Game Report 2003

The Other Shieldwall – Berkeley, 2003

Reprinted from Slingshot 234. Opponents were Andy Claxton, Andy Ruston, Nigel Poole and Dave Morrison

There’s a common perception that DBM is for 15mm figures while WAB is for 25mm (or 28mm, or 33mm) figures. Broadly that’s true – but in the last few years there’s been an upsurge of DBM competitions for the 25mm scale. Keith McGlynn started it with his Berkeley series, back in 1996, and now there are 25mm sections at Britcon, Roll Call, Warfare and others.

Many of the armies used are old “true 25mm” figures dating back 20 years or more. Some of the newer figures are much larger – some from Lancashire Games I bought recently are up to 35mm from base to top of helmet, and it’s difficult or even impossible to get them onto DBM bases. Excellent figures, with bags of detail, variety and animation, but just too big for my purpose. However, Irregular, Warrior and Minifigs all make smaller figures which are nearer the old 25mm standard – they’re generally not as pretty as those from Foundry and other “premium” manufacturers but they’re also quite a bit cheaper. It would help if manufacturers stopped marketing their figures as 25mm, or even 28mm, and called them 30mm as a separate scale.

25mm DBM in the USA is generally played on 8’ x 5’ tables. Here in Britain, the game is played on standard 6’ x 4’ tables, usually with 350 point armies, and that makes for a radically different type of game from the 15mm one. The range of armies used is different – lots of heavy infantry, lots of bowmen and knights, hardly any light horse or cavalry (in the DBM sense) – scarcely a Mongol, Scythian or Hun to be seen. Frontal slog is the order of the day, with few of the wide outflanking moves beloved of 15mm DBM maestros. In 2003 I used Norse Vikings (not Leidang – real Vikings) in three competitions, with an overall 60% success rate. Every game was fun, and while I know that some of the readership dislikes accounts of non-historical competition games I crave their indulgence.

Harald Hardrada at Berkeley

My army represented Harald Hardrada’s Norwegian army of 1066. The C-in-C’s command comprised most of the Huscarls (Ordinary Blades) supported by numerous Bondi (Inferior Blades) and the few archers (Ordinary Psiloi), and weighed in at an impressive 27.5 Element Equivalents. The second command, under Olaf Haraldsson, had the wilder Fast Blades and the two elements of Berserkers (Fast Warband), some more Inferior Blades, the baggage and four longships (Superior Boats). Then there was Tostig and his rebel Englishmen – Ordinary Blade Huscarls, Ordinary Spears and some Viking Bondi. Finally I had a large palisaded camp. My plan was to fight on the coast and seek to outflank the enemy with my longships.

Game 1 – Christian Nubians

Hardrada sailed up the Nile, hauled his longships up the first few cataracts and invaded contemporary Nubia. A river protected my left flank – the Nile at this point isn’t big enough to be a “waterway”. This was a nice simple game as neither army was good at manoeuvring.  On my right flank Tostig comprehensively defeated a huge mass of Fast Warband swordsmen for some loss, but in the centre the Nubian camel-warriors (Aargh! What are those monstrous horses??) ploughed through my C-in-C’s command killing Hardrada himself!  I failed to save the command, and a rampaging camel then rode down Olaf on my left flank.  The Vikings fled for a 1-9 defeat.  I’d actually killed more elements than I lost.

Game 2 – Later Sargonid Assyrian. 

An interesting game.  I defended, and had my usual large fortified camp containing Olaf’s command against a waterway on my left, then Hardrada’s command, then the English. The Assyrians had a command of just a Superior Cavalry general facing my fort, some more Superior Cavalry and Light Horse, then all the heavy infantry (Spear and Auxilia) in the centre, then the dreaded heavy chariots (Superior Knights) facing the English.  On his first turn the Assyrian commander marched all his foot to his left flank, shaping to crush the English with a massive two-command attack.  His lone general rashly rode up to thumb his nose at the fort. I let some Fast Blades rush out of the fort and attack the general, who recoiled, beached my boats and disembarked three more Fast Blade elements. My opponent was taken aback by my unexpected attack and for the rest of the game spent most of his PIPs on his right flank, leaving his spearmen still in column standing and watching the English.

  The lone general retreated but couldn’t get far enough to avoid the disembarked Vikings getting behind him and cutting off his retreat.  Some cavalry and light horse rode to his rescue, but soon he was surrounded by eager berserkers.  He survived seven or eight combats!  My C-in-C’s command advanced and clashed with the cavalry and some Auxilia, killing a few but taking losses as well.  Then the Assyrian general managed to beat off all his assailants and fell back, only to be swept away when an Assyrian light horse element recoiled into him.  At the same time the Assyrian cavalry killed several Blade elements who had pursued into overlaps and my C-in-C’s command broke.  At that point we ran out of time and the game ended 7-3 to the Assyrians.

Game 3 – Medieval French

I didn’t like the matchup as the French Superior Knights could expect to ride straight over most of my army.  I had the customary waterway on my left, fort containing Olaf’s command, my C-in-C’s command angled back from the fort to the baseline, and Tostig flank-marching.  The French had numerous Hordes (massed peasants) manning temporary fortifications facing the waterway, supported by some crossbowmen (Inferior Bow), then a line of knights, then more knights and assorted crummy infantry behind them.

  On my first turn my boats rowed forward and stopped 200 paces from the French fort.  Next turn they beached, and on turn 3 the Vikings leaped ashore, stormed the fortifications and started massacring the peasants.  The peasants broke on my fourth turn, and the marines then slaughtered some bowmen and rushed towards the French camp.  The French knights had to do some tricky manoeuvring to avoid presenting their flank to the garrison of my fort, and I let a few elements rush out to distract them.  Eventually four knight elements managed to charge my main line; I lost one file (2 Blades and a Psiloi), recoiled the next knight element and killed the next two at factors of 5-2 and 5-1.  That broke the French C-in-C’s command and made half the French army.  Tostig arrived just in time to see the French break.  10-0, with total losses of only four elements.

Game 4 – Late Imperial Romans 

I had my usual set-up; the Roman plan was to contain my centre with the legionaries, guard the waterway flank with bowmen and artillery, and crush the English with a strike force of 3 cataphracts (Exception Knights) and 4 lancer elements (Fast Knights).  However, when my opponent saw I had lots of Blades in a large area of rough going next to my fort, he rushed his Auxilia Palatina (8 elements of Superior Auxilia) forward to catch them in the terrain.  The huscarls fought back well, and were assisted by Fast Blades coming out of the fort and flanking the auxilia who all died after a tough fight.  Meanwhile my naval landing force killed all the Roman bowmen and the artillery.  The huscarl vs legionary fight in the centre went the Romans’ way – I lost quite a few Blades including my C-in-C and a second general, both on 6-1 dice splits when nothing else would kill them.  However, I saved both commands with PIP rolls of 5 and 6.  The Roman heavy cavalry eventually charged in piecemeal; both cataphracts died, and the lancers killed 4 English elements but lost 2 elements themselves.  Then a Viking got to the Roman camp and that made half his army for a very hard-fought 10-0.

The waterway and fort were crucial in three of my games (no waterways in Nubia, unfortunately).  All three opponents thought they could just screen these and were taken aback when impetuous Vikings leaped over the palisades and off the boats (it costs PIPs to disembark from the boats, but after that the Fast Blades are on auto-pilot).  The Vikings are great fun, and it was an excellent weekend all round. 

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