Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking part in the Hong Kong Wargames Society annual DBMM competition. This year a bunch of us went from Bangkok, under the moniker "The White Elephants". (a description a little close to home in my case :)), and a great time was had by all.
Since most of gaming in Bangkok has been in 6mm, I needed a new 15mm army, and chose Sung Chinese army (Spelt Song in pinyin, but pronounced Soong, with oo as in look). While the Sung dynasty where militarily pretty incompetent, in other ways they reached new heights of civilization, and had they not had the misfortune of the Mongols, they might well have invented the modern world five hundred years before Europe did. The new range of figures from Khurasan also made them an attractive choice, although half the army ended up being made of Essex and Outpost figures, due to Khurasan shop being closed when I needed to order the second batch of figures.
Since, it was a book 4 competition, I decided to use the option to split up the BwX into BwO and BdI and then upgrade the Bd to X. I also decided to take 8 artillery pieces, largely because I'd never used that many, and wanted to see how they'd work. Lastly, I used the Chuang allied tribesmen, as otherwise the army is rather lacking in terrain troops.
The army list was thus.
C in C RCvS, 10 IBwO, 4 ArtI, 2 ArtO, 2 RKnF, 2 IBdO, 2 IBdX, 1IAxS, 1IAxI, 1HdO, 1RWWgX, 1IBgeS, 1IBge1, 1RBgeI = 36 ME.
SG RCvS 2 x RCvS, 2 x RCvI, 4 x IBdX, 3 x IAxS, 4 x IPsO, 4 x HdO, 1 x RBgeI, 1 x IBgeI = 24ME
SG RCvS, 2 x RCvI, 2 x ArtS, 4 x IAxS, 2 x IPsO, 3 x IBwI, 11 x HdO, 1IBgeS, 1IBge1, 1RBgeI, 4 TF = 26 ME.
3 x RBgeI, 3 x IBgeI = 9 ME
Stratagem Concealed Command
(that's right, there are 14 different troop types in the first command, but they all have their use).
The general plan was that command 1 lines up in the middle, with commands 2 and 3 either side of it. The artillery are placed in pairs, separated 4 bw (2 deep), making a very strong firing line that can combine artillery at long range, and artillery and bows at short range. The WWgX is placed at one end of the line to protect the flank, and as a special flavor of Chinese cheese, the BgeS is placed behind it to make almost impossible to kill in close combat. The other foot elements are placed behind the artillery, and the knights held in reserve further back.
Command 2 can be used either offensively or defensively depending on the opposition, and has a variety of troops that let it seize terrain, counter knights, or outflank smaller opponents.
Command 3 is primarily defensive, and deploys its ArtS separated by two BwI behind TF angled towards the flank of command 1. Most people are very adverse to being shot at by ArtS, so it does a good job of discouraging attempts to outflank command 1 from that side. The hordes are often deployed in long line at right angles to the base edge to slow down any outflanking attempt.
To win, the army needs the opponent to attack the central command. If they decline to do this, then the CinC uses his pip to aggressively push it forwards into artillery range. Any assault on the firing line that's the slightest bit half-assed will likely be shot to bits, but things can get a bit tense when a full blooded assault goes in, as the artillery and bows will take casualties if contacted, but at 36ME it can absorb a fair bit of punishment, and has good counter-atacking options too. I usually give it the highest or second highest pip dice, so that it has enough pips to counter attack any assault that breaks through, and to exploit any gaps that its shooting has hopefully created.
The army's big weakness, is that having aggression 0, and being large, linear, and not very manoeuvrable, it is vulnerable to the an opponent deploying second, and concentrating on one flank. The concealed command is attempt to keep opponents guessing, even when having to deploy first, but if an opponent ignores the firing line altogether, there is only a limited amount it can do to respond.
As I was short of time to paint it, I had about two thirds of it done by Phillip Nash of On Top Of Your Game painting service. You can see some pics of the army here
Anyway, so much for theory, part 2 will cover the games.
Part two of the adventures of the Sung Chinese in the recent Hong Kong tournament. This time, the games.
A quick recap of the army.
Command 1 is 36 ME of mixed bows and artillery, with a variety of backup troops and a WWgX to cover the flank.
Command 2 is 24 ME of Cv, BdX and Ax that can attack or defend as appropriate.
Command 3 is 26 ME with 2 ArtS protected by TF designed to cover the flank of command 1, some AxS and lots of horde.
The first game was against Andrew Norrie, flown in from Taiwan, and using Feudal English. Apparently he'd played some DBA and some solo games of DBMM, but never played an opponent before. He did seem to have studied the rules thoroughly though. I defended as I did in all the games, and terrain of note was a rocky flat on my left around the center line, and another on the right well into Andrew's deployment area. A strong wind reduced bow shooting range, and hampered my artillery.
I deployed with command 1 in the center, command 2 on the right, and command 3 on the left. On the left Andrew opposed me with a mixed force of bows and knights, but not much happened there. In the center he had a command of regular troops with pikes, spears and ordinary bow, and on my right he had superior bow, knights and some cavalry. On the right I advanced rapidly with my auxillia to kill his psiloi in the rough area, and we both brought up our mounted forces. After exchanging losses, his command broke due to my superior numbers and control of the flanking rough terrain. In the center his heavy infantry advanced and got into my shooting line, doing considerable damage, but by now the wind had dropped, and the bows he brought up to support got pulverized by artillery, and finished off by a blade counter attack. 23-2 to me.
This was against Herbert Wong, using later Swiss. I'd played Herbert in the deciding game the previous year, where he won the game and the tournament when his disheartened LH(I) out diced my disheartened LH(F). I'd played a practice game against Swiss, and had a plan, but it turned out Herbert was fielding a very different sort of Swiss army with minimum Pk(S), and lots of Lorrainer Pk(I) and Bd(I) and a couple of KnS wedges. He also had lots of psiloi. Terrain was a marsh in the front left deployment of Herbert's deployment area, a difficult hill on his right, and a gentle hill on my left.
I defended, but Herbert doubled me on time of day dice, and deployed first. He had large groups of psiloi on both the left and right of his line, Pk(S) and Bd(I) in the center, and a large force of Pk(I) held back on his right, and two KnS wedges and KnI DBE held back in the center. I deployed as usual, command 3 protecting the left command 1 strung out in the center, and command 2 on the right.
Herbert open by moving his big Pk(I) block towards my left flank, being careful to keep out of arc of my Art(S). On my right he moved up his Ps, and I countered by moving up my AxS to confront them, but these folded like a wet paper bag, and Herbert was emboldened to attack along the line with his Ps, figuring they'd have a good chance against bows and artillery. However, my line held, and I was able to bring up my CvI and start riding down Ps in the open. In the center, my artillery were doing some damage, so he formed up to attack. Luckily I was able to stall his PkS with my WWgX, and bag a wedge with with a BdX. He then charged into my center with the remaining wedge, a BdX general, and the KnI DBE. The dice were with me here, as the bow forced his DBE to flee, and an artillery dispatched them with a well aimed volley of rocks. An Art I held up his wedge for two bounds, and when it did break through I had another BdX on hand to kill it. His general was then surrounded and destroyed. This left Herbert with one command broken, and the PkI command on my left disheartened (all the dead knights had belonged to it).
Meanwhile, his pike attack on the left had been making good progress, outflanking the auxillia I'd sent to contest the marsh (who never had quite enough pips to enter it), and cutting through swathes of horde. It now became a race to see if he could kill enough horde to break my left, before I could kill the pike I needed to break his command and army. He did eventually break me just before time was called, but as we added up losses, he discovered his were over 50% and he should have broken several bounds before. So 22-3 to me.
This left White Elephants one and two in the standings, so the third game was against Phillip Nash who'd painted much of my army. Nash was also using Feudal English, but an inert version commanded by Henry III. I knew this would be a bit of cagey game, since we knew each other's armies so well, and play together most weeks. Nash's army is a real monster, with two large commands of IBwS supported by a few regular mercenary spear and pike, a large command of IKnO rounded out with about 20 horde, and a small command of regular knights lead by the king.
Terrain was a sea on my left, then a gentle hill at the front of my deployment area, a BUA on my right, and rocky flat in the left center a little towards Nash's side of the table. I deployed with command 2 on the left, command 1 in the center, with some of it on the hill, and command 3 on the right anchored on the BUA. Nash knew well what havoc my thunderclap bombers (ArtS) could do, and wanted none of it, so deployed his whole army in the opposite corner (his right, my left). The two bow commands in front, with knights in reserve.
Nash sent one bow command in several columns to try to turn my left flank, with knights coming up behind, and supported by a couple of boats on the sea. I attacked on the right, moving the Ax and Cv of command 3 rapidly along the road out of the BUA to threaten his left, and moved up some artillery and bows from command 1 to shoot at it. He brought over his small knight command to discourage my cavalry, and I moved another group of bows and BdX up to occupy the central rough area, dispatching some of psiloi and scaring off some knights. It was a bit ofa stalemate, but my artillery was causing a steady stream of casualties.
The situation on the left looked a bit scary with huge columns of bow advancing rapidly. I hid behind the hill crest, then as soon as his bow columns came into range, charged then with AxS and BdX. They didn't do much damage, but slowed his advance. He has also had a pike block coming up (which serves as a block to keep his knight column in check if they should roll a one on their pip dice), and I rolled my Gun Ch'a (WWgX) downhill into these, then manged to outflank them and kill them all. Since they were part of the command that had been defending his left, this was enough to demoralize them. His continued to push round my left beyond the hill, and his boats landed a couple of BwS in my rear. His knight column shook out a bit and launched a charge on the bow and artillery line on right end of the hill, but were repulsed. Time was called, and it ended 14-11 to me.
This left me still leading the tournament, with three others in a tie for second place. One of these was Kenneth Chan, who was my final opponent. Ken was using Tudor English, just the sort of army I'd hoped to meet, small and full of expensive S grade troops which doesn't help against artillery.
Terrain was two marshes, bracketing Ken's deployment area, and a gentle hill in its center running parallel to the short table edges. I had a hill on the left of my deployment area. Ken doubled me on deployment dice, and had to deploy first. Most of his army was in one big command, formed up with BwS on his left, and BdS in the center. His right had a small command of artillery and bows, with another small command of KnS and Mtd Bow behind. We also had mud, and risk of rain.
I deployed with Cmd 1 facing his big command, and Cmd 2 on its right, and Cmd 3 on the left, with the ArtS fortress just to the right of the hill, and the rest of the command behind its crest. Having laid out my army, I found I still had two artillery left over, so moved some bows back and put them in the line on the right, so I now had a solid line of six artillery pieces faces Ken's BwS.
The combination of army matchup, and being able to deploy second put me in overwhelming strong position, and in retrospect I should have deployed to offer Ken more of a chance to get something from the game. Seeing that he no chance against the artillery, he turned his bow command around, and marched off towards the hill in his center, throwing out a few light horse to slow down my pursuit. It was pretty clear from then on that the game was going to be a draw. However, we played on, with him attacking my left with knights and bows, while I pursued his bows and looted the baggage that he'd abandoned. An honorable mention should also be given to my horde on the left, who waited patiently behind the hill crest while his small command of bw and ArtI approached, and then charged out killing two artillery and two bow to dishearten that command. Another 14-11 to me.
Since Herbert had had a good day 2, winning both games, he won the tournament, beating me by two points. This was just as well, since the trophies were quite large, and I'd have never have fit the first place one into my bag.
Overall I was pretty pleased with how well the Sung work. They're very hard to beat, and can deal a lot damage, but struggle against opponents smart enough not to attack head on.
Anyway, the tournament was lots of fun, and the Hong Kong guys gave us a very warm welcome. Thanks again to James Cheung for organizing and umpiring, and the group in Bangkok are already thinking about our armies for next year.