6 games, 5 deep fried meals, 4 dice, 3 days, 2 nights, 1.5 breakfasts, 1 curry...... an ordeal to last a lifetime.
- Game 1 - get to the bar
- Game 2 - the smell of Napalm in the morning
- Game 3 - half way there
- >Game 4 - Saturday. Sh*t. I'm still only at Saturday. Every time I think I'm gonna wake up back in the jungle.
- Game 5 - life is shorter than this tournament
- Game 6 - surely punishment enough ...
Britcon is always an ordeal. 6 games in 2 days, early starts, late finishes, and a venue that is part of a bar with student prices. And not helped this year by the hot, sticky weather, in many ways reminiscent of my time in South East Asia prior to the fall of Saigon - but we don't talk about that - and whatever happened on my mission, I knew that no-one was going to helicopter me out this time.... The weekend started poorly, with far too many people telling me I was listed in their fantasy wargames league team - and so with the oppressive weight of expectation piled on my "no, its actually crap" Lithuanian army following their inexplicable triumph at Roll Call, my journey up the Luf-kong Delta began. It was a journey to the heart of darkness, the unknown side of war. This is my story.....
Allen: No wonder the Australians put a weed up McNeil's ass. The Tournament was being run by a bunch of four star clowns who were gonna end up giving the whole circus away.
vs Komnenan Byzantine: Rees Taylor
First game to be played of the whole tournament - well, why muck about when there is a bar open, eh ? I was still attached to civilization, we had driven up the M1 but had yet to psychologically go "up river". Rees had Komnenan, so I wanted no terrain and from what I recall that's what happened.
The Komnenans were:
|8 LH (F)||8 LH (F)||8 LH (F)|
|5 mounted Varangians||Kn (F) General||4 Reg Kn (F)|
|1 mounted Varangian General||6 Bw (I)||8 Reg Bw (I)|
|4 Reg Bw (I)||4 Reg Kn (O)||2 Ps (O)|
|3 Ps (O)|
It seems all so long ago now that we started - the Byzantines deployed commands in this order left to right as I faced them, with the foot and knights back as a mobile reserve behind a LH screen. This rapidly turned into a bit of a nightmare as my command with 4 cavalry and 9 Lh (O) and (S) bore down on the first command, and the wagons and blades advanced imperturbably on my right, with the Teutons making up the center. The Komnenan Kn (F) redeployed furiously to try and shore up the right wing before the cavalry got too close, and the Varangians did likewise to get across to the opposite flank as the Teutons started a staring match against the better Byzantine knights in the center. As all this posturing and ballet was going on, the Lithuanian wagons were chewing huge holes out of the Byzantine bow blocks, to the extent that by the time the battle was joined on my left the Komnenans were already 3/4 beaten. Unable to go toe to toe and exchange casualties the Byzantine knights managed one meaningful, but ineffective, charge into my somewhat concerned Cv (O) before the weight of losses forced them, and the rest of their army into full retreat. 32-0.
Porter: Been here a week now, waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger.
1am is no time for a bar to shut. 7am is no time to have breakfast. The Belgians had been here before us, here in this jungle. They knew the score alright. I sat down, facing the window and facing Uighurs. Around me it was all Belgians and Frenchmen, sat on their helmets. I began to suspect something was going badly wrong. I asked the question .
Porter: Why do all you
guys sit on your helmets?
Belgian: So we don't get our balls blown off.
I knew then it was going to be a long day. I sat on my helmet and prepared to face the storm. The Uigurs were clever - strong, resourceful and clever - especially the allied command to give them some LH (S) in the center of the line, and the game plan that did not usually involve using the supported spears. The Uighur army went something like this.
|8 Sp (I)||LH (S) Ally||6 Lh (F)||6 LH (F)|
|5 Ps (O)||4 LH (S)||8 Sp (I)||4 Cv (S)|
|General Cv (S)||2 Cv (S)||1 Hd (O)||LH (S) Sub|
|6 LH (F)||4 Ps (O)||10 Bw (I)|
|6 Hd (O)||1 Lh (S) General||1 Hd (O)|
|4 Cv (S)||4 Cv (S)|
Oh man, the sh*t piled up so fast in this game you needed wings to stay above it. After a promising start the battle became a game of cat and mouse - the Uighur center - largely of the Lh (S) command - withdrew just fast enough to stay ahead of my wagons and blades, who were marching almost unopposed up the center seeking to split the Uighurs into two. On my left the Uighur spearmen were closing in on my cavalry command to support their own cavalry, whilst my other wagons were reinforcing my line of LH and Cv making it difficult for the Uighur cavalry to close and use their superior numbers and ability. cavalry from the other commands was streaming across the table to my left to push even more horseflesh down my throat - but as the spearmen started to echelon forwards, they in turn were thinning out and becoming exposed to a charge from the Teutons, and became increasingly dependant upon the pip dice of the ally to protect their flanks. In the end I lost a command - I cant remember which, but I think it may well have been the Teutons, who threw the kitchen sink in in an attempt to score a command-sized victory by running down spearmen, but failed. 13-19 loss
McNeil: We train young men to drop SOA dice on people. But their commanders won't allow them to write "Reigate Wargames Club" on their War Wagons because it's obscene!
By now I was entering the heart of darkness, playing Chris Norwood who I had played in Derby last year. He had Hungarians - another great matchup for me in theory. However, in a fit of madness I attempted to do everything I could before the game to lose it. I defended. I then deployed vast swathes of terrain, on the theory that my auxilia would be able to dominate it and win for me, despite the fact that I would have a almost guaranteed cavalry superiority and an army designed to chew up LH (F) for breakfast - and was moving second. Star move of the day was deploying a piece of RGo in Chris's central sector forward zone, on the assumption that he would not be able t get his foot through it before my auxilia got to it. I'd made the same mistake at Roll Call - Doh!
Hungarian General -
Disneyland. Flip, man, this is better than Disneyland.
The Hungarians - unfortunately I've lost the list, but it was something like:
|12.5 Strong Szeckler Comand||Smallish Lh Hungarian Command||8 supported blades||3 or 4 Wagons|
|Lh (S), (O) & (F)||pass||Lots of Ps to support them||8 Bw (I)|
|1 Ps||Irreg Kn General||2-3 Knights||Lots of Ps|
|Irreg Kn General||a few Lh|
|poss some LH||Kn General|
The game went from bad to worse - not only had I deployed the wrong terrain, I had put my troops in the wrong place as well. My cavalry command found itself facing more wagons that it had, plus lots of bows plus trying to fight the blade command with 6 Ax (O), the CinC and my blades were facing thin air (the 2nd command), and the Teutons were on the wrong side of the table entirely with 3 Lh (F) in ambush behind a gentle hill expecting a 7 element Szeckler command, but meeting 12 LH. Luckily the Hungarians rolled dreadful pips for the first two bounds, and their blades were unable to get out of the rough going in their entirety, giving my auxilia a fighting chance. The Teutons attempted to be in two places at once, with their Lh & Cv (I) delaying furiously against the Szecklers on my far left supported by the LH from my small command (whose auxilia were fighting in the center) and the LH from the CinC, whilst the Knights rushed across the table to threaten the blades as they gradually pushed forwards out of the rough. The entire game was very tense throughout, with advantage swinging both ways, often on the basis of who had the largest group of LH. In the end my cavalry command was on its knees, the Szecklers were in a pip-intensive stalemate, and the LH command facing my CinC had suffered enough casualties that it was in full scale withdrawal mode, but crucially I had soaked up enough pips and threatened enough with the Teutons that the blades had not managed to fight their way out of the rough going and really start taking my auxilia apart. Phew 16:16
Colonel Martin-Smith: Your
mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat. Pick up McNeils
path at Nu Mung Ba, follow it and learn what you can along the way. When you
find the Scotsman, infiltrate his club by whatever means available and terminate
Wilcox: Terminate the Large Head on Giant Shoulders?
General Evans: He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
By now I was dug in too deep or moving too fast. My idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. I was slipping back down the table and I had only two ways home: death, or victory. I can up against a large Irishman, with an even larger collection of Elephants - oh dear. The Chola were from Naaam - or near enough. My fevered cinemascope dreams were turning into reality, and I was being drawn into the screenplay, losing my self identity along the way. To my army the Elephants were horrors ... horrors that you've seen also. I had to kill them - but you have no right to call me a murderer. they believed that they had a right to kill me. They did have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me for it. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what facing Elephants with LH (O) means. Horror. Horror has a face... and a trunk, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror were my army's friends. If they are not then they would have been enemies to be feared. They would have been truly enemies.
|El (o) General||6 Hd (O)||4 Bd (F)||El Gen|
|4 Reg Bd (F)||1 El General||1 El Gen||1 Cv (I)|
|6 Bw (I)||5 Ps (O)||2 El (O)|
|5 Ps (O)||6 Reg Bw (O)||6 Bw (O)|
|2 El (O)||4 Bd (F)||5 Ps (O)|
The game had 3 pivotal areas. On my left I had a gentle hill, behind which I had hidden 6 auxilia, aiming to fight the elephants and blades with the advantage of the hill, delaying the Elephant charge so I could support them with wagons and bowmen in a controlled fashion. This was not t be, as my command rolled terrible pip dice for the first 2-3 turns, and I was forced into a desperate struggle, throwing the auxilia in without support against blades and elephants, and suffering gradual, but persistent losses.
In the center it was a different scenario - the Teutons, deploying 2nd, had managed to find a block of 6 Bw (I) - poor quality peasants itching to be ridden down. The Teutonic general strapped his surfboard to his back, turned up the stereo, put on blinkers to his two wingmen (so they forgot to see the elephants either side of their charge) and raced forwards coming in low over the beach - and the Bw (I) fell like wheat in a storm!
On my right, blades and war wagons were facing off against the third command - with auxilia backing them up to take on the elephants. here the Bd (F) were gradually losing to the Bd (O), and the wagons were starting to get close enough to the bowmen to cause panic - then the Elephant general managed to fall off against an auxilia, and the flank collapsed.
Over on the far side of the river, a lone elephant general had lurked out of a wood, accompanied by his Cv (I) companion, to be menaced by my CinC's LH (O). Exciting, but inconclusive.....
So, with one flank down, what would happen? Well, the Teutons beat the Bw (I) before the elephants finished chewing up my auxilia, and the game was mine - 10-0 !!!!
Stubbings: I watched James "Hammy" Hamilton crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. That's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight... razor... and surviving - how goddam lucky is that?
Sunday Morning - the mist was clearing over the delta. Strange shapes lurked just beyond view, farting gently following the previous nights lager frenzy. And I had to play Simon "I've just brought Early Russian for a laugh, it doesn't worry me how I do, honest" Hall, the number 1 seed. Great.
Simons Early Russians. After an initial scare when the game was nearly ruled illegal on the basis that it was a historical encounter in a late round of a competition, we set to it.
|Mordvin Ally 4 Ax (O)||5 LH (F)||13 Sp (O)||1 Hd (O)|
|8 Bw (I) - 6 in BUA||8 Cv (O)||1 Sp (O) General||4 Lh (F)|
|1 Ps (O)||Cv (O) General||10 Ps (O)||3 Lh (O)|
|Cv (O) General||3 Hd (O)||2 Cv (O)||8 Cv (O)|
|1 Hd (O)||Cv (O) General|
|2 Cv (O)||5 Ax (O) hiding in a wood|
Simons army was deployed in the way I expected, with spearmen in the center, a fortified BUA containing a lot of the Mordvin on my left in y deployment area, and two cavalry wings, I faced the spear line with the Teutons and the Blade command, forcing the CinC;s cavalry on a wide outflanking maneuver round the back of a large wood on Simons left. Simultaneously I assaulted the BUA with the other large auxilia command, using the war wagons to block the cavalry advance down the side of the BUA, and with the small command lurking in the middle.
The BUA assault had initial success, but then ground to a halt, as Simon poured cavalry into my weak point where my small command was delaying. Bereft of support as the CinC's cavalry went on their trans Siberian tour , the end of the spear line became exposed and the blades started to chew it up, and then were aided by the charge of the Teutons. The spears put up a valiant fight, avoiding collapse through some clever line kinking, but then got their come-uppance as the Teuton general, flanked and facing 3 ranks of Sp & Ps managed to roll a 5-1 to counteract the 3-6 situation in which he found himself, and the spearmen were in rout!
All this time the BUA was repulsing waves of auxilia, and we were both posturing on my left flank, as cavalry and LH faced off against each other, no-one getting enough advantage to press home. Then the by-now impetuous Teutons got into trouble, with a series of recoils from the LH eventually hitting the non-brother knight at an odd angle, and the Teutons went down - closely followed by the small command which was by now becoming overwhelmed by masses of Cv (O).
Losing 6-4, and staring defeat in the face the Lithuanian general urged his auxilia into one last desperate attempt to finish off the inhabitants of the BUA - they tried, they failed, we survived another sweaty bound, they tried again, and the won ! 5 elements in one turn - and 8-2 to me....phew!
Porter: How many people had I already played? There was those five that I know about for sure. Close enough to blow their last breath in my face. But this time it was a player from Reigate, and a member of the Umpires Forum. That wasn't supposed to make any difference to me, but it did. Shoot...charging a man with using a rubbish army in this place was like handing out speeding fines in the Indy 500. I took the points. What the hell else was I gonna do?
I was going to the worst place in the world and I didn't even know it yet. Weeks away and hundreds of miles up a motorway that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable - plugged straight into Graham Evans. It was no accident that I got to be playing a wall of foot in the last game - any more than being back in Loughborough was an accident. There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story really is a success, then so is mine
|2 Boats (S)||10 Bd (I)||8 Kn (F)|
|General - Bd (O)||1 Sp (I)||Kn (F) Gen|
|8 Bw (O)||6 Ps (O)||10 Bd (I)|
|2 Hd (O)||Gen Kn (F)||7 Ps (O)|
|6 Ps (O)||8 Kn (F)||3 Hd (O)|
|10 Bd (I)||3 Hd (O)|
Top table, last game, a win gives me at least 2nd, a draw gives me top 5. I went for it! Graham deployed Bd (I) across the table, mostly supported, and with the entirely pedestrian command next to the waterway, and all the Kn (F) sat behind the Bd (I) line, anchored by a handful of Ps in a piece of RGo on his right. I attacked with the small command, blade command & Teutons on my left, with the wagons and auxilia threatening the bowmen on my right, and a string of LH across the center.
Initially it all looked very good - especially when I saw that the blades and knights were accidentally deployed slightly offset rather than totally parallel at one end of the line, so any burst through would cause the adjacent knight to flee with the blades before making its impetuous move. To be fair, this was a bit of a moral dilemma for me, as clearly this was probably due to slightly iffy base sizes, and the sensible intention was to be parallel - however despite some misgivings I felt justified on insisting on playing the troops as being where they actually were, mainly because at one end of the line the front rank blade was partly in some RGo, whilst the knight behind him wasn't - and if my Teutons had been deployed in a different place this set up would have given Graham an advantage, so ....we played the troops as where they stood.
So, the game was whether I could get close enough with my blades and wagons to get cleanly into the Bd (I) before the Kn came crashing through, and if I could force an advantage in the RGo with auxilia against Ps and Bd (I) - and how would the Teutons fare?
For a long long time things were going my way, especially for the Teutons who looked set to win the game on their own at one stage. However the CinC was taking heavy casualties as the Bd (I) scored a telling victory in the RGo to repulse, and kill my auxilia with a big dice throw, and also my blades were finding it difficult going against the Bd (I) - and, as a surprise to both of us, my CinC's command fell as the Kn were unleashed.
Then it was all down to the Teutons - fighting knights from two commands, and supported by streams of expendable Lh from the flank command they continued to carve a great swathe through the Vikings - until a lone Kn (F) facing the single Kn (O) managed a 5-1 in my turn when both were overlapped, blowing a huge hole in my line and plan. Quick as a flash he raced for the open space, and swung into the flank of the Cv (I), who had though he was only there to protect other peoples flanks. Unable to recoil he died, taking a LH with him, and with it the Teutons, and the game. 2-30