Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dacians, a warband you don't meet every day

I'm painting up a Dacian army for our next Field of Glory (FoG) campaign.  Me falling for another lost cause is a bit predictable. "Barbarian" armies fare poorly in FoG but that doesn't stop me from falling in love with a new one every year. I loved the story of Sertorius in Hispania so I painted Lusitanians.  I loved the stories of the Celts and painted 3 Gallic armies to prove it. While most of the Dacian's story is lost to time, what's left is riveting. That's how I knew that it was true love! Let's hope it's a love that lasts.
I'm using Old Glory figs for my Dacians.  OG doesn't post pictures of all their ranges on their website so I was reluctant to put an order in.  Out of the box, I was pleased to see the Dacians are one of their better lines. The figures are well sculpted with lots of variety.

Dacian Falxmen:  Dacians can field up to 24 bases of falxmen in FoG so I painted up all 24. The downside is that they're unprotected Medium foot.  The upside is they're cheap as chips for superior foot with a heavy weapon.  If they survive the impact phase with legionaries, they'll be even in subsequent rounds of melee. Watch the face of your Roman opponent as you trade bases and he remembers falxmen cost 7 points a base and legionaries cost 14!
The falxmen were primed with Army Painter Brown Leather followed by block painting in an earthy and tight palette. Vallejo's sienna wash went over the base coat. Vallejo's wash is currently my favorite as it goes on thick and stays put. The last step is applying highlights. For shirtless fellows, I used 2 rounds of highlights on the skin as it did make them pop.

So about that backstory, the Dacians were a collection of up to 15 tribes in what is now Romania.  Located in and around the Carpathian mountains, they possessed abundant mines and resources, including hordes of gold.  In the lectures "Rome and the Barbarians," the Dacians are described as skilled stonemasons, metal-smiths and miners.  All 3 skills were crucial in their wars against the Romans. Their kingdom lasted from 82 BC until the Roman conquest in 106 AD.

The story goes hot when King Decebalus assumes the throne and unites the tribes. Cassius Dio described him as  "a man shrew in his understanding of warfare" who "judged well when to attack and chose the right moment to retreat."  His raids across the Danube and into the Roman province of Moesia culminated in the Roman Governor Oppius Sabinus being killed in the field.
Emperor Domitian and his Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, Cornelius Fuscus, traveled to Moesia to put things right.  Fuscus drove the Dacians back across the Danube and followed them through the Iron Gates. At the First Battle of Tapae, he was ambushed along with Legio V Alaudae. The legion was annihilated and Fuscus killed. The Dacian king received his name Decebalus after this battle, meaning as strong (or brave) as ten men.

Domitian launched a second expedition in 88 AD.  According to Dio, the Dacians slew a great number of Romans while suffering serious losses themselves.  Facing multiple threats, Domitian offered terms that were stunningly generous. Decebalus became a client king of Rome with a stipend of 8 million sesterces per year. He was also provided Roman engineers, craftsmen, and war machines. Decebalus used the Roman stipend and engineers to build new defensive fortifications in the mountains and to reinforce existing ones.Clever man, that Decebalus, as the Romans wouldn't let him rest after such generous terms.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Coffee or Calvados, a Chain of Command AAR

Hugh and I played our first game of Chain of Command.  There's been a very positive buzz about these WW II skirmish rules and I was anxious to see what makes them shine.  Hugh provided everything from figures to terrain. The buildings are by Crescent Root Studio.  Comparable to 4Ground buildings, some come with 4 pins inside, allowing a quick breakdown and assembly for when space is an issue.  
Hugh sketched out the back sotry for our patrol scenario to recon a Calvados brandy factory in Normandy. It was a wonderful bit of color as I got to learn about Chain of Command AND a famous French apple brandy. I must remember to take the time to frame up a game with a story as it makes for a deeper gaming experience, win or lose!  For our next match, perhaps the first player to occupy the factory rolls see if his men imbibe and rolls for results, something like Dux Britanniarum's Bibamus table.  

This scenario saw a German infantry platoon going up against a British Airborne platoon. CoC has national characteristics for each force, grounded in their military doctrine. For example, "Maschinengewehr" rewards the German players with more D6 when attaching a squad leader to LMGs.

British Airborne are tough, with 6 command dice versus 5 for the Germans.  They're also rated as elite and aggressive.  Being new, we bungled the German support list and poor Hugh got only a medic and panzerchek team to even out the disparity between our forces.  On the other hand, it was realistic that the Germans found themselves over-matched at the start of the Normandy campaign.

These pictures are not the best but I want to show what the figure requirements are and how the squads are composed.  Hugh put leaders in larger bases to make them distinguishable on the tabletop.  Basically, you're looking at 3 squads per side with some support.  

The first bit of genius in Chain of Command is the Patrol Phase, which is a wonderful game within the game. Each side has 3-4 Patrol Markers which are moved one by one, 12" onto the table. Each marker must remain within 12" of a friendly marker. Once your marker comes within 12" of an enemy marker, both are locked. Players continue moving their markers until all are locked.  Behind the locked Patrol Markers, players place their Jump Off Points, which are where troops deploy to the battlefield. Going first, I was able to lock up Jump Off Points behind the Calvados factory.  This was a huge as it left the Germans on their back foot with Jump Off Points in a farm field, a road and an orchard.  Not ideal.  

With no troops on the table to start, I threw 6 command dice.  Command dice are used to bring forces onto the table and then later, active them for movement.  How and when you commit your forces onto the table is critical. My rolling was crazy good and I rolled up back to back phases repeatedly. I put one squad on my left flank in the orchard with a Bren covering a German Jump Off Point.  I got my 2nd squad into the main building and my 3rd squad went out on the right flank in a warehouse.  



Above, I split a section off from one squad to flank and fire on the Germans taking cover against a wall. Concentrating fire from two squads on one German squad I was able to pin them. I send in an assault that took them right off the table.  
Hugh brought his last squad to where his other squad had just perished. I was eager to occupy one of his Jump Off Points in order to degrade the German force morale.  Here, I miscalculated badly in deciding to assault the fresh Germans. Their MG 42 ripped me up and I lost my entire squad in the debacle. Lesson learned, you can't charge in like a maniac even if you're elite.  You must first knock the enemy down with fire, pin them if you can and then go in for the kill.  
My failed assault did weaken the German squad and they eventually broke from our steady fire. Hugh sent his last squad against my squad in the orchard.  Assaulting fresh troops backed by 2 Brens and some stens, the results were catastrophic for the Germans.  Their force morale dropped to zero and the game went to the British.
Two very big thumbs for Chain of Command.  It's a great set of rules, one of the best skirmish rules I've ever played.  CoC is going to get heavy rotation this year and I can't wait to run the Calvados scenario again. One game and we're both mulling over other armies and theaters of war.  That means we're hooked, I think!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spartan finish, now with 100% more camp

I love the many choices we have in our fine hobby.  Baueda helped me across the finish line with my least favorite part of painting a new army; the camp.  Once I saw the Spartan Sacred Enclosure, I put in an order right away.

The kit is based on a dokana, preserved on a Spartan tombstone. I'm looking at my Osprey "The Spartan Army,"  page 55 and its spot on.  What the spider and two snakes mean is beyond me.  They do look bad ass, which matches the Spartans well.  Painted in red, the enclosure matches the theme color for the Spartan army as well.

I should mention that I used Army Painter brown primer for the whole Spartan army, including the camp.  Brown is a great base for all the bronze armor and with a good wash, its a great base for flesh as well.  

The cavalry for the Spartan army is not impressive at all.  They're average, undrilled and armed only with light spears. These fellows will be of limited use:

1) Put them in a single rank and delay on a wing, or 
2) Provide rear support to my hoplites, giving supported units a +1 on morale checks.  

Over the weekend, my friend Brandt met me at Fantasy Flight for beers and a game.  He ran Late Republican Romans, which are one of the toughest armies in period. The key for the Spartans is to survive the Roman impact phase without dropping morale. Brandt won up and down the line when his legions went in but I diced out of 3 of my 4 morale tests.  From there, the game swung my way.  I killed 2 of his 3 generals, including Caesar.  Brandt claimed it was merely a flesh wound but whatever the truth, his Inspired Commander could inspire no more.  
The Spartans were falling all over themselves in their eagerness to get stuck in.  
On the last turn, the Spartan citizens anchoring my right flank got charged in the rear.  They dropped a morale level from the charge but won the impact phase against very long odds. My blazing dice had our FoG group shaking their heads.  I shook my head too when I busted another legion and broke the Roman army. I can't remember the last time I beat the Romans. King Leonidas would be pleased, I think.  I know I am!