It's a long, long way to sunny Evesham (two hours plus drive) so we had to set off at 6.30am on Sunday... My wife reckoned it's all good practice for the lack of sleep I'll get when the nipper arrives...whatever!!!
Anyway, myself and my friend Carl (with his nasty Normans in tow) arrived at Beast HQ at 8.30 to be greeted by a far too sprightly James Morris, as well as various members of Da Beast's team...
After coffee and croissants had woken us all up, we kicked into game 1; Disaster at the Lake. This was a 1500pts v 1000pts special with a twist. The bigger army in march column along a lakeside road, amubushed in fog by a smaller army (yup...it's lake Trasimene, really...) Trouble is, visibility is limited to 2" and every time an ambushing unit wants to move it gravitates 45 degrees left ona D6 roll of 1 or 2; right on a 4 or 6.
I was playing against Nick Buchanan and his Age of Arthur Picts (superb historical match up...the king of the Northern Welsh taking on the Picts near Hadrian's wall...marvellous!) and I was ambushing. He put his nobles with all the nasty characters at the front of the column (the object is to get as much off the short table edge as possible) and in my deployment map, the Welsh Teulu were lined up against them. This wasn't good cos at 1000pts I couldn't afford a Rex and every character in that front unit would eat my Tiern army General for breakfast... So, don't roll a 1 or a 2 for the Teulu Andy....Oh Bugger!!!!! That's be a 2 then... Yup, The Teulu crashed into the stubborn (yikes! Didn't realise THAT!) Picts whose General issued a challenge. I refused, and STILL won the combat but stubborn kept the Picts there... That combat then dragged on for several turns until I was pretty much forced to accept the challenge and fight the Pict chieftain...with predictable results..one dead General and one fleeing Teulu, down to 4 men so couldn't rally... Shame, cos I'd utterly destroyed most of the rest of the Pict army with one foot combrogi unit and one mounted combrogi unit!!! So, defeat in game 1, but a fabulous see-saw game and Nick is a top opponent who I would happily choose to play any time at all.
Game two: The River Crossing: 1500pts v 1500pts , the 'capture the ford and bridge' thing from 'Arthur'. I've played this dozens of times, but never against bloody Normans!!! My opponent, Scrivs from the WAB forum, had deployed a mass of milite units, most heavily armoured and each led with a comes and I knew I was bolloxed from the start! So I played a game of cat and mouse. Predictably, when his troops caught me, it was a mess. On his first charge, I lost 9 men in one unit!!!! One comes left a unit and single-handedly destroyed a unit of mtd combrogi by killing 2 or 3 each turn, making them FBIGO then pursuing and doing it again... My one moment of glory came when he charged my Teulu with 8 light armoured milites. The Teulu lobbed javelins, killed 2 and in the ensuing panic test the Normans skeeddaddled!!! Fabulous result!! By this time, I'd got the Teulu, one unit of foot combrogi and one of mtd combrogi over the river, out of harm's way and claiming the bridge, but I'd lost the ford. So I lost, but only by about 150 pts, so I was pleased. From what I thought was a total no-win destructo-fest, I'd managed a close-run defeat... Scrivs was another top class opponent and if he picks an army other than nasty Normans, I'd play him again any time too!!!
So, 2 games down and 2 defeats...not looking too good!!! So, to game 3: The Miraculous Shrine. In this game, my 1000pts force was facing 1500pts of early Saxons from Arthur. Great! This is my sort of game! I deployed my shrine behind a small wood and chose 24 combrogi as 'guardians'. They have hatred and have to stay within 6" of the shrine, moving back if lured away by warband, etc... Any unit of mine fleeing within 6" of the shrine rallies immediately.
This game was against a chap called Adam Holmes and was even more fun than the game against Nick! Adam's army had a sh*t-hot nasty unit of Gedriht including a priest who made them 'fierce', 2 units of Geoguth and one of Duguth, plus assorted crap skirmishers and a single unit of 5 mounted Geoguth deployed on his right flank. He deployed bang in the centre with the aim of coming round the wood and overwhelming the guardians by sheer weight of numbers. However, the Welsh had other ideas!! I deployed the Teulu to the left and the mounted combrogi to the right. In my first turn, I charged the mtd Geoguth with the Teulu and killed them all. I wiped out the skirmishers with the mounted combrobi and then the fun began. My entire strategy was to use the mtd combrogi to draw the fierce Gedriht and Geoguth out of their attack, while the Teulu took what units they could to pieces. It worked like a charm! In the event, 2 units of Geoguth eventually charged the guardians of the shrine, but hatred and unmodified Ld 10 kept them there until the Teulu arrived to hit the Saxons in the flank....that was pretty! Lots of very poorly Saxons!!! The fearsome Gedriht never got a look in, being shot to pieces and led a merry dance by the mounted combrogi - it did help that they failed 3 'fierce tests' though. I was very pleased with the way I played this game and for the first time in a while, I completely out-played and out-thought an opponent. Adam tried very hard, but I beat him good and proper, winning by a very substantial amount of points, although if you'd have popped by the table at any point, it looked (and was) a fierce contest. One of the best games of WAB I've ever had, actually...and I'd happily play Adam again as well. He took his punishment very well and seemed to enjoy the game as much as I did.
So to game 4: Against Bill Smith and his Shieldwall Scots! This time we played 'Ambush' from Age of Arthur and I was strung out in column facing the Scots. Like all Shieldwall armies, the Scots have HIDEOUS characters and it was pretty clear from the army list that if I fought and got bogged down, I'd be in trouble, and, seeing as the object was to get off table, I decided not to fight, but spent all game dancing light cavalry around the Scot units. I think Bill found it very frustrating and I can't say I blame him! He wanted to fight anmd I wouldn't let him!! Again, he used the tactic of charging a Mormaer out at some infantry and slaughtered 3, forcing an FBIGO test that took them off table, so in the event, My characters and cavalry got off (which was my big points) , but the foot didn't. So I won, but not by a colossal margin. It wasn't quite as satisfactory, because I don't think Bill enjoyed it as much as I did..so apologies to the good fellow if that was the case!!
I was pleased with the way my cavalry tactics are evolving, though, as in all games where light cavalry came into their own, I played them very well.
So, two wins and two defeats against 4 great players. A fabulous day's gaming once again.
A mention must be made of the winner of 'best painted army'. Bob Lorton fielded BTGG Ostrogoths and what a fantastic army! The mounted comitatus were unbelievable! I know that Nick Buchanan (my first opponent) is doing a write up for Wargames Illustrated and I hope that a pic of Bob's army makes the cut, cos it was STAGGERING!!!
Da Beast are trying to ensure that Cold Steel in January is an Arthur only event, which I will make every effort to get to, as it was the slight imbalance of the BTGG and Shieldwall armies vs the Arthur ones that might have caused some individuals a problem (it certainly made my 2nd game very tricky...)