Thursday, February 25, 2010

Armies of Oerth, Part I: Bigby

Over the last year, I have been bitten again by the bug of wargaming. I confess to being an on-again/off-again “Armchair General” for many years. Sitting with my morning cup of coffee, evaluating military actions of the past…it smells like victory! Sure, it is Monday morning quarterbacking from the safe distance of the 21st century, but there is something satisfyingly tangibly three-dimensional about battles with miniatures. Moving through real space and time; recreating scenarios from Hannibal, Caesar, etc… it can be a lot of fun. Now, combine this with a love for fantasy role-playing games and the urge becomes almost irresistible.

I recently found a new wargame system to play called Field of Glory from Osprey Publishing. It drew me in with its nicely compact rulebook and supplements and offers a wide variety of armies and time periods to playout scenarios. About this same time, I was going through some early Dragon Magazines and digging up information on Gary Gygax’s World of Greyhawk. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across some information regarding the armies of Oerth.

One of the earliest gems I found was in Dragon #37. It has a great Sorcerer's Scroll article by Gygax on Greyhawk's evolution, and (at the time) its intended future. At the end of the article, he gave us an added bonus: Orders of Battle for certain renowned figures from the Greyhawk world - Bigby, Mordenkainen, Robilar, Tenser & "Erac's Cousin". Earlier in the same article, Gary spoke of having a set of rules to set forth the orders of battle of the various governing states of the Flanaess. Players would be able to fight the major battles which could affect the course of history in the World of Greyhawk. Knowing of his roots in wargaming and interest in military history, I would hypothesize the orders of battle given are entirely playable (with probably a few adjustments) for whichever wargaming system one was to use.

As I am currently experimenting with Field of Glory, I intend to represent these armies accordingly. Each base of models can normally represent 250 men-at-arms, but the rules quickly suggest to ignore this (I suppose a player should unless one has an incredibly large battle-table and lots of toy soldiers to fill it with!). The player is advised to treat an army as a coherant whole, representing whatever full-sized army its prototype usually fielded. It aims for reaching the correct shape and feel of the army for a more realistic representation of how it fought. Since this system was not designed with fantasy games in mind, it eliminates the use of magic. Still I think it will be a good system to experiment with. So, looking over the army lists, I have decided each model base should represent approximately 25 men-at-arms each. The reason for the smaller ratio is to allow more bases/models on the board to properly play with.

I would love to build and test all of these armies. But until I can collect sufficient models and have the available time, I am limited to using proxy bases marked for the appropriate troop types. Besides, there are several more related articles from other Dragon Magazines giving additional battle forces for some of the greater state armies. So, to help inspire any other "Armchair Generals" out there with some time on their hands, I will keep it simple and focus on these initial five lists. The first one to look at is:

Bigby's Army List

This army is actually centered in a very good area related to the City of Greyhawk and its surrounding Lands of Oerik, specifically somewhere between the Shield Lands & Bandit Kingdoms. Battlewise, this can bring them into oppostion with the Horned Society, Iuz, or even the Kingdom of Furyondy depending on which way this neutral-alligned force may wish to involve itself.

Commander-in-Chief: Bigby (MU of 18th level) = 1 base
One piece of triviaI found was "His personal symbol is an open palm behind a large, stylized bumblebee". I do not know if this is from his original beginnings when run by Gary Gygax, or if it was simply added to the character's history at some point later by others. Due to the thematic nature of many spells bearing his name, the 'open palm' is certainly a safe symbol to go with for now.

Heavy Cavalry: 50 (Elite) = 2 bases
(3 models/base; knights on horses, heavy armour & barding, hand weapons)

Medium Cavalry: 100 (Regulars) = 4 bases
(3 models/base; riders on horses, leather armour & moderate shields, hand weapons)

Light Cavalry: 100 (Regulars) = 4 bases
(2 models/base; riders on horses, no armour, small shields, hand weapons)

Light Horse Archers: 100 (Levied) = 4 bases
(2 models/base; riders on horses, no armour, small shields, bows)

Armored Infantry: 50 (Elite) = 2 base
(4 models/base; foot troops, helm, chest armour & substantial shields, hand weapons)

Heavy Infantry: 180 (Regulars) = 8 bases
(4 models/base; foot troops, heavy armour & substantial shields, hand weapons)

Light Crossbowmen: 100 (Regulars) = 4 bases
(2 models/base; foot troops, no armour, small shields, crossbows)

Heavy Crossbowmen: 50 (Regulars) = 2 bases
(4 models/base; foot troops, heavy armour & substantial shields, crossbows)

Pikemen: 100 (Elite) = 4 bases
(3 models/base; foot troops, leather armour & moderate shields, pikes)

So, this totals 35 bases with 103 models on them.

It is mentioned this force has been occasionally allied with:

Elven Infantry: 200 = 8 bases
(3 models/base; foot troops, leather armour & moderate shields, swords/hand weapons)

Kron Hills Dwarven Infantry: 150 = 6 bases
(3 models/base; foot troops, leather armour & moderate shields, axes/hand weapons)

With another 14 bases and 42 models among them, these two additions lend themselves as a nice expansion with more modeling opportunities.

Next time: Mordenkainen



Cimmerian said...

Cool topic & will be back to see this to conclusion. Makes me think about putting REH's armies to FOG too.

Mike Bridges said...

Good topic! I ran across the same old Dragon this week when working on article for my comic. Gyga certainly did have a lofty goal for Armies of GH and the minis to back it up. Albeit smaller scale and lead :P

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

Have you tried HOTT? I'd be curious to see Greyhawk armies expressed in HOTT armies.

Joseph said...

Excellent stuff. I've long thought of putting Greyhawk armies in the field using the FoG rules.

There's a FoG_fantasy email list over at Yahoogroups. You might find that of interest as well.

Rob Kuntz said...

Real Nice, Gredelwulf. Perhaps an overview of the rules system being used would be in order, as well. I know that Cimmerian did that at one point?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. I am glad to see others are interested too. It helps me stay committed. ;)

Cimmerian: Oooh. REH armies! Now, THAT I would like to see.

mike: I too often forget how much great stuff there is in those Dragon Mags. There's even a Gygax article on clothing styles and racial appearances of the different cultures in the Flanaess which could be a guide to painting some troop colours.

Chgowiz: I haven't tried HOTTS, but I will give it a looksee as it has a fast-play fantasy element to it.

Joseph: Last year, I was heavily into sci-fi wargames and needed a break. The plasma cannons and laspistols just lost their spark. Then, after following so many 'Old School' blogs and your own Castle of the Mad Archmage, it seemed like a natural route to follow. I'll have to check out the FoG_fantasy email list you mentioned. Thanks.

LotGD: Thank you. Yes, I guess I was putting the cart before the horse. I will try to put an overview together before my next post.


Cimmerian said...

The best overview of FOG I have come across to date is here by Matthew-:

FOG is for a more experienced wargamer and games tend to run long for those not familiar with formations and how to use them. Great in depth wargaming experience.

On the other side of the coin, there is Command & Colors Ancients which has simplified these simulations without compromising itself as a legitimate wargame. Players can leave the table in about an hour after having a satisfying battle.

Nobody can beat my Scythian calvary! = FOG
You just spilled beer on my light calvary! = CCA

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

I'd also like to add to Cimmerian's summary that HOTT (Hordes of the Thing) which is based on DBA (I compare DBA to being the OD&D of miniatures wargaming) is very much a beer/pretzels type of wargame. You can easily conduct a battle in an hour (or 6 beers, depending on your timekeeping) and it's fairly robust to some houseruling. I've been working, slowly, on some modifications to HOTT to reflect including OD&D characters in it.

rafael beltrame said...

cool! thats exaclty one of the things i was looking for! cant wait to see the rest

Matthew James Stanham said...

Thanks for the kind words, Cimmerian!

The Greyhawk orders of battle article is great, and this conversion sounds very workable.

I sometimes wonder about the size of the armies of Oerth, the scale always seems somewhat lower than I would usually expect. If Bigby's forces were serving as an adjunct to a larger force I would be tempted to treat them as two battle groups with averaged statistics, as Field of Glory does for some units:

2 x Cavalry, Protected, Average, Undrilled, Bow*, Lancers, Swordsmen,

2 x Heavy Foot, Armoured, Average, Drilled, Offensive Spearmen,
1 x Light Foot, Protected, Average, Drilled, Crossbow