The 2nd Styrenian War – background

Date: First day of the Month of the Boar, in the year 335.

In the year 295, King Anaxatos of Pramanda, turning his eyes upon Styrenia to the south of his empire, upon its fertile lands and its wealth, sent an army under the Satrap Mahaba to conquer that country. But the Styrenians, a stubborn people, stood firm behind the walls of their cities and towns, resisting Mahaba’s advance; and they sent for aid to King Meleagros of Kavalla, the empire that lay to their west.

Thus the Kavallans first came to Styrenia, and at last in a great battle beneath the ancient walls of Habordah the Pramandan army was shattered, and Mahaba himself was taken captive.

Styrenia, after, became first a protectorate of Kavalla, and then was incorporated as a province of the Kavallan empire. Forty years have passed since the Battle of Habordah. Now, trouble stirs again.

A new king, Vajnayar, has been enthroned in Uttara to the east. He has set his heart upon glory and conquest, wishing to expand his realm into Styrenia’s rich valley. Meanwhile, to the north, Anaxatos has passed over to dwell with his ancestors, and his son Anaxerxes desires revenge for the humiliation of his father. Birds have flown between the palaces of Pramanda and Uttara, bearing messages between the two kings.

Beneath the paths of the birds’ flight, Styrenia lies unsuspecting. Yet, wise men always fear the approach of war, and prepare themselves accordingly in the times of peace.


Dario Baldini

Arms of the Baldini family

Dario Baldini, b.1429; younger son of Gilberto Baldini. Like his elder brother Roberto, Dario is a gloomy individual with a womanising streak. However, having suffered facial disfigurement in a fire, as a child, he remains both unmarried and embittered. Giotta’s prostitutes know him well, and gossip of his reputation as a skilful lover, yet they also know that he will do his best to avoid actually paying for their services. On the other hand, he is an easy man to bribe.

Although intelligent, and capable of a certain dark and cynical wit, Dario is rather inept in both the military and political fields (perhaps as well, given his faults). Even so, he has some experience in both, as a consequence of his aristocratic privileges; privileges that he likes to flaunt in an arrogant manner. Physically, he is a coward, but he will go to considerable lengths to protect and preserve himself and his own best interests, supported by a degree of low cunning. Given the opportunity, he has a tendency towards disloyal intrigues.

Styrenia remapped

As the Italo campaign is taking quite a long time to set up, I’ve decided to pick up another project in the meantime – a return to the environs of the Styrenia campaign, that last saw action during my schooldays forty years ago. The original map is in a fairly fragile condition now, so the obvious first step has been to redraw it. Styrenia011

Observant readers may notice some differences between the original map and this new version.

1. The river system has altered in places. This has nothing whatsoever to do with me misinterpreting lines on the original and thus drawing the rivers differently by accident. Over a span of forty years, Kavallan engineers have surveyed and mapped the region properly, so this map is far more accurate and reliable than the old Styrenian map. Obviously.

2. Four decades of, first, Kavallan influence and, then, Kavallan rule have led to significant improvements in the Styrenian infrastructure, and to the growth of settlements. Most notably, a new port town has developed at Dariush, which was formerly a mere fishing village. In the desert region, places that were once no more than a well or oasis and a huddle of adobe buildings have expanded into large fortified villages or small towns, and they have been linked by a network of roads, creating vital routes for travel and commerce between Styrenia and the rest of the Kavallan Empire, to the west.

3. The area covered by the campaign map has expanded a little to the east and to the south. The Pramandan Empire is still to the north, beyond the mountain range, and is connected to Styrenia by a single narrow pass. The border with the Kingdom of Uttara is marked by the first river to the south-east of Dariush. Two other, smaller realms have entered the Styrenian arena. The small area of plains shown to the east of the (dark green) hill country is the western edge of Paltrya; the hills to the south of that, bordered by the same river that divides Styrenia from Uttara, are occupied by the wild tribes of the Natori.

The Styrenia campaign is, at least partly, a “fantasy” setting designed to use a number of the 15mm ancient armies in my collection. To make things easier to visualise, for anyone who might bother to follow this over the coming weeks and possibly months, here’s a handy guide:

Kavalla = Macedonian.

Pramanda = Achaemaenid Persian.

Uttara = Indian.

Paltrya = Parthian.

Natori = Numidian.

Styrenian = the warbands and light cavalry from my Ancient British constitute local militia, with a small number of Sub-Roman British providing a small standing army stationed in the provincial capital, Habordah.

I’ve mounted the campaign map in a cheap clip frame (99p from Wilkinsons – no expense spared, here!). The changing positions of troops can then be marked on the glass using a chinagraph pencil, saving the map itself from being scribbled over.

The other thing worth mentioning at this stage is that I need a calendar of sorts to mark the passing of time within the campaign. Feeling lazy, I’ve decided that everyone in this alternative world uses the same lunar calendar, giving them thirteen months each of four weeks and with each month named after an animal. So, the sequence of months runs (starting on the equivalent of our 1st January): Boar, Fox, Water Dragon, Owl, Adder, Wolf, Ram, Goose, Bull, Wren, Earth Dragon, Cat, Crane. I used a simple enough method to name the months. I have a deck of cards called The Druid Animal Oracle; I just shuffled them to randomise the process, then drew the first thirteen cards and named the months in the sequence that came up.

That’s much of the setting up done for the revamped Styrenia campaign. With this one, I am only bothering with character development as and when it’s actually important to the narrative. The next post in this thread will give a brief background to the situation in Styrenia and the neighbouring lands, on the last day of the Month of the Crane, in the year 334…

Roberto Baldini

Arms of the Baldini family

ROBERTO BALDINI, b.1424. Eldest son of Gilberto Baldini, and heir to his father’s lands and title as Count of Giotta. However, Roberto has inherited neither good looks nor good nature from his father. His moods are most often dark-toned, and on the whole he is rather stupid. In spite of that, he is considered to be loyal, and fairly reliable as a soldier as long as he is given clear and straightforward orders to follow.

Within the town of Giotta and the surrounding countryside, his ageing father’s duties as magistrate have been largely devolved to Roberto, who has gained a reputation for being merciful in that role and thus he is not unpopular. In his personal life, on the other hand, he is revenge-prone and can be cruel, especially to his wife, Chiara, who must endure the succession of his mistresses. Secretly, Roberto is a coward, and he will go to some lengths to disguise this fact.

The charity shop treasure hunt

The “charity shop treaure hunt” is a game I play frequently. The rules are straightforward.

1) Scour every charity shop in a given area for any item at all related to gaming.

2) Leave no find unpurchased.

I think I’ve become quite good at this, to the point that I have been compared to a one-man locust swarm. And my collection of board games has been growing substantially, as a result. Recent catches have included A Game of Nations, Survival, Game of Thrones (first edition, I believe), Heroquest, Heroscape, Hour of Glory, the Heroclix core game, and (on the non-wargaming front, though I have some ideas for adapting it) a storytelling game called Never Ending Stories. Not a bad haul, and none of those has cost me more than £5. 

Game of Thrones

It’s a good idea to check the components of a game before purchase. Charity shops can be a little unreliable, sometimes, on that score, probably because staff don’t necessarily know what they should be looking for. But even an incomplete game, if cheap enough, can be useful for spares and bits that can be put to other uses. Personally, I can never find enough of those little houses and hotels that come in Monopoly – they paint up quite nicely for use in 6mm scale wargames.

I will just point out that, if you happen to be in Kent, or in Leamington Spa as I visit there quite often, I am not encouraging you to play the same charity shop hunt in competition with me. I’m selfish like that. But if you’re anywhere else in the world, then I can recommend it. I’ve even turned up a few miniatures, here and there.

Then, of course, there are the books. Oh, so many books…Here’s a little tip. Check the children’s books, and don’t get so obsessed with the “military history” section that you miss things elsewhere. For instance, I picked this up from a shelf of children’s books in a Canterbury shop, about a year ago: 

Battlegame book008

The games in it are on the simple side – which is only to be expected – but in a way that’s part of its charm, and its utility. Now I’m looking for others in the same series, as there were a number of them I think, each covering a different historical period or theme.

My final point on this subject is that, to be honest, board games have become scarily expensive, with new games very often going above the £50 mark nowadays. This kind of treasure hunting is a good way to build up a games collection without breaking the bank – you just need a bit of luck, and a willingness to spend a little time on the trail.

To Je Fotbal

Quite inexplicably, given how unsporty a person I am, I have a fondness for games based on sports – even sports I don’t particularly like watching, let alone participating in, in real life. Along with, it seems, most of the world’s population, I do like football, though; which makes me doubly a sucker for soccer games. So when I spotted To Je Fotbal (in English, This Is Football) on sale at a discounted price, I obviously had to buy it immediately.

As readers will probably guess from the foregoing, TJF is neither the first nor the only football-based game in my possession. I have Subbuteo, and Super Striker, and a few others, and they all get dusted off every now and then. How does TJF compare to such old stalwarts?

The first thing that has to be said, straight away on unboxing, is that I like the scale of the game. The player figures stand 45mm tall (that is, approximately 1/40th scale), each mounted on a circular plastic base about 5mm thick; nice and easy to handle, they have more presence than the smaller Subbuteo models and look far more realistic than, say, the chunky Rooney-a-likes of Super Striker. However, there are some issues with the quality of components, in my view. My copy arrived with some slight warping of the three boards that make up the “pitch”; not enough to be a problem, and they tend to flatten out once slotted into the plastic walls that are designed to run along either side of the pitch and connect the three boards, but it’s a little annoying. Each goal is made from a single piece of plastic (an actual net would have been a nice touch), and call me pernickety but for aesthetic reasons alone I would have liked the football to be represented by some kind of spherical representation of a ball rather than by a flat counter. Some such issues are easy to resolve, mind you. I was momentarily a bit concerned, on unpacking the player figures, to find that several forearms had become detached in transit. They just push back into place, having been moulded separately; I’d recommend a dab of glue to make the attachment permanent, as I found a couple of the figures had a tendency to lose their forearms again on being moved around the pitch. Or I suppose you could just count that as an injury, and bring on a substitute…

tojefotbal 1

Another thing to mention is that you won’t find any variety in the teams. The game – which hails, I think, from the Czech Republic – is presented as a “derby” between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. You won’t be able to buy additional teams as you can with, say, Subbuteo. On the other hand, there’s no account taken of individual player characteristics in the rules beyond defining them by position as goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, forward or captain, so it doesn’t make a lot of difference other than in the aesthetics of the game, and you can easily just think of the teams as “Reds” and “Blues” if you prefer.

The game rules themselves are pretty straightforward. Movement is alternate and measured on squares, while the movement of the ball is decided by dice throws that can be adjusted by the playing of cards that allow long passes, long shots, and so on. There’s a time scale of one move equals one minute, and so for a full match you’re looking at ninety moves, which sounds a lot, but to be honest once you have the hang of the rules the moves can be taken very quickly.

I stuck to the basic rules for my first play-through of TJF, which are okay as far as they go, but I think most players would want to adopt the more advanced rules very early on, as in the basics there are no dead ball situations or fouls, etc.

tojefotbal 2

I learned two things very quickly. One is that I’ll be doing away with the set up rule that insists the miniatures have to start each game on specific squares. As things stand, players are thereby stuck with a 4-4-2 formation and a lack of the sort of tactical flexibility which could add extra interest to the game. The other is that it’s very hard to break through and score against a well organised defence – which perhaps indicates at least some similarity between TJF and the real thing!

For the record, my first game of TJF ended as a 1-1 draw. The Czech Republic struck first, in the 27th minute; Slovakia eventually equalised, after a period of quite intense pressure, on 87 minutes.

Overall, a game I enjoyed and definitely will return to. It’s available from Modiphius (makers of the excellent Airfix Battles) at and is priced at a more-than-reasonable £9.99 – though be aware that postage and packing will add quite significantly to that cost.

Gilberto Baldini

I did mention that I might start up a “Who’s Who in Italo” series of posts, as I create characters for the Italo campaign.  And here, indeed, is the first of them.  This has potential to be a long series…The year in which said campaign begins, by the way, is 1470 – in case anyone is interested enough to figure out these characters’ ages.

It’s a shame that I have no skill whatsoever when it comes to portraiture, as there could be extra time-consuming pleasures in drawing illustrations of each character.  I’m tempted to invent a coat-of-arms for each family, though!


GILBERTO BALDINI, b.1406. Count of Giotta. Gilberto is a man of generally happy disposition, and was known throughout the Italic Peninsula in his younger days for his good looks and for his intelligence. Since the death of his wife, twenty years ago (in 1450), it is widely believed that he has had many lovers, both female and male, but that they have been discarded ruthlessly – some, allegedly, even murdered – one after another, as Gilberto has tired of them.

Gilberto is entirely loyal to the Venolese republic, is popular with the citizens of Giotta in spite of the aforementioned sordid allegations, and does have some military ability. Unfortunately, however, his personal behaviour swings between periods of ideleness and periods of energy; while his personal pride, and a tendency to be jealous and protective of his family’s honour and status, leads him to sudden outbursts of bad temper.

Given Giotta’s geographical position in Venola, relatively distant from the centres of real power and influence, Gilberto’s political weight is less than he might believe it to be; and his actual military experience remains, in spite of his age, on the weaker side of average.