“When my mind drifts back now, it is images rather than a coherent narrative which present themselves to me: mist rising from horse lines in the thin keen wind of a morning by the Danube; long marches, the men ankle-deep in mud behind creaking wagons, as the beech and ash woods of Germany enfold us; a hill-top in Northern Spain, when snow fell below us in the valleys but we lay on dry, iron-hard ground under the stars; grizzled centurions lashing at the transport horses, yelling at the legionaries to put their shoulder to a wheel that was spinning as if in mockery of their efforts; a boy with blood oozing from his mouth as I rested his dying head on my arm and watched his leg kick; my horse flinching from a bush which parted to reveal a painted warrior, himself gibbering with terror; the sigh of the wind coming off a silent sea; the tinkle of the camel bell across desert sands. Army life is a mere collection of moments.” (Augustus, Alan Massie)
One of the wonderful things about watching a new wargaming period evolve, and a new set of rules coming together, is the impact it has on the imagination of wargamers. Something along those lines is happening at Lard Island these days.
As some of you might know, Richard and Nick have been play-testing a new set of rules for Ancient warfare. No doubt there’ll be more of this in future TooFatLardies Oddcasts, but for the moment, let’s just call the rules “Ancients Sharp Practice”. Or, if you prefer, “Infamy, Infamy” – a name which might raise a smile if you’ve ever seen a particular “Carry On” film from the 1970s.
Both Richard and Nick – but particularly Richard – have been hard at work developing the rules, painting the figures and brushing off some of the terrain we made for Dux Britanniarum. In doing so, they’ve been building on the terrific work of other Lard-enjoying wargamers who’ve already been using the “Sharp Practice” rules for the Ancients era.
Exciting times indeed, and doubly so when you see the troops being arrayed on the tabletop for the first time.
Last night’s clash was set three miles from where I live – near the small Hertfordshire village of Wheathampstead. These days, the village is a very pleasant stopping point for cyclists on the Chiltern Cycle-Way, or a flashing blip on the B653 as you drive past on the way to either the M1 or the A1, travelling somewhere else.
But in the first century AD (or CE), it was the frontier between Rome and Britain. The local tribe, the Catuvellauni, were fierce, proud warriors who may well have led the British resistance to Julius Caesar in 54 BC. The tribe minted coins, and built impressive defences – still visible today at ‘Devil’s Dyke’, just a long stone’s throw from the playing fields where my son’s football team plays on a weekend.
I digress, but only to mention that history has a way of catching up with you in the most unexpected of places.
On the tabletop, we witnessed a truly impressive array of British chariots, warbands, slingers and skirmishers facing off against a force of Roman legionaries and auxiliaries, advancing through wooded terrain to quell a Catuvellauni insurrection. Already, some of the features of the game are coming to the fore – the balance between different methods of fighting (Roman corporatism against tribal heroism), the importance of cohesion and control, the focus on the decisive moment of the melee. It’s shaping up to be a very fine set of rules – and, like Dux Britanniarum, all the more interesting for your humble Blogger being on the ground floor of the Temple of Venus, so to speak.
I know, dear readers, I know – I’m hopelessly biased. But hopefully you’ll still enjoy some of the battle reports to come….
Take care and fare you all well until next time, Citizens of Rome and proud daughters and sons of the Catuvellauni!