The expedition to:

ValleyCon '99

This page last modified: September 30, 1999

I decided that I would go up to Wellington for the Hutt Valley club's now annual convention, since it was high-time to visit my old friend Rhys again, and my wife wanted to see some other friends up there as well, so we could both go together. As a result of going with my wife, I decided to travel light (i.e. I had to devote my luggage to things other than scenery and army carrying containers...), and that basically meant borrowing an army off Rhys when I arrived there.

Since I was going to borrowing an army, I decided I may as well borrow something a little different from the usual. Rhys currently has Later Muslim Indian, Hundred Years' War English and Early Burgundian. I play Early Burgundians enough myself, and Rhys was taking his newly completed LMI along to the convention, so that left the Hundred Years' War English - one of the few Medieval European armies I don't have. In fact, I've never favoured Bw armies, and have never played a Bw (S) army of any description before. The only 'Bw' army I do play is a Nikephorian Byzantine army that was given to me this year, and quite a different beast from HYW. The convention was thus sure to be interesting from my point of veiw, grappeling with an entirely different sort of army.

I chose the following troops from the later portion of the list (which is what Rhys' were, so no option of a Hd(S) command, etc.). I wanted a 1420's army, rather than his 1415 one, so that meant he had to paint 2 different banners in the mean-time for my generals to use...

3 Reg Kn (O) generals
6 Reg Kn (I)
3 Reg Bd (O)
3 Reg Bw (S)
20 Reg Mtd Bw (S)
1 Irr Ps (S)
1 Irr LH (O)
2 Irr Bts (S)
2 Irr Shp (S)
4 Irr Shp (I)
2 Reg Mtd Bd (I) - I really wanted 1 more Bd (S) - and these were the best compromise!

400 AP

These were organised as:

1 x Sub-general as Reg Kn (O) - John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon
1 x English men-at-arms as Reg Kn (I)
2 x Cogs as Irr Shp (S) [Bd, being the above Kn dismounted]
2 x English mounted longbowmen as Reg Bw Mtd (S)
2 x Balingers as Irr Bts (S) [Bw, being the above without their horses]
4 x Irr Bg (I)
4 x Nefs [Bg]
2 x Irr Bg (I) - only if no WW present, since then this command neds no Bg

8 (or 10) elements, 4 ee

1 x Sub-general as Reg Kn (O) - Thomas de Montagu, Earl of Salisbury
3 x English billmen as Reg Bd (O)
3 x Welsh archers as Reg Bw (S)

7 elements, 7 ee

1 x C-in-C as Reg Kn (O) - John, Duke of Bedford
5 x English men-at-arms as Reg Kn (I)
1 x Irish horse as Irr LH (O)
18 x English mounted longbowmen as Reg Bw Mtd (S)
2 x False-French militia on horses as Reg Mtd Bd (I)
1 x Bretons as Irr Ps (S)

28 elements, 27 1/2 ee

Total 38 1/2 ee
A small army...
The entirely ship-borne command was so that my tiny army wouldn't have to worry about one flank, or potecting its baggage. Just in case there were no waterways around, all its troops (all 4 of them!) were mounted so they would still be of some use. I took the boats in case I didn't get much wind. This was wise, since in the event, of the 4 games I played, there was no wind in 3, and in the fourth, there was wind, but only blowing into my face.

I'm a fan of the '1 huge command' school of army organisation - it works well, and simplifies the thinking invloved in a game, which is important with an unfamiliar army I think. As you can see from this photo, the army really is small...

My first game was against Kim Duckworth's Ottomans. I invaded (the first time he'd ever defended with Ottomans apparently), and put down a WW on my right, as I was to do in every game. The only other terrain piece of consequence was a small gentle hill in the centre of the table. My ship-borne command was on the WW naturally; the main comamnd deployed at the 12" (600p, we were playing 15mm) limit, bows to the fore 1 element deep, Kn/Bd behind, with the excess Bw on the left (non-WW) flank. The 7 strong foot command under Salisbury formed the rear-guard of the main-command's left flank as it was to do in evry game.

Kim set up with a bunch of Akinjis (LH(F) in other words) near the WW who were obviously going to skirmish with me, then a smallish comamand of Serbs (oh - surprise!) between them and his Bg, but set right back, 'for fear of your Bs (S)', as he said, then the Janissaries, and on his right, the mass of Turkish Cv.

I marched forwards reaching the level of the central hill, where upon I discovered an ambush of two Lh (F). They shouldn't have been there - no ambushing allowed there any more, but I forgot that at the time - too early in the morning for me! This turned out to be critical -the battle would revolve around that central hill.

His Akinjis skirmished Bedford's Bw (S) well, slowing me down, and Holland's ships, with no wind, played no part in the battle other than securing my flank. The boats did row up the coast, and eventually disembarked, but by then the game was over. His mass of Cv moved forward and swept round my left flank, so Salisbury's small foot comamnd was hard pressed to contain them - but because of my lack of land Bg, his command had no soft spots to look for, and had to confront my Bw and Bd - which isn't all that easy for Cv (S) and (O).

His Janissaries aimed for the central hill. Because I'd DBE'd 6 of the Bw (S), I didn't want to get into a shooting duel with his Bw (S) - a lesson which I took to heart, and I reverted to SBEs for the rest of the competition. I dismounted a Kn as Bd (S) to draw their fire, and his Serbs, with excellent PiPs, moved up behind the Janisaries to take on my Bd (S). Unfortunately for him, he threw a 1 at the wrong moment, and they went through the Janissaries in a hell of a shambles coming up the hill in dribs and drabs, so my Bd held out OK backed up by some long-range covering fire from some Bw (S).

His Janissaries aimed for the central hill. Because I'd DBE'd 6 of the Bw (S), I didn't want to get into a shooting duel with his Bw (S) - a lesson which I took to heart, and I reverted to SBEs for the rest of the competition. I dismounted a Kn as Bd (S) to draw their fire, and his Serbs, with excellent PiPs, moved up behind the Janisaries to take on my Bd (S). Unfortunately for him, he threw a 1 at the wrong moment, and they went through the Janissaries in a hell of a shambles coming up the hill in dribs and drabs, so my Bd held out OK backed up by some long-range covering fire from some Bw (S).

At this stage, our 4 hours were nearly up, and since it was obvious no-one was near losing even a command, we called it a 5-5 draw to finish a few minutes early. A difficult game to get a result from, since he was rightly reluctant to close with anything other than his Janissaries and his Cv (S), and I was reluctant to close with them, since I was outmatched there. Still, first game with a new army against a competent player, so 5-5 wasn't so bad a score (they were using the normal 10-0 VP scoring system there, not W/D/L) and I learnt a valuable lesson with the DBEs.

This left me quite a long way down the field, and had me pitted after lunch against a beginner, Lyle Salmons IIRC, from Tauranga, using Later Carthaginians. My usual invasion in calm winds down a right-hand WW had a variation in that his terrain (mostly Wd) landed by the WW in my half, so my main command had to deploy next to that, and I had to leave my two elements of light troops to guard the Wd there for ambushers.

His deployment revealed two Gal (S) on MY waterway (targets!!), a block of Sp including a general, plus some Ps and Cv supprts behind next to the WW, then some more spear, with 6 El (I) behind them (urk - never put El behind non-Ps - as I was to painfully teach him!), then a wodge of Cv and LH to the flank. He had only 4 Bg out, so I expected a flank-mrach, but it turned out he had just two equally-sized comamnds in total - a very poor organisation indeed.

My main command basically rolled forwards blasting everything in its way apart. His Sp command presented a threat, so I moved my reserve command under Salisbury over to back up my main command's right wing, but it wasn't needed. I spent my highest PiP score every bound moving up my navy as single elemnts in DGo - I was rewarded in the last bound for my efforts by shooting a galley off the board. A very uneven 10-0 victory.

Next morning saw me pitted against Alex McEwan's Palmyrans. The only terrain he managed to place successfully was a large patch of brush in his central sector. He had a long line of LH (S) and (F) by the WW opposite my Bw, a few Ax (O) and Ps in the brush, with the Bg behind that, then some Roman Bd on the other side, with the Palmyran catafracts between them and the table edge, with the regular Bw (O) behind them, cowering at the rear.

My main command rolled forwards towards his LH and the brush, quickly killing the few Ps there. His Bd started the long march forwards and round the brush, but it would take them the rest of the game to get anywhere useful. His Kn (X) marched rapidly forwrds and round to take on my small foot rearguard, looking a bit out of its depth, so I started leading leading my 'Kn' over to help them.

His LH (S), deciding that they would get shot off the board soon, decided death was preferable to dishonour and charged my Bw head on, led by their CinC. Amazingly, they just crashed right through my yeomen! Urk... Still, no worries I thought, by this stage I had got his Ax (O) surrounded and outflanked at both ends by some other Bw (S) - this would see me into the Bg soon. Alas, fortune really favoured the brave, and two 6-1s of his later, that plan was out the window...

Then his Kn (X) rode right over my small command, and things were looking really desparate after only an hour's play - people were enjoying my discomfort at the hands of a relatively inexperienced player immensely. It took all my cunning to salvage the situation - my Kn (I) were forced to fight mounted (how distasteful!) against his catafracts, and my French Bd (I) militia were left to fight his LH general - aided by some Bw (S) they eventually finished him off, depriving him of dice swapping, and my impetuous troops in that quarter eventually wiped his comamnd there out completely. Alas, they then wouldn't pursue towards his Bg anymore, since they had no demoralised enemy anywhere near (dumb rule...)

Similarly my small command was annihilated, but by then, my CinC had flung himself into the breach, stabilising things a bit, and I finally bagged the Ax in the rough to take him to breaking point. A very close, if fast, 9-1 victory.

Battle picture
This saw me drawn against Peter Dunn's Early Samurai for the final round. A tough match-up - his army was well over twice the size of mine and could afford to lose a shooting duel 2 for 1 and still win. His army deployed on a line of hills, Ax (I) all hidden respectfully to the rear. He had some Cv by the WW that soon dismounted as Bw (S), a big block of Bw (S) next to them, and further inland, another big block of the same, with some Cv under the CinC in reserve, then a command essentially of Bd (F), finally flanked by an Emishi comamnd of 7 LH (S).

There was a small rough hill that I anchored my left wing with the small foot command on; while my main line pivoted on it as it advanced; my navy struggling into the wind to catch up. Peter's plan was to overwhelm my left before my navy could come up and disembark - I would have loved to get my disembarkers into his juicy Ax (I). His Bw commands suffered from a lack of PiPs, while his LH and Bd had plenty of them, both racing across the table at an alarming speed - and as they assaulted the hill I realised I had streched myself a bit thin there.

My archers got the best of the initial exchanges with his, and my superior manoeuverablity kept it that way, as I was able to draw off fire onto my Bd (S) in my bounds, so that while he had more Bw (S) with all those nicely painted samurai of his, it was me who was usually shooting at 1 to 0 rather than the other way around.

On the hill I was very lucky to survive, losing only 1 Bw to a series of Bd/LH flanking combinations, and Peter must have been very frustrated to see such an opportunity slip out of his hands.

My navy had now finally arrived, and his bowmen by the WW were now in deep trouble - however, his army was hyuuuuge, and there was no way I was going to kill it in 4 hours, even a CinC Bd (S) isn't guarenteed of taking out Bw (S) every bound.

So it ended up a 5-5, which saw me (just) in 3rd place - an odd place to be with only 2 wins in a competition of 20 people.

In hindsight, the navy, dispite inclement winds, was well worth it - just for removing the Bg from the board. The army's small size wasn't a problem as far as break-points went - but it was when it came to actually killing things quickly enough. In a W/D/L tournament it would have not placed anywhere near as highly. I only conceeded 1 point in 4 games, but I had only bagged 10 in return.

As for Bw (OK, Bw (S)...) - well, they are OK, but they do require extra 'thinking' about - especially if the enemy has more of them than you! You have to do much more measuring, checking ranges, etc, which can slow things down - it's not just a plain rumble forwards like with Wb (S) for instance.

The tournament was run in very good spirit - I believe of the 20 competitors, 14 were nominated for 'best sport'. Even I got a nod apparently!

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