Friday, March 19, 2010

Cold Wars Round One

Just for a change, I thought I would post a battle report on my writing blog. My other battle reports can be found here. I thought I'd give my "writing friends" a chance to see what I do with my "wargaming friends." The two circles don't often overlap.

For those of you who are total novices to historical wargaming.... it is the simulation of battles using painted miniature figurines and model terrain. Dice and rulers are used to determine where units can move and the outcomes of fights. Actually, we use dice, rulers, and thick rule books with lots of rules. And we love it. For me, half the hobby is painting the miniatures, and half the hobby is fighting the battles.

As I have previously mentioned, wargaming has played an important part in my writing efforts. Although I am writing a fantasy novel, realistic action and believable battle scenes are still very important. I don't want to put anything into the novel that turns the reader off and breaks the willing suspension of disbelief.

About a month before Cold Wars, Matt Iverson contacted me looking for a partner. This was very fortunate for me as Matt is one of the best Field of Glory players in the United States. As Matt (who I will now refer to only as Mr. The King) was the more experienced player I deferred to him on most of the decision making. "We" decided that since the tournament was to be played on a 8' by 5' table (larger than the standars 6x4) we would take a very fast, maneuverable army. Our choice: Western Turks. It is an army almost entirely comprising of mounted archers.

Our Army:

One Inspired Commander.
Three Troop Commanders.
Two units of Nobles (Undrilled superior armored cavalry with lance and sword).
Four units of Arsiyah (Drilled superior armored cavalry with bow and sword).
Eight units of horse archers (Undrilled average unprotected light cavalry with bow and sword).
Two units of poor quality light foot archers.
Two units of poor quality light foot javilenmen.

Mr. The King thought the biggest threats to our army would come from lancer cavalry armies as well as longbow based armies. So he suggested we do some test battles on the Thursday before the tournament. The test battle against a Bosporan (lancer cavalry) army was very close and resulted in us making some army adjustments. In particular we dropped our plan to take a list that included Tibetan allies. Our second test match was against a 100 Years War English army. I ran the English and was totally humiliated by Mr. The King. The fight gave us confidence that we could deal with longbows. This was fortunate as at the tournament our first opponent was...

a Free Company army from the 100 Years War time period! Our opponents fielded something like:

Three units of heavily armored knights.
Four units of longbow.
Two units of dismounted men-at-arms.
Two large units of crossbow.
One unit of light foot.

We won the initiative and chose (of course) to fight on the steppes. A basic map of the battle:

From our test match we knew we could win if we could concentrate bowfire against isolated longbow units. This became the core of our strategy. I took a majority of our bow-armed light horse and cavalry and drove hard for the Free Company's left flank. We wanted the flank threat to force them to break their line.

Mr. The King would take some mounted units and all of our foot and threaten the other flank. Our lancers would feint in the center, hoping to pull some longbow forward, before re-deploying to one flank.

Our deployment:

Their deployment:

Our Camp:

The camp was about five feet from the nearest Free Company unit. It soon became buried by the "tools" of war.

After a few turns:
The Free Company army has advanced very aggressively. In response to my sweeping flank attack, all three of their knight units start a re-deployment to the Free Company left. Surprised by the bold advance of the enemy crossbow, we quickly send our lancers to our left flank. One unit of armored cavalry is sent to skirmish a longbow unit in the center of the battlefield. This will not go well.

Near disaster:
Mr. The King set up a fantastic flank charge on an overextended crossbow unit (1). Armored cavalry hit the crossbow from one direction, while light horse hit it from another. The crossbow become disrupted at contact, and the proceed to win the fight! A second crossbow unit (2) is now in position to deliver a flank charge on our cavalry... except Mr. The King rolls a 12 and kills the enemy Commander in Chief! The second crossbow unit immediately becomes demoralized at his loss. On the horizon (3) an enemy longbow unit is a looming threat.

The Shootout:
My masses of horse archers swing left against the Free Company flank. Unfortunately, my opponent is going to roll several poor cohesion checks over the next few turns. Two units of light horse out shoot and (eventually) destroy a longbow unit. My armored cavalry disorder (with bowfire), and then charge and fragment a second unit of longbow. Concentrated light horse attacks on dismounted men-at-arms cause more casualties.

Another scare:
Mr. The King's lancers have arrived on the scene. They charge a disrupted unit of crossbowmen, only to lose two stands. They manage to heroically fight on and fragment the crossbows. To their right, a second unit of lancers crashes into, and disrupts another longbow unit. These units will eventually rout, breaking the army.

The battle is a major victory for the Turks. We lost one unit of armored cavalry bowmen in the center of the battlefield. Deciding to be cautious, we put the unit in one rank to skirmish with a six stand longbow unit. We figured our four dice of superior bowfire could take their four dice of average bowfire. We were wrong.

Shooty cavalry armies can definitely take on longbow armies in FoG. However, it is really important to break up the enemy line. Given the 8' by 5' table, the best our opponents could have done would have been to corner sit and hope for a draw. Coming out to fight us in the open was very dangerous.

Coming soon... Cold Wars Round Two.

And... if you are interested in historical fiction (Hellenistic) read my interview with Christian Cameron, author of the Tyrant series.


  1. I tried to convince Matt to go with the Khazars rather than the Tibetan allies option when we play tested in MA before he headed down. I'm glad to see he did finally go that route.


  2. We ran a test and it was just too hard to get the Tibetans into the right place. The Khazar list we used had a ton of bowfire and was very easy to maneuver.