Graham and I made our fifth appearance at this DBM doubles tournament. Each year there is a ‘theme’, which effectively identifies and limits the armies you can take. This leads to unusual encounters and some interesting armies on the table that are not usually seen. The theme this year was armies in Germany from the beginning of time (DBM army lists Book 1 is the wargaming equivalent of the Book of Genesis) until the end of ancient wargaming as we know it (about 1500 AD).
The choice of armies as always was rather fun. I favoured Polybian Romans, on the grounds that I wanted this army in my collection, and Burgundian Ordonnance, for the colour. Graham was more pragmatic in approach, seeking the killer army in the list. He came up with the Sciri, a hairy, unwashed tribe of the 4th Century who had the Huns and Dacians as allies. Well, allegedly once in 371 AD or something according to the esteemed authors of the DBM Army Lists. As usual, I let myself be talked into this. Graham is now Management Class and has even married a Director Class lady, so he is a man to be obeyed! Our first thoughts were to scratch together the army from our various collections, but I couldn’t bear the thought of using Sub Roman Britains as Gothic Cavalry, so I did a quick paint job. I bought Donnington figures, which have nice poses but are of terrible casting quality. Lots of cleaning needed, and the lines on the figures are often vague so this makes painting trickier. Nonetheless, I completed them reasonably quickly, with a record being the 80 Dacians over a weekend.
Our army was split into four commands. Two commands of Sciri, each consisting of 8 elements of fast knights and 20 elements of archers plus some supporting skirmishers. As allied commands (for those who do not know DBM, allies have the fatal tendency to be unreliable in a battle) we had a tiny Hun command of 7 superior Light Horse and a large command of 30 odd unwashed, hairy warband and falxmen from Dacia.
The tournament is held in Pevensey Bay, a really nice, small seaside hamlet in East Sussex, where William and his Normans first landed back in 1066. We stay in the Priory Court Hotel, which is more of a pub really, next to William’s Castle and an old Roman fort from a previous conqueror. It makes a nice walk in the morning through the castle grounds, past the first Saxon church in England to the newspaper shop. This tradition is now added to by the appearance of Graham’s old friend, Paul Stovell and his 10 year-old son James, a skilful games player adept at very pertinent one-liners that leave the recipient speechless and on-lookers in hysterics.
Game One was against a Middle Imperial Roman army. Or at least that was the billing. Until our opponents turned up, declaring that they had in fact Sarmatians. So a rapid change of plan was in order. These Sarmatians had tons of fast knights, even more than we did, plus an ally of superior warband. The game started with us attacking and our first dice rolls revealed our strategically placed Dacians (in the centre) and Huns (on the left) to be unreliable. Gulp. The opponents plan was to kill the Huns, and this, in the rules would lead to the Dacians joining their side. On the right, Graham had the two commands of Sciri. He charged his opponents knights, but when he ran into an ambush, things looked black. However, two things went our way. First, our opponent advanced right up to the unreliable allies and then halted (if you attack an unreliable then, not unreasonably the Ally decides to fight after all). It was Murphy’s law that immediately after this dither, my allies became reliable (this happens on a die roll of a 6 at the beginning of a turn) and my skirmishers destroyed 3 knights. On the right, Graham was defending brilliantly and also causing heavy casualties, so heavy that suddenly the game turned around and we sent the Sarmatians home. A good start and an 8-2 victory.
Game Two was against, guess who, Paul and James (see above). This year, they had brought a Castle and a medieval German army of Knights, spearmen, light horse and the like. With glee and much gloating they succeeded in placing their Castle on a massive hill on our base line and fortified it with troops and a baggage train. I don’t know if it was the Castle, with its rotating dungeons and movable drawbridge that distracted me or if Graham had not drunk enough beer at lunchtime, but we were well and truly thrashed. We dithered over three deployments and the one we went for was the worst imaginable. Suffice to say our troops were sandwiched into a corner and eaten alive by the joyous and skilful Stovells.
Sigh. A pretty poor show. Saturday evening had us playing San Juan, a great card game and, I decided, much more fun than DBM. I passed on the bridge though, not knowing anything about this obscure game (I leave that to my wife, who is a fanatical and fire-breathing Bridge ace).
Sunday morning, we decided, would go much better, and this seemed indeed to be likely when our campaign against Jeremy and Darrell’s Avars began. Graham’s knights smashed through their front line while my left wing advanced slowly but steadily, ready to strike. Our opponents made a bid for an Oscar with wailing and complaining, but, when everything seemed to be going well, things started to unravel. Graham’s knight charge petered out and the Avar reserves nobbled them. The Huns moved from side to side of the table, ineffective and confused as we could not decide how to use them. I advanced my own knights but they got isolated and in their turn were killed off, with even an inferior auxilia killing 2 or 3 of them. Before we knew it, it was game over and another defeat. We have played Jeremy many times, and every time something like this (or usually worse) happens. I guess we should have known.
Lunchtime felt like a summer’s day at the seaside and when my (very good) fish and chips were finally served I decided to eat them slowly in the sun, chatting with Eric, the amiable organiser of the event. Poor Graham missed out on a hot lunch and Eric and I sent him off to get our last game underway.
This was against a Dacian army. A great opponent for us, we foolishly thought. The terrain fell for them perfectly, with a barrier of woods and steep hills right across the middle of the table. This would be tricky. The Dacians would certainly not try to come out of their hiding place, as this would expose them to our ‘powerful’ knights. So we took the idiotic decision to flank march our own Dacians, relegating them (not for the first time this weekend) to useless inactivity. Meanwhile, we set up our depleted army and complacently awaited developments. These rapidly came when the Dacians charged us. There were many thousands of them and we were soon overwhelmed. Despite the loss of the right flank (mine!) to bold Dacian bowmen and warbands, we held on grimly to the last die roll of the game, which we lost and our army fled in ignimony and deserved shame.
Another Sunday afternoon fiasco, this is getting to be a regular habit! Actually I feel quite sorry for Graham, who is a good player normally. I think my influence is dragging him down. One problem is that I can’t take the games seriously enough, which must be frustrating for him. I will encourage him to find another partner for next year, I think, and he will probably end up a Champ, as opposed to the Chumps that we were this year!
Theme next year - any army in the DBM lists that is valid for 1005. Interesting?