Friday, September 23, 2011

Check It Out: Halsall's Battle in the Early Medieval West

I haven't made much time for the blog in recent weeks, but I thought I would share something with you that I recently read on Guy Halsall's blog, Historian on the Edge.

I took my time and enjoyed reading Guy's post of Battle in the Early Medieval West. He describes the piece as an unpublished entry submitted for an "Encyclopaedia of Classical Battle or some such." If you have not read Halsall's Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West c.450-900, then this is a great place to start. This piece really re-energized my love for the period after spending quite a bit of time researching, playing, and writing about other military subjects.

I think I am just starting to grasp how differently this period was from Roman Imperial Europe and the Late Medieval West. I mean, I thought that Dark Age warfare was different, but only in a rather superficial way for the most part - ie. not like Late Medieval warfare. As one might expect from Halsall, he challenges the idea that the military trip(s) from Point A (Late Antiquity) to Point B (Late Medieval) are smooth or that they can be interpolated simply by looking at data from better recorded periods.

How does this apply to wargaming? Well, right now I think I'm going to let that swim about in the back of my mind for a bit. I can kind of see pieces of how one could adapt rules to capture at least some aspects of Dark Age warfare, at least in regards to army list stats/abilities of certain types of armies. Try this - take a good look at how Halsall describes 6th Century weaponry and combat, and see if you can build a tabletop unit that moves and fights in the way described. Of course, this is just part of Dark Age warfare - there's also the matter of command and control and tactics. I'm looking forward to revisiting this subject later.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Black Powder and Feudal Japan

The game pieces from Shogun/Samurai Swords may come in handy with experimenting with Japan's late feudal period using Warlord Games' Black Powder rules and any suitable Richard Borg hex game board and terrain (ie. Battle Cry, Memoir 44, Battle Lore). As I mentioned in a previous blog or two, Borg's boards are a great way to play the Black Powder rules if you don't have the time/inclination/funds for collecting large painted armies of lead or plastic. I have already tried this with the American Civil War and been quite satisfied with gameplay. This is also a quick way to get some experience with Black Powder with a quick set up and clean up time.

The shogun army pieces should give you enough figures for a good game (assuming about 4 figures per unit and hex); if you combine a couple of army colors then you ought to be able to something really large.

As for the rules, I know they don't really apply to the period, but I think they ought to work well enough. If post-Mughal Indian armies can get a fair translation with the rules (check out their entries in The Last Argument of Kings supplement for examples), then I think 16th/17th Century Japanese armies are worth scratch-building using the game's easily-tweaked unit templates. While I don't think the period was dominated in numbers by matchlock-armed peasants, I think the armies that relied on unarmored peasant levies make a good fit here.