Russ King and I decided to use an army we’d last fielded in 2008 – Camillan Romans, with the Wwg(X) “anti-elephant carts”. Each of the four commands (one an ally) had a legion consisting of 4 Bd(O), 4 Sp(O) and 4 Sp(S) Triarii, with varying numbers of Ps(I) leves; the C-in-C’s command had the four wagons, another had 10 Ax(O) Italian infantry and a third had most of the cavalry (not many of those). Solid but not much variety.
Our first opponent was Duncan Thompson with Alamanni, two large commands of warband, one with many archers and a Herul ally with Kn(F) lancers. Not a promising start. We defended and placed steep hills which enabled us to set up with two commands in a strong defensive position while the other two flank-marched; I expected that the Heruls would probably flank-march in which case they’d be chased on, but they didn’t. As luck would have it, both our flank marches were declared at the first opportunity and the one on the left was well placed to attack the weakest enemy command. The Heruls galloped to help out, but without success; the legionaries and cavalry slew many and soon broke both the Heruls and the Alamanni command. Meanwhile the warband masses ponderously moved from the centre towards the flanks, but there was no realistic chance of their getting into action. The game ended at 7-3 to the Romans.
Then a very exciting game against Jeremy Morgan and Stephen Nutt who had Early Neo-Assyrians; many Cv(S) chariots supported by Fast Blades, auxilia and numerous psiloi. We defended and placed steep hills again, refusing our left and massing to attack on the right with three commands. The Assyrians prepared to attack our allied command which was holding a steep hill in the centre, but took a long time to get ready while our attack got stuck into the Assyrian C-in-C’s command on the right. The Assyrian Bd(F) were overwhelmed by our legionaries, and although they retreated as often as PIPs allowed the command eventually broke. Our ally put up a stout fight against overwhelming numbers but his command broke too, while the larger command on his right was also badly damaged. An Assyrian general was mopping up our baggage but time was called before he could finish the job and break our army. The final score was a very close 6-4 win; one more turn would almost certainly have made it 2-8.
On Sunday morning we faced the leaders Dean Astillberry and Ken Warren, who had Ch’in Chinese. These were a formidable force of Superior Warband, Ordinary Knight chariots and many archers. We placed steep hills as usual, giving us a strong defensive position, but I decided to attack anyway and we went for the enemy warband and knights – the Wwg(X) carts starred here. We broke the large warband command in the centre and destroyed several chariots, but took losses mainly from flank attacks and light horse nipping round to block recoils. In this game the combat dice were roughly even but we were decisively out-Pipped; the Chinese PIP rolls were enough to start the rain and shift the wind several times. Mention must be made of Chinese archers standing safely on a rough hill and shooting two Sp(S) Triarii dead, even in the rain. A couple of Chinese commands were close to going but eventually a trickle of losses broke two of our commands and we lost 1-9. A terrific game.
Finally we faced Pete Connew and Richard Newland with Late Imperial Romans. They distinguished themselves by rolling four ones as their initial PIP dice, making their Moorish ally unreliable.
The Late Romans’ initial PIP dice
Two Roman commands were on the table, a large one based on legionaries and artillery and a second with auxilia and cavalry, while a third command flank-marched. Luckily we invaded and were able to avoid the artillery targeting our war wagons; we refused our right and went for the legionaries with the heavy infantry of three commands, while all the cavalry faced to the left where we expected a flank march. In the event the flank march never arrived. The legionary struggle in the centre was a long slog but eventually our superior numbers prevailed and the Roman command broke.
Near the end of the game as the wagons roll forward
The Moors on the left had become reliable and tried to attack; they assisted the legionaries in eventually breaking our allied command but we managed to kill enough light horse and auxilia to break the Moorish command. That made half the Imperial Roman army so we won 9-1. Another splendid game.
Dean and Ken won the competition and we finished fourth. An excellent weekend.
Climb British Camp, August 2023
During lockdown I painted a Later Swiss army, Irregular Miniatures figures with broom-bristle pikes, and used it for the first time at Gavin :Pearson’s 25mm DBM competition. It was a simple army with only two troop-types, Pikes and Psiloi, organised in three commands. One of the sub-generals was Ps(S).
To my surprise, my first opponent was Paul Apreda with another Later Swiss army. This had many fewer pikes than I did, but several formidable knight wedges including the Duke of Lorraine as C-in-C. The terrain largely dictated deployment; I invaded and placed a road and steep hills, to which Paul added a large wood. My left-flank command faced a refused flank anchored on a hill held by psiloi, while another hill meant that there was a gap in the wall of pikes between my centre and right. So the left-flank pikes forced-marched to reinforce the centre, which faced the Lorrainers and some Swiss pikes, while the gap was partly filled by Ps(S) handgunners and by thinning out some of the pike blocks. The Lorrainers charged, riding down two psiloi and two pike elements, but then lost one of their wedges and some of their outnumbered pikes. The Lorrainer command broke. Elsewhere I took some losses against a force of Bd(X) halberdiers which had rapidly transferred from the enemy’s left to attack a few pikes on my left flank. In the centre my C-in-C attacked a demoralised psiloi element, chased it away and “pressed forward” rapidly along the road. This brought him within reach of the enemy baggage; three baggage elements brought the enemy’s losses to half his army. 10-0 win.
View from behind the Swiss/Lorrainer army
My reward was a game against Jeremy Morgan, whose Norman army had comprehensively beaten a fearsome Suevi array. All the Norman knights dismounted as Blades, but a substantial Breton command provided some mobile cavalry. I invaded again and placed steep hills. I refused the right, where my C-in-C’s command was angled back to the base line while his psiloi held hills, and two commands concentrated on the left to attack a line of Blades. Jeremy tried to work the right flank but only managed to destroy two psiloi, by shooting; the Bretons exploited open ground in the centre to distract and threaten pikes but were hampered by frequent lack of PIPs. The main action came on the left, where Swiss pikes broke the Blade command after a tough fight and some losses. The Bretons then managed to break the smallest Swiss command by various flank and rear attacks, so the game timed out at 5-5.
The third game, against John Vaughan’s Tupi, proved to be a non-event. John placed his compulsory wood, which landed conveniently on the left-hand side of my deployment area, and large areas of rough going which were all on the same flank. I refused that flank, sheltered by the wood which I filled with psiloi, and prepared to attack in the open ground with the pikes of two commands. The C-in-C’s pikes moved to face a flank march which I expected on the right. However, the Tupi had such excellent PIPs that all the warband were able to move into rough going, where they could be held back from impetuous moves, and the flank march was immediately declared – on my left. My C-in-C’s pikes were painfully moved towards the centre, while his handgunners marched to reinforce those holding the wood.
At this stage John decided that his main forces were going to stay in the rough going and his flank-marchers weren’t going to assault the wood (which would soon contain 16 Ps(S) including a general). As there was no prospect of attacking into the rough going with pikes, we agreed a 5-5 draw with no casualties.
The final game, against John Calvert’s Late Imperial Romans, was a complete contrast. I placed a road and steep hills and John added more steep hills and a wood; most of the hills were in the Roman deployment area, handicapping their early-game movement, but the biggest one was on my left flank and garrisoned with handgunners. John held his centre and left with legionaries, while light horse threatened the flank of my advancing pikemen; these were neutralised by a few pike elements plus handgunners. The main force of pikes hit the legionaries and in a few turns broke a Roman command for the loss of a couple of pikes. My C-in-C’s handgunners raced for the hill in front of the Roman baggage; John sent a strong force of Superior Auxilia to assault my left-flank hill, which would give access to my baggage. The latter attack proved disastrous for him – he rolled four 1s in five combats, losing three auxilia, then my psiloi general counter attacked and slew some more. My handgunners started looting the Roman baggage, bringing Roman losses to half their army. 10-0 win.
Roman Auxilia make their doomed assault on the hill
Handgunners start to loot the Roman camp
I finished in second place, four points behind Jeremy Morgan’s Norman army.
Russ and I used Golden Horde again – three Mongol commands with light horse and cavalry, one with some archers and psiloi, another with archers and the third with 8 Fast Warband (Siberian tribesmen). A Russian allied command of 9 cavalry and 4 infantry made up the numbers.
First we faced Dave Glew’s Medieval Spanish, late version with all Regular knights and decent supporting infantry. They were organised as two large commands and one very small one. Our light horse faced massed knights in the centre, while the warband held a patch of rough going on the right. They were attacked by auxilia with some psiloi; the psiloi were neutralised by light horse pinning them and the warband made short work of the auxilia. Then the warband and light horse massacred the psiloi, doing just enough to break one of the large Spanish commands. Meanwhile the knights had slain some of our light horse and archers but several of them went down, making half the Spanish army. 10-0 win.
The Siberian warband finish off the Spanish light infantry
The Spanish chivalry charge home
Then we invaded China against Jeremy Morgan and Richard Perry with Sung Chinese. The terrain was unhelpful and we had little chance of a breakthrough, especially when the Russian command broke after some deadly Chinese archery; there was a strong wind in our faces and rain for much of the game. After much manoeuvring the game timed out at 4-6.
On Sunday morning we had another tough test, against Siamese with Burmese allies commanded by Dave Madigan and Chris Smith. Ten Superior Elephants supported by numerous regular infantry looked pretty much unbeatable, and so it proved. The Burmese were initially unreliable but all that did was paralyse our right-flank command while we waited for an enemy flank march (expected on our right rather than the left which featured woods held by our psiloi and archers). Then the flank march arrived – on the left, and including auxilia who easily beat our archers. In the centre elephants proved unstoppable by our light horse, and our army broke for a 0-10 defeat.
Lastly we defended against an invasion by Tibetans led by Paul Holmes. We cluttered the terrain with woods and rough going but were wary of the Tibetans’ numerous cataphracts plus a Turkish ally with Superior Cavalry. The terrain gave both sides excellent defensive positions and there was little fighting; our archers shot several enemy elements (auxilia, bowmen and artillery), enough for a quarter of a small Tibetan command. The game ended at 6-4, and we finished in mid-table.
Corinium, 3/4 June 2023
For the new 15mm doubles competition in Cirencester, organised by Andy Leeser, Russ and I chose Pre-Feudal Scots. The competition was date-limited, 410 to 1000 AD, so our Macbeth C-in-C figure with three witches had to represent King Kenneth (Cinaid) III. Three Scots commands, each with numerous Ax(X) spearmen, two with psiloi and the C-in-C with cavalry and the “Thegns” as mounted Superior Warband, plus a Galwegian ally with numerous Fast Warband.
With 135 elements our army was big, but it was dwarfed by Pete Connew and Richard Newland’s Chichimecs (Dog Peoples), which consisted of innumerable Bw(I) with some Wb(F) like our Galwegians, plus psiloi. Both armies loved rough going but disliked difficult, so terrain played no significant part. We charged forward all along the line, taking losses to archery mainly among psiloi; Pete let his warband go through the bowmen, mostly in single rank. Our spearmen and warband slaughtered them and then got stuck into the bowmen, rapidly breaking two huge commands and the army. 10-0 win.
The Scots get stuck into the Chichimec masses
Next the Scots invaded France, facing the West Frankish army of Charles the Simple fielded by John Mee and Stephen Etheridge. Lots of hard-hitting but uncontrollable Fast Knights, with a large Viking ally in the centre. Our Galwegians, very vulnerable to knights, held a patch of rough going on our far left; our light horse skirmished on the far right while all the Ax(X) spearmen (formed up deep) and the Thegns attacked in the centre. On the left the knights advanced in a two-deep line and were attacked by Ax(X) who lost two elements but drove back several knights and killed a double-overlapped one who happened to be in front of the general. That command’s next PIP score was 1, so it broke. On the right our light horse fell back in front of the knights then charged them with overlaps and mostly died, bringing that command close to its break point. However, in the centre the Wb(S) Thegns slew many Vikings, assisted by Ax(X), and eventually got one who was in front of the Viking general. The Vikings broke, giving us a 10-0 win.
Scots spearmen about to receive a knightly charge
The third game was against Jeremy Morgan (top-ranking DBM player for the past eleven years) and Tony Bell, with Abyssinians. At deployment our 32 Fast Warband faced 32 Abyssinian Fast Warband, rapidly bringing on a clash with wild swings of luck. Both sides melted away but the Abyssinian command broke first, leaving a large hole in their centre. However, a light horse element attacked a single warband element and destroyed it, breaking our allied command. Elsewhere there was mainly skirmishing and shooting, which took a steady toll of our Ax(X) spearmen, but the game timed out at 5-5.
Finally we faced John Vaughan and Andy Brooker, assisted by Andy’s daughter Kim, who had Northern Dynasties Chinese. We wanted to defend, in order to place lots of rough going, but despite our lower aggression we invaded China on a foggy morning. Our Galwegian warband occupied a small rough going area in the centre but the rest of the battlefield was open. On the right our massed infantry took a long time to get within reach of the enemy so most of the action was on the far left, where our light horse faced enemy light horse, and in the centre. There the Galwegians were forced by low PIPs to advance out of the rough going to face cataphracts in the open, while some of them charged up a low hill into Inferior Spears. The warband killed several Spears and Auxilia and even a couple of cataphracts, but were worn down and the command broke. Our light horse on the left were dismally unsuccessful against their opposite numbers; this failure and some shooting casualties on Ax(X) spearmen broke a Scots command and our army, for a 0-10 defeat.
Andy, John and Kim won the competition (which with 27 players was the largest DBM competition since 2011); we finished third. The venue, a dedicated wargames centre on a trading estate in Cirencester, was excellent and we expect to use it for a regular fixture.
The Big Battles wargames centre in Cirencester
Andy Brooker and John Vaughan with their trophies
Westbury Wars 2023
I fielded a newly-painted Carolingian Frankish army for the 25mm competition in my house: two Regular generals with Fast Knights and various infantry (Inferior Bows, Inferior Spears and psiloi), plus two allies, one a small Frankish command with just Irregular Fast Knights and a few Spears, the other a larger Saxon command of Warband (front rank Superior, the rest Ordinary). We had twelve players signed up but one dropped out due to ill-health; Marc Priest and Paul Holmes sportingly agreed to team up and even the numbers.
In the first game I faced Gavin Pearson’s Palmyrans. I sent the Frankish ally on a flank march on the left, where the Saxons would advance, while the two Regular commands were in the centre and right. Gavin expertly skirmished against the Saxons with his Arab allies while taking on my Kn(F) with cataphracts, archers and light horse. The light horse were the keys, slaying many Frankish knights including a general with excellent combat dice, and soon both of my commands were close to breaking. First one and then the other broke, but the flank-marchers had eventually appeared and rode down various Arab allied troops (LH and Blades). Simultaneously the Arabs and my army broke, ending the game as a 1-9 defeat.
The next game against Duncan Thompson’s Carthaginians was a cliff-hanger. I was wary of the Carthaginians’ three elephants and their mass of Gallic warbands; my deployment was much the same as against Gavin except that the Frankish ally was hidden in a small wood on the left instead of flank-marching. The Saxons were unreliable and stubbornly remained so while a massive melee began in the centre. I lost several Kn(F) elements but rode down many Gallic warband, and managed to back an elephant into a pair of Spear elements. The Frankish ally burst out of the wood and attacked Auxilia who had hoped to occupy the wood. They had some success but two knights including the ally-general died against light horse. The command held – otherwise the watching Saxons would have changed sides. Then a third knight died to break the allied command, but at the same time the centre Carthaginian command broke, so the Saxons joined in on my side. Only a couple more elements were needed to get the Carthaginian army for a 9-1 win.
On Sunday morning Charlemagne’s lads were invaded by Libyan Egyptians under the command of Paul Apreda. Paul put down lots of steep wooded hills, which broke the field up into sectors. The “Invincible Meshwesh”, Superior Warband, were aimed at a valley on my right but liable to be outflanked by my small allied command which was on a gentle hill on my extreme right flank; a wooded hill in the centre was seized by Egyptian psiloi and a couple of auxilia. The Saxons advanced past the end of this wood while Charlemagne had a line of knights facing the left flank where I expected a flank march by a Libyan allied command of Fast Warband. On the central hill I attacked with psiloi; heavy casualties on both sides but eventually my psiloi gained the advantage, assisted by some Saxons. The other Saxons advanced and, aided by a couple of Charlemagne’s knights, beat up various Libyan delaying units. Then the flank march was declared, on the right. My small allied command was defeated by some charioteers, but before that happened the Egyptian command facing my left finally collapsed against the Saxons. Charlemagne led his knights at the gallop to get at the Libyan warband and the Meshwesh finally started to advance, but before either could get into action the game timed out at 5-5.
This set up an encounter with Russ King’s Romanian Franks. Both sides depended on knights; I had more but the Romanians were better quality, though less controllable. My small command was again hidden in a wood on the left and burst out to get at the enemy flank, while the Saxons dashed forward alongside them and two long lines of knights clashed in the centre. On the right a Catalan allied command tried to advance out of a large wood but was deterred by a few of my knights. The knightly joust was bloody; I lost several knights and a couple of Spear elements, but had overlaps and used them to flank the enemy (Russ suffered from very poor PIPs at crucial moments). Gradually the line of Superior Knights was rolled up and finally a general was enveloped and slain. The Saxons struck a decisive blow by reaching and butchering some Inferior Bows, and the Romanian army collapsed for a 10-0 win.
25 points got me joint third place, which I was happy with. Another great weekend.
Venta Silurum, May 2023
For the first doubles competition of the year Russ and I took Libyan Egyptians – a variation on the more usual New Kingdom army which features only two Regular generals and a large force of “Invincible Meshwesh” (Superior Warband). With two allied commands it’s risky, but over the weekend’s games neither of the allies was ever unreliable. The three Egyptian commands each had Superior Cavalry chariots backed by various run-of-the-mill infantry; one had a small fleet of three Superior Boats, and the fourth command comprised 20 warband elements.
Our first opponents were Martin Golay and Tony Green with Neo-Babylonians – old DBM list, so having Superior Knight chariots and Superior Cavalry as well as the double-based Bw(X/O) archers, the latter being deadly to our chariots but easy meat for the Meshwesh. We took casualties mainly against the Kn(S) chariots and lost our smallest command, but on the other flank our chariots heroically rode down Bw(X) and the Meshwesh managed to bag some more, breaking a large Babylonian command. Then the Babylonian C-in-C charged into the flank of the Meshwesh. He destroyed two elements, but was then mobbed and dragged from his chariot. Five elements gone from that command, which failed its break test and gave us a 9-1 win.
Next up was John Mee with Scythians (Massagetae) – numerous horse-archers and cavalry plus some decent archers and light infantry. We defended and our fleet dominated the waterway, while the terrain allowed us to extend across the table. Light horse and cavalry clashed with our chariots and came off worst; in a prolonged struggle we lost very little but failed to break any commands until right on time, when a large Scythian command finally broke. The game timed out at 6-4.
On Sunday morning we faced Dave Madigan and Chris Smith, who had Dave’s well-practised New Kingdom Egyptians. This was a game in which everything went wrong for us. Our opponents got all the PIPs they needed to arrange the most favourable matchups, the Meshwesh were skirmished out of the game by psiloi, our three boats on the waterway were defeated by the enemy’s one boat, a strong wind blew in our faces for much of the game and our combat dice were poor. On the open flank our smaller Egyptian command was enveloped and broken by enemy chariots, archers and swordsmen, and on the other flank we had a few successes but were eventually worn down. 0-10 defeat.
This set up what turned out to be the best and closest game of the weekend. John Vaughan and Kevin Everard’s Early Achaemenid Persians had numerous Bw(X/O) double bases, plenty of cavalry, some Babylonian Kn(O) heavy chariots, a command of hoplites and a Skythian ally with just horse-archers. They set up with the hoplites on the waterway flank, then the Skythians, archers in the centre and massed cavalry and knights on the open flank (our right). They looked set to envelop our right-flank command. The Meshwesh faced the Skythians, who turned out to be unreliable; this (and excellent PIPs) allowed us to send some Meshwesh against hoplites and archers. It would be a race as to whether we could break through the centre, causing the Skythians to change sides, before the Persians crushed our right-flank command. The Persians narrowly won that race; our command broke just before the central Persian command did. On the left we faced hoplites with auxilia but disembarked two Wb(S) from the boats to help out, and as the hoplites pushed forward their general tried to ride down a single Meshwesh element which had our general behind it. He failed, and our chariots were then able to flank him and push him into the side of some hoplites. The Persian general died and this broke their army. Hard-fought 9-1 win.
24 points got us a pleasing joint third place; Dave and Chris won the competition.
Indians v Alexander
This was a one-off 25mm DBM game with 350 AP armies – Alexandrian Imperial v Classical Indian. The Indians had 8 Superior Elephants with Ordinary Bows backed by Inferior Blades, Superior Cavalry chariots and an unusually large number of Inferior Cavalry; a few psiloi occupied jungle on their left flank and numerous Hordes formed a rear line. A sacred standard (Inferior War Wagon) with the baggage boosted morale. The three commands had break points of 6, 5.5 and 5.5.
The sacred standard
Alexander also had three smallish commands, with break points of 7.5, 6.5 and 4.5. His main strength comprised 28 Pike elements, some in each command, with good mounted troops (Fast Knights) and light infantry. Two Ordinary Artillery bolt-shooters threatened to be a game-winner.
The threatened Macedonian left flank
Unsurprisingly the Macedonians invaded and were able to place their artillery opposite elephants. Jungle opposite their right wing was threatened by their light infantry, but on the open left flank a small force of Kn(F) Companions and light horse was faced with the powerful Indian mounted wing – elephants, chariots and cavalry. On the first turn Alexander sent his Companions and more light horse across to that flank, hoping to form a coherent line before the Indians got there. Meanwhile the phalanx advanced slowly while the bolt-shooters were dragged forward to get into range of the elephants.
The Indians advanced rapidly all along the line. Their two elephants on their right were held up by a couple of psiloi; one of the latter was trampled but the other fortunately bagged an elephant! However, the chariots and cavalry bore down on the Macedonian mounted troops, now reinforced from Alexander’s command.
The artillery is about to pay for its inaccurate shooting
In the centre the bolt-shooters each had two shots at elephants and unluckily failed to kill any. The elephants closed and destroyed both artillery, while archery killed two pike elements. Psiloi behind the artillery closed with the elephants, without immediate success. Much pushing ensued with casualties on both sides, first two pikes being trampled and then an elephant succumbing to a flank attack.
The cavalry battle
Over on the open flank the Kn(F) Companions drove back the chariots and then hit a purple patch, destroying several and also some cavalry, for the loss of two light horse elements. The Indian command on this flank broke. On the other side of the field the Macedonian light troops stormed into the jungle, bagging several psiloi, while Thracian Ax(S) attacked and destroyed two Bow elements. Losses on both sides mounted, bringing most commands close to their break points. The decisive blow was struck by Alexander’s Hypaspists (Superior Pikes), which had suffered against the elephants but finally managed to flank and kill an Indian general. The Indian command broke and their army collapsed.
The Indian collapse
The result was 10-0 to Alexander but the battle was nevertheless very close. Losses from their three commands were 4 elements (break point 7.5), 4 (break point 4.5) and 6 (break point 6.5). An excellent game.
Rise of Islam
The 21st in my series of themed DBM competitions was played on 4/5 February 2023. The theme was The Rise of Islam, and featured 18 armies dated 632 to 750 AD – six Arab armies, Byzantines, Khazars, Sassanid Persians and various others who historically fought the Arabs.
Gavin Pearson’s Moors take on Pete Connew’s Visigoths
Nick Coles won the competition with Central Asian Turks, narrowly ahead of Jeremy Morgan’s Arab Conquest army. There were some tremendous close games – Carolingian Franks beating Spaniards by the smallest possible margin, Maurikian Byzantines barely holding off Arab Conquest then losing against Khazars, Turks defeating Chinese and clinching the competition win against Arabs. As usual, the games were played in a great spirit.
Umayyad Arabs versus Maurikian Byzantines
Of the 19 players, four had appeared in the first competitions in 2003 but only one, Russ King, has played in all 21. Russ was presented with a special trophy “ for perseverance”. We also remember Phil Claxton, Martyn Rogers, Stephen Welford and Nigel Poole, regular players who have died since 2003.
A splendid Byzantine target for the Arabs
The full results are at Themed Competitions | JGL Wargames. Next year’s theme will be The Hundred Years War, featuring Western European armies from 1337 to 1396.