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To the Strongest: The Normans

Well it’s March the first and another wargames army is finished! Please don’t contact your legal representative, I promised an army a month and this counts!….and if you need more reasons? It just does!

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“Tae the Stangest!” Wargaming with medieval Scots

The challenge was an army to be completed a month. It’s the end of Feb and I’ve just got one completely finished and another, the Normans, almost finished. It’s not quite painting from scratch, merely putting all the pieces together for in this first case , medieval Scots.

It’s those big bases again I’m afraid! 80mm wide has become the Tercio standard. This final lot are the lowland spearman. They are Navwar minis in the main and Swiss at that…
Last week’s Galwegians are good for games up to the mid- thirteenth century but these are later. Eight deep spear units for post 1400 games I reckon. They don’t have armour or shield so are definately later warriors.
They will stretch over the whole of my deployment in a typical To the Strongest game and deep spear are so tough. They may even stretch to raw pike at Flodden. One can’t help but commiserate for the badly trained clansmen shot to pieces in the mud!
The above represent the armoured dismounted nobles. To the Strongest allows two units to be upgraded- a chance at least to get to grips with enemy longbowmen.
The Scottish army can have three longbow units of its own but I decided that short bow skirmishes would be more useful; they can fit in the same square as deep units and protect the spear,
The commanders were finished months ago so that’s one army done. Two batteries of guns , Islesmen and a Highlander unit complete the array.
They may not be the most manoeuvrable army but they will surely be resilient. Now I have two days to complete the Normans !

We shall see!

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Wargaming the Sagas: The Book of Battles

As promised, this time I want to introduce you to the Book of Battles, in many ways this is the best and most innovative book in the series, with probably the shortest description. Why don’t the other rule writers take a look at this book and adapt some of the ideas.

Like all books in the series this starts off with a section on How To Use This Supplement then follows on with Determining The Winner and Setting Up The Table, it is then that the really interesting part starts with a simple chapter called Skirmishes. Just looking at the contents page it has one scenario called Battle of Heroes but this is where the innovation kicks in, providing the players with 7,776 variations on that scenario. 

By rolling a D6 against each of 5 options in the Methods table we generate The Scenery, the Forces deployment, the Length of game, any Special rules to be used and finally the Victory Conditions to determine the winner. Each of these options are then described in the following pages.The next Chapter, Battles has 10 scenarios that offer the players some additional tactical challenges and some additional rules that will be needed to exploit this chapter to the full, including; Objective markers, Rivers Baggage and Entering and Leaving the Table

The 10 scenarios are:

  • Prized Possessions
  • Claiming Territory
  • Feasting and Pillaging
  • A Tale of Challenges
  • Ambush!
  • Guard the Loot
  • Desecration
  • Old Feud
  • The Crossing
  • Change of Plans

If that was not enough the next Chapter brings in four new scenarios under the heading of Legends. These have been primarily designed for friendly games, bringing a narrative element to the game with an emphasis on the story they tell:

  • Catch Them All
  • Urban Uprising
  • Encounter in an Unknown Land
  • Brothers in Arms

As previously new rules are introduced that are intended to be used with the scenarios, but equally can be used in our other games.

The penultimate Chapter, Mass Battles allows a more chaotic way of playing SAGA with 3 or 4 players, both in team or a confrontation where they can all play as they want. This also allows for a element of treachery. 

  • Brothers in Arms
  • Battle Royale
  • Wooden Oaths

These three new scenarios, again with a few new rules are presented along with a Mass Battle terrain Table.

The ultimate Chapter, Sagas does not offer any scenarios but is a tool that allows the player to provide a career where the warlord gains experience over a number of games. This experience can be used to gain new talents and also introduces a handicap system so that the player with less experience is not completely overwhelmed.

I cannot praise these two books, The Rules and The Book of Battles too highly, they provide the tools by which we as players can enjoy the experience that is SAGA. With 7,794 scenarios I don’t think I will ever play them all. Incidentally there are another set of 6 Victory Conditions that can be downloaded free from the Gripping Beast site, that gives us a staggering 46, 674 options.

Hopefully this article has encouraged you to look further with SAGA and next time I will look at the first of the SAGA Universe I will be covering, The Age of Vikings.

Uncle Ken

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Wargaming the Galwegians

The challenge was to complete a wargames army each month of 2021! I’ m a little behind schedule but this latest contingent of Galwegians means I’m nearly there!

The Galwegians originally started out as Sicilian Greeks. The beauty of Essex miniatures is that they and you can proxy miniatures for the period in question. I needed Galwegians and so a reorganisation was in order.
Did you spot it?

Yes, in my world at least Sicilians have dark hair and the denizens of South East Scotland in the feudal period were of course?

You guessed it! It’s funny how genetics are still string North of the border and some Scots are notoriously bad at remembering dates!

The miniatures were quite non-period specific but with their new colouring they should pass muster for Galwegians warriors. To the Strongest allows for five deep units but if you want more than one in a command then they have to be allies. Quite a consideration but indicative of their fractious nature perhaps?
I am now hooked on the Impetvs style basing. I did add cork to the bases to elevate some areas of the base. So the central warrior in the photo above is not some kind of giant!
The figures may well end up as Welsh freedom fighters in our forthcoming re-enactments and I even found one or two leek motifs on the shields but god knows what I meant those to be when they were Sicilians! So it’s back to the painting table to finish the rest of the army.
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Miguel’s Little Homestead; stop outsourcing your life!

Two notable things happened after my last post. Firstly an eminent psychiatrist started following my blog and secondly a certain Senór James sent me a link to a great YouTuber: Andy’s Little Homestead.

My latest hero!

Not wishing to engage the services of psychiatric help I thought I’ d follow the advice of Andy for just one day and the results were illuminating.

Half term is a great time to stop “outsourcing”. First I went for a morning walk. I felt better already. Not quite up to Annie’s workout schedule but a forty minute walk allowed me to consider the tasks for the day. Secondly it allowed me to deface the Welsh Nationalist stickers that have appeared all over my riverside walk.

Making fire all the way from scratch.

Man needs fire! Remember that your sons are watching you; learning from your example. Ever the stranger to park regulations we used “ newly fallen “ wood to cheer ourselves in the Winter chill. Like any prepper, we brought kiln dry wood and a barbeque igniter to start the survival fire. The bow drill will be next week!

You have to love Andy’s site. Any site which contains the link , “ My favourite tools – the machete” is worth my admiration. We finished our trek with simple unarmed fighting techniques. I always found apologising profusely to a potential mugger the best policy – followed by a sucker punch when my assailant had turned to leave. Again important lessons for later broadcasts from the homestead.

I guess I have a drill now!

There can be nothing as humiliating as your father in law drilling the walls on your own homestead! I had enough, I needed my own power tool! My last one went mysteriously missing after an unfortunate incident drilling a bedroom wall. My drill went through to my daughter’s room wall and skewered her favourite Teddy bear. She awoke to the sight of a daemon teddy spinning wildly on the tip of my drill protruding from the next room! She has recovered now ( just! ). My old drill, like my DVD of the Wolf of Wallstreet had gone but unlike the DVD , it could be replaced.

it was fixed! We were no longer the only house in the street where a bazooka round may have impacted. Andy may have a new goat pen but I had a new drill and the satisfaction of fixing the vent was amazing!

The above may not look much but to me it was another chance to exhibit the new me. Two footballs and a basketball had gone over the fence to lay in a railway line graveyard. My youngest son’s eyes filled up. Could the reluctant hero help? It was dangerous, you could be fined, what did it matter?
It mattered to me! It’s difficult to capture the sheer fear that gripped me balancing on top of a plastic bin whilst manoeuvring a step ladder over the fence. Like Santa punching an expectant line of kids, I was assured that it was a disturbing site but you could not take your eyes off the scene!

I’d found the new me! Never mind worrying and fretting, get out there and stop outsourcing your life! Andy’s Little Homestead is now required viewing in my casa even if The Wolf of Wall Street is still “ missing!” Pity those who have not found the inner homesteader!
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Wargaming the Second American Civil War 2024

After a great deal of tech support from Comrade Jackson of our rival Antiwash organisation, I  thought it opportune to return to the good old matrix game. If you have not come across Matrix game before, the system could not be simpler; each player constructs a series of “arguments” and the proposal is rated by the umpire as anything between “very likely” to “preposterous.” The dice are thrown and the argument is either accepted or rejected. Note that players are free to adopt any persona they wish. The views in this game do not reflect any wishful thinking on our part! In order to keep the blog on the net, only slightly offensive arguments are accepted for publication. Here I give the brief outline of a matrix game phone call on that least contraversial topic possible, a return of Donald Trump in 2024.

“Four years of Biden presidency have not managed to heal the polarisation of US society.”

Argument 1. Far left groups will not be satisfied with a return to powerlessness. To paraphrase Lenin; they have prodded with a bayonet and not found any steel.

Argument 2. The U.S. Economy has embarked on a Green new deal with disasterous repercussions to economic performance.

Being at heart a liberal,  rated Jerry’s argument as 50:50. The dice agreed with Jerry; America was in for economic meltdown!

“The Right wing organises itself in the face of the challenge of the Left.”

Arguments; many are ex-military and have access to networks that have been years in the making.

The umpire rated this as unlikely. The last armed right wingers to face the Federal military came off a poor second in the First Civil War. Besides, the US military is the most powerful on the planet and the US state’s foundation story is based on opposing right wingers, either in the Civil War or in World War Two.

The dice agreed with the Umpire’s decision and there was no militia challenge from the Right. The streets belong to an emboldened Left then..

“What started as a wish to avoid offence leads to monitoring of all forms of human communication.”

Argument 1; Big Tech has shown itself more than willing to join in with cancel culture.

Argument two: The ” Cathedral “of media, education and corporations wish to “save ” democracy from Trump. Time magazine has another cover story.

Likely and the dice once again agreed. Promises from politicians grow ever wilder but dissent is quashed and anger levels reach boiling point.

Jerry comes back with the idea of Technology saving the day. Each time the Reds have challenged rules and tradition, new technologies have come to their aid. Argument one was more an example. Covid lockdown has exposed the sheer number of people who are quite content to stay at home if they are frightened or comfortable enough. Argument two was a Matrix reference, “taking the red pill” and seeing the true reality has always been an unpopular option. A.I. and bots keep the population docile.

The dice agree: people stay apathetic but only obey those laws that are enforced e.g. people stick to speed limits but stupify themselves with drugs. The consequences of speaking out are too great for individuals to risk- like Christians in the declining Roman Empire- they people pay lip service to authority but no one believes in the system enough to actively defend it if a shock comes.

Jerry and I discussed long and hard what the shock might be? I mentioned another pandemic, briefly considered a zombie apocalypse but we went with a military challenge from China over Hong Kong.

Jerry proposed that China sees its time has finally come! So many wars on terror, drugs or evil have come and gone, people will not sign up. China was the only country in 2020 to have a positive GNP and their stooges in  the Swamp can’t see that Christmas is coming and they are the turkeys, nicely fattened by Chinese grain.

Even the dice were C.C.P.infiltrated! The second Cold War had turned hot. The recruiting offices were deathly quiet and Corporate America scrambles to wring the last dollar out of the economy.

I thought I’d head for a resolution here with some common ground between Right and Left:

“A patchwork of city states is created. “

Each mini state is run like a corporation- modern day cameralism. There is no internal democracy , only the right to leave at any time. New technology allows the building of massive structures on the ocean bed. Democracy has finally ground down to this!

The verdict was “not likely” but the die decided that humanity had a marine future!

It had been a mentally challenging exercise. I leave it to you to decide whether it likely that Donald Trump comes back to save the day? It’s funny how these matrix games can throw up the strangest of ideas. We started from the news of Trump’s non-impeachment and ended with a war with China and the flight of population to the ocean! Jerry was vindicated in his mistrust of big corporations and I felt like a very old man warning about what happens when you break the “nomos” or natural rules and laws that support civilisation. It’s back to toy soldiers for me this week, matrix games can be upsetting!

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Wargaming goes digital!

After an initial confusion caused by the word “gay-ming”, Chris ‘the Tornado’ Jackson has consented to allow us tabletop gamers into the hi-tec world of Internet gaming……

Having Fun on line! But, not that sort of fun!!! 

Well its almost a year since life as we know it (Jim) has changed beyond all recognition and I don’t know about you but Im just about fed up with it. I’m missing playing games in real life and having that banter that you only get face to face. Oh!!! Hang on a minute, what theres a way to almost have exactly the same enjoyment but on line!! Tell me more!!! 

Yep, you can play games with friends and have as much banter as in real life, on line!!!! How? I hear you say! Well hopefully this article will help you do just that and instead of Lockdown giving you a headache it’ll be your partner doing it as they will be moaning about how much time you’re spending with your mates playing games on line. Now that will be as close to reality as you can get lol😊 

Clearly, most of you will be missing playing with your little men (Miiiiike…. put him down) so the first thing I will address is just that. 

Playing L’art de la Guerre, Field of Glory, etc, etc. 

If you sign up to Steam – you can do just that!!! This is free to join but you will have to pay for a tool on steam called Tabletop Simulator – Tabletop Simulator to play the above games.  

Unfortunately, this was on offer at half price until recently but even at £14.99 it’s a bargain.

Once you have paid this ONE OFF payment you have access to lots of Table Top games that we all played in real life. Not ONLY that but you get access to other stuff as well but I will deal with this a bit later on. 

Here is a speeded up video of a game posted by Tim (themadaxeman) Porter to give you some idea of what its like. 

There is a support group on Facebook called L’Art de la Guerre play with Tabletop Simulator  and I am sure that anyone on the group will give you help on how to set up a game. Also talking of support there is a Discord group that you can also use to get help and this is what we use to talk to each other via a mic and headphone while playing the game. Click the below link 

Discord Group 

That’s about all you need to get on line for wargames! 

Board Games Galore or how 007 occupies himself in Lockdown ?

Now for the more cultured wargamer that likes to challenge themselves mentally there are numerous ways to play board games on line. 

!) Steam/Tabletop Simulator 

The Steam server – allows you to buy various games to play and that’s all well and good but if you haveTabletop Simulator this gives you acces to litterally THOUSANDS of games that you can play for FREE. Many of the games are either board game wargames or tacticle games that will fullfil your need for speed (not that sort of speed). There are also many stratergy games that will test the brightest minds to the full or there are many just fun (not that sort of fun) games that you will have a laugh with your mates playing. 

Discord is used to talk while playing the game. 

Rating: 10/10 

2) Board Game Arena 

This server – also allows you to play many games for free as it doesn’t cost anything to register BUT if you want to play some of the more popular games you will need to become a Gold Member which costs 2 Euros/month for a year or 4 Euros/month on a monthly basis. Again, very cheap for what it gives you access to. 

Again Discord is used to talk while playing the game. 

Rating: 9/10 

3) Yucata 

This is a far simpler server – that doesn’t have the same amount of popular games on but again its free to register and all the games are free. One of the benefits of this server is that it may not have the big games on there but it does have some GREAT games on there that aren’t on the other servers. 

Discord is also used to talk while playing the game. 

Rating: 8/10 

4) Tabletopia 

This server – is the most expensive of them all. It is free to register and you can play a lot of games for free but to play the Primum games you either have to pay $4.99/month for Silver Membership or $9.99/month for Gold Membership which as I said is the most expensive of all the servers. 

Again Discord is used to talk while playing the game. 

Rating: 6/10 

Playing on line games isn’t for some people I know but I think it’s the closest we’ve got to the real thing until we can sort out this pain in the arse (not that sort of pain in the arse) virus!!! I love playing on line, even if it isn’t quite as good as the real thing, because you interact with your opponent(s) and it keeps your brain ticking over all while you’re having a great laugh. What’s not to like about that!!!!! 


Happy gaming folks!!! 

Chris Jackson


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Wargaming the American Civil War- a little more grape?

Just as the world of wargaming has been thrown into a frenzy by Epic Battles by Warlord games, the Tercio has reached half way in their own homage to that most constant of favourites, the A.C.W.. Is Epic scale 10mm, 12mm, N gauge or true 15? It’s beyond me, I’ve plumped for great big 18mm miniatures for my armies and I’m very pleased with them.

The figures are from Lancashire Games, designed by the very talented Kevin Howroyd. I’ve been slowly collecting up enough figures to refight Battle Cry games but with Blücher rules. If you are new to this project then it will hopefully become clearer as the year progresses. Basically GMT give the Battles and I play with a variant of Blücher wargames rules called Chamberlain ( oldmeldrumwargamesgroup is the must visit site!)

As you can see the miniatures are decidedly on the “chunky” or I prefer “athletic” side of 15/18mm. I love the sculpting and animation that Kevin has been able to apply. The faces especially are so characterful. I failed to find how many guns were in each pack so I now have a lot more guns than the Union needed. The models go together very well and are well cast in the main. A few spokes were missing but at the prices Lancashire Games charge , I can forgive them that. The web store appears to be almost always having a sale; thank goodness!

The artillery in the A.c.W. Was of course of critical importance, especially to the defence. Although the arm cannot do without infantry and cavalry support, the guns arguably changed the whole character of early modern warfare. The normal ratio was 2-4 guns per one thousand men, although Lee occasionally reached 8-10 gunned in his undermanned Army of Northern Virginia.

Blücher / Chamberlain gives the wargamer General the opportunity to either divide his arty between his brigades or else mass the batteries. The ideal use of artillery was in mass at medium range and with crossed fire. The three massed Union batteries depicted here should make Jonny Reb very anxious to close with the Union lines.

The aim was to “finish” an army a month in 2021. The Union army may take longer that the Scots that are now overdue. I hope to finish my Hun horde by the close of February. As to the Union infantry, I’m guided by Oliver Keppelmuller’s Grand Tactician Civil War computer game. I’m don’t intend putting more than twelve to fifteen figures on each unit base so I may well keep up with the schedule. I’ll add a list of paints at the close of the project in case anyone is desperate to paint quickly in the infamous Despertaferres quick paint style!

Please note I’ve been practising my draughtmanship for the forthcoming battlefield visits. Apologies to Mr. Dennis.

Have a great week ahead!



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Wargaming mini dramas

I look with fear that the new Pulp Figures 1066 range will include minis in “tight formation”. Just as the Tercio is switching to diorama basing, the punter is offered neat ranks. My new Romans are so anxious to get into the fight that they pay no heed to formation. I’m moving away from neat ranks and letting each base or unit (hopefully) tell a story. It was the much maligned Keith Mc Glynn who started adding tableaux to his bases and now the trend has finally reached the Principality.

The ‘mini dramas’ of history were mentioned in Lindybeige’s introduction to “In search of Hannibal.” Sometimes we cannot even begin to imagine ourselves in the position of the great captains but we could imagine ourselves sitting terrified on a stallion awaiting an order, or else mourning the loss of a comrade/father/ home. Max Hastings has written this week about the perilous state of military history in America’s “formerly” elite universities. Apparently fewer Americans graduate in History than they did in the 1950’s. Military history may be too white, ot too problematic for modern institutions. We aren’t glorifying war of course, we want to capture the two aspects of war that the Ancients were aware of.

Homer’s Iliad contains many references to the pageantry and excitement of war but his genius lies in the inclusion of so many references to the tragedy and awfulness of war. Achilles only fights when his best friend is killed fighting in his stead. Perhaps if our own leaders were more well versed in History then the wars in the Middle East would have not involved the US if the lessons of Vietnam had been leanrt. 

So charging with Maximus we go! Gripping Beast plastics in the main and what a delight to build and paint they are. I used liquid poly for the construction; a welcome relief from superglue and pinning. The colours are GW contrast paints; again I can’t praise them enough. The keen eyed will notice I’ve taken every short cut with the painting- classic toy soldier style, “if it’s complicated or can’t be seen, then don’t bother!” Basing similarly, is only glue the minis onto the base, P.V.A. White glue and builders’ sand from B and Q. . I would like to give a complete run through of paints but to my shame I think I only used five or six, excluding washes. So to placate Mark, I’ll include a war dog!

If you are interested in the period then you must seek out the new Ospreys that include the work of Andrey Negin. He is certainly a new talent to watch. His style is more photographic than Peter Dennis, or even Angus Mc Bride, but they are still very  attractive. Andrey avoids the current vogue for peacock coloured Romans but that’s a good thing of course.

Do you side with the civilising Romans or the barbarian Germans!? Now, that’s a loaded question. The film Gladiator shows Roman virtues and vices. The latest Netflix sensation in my house, Barbarians, poses a similar dilemma . Do I side with the Romans or the Germans? You know the answer! Barbarians nearly got me to change allegiance though.

I’ll leave the last words to Homer. Who would have thought  painting soldiers would involve philosophy?

Thanks for reading


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Wargaming’s dark side

We all know at least one; a gamer who pushes that little too far. The rules are one thing but are you playing to the spirit of the rules? Do you want to play against someone who measures that little too far or is prepared to argue ad infinitum over nuance. Tabletop gamers are not alone.

Vikkstar123 a.k.a. Vikram Singh Barn has had enough. The gaming guru is quitting Call of Duty Warzone because “it’s saturated with hackers.” The cheaters are in the ascendant and have destroyed competive CoD play. Since its release last March, fifty million gamers have signed on to the Warzone. Since that time Activision have suspended seventy thousand players with active bans. Activision has declared a zero tolerance of cheating but why won’t people play fair?

Firstly, it’s easier. The programme for the hack may be complicated but once it’s written, it’s so easy to apply. Do you get the same endorphin rush when you win with such methods? It would appear so. The aimbot has received the most criticism, improving accuracy and speed of target acquisition.  A wall- hack will allow the gamer to see through walls and cover. My old Uncle Gwyn used to just lob his sten gun into houses to see if there was a target inside! Camping has its echoes in tabletop gaming of course; the player hiding from the gun battles and emerging victorious at the close of the name. The ability to heal in super time can also be accelerated. Seventy thousand gamers couldn’t resist.

iLikeCheats has wormed it’s way into the subconscious of a new generation. Is it funny to cheat a worthy opponent of their victory? It would appear so! I wholeheartedly agree with Vikkstar, the only answer is to avoid such players until they find themselves without anyone wanting to play them. Let them claim their laurels and then leave them to their hollow victory. Their style of play says more about them than they know.

I was involved in an altercation on the way into my home last night. I replied to my inquisitor that I wasn’t  “a  drunk.” My dear wife told me not to retaliate and to “be the bigger man! ”

The bully was only five years old but I made a stand. I told him that he was adopted! Well, there are limits!

Miguel Franco da Silva