DBA Special III/40b Norse Viking

As promised, here is the companion army to the Pre-Feudal Scottish ... The Vikings ...

Building this army was inspired by Peter Pig's new extensive range of Vikings and Saxons and the desire to assemble them and as many equivalents from other manufacturers for a review ...

... and, with a little care and attention, I get a couple more Dark Age armies out of the exercise, Canmore's Scots and these cultural raiders ...

The V3 DBA army follows the usual formula (post 850): a solid Blade general and 10 bases of Solid Blade hirdsmen ... (and just one element tp pick and choose over) ...

The landwaster standard was made in the usual way from tissue over a foil substrate, doped with PVA and painted ...

The 12th element can be archers (Bw or Ps), Beserks (fast Wb) or Irish (fast Ax)

V3 of DBA offers slightly more choice by allowing 3 bases of substitutes from an ally (in this case Irish, Scottish or Anglo-Danish) ... that might mean a bit more variety but this is tough good-looking army as it stands.

The figures are (just under) half Piggies, the rest Essex, Donnington, Khurasan, Black Hat, Museum, Outpost, and one each from Touller, Irregular and Chariot (just to show how nicely they all mix together) ...

The camp is meant to represent the prows of some longships pulled up on a marshy riverbank ...

Peter Pig make loads of looting and ravaging figures, so, with an Essex ship there was a lot of kit to jumble together for this piece.  It is made on clear plastic sheet rather than my usual MDF basing so any river it sits on should show through ... The guarding Camp Followers are detachable of course.

I pasted together some of the shield designs again (done hand as usual)  - sorry if they come out a bit blurred by the editing ...

They are the usual mix of Celtic/Saxon/Norse designs that seem to pass for generic Dark Age these days (and honestly I know no better) ...

It pairs nicely with Pre-Feudal Scottish or, say, Anglo-Saxon

A very enjoyable project and a nice addition to any collection.

Comments (4)

30th November, Halesowen


The Society of Ancients combined with the Northampton Battlefields Society to run a stand at Wargamer in its bright new venue in Halesowen.

We took along the wargame model of the 1460 Battle of Northampton (which is only an hour down the road from Birmingham) in a display format - as Wargamer isn't one of those shows where we usually pick up volunteers for full multiplayer participation game.

I set the battle up as the Yorkist lords move their forces forward

(uncle Fauconberg at the Battle of Northampton)

There was plenty to talk about as only 2 evenings previously the NBS had picked up a Community Star award from the local residents' association in Northampton's Far Cotton and Delapre where the battlefield lies.

The award recognises the Society - and particularly its chairman, Mike Ingram (he of the excellent Bosworth book) - fighting for what it believes in: the preservation, interpretation and publicising of the 1460 battlefield at Delapre Abbey ...

(Community Star award alongside exhibition weapons from the Northampton Battlefields Society)

And I was also doing some surveying for our friends at the Naseby Battlefield Project who need to know what you would like to find in a visitor centre should you go to the ECW site (I will provide info and a link when there is an online version available) ..

If not particularly busy or intensively promoted (and the two can go together) Wargamer is a great example of a good quality local wargames show.   Lots of great exhibits from clubs and groups within an hours or so's drive and a fair mix of traders including the indomitable Dave Lanchester (Books) down from Yorkshire for the day (great support from Dave and he looked busy enough for it to have been worth his trip) ...

The show was a little easier to find than the former venue, better lit, had a bar (albeit rudimentary) and more parking ... winning all round, then.

In addition to Northampton, there were plenty of ancient games on show ...

The Cobridge (Stoke Challenge) club had this sumptuous Republican Roman Armati game.

The Border Rievers had a splendid and well captioned Battle of Mycale 

Tremendous terrain and loads of figures  ... this game was being played using WRG's 6th edition.

And The Guards of Birmingham were playing a large Hail Caesar game loosely based on Hydaspes ...

Well, add in our Medieval battle and that's some good coverage of the Society's period of remit for a local Sunday show I think.

A good diversity of style too ... 15 and 28mm ... Armati, vintage WRG and HC (and the set up for ours would have been a matrix game) ...

Other good stuff at Wargamer included ...

(WWII - Parker's Crossroads)

A couple of Renaissance games ... from Malta ...

... to the English Civil War ...

Several Napoleonics and even an interesting WWII Naval game ...

A great selection: I counted 17 games: 5 Napoleonic, 4 WWII (3 land; 1 naval), 3 Ancient, 1 Medieval, 1 Renaissance, 1 ECW, 1 ACW and 1 Indian Wars … in a good mix of scales and using everything from glossy published rules to oldies and homebrews.  

What a showcase.  There was also a Bring & Buy.

The weather was good for travelling so this was a great day for the midland wargame enthusiast (if you didn't attend this year I am sure you will want to look out for next year's show) ...

That was the last show outing for the Society of Ancients for 2014 although my own wargaming is moving on apace over the Winter break (and more special features are in preparation - so keep an eye on Ancients on the Move or just hit the follow by email button) ...

Oh ... and don't forget to renew your Society subscriptions (the majority of members still lapse with the distribution of the November issue - and that's the next one coming) ...


DBA Special III/45 Pre-Feudal Scottish

Sorry for the low level of activity here, I have been busy with a number of projects (some of which might well find their way onto this page in due course) but normal service is being restored as I catch up ...

First, those Pre-Feudal Scots that did such sterling service for me at the DBA Open ...

They are now tidied up, ready for pictures and adjusted to Version 3.   The core adjustment is that you lose a skirmisher and the Warband option goes up to 2 elements ...  anyway ...

The army is mostly Peter Pig Viking figures (with some help from Outpost, Donnington, Essex and Chariot ... plus, to make a mix, a figure each from Curvus Belli, Old Glory, Minifigs, A Touller and Lurkio) ...

I have tagged this army Malcolm Canmore's Scots .... Malcolm, of course, was the adversary of Shakespeare's Macbeth ... so an ideal opponent for your run of the mill cauldron boiling Scot.

It was Malcolm's army that removed Birnham wood to Dunsinane in the classic denouement (and I suspect gives rise to this army's core of 3Pk spearmen ... ) ...

Canmore apparently means 'big head' so I've given him a big head.  He is a Touller figure with an Outpost Varangian head (between 2 Outpost cavalrymen - the left of which has an Essex head)

The left is an old Essex one piecer with added spear and Outpost head ... the right hand figure is also Essex but with a Lurkio top half.   They match up nicely, I think ...

The Scottish thegns ... an Outpost Varangian amongst 3 Piggies ...

The core of the army.   Mindful that V3 was changing these spearmen to 3Pk, 

I chose to model them as generic Dark Age infantry with very big spears.  I deliberately did not go for shieldless schiltron types as I suspect they may be anachronistic.    These look the piece for me for 11th Century foot, and I think are fine for the 3Pk designation (but its just my interpretation) ... nonetheless, not all have shields.  Again, the shield designs are generic Dark Age with a Caledonian twist and there is the odd yellow warshirt ...

Men in skins... men in warshirts ... more Hollywood than Galwegian with a deliberate hint of wildness.   not to be taken too seriously ... Chariot wild men, a couple of Piggies an Outpost and a Minifig.   They mix well.

V2.2's useful 2 elements drop to 1 in V3 ... Corvus Belli, Outpost (with dog) and 2 New Era Donningtons ...

I made this broch-like encampment from an old Airfix (Nottingham Castle) turret ... and added a mix of junk including some sheep, a dead cow, a camp fire and a likely anachronistic kingly flag.   The army is making camp (and maybe looting ... a bit ... ) at a newly captured tower ...  There is an Outpost shaman dancing in a loincloth.   Answers on a postcard?

As an alternative I have based up some Museum monks ... the army pairs up with some Vikings, so the monks are their natural foes ... when needs must ...

This beautiful Barker Marker is actually the top half of a 28mm MDF cross from Timeline.   It was just too tall for this collection so I chopped it down (and am very pleased with the results) ....  I set it in a spiral pathway mimicking contemporary shield designs.   I have no idea whether there is any justification for this.

I had quite a lot of fun making the camp, and it views well from a number of angles.   I was particularly pleased with this guy emerging from the tower ... actually he is a PP wounded figure but the pose just seems to suit.   It is also a tremendous little figure (yes - that is 15mm!) ...

As I say, the shield designs are generic Dark Age with  some Scottish flavours ... there is some authenticity to the swirly designs North of the wall, but mostly it is generic/conjectural ... anyway, I clipped a bundle of them together so you can see for yourself.

Occasionally there's a bit of something else in the way - and sometimes the angles are quirky - but, by and large, this seems to have worked (I'll do it again for the Vikings I think) ...

So ... here is the army reconfigured for V3 ...

It was surprisingly good (came 2nd) as a V2.2 army, so I will now wait and see how effective 3Pk are in the latest version - it will add another dynamic to the now interesting and variable Dark Age infantry fight.

Comments (6)

19th October, Portsmouth

The 2014 English DBA Open

I very nearly had to open this post with one of those 'the monkey writes Shakespeare intros'.   You know ... you go on bashing away randomly for long enough  ... More anon ...

The Open is a one-day DBA event ... take any army you like but the players will then be arbitrarily pooled by date.  After a round robin of pool games, the winners and runners up go forward to a knock out scramble for the trophies.

In addition, the Open was the last round of the Society of Ancients UK DBA League - with some positions still in doubt on the day pending the open scores.

So two sets of trophies come day's end.

(front - alongside the latest Slingshot: plaques for the DBA Open; behind: shields for the DBA League)

I do hope you like the shields ... these are hand cast and embellished in Northamptonshire and are unique to the Society.    In this case a number of ugly old figures, miscasts and off cuts were melted down and recycled.     As many of you know, I have a soft spot for old figures so rest assured no classics are being lost to posterity in this process - indeed I hope it is a sort of Valhalla for yesterday's misshapen and abandoned warriors.

DBA Open

I took along some generally unfancied Pre Feudal Scottish (III/45b)

Malcolm Canmore's Scots

3Kn Gen, 1 x 2LH, 1 x 4Wb, 6 x 3Sp, 1 x 3Wb, 2 x 2ps.

These are the rest of some bags of  Peter Pig Vikings and samples from other manufacturers which I put together for a Slingshot review.   I had them just about ready for Portsmouth - they will have a few clumps of heather added to their bases when I find where I have put the little bag.

The only fiddling - other than mixing in the different makes - was lengthening a few of the spears: this army will become '3Pk' under V3 (and lose a Ps for a Sp or Wb) and I wanted it ready for the new version.

(the AD Pool: portrait shot of Tim's splendid Mongols about to sally forth)

In my 'AD' pool I got Mongols, Samanids, French Ordonnance, Magyar and a cross-over tussle with Babylonians ... a challenging series of opponents but not bad for an Open competition.

With all those LH my main plan was to channel the enemy with woods, back up my flanks and close the enemy down as rapidly as I could.  Attack rather than defend if there was any choice at all.

(closing down the Mongols: if they roll a 1 now, I am in business - my Zocs are coming)

(Channeling the French ... in fact the flank skirmish in the woods - and its implications - decided this one)

(Samanids: I was very wary of that elephant but managed to get onto its flank and turn the game)

I failed to get to grips with the Magyars (hard to pin them down with infantry and there's not much time to faff about with Portsmouth's sudden death timings), and, against the Babylonians, (put simply) I failed to find an answer to the disruptive effect of that wooded blob in the middle of the table (especially after an enemy Ax had jumped into it at an incompatible angle!) ...

(crossovers ... this terrain was too complicated for me and it blunted my attacking intentions)

Even so, the plucky Scots topped the pool and thrust me into the semis.

Knock out ... Roses civil wars ...

So choices over ... the format for the final phase of the Open is for all 4 players to take the same army (in this case Wars of the Roses, although options could be chosen).

(semi-final: a favourable Wars of the Roses engagement)

I have to say I don't really find WotR in DBA 2.2 a test of much other than die rolling - but I got lucky and proceeded to the final ...

(Final: no gifts in this game ... more WotR ... an unfavourable engagement - I couldn't kill anything)

Then I got unlucky and came Second - Game over.

(2014 English Open: Babylonians vs Chinese; Kushite Egyptians; more knock out WotR; Samanids vs Mongols) 

So in the end not the complete works ... maybe an accumulation of errors ...

Winner: Martin Smith; Runner up: Phil Steele; 3rd Martin Myers; 4th Duncan McCoshan

Society of Ancients UK DBA League 2014

All this was sorting out the finishing positions for the national DBA League as well - although in the end Martin Myers did not manage to overhaul Richard Pulley's 3rd place score (so, by day's end, things looked similar to how they had started)

(Martin and Colin collecting their shields - Richard and Findlay were not able to play the final round so will receive their trophies at the next event)

Many thanks to Bill, Lindon and the Portsmouth club for their customary first class organisation (and a new venue that was easy to find) and to Martin for the extra photographs.

The Society of Ancients and Magister Militum sponsor the English Open

The Society of Ancients and Monarch Books sponsor the UK DBA League

More details, standings and results on the Paws DBA page
Comments (3)

13th October, Crystal Palace National Sports Centre

SELWG 2014

So, in all the years I've been going to SELWG*, I've never said anything about the Crystal Palace, after which the park in which the SELWG venue stands, takes its name.

The Crystal Palace, of course, was the poetic name given to the truly vast glass and metal pavilion built in Hyde Park to hold the Great Exhibition of 1851.   At the time it was the biggest glass building ever erected and was a wonder of the industrial world.    Just look at the size of it.

After the exhibition, it was disassembled and moved 8 miles away, south of the river, to a specially terraced hilltop in leafy Sydenham.   Piece by piece.  What a triumph.  

And there it stood from 1854 until it was completely destroyed by fire in 1936.   Completely destroyed.   I found this photo:

Click on it.  Astonishing.   Today all that remains is the stonework of the terracing - epic, like the ruined centre of an ancient city - and the name, a permanent fact of London's geography.

It is a fantastic venue for a wargames show and has free parking.  There was even a funfair on the old exhibition site but I did need to get home after the show.

I was down to help out on the Society of Ancients stand, and to collect trophies to take along to the next weekend's national DBA event (just gone, by the time you will read this).

(the Lost Battle of 2nd Mantinea with the Society of Ancients)

After the distinctly medieval feel of ancients at recent shows, SELWG had a more ancient ancients feel ... up on the balcony, SoA (Phil Sabin/Eric C and Alan W) were putting on a participation version of the 2nd Battle of Mantinea (that's the famous victory of Epaminondas one) ...

(scenes from the Mantinea game)

Downstairs, there were permanent clusters around the chariot race and Simon Miller's (To the Strongest) Romans in Britain game.

(the Crawley club's AD SPATIUM ACCEDIS)

(To the Strongest, this time featuring British resistance to the might of Rome)

But what I noticed in particular was a naval theme ...

(SEEMS presented Hotham's First action, March 1795)

(Tonbridge Wargames Club's refight of the Battle of Cape St Vincent - 1797) 

Also I was pleased to see ...

(Peter Pig's latest version of PBI ... PBI Company Commander ... available soon)

(a simple but attractive SYW display from the Essex Warriors - if 28mm always looked like this it might even catch on!!  Give or take the casualty rings)

The biggest plane award probably went to the B52 over Vietnam ... hmmm

(Deal Wargames Society's Mayhem on the Mekong - nice brown river too ...)

But I think easiest on the eye must have been the sprawling 15mm Marlburian game ...

And the splendidly stylistic First Battle of Ypres 20th October 1914 ....

Another good show - thanks to all those contributors whose work is featured above and to everyone who supported the show.    By and large an entirely different selection of games and themes to Derby - so certainly worth the trip.

Thanks to SELWG for inviting us and whoever organised the weather so it didn't rain all day.

And an engaging variety of visitors chatting to us on the Society stand - thanks for stopping by.  

Also apologies to anyone we failed to notice or who we thought was happy browsing but actually wanted to talk to us.   I know this does happen despite our best efforts to pay attention.    It isn't intentional so do feel invited to give us a nudge.  

*which actually dates back to Catford, but that's another story ...


Donnington Park Exhibition Centre, 4th - 5th October

The Northampton Battlefields Society and WD at Derby World Wargames 2014

This outing, we took the Northampton battlefield presentation along to Derby's annual event as a Participation Game for up to 4 players based on the Society of Ancients classic De Matrica Bellae.

In this variant of Politics by Other Means,  players are given cards which they can use in building their narrative into what starts as a very basic figure wargame.   This means really quite sophisticated ideas can be woven into the game if that is how the players see it developing.   It is your game ... you decide what happens.

By an odd coincidence, the Border Reivers game on the next table to us was using a similar, if simplified, matrix game approach inspired by the same SoA Publication to run their cattle raiding game.

As well as the rules and cards for DMB, the games pack also contains a full multi-player map game, Londinium's Burning.    If you are lucky, there may be some stocks left at the Society webstore otherwise catch up with us at a show (we should be able to find a copy).

So ... The Northampton Battlefields Society was formed to research, explain and protect Northampton's battlefields - principally the 1460 site at Delapre Abbey, but also the other military history of the town and the further off Wars of the Roses battlefield at Edgecote

Neither battlefield has been archaeologically surveyed so there is much more to do to understand them.   

At Delapre (a park just on the edge of the town if you are not familiar with it: it is a couple of minutes off the A45, and has plenty of free parking so is one of the easier battlefields to visit) there are plans to establish football pitches and club buildings on part of the English Heritage designated area so we must be vigilant.

(the other side of the board ... Wargame Developments and some information about CoW)

Edgecote is on the route of HS2, so we must do what we can to preserve as much of the elusive battlefield for posterity as we can.

Wargame Developments is, of course, the host organisation for the Conference of Wargamers.   By coincidence also in Northamptonshire, CoW can play an invaluable role in developing and testing wargames and approaches to historical battles.  

Ideas such as running the game to the canonical hours being rung in the abbey come straight from CoW and have been incorporated into the design of my sundial game clock.

(improvements for Derby: the model of the Eleanor Cross is almost finished - inset: the real one)

At CoW we also decided to use the furlongs of the open fields as the measurement for the game mechanism (and coincidentally, effective range for a longbow is a furlong, so using contemporary measurements does seem useful).

(improvements for Derby: the sundial game clock marked off with the canonical hours)

Nevertheless, it was quite ambitious running a matrix game at a busy and noisy show like Derby, so we had to learn as we went.

At times we may have got the balance of attention wrong - perhaps not giving enough to the casual browser ... then again getting distracted from the game which needs some thought and which needs to push along.

(listening to the punters ... there is quite some knowledge of medieval warfare arrayed around the Northampton table)

We got two multiplayer games played and a one player aside blitz version, and the possibilities developed as we warmed to the task.

A number of historical possibilities were explored - but in 2 of the 3 games the Yorkists got into the Lancastrian position, fulfilling the criteria for a historical result.

(panorama of the Lancastrian position ... standing to during what was, in 1460, a morning of rain)

In De Matrica Bellae, the final phase is that every player gets to make a case as to why the won i.e. bearing in mind their briefing and the events of the game, why they did the best.   So the loser of the on table battle may well be judged the player who did best if they can make a sufficiently powerful case.

(a couple of shots from Game 2: Fauconberg repelled, Warwick breaking the barricades)

(scenes from Game 3: Fauconberg finds a weak spot in the defences, breaks in and tackles Buckingham)

The choice of winner is, of course, resolved by the Matrix argument ... it will be adjudged 'your day' because (3 reasons supported by a randomly drawn card) ... judged on strength by the Umpire (equals a die score on D6 you need to make or exceed) ... The player who exceeds the target by the most is the winner (so an outstanding argument and a good die roll are required - wargaming at its purest perhaps).

In the meantime, of course, we were also trying to interest casual browsers in the issues of the battle, explain the history and possibly recruit new supporters.

If we missed you on the day, apologies ... perhaps you will give us another chance:

There is a Facebook Page here (... you ask can join the group)

There is a wordpress website here (... click on a topic that addresses your questions)

Other Ancient/Medieval tables at Derby ...

A couple of views of Graham Fordham's snowy Participation Game for the Lance & Longbow Society ... blending Saga with the activation mechanism from Bolt Action ...

(Northern Crusading from the man behind the Fluttering Flags)

A popular opportunity to play the Gladiator game Jugula ...

And that other matrix game raiding cattle ...

Here's a couple of selections of other stuff worth looking at around the show ...

(Both world wars and either side of the cattle raiders, Tamara poses with the WRG dinosaur and the L&L yellow banner)

(some big buildings from the FIW and Jugula tables; some tanks and a ship)

But I'll finish with some views of the super French and Indian War table ... very inspiring ...

Joint winner of the best display game I believe ... well, for once, I agree ...


All in all, a very rewarding outing ... it seemed to fly by and thankfully the shows are coming thick and fast as I already know there was plenty of shopping I needed to do but hadn't made a list.

Great chatting to Ron Kay at Irregular about when he was stationed at Hardingstone in the 1940s (walking back from a night on the town past the battlefield and up past the Eleanor Cross) ...

Great making some new plans with Warbases.    And great meeting up with the Armati players for the first time in a while.

Many thanks to players and supporters ... thanks to the organisers for allocating us plenty of space - and thanks to everyone who helped.

See you at the English DBA Open in a couple of weeks (you are going, aren't you?)


7th September, Kelham Hall, Newark


The Society of Ancients and The Lance & Longbow combined as usual at Kelham Hall for The Other Partizan, Newark's early Autumn show.   

The display was Phil Steele's Northampton 1460 which was constructed for the Northampton Battlefields Society, formed last year because of the threats to the historic battlefield (which is currently open park land and golf course) - NBS has both a website and a Facebook group.

(behind the displays, the NBS banner lists the battle of Northamptonshire)

The society's principal concern is the 1460 battlefield at Delapre Abbey, but on foundation it was asked to widen its brief to encompass the other battles of Northampton and other important battles within the county such as Edgecote (1469).   

I should add, perhaps, that the great ECW battle at Naseby continues to have its own support network (the Naseby Battlefield Project) but there is considerable interaction between the project and the town and county society.

(The Battle of Northampton at Delapre viewed from the South-West - from behind the Eleanor Cross)

The evidence relating to the battle at Delapre has been collated and evaluated in a recent CMP (Conservation Management Plan) by battlefield archaeologist Glen Foard (the man who found Bosworth) and this has been accepted by the council (though many implementation hurdles remain to be negotiated).
(the Battle of Northampton at Delapre viewed from the North - from the direction, say, of the castle)

The report makes clear that the balance of evidence is that the battle took place in the park (then Hardingstone's open fields) adjacent to the nunnery, overlooked by the Eleanor Cross.   

When de Waurin refers to the emplacements 'behind a little river' he almost certainly refers to the Fullbrook, a stream that crosses the park, not to the massive river Nene that cuts the fields here off from the town itself.

Reconstructions that butt the king's position up against the meandering river are almost certainly wrong according to current scholarship (I should add, perhaps that the majority of contemporary - or 'near contemporary' - accounts place the battle in fields - so in the park - not meadows - which is what flanks the river).

(archbishop Bourchier and the Papal Legate Francesco Coppini watch the battle from the Eleanor Cross)

Yorkist partisans archbishop Bourchier and the Papal Legate Francesco Coppini watched the battle from the Eleanor Cross, so the Hardingstone cross, which remains in situ, is one of our reference points for locating and orientating the battlefield.

(the Hardingstone cross today - shown on the anniversary of the battle)

Frustrated with Buckingham's refusal to grant Warwick and audience with the king, the Papal party on the hill excommunicated the Lancastrian army.   
We have no direct reference to what effect this may have had ... although the Lancastrians did, of course, go on to lose, and there were no permanent memorials erected to their fallen.

(Warwick's cavalry had a sharp action on the London Road in the preliminaries to battle - 15mm figures by Mirliton)

This project is part of an ongoing campaign to understand the battle better and to publicise its historic story and its present challenges.   

We will be taking a playable version of the battle to Derby early next month and we will have battlefield guides and info forms on the stand.

The other crowd pleaser at The Other Partizan was Simon Miller's collosal Pydna game ...

(Pydna panorama)


This was a huge project but involved a large number of participants and was played throughout the day.  

The rules were Simon's forthcoming To The Strongest (see more on Simon's blog) and feature grid zones and playing card activation.

(Pydna: a view of the battlefield through the gates of the Roman camp)

(Numidians and elephants thunder forward on the Roman wing)

A Society of Ancients member, Simon has done an excellent job of drawing enthusiasts and show organisers into these projects ... Time was when I might have reported from Partizan that ancient warfare was poorly represented.   

Now it is the star of the show.

Elsewhere ... 

I spotted a good looking Dark Age game and a snowy GNW-ish battle in Skane ...

Having laboured hard in the past to get snowscape-compatible basing in the past I was quite impressed how comfortable the visuals were with unmodified 'rock and grass' basing on the white boards.

Also at Partizan, Wargame Developments had their Doodlebuggers game (well most of it) all geared up to to blow V1s out of the sky (usually onto Southend pier or flattening the now famous shed in Bob Cordery's garden).

Great show as ever ... nice to be back in the main building even if that makes photography more of a challenge.   Thanks to the hosts for inviting us of course, and thanks to everyone who stopped by, chatted, took photos of the battle etc.

Please get in touch if you want more details about Northampton or the various Societies or follow the links.

If you are an active enthusiast in the ancient and medieval periods, the Society of Ancients is your society - please consider joining if you are not a member already.  If you are of the more dedicated disposition, please contact the Society Secretary (say, via the website) and volunteer to help.  There are always vacancies.

Or find me at Derby and we'll have a chat.   I can answer many of your questions and put you in touch with the right people.

16th-17th August, Bosworth Visitor Centre, Sutton Cheney


Over the weekend I helped out on the Battlefields Trust stand at the Bosworth Festival.   This was a great opportunity for me to take my DBA V3 configured model soldier 'Bosworth' home, as it were (albeit that the battlefield is really some 2 miles from the centre on Ambion Hill).

The event itself is one of the larger reenactment type heritage festivals, with Living History encampments, heritage market stalls and jousting and battle arenas.   Many visitors, of course, are able to take advantage of the Centre's permanent exhibition, and some stop off at the battlefield itself, down on Fenn Lane.

Each day's schedule finishes with the events of the battle recreated.

(2014: the Battle of Bosworth 1485 reenacted)

Inevitably I have come back with relatively few pictures of the reenacted battle - as I spent most of my time on the stand, explaining the miniature version of the battle to enthusiasts of all types and ages.

(2014: my smaller recreation of the battle fascinating a family group)

We had neither the space (nor the option, really) to invite people to play the game (as we would do at a wargames show), but got a very good response using the layout to explain what we think happened during the actual battle - and why the fragmentary contemporary accounts help us construct a plausible narrative.

Many of them not from a wargame background, my associates in the Trust remain pleasantly surprised at the power of toy soldiers to attract attention to our projects and explain the conduct of events of the past.

It helps people make sense of the new archaeological evidence and gives a context for the man-to-man bashing of weapons on armour that takes place in the main arena.

(Reenactment: storm-clouds gather over Richard's command post at Bosworth)

Wargaming the Battle:

The first thing to say is that there was no battle on Ambion Hill: the Battlefield Trust's long overdue archaeological project to find the battlefield proves this conclusively (so any of the reconstructions based on outdated locations are not just misleading or hypothetical, they are just plain wrong*) ... hills and rises play no part in the action.

Although precise orientation is contentious, references to Henry's men attacking with the sun on their backs gives their advance a broadly South-to-North axis.

Historians, particularly those not familiar with the important role of artillery in late medieval battle, have traditionally been sceptical of the seven score Serpentines Richard took to the battle.

However, the archaeology confirms extensive gunfire, and gives a shot dispersal along Fenn Lane that allows us to place Richard's guns batteried together (maybe even chained together) at the East end of the battlefield protected by the mire of Fenn hole and close to the roads.

(the model battlefield looking roughly North from behind Henry Tudor's position)

Molinet tells us that Henry's mercenaries ... densely formed pikemen, mostly ... deployed at the other end of the field to avoid the King's guns.  
Between these two end points, Richard's van under the Duke of Norfolk, arrayed like a rampart, opposed the Earl of Oxford's slender line.  

Behind these, we know Richard commanded the Yorkist Main Battle and that Henry commanded a reserve of household troops, loyalists and Welsh.

(in the centre, along Fenn Lane, Oxford's slender line engages the Duke of Norfolk)

Absent from the Order of Battle was Henry's Vanward, Sir William Stanley ... certainly committed to the rebels but probably coerced out of the battle by his nephew, Lord Strange, being held hostage in Richard's camp.

Ordered into line by both commanders on the morning of the battle, the Stanleys remain where they camped overnight, around Dadlington - on Henry's right flank.

(54mm figures by Irregular Miniatures and various other manufacturers, flags by 'Fluttering Flags')

Absent on Richard's side - at the back on my model - Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, commanded the Rearward.  

Crucially, Northumberland plays no part in the battle, and I follow the interpretation put forward by Mike Ingram that this shows us Richard's army was deploying late, in line astern and that the rearward was too far back to intervene without more commitment to the cause than Percy showed**

Northumberland's absence seems to leave Norfolk's flank hanging, and it down this end of the battle that Henry's lethal mercenaries began to engage.   It may well have been because this fatally compromised his centre that Richard took events into his own hands.

(with gaps appearing in Oxford's slender line, Richard sees Henry's standard fluttering behind the lines)

With Oxford strung out to oppose the larger body under the Duke of Norfolk, Richard took the opportunity to charge past main engagement ... between Oxford's flank and the mire at Fenn Hole ... and attempt to engage Henry in personal combat.

This would certainly settle the issue.   

However, Henry seems to have had no appetite for the fight and it is his bodyguards and standard bearer who are cut down in Richard's attack.   The attack does, however, expose the flanks of Richard's party to the Stanleys (still mustered around the villages on that side of the battlefield).

Perhaps honouring their bond to Henry, perhaps in retaliation for the threat to Lord Strange's life, the Stanleys engage ...

Richard is engulfed, driven back into the mire and hacked down.

Explored as a wargame, this narrative fits naturally to the new battlefield and simplifies the convolutions of the obsolete interpretation.

Elsewhere around the site ...

Here is a quick set of pictures to give you some flavour of the event.

.. and I enjoyed browsing the artwork in Graham Turner's exhibition tent ...

All in all, a tiring but very rewarding two days in Leicestershire.  The battlefield display seem much appreciated and regularly gathered crowds.

Inevitably, the biggest crowd was when England Cricket legend, Freddie Flintoff, stopped by with his camera crew.  They were making a film about English summer events and took an interest in the battlefield display and the potted talks I was giving.

(Phil Steele explains the battle to celebrity visitor Freddie Flintoff at the Bosworth Festival)

We had a lengthy chat about the battle and the weapons of the day, much of it filmed for possible inclusion in a forthcoming TV show.   Well, wouldn't that be good ... a wargame interpretation of one of our most important battles on a celebrity TV show.

Well, stranger things have happened.   And the offer is there, if they want to sit down and play the game.

I hope something will come of it.  

Either way, it was great to meet a sporting hero.  Great to be able to share my enthusiasm for the history with him - and it kind of gave us all a little boost to be the centre of attention for a few minutes.

*e.g. what is still up on Wikipedia, what is shown in the Osprey book on the battle ...
** there may be self-interest, even treason, in this: after the battle, Percy was arrested and imprisoned, but after a few months was released ans allowed to keep his lands and titles.   Failing to come to Richard's aid  - deliberate or unavoidable - seems to have been to his long term advantage.

19th-20th July, Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire


History Live! is massive ... it is also a lot of fun.   There is a great emphasis on youngsters actively enjoying history, whether it is taking part in impromptu theatrical shows, clambering into reproduction aeroplanes or trying on weapons and equipment.   

Anyone who tells you that kids aren't interested in history is just wrong.

(participation theatre at History live!)

(youngsters were encouraged to try out the reproduction biplane)

I was there with the Battlefields Trust using the Northampton 1460 model to illustrate the work of battlefield preservation and interpretation ...

(Northampton 1460 showing the action moved on to the assault phase)

This is a wargame model although it was used as a moving tableau for the purposes of History Live! moving the contingents as we believed happened on July 10th 1460 and explaining the course of events.

The presentations seemed extremely successful and by late Sunday, I had handed out all the leaflets I'd taken along to support the exhibit.

If you wanted playable wargames, the Phoenix Club had, as usual, a range of wargames to join in ... ancient, Napoleonic, WWI (of course) and WWII ...

(Romans and Celts in the History Live! wargames tent)

Mostly youngsters and all historical.  Again, anyone who tells you that kids aren't interested in history is just wrong.   Anyone who tells you you need to glam it up with fantasy monsters is just wrong.  

 If wargaming is a greying hobby (and what an 'if' that is ...) then it can only be because greying wargamers aren't giving youngsters a chance to join in (or are abandoning them to commercial fantasy stuff).

(The Battlefields Trust at History Live! 2014)

Northampton is, of course, just a few miles down the road from Kelmarsh Hall and there was a lot of interest in the project to protect and explain the battlefield at Delapre Abbey.  

After much campaigning, Northampton Borough Council has recently accepted a Conservation Management Plan specifically for the battlefield area, so it does look like people power works.   There is much still to do, so enthusiasts can show their support by liking the project's Facebook page, and/or joining the Northampton Battlefield Society.

(Northampton 1460: in the heat of the action)

The battlefield model is constructed inside a rearranged pasting table (construction) and uses 15mm figures with oversized banners by Fluttering Flags ...

(Northampton 1460: the archbishop of Canterbury and Papal Legate Francesco Coppini watched the battle from the Eleanor Cross at Hardingstone)

Mounted figures are mostly Mirliton, foot are a broader mixture including Peter Pig, New Era Donnington and Corvus Belli as well as Essex and Tabletop (15mm.co.uk)

(Northampton 1460: decision - lord Grey of Ruthin's men help the Earl of March's troops into the position)

Outside, of course, the main arenas are given over to military displays by reenactment societies from all periods of military history and living history camps ... 

(full size Wars of the Roses artillery on show in the living history encampment)

We had about an inch of rain dumped on the site overnight and on Saturday morning but otherwise the weather was splendid, at times becoming sweltering.   

The whole event was well-managed and it took some persuading for people to leave the site on Sunday evening so we could all pack up and go home.

(Zulu wars period soldiers on their way to the arena at History Live!)


11-13 July, Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire

The 2014 Conference of Wargamers

There are so many good things to say about CoW that it is hard to know where to start.  Let's just say that the mix of people is excellent, the attitude convivial throughout ... the accommodation is ever improving and, to my taste, the catering (which barely stops all weekend) is a good 8/10 (for reference: no other wargame venue I have been anywhere in the world has topped 7, and I can't afford 10).  

The bar stays open till you go to bed and seems normally priced.  

The wargaming is 9:00 am to, say, midnight and just stops 4 times for main meals or tea/coffee (with home-made biscuits and cakes - indeed, a cream tea, this year).

Anyone can come so book yourself a wargame holiday.   If there is a problem, it is that the event is just the two days and most sessions only run once - so there are always great sessions you miss (especially if you are putting stuff on yourself) ...

For me, the weekend started with an outing to Cropredy Bridge to look at the ECW (1644) battlefield, and finished with re-running my 20th Cent. Naval 'pop up' game for an old friend ...

In between, I put on two main sessions and aided in an ADG (all ancient/medieval), played landsknecht cards, drove a T55 tank and commanded a detachment of French regulars in Canada ... I joined in on some innovative games, ancient, renaissance, Lace Wars and both World Wars, there was a morale boosting sing along (seriously ...) and a crisis game in a time shift ...

Gladiolus ...

For late night entertainment on the Friday, Will revived Gladiolus and I took along a set - at one stage we had 4 boards in play with several players being introduced to the Society of Ancients classic combat game.

(Gladiolus at CoW: you can teach old dogs new tricks - or should that be the other way round?)

I understand that the game is now out of print and is one the Committee is considering reprinting: so it was great to see players taking to it instinctively, getting good games and entertainment to start their weekend

(a 'made-over' Gladiolus set featuring hexes rather than offset squares, and some nicely laminated cards)

(15mm Gladiolus from Outpost ... 20mm Gladiolus from the old Atlantic plastics set)

Before retiring, I got in a game of Doodlebuggers with WD Display Team North, and set up Montaperti for the morning ...

(Doodlebuggers: normally I would edit out the beer bottle, but a 'London Pride' beside a defeat the doodlebugs game seems fortuitously appropriate)

Montaperti 1260

This was a shameless plug for the Society of Ancients BattleDay.   It is Hydaspes next year, and this year my take on Montaperti using Basic Impetus (plus) was flagged as *Best Game* (so has become my advert for the event).

(Montaperti at CoW: the players announce their intentions)

We had 2 players a side plus some non-playing participants, and in the 2 hour session, managed an intro to the BattleDay, briefing on the battle, guide to the rules, plus completed the game (the Florentine army broke at 10:50 with the session due to end at 11:00)

(Montaperti at CoW: the disarrayed units are broken; the numbers behind units show their current VBU)

The Florentine cavalry wing severely battered the Sienese army's tough German contingent driving them back to the Arbia but failing to break them, meanwhile their pavisier/crossbow units were unable to hold in the infantry line.

(Montaperti at CoW: a closer look at the combat)

(Montaperti at CoW: knights from the Sienese rearward reinforce Lancia's Germans on the banks of the Arbia)

... and the flanking force under the Duke of Arras arrived in good time behind the Florentine left.

In fact, it was neither the Sienese reserves nor the flank march that settled the day - the Florentine knights finally ran out of steam - and then their losses combined with the infantry casualties across the ridge were just too much.   In the basic game, this 50% value would mean the loss of the army but in historical games, I replace it with an ever worsening die roll - in the first instance the army must roll at least a 2.   

In fact, the test resulted in a 1 and meant we could wrap up without running over into the coffee break or needing an artificial solution.

The players seemed to have enjoyed all this  - as a recreation of Montaperti and as a run through of Basic Impetus.


Here's a quick look round at some of what else CoW had to offer on Saturday ...

(a 15mm German Apokalypse occuring at the main railway station)

(anti-tank missile debris on the lawn following a massed tank attack)

(the French marching on Quebec)

(another lawn, another battle: Little Cold War action)

(German Peasants War ... cardboard Landsknechts)

And for my main evening entertainment, I played the French regulars in a huge game of Muskets and Tomahawks ... 

Commercial games - especially of the glossy sort are a rarity at CoW and only get brought along if people really think you ought to know about them, so I was pleased for the chance to get an objective look at this much hyped product.

(Muskets and Tomahawks: scenes from our raid on the village)

Ancients games ...

... and in addition, Trebian ran a multi-player version of 'To Ur is Human' - an excellent treatment of the earliest period of warfare which we have been helping him test and perfect on a Wednesday night ...

(To Ur is Human ... battling for the fields and gardens of ancient Mesopotamia)

Former SoA President Ian Russell Lowell contributed sessions on German soldiers, cardgames and Hittite raiders ...

(IRL is the only person I know who sports an 'I love Luwian' tee shirt ...)

... in addition, Treb came up with a last minute 'pop-up' - Rapid Raphia, an attempt to make a quick-fire but satisfying game out of the massive Hellenistic pike and elephant clash ...

(Rapid Raphia: two boards going side-by-side)

This looked like an innovative success which I think I am destined to play in our weekly local get together this week (and we might try it out at a show, I'm told ...) ...

Before turning in on Saturday, I set up my Northampton session for the morning.

Northampton 1460

Whereas my Saturday session was more of a game with attenuated presentations, 1460 focussed more on the discussion of the battle, location and reconstruction, and on the work of the Northampton Battlefield Society.

(Northampton 1460: me behind the camera, Mike Elliot talking about the battle)

It was great to have a good number of participants, and in the second half of the session, I presented my ideas for wargaming the battle, we worked through the game ideas I have developed and came up with some really good period enhancements ...

(Northampton 1460: the final stages of the Yorkist attack)

(Northampton 1460: Lancastrians man the barricades at Delapre)

(Northampton 1460: the battlefield viewed from the North - NNW)

This session went really well and I am looking forward to modifying some of the attendant mechanisms for the outing at Kelmarsh Hall (History Live!) with the Battlefields Trust next weekend.

Of course, I was helping a session on Friday night, the presenting both mornings, so other people's weekends would have far more diverse than the weekend I managed to cram in.

So maybe we will see you next year?

More on Cropredy (ECW Battles/Cropredy); more on 20th Century CoW (P.B.Eye-Candy)

(Montaperti at CoW: battlefield panorama)

(End-piece: this engraving of the Eleanor Cross at Hardingstone hangs in the Hall at Knuston - it is the landmark from which Archbishop Bourchier and Legate Coppini watched the battle of Northampton)