I'm thinking it would be useful to see how easy it is to throw a multi-player game using the OHW scenarios, even if one is uncertain exactly who will show, and have adapted / modified the rules a bit. I've a game next weekend to host, and am in the process of preparing for just this event.
So, I began with the forces most easily at hand to host a game of 4-6 people, the most likely number to show up - I already have me, one "yes" and the Host of the venue [the mysterious game designer, retired LTC etc]. This is pretty flexible as we can accomodate up to 4 more people [I can just observe]. It means I need about 12 Units a side, which is easily divisible by 2 or 3 a side:
4 players = usual OHW of 6 Units / player.
5 players = one side of 2 players, 6 Units / player. One side 3 players, 4 Units / player. I'd probably pick one experienced gamer and two newbies for the 3-player side, and let two average experience guys play the larger force of 6 each.
6 Players = two sides of 3, 4 Units each. OR, make the game larger to 30 Units [5 each] or even the full boat 6 each.
POINT 1: you need to prepare for uncertain number of players - even if they WANT to attend, something always comes up, and others may drop by unexpectedly.
For 24 -30 Units, my easiest historical opponents would be Marcher Lord English v. Welsh. At the moment, I have:
English: 7 Knights, 2 Serjeants / dismtd Knights, 3 Crossbow, 2 Freemen, 1 Bowmen
Total 15 Units
Welsh: 3 Cavalry, 1 Serjeant / dismtd Cavalry, 3 Mtd Brigans [LC], 5 Freemen, 3 Bowmen, 1 Brigan [lt. Bows]
Total 16 Units
So, I already have the 30 Units I can easily field, without any substitutions. In a pinch, I've another 5 Units from the Dark Ages that fit pretty well with the medieval period. However, more interesting, I've several Units that have been awaiting Basing, so I could take this opportunity to hit this game project and expand it a bit.
Re-basing: 2 Galloglass Heavy Infantry, 2 Irish Brigans - Kerns, 2 Welsh Dark Ages spearmen, 1 English Medieval Bowmen [in livery]. This would add 7 Units to the force, and they wouldn't look out of place at all, really.
Initial Basing: 45 Welsh Bowmen for 4 Units, 49 Welsh long spearmen for 3 Units.
Also, it's about time I did some more leaders / characters for these forces. I've two nice sets of Feudal Lords with retinue, and two priests. It'd be good to make a few more Leaders and nice bases for them to be mounted on [a long-overdue project]. There are suitable figures already painted, more or less, I'd just need to print some flashy banners for them.
Point 2: Every game you throw, take an opportunity to prepare some new Units or Characters, so that your collection slowly, and naturally, expands. It's always easier to work on something when there's a specific goal or deadline approaching.
So, altho I was looking at doing the battle of Brunanburh, I won't have enough Saxons ready for the possible number of players who could appear. I need an exciting English v. Welsh battle that has possibility to expand it in size, from 12 Units a side to 15 Units a side. The extra three Units will easily fit onto any 2 OHW scenarios. I did Orewin Bridge 1282 previously, but my figs are really for an earlier period, so I'd like something in the 1100s.
Time to do some research:
"List of Anglo-Welsh Wars" [Click] 1136 Welsh Revolt against Normans sounds promising, dare we say "revolting"?
Battle_of_Llwchwr 1136 - good field battle but uneven forces.
Battle_of_Crug_Mawr 1136 - good battle, would like more detail, but Wiki says:
"The news of Richard's death led to an invasion by the forces of Gwynedd, led by Owain Gwynedd and Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd, sons of the king of Gwynedd, Gruffudd ap Cynan. They captured a number of castles in northern Ceredigion before returning home to dispose of the plunder. Around Michaelmas (11 October in the Julian Calendar used at the time) they again invaded Ceredigion and made an alliance with Gruffydd ap Rhys of Deheubarth. The combined forces headed for the town of Cardigan. This army was said to include hundreds of armoured horsemen, a style of warfare which the Welsh had learnt from the Normans.
Two miles outside Cardigan the Welsh army encountered a Norman force and battle was joined. The Normans were led by Robert fitz Martin, supported by Robert fitz Stephen, constable of Cardigan Castle, with the brothers William and Maurice FitzGerald, Lord of Lanstephan. After some hard fighting, the Norman forces were put to flight and pursued as far as the River Teifi."
This is promising - a field battle, with "hundreds of horsemen" who had learned the style from the Normans. This would work perfect with my available forces, as I've three stands of Cavalry with three stands of light cavalry to support them. Could be interesting clash against Knights. Also, sounds like an encounter battle, which is usually easy to set up. As the rules provide plenty of their own friction, it is easy to get an interesting fight out of a simple battle.
Also, I like the Marcher Lord's coats of arms - they are bold with a Red/White and easy to paint as well [granted, this is a very superficial and quick search on the web]:
Owain Gwynedd? Gruffydd ap Rhys, Deheubarth Arms
Some interesting colors going on here...
POINT 3: Interesting colors isn't the worst reason to pick a force!
So now I need two OHW scenarios that are an encounter, or LIKE an encounter, and which I can set side by side easily. I need one that is relatively open for a wild cavalry melee, and one that seems suitable for an infantry battle. The two favorite Hill scenarios, #4 and #8 are both good for Infantry, so the other needs to be open. Let's see some combinations using those handy-dandy OHW scenario cards I made a while ago [click]:
Option 1: 8 and 1 - escalating hill attack [infantry battle] with open fight on the right.
Option 2: 8 and 16, same but blind encounter on right [the town blocks Line of Sight as the two armies march down the road to each other]. I'd replace it with a hill, given the scale. I like the narrow gap between the two woods, below the hill and bottom left of the town. It's a good Infantry zone. Two Infantry Units could hold it if they had Brigans in each Wood. Overall, a developing battle in both halves, escalating on left and surprise bump to right.
Option 3, same, but flipped around, marginalizing the woods to the flanks. Large open space except for town / hill in center. Could be interesting, but not for Brigans [light troops] unless the Town is converted into a Wood. The support distance between the two central hills is pretty small, about 9" so it could develop into an infantry fight.
Option 4: #1 and #4, very open, dangerous for infantry in general, but the zone from the #4 hill to a #1 hill has some potential for Infantry on the Hills and Cavalry in the middle. Sort of a reverse of the usual battle plan, but hey, you have to adapt, right? Possibility, anyway.
Option 5: I like this better - the central wood would be a great place for Brigans to fight like heck and interfere with the bigger battle. #4 is a quickly escalating battle, with all Units on the board by Turn 2. Would make for some interesting choices for both sides.
Another good thing about this set-up, is that the woods are in the center, which makes Brigans an important troop type unless you want to have your forces divided and the enemy's initiative pushing the battle's development.
Point 4: the 30 scenarios in OHW give you multiple options - pick the one that will give the best game based on the forces you have and the people who will play.
For Option #5 above, the Normans would be the the Red player in both battles. Altho #1 is a pretty dull pitched battle, my version of the rules with partial random movement prevent it from being either dull or predictable. I experimented with Scenario 2 several times, and found it to be a pretty wild ride at times, especially when Initiative changed - which is why I made a firm decision to use the diced Initiative mechanic.
Scenario 1 could have:
English: 5 Knights, 2 Bowmen, 1 Serjeant
Welsh: 3 Cavalry, 2 Mtd Brigans, 2 Bowmen, 1 Serjeant
Scenario 4 could have:
English: 1 Knight, 2 Serjeants, 2 Freemen, 2 Bowmen
Welsh: 4 Freemen, 1 Bowmen, 1 Brigan, 1 Mtd Brigan
Both would need to be playtested a bit to see if the forces balance out. Most players have a lot of trouble facing knights, often because they don't understand the turn sequence.
Well, there you have it - several possibilities, any might make a decent game, mostly dependent upon what forces you plan to put into the field. In fact, ANY combination could work out, as this plays fast enough you can switch sides and go at it again! Still, it is better to plan, especially with new players to the rules, and people who have modest tactical skills but plenty of enthusiasm. Ergo, to playtesting we will go next.
Point 5: PLAYTEST, PLAYTEST, PLAYTEST before you host a game!
Most important to notice here, is that the many different scenarios give you an opportunity to tailor an available force of miniatures to an interesting scenario that may not have all the details, but at least can be filled in with details - so sure, this looks like a meeting engagement, if not a surprise one. I may have to try scenario 16 with Medievals, I never have...