My new short story Mars Incorporated is out now and will be free on Amazon until Saturday!!
Mars Incorporated by Mark Lord
Earth’s colonization of the red planet, Mars, was supposed to be the crowning glory of human civilization. Instead the small colony on Mars is in trouble. After the death of one of the colonists CJ Douglas, hero of the Moon and founder of Lunar Alpha Base is sent to investigate.
Mars incorporated is a 4,000-word science fiction short story.
In the fourth volume of Stonehearted, For a Heart Made of Stone, the action shifts to the chateau of Saint-Pol. The Count of Saint-Pol is one of the villains of the story and is holding a tournament, which provides the backdrop for the action.
When I looked into Saint-Pol, I found that it was difficult to get much detail about the castle (it’s now just a ruin) but eventually I came across some good websites that gave me enough to form an impression of the place – and gave me some ideas that contributed to the narrative.
An article on the Flags of the World website about Saint-Pol is perhaps the best historical description of the town and castle. If you read you will see that the castle is divided into an old and new castle – and its the old castle bailey that I use in For a Heart Made of Stone to locate the tournament put on by the Count. The new castle is the location for much of the action. In particular the Wiki Pas-de-Calais site describes the layout in detail (in French – but you can translate using Google!). In particular notice the large round tower used as dungeons – they play a prominent part in the book! Below you can see a great plan of the castle and also an artist’s impression of the new castle. Only a few ruins remain now.
This is a battle report of a small Hundred Years War skirmish I played with the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules. I also tried out one of the simplest of solo wargaming techniques to add a bit of AI to the game.
Solo Wargaming method: Random Deployment
In Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming book he recommends a number of different techniques to create a more interesting challenge for the solo wargaming. I’m going to call this a solo wargaming AI method as shorthand in this and other articles (until I come up with something better!)
One of the simplest methods he recommends is to randomise deployment of each force. You roll a d6 for each unit and that determines where they deploy. The battlefield is split into 5 sections:
Each has a number (1-5). If you roll a 6 then that unit is in reserve. The theory with this method is that a lot of the tactics employed by an army will be determined by it’s deployment. For instance if a lot of units are on a flank or flanks then an envelopment will be a good strategy.
I tried this out with the game I played – and will describe how that worked below.
Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games for Historical Medieval games
I used the fan made Age of Trebuchet rules supplement to enable me to play an historical game using the Middle Earth SBG rules. I know the rules well and I think they are great for skirmish level games – nice and simple but with a lot of tactical decisions to make. I found the Age of Trebuchet supplement easy to use and it gave some flavour of a medieval battle.
Battle Report: Hundred Years War skirmish
I didn’t give the game any historical or fictional background. The forces were roughly equal, but I didn’t work out points. The aim was to use the figures I had available. So from the pictures you may notice that many of them are Wars of the Roses or Feudal era – I wasn’t so worried about that. And as it was a quick game to test out some rules and a solo wargame AI method I wasn’t too fussed about terrain – a simple green baize cloth, some trees, bushes and paper buildings sufficed. You will also notice that this is an oval kitchen table – 5 foot by 3 – but some of the flanks are minimal, but it works for a skirmish level game at 28mm.
Sir Gilbert – hero on foot
Sir Guillaume – hero on horse
3 mounted men-at-arms
4 foot men-at-arms
7 heavy infantry – mixed weapons
Deployment – how did the method work?
Random deployment worked out in an interesting and lopsided way in this skirmish game – there were only 4 units on one side and 3 on the other. The English men-at-arms deployed as a reserve and the other two units were widely spaced as you can see below.
In contrast the French deployed mostly on one flank – with the crossbows in the middle. As hoped this lead to influencing the subsequent strategy quite a bit. Without this random deployment I would have probably deployed most of the forces in the centre and the flanks might well have been ignored.
The French started off by sending their men-at-arms around the flank to see off the longbowmen. There was an exchange of fire – with one longbowman dying. The small unit of English billmen started their march towards the hamlet. The French infantry marched behind the crossbows towards the small wood behind the hamlet.
The French men-at-arms started getting closer to the longbows – who used their half move each turn to retreat and then fire. They only got one of the French cavalry though. The English men-at-arms could now enter the battle as there had been an exchange of fire.
Here you can see the English moving through the hamlet.
Moments before contact. The French men-at-arms are about to charge the longbows. The French infantry are on the other side of the wood from the English.
Sir Gilbert and his men-at-arms decide that the protection of the bushes and hedges might be a good idea when faced with sustained crossbow fire and the French knights!
After a couple of rounds of combat the longbows were seen off by the French knights. Sir Gilbert and some of his men went to attack the French foot men-at-arms and the others went to support the billmen who had engaged the French infantry in the woods. The loss of most of the longbows and some of the billmen meant that the English were now broken (needing to make courage tests as over half had died). Unfortunately Sir Gilbert and many of his men decided to flee the field, leaving only four brave men of St George left to face the massed French. At this point I decided the battle was over! Here’s the ending positions – even the crossbows decided to up sticks and move to get a better position to fire from.
I thought that the Middle Earth rules worked well for a medieval skirmish game – probably with some more miniatures on the field it could have been a better game perhaps. I also felt that I had let down the longbowmen by leaving them exposed to the French knights – they should have found the cover of the hedges next to the hamlet.
Random deployment worked well as a simple method of creating solo wargame AI – I would definitely use it again. It would be interesting to use it for a game with more units.
I will try to look at a different solo wargame AI methods next time!