Monday, January 26, 2015

Open Combat - Finns v. Vikings AAR

This weekend's game was another delve into Open Combat using the Dark Age Finns I put together last week.

The scenario was Capture from page 43 of the rules. Two rival raiders, Finns and Vikings, both fall upon the same village at the same time.  The winner is whoever can get out with the most plunder.  Livestock, pigs, sheep and reindeer were considered neutral or submissive, and the two villagers and the dog were hostile.  My opponent took the Finns who approached from the "north" end of the table, and my Vikings from the lower side.

Below, a Finn target a villager. As a hostile, she attacks and scores a 6 on a mental attack and escaped.

My Vikings close in on the reindeer, who conveniently move towards them on their randomly generated moves. 

My Viking makes it off the table with his prize, a lady who is not that happy with her situation.

Fighting over the sheep in the pen.

The Finn, with the Nimble perk, jumps the fence, avoids a Free Attack runs off with a sheep. My archer tags him, but he still has enough Fortitude to get out.

The plundered village: 

Final score, Finns 10, Vikings 6. 

Open Combat's initial draw is the flexibility of force creation. There are no approved lists; characters can be as fast or strong as the points you are willing to pay.  My opponent and I also stumbled onto another element that added to the fun when we kept our character's scores secret until combat began. In most all games, each player can know the opponent's strengths and weaknesses by knowing the lists.  But in Open Combat, the exact power of each model can vary, giving one the opportunity to bluff and feint.  Obviously some trust in your opponent is required, but we're all gentlemen here.

The interaction with the terrain and objects may be the next best feature of this rule system. Figures are a part of their environment, and the terrain can be much more dynamic than usual. Every tree, fence and barrel can become part of the action.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Viking Age Finns

The Vikings are at the heart of my interest in the Dark Ages and wargaming.  After years of reading and study, I continue to find new facets to the Viking story. One area often overshadowed in comparison to the stories of Western Europe is the Eastern Baltic.

The Baltic Finns, Estonians and Karelians are a related group of peoples speaking a Uralic language, somewhat related to Hungarian.  In the Viking Age, their cold and marshy lands marked the first leg of the journey eastward to the Dnieper .

Viking goods and burial sites begin showing up in the Lake Ladoga region in the ninth century. This might indicate a pattern of Viking settlement in the region, as they set up semi-permanent bases on the road to Constantinople. The artifacts might also indicate that the Finns and Karelians traded with the Vikings and also adopted some aspects of their culture.

A significant Finnish element to the Viking Age might be the naming of the Rus.  The Finn word for Swede, Ruotsi, may have stuck to the Eastern Vikings as they blended into the people later called the Rus.  There is not a great deal written about the interaction between the Finns and the early Vikings, and even less is available in English.  The story of the Vikings in the west is shaped largely by its raids on targets containing literate monks and by the later Icelandic Sagas. There is no comparable preservation of early Viking encounters in Finland and the Baltic. It can be surmised that the Finns were a frequent target for slave raids, but this decreased in frequency as the Vikings traded and mixed with the Baltic peoples.

This early twentieth century Russian painting served as my primary visual inspiration for painting up some Viking Age Finns.  Pinterest is also a good source of recreations of Finnish folk clothing from the Viking era, although much of the work is focused on female dress.

The Invitation of the Varangians, by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1909.

These Crusader Bondi archers are unarmored and some are beardless which fits in well with some of the presentations of Baltic Finns and Karelians.   In the photo below, the figures on the far right were given a fur hat and cloak using a bit of green stuff.

While a full faction of Finns is not really something I plan to pursue, I can see them fitting into a Rus warband in SAGA. However, as I dig into Open Combat, I find that it is a great system to do small custom warbands as I explore some of the more obscure recesses of the early Medieval period.

Here is a quick stat box for the eight figure shown above:

Bow, Sword
Inspire, Intimidate,
30 pts
Bow, Dagger
Aim, Surefooted
24 ea.
Total Renown
32 + 168 = 200

This small band will make a raid on Viking settlement in an upcoming game, after I finish some longhouses - the subject of my next update.