Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Celtic War Chariots

We have previously considered British war chariots so now let us hear from Julius Caesar who actually saw them in action.

“In chariot fighting the Britons begin by driving all over the field hurling javelins and generally the terror inspired by the horses and the noise of the wheels is sufficient to throw their opponents ranks into disorder.  Then, after making their way between the squadrons of their own cavalry, they jump from the chariots and engage on foot. In the meantime, their charioteers retire a short distance from the battle and place their chariots in such a position that their masters, if hard pressed by numbers, have an easy means of retreat to their own lines”

Caesar goes on to say.

“Thus they combine the mobility of cavalry with the steadiness of infantry; and by daily training and practice that even on a steep incline they are able to control the horses at full gallop, and check and turn them in a moment.”

We have expert warriors who skirmish from chariots and can dismount and charge and fight before being carried off to safety.  How? I wondered are they represented in Pulse of Battle and Ager Proelii.   Both are very good rule sets but they only reflect the skirmishing role. So here are my thoughts on how to represent Celtic chariots on the table (Piquet style).

Being men who trained daily the chariot warriors are Specialist for missilery so up 1 dice size for javelin throwing.

Chariots are no more vulnerable to difficult terrain than other cavalry and are treated the same way.

The crucial mounting or dismounting takes one movement segment on a Movement card. The chariot warriors end up facing their foe and the chariot at one move segment's distance faces their own sides original battle line. On an even dice roll providing they have enough movement left the warriors can close and melee with their enemy. Otherwise they wait until their next Movement or Melee Card.

As elite warriors once dismounted they count as Ferocious for melee paying as usual a Morale Point for the upgrade.

They are a Small Unit of two bases and fight dismounted as two bases too and as such are disadvantaged in melee and more vulnerable to impact of casualties.

So there we have it, a hard hitting unit that must be used carefully if you want to preserve it.  Supporting cavalry is probably a good idea just as Caesar said. Of course Caesar said he faced 2000 chariots and 1000 highly trained and motivated warriors supported by light cavalry would have been a handful for a mainly infantry force.

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Picts 2 - The Army

The Pict cavalry were famed and fierce and we can see them commemorated in victory over the north British or possibly the Northumbrians on the Aberlemno Stone.  We note that, unlike their foes, they lacked armour, light cavalry then in the popular view. 

They would, by virtue of owning horses and swords and spears, have been drawn from the nobility. Thus they had the time to practice their skills both martial and equine. Frequent combat experience via raiding, defending and outright war rendered them formidable foes.  It is likely that the Pict nobility was a numerous and slightly richer rather than a smaller and much richer elite segment of wider society.

At some times and in certain places some of them may have had armour but it is unlikely that it altered their mode of combat.  So far as I can tell that was to hit and run and hit again. The scholar Philip Rance's thorough treatment of the word Drungus and its Celtic origin, the etymology of the Irish term Marc Slua, Caesar's comments on earlier British cavalry and the evidence in Brythonic and early Welsh heroic poetry all seem to me to support that view. 

Chariots were also available in smaller numbers. They were expensive requiring two horses and two men, only one of whom could fight.  As well as the outlay on construction and regular maintenance of the vehicle the driver also required his keep and suitable rewards. 

The chariot was partly a wealthy noble’s status symbol but it had other advantages. It was a highly manoeuvrable missile platform holding more javelins than a horseman might easily carry and it could deliver high quality warriors, albeit in small numbers, to just where they were needed and extricate them at speed.  It was very vulnerable to good cavalry.  The Picts eventually gave up on the chariot but there are some quite late references to British chariots so if you like them, use them.

The images we have of Pict infantry show men with spear, or occasionally sword, and shield and archers and crossbowmen.  We can only speculate on the tactical role of the missile men .  They may have skirmished or supported the cavalry or the infantry or all of those things.

The biggest group in the army would have been spear men. The images carved into the stones suggest- no more than that- men who fought in formation. These would have been the free men of the Picts performing their required military duty.  I tend to see them as forming up in blocks around which the other elements of the army operated. Gildas writes of "swarms" so we might be thinking of large numbers here.

The scholar Charles-Edwards thinks St Patrick’s letter to soldiers of Coroticus indicated the presence of a pagan warrior cult among the Picts. There are precedents and if you share the view a single unit of high ability and high morale foot warriors would be appropriate.

Coming up next

Ancients was my first gaming love other gaming interests came later. I'm enjoying renewing my acquaintance with the end of the period via the development of At the Ends of Empire.  Consequently, there will be more posts on the Picts, British, Angles, Irish and Saxons in no particular order.  I hope folks find these interesting but the prime purpose is to help me clarify my own thinking about warfare in Late and Post Roman Britain.

There is also the third play test for Have a Heart which only needs player availability to take place.  Hopefully this will be sooner rather than later.

I have now got my copy of Sidhu’s The Second Anglo Sikh War and it’s a massive tome.  When I’ve read it I will report back, his first volume was met with much deserved acclaim-so I’m expecting a treat.  

I’ve a piece written about Highlanders at war that currently needs some photos so that will appear too.

More soon and thanks for reading.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Picts

Should you ever have to organise a cattle raid, and these days who can tell?  Here is a tip – the best time to do it is when the hoped for cows are on the upland summer pasture.  Why so?  Well, they will be in good condition ideal for a speedy get away.  Far from concentrated human habitation they will only be defended by boys though there will be men about somewhere. 

Get up there early around sun up, after the cattle have dropped their dung, and swoop down, scare off the still sleepy boys and round up the cows and head out at speed. For maximum efficiency you need to be well armed and mounted on a swift horse. 

Once on your way you may come across a band of similar fellows who want their cows back.  If you do there will be killing - unless you can outrun them which you can’t if you want to keep your new cows.

Thus the high status afforded to the horse in all Celtic societies. 

The Picts, an indigenous British people, spoke a variant of ‘P’ Celtic saying “Map” for the modern English word “Son” as opposed to the equally (“Q”) Celtic Irish who pronounced it “Maq”.

It was the Romans who popularised the name Pict with its connotation of painted warriors. It may have been their take on the chosen name of a new confederacy of British peoples who lived in the north of what is now Scotland.  The confederacy had arisen in response to Roman activity and would outlast the Romans.

The painted warrior image seems to have been real enough and has British, woad painted, precedents and Irish Diberg correlations - both pagan.  We might consider this further at a later date.  There were also chariots and Druids.

Coming late to Christianity the Picts seem not to have had an indigenous literary tradition, if there were Pictish texts we do not have them. 

The Romans, British, Irish and English all wrote about the Picts.  For Pictish self - perception we have only the powerfully beautiful images, many of them martial, that they left to posterity.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Of Markers and Men and Morale Points

As I prepare for the third play test of Have a Heart it occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned the markers I use in lieu of record keeping or the individual command stands needed for the game.  I have also revised my thinking on Morale Point generation.

First the Markers these are:

A ‘Shocked’ Marker
An out of ammo Marker
Casualty Marker
Out of Command Marker

Here, in the above order are my markers. I need to make the last two more natural looking.

Here are some new Have a Heart command stands.

I have moved away from the idea of a Morale Point table to a simpler system with a bigger random element.  As previously discussed each player would count up the number of units in their army allowing 1 for a normal unit and 2 for an elite one. Then add 2 for the General and 1 for each sub commander the total being the number of Morale Points so far. Each player then throws a D6 and a D12 the difference between the two scores being added to their total.  Potentially the player could receive an 11 point bonus or none at all and everything in between.  I'll try this out in the next Play test.

Finally, here's a few more men, Minifigs Tlaxcala.  I really like the guy with the Crane back banner.

Friday, 12 August 2016

A Work in Progress

On the 31st of July I blogged on Combat - Bernal’s story and concluded by saying that I wanted Have a Heart to be able to reflect that sort of fighting.  Bernal’s story is important because he was there as a soldier and he wrote, remarkably frankly, about his experience of the Conquest.

We have had two play tests so far, and shortly there will be a third, with one victory a piece.

So onto the game itself.  First, I think the outnumbered Cortez lost because he fought an offensive battle on bad ground.  Had he taken a defensive position and made the Mexica fight on the plain he would have done better.  In fairness a couple of Spanish sub commanders would have helped too. 

Where they could be brought into play the cavalry and Lombard guns were powerful.  The Spanish foot should have been flanked by allies and given more space to work and in the next test I’ll ensure that. 

I liked how the use of Morale Points worked in terms of improving chances.

The Heroes of the game were undoubtedly the Jaguars of Texcoco and the nobles of Tlaxcala, elite troops, and like all Heroes they were lucky.

Did Have a Heart reflect the sort of fighting Bernal Diaz described? You can read the extract and the play test and decide for yourself.

I still see Have a Heart as a work in progress but I'm happy enough so far.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Second Play Test- Part 5

Axayaca wins the initiative 8-2
Card 1 Army Morale
Card 2 Melee-No contact.
Card 3 Group Move on an even dice The Mexica centre emerges between the skirmishers and Jaguars and Eagles attack the Spanish and Tlaxcalla. The Spanish recoil is blocked by the Otomi and the unit is lost.  The Tlaxcala hang on.
Card 4 Melee The Jaguars pay a Morale Point for a ferocious attack on the Tlaxcala bows who are destroyed.
Card 5 Command, Card 6 Manuoevre-no action.

Card 1 Missilery Reload. The Tlaxcala bows fire to no effect.
Card 2 Move on an even dice.  The Otomi turn to face the Eagles and charge both sides inflict casualties.  The Spanish cavalry hit the Eagles in the flank destroying them.

Card 3 Lombard Reload.  Poor dice and no casualties perhaps they overshot.
Card4 Move Cortez attempts to create a new battle line.
Card 5 Melee No contact.
Card 6 Command Cortez attempts to rally the Spanish swordsmen but fails.

Cortez wins initiative 8-6
Card 1 Army Morale
Card 2 Missilery Reload-more poor dice for the Tlaxcala archers.

Card 1 Army Morale
Card 2 Lull

Cortez wins the initiative 3-1
Card 1 Command. Cortez rallies the Spanish swordsmen and in paying to restore their unit integrity spends his last Morale Points.  Game over.  The last pic shows the so far un engaged Mexica.  Texcoco did most of the fighting.

I'll need to have a think about all this but I enjoyed it and I hope you did too.

The Second Play Test- Part 4

Cortez wins the initiative 4-2
Card 1 Group Move on an even dice.  The Spanish swordsmen charge the Texcoco Jaguars and the Tlaxcala nobles turn and hit them in the flank.  The Spanish are sent back reeling (bad dice) and the Tlaxcala held in melee (even dice), heroic stuff from the Texcoco Jaguars.

Card 2 Move. Cortez sends the cavalry to protect the flank and advances up to the tree line where allied fire power clears away the first line of Mexica skirmishers.

Card 1 Move on an even dice.  The Mexica army moves into view and begins (poor dice) to envelop the allies.  More Texcoco warriors come to support the Jaguars.
Card 2 Melee. The Tlaxcala nobles are hit by a unit of warriors who they send hurtling back. Their grim battle with the Texcoco Jaguars continues.

Axayaca wins iniative 11-2
Card 1 Missilery Reload-markers removed.
Card 2 Manoevre Mexica skirmishers form up on the flanks of the Eagle and Jaguar knights.
Card 3 Army Morale
Card 4 Missilery Reload. The allies are hit twice Tlaxcala archers retire and the Spanish take casualties.
Card 5 Melee. The Texcoco Jaguars and the Tlaxcala nobles both pay a Morale point for a ferocious fight in which Tlaxcala prevails – preserving the allied flank. The Texcoco Jaguars retire.
Card 6 Command. Cacamatzin begins to rally the Texcoco troops. Only one unit of warriors fails to respond.
Card 7 Lull.
Card 8, Command
Card 9. Missilery Reload. The Mexica skirmishers fire again to no effect.

Card1 Lombard Reloaded- The Lombard is masked by the retiring Tlaxcala archers.
Card 2 Melee-No contact.
Card 3 Manuoevre The Tlacala nobles square off against the rallied Texcoco. The Lombard is turned on the Mexica. The Tlaxcala Otomis turn to support the Spanish.

Card 4. Army Morale, Card 5. Lull, Card 6 Lull, Card 8 Army Morale, Card 9 Melee. No action on any.

The Second Play Test -part 3

Cortez wins the initiative 11-9
Card 1 Army Morale-
Card 2 Move but on poor dice the army goes forward the cavalry securely tucked away.

Axayaca turn two cards
Card 1 Manoeuvre-
Card 2 Melee- no enemy in reach

Cortez wins the initiative 11-9 again.
Card 1 – Army Morale
Card 2 Command Cortez rallies the cavalry

Axayaca turn 2 cards
Card 1 Group Move Cacamatzin’s Texcoco warriors move, still concealed by the tree line, to within striking distance of a Spanish flank mixed unit.

Card 2 Move on an even dice. Cacamatzin leads a unit of Jaguars, paying one Morale Point for a ferocious attack, and one of warriors hit the exposed Spanish mixed unit front and flank. Spanish fire power shocks the Jaguars but not enough to stop them.  More warriors attack the adjacent Tlaxcala archers.  Crossbows and arquebus are fired, arrows fly and Atl Atl are hurled, The Tlaxcala commanded by Xochomitl drive back their attackers but the isolated Spanish unit is gone and prisoners have been taken. They'll be dancing in the streets of Texcoco tonight.

Axayaca wins initiative 6-3.
Card 1 Army Morale-
Card 2 Lull
Card 3 Missile Reload the Texcoco warriors reload.

Card 1 Manoeuvre – Spanish and Tlaxcala turn to face the Texcoco, Lombards deploy and the cavalry turn to line.  The allied battle line is restored.
Card 2 Lull
Card 3 Move - the army advances – slowly due to low movement dice.

Axayaca wins iniative 10-5.
Card 1- Melee-no enemy in reach
Card 2 Command
Card 3 Army Morale
Card 4 Melee--no enemy in reach
Card 5 Missilery Reload-no target

Card 1 Lombard Reload The guns fire twice and drive back a unit of Texcoco warriors with losses, Cortez playing a Tactical Advantage card for added effect.
Card 2 Melee – no troops in contact.

Card 3 Group Move on even dice. Spanish swordsmen charge the Jaguars and the Tlaxcala nobles attack the warriors.  The Tlaxcala push the warriors back, but the Spanish are repulsed as Axayaca plays a Tactical Advantage card and pays a Morale Point for a ferocious Jaguar defence. The Spanish suffered from the effects of having seen comrades captured.

Card 4 Missilery Reload Tlaxcala fire at the Jaguars to no effect -poor dice.
Card 5 Army Morale.

And that concludes Turn One. Both card decks are shuffled and turn two begins.

The Second Play Test -part 2

Cortez wins the initiative roll by 4-2 and turns 2 cards.

Card 1 is a Move card on an even roll which means the Spanish troops still in column form up in depth and the whole army moves forward in three battles.  Only the guns and the cavalry remain in column and the latter unwisely moves across the front of the Mexica.
Card 2 is a Lull card.

Axayaca turns

Card 1 a Command card – nothing is required.
Card 2 a Lull card.

Axayaca wins the initiative 8-5.
Card 1 Army Morale -.
Card 2 Manoeuvre the Mexica on the low hill form up in depth.
Card 3 is a Missilery Reload card that enables the Mexica slingers to shoot twice at the cavalry.  Causing a unit integrity loss on the Spanish – it’s a small unit and cannot afford this.

Cortez turns 3 cards

Card 1 Lull
Card 2 Missilery Reload – no targets
Card 3 Command.  Cortez joins the cavalry but fails to rally off the unit integrity loss.  He does need to achieve this.

The Second Play Test - Part 1

Here we have the Spanish column heading for Mexico.  There are 20 Spanish cavalry, three hundred foot, some light cannon and 500 Tlaxcala.  Facing them is a Mexica expeditionary force of 1,500 men.  The Mexica want a horse and some prisoners and the Spanish want to secure the entrance of the pass through the mountains.   All of the generals, Axayaca and Cacamatzin, and Cortez and Xochomitl are very competent.

You might think the Mexica force is too small for the task and there is something to that. Though we can bear in mind  that due to circumstances Cortez never faced the full might of Mexico - We could consider this a preliminary engagement. 

I'm going to take the AAR in stages so we can see how the rules work - or don't as the case may be. I should say, like all Piquet games, Have a Heart moves along quickly.  So to Turn one.
Axayaca for Mexico wins the initiative roll by 9-4 so 5 cards will be turned.
Card 1 is a Move card and the Mexica move their troops down to the tree line and send a strong force to occupy a low hill. From the Spanish perspective most of the Mexica army remains out of sight.
Card 2 is a Lull card-nothing happens.
Card 3 is a Missilery Reload card but no targets are available.
Card 4 is a Command card and a leader joins the Mexica on the low hill.
Card 5 is an Army Morale card – nothing happens.

Cortez now turns 5 cards.

Card 1 is a Lull card-nothing happens.
Card 2 is an Army Morale Card-ditto
Card 3 is a Manoeuvre card and Cortez forms his flank troops into deep formation.  
Card 4 is a Melee card but no opponents are available

Card 5 is a Lombard Reload card but the guns are still in column.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A Delay

Apologies folks I’m running a bit behind today. Consequently, the Have a Heart play test will not appear until later tomorrow.

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Rest of the Week

Just a note to let readers know that the next three posts will be a card by card account of the first turn of the second Have a Heart play test. The turn ended when all 25 cards had been turned,  There will be pics too and after that I will draw some conclusions as to how the turn played. I’ll do the same with the second turn too.  The posts will begin tomorrow night. Thank you all for your interest.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Refurbished Minifigs

Bought in the 1980s these little fellows have mostly languished unused ever since.  Given my current focus I thought I’d repaint and rebase them.  I’m pleased enough at the end results.  So the Jaguars:

Some slingers.

More Jaguars and archers.


I’m pleased to say they were done in time for today’s game-more of which soon.

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Cards

As readers know I play Piquet style games and that means using cards.

I found some nice, near contemporary, images for both the Mexica and Spanish card decks for Have a Heart.  I was very pleased to find some images of the Spanish and Tlaxcala together.  The cards are now done and you can see them here.  I'll say thanks again to Jarrovian for the cold laminating tip.

Here is a close up of the two images I eventually chose for the back cards.  Mexica on the right and Spanish and Tlaxcala on the left.

The full card deck for both sides is as follows.

Spanish and Tlaxcala
Number of cards
Number of cards
Missile reload
Missile reload
Missile reload
Lombard reload
Army Morale
Army Morale
Tactical Advantage
Tactical Advantage
Group Move
Group Move
Total cards
Total cards

For anyone is wondering about the ’Lombard’ cards, the Lombard was a type of light, breach loading ship's gun used by Cortez on his expedition to Mexico.  The breaches could be prepared in advance and so a brisk rate of fire was possible for a while. Two Lombard cards might be excessive so I will keep an eye on that.