Sunday 28 October 2012

Works in Various Stages of Progress

First off, apologies for what, by my standards at present, is a long silence - the family took turns at a two day tummy bug this week, and I've just about got over my go at it. On the good side, I have got the workshop a BIT tidier than it was, and was disturbed to discover how many 4L Really Useful Boxes I seem to have filled up with figures since I last did a serious audit. And I have had a couple of days to Think. And Plan.

It, um, looks like I'm going to have to update the Figures page on here sometime soon, or actually get stuck in to Sekrit Project W again. Suffice it to say the painted pile's gone up by Early Saxon and Christian Spanish WAB armies, as well as my Imaginations army (which I need to dig out again!)...

The unpainted and project piles, and the plans, on the other hand... let's see. This is turning into a 2013 resolutions list!

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Administrivia - 40,000 pageviews!

Somewhere over the past couple of days I passed 40,000 pageviews, which is so far in excess of what I expected when I started this blog as to be mindboggling :D Thanks to everyone who reads and/or comments!

As a kindness to all of your, I've got rid of Google's stupid captcha code in the comments form, and replaced it with comment moderation for older articles to see how that goes.

Probability for Wargamers 5 - The Tea Break Card

On to something a bit different, and not what I originally said the next article would be: matters arising from the Lardie Yahoo! group on the subject of whether units on blinds get activated less often once there are more cards in the deck.

As those of you who are familiar with the mechanic will know, the Too Fat Lardies games rely on a card-based activation mechanism, and in most of those, the activation sequence is ended when a Tea Break (or whatever it's named for that particular ruleset) card is drawn.

So. What's the likely percentage of cards that come up before the Tea Break card comes up?

This seems quite tricky at first glance, but here's one way. The Tea Break card could be anywhere with equal probability. If it's first of N cards, then no useful cards get drawn before it, and if it's last, then all of the (N-1) useful cards get drawn. Simple intuition says the answer, the average probability, is therefore 50%.
More rigorously (and so we can wave similar results around with aplomb if we need to later!) - if the Tea Break card is drawn at position M, there are M-1 cards before it, which is (M-1)/(N-1) of the whole deck of useful cards. So the average is the sum of all those (M-1)/(N-1), with M ranging from 1 to N, divided by the N possible positions. 
(And here I wish I had a maths font.)
The sum of all the numbers from 0 to N is, by a handy mathematical co-incidence, N*(N+1)/2 (check it if you don't believe me). So the sum of all the individual (M-1)/(N-1)  for M from 1 to N (i.e. M-1 from 0 to N-1) is ((N-1)*N/2)/(N-1), which boils down to N/2. And if you divide that by N to get the average, you get 1/2, or 50%. Yay.
So, the probability of any random card appearing before the Tea Break card is 0.5, or 50%. Let's look at what this means for the question of blinds.

At the start of the game, there are three cards in the deck: Allied Blinds, Axis Blinds and the inevitable Tea Break. And there's a 50% chance that your Allied blinds card will come up before the Tea Break.

Let's activate an Allied platoon and its Big man, so now our deck contains Allied Big Man 1, Allied Platoon 1, Allied Blinds, Axis Blinds and Tea Break. Chances of the Allied Blinds coming up and you getting to move the rest of your blinds? Still 50%. But what are the odds on Allied Platoon 1 getting to activate?

Well - in order for no part of the platoon to activate, neither the Platoon card nor the Big Man card must come up. The probability of either of those events not happening is 1/2, so the probability of both cards not coming up is 1/2 * 1/2, or 1/4, 25%. So the chance of some part of Allied Platoon 1 getting activated is 3/4 - 75%. If there were no Big Man card for it, it'd be 1/2, 50%, the same as for the blinds.

In fact, given most units in IABSM tend to come with an associated Big Man, once you've deployed a unit off blinds, its chance of getting activated either by itself or its Big Man, is 75%, compared to only 50% if it stays on blinds. Admittedly, unless it's a level 3 Big Man, all its sections won't necessarily activate if it's a platoon, but...

In other words, the chance of units remaining on blinds getting activated doesn't decrease, but it is statistically better to deploy if you want to improve the odds of at least one section of a platoon (say) activating.

This article's homework? Prove, with a reasonable degree of rigour, that adding a second Tea Break card means you draw on average 2/3 of the deck before the second Tea Break comes up.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Battle report - 22 Oct 2012 - Dux Britanniarum

And, as you can probably guess from the previous post, Andy and I had another round of our Dux Britanniarum campaign on Monday at the club.

The Saxon hearthguard (left) move
to head off the patrol, while the rest
engage the forces at the tower.
This time we were again assisted by Andy M as umpire and keeper of the card decks. We rolled up the Border Tower raid from the rulebook, having decided to re-roll when we got the church scenario that we'd done before.

I sent the hearthguard off after Andy's patrol, across the middle of the board, while the warriors and missile troops headed for the tower. In one of those amusing quirks of card-drawing order and dice-roling, the warriors didn't quite make it to Andy's elites, and as a result, I was holding my breath to see which of British Lord and Saxon Leader One came up first the following turn.

Leofric's two warbands wind up just
short of Tribune Andrusius'
...and, thanks to a rotten cold, I can't actually remember who charged!

Either way, after two rounds, there was a mutual backing-off due to excess shock, followed by Andy's elites backing off further out of subsequent charge range.

Maximus Minimus faces down most
of the Saxon nobles.
About this point, my elites popped out of the wood, facing up against two groups of levy. There was a bit of toing and froing, and the third band of my warriors formed up with Leofric's two, and got stuck in to the levy.

And, due to a revisitation of last time's extraordinarily rubbish dice rolling, actually lost - with hindsight, recovering more shock before I charged would have been wise.

There was, at this point, a lot of everyone backing off and recovering shock.. all except for my hearthguard, which turned to approach the remaining group of Britons, the patrol, who were dearly hoping everyone had forgotten about them.

I advanced. Wound up just under 5" short. Waited for next turn. Aha! Saxon Lord is first up on the activation deck!

And about here is where Geraint gets
himself captured.
Curses! Andy has a Step Forth card in his hand, and gets to activate one noble right there and then, with a nice fat hand... rolls to make contact, and winds up about 1/2" short!

Two rounds of combat later, both of his warrior bands are backing off due to excess shock, one, sadly further than the other, and I'm now rolling three times the number of dice he is. Success! One British noble captured!

Admittedly, I took enough losses doing it to only net myself a Beggar's Bowl of treasure, but Andy's forces also took similar losses, and took a month longer to recover. So I did get a month's unopposed raiding in, and a Thief's Horde of loot. Which would have given me just enough to spread largesse amongst the hearthguard and have them name Aelfric Warlord, except that old Wulfhere needs paying for the amount the Saxons have eaten and (particularly) drunk while using his steading as a jumping-off point, come the end of the year.

So, onward - the year 473 calls, and with it, the unconquered lands of Linnius!

"To Britain's Shores": Chapter 3 - Hostage

Wulfhere's halls are a distinctly cheerier place tonight. Apart, that is, from our... for want of a better word, let's call him our guest. The sullen British noble is sat on the floor ignoring most of the jeers and the jibes thrown his way, but he's well aware that I, if no-one else, am keeping a close eye on him.

We were a few hundred paces from one of the watchtowers on the borders of the British lands, when Sithric, one of the young lads who'd wheedled his way along with us, came running back through a copse of trees, breathless. "There's a British lord and his band heading for the tower over that away..."

"Keep your voice down," hissed Aelfric. A horn blast from the watch tower suggested he was too late for that advice, but it didn't appear to faze him. "Leofric, Ecgwine - take your warbands and the boys and keep the tower busy. Godric, come with me and the hearthguard." Blue eyes glittered dangerously. "We're going to catch ourselves a noble."

Evidently the Young Wolf's words after last time's fiasco hit home. We faced off a bunch of the British levy who tried to head us off, led by their little man, and they clearly didn't fancy it. Just about that time, the band of warriors Sithric had spotted appeared past a small clump of trees... as if we needed an invitation. We knew we had them when their half-hearted charge petered out a few paces short...

"What are...*hic* we gonna do with him?" It's Leofric, who seems to have come out of the battle unwounded - his warband laid into their Tribune and chased him off, before having a run in with the little man.

"Kill him!" comes the suggestion from several folks. I'm watching the noble for a reaction, and to his credit, he doesn't so much as flinch.

Aelfric looks round, gauging the temper of his men. Lavinia's sat by Ecgwine again, murmurs something to him, which earns her an assessing look from the princeling and a nod, and he raises his voice. "Ransom him."

I don't think Aelfric saw that coming. Leastways, I know him well enough to catch the faint arch of his brows in surprise at the young man. "Ecgwine?" he prompts.

"Ransom him." Give the lad his due, once an idea's planted in his head, he can figure out the whys and wherefores. "Killing him would dishonour us, anger them, and put our lives at risk if they were to ever capture one of us." He actually grins. "And besides, we could use the money."

Wulfhere, our host, has been listening, propped against a roof-post; rumbles, "Aye, y'could that, 'specially the amount Leofric's been drinking that needs paid for." The latter makes a rude noise, to general amusement.

Aelfric nods, once, turns to the Briton. "On your feet, you. What's your name, and your Lord's?"

He's well aware I'm watching him, is the Briton, and gets to his feet just slow enough to suggest he's doing it because he wants to. "I am Geraint. My Lord's name is no business of yours, Saex."

A soft snort. "I would do your Lord the courtesy of addressing him by name when I barter for you, Geraint." Aelfric gives him an assessing look. "I am Aelfric, son of Aelfgar, and these are my warriors."

He stiffens, does the Briton. "Our Lord is the Tribune Andrusius." Grey eyes study Aelfric. "We have many men in Caer Lind Colun - you will not prevail, Saex, and I am not a thing to be bartered."

That earns him jeers, and a few suggestions about the bravery of some of those men, before Aelfric cuts them short with a single hand gesture. I can see that, for all his sullenness, Geraint is impressed at his command of what I'm sure the Briton thinks of as an unruly mob. "We will see, will we not." He glances across at me, nods, then turns back, "Ecgwine? Come speak with me a moment."

And so it is that a while later, Aelfric, me, Geraint and a group of our hearthguard are back at that watchtower. Whoever's in charge up there... from this distance it looks like the little man... is smart enough to stop one of their lads from feathering one of ours with an arrow. "What do you want, Saex?"

This is my job, and I step forward, and raise my voice. "I am Godric, champion of Aelfric son of Aelfgar. He wishes to speak with the Tribune Andrusius." The Latin name sits strangely on my tongue. "Who are you, stranger?"

"I am Decurio Maximus Minimus. Why should he negotiate with you barbarians?"

One of the Gedriht obligingly pushes Geraint forward, and I raise my voice again. "Aelfric has something he may want back."

Saturday 20 October 2012

Book review: Kenneth Macksey, "Battle"

One of several covers
for the various editions
of the book.
A long overdue book review, in fact. I've had a copy of this book since before I started this blog, and that was due to having read it from the library at home when I was a teenager and needing to re-read it! Being blessed with my first chance at a lie-in for several weeks, I actually got a chance to finish it this morning.

Kenneth Macksey's "Battle" is an account of a fictitious (although drawn from his own experiences as a tank commander during the era) battle during Operation Bluecoat in mid-1944. I thought it was a rattling good yarn when I read it as a kid, and it grows the better for my greater understanding of WW2 tactics and history.

Macksey focuses on the various commanders, from Colonel down to Corporal, who develop and implement the battle plan, and how they act and react under fire and the changing conditions of the battle. What was actually really interesting for me was to re-read this book now I have a reasonable grasp of the IABSM3 rules... there is, in fact, very little in Macksey's fictitious account of the action that didn't cause me to nod, and think 'yup, I can see how that would happen under the IABSM system'.

It is, sadly, a bit big to game as one IABSM encounter - there's four+ companies on the Allied side plus a whole squadron of tanks, pitted against a somewhat depleted three companies of Germans. There's a couple of key actions that might well make decent scenarios if extracted from it, though.

All in all? An excellent read, well recommended. One of the books that originally got me into WW2 wargaming.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Anglo-Saxon portraits, a BBC series

Courtesy of my ex-employers Aunty Beeb :D

iPlayer link here - also available on iTunes under 'The Radio 3 Documentary' for non-UK listeners (thanks Stefano!)
"Portraits of thirty ground-breaking Anglo-Saxon men and women.
The Anglo-Saxons are somewhat out of fashion, yet the half millennium between the creation of the English nation in around 550 and the Norman Conquest in 1066 was a formative one. 
This major new series for BBC Radio 3 rediscovers the Anglo-Saxons through vivid portraits of thirty individuals.
Contributors include Nobel prize-winner Seamus Heaney on the Beowulf bard; departing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on the first Archbishop of Canterbury, St Augustine; writer David Almond on the oldest surviving English poet, Caedmon; Michael Wood on King Alfred; Martin Carver on Raedwald; Richard Gameson on Eadfrith the Scribe; Helena Hamerow on the peasant-farmer; Geoffrey Robertson QC on the law-makers."
First up? Vortigern. Enjoy!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Review - IABSM supplement "Blenneville or Bust"

Ever wanted a nice company-level WW2 campaign with a decent level of context and story behind the games, without massive amounts of bookkeeping but with replay value?

Boy, are you in luck. :D

"Blenneville or Bust" is a new campaign supplement for I Ain't Been Shot Mum 3 by Robert Avery, and it rocks. I've had it for a couple of days now, but I figured I'd hold off on a review till I'd read it more thoroughly.

So, what do you get for your £9.50?

300 (no, that's not a typo) pages of campaign info, as a downloadable PDF. There's an intro to the campaign, which is set in a fictitious chunk of Normandy not long after D-Day, a raft of 6'x4' wargames table maps corresponding to key locations of strategic interest, a decision tree, and thirty one scenarios using the various maps in various directions with various forces.

The whole think is a linked narrative campaign with a slight nod to a Choose Your Path To Adventure book (sorry, Robert, just teasing!). Basically, you fight scenario 1, and depending on who wins, you go to 2a or 2b, and so on. There's a bunch of forces in the area with complete orbats, with some only-slightly-annoyingly-named Big Men (the Lardies' penchant for 'funny' or 'themed' sets of names is my one real peeve with many of their publications), and even a table that you can use to figure out a shopping list at your choice of wargaming emporium. They're well-designed scenarios, with clear objectives that (obviously) tie in to the campaign, and each comes with about 8 or 9 pages of briefing, split between one for the Allies, one for the Germans and one for the umpire, ready to print out.

Yep - you're gonna need an umpire (although you could maybe squeeze by without). Personally? I don't consider this a downside - I've been umpiring IABSM at the club for a couple of games now, and I actually enjoy it almost as much as playing.

Gripes? Apart from the slightly naff names, the maps leave a little to be desired graphically, in my opinion. But you don't, in general, buy Lardies' stuff for supremely glossy GW/Battlefront presentation values, and the maps are more than amply clear enough to lay the battlefield out on a table (though I am wondering how many feet of bocage in 15mm I'm going to need!).

These are, though, minor gripes, and don't detract from the meat of it, which is that it's a superbly put-together resource. There would be nothing to stop you using it with a fairly wide range of other company-level rulesets - not for me, but whatever floats your boat. :D The fact that it's a PDF is actually an advantage - as I said before, you can print off specific pages of briefing for each side (as well as maps) as and when you need them.

I for one aim to see if I can run through it for some of the IABSM players at the club in 2013, so watch this space for write-ups! Unreservedly recommended.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Battle report - 15 Oct 2012 - IABSM3

Another round of 'introduce IABSM to the club': again the first scenario from the book, this time with AndyM and Chris playing the British, and AndyMac the Germans.
Map (from IABSM rulebook,
© TooFatLardies 2012)

It went very differently. AndyM and Chris decided very early on that advancing on a prepared German position across a large cornfield that didn't afford overmuch cover was best done as fast as humanly possible. The end result of that was that they actually managed to knock out one of the German MG42s very early on (situated on the NE corner of the northernmost copse), and caused them to fall back to a second line of defence in the middle of the little hamlet.

The Germans' second line of defence
(or perhaps, de hedge).
Amusingly, the two sides of the road were a hair more than close-combat range apart (by accident, not design), so that part of things degenerated into a long, scrappy firefight.

AndyMac's second MG42, though, had moved to the south-easternmost (red-roofed) building, from which it basically denied the British any chance at a flanking manoeuvre - directed MG42 fire on a target in the open is really not funny if you're the target! (between 6 and 15 hits and at least a pin, making you a sitting duck for the next time).

In the end we ran out of time, though consensus was that a) next time I'd spend less time looking things up as umpire and b) it would probably be a narrow British victory as sheer weight of numbers and firepower would win out.

A good time was had by all - I'm starting to really enjoy umpiring IABSM!

Monday 15 October 2012

Battle report(s) - 14 Oct 2012 - El Cid at Eye of the Storm

After a frantic couple of days painting and basing (note to self, I am never buying cheap PVA again!), Andy, Grahame, Carl and I piled into the Andy-mobile at 0-dark-15 on Sunday for a trip to the Eye of the Storm gaming centre in Mansfield, where Tom had arranged an El Cid WAB campaign day.

What can I say? I had a ball - my Christian Spanish army (replete with two units of very tough Caballeros Hidalgos) acquitted itself pretty well for a first go, barring a few bizarre dice rolls!

My knights commence their roll up
of the opposition flank.
The ASB (c'mon, he's the bloke
with the mahoosive cross on a stick)
 is a Fireforge mounted Sergeant.
After a duel to determine who was king (Grahame won for us) our first game was a doubles match - a pitched battle. We (the forces of Aragon) won quite handily, largely due to a spectacularly bad failed Feigned Flight roll from JamesM's light cavalry, which basically allowed my knights to roll up one flank.

So far so good.

My Caballeros threaten some
Andalusian crossbowmen.
Next up, I got to play Bob on a Raid scenario - this was Castile vs Aragon, and he had a very light infantry/shooting heavy army, of which I completely failed to grab any photos.

Spot the ASB again, as the Cabelleros
go haring across the rear of the
Andalusian forces.
As a tactic it was interesting - their low morale made for a lot of running away, and my hitting a formed unit with a bunch of knights didn't help that. Surprisingly, though, I actually lost the battle after winning a humongous four unit brawl - we were down to about two units each at the end!

How many Feigned Flight rolls
can those lads make before the
Cabelleros and their BIG
standard catch them?
The last fight was a Dawn Raid against Keith's tricksy Almoravids. It... should have gone a lot better than it eventually did. I got stuck in early, despite the random (fog of battle) deployment, and wound up chasing around the back of the opposition army with a bunch of Caballeros Hidalgos.

The Peones making faces from
the alleged safety of the hilltop.
That bit went well. In the end, it came down to my Peones on a hill, facing down two groups of infantry including the scary blokes in black robes. The Peones, quite understandably, lost the fight and ran off, so I decided to clear the hill by smacking a large group of Caballeros Hidalgos, including my King, into them.

Run away! Bravely run away!
First round was a loss to me by one (bad dice) - leadership roll made, no worries. Second round, I lost by one (the one for having lost momentum last time). No problem, King is LD 9. Dice... rolled a 10. Oh, that's all right, I can reroll for the big and highly visible army standard within 12". Rolled a 9. Ooops.

Knights and King flee. All units within 12" test for general fleeing. Armiger and other unit of heavy knights, LD 8.... roll a 9. Other unit of Caballeros? roll a 10. Mercenary archers need a 7. Roll, yes, you guessed it, an 8.

I had one turn to rally them. I managed to rally 2 out of four. And lost the ensuing victory points calculation by... four measly points!

Having said that? Huge thanks to Tom and Scrivs for organising it, Andy for driving, everyone else for taking part. I'll be back!

Friday 12 October 2012

Blogger Secret Santa

Via several bloggers I follow, but originally from Ian at The Blog With No Name (to which the link points):
"OK so that everyone who wants to take part can get organised for the Secret Santa I think we have until this time next week to register their interest. So far I have interest from Conrad, Andy, Tim and Jonathan, which is less than I hoped but with Christmas being so far away I guess not everyone is thinking about this yet. If I don't get many more I will also enter, though the plan was just to run it.
A quick re-cap (original post here).
Spend is between £10-£15 plus postage. The idea is if the person lives in another country you buy from a on line retailer in their country. You blog post a wish list on your blog, either as a normal post or as an extra tab. I will randomly draw who your target is and let you know.
Simple really and a way of making sure you get something you really will like for Christmas. Of course you could leave it up to the buyer who can gain clue from looking on your blog.
So you have about a week to join in. Please feel free to advertise the Secret Santa on your blog's even if you yourself will not be joining in."
Sounds like a fun idea, and I'm all for things that enhance the wargaming blogger community.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Battle Report - 8-Oct-2012 - Dux Britanniarum

The initial setup - Saxons entering
from the left, Britons centre bottom.
Monday night saw the next round in Andy and my Dux Britanniarum campaign down at the club. Another Saxon raid, and this time we rolled up a raid on a church. I started out only rolling one turn of advance movement for the Saxons, and as I was moving through a wood, it took a little longer than I really wanted to get to the church, by which time the British Tribune and several warbands were facing off against Aelfric and his hearthguard.
Aelfric and Godric at the head of
the Saxon Gedriht.

About there is where it all started going downhill. Not fancying being charged by Andy's commanipulares in shieldwall, I backed off, hoping to draw them away from where Leofric and the warriors were raiding the church. It worked, up to a point.

The plan was to charge them on my terms, so when the Saxon Lord card came up, I declared a charge, planning on using a Carpe Diem, a couple of Boar cards and an Aggressive Charge. Andy promptly trumped it with a Step Forth card, which allowed him to take his turn immediately. Fortunately, he did this before I'd played any cards on my activation, so I plonked down the card I wasn't planning on using, an Evade, and rocked back out of range. Of course, then it was my turn, so I got to charge after all. So far, so good.
The notorious Maximus Minimus
and the British levy.

However... let's just say that my dice rolling in the combats that followed will probably be the subject of a Probability For Wargamers article. In a nutshell, it stank. I lost count of the number of times I rolled way below the expected number of hits, and I think I only managed above average once.

After two turns, both units of hearthguard were headed for the baseboard edge, having lost their amphora, and all that was left holding the British at bay, and more importantly, distracting them from Leofric's dirty work, was Ecgwine and a single unit of warriors.
The Gedriht in full rout. Ecgwine and
his warband (on the right) attempt
to hold the line.

My dice for that fight wasn't any better, and in fact all that saved him from going back to the fair Lavinia on a bier was the fact that I rolled just as few 5s and 6s for wounds as I did for my attacks!

At this point, I was on force morale 1, and very close to losing the raid. Except that Leofric had just found the Holy Knucklebone of St. Cadwyr and the church plate, and out of the church he and two warbands came, smack into Maximus Minumus and the British levy, and me with a fat hand of Fate cards.

Trust Leofric to find the wine.
That result, at least, went the way probability said it would.

If ever a victory could be said to be Pyrrhic, this was. As I remarked to Andy, on the subject of the abysmal performance of the Saxon hearthguard: "Aelfric is going to be very very unhappy."

"To Britain's Shores": Chapter 2 - "The Church"

I don't think I've ever seen Aelfric this angry before.

He came back from across the river with news of a village with a church to the Britons' Christ-god, ripe for the taking, and a new wolf-skin cloak. Some of Wulfhere's men who went with him have started calling him the Young Wolf, and, truth to tell, it fits.

We came on the village just as a bunch of the Britons - I swear, the same ones we fought before: I'd recognise that short warrior of theirs in the red cloak anywhere - were moving to head us off from the west. Aelfric, me and his dozen Gedriht, the hearthguard who are his sworn bodyguard, moved to head them off, backed up by Ecgwine, Theobald and his band, while Leofric took another dozen warriors and headed for the church.

"We should have taken them." Aelfric has waited till everyone's wounds are cleaned up and bound, Lavinia and a couple of the Saxon women working their way among the tattered survivors of our band. She moves to sit by Ecgwine now she's done, rests dark hair on his shoulder. If she's upset at the desecration of her god's church by Leofric, she's smart enough to keep it to herself. Bright girl. 

His voice is deathly quiet."We should have taken them," he repeats, ice-blue eyes sweeping along the men facing him. There's a chorus of sullen assent, none of them really wanting to meet his gaze. They messed up. We messed up. I count myself as one of them, Thane's champion or not, and I'm very glad Aelfric has me stood by him right now, so I don't have to meet that look. "All you had to do... All you had to do was stand firm for long enough for Leofric to do his job. Are you not my hearthguard?"  A snort. "Are you not warriors?" Louder. "Or are you women and cowards?" 

The last time anyone used that last word in Wulfhere's hall, it was Ecgwine. Even he winces, this time, and Lavinia murmurs something to him which earns her a sharp shake of the head. Good. He's learning. 

Aelfric stalks the width of the dais. "The Atheling... the princeling..." He means Ecgwine. " more warrior than you are." Fair play to the lad - his warriors did stand firm against twice their number, including that Tribune with the very quick blade, for long enough to delay the Britons from getting to Leofric. He bristles a little, does the princeling, at the implied slur, though, but Lavinia stretches up, hair brushing his cheek, and whispers something in his ear that earns her a surprised look, then a nod, and he's paying a lot of attention to Aelfric now. I make a mental note to have a word with the lass sometime.

Leofric gestures with a horn brimming with wine. "But we did... heh... loot the church. Can't... argue w' the plan." 

"Barely, Leofric." The blue-eyed glare won't work on the Drunkard, and Aelfric is smart enough to realise, turns that ice-cold regard back on his Gedriht. "Barely," he repeats. Words cutting like the keen edge of a blade. "You shame me. You dishonour me, and everyone else here." 

I think every man of us would prefer it if he shouted.

"I picked you, every man of you, because you were the best, the bravest. Today you ran from a fight." There's a moment there when I think he's lost them, before he unsheathes the broadsword at his waist, jams it hard, point down, into the dais at his feet, and leans on it, hands on the hilt. Offers them a  chance at redemption. "Next time, there will be no running. Next time..." Those blue eyes scan the warriors before him, assessing, judging. "Next time there will be no cowardice. Next time there will be no dishonour." He straightens, tugging the blade loose, holds it up in an outstretched arm. "There will be a next time, and as Odin is my witness, we will prevail."

Saturday 6 October 2012

"To Britain's Shores" - Interlude (Godric)

Map cropped from Dux Britanniarum rulebook,
© Too Fat Lardies 2012
There are, it has to be said, worse places to hole up and recuperate than Wulfhere the Red's steading here in what the British call Petvaria. It's a chunk of the north shore of the river Humbre, and we're actually living in a place that used to belong to the Romans.

Been a strange couple of months, mind. Aelfric's sent a boat across the river a couple of times, him and some of Wulfhere's riders who know the lands south of the river, just to scout out the lay of the land and see where we can strike next. The Britons have been quiet - I wonder if they're hoping that we're gone for good. 

No such luck.

Me? I've been swapping stories with some of Wulfhere's men, trying to keep Leofric from getting too drunk, and keeping one eye on Ecgwine when Theobald isn't. Not that the lad seems to need it: he's actually, somehow, managed to keep himself out of trouble, and land himself a girl whose father doesn't want to kill him. I guess this is made kind of easier by the fact that she's a Briton, and a serving lass in Wulfhere's halls. If you like 'em dark-haired and dark-eyed, she's a pleasant enough armful, is Lavinia, and Ecgwine does seem genuinely taken by her. She's smart, quick-witted, and not afraid of us, which I guess is a good thing. Not sure what his father would say, but then, I don't see that his father needs to know right now. 

Wulfhere and his men have plenty of tales to tell. They came over the sea to here, maybe twenty years ago, in the pay of the Britons, supposedly defending the shores from... well, the likes of us. And then the Britons decided they were too dangerous to have around, and stopped paying them, and the rest, as they say, was inevitable. Wulfhere had found himself a woman, and the lads were all happy here, so they basically said 'too bad, we're staying', and variously chased off and killed the British men and captured their women and children. If I were Ecgwine, I might be a little careful that Lavinia doesn't try to slip something between my ribs one night. To be fair to the lass, though, she seems almost as taken with him. Even if she is a follower of this strange Christ-god of theirs.

Aelfric should be back shortly from another scouting trip. Leofric's stopped being a miserable drunk and started being a loud and boisterous one again, which means he's pretty much healed. The rest of  the lads are recovered too, and everyone's starting to get a little restless. A few of Wulfhere's men want to come with us this time, so as soon as the Thane's back with a plan, we'll be off. 

I think I might spend the rest of today getting my gear in order.

Friday 5 October 2012

Today's new arrivals

Just handed to me from our post room.

Some Westwind Arthurian (Romano-British and Saxon) command figures. I'm hoping with a little creative work I can produce figures for Aelfric and Ecgwine to go with the ones for Leofric and Godric for next Monday's Dux Britanniarum game.

Next New Things

A topic I was pondering on a while back, when a thread on the TFL Yahoo! group [I'm sorry, it's an ingrained reaction: I used to work for Yahoo! and my fingers just find the exclamation mark without conscious thought!] tonight, in a strange case of parallel evolution, prompted me to actually type up some of my thoughts. This is something of a disjointed train of thought, but hey - it's late (even if this won't get posted till tomorrow) - if it makes sense to you, some of the credit definitely goes to the Lardies list, and if you aren't on it, go! It's full of people who talk more sense than I do.

Now, I know I'm a bit of a latecomer to this hobby, this time around, but it does seem to me that lately we've been through a phase of a whole bunch of Next New Things. Every few months something else pops up that everyone gets excited about, and we all play it and post about it for a while and then it all dies down a bit. Examples that spring to mind? SAGA, Operation: Squad, Napoleon at War, for a few that I've come across, and I'm sure that there are others. The latest? I guess Bolt Action, Dux B (both Dux B's!), Dreadball...

I guess this is in some ways, human nature. We're a paradoxical bunch - at the same time we're resistant to change (witness the outcry when, say, a new edition of 40K tweaks your favourite rule/army list) and  we embrace the new and get bored by the old if it doesn't have that mythical concept of replay value.

Maybe our eagerness to embrace the Next New Thing is also about an indirect quest for replay value - trying things that break us out of a rut and we hope will be the one to hold our interest. And of course, the problem with the wargames rules business is that even the most perfect set of wargames rules, the ones with huge replay value, only sell one copy per interested gamer. So... you know how it goes. Supplements. New editions. Relaunches...  And if you're also a figure manufacturer, supplements mean... new figures. And that's where the real money is.

Apparently the Next New Thing in the Flames of War world is US Tank Destroyers: one can only assume that this is some inherent imbalance in the relevant game supplement, since everyone and his dog is throwing money at Battlefront to buy the latest winning army. One has to wonder how long it'll be before the next supplement comes out with another list that tops it...

If I were more of a cynic, I'd almost wonder if they did it on purpose.

Personally? Yay Battlefront for producing various 15mm WW2 figures that no-one else does, and the new plastic set looks like a really handy way of getting a bunch of figures and vehicles.... but you still won't catch me playing it.

I've seen reports from folks on the Lardies list of other people selling all their 15mm WW2 stuff to buy 28mm to play Bolt Action because apparently you can't play it in 15mm...


Colour me boggled. But, full marks to Warlord, it would appear, for a superb marketing campaign: and, as above, if it gets me a wider range of figures and vehicles in 28mm to add to my already extant collection, great.

I dunno, maybe I'm either just more rational or less well-off!

Thursday 4 October 2012


Well, that wasn't a bad month. First game in the Dux Britanniarum campaign with Andy Hawes (the next one's next week), introducing the club to IABSM (the next one of those is the week after next!)...

And, despite work mayhem for most of the last couple of weeks in September, 5000 page views in a month, for which many thanks to all my readers and commenters.

Coming up in October - an El Cid day at Maelstrom, more IABSM and Dux Britanniarum, more heraldry, more probability, and finally the last of the horses! And I may even get time to try out the Lardies "Troops, Weapons and Tactics" and also paint some 15mm Germans.

See you soon!

Monday 1 October 2012

Probability for Wargamers 4 - More on looting

So - last time's homework problem. If you succeed on a 6, and fail completely on a 1, how many rolls do you need to make before your chance of success exceeds 50%?

The answer, which may or may not surprise you - it did me till I thought about it - is an infinite number! And you actually don't need to do much maths to prove it.

Think about it: the probability of failing or succeeding, on any given roll, is exactly the same, 1/6. You are as likely to find nothing at all (and give up) as you are to find something, and have odds of 4 in 6 of rolling again. So the odds of rolling again after two throws is 4/6 * 4/6, after three is 4/6 * 4/6 * 4/6: this number gets progressively smaller and smaller really quite fast (it's less than 1 in 10 after 6 rolls) as you roll more dice, but never quite reaches 0%. Which means your chance of stopping never quite reaches 100%, and if you do stop, it's a straight two-way bet whether you stop because you succeed, or because fail completely, so your chance of success never quite reaches 50%. Full marks if you figured that out!

The rules also say that if you don't find anything in the first two buildings, you will find something in the third, and that you need to find two somethings to succeed. I wonder - if you have infinite time to spend, what odds do you have on successfully completing the raid?

Again that's pretty easy to figure out. You have a 1/2 chance of finding something in each of the first two (as you'll eventually roll either a 6 or a 1), and a 100% in the third if you need it, as you will eventually roll a 6. So in fact, the problem boils down to finding at least one in the first two buildings. What are the odds on that?

If things clicked for you in the past couple of posts, you'll realise it's easy - one minus the odds of finding none. Which is to say, 1 - (1/2 * 1/2), or 75%.

There are two things to add to this. First off, it should be pretty obvious from this that your best strategy is to search in parallel... like I didn't... with as many groups as you can spare, and defend your searchers with the remainder of your force. Remember the plan.

Secondly... remember the gambler's fallacy! Dice don't have memory. Just because we figured out that your chance of rolling a 6 in four dice rolls is better than 50%, that doesn't mean that if you blow the first roll, you have a just over 50% chance of getting it in the next three! The first roll is history: it's a statistically independent event whose odds of failure used to be 5 out of 6 until you rolled the dice and failed, but are now 100%. Your odds for any single roll are still 1 in 6, no matter what you rolled last time.

Next time, we'll roll 2d6, and look at Black Powder and Blitzkrieg Commander command rolls.
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