domenica 13 novembre 2016

Battle Report: Byzantine raid in southern Spoleto (Lion Rampant in High Middle Ages) 3/3

Continues from second part of the Battle Report

The Challenge
Theodoros Leontakephalos faces the gastald Arnald and his retainer Wigmund.

[After the third, terrible charge] At last the fight ceased, and as the dust cleared, only three horsemen still stood. Theodoros was covered in blood, a fierce lion, surrounded by the bodies of his men, of which only him remained. A few paces from him, Arnald was panting, his shield covered by marks of blows it had withstood and his eyes as wary as those of a wounded wolf. Beside him stood his retainer Wigmund, whose lance had been broken and was now wielding his sword.
It is said that all those who saw those men stopped their fighting, and a grim silence fell on the field.

"There is only one way we can end this, you and me!" shouted the Greek, in a clear Latin which he hoped his foe would understand. But even if Arnald didn't, the Pentakontarchos' gestures were clear to all. He pointed his mace of war towards the gastald, and prepared for the last charge.
"Do not accept his challenge, Sire" pleaded Wigmund "Greeks are a treacherous lot, and he knows his end is coming. We can take him down easily, together"
But Arnald would not listen to his friend. Raising his sword high, he shouted his battle cry and spurred his horse forward.

At that moment, on the other side of the hump, the fighters were oblivious of the confrontation of the two captains. The Frankish knights had finally reached the enemy and would charge the Skutatoi, who bravely stood their ground.

Before anything can happen between the two leaders, the Frankish knights on the other side of the hump have tested for Wild Charge and succeeded. They charged into the Skytatoi leaving two of their number on the groun; the Greek also lose two fighters, and as a draw the attacker must retreat. The charge of the knights have been repelled!

One again the Skutatoi prove their armour and discipline are stronger than the Frankish knights.
But nothing could stop Theodoros and Arnald as they rode towards each other. Theodoros laughed trimphantly as his mace struck the shield of the Gastald, but the laugh died in his throat when he himself had to defend against an attack more furious than he had expected. Theodoros retreated under the assault of Arnald, but his horse stumbled and, unbalanced, the Pentakontarchos was struck on the shoulder and lost his shield. Arnald's sword hit his black-crested helm on the side and slid towards the shoulder, finding its way to the neck. Leontakephalos, the Lion-headed, fell from his steed without a cry, and rested on the blood-soaked ground.

Arnald and Theodoros battle each other, as Wigmund watches in anguish.

Light is for Arnald, dark is for Theodoros.
 Challenges are pretty straightforward in Lion Rampant. Each throws three dies, scoring on 5-6. Whoever scores more, wins and kill the other. In case of a draw the parts are separated. Arnald scored three hits, against only one of Theodoros.
And now all Byzantine units must take a Courage test or run away.

"Victory to Spoleto!" cried Arnald, raising his sword and towering over the body of the Leontakephalos.
"Glory to Arnald!" echoed Wigmund "the Greek captain is dead!"

And this is how you win a battle like a Sire.
 The news of Theodoros's death swept through the battlefield like wild fire. Half of the Greek forces abandoned their weapons, together with all hope, and ran away, hoping to save their own lives at least by leaving the lands of the Spoletans.

The retreat of the Byzantines begins
The End of It
"For Spoleto!" cried the Frankish knights as they again charged into the remaining Skutatoi. This proved too much for the brave soldiers, and they also abandoned the field following their companions.

The Frankish knights on the other side of the hump tested again for Wild Charge and succeeded. This time they only lost one and fell three opponents. The Skutatoi were now forced to retreat and, losing a Courage test, also started routing.

More retreating happening

Only Audo and a half of those men who originally followed him now stood on the hump. Stubborn and proud, they understood the end was near, but refused to flee from the Franks. Instead, they decided to hold their position until the end, and die a honourable death. Their arrows, shot with the determination of the desperate, managed to repel the Militia.

One unit of Rustici still stood. A ranged attack on the approaching Militia killed one of them and sent the rest into retreat.

The Militia assails the hump

And is quickly repelled

Arnald, seeing his enemies driven before him, still did not rejoice. He had fulfilled his first oath, to have the head of the Greek captain, but now he would bring the second one to completion. Not one of the rebelling Lombards of the mountains would see his home. And so he and his knights hunted down the running footmen, so that only a handful of Skutatoi managed to escape the battle with his life.

Arnald and Wigmund charge into the retreating Skutatoi, who no longer benefit from the Shieldwall and, being battered, hardly fight back, and kill another one.

The Galstald gives no quarter
The other knights, having driven away the Skutatoi, charge into the retreating Rustici making easy sport of them. All of the Rustici are killed without any loss for the Franks.

Next time you won't challenge the Gastald again.
Audo's death
Audo and his kinmen now turned to face the knights. They prepared their swords and axes, and waited for the charge to come. Uphill rode the knights, their lances lowered. As the sun set, the last of the mountain men wet the hump with their blood.
Now Arnald's victory was complete.

No matter the higher terrain, if Rustici are charged by knights, the outcome is pretty simple.

Up the hill go the knights
Down the hill go the Rustici

Three days later the few survivors of Theodoros's force reached the army of the Strategos, reporting the events. By that time, the Leontakephalos's head was gracing the main square of the nearest town, on a pole, witness to all that the Gastald would bear no offense. Next to him, the heads of the rebels of the mountains. Their kinmen fled their mountain homes, rightly fearing the Gastald's retribution, and settled again in the lands of the Princes of Benevento.
The Marquis of Spoleto was pleased to hear the reports of the battle, and sent the Gastald a horse as a gift, and the grant of various lands to be held in beneficium.

The game was fun. All in all, it took a couple of hours. It was fast paced and dramatic. Next time, I'll try it with a scenario and, possibly, an opponent.

I hope you enjoyed reading this report and please leave a comment - feel free to send opinions and notes: being my first game, I may have overlooked some rules. If you want to know more about my house rules to play in the 10-11th century, let me know and I'll post you.

Battle Report: Byzantine raid in southern Spoleto (Lion Rampant in High Middle Ages) 2/3

Continues from first part of the Battle Report

The Onset of Battle
Theodoros ordered Audo and his men to take the hump, protected by half of his Skutatoi, while the Pentakontarchos, his Cataphracts and the rest of the Skutatoi advanced towards the enemy. Arnald did not wait for him, but he also ordered the advance of his forces: the main part of his knights, assisted by the archers of the militia, advanced towards Theodoros, while a smaller force attempted to circumvent the hump.
But it so happened that Theodoros and his Cataphracts were delayed - afraid of an ambush and concerned that, entering battle, the people defending the hump would be overwhelmed, they tarried, so that the Skutatoi advanced alone towards the Franks.

The Byzantine started taking actions, but when it came to move the Cataphracts, they failed the roll and so they remained behind. The Franks then moved all their units forward.

Early movement on the battlefield
These Skutatoi face overwhelming forces
The Lombard mountain men and the other Skutatoi hold firmly the hump.
Tragic was Theodoros's delay, because the first line of Frankish knights, seeing the Skutatoi isolated, launched their charge, screaming their war cries. The impact of steel against steel was frightful, but the brave Skutatoi held their ground against all odds, joining their large shields together as a single wall. The attackers were soon repelled by the iron-clad footmen and their long, cruel spears.
The Greeks were screaming taunts at the Franks, and it seemed that Theodoros's prevision would come true, as the knights were already on the run.

In the second turn, the Byzantine failed the first roll for activation and so it was again the time of the Franks. Their knights tested against Wild Charge and failed, thus charging directly the Skutatoi. The latter defended in tight formation, taking advantage of their Shield Wall ability (same as Schiltron), which pushed their armour value to 4. So even if the knights scored 11 hits in 12, only 2 Skutatoi were killed. On the other hand, the Skutatoi scored very well in defence, downing 2 knights. Since the clash was a draw, the attackers had to retreat. Both units tested for Courage and the knights failed, retreating further away and becoming Battered.

Frankish knights charging into the Skutatoi
Frankish knights retreating, battered by the Greeks.
The Skutatoi still remained defiant as the archers of the militia, fired on them. Their armour value of 4 was just too much, and also was strengthened by the partial cover offered by the hump.
For the rest of the turn, the Franks countinued to move forward.

The battle turns
Audo and his mountain people, taking position among the trees of the hump, started to fire arrows against the approaching militiamen, which were lightly armoured. The Franks were slowed down but bravely moved forward, even though one of them was killed.

The Rustici (Bidowers) suck at firing arrows. Seriously, they only score on a 6. The Militia has an armour of 2 so they only lost one of their number to the attack.

The hatred of the mountain folk against the people of the lowlands threatening them is well represented in this image.

Theodoros at this point hesitated: he should have advanced, but he did not, standing watch instead to see if the Franks would fall back, and this proved his undoing. Arnald rallied the knights and personally led the second charge, and although again the valiant Skutatoi repelled the knights, it was too much for them. Feeling abandoned by their commander, they turned and retrated towards the bulk of their forces.

Again the Byzantines managed to fail the activation phase - a terrible thing. The first line of Frankish knights rolled a successful Courage test and removed the Battered status, while the second line, including the leader, tested against Wild Charge and failed. Their charge again was a draw - 2 knights dead and 2 skutatoi felled. But as the knights were pushed back, this time they kept their cool, and it was the Skutatoi that failed the Courage test, and started retreating becoming Battered.

The outcome of the second Frankish charge.
The final charge
At the sight of his men routing, at last Theodoros snapped out of his doubts and ordered his Cataphracts forward. The sight of the armoured knights marching in a line restored the courage of the Skoutati, who also returned to their battle formation and faced the Franks. Meanwhile, Arnald was rallying what remained of his knights, and ordered them in a straight line, preparing for a third charge.

The two forces facing each other now are two units of Frankish Knights, each of 4 riders, and a unit of Militia Archers with all 12 members; and a full unit of 6 Cataphracts plus 7 Skutatoi.

The moments before the final charge

Loud and clear was the cry of gastald Arnald to his men, when he ordered them to charge the Greeks. Booming and raging the answer of Theodoros, as his Cataphracts rode forward to meet the enemies. Frightful and terrible their clash. Many a valiant warrior met with his death on that moment, his armour pierced by a lance or his helm cleft by a sword.
At last the fight ceased, and as the dust cleared, only three horsemen still stood. Theodoros was covered in blood, a fierce lion, surrounded by the bodies of his men, of which only him remained. A few paces from him, Arnald was panting, his shield covered by marks of blows it had withstood and his eyes as wary as those of a wounded wolf. Beside him stood his retainer Wigmund, whose lance had been broken and was now wielding his sword.
It is said that all those who saw those men stopped their fighting, and a grim silence fell on the field.

The Frankish Knights charged with a first unit, while the Cataphracts rolled succesfully for a countercharge. 3 Greek knights were felled, but none survived among the Franks, whose armour was only 3.

Seven dead bodies, and half of the Franks haven't yet charged.
Then the second unit of Frankish knights, comprising the leader, charged, promptly getting countercharges by the Cataphracts. The outcome was 2 dead for the Byzantines, who were now fighting as a half unit (6 attack dice only) and 2 for the Franks. Miracoulously, both leaders rolled for Lucky Blows, and none was hit, even the Frankish leader who was Vulnerable.

Another four dead, and only three survivors.
While this was happening, the Skutatoi were advancing under volleys of arrows from the Militia, which proved uneffective. On the other side of the hump, the Rustici also fired on the Militia killing another two of their number, which sent the Freemen into panic so that they retreated on their way. But the Knights advanced, coming almost into contact with the Skutatoi.

Two casualties of the arrows of the Lombards

An armour of 4 and partial cover defend the Skutatoi from the arrows of the Franks

The Frankish knights are coming

sabato 5 novembre 2016

Battle Report: Byzantine raid in southern Spoleto (Lion Rampant in High Middle Ages) 1/3

I've purchased Lion Rampant some time ago (read: more than one year) but only now do I have the chance to test it. Here follows then a battle report of my first solo game. I have adapted the rules to an earlier period than the one specified by the book. The story is set in the 9th-10th century, in southern Italy.
I will distinguish fluff in Italics and crunch in regular characters, to make it easier to follow.
I have taken  any pictures - but it was a rainy day, and the light is not natural. Apologies.

Theodoros Leontakephalos had recently obtained the military office of Pentekontarchos, leader of 50 men. It was, in a way, natural: his old father had been his predecessor, as one of the wealthiest men living on the northern border of the Theme of Longobardia. But Theodoros was not content with this: he wanted to impress the Strategos in Otranto. He wanted everybody to talk about his military exploits against the barbarians of the North.
During the first expedition against the Lombards of Benevento, he saw his chance: the forces of the Strategos were pinned by the enemy and food was scarce. Theodoros then had the idea of crossing the Lombard border to the North, into the Frankish March of Spoleto. Surely, they were not expecting an attack, and they had plenty of food.

A map of the region
One of the two sides is a force of Byzantine warriors, led by a Lionheart leader (who can re-roll two dice when attacking). He fights in a unit of Cataphracts (essentially similar to standard mounted Knights, 8 pts.), and is followed by two units of Skutatoi (somewhere in the middle between Foot Knights and Foot Serjeants, 6pts. each), for a total of 22 pts.

Figures from Essex Byzantines
As Theodoros entered the March of Spoleto, he was not stopped by any armed force, but on the first night armed men approached his camp among the hills. It was on that fateful night he met with Audo, leader of a community of local mountain people. Audo and his people were Lombards, and hated the local Frankish gastald with a passion so strong that they did not mind joining the Greeks against him. Audo told Theodoros that the gastald, Arnald, was a cruel and petty man, and a rash fighter whose guard was weak. If a great warrior like Theodoros could challenge him, he was sure to kill him.

To reach 24 pts. the Byzantine force added two units of Rustici (same as Bidowers).

Figures from Baueda Lombards
It didn't take long before Arnald had report that an Greek warband had entered his lands. Without hesitating, he gathered all his vassals and set out from his manor to stop them.

The Frankish Spoletan force is led by a Vulnerable leader (killed in battle with a roll of 2 or 3) composed of three units of greater mounted Milites (somewhere between mounted Knights and mounted Serjeants) and two units of Freemen Militia, one of which equipped with bows (essentially comparable to Foot Yeomen and Archers).

Figures from Baueda Carolingians and Essex Dark Ages

The Battlefield
The two armed bands met each other in a small valley, marked by a low hump in its centre.

To build the battlefield I use the following house-rule: the starting player rolls 1d6+3 to determine how many elements of scenery there are, and then starts choosing and placing the first one. The other player follows and the two take turns until the scenery is complete. In this case the die rolled a 1, so there were only four elements: the hump, the fields, a short low wall besides them, and a line of trees.
The last step was rolling a direction die, to see which side the attacking player would come from - from the right part of the table.

The Deployment
Theodoros took his position first, in the middle between the hill and the trees, challenging the gastald with his very presence. Arnald did the same, taking his place in front of the Pentakontarchos. But while the Greek captain was taunting the enemy, he ordered Audo and his men to take the hump and use it as a vantage point to shoot arrows at the Franks. Once he noticed this, Arnald also sent part of his forces on the other side of the hump, whose nearer side was impossible to climb. They would take the Greeks with a pincher movement, and crush them as they deserved.

Each player deployed a unit in turns, in their third of the table. It became clear soon that the hump would be the centre of the battle. The Byzantines would take it easily, since they were closer and in easier position to climb it, but the Franks would challenge them.

The two captains taunt each other
The Rustici position at the feet of the hump, and half of the Skutatoi stand behind them. Not far away, Frankish knights and militiamen stand ready to attack them.

The final deployment. On the right, out of the picture, stands Theodoros with his Cataphracts
The Oaths
Arnald was furious at the treacherous attack of the Greeks, who not only raided his lands as bandits, but also roused the subjects of the March into rebellion. He swore that at the end of the day he would have Theodoros Leontakephalos's head displayed in the square of the nearest town, and that not a single one of the revolting mountain men would make it back to their homes.
Theodoros laughed at the anger of the gastald, and he taunted him and his men, betting that before one third of their forces was defeated, the other two thirds would be running away like sheep.

Vowing to kill the enemy captain (2 pts.)
Vowing to completely kill 2 units (3 pts.)
Vowing to route the enemy before 1/3 is killed (2 pts.)

 Continue to second part of Battle Report

martedì 1 novembre 2016

Slann Spearman (1983)

This is pure vintage, the stuff of legends... the Slann miniatures from the earliest versions of Warhammer! Oh, the feels...

It is a little known fact that the original view of Lustria, Slann and Lizardmen in Warhammer was quite different from the later one.

The current vulgate has the undefined Old Ones creating all races of the Warhammer World, including the Slann. These are a limited edition of super-beings charged with the responsibility to oversee the Great Plan. Unique creatures, virtually immortal, exceedingly powerful in magic, most of the Slann were destroyed in the Great Catastrophe, and the surviving ones keep ruling the Lizardmen of Lustria, also created by the Old Ones as executive minions, and try to keep the Plan of their Masters reaching its completion.

Now, the older version of the legend went like this: in the beginning there were the Old Slann, a spacefaring race who visited the Warhammer Planet and created most races, excluding the Lizardmen who were the original inhabitants of the planet. At the time of the Great Catastrophe, some Slann managed to escape the planet, while others were consumed by the war with the Ruinous Powers: though able to stall them, they entered an unstoppable decline so that, millennia later, they have become a decadent civilization which has forgotten most of the ancient wisdom, and rules over a local empire covering most of Lustria. They are somewhere a mix of Aztecs, Maya and Melniboneans, lost in memories of glory, oblivious of the rise of the other races, living a dreamlike existence of luxury, surrounded by slaves and treasures and ancient secrets of lore and magic. 

God, how I loved the Slann! Everybody did, so much that they figured prominently in the campaigns I played with my group of WFRP in the years 1996-2001. There were Old Slann ghosts, underground crashed spaceships, ancient swords made of mithril-steel alloy, old tomes of power and science, modern Slann wizards trying to recover the old knowledge and secret brotherhoods of Slann scholars trying to defend it from the younger peoples and from the control of a rising priesthood of the snake-god Quesshan. It was, basically, awesome.

So awesome that, when GW decided to retcon the Slann everybody was so bewildered and filled with disbelief that it was even difficult to get angry and address curses at the staff of Nottingham. This, mind me, is usually the reaction of old fans to anything that rapes their old happy memories in order to make it easier to sell products to younger fans.

Few Slann miniatures were ever produced, but they still can be found occasionally on eBay or other platforms for purchasing used vintage stuff. That's how I got my Slann miniature - at an outrageous price, if you compare it to the original one, but still totally worth it, if you ask me.

The first impression of this miniatures was: "It can't be citadel, surely it's a copy". It's not lead, just to begin - it's a darker, harder metal. The base - we are talking of pre-slotta miniatures - is unmarked. And the spear is attached to the helmet, slightly bent and impossible to straighten, a clear glitch.

Turns out it is actually a copy, but an authorized one. The original miniature was issued by Citadel in 1983, as part of the scenario Kremlo the Slann published with the Compendium One. It was the first batch of Slann miniatures, sculpted by the legendary Perry Brothers.
Soon after that time, though, Citadel made an agreement with RAFM, a Canadian company, to cast their miniatures for the North American market. Their production, aside from the lower quality, can be recognized by the unmarked bases.

But you can't be picky if in 2016 you buy on eBay a 1983 Citadel Slann Perry Brothers miniatures, so... let's paint it!

There was actually little canon on the Slann, so I followed my gut feelings. At first I toyed with the idea of painting the upper body green and the lower white, just like a real frog, that until I realized it would look like an actual frog - then I went for pure green. Similarly, unable to decide whether to give the Slann horizontal frog pupils, or vertical reptilian ones, I just left the eyes yellow: I don't like painting eyes anyway. The weapons are a golden/bronze colour, with leather straps and colourful feathers of green turning yellow. Finally, the tail of the helm is a warm feathery white, the same bonewhite I used for the fangs.

I choose a vintage square base, to which I added little decoration as I intend to use this miniature in games.

I had no idea how to paint the shield, so I created my own Imperial device, a yellow disc with a black triangle, representing a pyramid on the sun or, fittingly, a Slann eye (vertical pupil or yellow), a symbol of the all-knowing and all-seeing ruler of the Empire. This is surrounded by a snake biting its own tail, the snake god Quesshan, protector of Lustria, beginning and ending of time. The whole is set on a white field.

I must say this miniature is fantastic - beautiful, detailed, fun to paint. I'll be looking for more of this - woe is my wallet, but long live the Slann!