Saturday 12 March 2022

Off on a Tangent....

The Curse of a Butterfly Mind....

As has happened before (See "The man Who Found Too Much" and the related follow-up posts) a simple query on the Solo Facebook group has got the Little Grey Cells bouncing about....

The query related to "combat between Icelandic Vikings and American natives", with mention being made of the "Battle of Vinland" and suitable rules systems.

As always my first thought was "it's not the rules system" for the running & hitting that will make this different, it's the narrative and different cultural aspects. 

Anyhoo... Here are SOME random thoughts (in italics - as posted on the Group - and others)...

The Vikings:

"The Norsemen's reasons for being there will be simple (land hunger or trade/profit). They may (or at least their elites may) be willing to risk falling in battle to a greater degree than the locals but this is NOT a going to be a raiding warband....".

So I'd have a very mixed crew (of different ranks down to slaves and women) with a right old mix of available resources and motivations - and not a tooled up warrior band. In theory this should be three ships and 140 chaps of all sorts.

"Crew make-up will be crucial. Have they brought any/many REALLY skilled hunters with them? Spears/throwing spears for hunting they'll have - but any bows at all? If not they may have a problem... What food do they have...? Which craftsmen do they REALLY need to protect."

However, I'd go straight back to source to see what that says - Eric The Red's Saga; all there on the wonderful Gutenberg...


For further inspiration I suggested Thomas Holt's "Meadowland".

The Rules:

My thoughts here were;

"Any basic hand weapon/hand missile weapon rules (simplest always being best) where you have rules to allow for different equipment/troop types/fighting methods will do the basics - no need to spend for those, you can use free rules/home-bash easily.

However, the main piece of "situation chrome" won't be the fighting/moving mechanics but the different mind sets, abilities, motivations and intentions of the participants and the "culture clash"... Otherwise you'll just end with (yet another) "marginally different" Dark Age Bash rule set but just with different figures.

Personally I'd also look beyond simple skirmishes and do this as a "fill in the map" mini campaign.. This could be set up really easily and would be a LOT of fun..."

It was suggested that the Norsemen's equipment (maille and metal weapons) would give a major advantage in combat... Being very suspicious of rules that stress technology over psychology my thoughts were; 

"On paper. In reality the technological advantage will be minor, as maille use will (or certainly should) be heavily restricted to a small minority [of vikings] (as will swords) and stone/shaped hardwood is as good at inflicting crushing trauma as anything else..

Sharpened stone is as good as piercing, cloth/flesh etc. as anything else...

As for maille (OK, later comment, but it gets the point over): Letter from Gonzalo Mendex de Canzo to King Philip III in 1600 "For war with the Indians no other armour except this (padded armour) is of any value. As for the coat of mail, the arrow could go through it and splinters of it would be very dangerous; the buffalo-leather coat designed to absorb sword-cuts is pierced very easily; and the corslet (plate breastplate) is very dangerous, moreover, if the arrow hits it will re bound and injure the next person..."

Metal axes will be more effective cutting against indigenous wooden/bark armour, but have to hit right and provide no more blunt trauma than a shaped hardwood weapon would.

But mainly the approaches to hand to hand will be culturally different because the Way of War is different...

Case a) Weird guy in some kind of protective gear (like indigenous wooden armour traditions but bigger/better) wants you to get into his kind of fight..

Response from people who see no advantage in dying stupidly in battle: Never get into his kind of fight...

Case b) Guy is seemingly wearing/carrying something which protects him REALLY well.


1) You never go hand to hand from the front and, like Kipling's British in Burma, you don't go for him "When none of your mates is near" (One to distract, One to hit from behind).

2) Shoot his legs out - they HATE that... Or poke 'em with a spear (Rock beats paper. Spear beats sword)..

Or run past quick and bash/slash his knees and ankles from behind.

(Remembering where most Viking period wounds are archaeologically 🙂).

Case b) Guy is wearing something which slows him down and affects his movement and fighting abilities in dense terrain.

Get him to follow you into dense terrain... If he's THAT stupid enough to want to die in battle, give him what he wants....

The rules should reflect all this - and certainly NOT have indigenous folk fighting like vikings..."


The Locals:

First thoughts were:

"Meanwhile, unless there is a real expert out there who has evidence for the contrary, I see no reason why the Ways of War of the aboriginal folk of the north east woodlands should have altered much from the earliest descriptions we have of them. That is that only an idiot gets himself killed unnecessarily, and that their conflicts will  normally mainly consist of individual or small scale raids  being undertaken for reasons of social advancement, recreation/excitement, religious obligation, for the capture of women and slaves, plundering, revenge or as a Rite of Passage - with larger group actions only being prompted by the drive to take territory or trade routes, or to defend same or out of fear of a threat to same or due to some misunderstanding which leads to such. 

I guess I'd look further into the differences between the (apparently more aggressive) Hunter/Gathering peoples and the agricultural folk".

I also included a link to:

I also did some more research, including in Jones's "Native North American Armor Shields and Fortifications".


I soon realised I (you guessed it) was looking very much at the indigenous peoples we know most about ( i.e those woodland folk further south than Newfoundland who were still around to write about in detail in the 16th/17thC) rather than the indigenous Newfoundland folks who had (largely/likely) been of a different culture (possibly more like the Thule/Inuit ?) - and who had suffered from a European presence since late medieval times before being recorded....

From the saga there are "missiles" (bows/javelins), slings and what sounds like a staff sling in use, plus shields by the locals...

So, conclusion was that we probably have a very different look for the locals than the "Woodland Indians" one initially imagined...

Also, re-reading the sagas (it's been a while) it sounds like (as so often) that the conflicts were more due to misunderstandings than anything else...

Personally, the more I think about this the more I'd go for a blank map campaign - but maybe further south than Newfoundland? Unhistorical, but possibly with more going for it...?

A (maybe) painting project for the future.... (?)

Next up a Battle Report from the other month (as already promised..?)

Tuesday 1 March 2022

1776 and All That (part seven/the last)

They think It's All over.....

After the action at Jackson's Farm we move to the last map move in the 1776 Saratoga Scenario - and the randomised leader activation makes things tricky for me...

Grey assaults Philadelphia, which falls. This alone probably loses me the scenario - but Washington, up in the hills, simply just doesn't have the manpower to contest things, so there's nothing I can do. 

In the north Burgoyne splits his troops at Albany; leaving a garrison there and himself heading up towards Ticonderoga (hoping to thwart Lafayette's move along the St. Lawrence? Who knows..?).

Warner, lacking the troops (or bottle?) to tackle Brant, moves to reinforce Fort Oswego.

Despite the "friction" encountered at Jackson's Farm Clinton (unluckily for me, dice-activated before Gates on the map) has swept up the Mohawk Valley in pursuit of Gates. I decide to break down the move down with simple dice tests (with a penalty for Clinton) to see how far Gates gets before being caught up.

Luckily Gates makes it past Fort Stanwix before the British get near. This is key. As Clinton approaches Stanwix he then has a choice - attack the fort, and risk losing contact with Gates, or pressing on. He elects to attack the fort and takes it in two assaults.

Meanwhile Gates continues his march unmolested and joins Warner at Ft. Oswego. 

With the fall of Stanwix the British have now definitely won the scenario.

Lafayette is too slow making his way up the St. Lawrence to take Montreal or Quebec.

Washington, in the hills north of Reading, is impotent, due to lack of men.

Stark could have run minor interference in New England, but hasn't enough men to make a difference or to force a battle and is being pressed by Howe and another detached force. He withdraws into the White Mountains.

At move end, while the Americans hold one of their objectives - Ft. Oswego - the British have taken Ticonderoga, Albany, West Point, Ft. Stanwix and Philadelphia, so have piled up the Victory Points.

On the other hand, looking beyond the scenario, the Continental forces have avoided costly losses, so still have two viable armies in the field. Personally I think THIS should count in the VP tally, but I don't make the rules. Were this part of a longer campaign this successful avoidance of destruction would be counted a good thing....

However, HAD there been a further move or two Lafayette could have pressed further into Canada, but he would likely have had to face Burgoyne and the Canadian garrison troops (now released from their static role by his incursion). A defeat here for either side could have been disastrous.

Up by Lake Ontario Gates could possibly have been forced to battle by the combined forces of Brandt & Clinton. Or he might have slipped away (again) and headed south to join Washington - or even (more unlikely) north to follow Lafayette. Who knows..?

Looking at how the game panned out The (dice-controlled) British were FAR more active than historically.

The march on Philadelphia was perhaps predictable, as was Burgoyne's progress towards Albany. Howe' unexpected move into New England stopped Stark being a nuisance, but it was Clinton's march on West Point then, critically, on to Albany that was the clincher.

Had Clinton not pushed beyond West Point - and had instead sat there, or, say, had reinforced Howe' push into New England, or even pulled back to New York -  Gates, when facing Burgoyne's (rash?) attack at Albany, would not have been worrying about the threat to his rear, and thus would have had the aggressive and capable Arnold, plus his regiments, at his side in the redoubts above the town. Had Arnold been there, to perhaps blunt Fraser's flanking move, the Battle at Albany COULD have been a Saratoga....  


THAT was fun.... 1776 was already one of my favourite board games, always repays replaying, and has proved to be perfect as a "scenario generator". Had I wanted to I could have fought a number of fort assaults and a city assault, as well as the two field battles. The great thing with tying a battle into a campaign being that by there was a reason for each fight AND a clear intention/objective on the part of the combatants. Using a board game makes campaign "creation" far, far less work..

I will note down down the forces Gates/Clinton/Brandt & Warner would have had next move at Ft. Oswego, and also the respective forces available to Lafayette and Burgoyne in Canada - thus giving me two ready-made battles to fight out later, should I so wish.

That was a try-out WELL worth repeating.

As always, I welcome any queries or feedback. Next, a different write-up of a different battle I fought the other week, working with the "Pony Wars" rule set. Watch this space.

Move Stopped Play..

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