Friday 31 July 2009

Pilgrims Progress from the Chronicles of Kermit the Hermit

The chronicle then tells us something of the battle:

"As our column approached the ford [bridge] the van outpaced the rearward so that what was whole became two parts."

"At that our enemy, who had hitherto lay hidden in ambuscade came upon us from our left flank. Humphrey le Phew [rearward] immediately set his force to counter it, coming at the enemy somewhat to their left and forced them ahead of him down the valley; had it not been for his quickness of thought the enemy would surely have been in our rear."

"Whilst Humphrey engaged the enemy our column continued as best it could, thinking this was merely a small raid. Indeed the head of our column reached the bridge and began to cross in the face of new Saracens that were found there. I was one of the first to cross over [see cross bearer]."

"Our people were now scattered into several small groups and it was now that the strength of the enemy showed itself with dashing raids into our midst so that it was hard to see who was friend and who was foe, but all the time the mass moved towards the bridge."

"What was at first perceived as a raid now became a full battle. Neither side, in all of the confusion knew not if he were victor or no. Here an enemy would be forced to retreat, there a friend - this was the point of crisis....."
To be continued...

Monday 27 July 2009

Making a master for an ancient merchant ship

Over the years I have collected about a hundred of the ancient galleys produced by Xyston. About half were purchased on two for one deals in a local shop (before it closed) and at shows, the other half were obtained through ebay. Consequently, I now baulk at paying the full £6.00 price tag. So much so that when it came to a gap in my collection, namely merchant ships (they do not come up very often on ebay) I decided to make my own master and drop cast them. This post covers the first stage of this project - making the master.

I have three Xyston merchant ships and not knowing anything about these vessels I decided that I should use their model as a pattern. The tools and materials I needed were ready at hand so I began; they were:

Steel rule (for flattening)
Glass 'table-top', cutting board and some odds and ends of perspex for modelling on.
Scalpel with 10A blades.
Sand paper and various needle files
Thin card
Angle lamp (for light, but more importantly to 'quick-dry' the model at its various stages of completion).

First I flattened a piece of Milliput about 3mm thick and then lightly imprinted the bottom of the Xyston model into it (this was the one and only physical use of the Xyston model) and cut out the shape of the lower hull. When this had set I flattened out another piece of Milliput, and using the lower hull as a template, cut out the shape of the upper hull. This was slightly larger than the lower hull. When set I filed and sanded the whole thing down until I was happy with the overall shape.

Because I will be using a RTV silicon rubber mould (not vulcanising) the choice of materials I could use in the vessels construction was quite wide - they just have to be to non porous. So to make the detail on the hull (in the form of bands) I used thin card (in this case red) soaked in superglue. These were applied with superglue.

The prow of the ship extends some distance so I drilled the hull and added a thin piece of piano wire for strength. I then built up the prow a little and the upward curve of the hull at the bow.

To give the hull a little more outward curve I added a card deck (again soaked in superglue) slightly wider than the milliput hull and back filled the underside. This is a much easier method than trying to shape the hull with milliput alone. Once this job was done I finished the basic hull shape with more sculpting and filing.

Next I made the canvas covered structure at the stern of the ship and a roughly shaped stern post. Once set I did a little more shaping to the stern-post with milliput and file then stuck it to the hull. A little more work was required to match the stern-post to the hull but this only involved a little bit of filling. Xyston ships come with separate rudders, but these a very thin and might not be easy to cast using a drop mould. Consequently, I decided to add mine to the model to be cast in position. Each rudder oar was made from flattened piece of milliput (cut to oar shape) and a piece of wire glued to the model, back filled to the hull for casting purposes, and filed; a little ball of milliput at the top of the oar finished the job

So there it was - not bad for 4 hours work (give or take). I have posted a picture of Xyston's model and my own. Mine does not have the fine finish of the Xyston model, but it will pass muster. At the end of the day, they are only non-combatant merchantmen.

My next modelling post will be on making moulds using RTV silicon with a plaster sabot.

Monday 20 July 2009

Pike and Plunder Campaign Report

The initial deployment and first move reports are available on the Pike and Plunder blog site.

Pilgrims Progress

Having painted and based a fair chunk of civilians and baggage elements for my early Crusades armies I want to use them. Reading Runciman’s account (again) of the march from Antioch to Jerusalem spawned the germ of a scenario idea. I then consulted the Chronicles of Kermit the Hermit (also known as The Dirty Fakir):

“Let me relate to you the little known account of my passage from Antioch to Jerusalem in the company of Pierre le Phew, and the battle of Nosairi.

In January the Year of Our Lord 1099 Count Raymond departed the country around Antioch to march south to our blessed goal, Jerusalem. On learning of Raymond’s decent upon them the Emirs of Shaizar and Hama were in great fear of him. Perfidiously the Emirs hid much livestock and booty in a secret valley to one side of his route, then offered Count Raymond tribute, showing him what little they had, and guides to lead him across the Orantes and up to the valley of Sarout. By mistake the guides led Raymond into the secret valley and the flocks and herds, along with much other spoil was taken. The Emir of Shaizar was maddened by so great a loss to his treasury inflicted by Raymond and sought to recover, in one way or another, what was his."

"About this time I, in the hoste of Pierre de Phew which numbered all told two thousand pilgrims, knights and foot soldiery, left Antioch following the route opened by Count Raymond. As our column passed under the walls of Shaizar the Emir made plans to avenge himself upon us and cleared his slave markets in readiness for our arrival. Unbeknownst to us at that time, the Emir of Shaizar had sent his brother, named Cobalt the harsh, and an army of horsemen of the wilder kind ahead of us to lay an ambuscade at a place called the Ford of Raizat. The road, such as it was that led into the valley of Sarout, was beset upon all sides by high and rugged hills. As we approached the ford, which was actually a Greek bridge of stone, the enemy descended upon us from all sides.”

Thus our scene is set for an ambush scenario involving an escorted wagon train and civilians versus a much swifter moving enemy. The scenario has been devised to be played using Ager Sanguinis Rules (these are now available as free a MS Word down load on Yahoo Groups: Piquet, Shattered Lances and MiniatureArmyCampaign. You will find them in the files sections.)

Because of its roots in Piquet Ager Sanguinis lends itself perfectly to this kind of scenario because deployments do not have to be hidden: The cards take care of that elusive quality in wargames - surprise! The deployment map below shows the disposition of both forces.

The river is in spate and is impassable except by the bridge. The hills are type III for movement and cover. The woods are type I for movement but type II for cover versus missilery. The 'river bank' is type II for movement but does not provide cover versus missilery. The village (Nosairi) is type III for movement and cover. Muslims in ambush positions will not be spotted until they move, shoot, or the Christians approach within 8".

Christian forces:

Pierre le Phew (d10 motivation die) with a small unit of knights [K] (mid column) and two units of foot sergeants [FS] (one ahead of his knights and one opposite his knights on the other side of the column.

Hubert le Phew (d10 motivation die) with a small unit of knights [K] at the head of the column, a unit of levy spearmen [LS], and a unit of foot sergeants [FS].

Humphrey le Phew (d10 motivation die) with a small unit of knights [K], a unit of foot sergeants [FS] and a unit of levy missiles [LS].

Two groups of fanatical pilgrims and their baggage [P], each 3 units strong. These do not have a leader as such (motivation die d8).

Muslim forces:

Cobolt the harsh (motivation die d10) with a unit of Turkish ghulams [TA] and two units of elite Seldjuk horse archers [SHA] to his right hidden in the 'bank' of the river.

Master of horse (motivation die d10) with a unit of Arab askaris [AA] and two units of elite Seldjuk horse archers [SHA] to his left hidden in the 'bank' of the river.

Turcoman tribal leader (motivation die d10) with two units of Turcoman horse archers [THA] hidden in the 'bank' of the river.

Turcoman tribal leader (motivation die d10) with three units of Turcoman horse archers [THA] hidden behind the hill in the rear of the Christian column.

Turcoman tribal leader (motivation die d12) with three units of Turcoman horse archers [THA] hidden behind the hill ahead of and flanking the Christian column.


The Christians:
Until an enemy is sighted the Christian column moves as two parts. The leading pilgrim contingent plus Pierre's and Hubert's command roll a single d10 motivation die on March cards and must use any moves to advance at the speed of the slowest element (6"). The rearward pilgrim contingent and Humphrey roll a single d8 motivation die on march cards but may not move faster than the head of the column. Until an enemy is sighted the column must move using the road as its axis (keeping their column formation). Once an enemy is sighted the contingents must roll for movement seperately.

The Christians add one special event 1 card to their deck. If an enemy has not been sighted when this card is turned they roll d10 Vs d8. If the d10 roll is higher the van of the Christain column (Herbert's command) may move indepentantly of the rest of the column and may move away from the road (an ambush is suspected) to reconnoitre.

The Muslims:
The Muslims add two special event 1 and one special event 2 card.

When the special event 1 card is turned the Muslims may treat it as a move card for one command in difficult terrain. The Muslims will have scouted the difficult terrain for suitable tracks to enable them to move more swiftly across it - these cards represent this fact.

When the special event 2 card is turned the Muslims may treat it as two extra move cards for one command that has not yet moved or shot. This card represents the added surprise factor for troops emerging from ambush positions at the ideal time - the chance factor of the 'ideal time' being taken or not depends on when the card is turned in the turn cycle.

Victory Conditions:
These are pretty simple. The Christians must get at least 50% of their force over the river to safety. Anything else is a Muslim victory.

[Scenario notes ammended slightly 2 August 2009 following play testing].