Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 end of year report part 4 - plans for 2013

By the miracle of Blogger scheduling, this post should appear just under the wire in the last minute of 2012. The question: what have I got planned for 2013?

Games I want to play:
  • Dux Britanniarum. (Ok, hands up who's surprised.) Andy and I will be continuing the Linnius campaign, and with a bit of luck I may actually get to take some territory off him. In addition, we're planning on running a multiplayer campaign for the club.
  • I Ain't Been Shot Mum. I'm busy building up forces for the Lardies' Blenneville or Bust campaign, which again I'm hoping to run for interested parties at the club in 2013.
  • Napoleon at War: past time I got to play this!
  • Anything else Lardy we can scare up the time and figures for at club
  • Definites:
    • Anything Scrivs and Tom run :)
    • Axes 2013 if it's on
    • The club WILL be running a successor to Bretwalda: watch this space. 
    • We'll be running a participation game at Hammerhead again, and we're on the reserve list for Salute
  • Maybes:
    • The club may also be running another event here in Peterborough. Again, watch this space.
    • WABGT, if I can raise an army
    • WD3's annual Ayton bash, if ditto and I can sell it to the Domestic Authority
    • Something might happen at Partizan :) Something would have happened at Partizan, but my partner in crime just booked his holiday to clash! :D Watch this space for... hang on, I said that before, didn't I!
Figures etc to paint:
  • lots of 15mm WW2 US, German and British (in that order)
  • lots of 18mm Napoleonics
  • lots of terrain!
  • A longboat
Anything else on top of the above is a bonus and I'm not going to commit to it.

Online/writing stuff:
  • More blogging
  • I may look at submitting articles for one or other of the wargames mags.
  • I have two supplement/scenario ideas for IABSM, and one for Quadrant 13
  • Lardy card deck builder web app 
  • We will (really, really) get Sekret Projekt W off the ground.
Well, if you've got to here, unless you're an amazingly fast reader with lightning fast reactions, it's 2013, and it only remains for me to say thank you for sticking with me through 2012: if you've commented or linked, thank you so much. If all you did is read, I hope you found things to entertain and inform you. And, of course, to wish you the best in the future, and a

Happy New Year!!!!!

2012 end of year report part 3 - so what's changed?

I guess it's pretty clear from looking back that the major change this past year has been, indeed, discovering the Way of Lard, as the folks on the list put it.

As I said in the previous post, the whole thing probably started with a Meeples and Miniatures podcast epsiode in which Rich Clarke discussed the core concept of friction in warfare, and how it was applied in systems like IABSM. It's evident from comments around online that the Lardies' favourite activation mechanism (cards and a Tea Break) isn't for everyone, but it works for me. Yes, sometimes your units don't get to move, but that's equally true in (say) Hail Caesar or BKC, and in some ways it's worse, because it's a lot easier, and somehow it feels more arbitrary, in those systems to completely fail to move at all. I'm not quite sure why that is - part of it I think is because it's more frustrating when I roll the dice and I fail to make an activation roll for the unit important to my plan, compared to it being at the whim of a deck of cards. Somehow the latter feels more like 'the guys I'm commanding are not entirely under my control' and less like 'nuts, blew the roll again'.

And of course, with the Big Man system prevalent in all Lardies games, you can work your way round such problems by using a Big Man (should one activate) to order the important unit, if you need it to activate ASAP. To my mind, that feels right. For an excellent quasi-fictional example of Big Men at work, read Ken Macksey's excellent 'Battle', which (as I understand it) is a fictionalised account of a Normandy battle but heavily drawing on the author's real life experiences. The narrative focusses heavily on the various levels of command, and you can read it and almost call out the IABSM card draws as you go :D

Next up was Dux Britanniarum, which I have to confess Andy Hawes spotted before I did: this has been a massive hit, and is pretty much our go-to Dark Ages game of choice. I've also, as you no doubt can tell, been having a self-indulgently brilliant time writing up our campaign history!

Apart from that? Well, looking at my first output for Curt's 3rd painting contest, I think I'm a better painter than I was this time last year (though still nowhere near a number of folks I could name's standard), helped by the threefold attack of better brushes, better paints and a decent magnifier. Oh, and that hoary old chestnut, practice!

I've definitely played less WAB towards the back end of 2012, and ... I hesitate to say I've fallen out of love with Op: Squad, but I am very aware of its shortcomings for scenario-based play in anything involving unbalanced sides.

So, all in all - definitely not the wargamer I expected to be this time last year. But hopefully better :D

Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012 end of year report part 2 - what I actually did

What I actually did, in a nutshell, was had a ball!

Tournaments and events:
  • The WAB GT with my army of Brigantes (using the AoA2 British Tribes list), and came dead last. Not that I minded, as I had a great time and met a bunch of great people. Still considering whether to enter next year, as I'm rather developing an allergy to last-minute paint jobs on scads of plastic figures. I could use the Brigantes again, as they're legal for the period, or I'd have to assemble a bunch of Greeks or finally get my Parthian army built. We'll see.
  • Two different WAB days at Eye of the Storm run by Scrivs and Tom - one an Age of Arthur day, one El Cid. Both brilliant fun.
  • A weekend in Ayton with the guys from WD3, for one of Henry Hyde's big sprawling imaginations battles. Great fun, but I confess I am horribly, horribly behind on the in-character blog for my army. Still debating next year - again, I'd need a new force as we're changing settings.
  • Took a Later Saxon Kingdoms army to Axes 2012 at the Rushden club in August - again, great people, fun session. After the first round I was at the dizzy heights of table 1, before discovering the hard way where the meat of an Indian army is relegated me to mid-table.
  • Entered the local interclub tournament, playing WAB doubles with Grahame - we came a decent and enjoyable second, the club came... next to last, IIRC
  • Bretwalda, our club's own Age of Arthur day. This would appear to have been a resounding success :D
Wargaming at the club and generally:
  • I guess the main thing that happened in 2012 (which probably is responsible for several other rule sets not getting explored) is that I discovered the Too Fat Lardies' many and excellent sets of rules, specifically I Ain't Been Shot Mum and Dux Britanniarum. The latter not only gave the club a chance to have Rich Clarke himself come demonstrate the rules, but allowed Andy Hawes and I to run a two-player campaign which has generated some fantastic evenings, as well as allowed me to exercise my talent for writing fiction. As far as IABSM goes, I've umpired various demo games down the club (after playing a couple with Gavin), and expect to do more in 2013. For what it's worth, Christmas Eve marked the first anniversary of me discovering TFL.
  • Carl ran an ECW campaign using WECW and Tinker Fox, which was great fun (despite the number of evenings on which all we did was move tokens on the maps). We also refought Edgehill and Cropredy Bridge with WECW, and a huge all-day game of the First Battle of Newbury with Pike and Shotte.
  • AndyB ran a WAB campaign set in about 100AD, which seems to have been on hold since one or two of the players had intrusions of Real Life. We're due a final battle sometime :D
  • We (as a club) ran a participation game ("Pyramid of Peril") at Hammerhead and Eastern Front - at the former we won best participation game. 
  • Gavin ran a computer-guided Peninsular campaign, which was definitely interesting. It fizzled a bit to a halt, but we're hoping to pick up with a new version of the software and a fresh start next year.
  • The usual collection of one-off games of Saga, Op: Squad, WAB and the like. 
Army building, painting etc:
  • Finished my 28mm Brigantes army.
  • Started and finished a 28mm Age of Arthur Early Saxon army for WAB, which has also seen service as Later Saxons, a Saga warband, and lately Dux Britanniarum. Been having fun painting character figures for the latter, too. I blame Andy :D
  • Started and finished a 28mm El Cid WAB army.
  • Started a 15mm US WW2 company for IABSM. No-one to blame but myself for this, although I could stretch to blaming Neil and Rich for one particular Meeples and Miniatures podcast.
  • Started making terrain. Looking forward to doing some more of this, as I seem to be pretty OK at it.
Blogging and online:
  • I seem to have got the hang of this blogging lark - at least, the traffic stats have gone through the roof this year (somewhere around 45,000 of the total page views happened in 2012). Part of it, I hope, is due to some of the series I've been working on, some due to hopefully finding good places to plug appropriate posts, and hopefully some is because I can string two coherent sentences together in an entertaining, informative and/or useful manner.
  • I'm now hosting the club website and forum.
Tomorrow, some thoughts on the changes, wargaming-wise, in my hobby over 2012.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

2012 end of year report part 1 - what I said I was going to do

First up in my end of year report, let's take a look at my rash predictions from last year, and see where I got to...
Completing existing armies:
  • Add a couple more cohorts and another unit of cavalry to my 28mm EIR - well, I managed the cavalry, but that was all
  • Add another two warbands, some more cavalry, fanatics and chariots to my 28mm Brigantes - success (barring the cavalry)
  • Add another squad with support weapons to my 28mm Wehrmacht (for Operation: Squad) - pass on the squad, fail on any support weapons
  • Add another regiment of pike and shot to my 28mm Royalists - all I managed was two command figures, but then Gary at the club has ridiculous numbers of forces
New armies:
  • Napoleon At War 18mm French - at least two infantry brigades plus cavalry plus artillery - nope: never quite got round to it, despite the fact the French Chasseurs have been undercoated for a year+!
  • 28mm Parthians (largely Wargames Factory Persian light cavalry plus A&A cataphracts). Waiting on Armies of Antiquity 2 to see what else I need. - likewise
  • Some 28mm Gladiators for Warhammer Historical's ruleset - nope
  • 28mm British Commandos for Op: Squad - nope
  • 28mm Russians ditto - nope
  • 28mm Normans - for SAGA and a possible club campaign - yes, although currently they're doing duty as Christian Spanish
  • I should buy some so I can game at home - well, I've made a start
  • Paint up/flock the Citadal modular hill I have - done!
  • Try constructing some 28mm buildings - not done
  • Ditto bocage for Operation: Squad - no, but I have the raw materials to make some in 15mm
Rulesets to acquire/check out:
  • Napoleon At War - not yet, but this coming year, honest
  • Gladiator - not yet
Other stuff
  • Get the *deleted* workshop organized so I can keep track of all this stuff! - well, it's a lot tidier than it was
  • Sort out some means of spraying indoors while it's cold! - not yet, but considering it
  • Wargamers Pledge. Watch this space! - erm... *shuffles feet*. Yes, well.
Well, from a completing my original aims perspective, that's definitely 5/10, could do better. But... that doesn't begin to cover the awesomeness that was 2012. Watch this space.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Painting Challenge - Saxons

I finished up a bunch of Musketeer Miniatures Saxon archers, plus a stray Duguth I somehow managed to miss earlier in the year and an extra figure, just before Christmas for the Analogue Hobbies painting challenge.

These are to replace my missile troops in Dux Britanniarum (the current ones being Wargames Factory plastics). The extra figure is, as far as I can recall, a 1980's Citadel female ranger, which I unearthed in a massive tin of assorted painted and unpainted Citadel and Ral Partha figures - and there are no prizes for guessing who she's meant to be. The original paint job wasn't wonderful, even by my standards (if you look closely in last week's Dux Brit AAR, you can see she's wearing blue gloves!), so I re-undercoated her and started again.

The science bit? Army Painter matt black undercoat, Army Painter Warpaints and a couple of Vallejo colours, then a light wash of Army Painter strong tone ink, and some light highlights on the faces and hair after the wash. Varnish is the usual Army Painter, bases are Tamiya dark earth diorama paint and Javis static grass.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


So, I made a bunch of woods to make for our Age of Arthur campaign day a month ago. Which has, as these things sometimes do, got me thinking about terrain generally, also prompted by watching a bunch of videos from TerranScapes and TheTerrainGuy, as well as some interesting thoughts from Pete's Wargaming Blog and Phil Broeders on the subject, and the inspiration of the amazing Roundwood's World.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Blogger Secret Santa

According to the anonymous green-ink note inside my blogger secret Santa present, this is a preview of a new item from Steve at The Baggage Train. And it really does look rather cool and if it was inside the secret Santa budget, it's a bargain.

What is it?

A resin, 28mm Dark Ages longship - the neck end of 14" long. Comes neatly packaged in a plastic bag, with several smaller ziplock bags inside with some of the smaller components. Also contains a fabric sail and a couple of wooden spars, as well as a fair number of shields and shield transfers.

Detail is really rather fine, and the prow and stern decorations aren't too overstated. It needs a little clean up, but that's to be expected, since it's resin.

Quite fab, and I shall be chronicling the process of assembly and painting over the next few weeks.

To my anonymous secret Santa giver, a hearthfelt thank you, and to Steve, as well!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

It's Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas!!!!

(to quote the inimitable Mr. Noddy Holder).

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish my readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas, however you may celebrate it.

I'll freely admit that I'm taking shameless advantage of Blogger's ability to schedule posts, as I'm probably (at the time this is posted) enjoying the first slice of Christmas cake, a piece of Wensleydale (don't knock Christmas cake and cheese as a combination till you've tried it!) and a very nice single malt Scotch up at my parents near Hull.

Until Boxing Day, then - have a good one!

Monday, 24 December 2012

MIke's holiday to-do list

At least in theory, I have all of the next two weeks off, although work is active except on weekends and public holidays, and I am the backup point of call....

What am I hoping to do over the fortnight?
  • Wargaming-related:
    • Blog. A lot. I'm aiming for writing two a day, which gives me a nice substantial queue of posts for those days when work/life stops me posting. My aim with this blog has always been to post once a day. Coming up, apart from more of the current series, are a couple more that will hopefully be educational and/or entertaining. And... well, suggestions always welcome.
    • Paint. My aim is to do at least two hours a day (usually while Anne and James are watching TV). In the queue:
      • the rest of a US Rifle company + support, in 15mm for IABSM
      • some 28mm archers for Dux Britanniarum
      • a 28mm Samurai for Curt
      • a German Heer company + support, in 15mm for IABSM
      • a German FJ company, ditto
      • LOTS (about 10 boxes * 100 figures) of 18mm Napoleon At War
    • Terrain. A large box arrived yesterday, containing some 600mm x 600mm blue craft foam, and Tim, my tame builder, is cutting me some 600mm MDF squares to fix it onto. Watch this space :D
    • Clearing out a lot of stuff in my workshop for eBay (anyone interested in about 100 painted late '80s Citadel and Ral Partha minis?)
    • I promised Rich Clarke I'd see if I could hack together a web app for producing card decks for TFL rulesets.
    • I need to work on the Peterborough Wargames Club website.
  • Other modelling:
    • I kind of owe my son some work (with him) on his model railway layout. Quite a bit, actually. Fortunately, he is getting a PS3 this Xmas, so I suspect the lure of that may ensure I don't have to spend ALL the vacation on the layout, although it is good terrain-building practice
  • Other:
    • I have two videos to edit. Which is probably going to cost me a small fortune in more disk and a copy of Final Cut X!
Well, that doesn't look so bad, does it? 


Sunday, 23 December 2012

"To Britain's Shores" - Interlude - "A sword passed..."

We got royally drunk again that evening - it only seemed right to be roaring drunk on such a night. One of the men who came over with Beornwulf was a Scop - a poet. Oswulf was his name, hair blond as the grain, with a fine, small lyre that he made good use of. He walked among us a lot that day, listening, drawing out stories as he had been the previous evening, until, as one of those occasional lulls settled on us, he stepped up onto one of the tables and declaimed, in a ringing voice:
"Ale-drinker, armsman, axe of the Saxons;
Warrior, wine-stealer, wencher and friend.
Faced down his foes, fearless and taunting,
Time upon time bringing treasure to his Lord. 
"Springtime's sun rose on this son of the barrel;
Cheerful companion, cousin to Wulfhere.
Horn raised to heaven, held brimming with bloodwine,
Roaring, rejoicing at the rout he would bring. 
"Britons beheld him, bravest of Saxons:
A dozen of Duguth, drawn up for the fight.
Declaiming defiance, to danger unheeding,
To fen-bound foemen forward he strode.
Bright the blade of this boldest of warriors,
Spear thrust sharp, striking the Tribune,
Undaunted, unwavering, up to the foeman,
Heedless of hurt, insults hurling, he fought.
Sword and spear clashing, sparks in the dawn's light
Leofric last of the liegemen to fall. 
"Ale-drinker, armsman, axe of the Saxons;
Warrior, wine-stealer, wencher and friend.
Fell facing the foe, fearless in death,
Home now in Odin's halls, hero now mourned."

Aelfric turned to me after a moment or two, asked, quietly, "What do you think of Beornwulf?"

I arched an eyebrow, shrugged a little, then answered the question he really wanted answered. "He'd do."

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Heraldry 101, part 6 - Lions, Tigers (well, almost) and Bears, oh my!

So. Welcome back to another instalment of the occasional series on heraldry. This time, as a follow on from the last article on charges in general, we'll move on to animals in general, and largely what would appear to be one of heraldry's favourite critters, the lion. Birds and fish we'll save for later!

We can divide the appearance of animals into two - the basic pose, and the head position. Most of these apply to any quadruped, but (with the inevitability of such things) some positions get a different name for specific critters. So... onwards, with the most common poses or attitudes:
sejeant erect

With me so far? In addition to the above, there's affronté, which means 'facing the viewer', usually with front paws down as a cat might sit, and dormant (like couchant but with its head tucked in as if asleep). To add to the fun, salient is forcene for horses, climant for goats, and springing for deer. Also, there's erect (stop sniggering at the back) which means walking on two legs.

Note also that all these are facing left. Creatures facing right are said to be to sinister or contourné.

Cool. Now, the default head position for all these poses is with head facing in the same direction as the body. If the head is facing the viewer in any of the sideways-on poses, it's termed guardant. If it's facing backwards along the animal's spine as if looking over its shoulder, it's regardant (note, no 'u'!).

So, with that in mind? Your teaser for this week: figure out what the following blazons look like, and tell me which arms they are a part of. (The ones ending with an ellipsis are incomplete blazons, and they're all from somewhere in Britain.)
  1. Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or, armed and langued[1] azure.
  2. Or, a lion rampant gules armed and langued azure...
  3. Gules, a bear erect argent, muzzled of the first[2], collared and chained or... 

[1] Quite why there's a fascination with blue claws and tongues on heraldic lions I'm not entirely sure!
[2] I can't remember if I mentioned this earlier, but it's a heraldic affectation to refer to a previously mentioned colour (so in this case, 'of the first' means 'gules', 'of the third' would be 'or', etc.).

Friday, 21 December 2012

200! 50,000!!

If I haven't got my maths wrong in queuing this up, the previous post was my 200th post!

Wow. I really wasn't expecting to get this far this soon, or be consistently averaging 100 pageviews+ a day and 4-5000 a month. As ever, thanks to everyone who reads, follows and comments. It's been fun!

There's more coming, if the world hasn't ended by the time you read this :D

Edit: It also appears I passed 50,000 pageviews overnight! Woot!

The 42nd Ronin

That'll be me, having slipped in at the last minute to Curt's 3rd Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. Due to my insane last couple of weeks at work, I'd not had time to catch up on my blog reading, and signed up too late, but by a fortunate twist of fate, someone had dropped out,

So... here we are! (And thanks, Curt!)

I've, perhaps rashly, bid for 1000 pts, which is a LOT of 15mm figures: my main two projects this year are going to be lots of WW2 stuff for IABSM/Blenneville or Bust, and two Napoleon at War armies (French and British). On top of that, if I get time, I'm aiming to tidy up some of my Dux Britanniarum forces in 28mm, and maybe paint some 28mm Greeks.

Oh, and a Samurai :D

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Battle Report - 03 Dec 2012 - Warhammer ECW Campaign

Gary (left) and Dewi ponder the
So, having reached the end of our campaigning, Carl decided we'd cap off the club ECW campaign with a battle. Conveniently, it was late June of 1643, and our campaign area was the general vicinity of Oxford, so... we had a go at Cropredy. To be specifically accurate, we had another go at Cropredy, since long-term readers of this blog may remember that Carl and I had a go at the battle last year.

Forces were, as for our last couple of large battles, provided by Gary (barring a few cavalry by me). What's really scary is that Gary is now retired (early - the youthful good looks are NOT due to a picture in his attic), and happily painting away... and that this insane volume of Warlord plastics was painted in his spare time in less than a year... before he retired.

Royalist gallopers charge the bridge.
Carl and I (lacking Andy, who was indisposed) took the Royalist rearguard and rear of the main force, and Dewi, Grahame and Gary took the forces of Parliament. It.. actually went pretty much as per history. My cavalry charged Waller's approaching Roundheads coming over Cropredy Bridge, and proceeded to demonstrate just how good decent Royalist gallopers are, smashing through several units one after another and causing a real logjam at the bridge.
A convoy of Royalist foot head for
Hays Bridge.

That was pretty much what decided it - while the forces of Parliament were recovering from that, the rest of the Royalist rearguard managed to get most of the way to Hays Bridge, and we called it by about 4pm campaign time.

And that's that for the ECW campaign. Grahame and the Roundheads (sounds like a great name for a band) won the campaign proper, having by the end of June more cash and forces and territory than we did. A great time was had by all - thanks to everyone who took part, but especially Carl for organising the whole thing. We'll do it again in 2014!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Battle Report - 17-Dec-2012 - Dux Britanniarum

As you've probably guessed from the previous two posts, this week's game down the club was an absolute doozy of a Dux Britanniarum game with my regular opponent and good mate Andy Hawes.

The table after the Saxons' three
deployment moves.
We set up some terrain, most of the large pieces for once mine rather than Andy's, and rolled for a scenario - raid on a farm/settlement. I got at least a little lucky with the terrain placement and starting conditions, as the settlement wound up on top of a hill in one corner, and the British came in from the wrong side of a wood and a swamp, about as far away as was possible.

That, apart from one other event of which more later, was pretty much all that went right for the Saxons, unfortunately.

Ecgwine's warriors follow the
missile troops, just visible
through the trees ahead of them.
Andy rolled for three units to turn up after the Saxons had moved, and his Lord and a group of warriors and comanipulares turned up first. Brilliant. I left good old Leofric the Drunkard and two groups of warriors to deal with them, kind of comfortable in the knowledge that I had a remarkably fat fistful of cards from the get go - Step Forth, Carpe Diem, Goad, Aggressive Charge - and that Andy wouldn't be in shieldwall, in order to move through the marsh, so his Shieldwall Braced card would be useless. My Lord (Aelfric), my hearthguard, and the rest of my warriors (with Ecgwine) and missile troops (with a new figure for the girl in their number) headed for the settlement on the hill.

This is how it should have gone!
And joy of joys, I got to activate Leofric and charge Andy's troops as they made it to the edge of the marsh. I had 18 dice at 3+ to hit, Andy about 23 at 4+, and not in shieldwall. The end result of two rounds of combat was that he was pushed several inches back into the marsh, with four or five casualties and not inconsiderable shock... Result! Something went right!

And then, while taking the photo you're now admiring, I looked down at the top card on the activation deck, the one I'd just activated on...

"Saxon Leader Two."

Oh. Bother.

Saxon Leader Two isn't Leofric. It's Ecgwine, who is off traipsing merrily through the woods to the village.

This little British settlement won't
know what hit it...
I drew this mistake to Andy's attention, and we backed out the combat, and I activated the right noble. After all, Leofric was bound to activate soon, right?

His card was right at the bottom of the deck, of course. By which time, the rest of the Saxons are most of the way to the village, and Andy's had a chance to shuffle his Fate hand a bit. Never mind. The British are still in the marsh and not in shieldwall, so let's get stuck in!

I charge. Andy plays his newly acquired Step Forth card. I play mine. So Leofric gets to charge anyway, with 18 dice at 3+ against 23 at 4+ as before. Easy. We know how this goes.

Remember my appalling luck with dice when it matters? Yeah, that. The Saxons take a serious pounding in two rounds of combat, and recoil back, Leofric taking a wound and dishing one out in return. And my hearthguard are too far away to help.

So - shuffle the Activation deck, and off we went again. Andy's levy came through the gap between the woods and the hills, and then his Lord activated. And that, as they say, was pretty much that. Of the twelve warriors Leofric started with, he was down to either one or none, depending on the roll for a wound on him  Easy enough. Three wounds on the group he was with, so two die and on 1-3 he takes another wound, 4-6 the last warrior in the group dies instead.

Theobald leaves the battlefield,
bearing Leofric's body.
As you've read the past two blog posts, you know which I rolled.

There then ensued a rather spectacularly messy fight over about four activations. I charged Maximus Minimus and his Levy, and my dice, once again, suck. Even though he's in shieldwall, we're both hitting on 4+, I shock him on 2-4, kill him on 5-6, and he's shocking me on 4-5, killing on 6. And I lost the fight.

Andy pondering his next move. 
And then along come Andy's Lord and hearthguard, with Leofric's and the warriors' blood still fresh on their blades. Fortunately he doesn't have a Carpe Diem card, so he can't hit the hearthguard in the back. But he can do a heck of a lot of damage. One group of hearthguard is now down to 2 figures and 3 shock (so retreating out of the fight), the other 5 and 4. Mind you, so can we. On one unit of warriors we do four hits. Andy rolls for shock/kills. All 1s. On the hearthguard we do three, and I comment that sixes would be nice. He obliges with three. But even so, that's only one group out of the formations he has in the fight.

I don't have a lot of choice here, really: my only chance is really to activate Aelfric, rally off a point of shock, get the other group back into the fight and hope I can beat Maximus and the levy enough they run and I follow a bit further out of harm's way. It doesn't help that I'm on a Force Morale score of 2 right now.

So back in we go. And come out of the fight surprisingly well, considering. One group's on 5 figures and nine shock, and the other on 2 and... again... 3. And to add insult to injury, the damn British archers  decide that it's their turn, and take potshots.

Remember my dice rolling?

Yeah. That again.

Two groups heading in opposite directions, having lost their amphora. Force Morale level? -1.

I always wanted to see what happens when you win a battle by 5+. Well, now I know.

I have to say? This was an absolute corker of a battle, even though I got absolutely mullared. Especially when you consider that Andy's first reaction on realising where he got to deploy was "well, this is a win for the Saxons, then." Hats off to Andy for a great win.

"To Britain's Shores" - Chapter 4 part 2 - "Taking Ship To Valhalla"

"Where's Leofric?" It was, surprisingly, Lavinia who asked, flushed and a little breathless from our run. She and the lads, at least, had had some success, managing to find some pickings in one of the farm buildings before we'd left.

I leant on my sword, still trying to catch my breath from the hasty retreat Aelfric had called from being pretty much surrounded by most of the British force. It had started off well - Ecgwine's little group had headed for the village at speed, and the British had, it seemed, been off on a patrol elsewhere, as a group of them headed by the Tribune Andrusius (him, again) turned up the wrong side of a copse of trees and some marshy ground. Aelfric left Leofric's group of warriors to jump them as they cleared the marsh, and he and I and the hearthguard headed for the farm, expecting more Britons to meet us there. 

The last I saw, or rather heard, of Leofric was him taunting the British at the top of his lungs as they struggled out of the marsh, a glance over my shoulder as we headed for the village. We turned once we'd got there to charge another group of Britons, led by that short Decurio of theirs - Maximus Minimus, I think his name was. Should have been easy pickings for us - we've fought his lads before and they're the rawest of the Britons. Time was the killer, though - we took too long dealing with them, by which time their big Tribune and their man Geraint joined in the fight, and ... well, frankly, I was too busy making sure that Aelfric, Beornwulf and I kept our heads attached to our shoulders to worry about anything else. Beornwulf is more than useful with that blade of his - he and Aelfric wrought some serious havoc amongst the Tribune's men, but in the end, the fact we were outnumbered two to one and surrounded on three sides was always going to be our undoing.

"Where's Leofric?" Lavinia asked again, a little more urgently this time, pushing a strand of damp hair off her face.

Aelfric opened his mouth to answer, before the sound of cracking branches caused him to turn. It was Theobald, grizzled old Theobald, who this time out had decided Ecgwine was becoming man enough not to need babysitting, and returned to his usual post at Leofric's left shoulder.

It was Theobald, carrying a mail-shirted, bloodied body across his shoulders, himself likewise bloodied and bruised. He let it slide from his shoulders to the ground, staggered and reached for a tree for support.


Aelfric looked across at me for just a second, stricken, a silence broken by a choked-off sob from Lavinia, before he drew a long breath. "Beornwulf, Godric, take him." He strode across to Theobald, lending the veteran his shoulder for support as we picked up the lifeless body of Leofric, and for a moment the Young Wolf sounded old beyond his years. "Take him home."

We got spectacularly drunk that night, and shared tales of Leofric until the sun rose. Wulfhere had us all howling with laughter at a story involving a very drunk Leofric (strangely enough, a lot of those stories involved Leofric bring very drunk!), a peasant girl and two pigs. Apparently, both the pigs were better looking, according to Leofric - either way, Lavinia turned an interesting shade of pink by the time the tale was concluded. Even more so when we started speculating on what he'd be getting up to in Valhalla.

As the sun came up, Aelfric came and sat by me, offering his drinking horn. I shook my head. "Had enough?"

I nodded. "More than."

He leant back against the wall. "My fault."

I shook my head. "He knew the risks."

"Maybe. Theobald thinks it's his fault for not protecting him better." Aelfric contemplated his horn, shrugged, and with a decisive move tipped it out onto the floor of the hall. "But I was stupid to think they could take on that damn Tribune and his men without us."

"No you weren't. He had the edge on them coming out of the marsh. If it had gone like it should have, we'd have taken that damn dwarf as well, before we got surrounded."

"But it didn't." Aelfric looked across at me, asked, quietly, "Godric?"

"Mm?" I had a feeling I knew what was coming.

"Am I fit to lead us?"

I sighed. Told you. "Yes. They'd follow you anywhere, and you know it." I frowned, tried to clear my head of the mead I'd downed earlier. "Give up now and we might as well not have come here in the first place, and we make his death, all the others, a waste."

He nodded, soberly, looked down, away. "Maybe you're right."

I gripped his shoulder, made him look back at me. "I am right. You keep me around to be right. Even when you wish I wasn't." 

We gave him a fitting pyre, the body laid out atop a stack of dry wood on one of Wulfhere's boats on the estuary shore, his sword, his shield, his favourite drinking horn and a whole barrel of Wulfhere's best mead among the things we laid with him. We pushed him out into the current, and at a signal from Aelfric, several of the younger lads let fly with flaming arrows.

As we watched the flames grow, and the current take the burning boat, I asked Aelfric, "What would you have done if they'd missed?"

He grinned a little. "Swum out and lit it myself. Leofric would have loved that. Anyway, it was Beornwulf's idea. Seemed to think it was an appropriate thing to do, and he was raised by a priest."

I glanced across to where bows were being unstring, noted one head of long dark hair. "At least you knew one of them would hit."

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

"To Britain's Shores" - Chapter 4 - "New Recruits"

I can't decide whether I hate winter or not. There's a part of me wants to get out there and have another go at the British, but Wulfhere the Red keeps a fine hall, with a blazing fire that never goes out, good company, fine mead... the only risk, as the Young Wolf keeps reminding is, is that we go soft and out of shape.  Which I guess is why we've had any number of mock fights with some of Wulfhere's lads: a bunch of bloody noses and the odd broken rib and arm, but it keeps us hard and strong.

One of the new arrivals over the winter was Wulfhere's bastard son, Beornwulf. With a name like that - Strong Wolf, Wolf Prince - you'd expect him maybe to be built like his father, tall as one of the standing stones in Linnius and twice as wide, but far from it. He's lean, wiry, not that much taller than Ecgwine's lass Lavinia, though he does have his father's fiery hair. Far as I can tell, Wulfhere sired him on a peasant lass in Germany after his first raid, Odin-knows how many years ago,  and... well, basically, Beornwulf's got where he is today on his own with no help from his father. The reunion was a little frosty, but he brought half a dozen men with him, and he's pretty useful with a blade. His men call him the Righteous. I guess we'll find out why sooner or later: he certainly prays to Thor and Odin a lot.

Anyway. Come spring, I was doing my usual morning walk to clear my head (Wulfhere's mead is strong stuff), and I came across a bunch of the young lads shooting at trees with their bows, and with them, who but Lavinia, in a man's leggings and a leather shirt. So I found myself a trunk to lean against just out of sight, and watched for a while. Girl's good. In fact, she's a better shot than most of the lads. Something tells me there's going to be trouble there. 

A week later, and we're headed for the Britons' lands again. Ecgwine's sulking, mostly because his girl has tagged along with the lads with her bow, and made it very clear that she's not to be dissuaded. The lads are teasing him about who wears the breeches in that partnership: appealing to Aelfric didn't work, either, as the Young Wolf shrugged and said, basically, "your woman: you deal." Beornwulf seems amused by this - he's coming along as well, as part of Aelfric's hearthguard, which is good, as I want him somewhere where I can keep an eye on him. Not, of course, that I'm going to tell him that's because his father asked me to.

"I thought you said," observes Aelfric, just a little tartly, as we cross the little stream and range out between the two woods that bracket a trail, "that the village was in the valley."

I strain my eyes to check in the early morning light. Several torches and fires, and movement. Some of the buildings are down in the valley, but it's clear our main goal is a knot of huts on a hill overlooking a stone circle. I shrug, as there's not a lot to do but acknowledge the fact. "I was wrong."

Aelfric treats me to one of those wolfish grins of his. "Let's go. Ecgwine? Take your men and the bows..." a nod towards where Lavinia's stringing hers, "through the woods on the right and see what you can find in the village. Quietly now. Leofric, Beornwulf, with me and Godric. Let's give them something to think about." 

Ecgwine nods, glances across at his woman, who looks up, gives her bowstring an experimental tug, and returns his look with a blankly innocent one of her own. He sighs, turns on his heel, resigned. "Let's go." And I swear she catches me looking, grins and winks at me.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Rumours of my demise... several times before, have been greatly exaggerated.

Work has been interesting - the project I'm supposed to be working on keeps getting clobbered by problems everyone thinks only I can fix. Even taking a work from home day a couple of weeks ago to work on it failed, as at 7am I got a rather worried email because the main database server had run out of free memory and was thrashing itself into an early grave.... and the knock on effects really were only fixable by me, and took till 7 pm.

Ah well.

So - coming soon, because I have two weeks off over Christmas...

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