Meet the Neighbours Part 4 – Normans v Picts

Henry chooses a force of three Knights, two Spears, four Blades and three Bows to face the Picts. The Pictish general, who takes the role of defender and is designated Cautious, fields the standard army of a Cavalry General, two Light Horse, three Psiloi and six Spears. The Normans deploy with a large marsh on their left flank, garrisoning their camp with a unit of Spears in view of the presence of the Picts’ Light Horse and Psiloi. The Picts have their right flank covered by a large area of impassable terrain, with another smaller impassable area on their left, which however has room inbetween its edge and the edge of the battlefield for a single element to advance (NB Click on images below to view larger versions):

The Picts group most of their army on the centre right of the battlefield, with a Spear unit supported by Psiloi advancing to close the gap on their left which might otherwise expose them and their camp to a flanking manouevre:

The Normans advance with their infantry facing the Picts and their Knights in reserve, apart from a single unit which will try to break through against the Pictish defenders holding the ‘pass’ on the Norman right:

As the main forces in the centre move closer, Henry sends a unit of Bows to support his flanking Knights, while the Pictish general looks on with understandable concern. The Knights fail, however, to break through against determined Pictish resistance:

The two main battle lines advance:

As they clash, Norman Blades in the centre and Henry with his Knights on the right of the line threaten to overwhelm the lighter Picts:

The Picts fall back as two units of Spears are destroyed:

On the Pictish right a unit of Light Horse falls prey to Norman archery:

It’s all over! The remaining Light Horse are shot down as the Pictish general dithers, and Henry’s men have won the day without losing a single unit:

It’s been a good day’s work for Henry’s Normans. They’ve added 100 gold pieces to their war chest, and morale is high.

At the end of Campaign Turn Five, Henry has a war chest of 250 gold pieces and a remaining force of seventeen elements. His brother Robert also has 250 gold pieces, but he is down to just fifteen army elements.

Solo DBA Fuzzy Rules

I’ve been inspired by the guys at the Solo DBA Development group to begin work on my own solo variant for DBA. This is an ongoing project, and I’m unlikely to take quite as scientific and methodical an approach as Dale and Richard are doing. I’m really just looking for a ‘quick and dirty’ way of spicing up my solo games, with an emphasis on the tactical engine, which seems to me to be the least satisfactory aspect of the original De Bellis Solitarius, despite that ruleset’s groundbreaking status.This is a first-cut version of what I hope will eventually be a workable variant, so I’m really offering this as a possible approach to be freely adapted/tweaked if it seems useful.

As in DBS, the programmed opponent is designated below as the ‘NPG’ (non-player general), while the human player is designated as the ‘HG’. In addition to the usual kit you will need a pen and paper plus a pair of percentage dice for these rules.

NPG Army Composition

If there are options, select the elements (and general’s element) that has the best chance of defeating the HG’s troops.

Dice For NPG Type

The NPG can be Defensive, Cautious, Aggressive or Impetuous. Throw a D6:

1 : Defensive

2 – 3 : Cautious

4 – 5 : Aggressive

6 : Impetuous

Note that a Warband NPG (eight or more Warband elements in his army) cannot be Defensive. Similarly a Light Horse army (eight or more Light Horse elements) cannot be Defensive or Impetuous. If such a result comes up throw again until a suitable alternative result has been achieved.

Determining Defender and Attacker

Throw percentage dice (PD), giving the NPG a 75% chance of being the defender.

Terrain Placement

Use the standard terrain placement rules (I must admit that I use the DBA v1.1 rules for terrain placement…mea culpa!). When the NPG is defending, place terrain to maximise his chances of victory given his army composition.


Determine position of NPG’s camp and its defenders (Camp Followers or an army element) by assessing the options, apportioning a percentage probability to each, and throwing PD.


As HG you will always deploy your army first. Having done this, draw up a minimum of three possible deployments for the NPG, taking into account your own deployment, the NPG’s ‘type’ (Defensive, Cautious, Aggressive or Impetuous) and the terrain set-up. Allocate a probability to each deployment and use PD to decide which one the NPG will opt for. For instance, a Defensive NPG will probably try to deploy in such a way that his flanks are anchored and protected, and to ensure that he will have a chance of holding his position with the minimum risk. On the other hand an Impetuous NPG will probably deploy in a way that enables him to get to grips with your army as swiftly as possible. The NPG then takes first bound, regardless of whether he is the defender or the attacker.

Game Play and NPG Type

Different NPG types have different priorities, and there is therefore a higher percentage probability that they will behave in a way consistent with these priorities on the battlefield. Note however that these are only probabilities. In order to avoid the danger of the NPG becoming too predictable there should always be a chance, however remote, that he will make an unexpected command decision that upsets the HG’s assumptions.

The general priorities for each NPG type are listed below, in a default descending order. After throwing for pips at the start of each turn note the percentage likelihood of the NPG opting for each of these permitted orientations, taking into account how many pips the NPG has to play with, then dice using PD to see which he carries out. Factor in what he has been doing so far: e.g. if he has been engaging in a promising flank attack there is a high likelihood that he will continue with that approach rather than suddenly break off and do something else!

Defensive NPG options: (1) Hold current position (2) Reinforce and repair (3) Manoeuvre to meet perceived threat (4) Advance to defensible battlefield positions (5) Counter attack with caution (6) Break formation to administer coup de grace (7) Launch general assault

Cautious NPG options: (1) manoeuvre to meet perceived threat (2) Advance to defensible battlefield positions (3) Reinforce and repair (4) Counter-attack with caution (5) Threaten HG’s flanks and/or camp (6) Reorganise and regroup (7) Launch general assault

Aggressive NPG options: (1) Manoeuvre into advanced positions (2) Threaten HG’s flanks and/or camp (3) Support attacks with maximum number of troops (4) Attack with reasonable odds (5) Reinforce and repair (6) Launch general assault (7) Reorganise and regroup

Impetuous NPG options: (1) Attack with all available troops (regardless of odds) (2) Attack with fastest troops (ahead of others) (3) Support attacks with maximum number of troops (4) Reorganise and regroup (5) Reinforce and repair

These are general orientations only, and should always be interpreted for maximal effectiveness for the NPG in any given battlefield situation. There are several important caveats to this. The NPG will always, within the general orientation determined above, and provided that he has the spare pips to do so, attempt to do the following:

1. Produce the most favourable match-ups available to him for that move.

2. Engage in repairing and reinforcing his formations as needed.

3. Move to take out any weak and/or isolated enemy units.

As a final caveat, there may be occasions when there is an ‘obvious’ move that any reasonably experienced DBA player would go for, but which doesn’t seem to be covered by any of the above. If such a situation occurs, allocate a percentage probability to it and determine using PD whether it is carried out or not. This should be limited to a maximum of three times per game.

I hope that these rules are of some use. The options listed for each NPG type are particularly likely to need development and amendment, and clearly the extra work involved in allocating percentage probabilities etc. won’t be to everyone’s taste. But I hope that this rather ‘fuzzy’ solo variant, which I’m currently testing out in my HoTT games as well as my DBA games, will at least provide some food for thought!

Meet the Neighbours Part 3 – Normans v Ratmen

Robert chooses a predominantly infantry army to face his Ratman opponents, consisting of a Knight General, another Knight, two Spears, four Blades and four Shooters (bows). He decides not to call on the services of his court Magician for this battle. NB Click on the images below to go to a larger view.

The Ratman general is a cautious sort, and deploys defensively, with the rough going on his right protected by three Beast elements, and his cavalry (Ratmen mounted on wolves) covering the left flank; he positions his Blades in the centre and holds his own cavalry unit in reserve.

Robert advances with his Spears and Blades in the centre, his left consisting of an element of Knights and two Shooters, and his right consisting of two elements of Shooters – they are a gamble given that they’re facing two Rider elements.

Robert soon looses one of his Shooters to the Ratman cavalry, leaving his right flank exposed:

However, he has time to move a unit of Blades across to cover the gap, and moves up himself to threaten the enemy left:

The struggle on this flank will be crucial to the outcome of the battle. Robert and a supporting unit of Blades engage the enemy cavalry:

Meanwhile, Robert’s archers take out  a unit of Beasts on his left flank:

In the centre Robert’s Spears are proving to be a weak link, as the Ratman halberdiers begin to slice through their ranks:

Another unit of Beasts falls prey to the Norman archers:

Meanwhile Robert’s knights and Blades slowly press the enemy cavalry back:

Things are looking good for Robert’s men on the flanks with the enemy cavalry finally despatched, but another unit of Spears is lost in the centre, which is in danger of crumbling:

At this point, with another unit of Norman archers destroyed on the left flank by enemy bowmen, both sides have lost four elements and the game is in the balance. Robert however seizes the initiative, sweeping round the enemy flank to charge into the Ratman general, whose cautious tactics have left him dangerously exposed:

The enemy general puts up a brave fight, while his Blades in the centre threaten to win the day for him, but eventually he is ridden down by Robert and his knights:

It’s been a bloody battle, with many slain on both sides, but Robert and his men have just about managed to carry the day. While his centre threatened to buckle, Robert managed to carry out a successful flanking maneouvre, and in the end that proved decisive:

The Outcome

Robert wins 100 gold pieces as tribute from the cowed Ratmen, increasing his war chest to 250 gold pieces. He is also fortunate in that he recovers three of his four lost units. One unit of Spearmen is however gone for good…no doubt the Ratmen are happily gnawing on their bones!

Battle Notes

This battle was fought using the HoTT ruleset, as the Ratmen are a HoTT army. I used my own ‘fuzzy’ solo rules variant, which I’ll describe in my next post, to spice up the battle.

Meet The Neighbours – Part Two

Campaign Turn One

Robert: Throws a 4. Robert’s army crosses barren lands. No effect.

Henry: Throws a 6. Easy plunder. 50 gold pieces are handed over by frightened locals, swelling Henry’s funds to 150 gold pieces.

Campaign Turn Two

Robert: Throws a 2. Robert isn’t having much luck. Disease sets in, with the result that he loses two elements, which are selected at random (excluding HoTT elements). Two units of Crossbowmen fall sick and die.

Henry: Throws a 1, which results in an element of Knights deserting.

Attrition is already taking its toll, and neither brother has had a chance to prove his valour on the battlefield as yet!

Campaign Turn Three

Robert: Throws a 4. Robert’s army continues to cross barren land.

Henry: Throws a 3. Henry’s army gets bogged down in difficult terrain and must miss the next turn.

Campaign Turn Four

Robert: Throws a 6. Easy plunder, and at last some good fortune! Robert increases his war chest to 150 gold pieces.

Henry: Misses this turn (see above).

Campaign Turn Five

Robert: Throws an 8. At last, an enemy force is sighted! They’re an unsavoury looking bunch though – half human, half rodent. Ratmen!

Henry: Throws a 10. Like his brother, Henry suddenly finds his way barred by a hostile force. At least his opponents are human though – he faces a Pictish army.

My next post will include battle reports, photos and outcomes for both brothers…

NB As this is the first campaign I’ve written up I’m going to try to keep the account quite spare and functional, so that it’s easy to follow for any newbies who fancy giving the micro campaign approach a try. See earlier posts for an outline of the campaign rules, especially here.

Meet The Neighbours – Part One

Following on from my first micro campaign, I’m about to set off on another adventure using the rough and ready ideas set out in my earlier post ‘Micro Campaigning Part II’. This new campaign will be set in an imaginary world where Dark Age human societies rub shoulders with the weird and the wonderful. I’ll be using my own experimental solo version of the DBA/HoTT rules (an embryonic and rather impressionistic set of ideas based around ‘percentage probability’). I’ll keep you posted as the campaign develops and include some pictures of the battles.

The campaign begins when Duke Bohemund sends his two sons, Robert and Henry, out to explore the hidden realms bordering his lands. He who returns with the heaviest coffers will win his father’s favour, and the succession to the dukedom.

Robert and Henry both set out with armies equivalent to 18 DBA elements (i.e. one a half field armies each). Each force (loosely based on the DBA Norman army list) consists of the following: 4 Knights, 4 Spears, 6 Crossbowmen/Archers and 4 Swordsmen. In addition, Robert takes his mentor and necromancer Hugh along with him (a Magician in HoTT terms). Henry prefers to trust in religion in the event that he stumbles across any fantastical enemies, and makes sure that he is accompanied by his priest Walter (a HoTT Cleric); he also adds his beautiful but treacherous courtesan Agnes to his retinue (a Lurker). Robert’s Magician, and Henry’s Cleric and Lurker, are additional elements that may only be deployed if HoTT opponents are encountered on their travels. Their use is optional. When facing a HoTT enemy one of the Knight elements may be re-designated as a Hero. In all such cases the battlefield points total must not amount to more than 24 AP.

Robert heads west, while his brother Henry sets off eastwards. The brothers each carry a war chest of 100 gold pieces. Neither has any idea as to what he might encounter.

We, however, know better. The surrounding lands are peopled by a mixture of human and magical tribes. The foes that the two brothers might stumble across include Saxons, Welsh, Irish, Vikings, Slavs, Rus, Carolingians, Picts, Ratmen, Dragon Lords, Undead, Hill Dwarves, Wood Elves, Werewolves and Lizardmen. Their journeys will be perilous, but the potential rewards are great…

Wargaming Alexander’s Campaigns

One of the nicest things to have happened since starting this blog is that I’ve met some inspiring fellow wargamers in cyberspace, and I’ve been pointed in the direction of some excellent resources that I was previously unaware of.  Which brings me to the subject of this short post – a very nice implementation of the micro campaigning approach by Steven Thomas on his Balagan website. Steven has put together comprehensive notes for a micro campaign following Alexander’s progress from 335 BC to the end of his life, including ‘what if’ possibilities that culminate in a potential match-up against the Romans. I can’t recommend this highly enough – it’s well thought out and beautifully presented. Check it out here –

I’m looking forward to exploring the rest of Steven’s site, which seems to be packed full of goodies – including a DBA camp mini-campaign and a HoTT London Commuters army list…scary!

A big thankyou to Paul O’Grady for effecting the introductions by the way, and for all his useful comments elsewhere on this site.