Monday, December 15, 2014

Personality goes a long way...

One of the more appealing features of the Wars of the Roses is that it allows very wide scope for the personalities of various lords and nobles to have a big impact.  

(Incidentally, this is not always a feature of some wargaming periods, as there seems to be some kind of unspoken convention everybody has agreed upon!  Many American Civil War rules allow for the colourful personalities in the various generals for example, but strangely the 'personal' element is largely absent from, say, WW2 games - obviously figures like Montgomery, Patton, Rommel, etc. were all quite bland and unremarkable types that just rubbed along wonderfully...)

Anyway, the wargaming gods have decreed that WotR games should allow for personalities to have an impact, as this opens up all sorts of intriguing possibilities for backstabbing, betrayal, or just good old-fashioned incompetence.  The original Miniature Wargames article outlines a system, which is actually attributed to Tony Bath's famous work on 'Setting up a Wargames Campaign.'  Bath however set out the basics, and never tried to explain how the idea could be applied in practical terms.  Jim Webster in Miniature Wargames sets out a method of putting it into practice for determining how people act.  

For each area we have a lord in charge, and his personality is summed up in seven categories.  Each category is a simple 1 to 6 scale, with the opposite extremes at either end.  For example a roll for morality would be 'paragon' for a 6 (kind, generous, friendly- basically doomed in a WotR setting) going down through an unremarkable person around 4 or 3, then descending down to 'depraved' on a 1 (uses phone in cinema, cracks knuckles, etc.)  

The categories are as follows, along with an explanation of their effect:

This has no direct game effect, beyond being a handy mental 'hook' to hang your notional person on, so they stick in your mind.  In more practical terms, it also provides another dice-roll to use when averaging out your 'popularity' category (see below).

As with the above, the combination of Disposition & Morals is just to make the character recognizable as a personality.  It could also be used if necessary to see how two figures cooperate, I suppose - after all, a paragon is hardly going to be close to some depraved monster, is he?

The first real game-centric trait: how skilled is he as as a tabletop commander?  It's a straight 1-to-6 rating, but of course this can easily be tailored to pretty much any rule-set you care to use.  It also lets us settle off-table matters like sieges by rating his competence.  A lord with a '6' will be certain to topple any castle within a turn, but a level '1' incompetent could well be there until doomsday.  

This rating is again very similar to the above, rating how much of a rookie our man is.  In the Webster rules many rolls for checking military competence allow you to use "either his aptitude or experience" - so this is effectively a "do over" roll, to stop you getting saddled with a dead-beat.  Interestingly, I notice that Tony Bath's original system allowed the characters' experience to be raised with time over various battles, so a character - providing they stayed alive - would steadily improve their rating.  Webster ditches this for simplicity, and probably wisely: say what you like about Tony Bath, the man wasn't afraid of complex and detailed book-keeping!

Basically, how swift in action is he?  If the lord commands a section of your army and you need him to bring it to the battlefield, he needs to roll against his activity level to see if he does it promptly.  A level '6' lord will clearly be bounding to your aid with Tigger-ish enthusiasm, while a lazy '1' lord may well only be out of bed before your crisis has come and gone!

Things don't always go well, and when you get beaten in a battle, those lords that had been submitting to you might take new ideas into their heads!  A roll against loyalty decides if your followers stick with you after a setback, or ditch you.  It would be a calculated risk to accept help from a highly skilled and powerful lord if he turns out to be as treacherous as an icy step...

Sometimes lords can submit without fighting doomed battles, if you're stronger than them or also if you're more popular than them.  Popularity is dependent on other personality features, so instead of being a dice-roll, the Popularity number is an average of the six previous rolls.  Unless you've rolled for the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, it very frequently comes out as being a 3 or 4, for generally liked/disliked.  One notable feature - a character with loyalty of 1 or 2 is rated as a '6' for calculating the average, as he is taken as a shameless dissembler - presumably channeling Richard III from Shakespeare!  

In addition to the above I have added in a few tweaks based on the characters' pro-Yorkist/Lancastrian bias.  When checking against a test for a similarly pro-'X' lord, I usually allow a pass when 'either' rather than 'both' conditions are met.  For example, a pro-Yorkist lord seeking to take over another pro-Yorkist will get a fight-free submission if he is either stronger or more popular, while a pro-Lancastrian target would fight unless he was both weaker and less popular.  Likewise, a lord on the tabletop who has an independent command may fail you if he is pro-Lancastrian and you are pro-Yorkist, just to keep that prospect of treachery alive and well...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Setting up the Wargames Campaign

To continue with my adaptation of the campaign system discussed previously: not everybody will have a Miniature Wargames with Battlegames (MWwBG?) copy handy, and although I'm adapting it and shall explain a bit of my thinking - I still strongly advise anybody interested to get a back-copy online!  

I wanted the campaign to be in a fictionalised region of the North of England, so I kept the basic notion of dealing out a random 5 x 5 grid of playing cards.  The result for me is in the picture below:

The numbers of the cards represent the strength or wealth of the region, the higher the better.  Court cards are naturally something special, so they are taken as a strength of 12 and represent a city, castle, or other powerful noble's personal estates. The other feature of the cards is their suit - since the Wars of the Roses is split between two factions, I took all the red-suit cards (hearts & diamonds) as nobles with a pro-Lancastrian leaning, while the black suits (clubs/spades) are taken as having pro-Yorkist sympathies.  Our protagonist lord may still have to fight in feuds with pro-Yorkists as rivals for royal favour, but they are generally more amenable to him than the Lancastrians.

From the photo above you'll see that I got a not-bad draw.  There are about 15 pro-Lancastrian regions compared to 10 pro-Yorkist ones, and an above-average six cities/castles.  I drew 4 Lancastrian strongholds against two Yorkist, but I felt this might be a bit too lop-sided and decided to switch one to make it three-each.  

Next, a bit of character to each region - which I think is an important bit of any campaign.  By looking around on Google Maps, I was able to get a quick list of appropriately 'Northern'-sounding names for each area.  I didn't want any actual places in the fictional map, so I split each name in two and randomly mixed them up.  For example, places like 'Whitbeck' or 'Cornforth' can be switched around to make 'Whitforth' or 'Cornbeck', for example - non-existent places, but they sound right.  You can do it manually, or - as I did - rig up an excel sheet to randomly generate match-ups for you.

Each area needs a lord to represent it, of course - and the names of the lards are handled in pretty much the same way as the place-names above.  A Google search for 'northern english surnames' turned up plenty of examples, and then I prepared a list of common first names - I used the character cards from 'Perfect Captain' but there's no great surprise to them: lots of Johns and Richards, etc.  Again, I randomly paired up the results.

Basically knocked up on an Excel spreadsheet - complete with clip-art for the Castle in Wolviston
Here's an example of some regions and nobles.  More on the personalities in the next post.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wars of the Roses Northern Campaign, 1461

I have been so busy painting and gaming, I've not actually managed to update my blog for ages!  Well I thought I would hang off until I had something of interest to report back with, so here I am at long last with an update on my Wars of the Roses plans.

As some may remember, I have been re-creating the Wars of the Roses (WotR) at some length, in fits and starts, for some time.  My last big outing resulted in a climactic battle which handed victory to the Yorkists under Edward IV, and saw the Lancastrians flee to exile.  After the monster-sized battle of Baunton that concluded that one, I felt I wanted to tone things down and reduce the scale a little, to make it a bit more manageable.  

As the campaign moved into the 1461-1465 phase which saw the Yorkists trying to establish their rule and putting down rebellions across the North of England, it seemed to me like a good chance to make it more 'local'.  I also had the notion of creating a fictional lord and following his personal little 'narrative' as he fought to become a more powerful noble over his rivals - true WotR stuff, basically.

I had to leave it for a while, as I simply couldn't really work out a good campaign system to adopt.  I tinkered around with a couple, read Donald Featherstone & C S Grant, and struggled to figure out how I wanted to approach things.  Nothing was really quite how I wanted it, but then I came across something rather out of the blue - more specifically, out of 'Miniature Wargames' (with Battlegames) Issue 377, from September.  It had an article by Jim Webster which outlined a system of using playing-cards to produce a playing area of various regions, added in some character-personality profiles, and rules for how to conquer a little mini-empire.  The article specifically dealt with the fall of Late Roman Gaul, but he himself pointed out that the system he used was first thought up for Biblical warfare (back in Issue 368 of the same magazine.)  I loved the idea, and since it had proved adaptable enough to cover two periods already, I knew it could be tweaked enough to do for the WotR.  

I've played around with some medieval adaptations of the rules a little, and am now satisfied enough to give it a go.  The next while should see the blog back in use as I explain how I've set up the world, run through the game in practice, and then finally return to the tabletop.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Republican Roman Cavalrymen

Something of a random departure here - some Republican Roman Cavalrymen I recently painted.

This is basically prompted by the fact that one manufacturer (Agema Miniatures) have just released a great little boxed-set of Roman infantry, and another (Victrix Miniatures) appear to be on the brink of releasing their own.  I've long fancied a Punic Wars force, but the appearance of 28mm plastic minisseems to have pushed me over the edge - much in the way that I got into WOTR when the Perrys released theirs.  

My plan is to put together a modest force of Romans, probably in line with a 300-point force for Impetus, or around a dozen bases.  Until Victrix get their finger out and release their plastic infantry box, I'm making do with the other units required, such as Cavalry.  The above are, I think, Crusader Miniatures models.  Th epainting isn't entirely finished yet but I've also made a go of painting them more in the three-shades style that I believe Kevin Dallimore promotes (basically a bit more abstract, with black areas between coloured regions to add lines, impressionistic painting of faces etc. in a way that looks excellent from a distance.)  

I'll see how this one runs with the upcoming releases over the future months, at any rate!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Altar of Freedom & Longstreet Bases

I haven't posted for a bit about my ACW doings, so I thought I'd share my latest thoughts/plans.  I'm still playing away at the FDWC club campaign of Longstreet, and the Longstreet rules do seem to be excellent in my opinion.

However, my own taste is for large-scale battles in ACW and this is not what Longstreet is really intended for.  I had been pondering scale-changes etc. to try and do a big battle in part, but then a friend at the club put me on the the rule set 'Altar of Freedom' which is available at and from (I think) Iron Ivan.  
This does things at my favoured scale of 'one base per brigade' and the emphasis is very much on flanking with divisions and corps, while trying to manage your prickly corps-commanders so they do what you want.  
The rules themselves are pitched at 60mm x 30mm bases of 6mm soldiers, but of course I couldn't bring myself to restart ACW collecting in 6mm!  Instead I would use my numerous unpainted ACW 15mm models I've been nabbing off ebay, which proved to be available in such quantities I could do even the biggest battles from the Eastern Theatre (Gettysburg, inevitably, is the largest game).  So, how to base them in a way that lets me do Longstreeet, and also Altar of Freedom, and - if at all possible - sticks to the intended base-size for each?

The result, courtesy of a lot of well-priced stuff from Warbases, is the above.  I'm basing the infantry on 25x25mm bases for Longstreet use, then sitting two bases on a 60x30mm 'sabot' base for Altar of Freedom.  The slight overlap in sizes also gives me space to write brigade names & modifiers, as a nice extra bonus.  Artillery and supply-limbers are on 50x25mm bases normally, and so also work on the same AoF footprint.

With a scenario and game in mind as my objective, I'm now off painting and basing to get them on the tabletop as soon as I can!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

First Battle of St Albans, 1455

Monday last week, I was at the club for a game with a friend - we had promised each other for some time that we would give one of the historical scenarios in 'Bloody Barons' a go, and so we started at the start: the First Battle of St Albans.

The Main Street, which put our model-houses collections to the test!
Things actually came out rather historically, with a Yorkist victory.  The Duke of York himself was stopped in a protracted battle with the Earl of Northumberland's men, which started dramatically with a Yorkist captain being shot down right before as the two sides charged in, then their reinforcements taking their time in working their way through the alleyways to assist.  Salisbury had a slow advance due to a unit of Levies winding up at the front of the road, who were distinctly slow to push ahead.

It was Warwick in the centre who really decided things - he charged in and fought with the Duke of Somerset, who had decided to lead from the front.  Somerset took two hits and needed merely to roll 2+ on each save roll to survive: he promptly (inevitably?) rolled 'snake eyes', which is basically double-dead!  With their leader slain, the whole Lancastrian centre took to its heels, forcing the gloomy Henry VI to run for protection with Lord Clifford's men, hotly pursued by Warwick's troops (no doubt yelling explanations that this was all just a big misunderstanding!)

Henry VI with Yorkists in hot pursuit
The game came to an end at this point as the time-clock ran out, with two out of the three Lancastrian wards routed and one of their big leaders dead and another one Northumberland fleeing.  Due to the routing of one of the Yorkist household units, plus the town-scape slowing advances across the board, it came out as only a 'Marginal Win' for the Yorkists, but it certainly felt far worse!

Monday, May 26, 2014

WOTR Workbench

The last wee while has seen me gather quite a bit of Medieval stuff for the WOTR, and I have been particularly emphasizing 'personality' figures, to help make the next campaign a bit more 'narrative' in style.  So, I've stocked up  Here, in no particular order, are some of the things cluttering the work-bench.  Some were ordered pre-Carronade, but most were picked up opportunistically on the day itself!  

16 Archers from Front Rank.  Pleasantly 'chunky'-seeming next to the plastic ones, as if wrapped up against a cold day.  

4Ground house model - marvellous little thing!  It is also a 4Ground wagon, which has been stuffed with plastic Renedra barrels, to provide army supplies.

10 Archers by Old Glory.  I got these guys because they are dressed very much in the 'peasant' style, with hoods & padded armour more prevalent and metal armour much scarcer - should be good for levies.  

A pair of Perry Cannon with crew.  These are the 'single-arc' cannon for elevating the barrel, which should make a bit of contrast with my existing one (twin-arcs, looking a bit heavier)

15 Billmen by Wargames Foundry - also includes the odd captain figure.  Remarkably appealing models, some of them so long-faced and stern they are practically cartoonish - love that effect! 

Command Group by Crusader Miniatures - two generals/nobles, a herald & (a bonus?) trumpeter.  I got them because I feel my nobles would often want a bit of a 'riding company' to announce their brilliance to the world.  

Command Group by Corvus Belli - a general, standard-bearer/champion, plus a herald & trumpeter.   The champion is hoisting a sword roughly his own size, while the general looks angry enough to kill the entire world.  

Wargames Foundry Captains - excellent little bunch, perhaps fractionally on the stocky side, but how couldn't you love 'em?  I particularly like the one who is head-to-toe in plate, with only his nose poking out between his Bevor & Sallet.

Some random extra freebies here - Wargames Foundry sent me a mountainously-plumed general with my order (not period-appropriate, but he looks lovely) plus a standard-bearer of great use.  While I ransacked Colonel Bill's stand at Carronade, they gave me this peasant from their pick-and-mix box.  My first civilian commoner!

Perry mounted personalities - finally, my nobles don't have to walk!  The figures (at least notionally) are Edward IV swinging on horseback, Salisbury waving his helmet, and York sitting rather contemplatively, holding a hammer.  (Best way to ensure no interruptions while daydreaming, I suppose.)

Last, the Front Rank personality set for 'Warwick' plus a standard-bearer, a noble adviser, plus a squire close-by with a horse.