Burton-upon-Trent has a deserved reputation as a well-organised and friendly DBM doubles tournament, which last year was my first experience of a DBM tournament. This year, five teams from Swindon entered the tournament, which was for 500 Army Point DBM armies from 1072-1500 AD
I was paired with Steve Drew for this tournament, and Steve agreed to collect this year’s tournament army. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to achieve this, and at short notice I had to produce an army. I am rather short of Book 4 armies, and all I could achieve were various all-cavalry armies, which I didn’t really fancy for this tournament, as I assumed that there would be lots of bow-heavy armies to face!
Eventually I decided to field the Khmer again, in a slightly different form to last year’s. This had the advantage of being an army Steve was familiar with (he hadn’t played DBM for a while) and was almost fully painted. The downside was that it would still be very vulnerable to ‘shooty’ armies, and also that last year we had used up a whole year’s-worth of luck; this year, we would surely be far less lucky!
The army I fielded was:
Khmer Main Command:
Khmer CinC – Irregular Elephant (O)
8 Elephants – Irregular Elephant (O)
8 Long-Shield Infantry – Regular Auxilia (S)
8 Supporting Archers – Regular Psiloi (O)
2 Small-Shield Infantry – Regular Auxilia (O)
6 Unarmoured Spearmen – Irregular Auxilia (O)
4 Javelinmen – Regular Psiloi (I)
8 Baggage Elephants
Khmer Sub-General – Irregular Elephant (O)
3 Elephants with Bolt Shooters – Irregular Elephant (X)
3 Unarmoured Spearmen – Irregular Auxilia (O)
Cham Allied Command
Cham Ally-General – Irregular Elephant (O)
2 Elephants – Irregular Elephant (O)
2 Long-Shield Infantry – Regular Auxilia (S)
1 Supporting Archer – Regular Psiloi (O)
1 Small-Shield Infantry – Regular Auxilia (O)
Burmese Allied Command
Burmese Ally-General – Irregular Elephant (S)
2 Elephants – Irregular Elephant (S)
1 Standing Army Spearmen – Irregular Auxilia (O)
1 Standing Army Spearmen – Regular Blade (F)
2 Militia Spearmen – Irregular Auxilia (I)
2 Archers – Irregular Bow (I)
1 Standing Army Cavalry – Irregular Cavalry (I)
As with last year’s army, this was a gimmick army – 19 elephants is the most elephants you can field in one army, from any legitimate combination of allies from any of the 300+ army lists in the 4 DBM Army List books. To make it more competitive I could have fielded it in fewer commands with some cavalry and heavy infantry, but I liked the gimmick. One year, I will have to take a competitive army.(!)
Alan and Andy entered a very shooty Welsh army; Graham and Steve took Graham’s Yuan Chinese army, Paul and John took Paul’s Khitan Liao (its paint still drying), whilst Derek and Neil put up two fingers to perceived wisdom by taking an all-cavalry (brown!) Mongol army. The pre-tournament favourites were the Welsh (because it’s a hard army, and Andy’s nationalist fervour!) and the Yuan (very similar to Graham’s Han Chinese, which he wields so effectively).
Dear Diary – The Friday Night
On Friday night we arrived after an exhausting three-and-a-half hour drive, and found that the hotel, in the middle of the brewing Capital of Britain, had no decent beer. Derek and Neil had been upgraded (Ed: they took our room!), whilst Andy and Alan were put into a broom cupboard (Ed: it was’nt that good!). My room was very pleasant, with a good en-suite, telly, tea and coffee and all mod cons. We went to ‘Frankie and Bennies’ for dinner, nice food but poor service, and afterwards returned to the hotel. Disaster! No one had brought any pub games (Ed: Alan provided a feeble excuse that he was rushed on leaving home – he was suitable chastised for leaving Gangsters behind… had there been a wall he would have been up against it!), so I had an early night. Other members of the party went to the hotel nightclub, famed for the local beauties who frequent it. Breakfast the following morning was pretty horrible (how can anyone make such a mess of a cooked breakfast?), but we got to the gaming hall in plenty of time. Some members of the party didn’t have hangovers.
The First Battle – against Khitan Liao (Mat Haywood and Gary Buckley)
As we were setting up, Mat suddenly pointed at me and said: “You’re Emma’s brother-in-law!” I admitted that this was true. Mat was from Southampton , and it turned out that we had met before in social circles, and before moving to Swindon I had given Mat two of my youngest cats! This was a real surprise, and shows what a small world it is.
I was a bit puzzled by the fact that I was playing against the Khitan Liao, whilst on the next table John and Paul (Khitan Liao) were playing another Khmer army! I was surprised we were not playing a mirror of our army. Andy and Alan were playing another Welsh army! Another strange thing was that last year, our first game with our Khmer was against another Khitan Liao army!
We invaded the Khitans, and they immediately put down a tiny BUA with an attached open field. Steve and I looked at the billiard-table-like-terrain, and immediately threw down a marsh – it landed deep in the Khitan deployment area. Steve and I didn’t have a single piece of terrain on our side of the table to hide behind. One glimmer of hope was that the Khitan had no artillery – it was the first time that they had never fielded any – they didn’t expect to face any elephants in this tournament!
We formed our forces into a square, the main command to the front with elephants mixed with superior auxiliaries. The Cham held the left and the Burmese the right. On our left, the Khitan put down a large command of knights, light horse and blades. In their centre they had some light horse and psiloi, and on our left they had another large command of cavalry, bowmen and blades, with some light horse. They also had a flank command.
Their light horse immediately began probing for the flanks of our forces, whilst they force-marched their blades to our front. Their knights and cavalry remained glued to their base line. The blades hit the elephants and auxilia and were initially repulsed, but they outflanked us and soon the blades were killing auxilia and driving the elephants back. Steve broke out of the square and attacked valiantly, but the main command was broken into isolated pockets by the enemy skirmishers and finished off by the blades. The Mongol flank command did arrive, but played no part in the battle. The main Khmer command eventually broke and, being over half the army, the whole army broke. It was a 10-nil loss.
Fortified by lunch and a quick trip to the local wargames shop, we set up for the second game.
The Second Battle – against Early Samurai (Wayne Charlton and Lynette Maxim)
This was bizarre! Last year, my second battle with the Khmer was against this very same army! I recognised Wayne immediately, and apologised again for shamelessly hiding from his army last year.
Like last year, we invaded Japan and put down as many hills as we could. Unlike last year, the terrain all landed on the right hand side of the table, with a single hill on our side of the table. I was decidedly worried, because the Samurai army featured wall-to-wall longbows – Bw (S) – and we needed to hide the elephants! Luckily, Wayne put down a wood which landed in our central deployment area – I immediately put most of the main Khmer command in it. The Cham and Burmese hid in ambush behind our only hill, whilst the reserve put its three artillery-bearing elephants to the fore, hoping to bag some Samurai archers.
The Samurai deployed the same commands as last year, but a bit bigger – three command of 37 elements each, two ranks of bow backed by two ranks of inferior auxilia. They also had a small flank command of warrior monks. On the first turn, both the Burmese and Cham were unreliable! We all hid in the wood and behind the hill, whilst the Samurai charged. They came right up to the wood, and even into it, but they couldn’t really get to grips with the Main command, who were pushed back by bow-fire deeper into the woods. Three elephants did charge the Samurai, and did quite well (one even survived till the end of the game) but their main job was to tie up the left most Samurai command and stop it hitting the elephants behind the wood. The Burmese did attack the rightmost Samurai command, and did quite well, killing a few elements, but Steve played a much more canny game than last year, and didn’t throw the Burmese off the hill where they could be destroyed by the Samurai cavalry – they stayed on the hill, and were still fencing with the Samurai at the end. The game ended a 5-5 draw. I apologised to Wayne and Lynette for their second successive year of fighting the most elusive elephants known to man! Thank goodness Wayne put down the wood, otherwise it would have been anther 10-0 loss. The Cham were still unreliable at the end of the game.
Dear Diary – The Saturday Night
On Saturday we stayed in the hotel to eat, and the food was reasonable but nothing to write home about. It was the first time I have ever had a peppercorn sauce without peppercorns in it. I had another early night. So did everyone else.
The Third Battle – against Aztecs (Gary Nichols and Jeffery Tew)
Let me start by saying that this was one of the most colourful, beautifully painted armies I have ever seen. It was also huge, and Gary and Jeff really knew how to use it.
We were invaded, and put down our huge compulsory wood plus four others (one of which failed because of lack of room). Only one landed on our side of the table! Knowing we were going to be more than doubled by the number of enemy elements, we hugged our only piece of terrain.
We put the Main Khmer command at the front, with the Cham behind and to the right, both commands resting on our only wood. The Burmese deployed behind, so their foot could hide in the wood and their elephants and blade move to protect the Khmer left flank. The Reserve command also hovered around the left flank. It was painfully obvious that our left flank was hanging in the air.
The Aztecs deployed with an allied command of inferior bows on our left (24 elements), then a command of warband (both fast and superior) plus lots of skirmishers (28 elements); then their main command of blades and six bows (31 elements); and then used our woods that had landed on their side of the table to hide their huge command of Horde (S) (35 elements).
I split the main Khmer command into three parts – 4 elephants to attack the warband command (with psiloi support); the same to support the Cham attack on the Horde command; and the 8 Khmer auxilia to support the Burmese attack on the allied command. My reckoning was that the allied enemy command was only 24 elements, and if we could get the Burmese elephants and blade amongst their inferior bows we might break them. If I could just contact the fast warband with the Khmer elephants we stood a good chance there too. The enemy went onto the defensive, except with their ally who rushed up to attack my open left flank. The Cham and Khmer attack on the hordes were stopped by the six enemy inferior bowmen, as Steve and I developed a habit of rolling a ‘1’ whenever our elephants were shot at. I did manoeuvre the three artillery-toting elephants and they shot down five of the six enemy bowmen, but it was too late. The Cham did kill a few hordes, but not enough, and were counter-attacked by the main Aztec blades command. Frustratingly, the main Khmer command suffered no less than five ‘1’s out of six turns for PIPs, which is not useful if you are attacking on three fronts. It meant that I could hardly manoeuvre or attack at all. The Burmese attack faltered as Steve was twice ‘6-1’ed as he went to attack the inferior bows, losing both a superior elephant and the blade in one turn. Eventually, the Burmese, Cham and the Main command all went demoralised on the same turn. Another 10-0 loss. Really, we were badly let down by our dice-rolling in this game. I can’t remember the last time I (and Steve) rolled so many ‘1’s.
At the time, I looked to see what the other Khmer army was doing. In its third battle it had been fighting the Serbian Empire – loads of irregular knights! If I wasn’t so above it all, I might have been jealous!
The Fourth Battle – against Sung Chinese (Paul Fencott and John Kirk)
Paul was an old acquaintance from the Wessex Wargames club that I was a member of many years ago. Typical isn’t it – there were only two players from Southampton , and I ended up playing them both!
Paul’s army had an aggression of zero, but nevertheless he invaded. They were relived to see that the Khmer had a Waterway in our terrain options, and Paul put down a waterway on our right flank. We immediately put down as many woods as we could. Because our terrain rolls had been so bad so far, I deliberately ‘mixed up’ the allocation of numbers to the six terrain squares, and we were rewarded with a generous scattering of woods!
There was a risk of rain, which came on and off intermittently throughout the game, but did little.
The Sung deployed no less than 12 naval elements on the Waterway, all scratch-built by Paul and looked superb. The main command placed in the centre was actually their ally-general’s command, and was over half the army. It had sixteen bow, sixteen blades, some cavalry and SIX – count ’em! – SIX pieces of artillery, four superior and two ordinary. I wondered if it was worth getting my army out of the box! The Sung CinC’s command was very small, consisting of six warwaggons supported by psiloi (X), some horde and some cavalry. It also had FOUR elements of inferior artillery. Gulp.
It hadn’t escaped my notice that the enemy CinC’s command broke on seven, and he had six warwaggons that I could blast apart with my artillery, as long as I could stay away from his artillery! The enemy commands were also widely spaced with big gaps between them, so it would be difficult for them to support each other.
I deployed the Main command in the big wood, apart from the elephants (on the baseline) and the superior auxilia. The Burmese and Cham deployed behind the left-most wood, elephants to the rear and light troops in the wood. The Reserve command lined up opposite the warwaggons.
Everyone charged the enemy CinC. I used the superior auxilia and some psiloi from the Main command to screen the enemy artillery, whilst the elephants (X) stood ten inches away from the warwaggons. Despite some terrible dice rolling from me, after nine shots at 4-3 in my favour, I finally killed three warwaggons, and laboriously turned the elephants to line up on the others. Meanwhile the Cham and Burmese had attacked the CinC’s horde (O), and killed all three elements. The CinC’s cavalry charged the Cham and Burmese, who fought with only the elements they could afford to loose. Steve almost killed the enemy CinC (rolling a ‘2’ when he needed a ‘3’ or more), and it soon became a matter of when, not if, we took out the CinC’s command.
One of the advantages of using elephant (X) is that few people know of them and their ability to shoot over troops. All the time I was shooting, my superior auxilia were between my elephant (X) and the warwaggons. This was because the warwaggons were protected by enemy psiloi (X), who are the best elephant killers around, but count as inferior psiloi to auxilia! I had to be really careful not to get the auxilia closer than 3″ to the warwaggons (or I wouldn’t be able to shoot over the top of the auxilia) and yet keep them far enough away from my elephants so that recoiling twice from the warwaggon’s shooting wouldn’t recoil them into the elephants. Strangely, although it took a long time to get into position to shoot the last three warwaggons – at least eight of our game turns from the start of the game – in all this time the warwaggons never tried to escape their oncoming doom, but just stood there and took it. Eventually, the CinC’s command broke.
The huge Sung fleet had only landed two elements, the Sub General and his escort, both superior cavalry. They rampaged over the battlefield, killing my psiloi, several superior auxilia and two of the elephant (X) who recoiled into each other! They were joined by the allied general and his bodyguard (also superior cavalry) who did a similar job although less spectacularly. More worrying, the Cham, Burmese and Reserve light foot impetuously charged the demoralised CinC’s command, and took on the CinC and his cavalry. Despite the enemy being demoralised we lost a few elements, and by the end of the game the Cham, Burmese and Reserve command were all within an element or so of breaking. Even the Main command was within three elements of breaking, so were glad to hear the ‘final bounds’ called.
We ended with an 8-2 win, our best result of the day. Significantly, it was the only battle where we had terrain on both flanks.
Overall, both Steve and I had a really fun game against some friendly opponents. The Khmer did less well than last year, but then our terrain roles were far less effective, and this, more than anything else, exposed our army’s weakness. Last year I swore I’d take Regular generals next time. This time, I swore I’d take an army next time that needs less terrain – carrying the hills gave me backache!
The SAD Team scores were:
Congratulations to Alan and Andy for finishing the top Swindon team, and also to Paul and John, who finished with 20 points in their first tournament.
Finally, we would all like to thank Derek for organising yet another superb weekend at Burton.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 29 November 2006 )