Last Saturday saw the sixth annual gathering of gamers in Evesham for the event known as ‘Operation Market Larden’. This is a day of gaming focusing on playing various games using the rules from Too Fat Lardies, organised with great efficiency by Ade Deacon.
There were a number of games played this year: Dux Britanniarum, Chain of Command, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum, Sharp Practice, Bag the Hun and the new SotK to name a few. Periods included the Ardennes in 1944, Pacific in 1944, Dark Age Britain, French Indian War, Indian Mutiny, Zulu Wars, Fantasy Battles and Sengoku Period Japan, amongst others. All the games on display looked wonderful – well painted figures on beautiful terrain . Unfortunately, since I was umpiring two games I didn’t really get much chance to wander around and catch pictures of many other games in action. However, search on Twitter for #OML6 and I am sure you will find a number of pictures of the games that were available.
I hadn’t originally planned to organise a game this year, but after Ade made an appeal for games that “Were not Chain of Command or I Ain’t Been Shot Mum” I decided that I might be able to organise something a little different.
Since the start of the year I have painted two small warbands for Test of Honour. Whilst ToH is a good game in and of itself, the forces involved are somewhat small, and I have been looking for a set of rules to cover bigger engagements. Dick Bax and Therry van der Burgt published a supplement to the Dux Britanniarum Dark Age rules that TFL published in 2012. I know that a forthcoming supplement for Saga 2 is going to look at Samurai, but since I’m not planning on updating to that set of rules, I was hoping that these would cater well for that size of army.
These rules are designed primarily for campaign play, but it is perfectly possible to run one-off games. Since the starting forces number around 40 models on each side, I thought it wouldn’t be beyond my slow painting speed to paint up the extra models and terrain in time for the event. As it stood, though I managed to get everything painted with a couple of days to spare, I didn’t actually get chance to play and practice games with this new supplement – so I had to rely on having read the rules several times, along with my knowledge of other TFL rules – these rules are close enough to Sharp Practice and Chain of Command that most of the mechanics are very familiar. If I had any queries, I was content with the fact that one of the fonts of knowledge with regard to Dux Brit – Mike Whitaker – was also at the event and I could just grab him for a quick question if I needed to!
Dick and Therry have done a great job with the Seven Spears supplement. Not only have they written the rules, but they have also produced the artwork for a number of card decks, which they have made available to purchase via the Artscow website. The cards are very nice indeed – here are some examples of the cards:
For those who haven’t seen, my armies have a Star Wars theme – an idea that I shamelessly stole from Tiny Hordes. After all, George Lucas was massively influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa, and Star Wars Samurai is definitely ‘a thing’. Google it and feast your eyes on the images…
The Scenario: “These are the monks we’re looking for…”
It is a time of civil war.
The current Imperial Emperor is desperately attempting to bolster his position by increasing trade with the West, seeking firearms from the Spanish and Portuguese to equip his armies. To this end taxes have been raised, and the provinces are being hard-pushed to provide the additional required income.
The regional Daimyo have been given new punitive powers to ensure the extra taxes are gathered from the population. As a result, the hardship of life has increased, and unrest is swelling in the countryside.
Lord Takumi, in an effort to prevent unrest breaking out into open revolt, has ordered that his vassal Lords send family members to his new castle stronghold, known as the ‘Fortress of Death’. Any threat to Takumi’s rule in the province and the lives of these hostages will be forfeit.
Lord Taiki is the figurehead of the rebellion, but finds his options limited whilst Takumi holds the captives – Taiki’s own daughter, the Princess Saitou, among them. Taiki has employed two spies – Naoki & Masato – and tasked them with finding a way into the ‘Fortress of Death’ (which is thought to be impregnable) so that a rescue can be mounted. Once the hostages are freed, Lord Taiki will be able to challenge the forces of Lord Takumi in open battle without fearing for the life of his beloved daughter.
“RAISE THE ALARM!”
Upon hearing a cacophony of raised voices Sotaisho Kaito rushed to the great hall of the castle to discover the cause of all the shouting.
Several guards had been found dead, or incapacitated, in the passageways deep beneath the walls that led to a secret exit from the fortress (In the event of a siege, it always pays to have a plan of escape).
Questioning those that survived their ordeal, it became clear that the intruders appeared to have been two monks. No doubt these were spies, sent to try and discover any weakness of the castle – since they had discovered the secret tunnel below the walls, they could not be allowed to escape and tell anyone that the impregnable ‘Fortress of Death’ had an alternative, and potentially not-so-secret, entrance.
The Sotaisho quickly organised a small force to pursue the monks – they were on foot, after all, and so could not have gotten far.
It wasn’t long before they discovered the escaped pair. Cresting a rise, Kaito saw two figures hurrying down a dirt track towards a small, abandoned hamlet. He was just about to order his bodyguard to ride down the monks when something caught his eye.
Was that movement amongst the buildings? Those looked like soldiers! This job may need more men than he first thought…
Scenario Objective – Kill the monks before they can escape
Kureno stood on the steps of the small, abandoned building and peered into the distance, scanning the dirt track for signs of movement. When none could be seen he cursed under his breath and strode quickly to a nearby Cherry Blossom, pausing to relieve himself in the cold morning air.
Where were Naoki and Masato? The spies were meant to rendezvous at the village at dawn, but the sight of the sun creeping slowly into the sky showed that they were late. Surely they hadn’t been captured?
A shout from one of the sentries interrupted his thoughts. Striding quickly to the gate, his eyes soon fell on the cause of the cry – two figures could be seen hurrying towards the buildings where Kureno and his small force of troops had been hiding for the past two days.
He was just about to order everyone to pack up and be ready to leave when he spotted something unexpected beyond the quasi monks. Where those figures on that rise?
Kureno had been entrusted by Lord Taiki himself to ensure that whatever information the spies obtained, it would be safely delivered back to him so that plans to rescue his daughter could be made with the greatest of haste.
By the look of the troops in the distance, that information would not be gained without a fight…
Scenario Objective – Escort the Monks from the table. Monks can be ordered like any other group
The morning game saw Sidney Roundwood take command of the Imperial Forces, whilst Ralph Plowman controlled the Rebels.
In the afternoon, Matt Slade led the glorious Imperials against Garry Shortland’s Rebel scum.
The table had three terrain pieces across the middle: A Shrine, a copse of cherry blossom trees and a rocky outcrop. The monks had hidden in one of these areas, and wouldn’t reveal themselves unless a Rebel Leaders looked for them, or if Imperial forces got too close. In game 1, I rolled before the game to determine which piece of terrain they were hiding in. However, following discussion with Sidney and Ralph I changed this in the afternoon – a dice roll was made when the terrain was searched to see if they were located in it.
As it turned out, in both games the monks were hidden in the trees in he centre of the table.
However,that’s where the game similarities finished.
In Game One, the Imperials concentrated on their right flank, hoping that the monks were hidden in the shrine. When they were revealed in the middle of the table, the Empire forces attempted to move the focus of their advance, but hit spirited resistance from the Rebel Samurai, who repulsed a cavalry charge before the Rebel Ashigaru won victory in the center of the table, with the Imperials retreating in disarray after the loss of two commanders.
Game Two found the Rebel Lord bravely striding about at the forefront of the action, as he searched for the monks. However, charging a unit of Teppo-armed Ashigaru became his undoing, and from there the Rebels fought a frantic rearguard action as the monks tried to get away. In a tense climax, a Rebel Commander fell agonisingly 2″ short of being able to order the monks from the table. At that point, the Rebel Army’s Force Morale collapsed and the Imperials won a last-gasp victory.
Seven Spears is a huge amount of fun. Despite the fact that I managed to get a couple of rules wrong, I think a good time was had by all – I certainly enjoyed umpiring the games.
Looking back, there are a few things I would change:
Bow Range – Seven Spears uses the same archery rules as Dux Brit. However, in Dux Brit these represent a few men with hunting bows, whilst Seven Spears has trained troop with longbows – I would add a third range band for bows (out to 36″) and make targets at short-range (under 12″) easier to hit. I think this would help as otherwise these units seemed particularly ineffective.
Basing – I used my existing group bases from Test of Honour. This was a mistake, as it proved difficult to easily see troop formations, and awkward to move these large round bases in the village, thus restricting movement and model placement more than I wished. I will be getting some rectangular unit bases for my next game.
4 Ground fences(!) – you may think that the rocks around the village are artistic, but they were necessary to keep the fencing upright. 4 Ground’s wooden fences are poorly weighted, meaning that they stubbornly refused to stand upright (probably not helped by being placed on a textured mat) – I will have to rebase the lot before I can use them again. Somewhat frustrating!
The Seven Spears supplement works really well – multiple groups in combat are a little awkward to resolve at times – especially when units already engaged in melee combat get charged in the flank – but on the day we applied ‘the rule of common sense’ and I think that everyone was pretty happy overall. I will most definitely be using these rules for my own battles, and I am currently looking at what miniatures I need to make up two ‘full’ forces (i.e. What a force would look like after every extra group had been recruited), along with putting together a separate Ikko-Ikki warband.
I am already thinking that next year’s OML could see the sequel to this years game – Battle at The Fortress of Death.