Dad.

I was a little concerned as one of the options available to the Wars of the Roses English is to take some artillery. Artillery is not nice to elephants, able to destroy them at a distance. However, I had decided to battle three times with Nellie and three times without and so this game I took the elephant general option. I also rolled high again on aggression and so was the attacker once more.

Peter’s army was list IV/83b Wars of the Roses English and contained, for this battle:

  • 1 x 4Bd General (dismounted knights)
  • 3 x 4Bd – more dismounted knights
  • 1 3Kn or 3Cv – I can’t recall whether he took these as a cavalry or knight option
  • 1 x 2Ps – this was some light troops instead of the artillery
  • 6 x 4Bw – the famous longbow men of England

As I was the attacker, Peter selected the terrain – two woods, a road and a steep hill with a crest line running along it. I selected sides and ended up having to attack into the terrain to get to Peter’s army.

I sent my light troops and one blade on the right flank forward into the wood at the end to both protect the flank of my knights moving up the centre and to pin the English forces there. The centre was two knights and the elephant – focussing the attention of Peter’s blades, which were likely to be eliminated fairly quickly if the knights closed with them. My left flank then consisted of one more element of knights – providing some mobility there – four elements of bows and the remaining blades. These were sent across the hill and the flat area to my far left.

P1000722 As it turned out, the major part of the fighting occurred there on my weak left flank with the bows finally, after 5 games, causing a casualty. My knights also won out against the English mounted troops and the blades on the hill accounted for the rest of the English.

This was a close tough battle and could just as easily gone either way. The second photograph shows the battlefield at the end of the battle with my forces in control on my left, his forces pinned on my right and the knights and elephant still focussing the attention of the English blades.

Another 8:1 victory and I was starting to look like one of the players to beat. Doug Melville was on 5 victories from 5 games at this stage (having just beaten one of Peter’s sons) and Murray Woodford was, with me, on four victories at this stage, as far as I understand.

One more round to go!