Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hard Crossing in Osgiliath

Last Thursday was another great War of the Ring game with my friend Mark. I haven't blogged about it until now because of other stuff which I will talk about in my next blog.

Mark had recently acquired the new Osgiliath ruin set from Games Workshop. He combined this with some Warhammer terrain and put together a wonderful board with ruined buildings on both sides of the river Anduin representing the mostly destroyed Gondorian city of Osgiliath. I had a force of Orcs lead by Gothmog, including some Morannon Orcs as well as a Troll. My objective was to exit a formation of the opposite edge of the map from where I started. I was facing a number of formations of Warriors of Minas Tirith including some Osgiliath Veterans. The force was lead by Faramir and there were a couple of other heroes as well.

I had one of two ways to cross the river, either to use boats to cross, or a central bridge. If a company made it to the rivers edge it could start to cross the river. It could do this even if it were part of a larger formation, as we were allowed to break up formations for the crossing and reform them on the other side if they made it. A unit in a “boat” rolled a D6. On a one it was spotted from the other shore and could be targeted by bow fire. On a 2 or 3, it drifted down the river one base length. On a 4, 5 or 6 it could begin to move across the river about one base width. The bridge was about as wide as a single company base.

Mark had a large number of archers in his force most of whom deployed in buildings along the river’s edge. A two company formations of WoMT held the bridge edge and he had an Avenger bolt thrower near the centre of his line. Like my other battle reports, this is more of gloss than a blow by blow account.

My forces started about half way up the board on my side of the river. I quickly moved my archers up to occupy the buildings along my edge of the river, two companies on the far left, two companies in the centre and one company on the far right. The buildings mostly masked my assault forces for the first turn, but I did take some bow fire which caused a few casualties. I focused most of my fire on his formation in the open holding the far side of the bridge. It would have been very difficult to get hits on the guys in the buildings. I would have to roll a 6 on a D6 followed by another roll of at least 5. The city ruins made it difficult to set up cohesive formations but I kept two strong formations of Morannon Orcs on either flank and the regular orcs less one company in the centre. Mark had priority for the first few turns and steadily whittled down some of my units as they tried to get to the river. My archers in turn pounded his centre, slowly reducing the troops holding the bridge. I had a lot of difficulty crossing the river, with several boats rolling ones, which meant they drifted and could be targeted by missile weapons. As they crossed they were only single companies, which meant they only had to lose four casualties to be destroyed completely. Mark later changed this so you had to kill at least 6 before the company broke and ran. I couldn’t coordinate the landing as I had a lot of bad drift rolls and individual companies tended to get destroyed soon after they landed. The Avenger took a heavy toll, with its fire plus bow fire taking out the force trying to get a across the bridge and then killing the troll that was using the first wave as a screen. I haven’t been having much luck with trolls. Sometimes they do very well while other times they act as shooting magnets and die quickly. I think there should have been a rule that the troll could have forded the river and have a less chance of being hit because he was mostly underwater, but that’s just me. I did have some luck, calling out one of his captains in a heroic duel which I one and messed up one of his formations despite some abysmal rolls. After a few turns, most of my regular assault force was destroyed and I had to start pulling archers out of the buildings and forming a second wave. Gothmog and two companies of Morannon had managed to make it across and link up, forcing their way into a building and wiping out the Men that were there. Unfortunatley, the low defence of the Orc archers made them easy meat for missile fire, but they did manage to take out the Avenger after a couple of charges. Mark still had sufficient forces to contain Gothmog’s formation and he went down after a heroic effort to break through the men who almost surrounded him, eliminating the last of my forces.

I know now what I would do differently, but I don’t want to broadcast it as I know mark reads this blog. I hope we get another chance to try the scenario as the board was magnificent and it’s a fun game to play. I’ve posted some of the pictures we took of the game at the beginning of this blog.

My next blog will be on events that happened last weekend. Until then, keep watching the skies, or don’t. It’s really up to you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

War of the Trilliums VI

Last weekend was held one of the truly special events in the Ealdormerian calendar, an event called War of the Trilliums. I have been attending this event from my earliest days in the SCA. It originally was called Septentrian War Practice and later became known as Ealdormere War Practice. Six years ago it gained the rather impressive moniker of War of the Trilliums. For those of you who don't know, one of the heraldic charges of the Kingdom of Ealdormere is the trillium, which works as the Kingdom covers a large part of the Province of Ontario which also uses the trillium as one of its symbols. The event is also referred to as Trilliums or often “Trillies” (not a name I am a fan of).

Trilliums is traditionally held over the July 1st long weekend. July 1st this year fell on a Thursday. My wife, like many others, arranged to have the Friday off work so we could enjoy the whole event. Over the week before the event we had steadily gotten our stuff for the weekend together. Eve pulled our camping gear out of the storage closet under the stairs in our apartment. I did a pile of laundry, including all the bedding we would need, and then I packed most of the clothes and other items we would need. Eve put together a great list for me to follow to make sure we had everything for the trip. It’s amazing how much stuff you need to take, especially when bringing both kids. We actually pack less stuff for Pennsic, a week long camping event in the states, than for Trilliums. That’s because the kids are home with grandma and we don’t do any cooking at Pennsic. For Trilliums we have to bring all the extra stuff for them plus the stove, camp kitchen, food, utensils, pots and pans etc. We also decided to make a change in our bedding. In previous years we had used air mattresses which always seemed to spring leaks leaving us with many an uncomfortable night. We’d also tried multiple camping pads but they also turned out to be less than comfortable. Eve was really sick and tired of being uncomfortable so she went out and bought an eight inch double futon. It was bulky but it was the closest thing we’ve had to a real bed. I was really beginning to wonder how we were going to get all of this stuff in the minivan. The new van, a Montana SV6 was very nice, but it seemed to have less room inside than the Transport. My wife however, was up to the challenge. Eve is a master packer, a true Tetris master, and she managed to get everything in, though I suspect extra-dimensional physics was involved at some point. She did most of the packing the night before which really helped the next morning.

The event takes place about 15 minutes outside the City of Ajax at the Heber Downs Conservation Area. It’s been held there, with a few exceptions, since it started. The site has seen better days. It is the conservation areas group camping site, but apparently the local Conservation Authority is essentially letting it go back to the wild. It once had its own potable water and electricity but neither now works. The outhouses on site have also not been emptied out in several years so are quite full. The powers that be also put restrictions on overflow parking, banning the use of the usual lot we’ve used in the past. In spite of all this, it is a very nice site but I don’t know how much longer the SCA will use it. The event is mostly run by people from the local SCA group, Ard Creag and they do a pretty good job. We headed out around 11 am as Eve had to be at a meeting at 2 pm. We stopped in Ajax for lunch and got to the site just after 1 pm. We set up our new shade fly and unpacked the van before Eve had to dash off to her meeting. I did what I could until she got back, including partly setting up the tent. The weather for the weekend was supposed to be great and it was. Thursday was in the mid twenties and a mix of sun and cloud, which was excellent. After Eve’s meeting we got the rest of the camp set up and changed into our SCA clothes. We were camped next to the Art & Sciences area beside Merchant’s Row. It was a good spot because a lot of the meetings and classes we were involved in were going to be at A&S.

There were a lot of different things happening at the event. This year was an Olympic theme and people could win medals for various events, including martial activities and the Arts and Sciences. There were a number of fencing tourneys, including the Galbraith Cup, a torchlight tourney, a populace tourney and part of the Triathlon. The decision had been made early on for me to skip most of the tourneys. The reasons for this were twofold. At the previous outdoor event Murder Melee Eve didn’t get a lot of opportunities to do her stuff as I was off fencing a bunch. This was completely unfair of me. I would be doing a lot of the kid watching during Trilliums so Eve could teach a class and participate in the A&S judging and things like this. I would also be taking Matthew to shoot archery and Eve was hoping to try thrown weapons. I was going to be doing one bit of fencing, which is the other reason I wasn’t playing in the other stuff. I was fighting my Prize for Provost in the Ealdormere Academy of Defence. I had tried once before and not made it so I really wanted to succeed this time. The Prize would be fought Saturday morning at 11. But more on that later.

Thursday was fairly laid back after set up. Eve made some delicious burgers that evening from scratch. They were really good, cooked using an iron frying pan over the camp stove. We have a camp kitchen set up from Woods which makes cooking a lot easier. The bed worked out wonderfully and we had a comfortable night, despite the cool temperature. Matthew had an air mattress and Elizabeth slept in her play yard. It took her awhile to get to bed but she eventually fell asleep on the foot of our bed.

Eve made some lovely chocolate pancakes for breakfast Friday morning using cake mix along with breakfast sausage. The pancakes turned out very well but would have been better if I hadn’t forgotten the maple syrup. She had two scrolls to deliver for Court on Saturday and she spent a lot of Friday working on them under the A&S shelter. There was also a meeting concerning how A&S contests are judged which she was able to attend. She also taught her class on how to cut and drape a Gothic era dress which went off very well. She now has another dress cut out of the nice fabric we picked up at Fabricland a couple of weeks ago. Educational and practical! The scrolls turned out wonderfully and I’ve included pictures of them at the top of this blog.

I spent a lot of the time following Elizabeth around as she really likes to wander around the camp. Matthew played with a bunch of his friends. I remember when there were few kids at SCA events but there now seem to be flocks of them. He did get into one spot of trouble when he tried to go into a camp were kids had to be accompanied by an adult and was rather rude when told to leave, to a Duchess no less. He spent some time sitting in camp because of that. I did manage to take him to the archery range with Elizabeth in tow. In the SCA a parent has to accompany anyone under 12 on the range line. I held Elizabeth while Matthew shot and let her run around between rounds. He has his own bow and arrows. I think he’ll be a great archer. He just needs to slow things down a bit. He likes to get the arrows down range as quickly as possible. Well, fire enough arrows, eventually you’ll take down a French knight. I also took the opportunity to wander by the fencing list a couple of times.

Friday evening I held a Fencer’s Moot in our camp and about 25 people showed up for it. There were some very helpful discussions and not much in the way of acrimony. It went a long way in helping me decide about some issues that have cropped up. We talked about changed to the gorget rules, how being legged worked, the recent ruling on incidental contact, and changes to the rule on the RMIT course.

After the Moot I cooked up a bunch of Piller’s Sausages for supper which were served on buns. They tasted great and there were lots of them. We were even able to give some to our friend Catlin and her daughter who had arrived late in the afternoon.

We planned on a simple cereal breakfast for Saturday. I didn’t want to eat anything too heavy before I played my Prize. Matthew woke up and the left side of his face was swollen and it looked like he had numerous bites on it. He may have had a close encounter with a spider. We gave him Tylenol and put a cold compress on his face. The swelling went down over the day but he’s still a bit puffy around his eye. We’ve been giving him anti-reaction meds and they seem to be helping. At the A&S shelter a group of heralds and scribes were gathering for a meeting, which as a herald, I listened in on and claimed at duchy donut from. Donuts, breakfast of champions! My friend Gareth, who is also one of the Provosts I would be fighting in my Prize fight, came by and dropped off a bottle of Coke and a sprinkled donut he had promised he would bring. Yay for more donuts!

So, full of sugar and a bit of caffeine, I headed out to the rapier list. As mentioned, I was fighting my Prize for the rank of Provost in the EAOD. The Prize involves fighting 40 bouts against members of the Academy of the same or higher rank than you. We only have two Provosts so some other excellent fencers were brought in to help play the Prize, Baron Hoskuld and his Lady Wife Baroness Eyrny. The Prizor has to win 1/3 of their 40 bouts. After the first 40 bouts, each Prizor holds the field against all comers for 15 minutes. Also fighting their Prize was THL Wilhelm von Potruff, an excellent fencer and scholar of fencing from Caldrithig (Ottawa). We would fight 10 bouts and then have a break while the other fought 10 bouts. The two Provosts were THL Gareth Cambell, and His Excellency Baron Giovanni d’Enzinas of Skraeling Althing. The number to beat was 13 and I did not try to keep track while I was fencing as I had to focus on the fencing itself.

The day was very warm, in the upper twenties plus some humidity and the sky was clear and brilliantly blue. I hadn’t had nearly as much time to practice as I would have liked to, but I was determined to go through with the Prize. Before the Prizes there is traditionally a procession around the camp with heralds signing the praises of the Prizors. I asked my good friend Lord Gunthar if he would be my Herald and he agreed. Baron Brand was THL Wilhelm’s Herald. As we walked around the camp the two heralds began a duel, each raising the stakes in their praise of us. At one point Gunthar made the claim that I had killed more people with my sword than the Black Death and syphilis combined. That actually left Brand speechless, a state I have never seen him in before.

We arrived back at the list and the Prizes began. Lord DJ was of great help to me, handing me the weapons I needed during the bouts. I got off to a good start but grew concerned after a stretch without many wins. After a break during Wilhelm’s fight I managed to settle down and get back on track. Several of my opponents complimented me noting that I had my “A” game on that day. At some point someone whispered in my ear that I had passed the 13 win mark and I felt incredibly relieved. After that is was all fun, gruelling, exhausting fun.

In the end I managed to win 18 of my 40 bouts, a lot better then the 11 I managed last time. Gareth told me I seemed like I was having a lot more fun this time around. After a short rest was the 15 minute endurance round. For that part of the prize you face a constant stream of opponents. You don’t actually have to win any bouts, but you have to be standing at the end of 15 minutes and it can seem like an eternity. Lady Dubessa took over looking after my weapons and took some great pictures, for which I am very thankful. Lady Jocelyn, who was running the Prizes, announced five minutes at one point and I was disappointed to find out that it was only five minutes in not five minutes remaining. I’m not sure how many bouts I fought during the 15 minutes but it was a lot and I won a fair number of them. I fought the last 20 or so using my longsword which was a great fun. My last bout was a glorious double kill with Lord Yoshi after we had charged screaming at each other.

Eve had been watching after Matthew ran back to camp to get her and she gave me a big mug of water and a kiss. I slumped in my chair and stripped off bits and pieces of gear. I’m pretty certain steam rose out of my collar at one point. Wilhelm also succeeded in his Prize attempt and there was much general rejoicing. After being congratulated profusely by my fellow fencers, I staggered back to my tent.

I actually didn’t feel as terrible as I thought I would. I went into the tent and stripped off my fencing gear, and lay spread eagle on the bed enjoying the air on my skin. Eve offered to give me a foot bath. I slipped on my linen shirt and sat in one of the camp chairs while Eve filled our basin with cold water. I nearly went into shock when my feet went in but it was worth it after that. It felt awesome and did a lot to restore my energy. The A&S competition was being judged next store and I hope I didn’t offend anyone with my hairy legs. I actually felt good enough that Eve was able to go over and help out with the A&S judging while I watched the kids. I later took Matthew to the range for another round of archery and managed to do some shooting myself, including shooting a 9 in the Populace shoot (one red, one blue, two black). I also found out that I was the first to shoot for my Barony that day. After we got back from archery Eve made supper. She cooked up some very nice sirloin steaks over the camp stove along with some boiled potatoes. The steaks were absolutely delicious, lightly crusted with special salt and ground pepper. Each piece melted in my mouth. I had been looking forward to that meal all weekend and was in no way disappointed.

We finished just in time to head over to the Picnic Shelter for court. Eve wore her red brocade Gothic dress and looked great. She sat at court and I let the kids run around in the field behind the shelter. It was a bit of a struggle at times as I had to keep Elizabeth from running into court or playing on a siege weapon, a torsion powered mangonel, that had been set up near the battle field. Eve took over a couple of times, once when I got called into court to receive my Provost’s Scarf and another time when a new member was inducted into the Order of Thorbjorn’s Hammer. Eve’s two scrolls were given out and there were some good ooohs and ahhhs when they were displayed. One of the scrolls was for the new Hammer member. Eve’s scrolls are unique, being based on period items of jewellery. As can be seen from the examples above, they are quite stunning. At one point Matthew asked to go back to camp and I foolishly said yes. He wasn’t in camp when we got back and the next thing I knew a Lady came running into our camp saying Matthew had been hurt. I ran over to where Matthew was and found him being treated by a nurse for a bloody nose. Apparently another child was flinging about a heavy stick and it caught Matthew in the face. I thanked the people who helped out and took Matthew back to camp where he had a time out for some time. We did let him roast some marshmallows in a nearby camp later on. There was a kid’s party and an adult toga party that night but we decided to take it easy and get some rest. Sunday morning was going to be tear down of the camp in some pretty horrendous heat.

Next morning we cooked up a big mess of bacon and eggs which we shared with Caitlin and her daughter and then began cleaning up and tearing down our camp. We also chatted with friends who wandered by which slowed the process a bit but made it more pleasant. Eventually everything got packed up and through Eve’s magical skills, into the mini van. Fortunately most of the food and water had been used up so there was a bit more space. We waved our goodbyes from the car, dumped our garbage in the handy bin and headed into Ajax for a bit of lunch and then home. The drive was pretty easy and the traffic surprisingly light for a holiday weekend. I spent the evening unloading the car and then Eve went out for a load of groceries. All in all, it was a very good weekend. With all the fencing, kid chasing, packing and unpacking, my back and legs are pretty sore. I didn’t end up with too many bruises, despite the number of bouts I fought. I saw lots of good friends at Trilliums and despite some bug bites we did pretty well in the health department. We even managed to avoid sun burn, thanks to good hats and a new coif that we got for Elizabeth. Next weekend I’m going to a non-SCA Western Martial Arts event called Chivalric weekend with my friend Hoskuld. I’m hoping it will be fun and educational.