Sunday, January 31, 2016

Picts Vs Skythians

It's a real bummer when your friends let you down!

This week's encounter matched the Skythians of King Sakesfaris against the Picts of King Cynon. King Sakesfaris was hoping for assistance from King Saitafem of the Paralatai clan (Skythian Royal Clan) and some of the Thracians they had subjugated as a result of their last battle, while King Cynon was expecting help from the MacRiderch Clan (more Picts) led by Queen Brisen.

The two armies met on the banks of a river (see the photo above, with "north" at the top), with the Skythians coming from the north along the west bank, and the Picts splitting their forces as they came up from the south. The river was only crossable by the bridge in the center of the battlefield, with the bridge surrounded by a small village; possession of this area was going to be the key. It was terrain more to the Picts liking than the Skythians, but sometimes life's like that!

Both leaders dispatched their allies on (off-table) outflanking maneuvers in the hope of luring the enemy into a trap - that had worked so well for the Skythians earlier in the year when they raided the lands of the Thracians, and King Sakesfaris especially was looking for a repeat result.

Apart from the fact that rain began to fall shortly after both armies arrived on the scene (the Skythians especially like to use their bows as the primary weapon, which becomes difficult when the rain gets into the strings), the early stages went pretty much to plan for both armies.

Mounted on horses, the Skythians made faster progress, and were able to secure a position beyond the bridge on the west bank, and attempt to defeat the Picts on that side of the river while they were isolated from their friends. Their archery rendered almost ineffective, King Sakesfaris was prompted to push forward and fight hand-to-hand by the sight of the enemy divided, and also by the timely arrival of his allies on the exposed Pict left flank.

Instead of joining the fight however, King Saitafem held his forces back, merely observing events as they unfolded. King Sakesfaris himself was killed in the fighting, and had his son, Crown Prince Gnur, not been on hand to take over command, the Skythian attack may have evaporated at that point.

Battle on - in the driving rain and mud - they did however, eventually breaking Pictish resistance, but at a high cost.

By now, King Cynon had advanced his east bank forces as far as the bridge. His Light Horse drove off the Skythian Horse Archers initially sent across the river to secure the bridge, but with the Thracians now appearing on the scene, he withdrew his horsemen and sent in his own warband. (The photo at the top of the page shows the Picts - nearest the camera - taking on the Thracians on the bridge).

It was at this point that Queen Brisen (see photo above) arrived on the scene with her forces, and despite taking a brief "time out" of her own on arrival, she held true to her promise to King Cynon, and pushed her forces in to help clear the bridge. In desperation, Prince Gnur made one final plea to King Saitafem to come to his aid, but the latter instead withdrew his forces from the field, leaving Prince Gnur hopelessly overmatched.

Realizing the cause was lost, the remaining Skythians conceded the battle, using their greater mobility to escape pursuit, and retired to their homes vowing revenge against their "ally".

The druids of the Picts meanwhile, claim credit for the win, asserting that it had been their "prayers"/incantations/etc that brought down the rain and forced the Skythians off their normal game plan.

King Cynon's army now advances to the Grand Final of my "Ancient Barbarian World" Tournament, where they will meet the winners of next week's "Britons Vs Picts" battle in an all-Celtic matchup. King Cynon and Queen Brisen celebrated the victory, and the Celtic festival of Imbolc (Jan. 31/Feb. 1) by sealing their alliance with a marriage - both had been predeceased by their previous spouse, and by joining their clans together into one, they will no longer be vulnerable to the "Ally General" loyalty test (that destroyed the Skythian alliance here) before their next outing.

Prince (now King) Gnur meanwhile will prepare to take a grievance to the annual kuriltai of the (Skythian) clans in March, in the hope of gaining some measure of compensation from King Saitafem and his tribe. (An opportunity for some political shenanigans to add to the mix!)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Amazons vs Britons

When you are facing an army that is bigger than yours, you can't afford to see your archers turn in a bad day at the office.

(The unit that performed is the rear unit at the top left of the picture, on the edge of the woods!)

Unfortunately, my Amazons have had two battles now, and the archers that form the core "strike force" of the army have failed miserably on both occasions. Today, one of their five archer units did their job, but the other four couldn't hit anything, and with the larger British army pressing in hard from the front, and closing in on their exposed left flank, their only choice was to withdraw and fight another day or die with their boots on.

They chose survival! Perhaps the Amazons of Greek legend wouldn't have been impressed with that choice, but there was nothing to gain from an heroic death on this day.

This battle was the final clash of the first round of my "Barbarian Nations" Tournament, with the winner proceeding to the semi-final round against one of the two Pict armies that have qualified.

These two armies were fighting over possession of a village, at the bottom right of the picture above. The Britons reached the scene first (from the right of the picture) and had just started crossing the bridge to enter it when the Amazon army appeared.

A short but (initially anyway) brutal skirmish developed between the Amazon Horse Archers unit and the Briton Light Horse - the Horse Archers did no damage with their bows, but once they got up close and personal it became quite fierce. The Britons were getting the better of the scrap when the Amazon Whelps (young girls armed with just javelins, trying to "earn their stripes" so they can be accepted into the main army) caught up with the action, and were able to help their horse archers out, and both sides elected to break off the fight at that point, having (both) received a bloody nose.

With their sheer numbers, the British warbands pushing through the wooded area in the middle of the battlefield forced the Amazon archers therein to back up, and with more warbands emerging on their flank, the Amazons realized that even if their archers did start hitting their targets, all would soon be lost. Queen Antibrote ordered the retreat, abdicated her throne and committed suicide having suffered the humiliation of two devastating defeats in a row.

The semi-final matchups see the Pict army of King Cynon face the Skythians of King Sakesfaris and the victorious Britons (commanded by Queen Brietta) taking on the Picts of King Morial.

Scheduling of these battles is still up in the air. They will both be larger scale battles than the first round encounters, and will therefore take more time to play. When I know what time I have available (work commitments) next weekend, I will decide whether to push on with this competition, or to start my Napoleonic Era tournament. (Again, eight armies competing in an elimination format tournament).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tournament Surprise

I didn't expect to see these guys (Goths) bundled out of my 2016 "Barbarian World" Tournament in the first round, but my Picts certainly did the job this weekend.

The semi-finals now have:

1: Picts (King Cynon) attacking Skythians (King Sakesfaris)
2: Picts (King Morial) Vs either Amazons (led by Queen Antibrote) or Britons (led by Queen Brietta of Clan MacDwyai), with the attacker/defender roles still to be determined.

I'm very happy with the way this tournament is turning out. Whoever wins the clash between the Amazons and Britons, I should have four armies that like lots of terrain on the table for the semis, so hopefully I will be able to get some very nice photos.

Goths Vs Picts

Newly crowned king of the Goths, 16-year-old Athanaric, was eager to make a name for himself, and decided that a raid into the territory of the Picts would be the way to do it.

King Athanaric planned to push across the bridge and raid deep into the heartland of his victims, but Pictish King Morial was given warning of the attack, and gathered forces of his own near the border. (The pics above show the terrain around the crossing point selected by King Athanaric, and King Morial - in his chariot - rallying his defenders).

With the invaders taking their time to reach the crossing point - perhaps delayed by the adverse weather conditions - King Morial had plenty of time to move his forces into position for an ambush. The druids had promised that an attack against the invaders would be successful, and King Morial sought to put that promise to the test.

Their visibility diminished by the dark, cloudy sky and driving rain, the Goths were unaware of the presence of the Pict defenders until they had entered the woodland beyond the bridge. The bolts of the Pict crossbowmen gathered beyond the wood may not have found their mark with the first volley, but the Goth horsemen at the front of the column realized that if they didn't close quickly with their enemy, they would be shot at again very quickly. Pressing forward along the road with all haste, the Goths failed to notice the Picts hiding in the woods on either side of the road - until too late.

While the front units charged forward and were met by more bolts and the sight of a full Pict warband waiting to greet them, the Goths in the rear were attacked from both sides of the road. King Atharnaric himself was the first Goth to fall - dropped by an arrow that pierced his throat. The Goths fought desperately, but attacked from three sides, there was little they could do.

Eventually, a small group of survivors was able to escape back over the bridge, just in time to warn their supporting foot troops not to venture across the bridge. All hope of victory extinguished, the remaining Goths chose to cut their losses and return home to select a new king.

The dice gods were definitely on the side of the Picts in this one - the Goths had some terrible rolls. While the rain pretty much eliminated the effects of missile fire, the Pict Crossbowmen were still able to do enough to unsettle Goth morale, and with the rest of their troops also chipping in, the team performance took the day.

Of course, the Pict druids claimed credit for the Goths run of bad luck, and the decisive victory achieved by King Morial, who now advances to the next round of the "2016 Barbarian World" Tournament, where he will face the winner of the clash between Queen Antibrote's Amazons and Queen Brietta MacDwyai's Britons. (First time ever I will have had two female generals facing off against each other!).

Hopefully, that will happen next weekend!

On a final note, I'm finally getting enough terrain together to put together a cluttered battlefield full of scenery. I just need to remember to take photos at the appropriate times. I missed some real beauts once the action got up close and personal, because I was too engrossed in the action to think about the camera!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Libyans/Sea Peoples Vs Picts

Not an historical matchup this time, but the second battle of the first round of my 2016 Ancient Tournament.

Somewhere in Northern Africa, an army of wandering Picts led by "King" Cynon found itself confronted by a Libyan force led by King Meshesher (who also had some Peleset allies led by King Palastra) after looting a Libyan village. Apart from the village (top right in photo above) and the coastline (all along the top) sealing of the Pict's right flank, the battle was fought on an open plain with no terrain features.

Although outnumbered, the Libyans pounced quickly, hoping to get a quick strike that would knock the Picts off balance.

They almost pulled it off, to the extent that by the time the Picts had finished deploying, the Libyans were almost on top of them. The Pict chariots raced out in front of their line to challenge the oncomers, but only had time to intercept the oncoming Peleset; having to leave the Libyans to their infantry.

The Peleset held their ground against the initial challenge from the Pict chariots (above), but were disorganized enough for their advance to be disrupted, and they quickly found themselves enveloped by the large numbers of Pict foot and horse following up the chariots (below).

Meanwhile, King Meshesher's advance was met by a storm of bolts from the Pict Crossbow Men deployed in front of the village that his own archers couldn't keep up with. (The dice gods were definitely on the side of the Picts in this encounter!)

He tried to force the issue by ordering his tribesmen forward, but they too were halted and repulsed, and with a Pict warband now also on hand to back up its crossbow troops, the Libyan king decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and quit the field while the Pict horsemen were too busy finishing off his Peleset allies to pursue his own troops.

A decisive win then to the Picts - the first time in 15 years or so that one of my Celtic armies has beaten a non-Celtic opponent! This Pict army will now meet King Sakesfaris and his Skythians in the next round (scheduled for late February, but that may change depending on my workload etc.)

The next tournament battle sees a second Pict army square off against some marauding Goths - hopefully next weekend!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

First Battle for 2016 - Skythians Vs Thracians

New year - new efforts to get some tournaments started (and hopefully finished - that doesn't usually happen!)

First up, I'm running an eight-army elimination tournament featuring various "barbarian" nations/tribes. Winners advance to the next round, and if they won decisively enough, may be able to force some of the losers (and perhaps some extra mercenaries!) to join their army. Hopefully the eventual winner will be large enough and strong enough to compete on an equal footing with my other larger "civilized world" ancient armies, such as the Republican Romans, Greeks and Persians. This way also gives me a chance to build up a barbarian character and follow his/her adventures along the way.

The four first round matchups are: Skythians Vs Thracians, Libyan/Sea Peoples Vs Picts, Goths Vs Picts (army #2), and Amazons Vs Ancient Britons.

Skythians Vs Thracians was an interesting matchup between historical neighbors with vastly different forces. The Skythians, led on this occasion by King Sakesfaris, were nomadic horse-riding people of the open Steppes. The Thracians, led on this occasion by King Rabocertus, were from the hill country of modern-day countries such as Bulgaria and Romania which formed the south-western border of the Steppes.

The Thracians were trying to defend a village (to the left of the above picture) that was under attack by the Skythian raiders, who had come looking for loot and potential slaves. The village was surrounded by some low foothills and some much higher hills, with a small wood to the north in the background. Hopefully, just enough difficult terrain to help the Thracians matchup to the all-cavalry Skythians.

As expected, the Skythians sent (most of) their horse archers forward to try and draw the Thracians out of their defensive positions. (Two units of horse archers were dispatched as an off-table outflanking force, to hopefully appear on the Thracians' southern flank and catch them off guard) With only one small unit of archers (on foot), the Thracians didn't really have any way of answering the hail of Skythian arrows that began to rain down on them, and were forced to push forward just to drive the horse archers back from the village.

Unfortunately, this was what the Skythians wanted. Their outflanking force arrived at just the right time to catch the left-most Thracian warband in a vice (pictured above), while King Sakesfaris and his heavy cavalry, using the higher hills for cover, were able to execute a similar flank attack on the right-most warband.

It was on the right flank that the Skythians were able to punch a hole in the Thracian defense (see photo above). In desperation, King Rabocertus led his personal bodyguard against the Skythian horsemen as they raced through the gap, but his unit was quickly overpowered, leaving him isolated and surrounded (see photo at top of post) and forced to surrender.

A decisive win then to the Skythians. King Rabocertus was forced to agree to supply troops to help the Skythians in their next outing, against the winners of the Libyan Sea Peoples Vs Picts battle. King Rabocertus was also forced to agree to marry his daughter off to King Sakefaris's grandson (to ensure his loyalty), and the Skythians may also pick up some extra mercenaries from Macedonia as a result of this victory. A nice little "empire" building up for King Sakesfaris!