Sunday 31 August 2014

Battle Report: Robin Hood and the Tournament


Robin's men are underlined in red, the Sheriff's are in blue and the bystanders are in green.
There has been a tournament held on a grassy plain on the outskirts of Nottingham.  People have travelled from far and wide to attend; there are a lot of strangers around today.  As the afternoon draws to a close and the crowds start to disperse, someone shouts out "There's Robin Hood, the outlaw!  Seize him!".  Is it really Robin and the Merry Men?  Or is it just a case of mistaken identity?

The game will be played with the Song of Blades and Heroes rules; the outlaws have to escape back to the forest.

Forces Involved

Robin and the Merry Men

  • 300 points value, no limit on personalities.  This buys Robin Hood, Little John, Marion and 5 Merry Men [see here for my first cut at stats for these guys, though note that I've made slight adjustments to Little John since].  Note that Marion has the Inconvenient trait and is therefore given to the enemy band as a hindrance.  She was attached to Guy of Gisborne, who would therefore have to remain within "L" of her at all times.
  • The outlaws have to exit from the southern edge of the table into the forest, where it will be difficult to track them.

The Sheriff of Nottingham

  • 450 points value.  The forces of law and order consist of The Sheriff, Guy of Gisborne, Yorik the Jester, 2 lesser knights, 4 crossbowmen and 18 men at arms.  Note that the Sheriff's foot soldiers are mostly rabble, which means that they are brittle in combat.  It also means that they are very cheap, so he can field large numbers of them and outnumber the outlaws by 4:1 !
  • For a major victory, kill or capture Robin Hood and Little John.  If only one of them is apprehended then this is a minor victory for the Sheriff, while if they both escape then the outlaws win.

The Bystanders

  • There are a number of civilians milling about, getting in everyone's way and so on!  We used at least 12, though I didn't count and there may have been a few more than this.  The numbers aren't really critical.  All of them are Q5+
  • Roughly speaking, the civilians are ambivalent towards Robin and his band of Merry Men.  The townsfolk probably don't like his activities very much, but people from the surrounding villages are generally supportive.  However, neither farmer nor merchant is willing to risk life or limb in armed confrontation either for or against the outlaws.  Consequently they will not fight and may not be engaged in combat or targeted with missiles.
  • The bystanders act as if they were a 3rd, neutral warband.  Both Robin and the Sheriff may take a turn with the bystanders after their own warband has finished its actions.  This allows them to attempt to move some of the civilians into positions that will block line of sight for shooting or will impede the free movement of enemy combatants.  Remember that in Song of Blades and Heroes a model may not pass through another non-friendly model.  Also note that the bystanders don't fight, so there is no penalty for breaking off from contact with a civilian - but you still have to go around them!

The Game

The Sheriff's men moved first; a couple of men-at-arms moved forward hesitantly.  Neither was particularly keen to tackle the notorious outlaw band on his own, so both were waiting for backup.

However, a drunken civilian was much more forward.  He stumbled down from the stands and staggered over to the Merry Men.  "Well, if it ishn't my old friend, Robin Hood" he slurred.  "Hey look, everybody!  It's Robin Hood, my best pal!"

With difficulty, Robin managed to evade the embrace of the tipsy bystander.  He whipped an arrow to his bow and shot dead one of the approaching spear men in a particularly gruesome fashion.  This caused the Sheriff and his 2 guards to flee for 1 move from the covered stand.  When they paused for breath just a few paces away, the Sheriff promptly knifed both of his men for their cowardice (don't you just love the evil trait?)

Meanwhile, Little John stood nearby, doing nothing.

Back near the starting positions, the drunken bystander staggered onwards.  2 Merry Men had been a bit slow in realising that they were in danger and they now found their way obstructed by the crowd.  One of the outlaws was grabbed by a spear man and then cut down as Sir Stanley rushed into the fray from the nearby tents.

Robin and his remaining men shook themselves free from the crowd and started to run around the end of the tilt barrier.  Little John was in the lead, but was accosted by Sir Walter and a man at arms.  In the background, the Sheriff ran towards another group of soldiers, intending to order them into the pursuit.

Off screen to the left, Guy of Gisborne was trying to force his way through the crowd and catch up with Robin.  He kept looking over his shoulder at Maid Marion, to make sure that she was safe (she was promised to him as a bride, after all).  Between this distraction and the various citizens who clung to him demanding protection from the vicious outlaws, he didn't make much progress.

The outlaws sent a Merry Man in to assist Little John (though in truth, he was probably capable of fighting 2 men at once even on his own).  However, Robin found his way blocked by a priest and a lady in waiting.  "Is it true" the priest asked "that you give money to the poor and deserving?  I am - I mean my parish is very poor.  We could really use some cash".  The lady in waiting didn't say anything, but just simpered and giggled a little at the thought of being so close to such a dangerous outlaw - and him so handsome too...

While Robin was occupied with his fans, the Sheriff's squad approached from one side and Sir Stanley and Sir Guy came in from the other.  At this point, it didn't look as if any of the Merry Men would be able to escape!

By this time, the field was in an uproar!  The priest moved on to obstruct Sir Guy, ostensibly to discuss details for his hoped wedding to Lady Marion.  It was all the knight to do not to cuff the impudent churchman out of the way!  However his betrothed was watching and he knew that she disapproved of such behaviour, so he restrained himself.

Robin glimpsed the Sheriff skulking nearby, hiding behind one of the tournament heralds.  When the civilian moved aside, Robin took a quick shot at his enemy.  He missed, but the Sheriff was so taken aback by the audacious attack that he fell over in the mud.

Just at this moment, Little John gave his opponent an almighty whack with his quarterstaff.  Nobody present had ever seen a corpse fly so far before; many of them felt very unsettled by the event.  First to run was one of the men at arms: he fled right past the Sheriff.  The evil lord tripped up his minion and daggered him, proclaiming "Thus do all cowardly dogs die!".

Next, the sheriff took his own morale check for seeing the original gruesome death.  He failed miserably, scrambled to his feet and fled like a bunny rabbit.  2 further men at arms routed off in the same general direction to keep him company (though presumably keeping more than an arms length away from their boss, just in case).

Strangely, both players were happy to see the Sheriff depart (and both hoped that he'd trip and fall into a midden in his hasty flight).  Steve, playing the outlaws, was concerned in case the Sheriff managed to use his Leader skill to organise a concerted attack on Robin or Little John.  On the other hand, I (playing the authorities) was tired of the Sheriff's evil ways, especially the slaughtering of "cowards".  Honestly, the man's a menace!  He killed more of his own side than the outlaws had managed, at least up to that point in the game.

Finally, Sir Walter was fighting the Merry Man just beside Little John.  When he glanced sideways and saw the giant's fury, he also turned to run.  However, Sir Walter wasn't lucky: the Merry Man lunged at the knight's back and slid his long dagger through an unprotected armpit.  Sir Walter fell to his knees and died before he even knew what had happened.

Spectators mobbed Robin, showering him with complements or complaining about the spoiling of the tournament.  Swiftly, he found that he couldn't move in the crush.

Robin was having a hard time of it.  He untangled himself from the mob, but hadn't gone very much further before Sir Stanley charged at him.  Robin struck at the over-zealous knight with his sword and killed him, but this was all taking time and other enemies were closing in.

Now it was the time of Yorik, the jester.  He was partially hidden behind a couple of bystanders, but Robin could see that the little man was doing something terribly interesting.  His attention wavered as the jester cavorted, told half-heard jokes and played the fool.  Robin's attention wandered; he was torn between waiting for the punchline and fleeing his approaching enemies.

Towards the southern end of the tournament field, Little John had almost reached the edge of the forest.  The Merry Man behind him had fallen with a grunt and a crossbow bolt sticking out of the middle of his back.  The outlaw that was ahead of him was waylaid by a pair of men at arms and overwhelmed, so John was on his own!

By this time, Robin had been left far behind by the other outlaws.  Several spearmen tried to grab him, though he killed one of them with his sword.  Robin kept turning round to try to see what Yorik was doing and this lack of attention was his downfall.  Eventually, Guy of Gisborne joined the fight (having persuaded Marion to come close enough to permit him!).  Between them, Guy and the remaining 2 spearmen managed to drag Robin down, though whether he was dead or captured wasn't clear.

The last crossbowman contemplates tackling Little John all on his own
Little John was so close to freedom now!  One Merry Man had scampered past him and disappeared into the forest, but soldiers kept trying to subdue the giant.  At one point, a pair of them even managed to knock him to the ground, but this small victory was short-lived.  Bellowing furiously, the huge outlaw set about all and sundry with his quarterstaff.  Once they were all defeated, he strode off towards the trees, defying anyone else to try and stop him!

The only man left on the field who would have had much of a chance against the big man was Guy of Gisborne.  His forlorn pursuit was hampered by his need to stay close to Maid Marion and by the actions of the bystanders.  Firstly, "angry old man" gave the knight a lung full of invective and then "rock-throwing young boy" got in his way and taunted him!  With a sense of deep frustration and many unrepeatable words, Guy gave up the chase and went to seek the Sheriff.  At least he could report that they had captured the notorious bandit Robin Hood, if not his lieutenant as well...


I love "Song of Blades and Heroes"!  All through the game, both sides were left unable to carry out their plans just the way they wanted; much improvisation was needed to try to adapt to the changing circumstances.  There was plenty of high drama as the game swayed to and fro - also some good comic moments!

Possibly we gave the authorities a bit too much of an advantage in points.  The intention was to force the outlaws into running away rather than deciding to stay and fight it out - but maybe they didn't have much of a chance of escaping when there were so many enemies around?

In the end the game was a minor victory for the forces of law, although this was somewhat tainted by the fact that their leader smelled of sewage for a while afterwards.  Another game is clearly needed to rescue Robin from the executioner!

The "Man of the Match" award is a split decision; I cannot pick just one.  Candidates are:
  • Maid Marion, whose stubborn refusal to move for almost all of the game acted as a considerable anchor on Guy of Gisborne's movements and therefore prevented the authorities' best warrior from seeing much fighting.
  • Yorik: he distracted Robin for several turns in a row, thus requiring the outlaw chief to use up almost all of his own activations in just trying to clear his head.  This delay enabled various spearmen and knights to surround and ultimately take down Robin.
    Mind you, the game's setup was almost perfect for Yorik's special abilities.  The bystanders gave him a very convenient mobile shield (to prevent him being simply shot down) and the scenario was one where delaying the enemy would pay dividends.  Isn't hindsight wonderful?
  • The bystanders.  Although not all of them were close to the action, the crowd was a constant thorn in the sides of both players, impeding each in turn at several critical junctures!


  1. What a great write-up of a very comical game - I had Robin Hood played by Danny Kaye through my head for some unknown reason !
    I don't think you've had a game yet where the Sheriff hasn't killed his own men, no wonder the players found him tiresome.

    1. Thanks, Joe. The game wasn't intended completely as a comedy, though obviously it did have some such elements :-) . I think I'd stick with one of the more classic "action" actors for Robin in this - even Errol Flynn could have been captured if enough enemies sat on hi all at once!

  2. That was wonderful thank you. So the Sheriff as anger management issues don't we all?

    1. The Sheriff has *evil overlord* anger management issues. They're on another level from you or I. Or at least, I hope so...

  3. Very enjoyable and entertaining batrep, Hugh.

    1. Thanks, Bryan. That means a lot to me :-) .

  4. Replies
    1. Again, thanks. I'm always pleased to find out what people think of my works.

  5. Robin Hood at the tournament. What's not to like? The only thing that could be better.... no not ninja zombie dinosaurs.... But Ivanhoe! Nice report C6

    1. Sheesh! I gave you clowns, evil overlords and superheroes, but you're not satisfied and want wandering knights as well :-) . I'll have to see what I can do...

  6. Very nice report. I read it through at work and couldn't stop even if emails showed up. One of the best Robin Hood scenario. The crowd played its part to bring unforseen elements. Looking forward to see the crowd playing in the next scenario.

    1. I wouldn't want you to get into trouble at work :-( , but I am flattered by the thought that you couldn't stop reading :-) .

      Yes, I think the crowd mechanism worked very well - though high-profile characters such as Guy and Robin did attract more than their fair share of bystander attention!

  7. Nice looking game, colored and well explained!

    1. By coloured, you mean the blue, red and green for the different forces? I've seen enough other battle reports to know how confusing it can be for a casual observer to know which side is which and which are the significant movements. I try to make it easier to understand in my own articles, so I'm delighted if it's working!

  8. Haha, that is certainly one of the best reports I've read in a while :D

    1. Thanks, Mathyoo. Was there something in particular that you liked, or was it just just the overall presentation?

  9. hey,
    Excellent battle report like those i love to read.
    How do you drive the mob rule ? As in "Shadow and dust" excellent rule set ?
    Frenchy Eric

    1. Thanks, Eric.

      The bystanders were moved by both the other sides, immediately after their own turns. So once Robin Hood's turn had ended, he could attempt to move the bystanders. Similarly, the Sheriff could move them after his own turn.

      Normal rules were used to activate the bystanders. So 1, 2 or 3 dice could be rolled for actions against each model's Q5+, but 2 failures would end the bystanders' turn.

  10. That was a great read! I like how you described the action as a narrative and gave motivations even to the bystanders (rather than like 'X got 2 activations and spent them on doing Y'). Also, the scenario is really cool - I'm going to nick it for our pirate games...

    1. Thanks very much. I also have read some very dry battle reports where the bare mechanics are listed. That's fine if it's intended to teach the rules of the game, though then you also need to describe the decisions available to each player...

      Yes, I think that a scenario similar to this one could work well for pirates, or indeed many other settings. Let us know how it works for your game, please :-) !

  11. Well buckle my swash - that was en exciting game to play I knew Robin was a doughty fighter, but didn't realise his weakness for tomfoolery.
    Little John seemed confused at times without the distraction of a jester.
    I shall be explaining the difference between a quarterstaff and the no-quarter staff that he had brought to this fight.

    1. I don't think it was a quarterstaff that Little John was using. Seemed more like a caber...

  12. I'd second Hugh's comments on the overall excellence of SoBAH.
    Incredibly flexible and quick playing for any skirmish sized brawl.

    Every significant action carries potential risk and some reward, there are few opportunities to stay safe yet mow down the opposition.This all adds up to a game with plenty of excitement and few lulls in combat.

    I'm slightly wary of the plethora of supplement, but have found the base set provides excellent entertainment without additional chrome.