I've been a fan of Prince Valiant and of Elastolin's 40mm figures for as long as I can remember. Not that I was able to follow Val's adventures on a regular basis, that was a treat reserved for when I would visit one of my uncles and catch up from the stack in the "reading room". Nor did I have any of the figures, I only got to drool over them through the glass case at Eaton's, well, until I traded with a friend for 2 broken ones.
A similar experience can now be had by going to Jan-Michael's website http://www.elastolin-hausser.de/
A few years ago I decided to start slowly collecting them, mostly unpainted kits and broken ones but occasionally a few factory painted ones as well. Being merely a wargamer and not a collector as well, that meant playing games with them so the kits were especially welcome.
Now, it just didn't seem right for me to go making up a whole bunch of new adventures for Prince Val so he is restricted to the occasional cameo, instead, I gave the lead character my own middle name and began the adventures of Prince Micheal of Valdur. These are various games, strung loosely together by narrative rather than played out as a "real" campaign or according to a carefully crafted plot. I have, however, sketched out a hazy background as a reference point. Any similarity of names to family or friends is not meant to imply characterization, rather any resemblance to those living or dead is purely a co-incidence. (apart from Brave Sir Jeffery that is).
The rules that I use are Medieval Mayhem, a set of 100 year war skirmish rules written on a napkin in a restaurant by Rob Dean during a discussion with myself back in 2003. They have since appeared in Battlegames Magazine Issue 6. I have only made very minor tweaks to things such as armour and weapons for the mix of historical and not quite historical warriors that graced the pages of Foster's strip as well as the occasional special rule for comic book heroes and the like.
The first 9 games were drawn from the book Scenarios for All Ages (aka the Red Book) by Charles S Grant and Stuart Asquith and were played through during my project to play all 52 scenarios in order within a year. It took me 14 months not 12 but I had a good time. I am going to add a short review of each of those games. The rest can be found by selecting blog entries with the label "Prince Valiant". Prince Micheal may not appear on my table as often as my Horse and Musket armies do, but if push came to shove and I could only keep one collection of figures, this would probably be it.
And now without further ado, I present :
The ADVENTURES of PRINCE MICHEAL
in the days of KING ARTHUR
Long ago, in the time of King Arthur, when the Roman Empire was crumbling under the assaults of various barbarians, King Malcolm and Queen Lillian rules over Valdur, a Kingdom north of the Great Wall in Britain. It is said to have stood on the shores of Loch Lomond but none can now say for sure and much of its history is lost to us. Count Hubert, Commander of the last Roman garrison on the wall, left behind when the eagles flew from Britain's shore, was the father of Queen Lillian and when Micheal, youngest Prince of Valdur, came of age, he journeyed forth to serve his grand father and make a name for himself.
Episode 1. The Pass. (Red Book Scenario 18)
In a pass between the sea and a cliff, a party of British warriors stands on guard against Saxon Raiders. At the narrowest point, a mysterious knight in yellow and one companion hold the farthest outpost. Suddenly, a party of Saxons appears, led by a huge warrior in a winged helm. One by one the Saxons made their way into the narrow pass and one by one the Yellow Knight laid them low, Chieftan and all. At last the invaders fell back and raised their bows. Exhausted by his fight in heavy armour, the mystery warrior began to slowly retreat as the main party of British warriors finally arrived, rushing to his succor with a roar of admiration for the new champion. Once the Saxons were driven off, the Yellow Knight removed his helm to reveal the smiling but tired face of the young Prince Micheal. Victorious in his first real combat. (and I didn't even fudge the rolls!)
Episode 2, The Outpost (Redbook Scenario20)
Having proven himself in battle, the young Prince Micheal persuades Count Hubert to let him take his place in the Count's forces. The count assigns him to a force under the command of Duke Stephen, Micheal's uncle. At first all is quiet but one morning, smoke is seen rising from the alarm beacon at Caer Hollow. A raiding party of Picts and Saxons has emerged from the woods. At first the garrison fights stoutly but the young Patrician who is in charge, ran excitedly into battle with neither shield nor helmet and was soon slain. His soldiers were scattering in panic as the Duke appeared. The Duke on his white horse single handedly turned the raiders back from one bridge over the Malagorm River while young Micheal and some Valdurian spearmen held the other. At last though, a Pictish arrow slipped past the Duke's shield and his men were only just able to rescue the wounded Duke and carry him to safety while Micheal covered the retreat.
Episode 3. Brave Sir Jeffery and the Princess. (Redbook Scenario 21)
Brave Sir Jeffery who joins the story in Episode 3(That's Brave as in: "When danger reared its ugly head, He bravely turned his tail and fled". Yes, like Sir Robin in Monty Python's Holy Grail, poor Sir Jeffery who looks so dashing on his rearing charger has proved less than heroic in game after game, ever since his first appearance as the personal figure of a young wargamer who shall rename nameless (though as one might suspect he shares a name with a certain character in our story..... ) Oddly although no dice were involved in the initial incident, morale rolls in subsequent games seem to uphold the tradition. One of life's little mysteries. )
With Saxon and Pictish raiders of Helgin loose on the land, the Princess Kathleen, who had been traveling to Fulford to visit her father, Count Hubert, took shelter in Cair Na Coille. Prince Micheal, assisted by Sir Jeffery who had just taken service with the Count, was sent to bring her safely to Castle Fulford. Micheal sent the mercenary captain, Preisages galloping ahead with his Sarmatian horse archers, supported by Sir Jeffrey and a party of his grandfather's Roman soldiers from the wall. Spotting a shortcut through the woods, Micheal led his Valdurians into the dark forest.
Helgin sent his Pictish allies ahead and a fierce cavalry battle broke out. Before Helgin could come up, Sir Jeffery had joined in and slain the last of the mounted raiders while Preisages galloped on to hold the bridge. Sir Jeffery stood beside him for a moment but on the approach of the dense columns of Saxon infantry, mumbled something about the Princess and galloped off to the tower where he lurked while Preisages held the bridge single handedly against a dozen Pictish spearmen. At last he slew the Pictish chieftain and the remainder broke and ran. Rearing his black stallion with a shout of triumph, he let down his guard and a cowardly Saxon archer hiding amidst the shield wall let fly and brought the great warrior down. Seeing this, Sir Jeffery was struck with remorse, galloped forward over the bridge and threw himself upon the Saxons but was soon dragged from his horse and battered senseless. Will Count Hubert ransom him?
While the fight for the bridge was raging, Helgin sent yet another warband forward against the Count's men and shield struck shield in a fierce melee, with a deft stroke the tribune struck down the Saxon warchief but these fierce raiders stood firm and a sudden unexplainable panic seized their enemy and ignoring the calls of their officers, they fled the field.
So where was Prince Micheal while all this was going on you ask? It seems the forest track was not as wide and clear as it seemed and his scouts lost their way. Micheal, apparently not doubting them, followed in their footsteps. He emerged to find himself behind the main Saxon force. Only the Raven Bearer and a handful of men stood in his way. With a shout Micheal led his men forward but the lightly armed Saxons fled faster than Micheal and his men could pursue. Pausing to get their breath, they looked to the tower and in dismay saw Sir Jeffery go down as Pictish tribesmen swarmed up the path to the tower whose door stood open. Was the Princess within or had she fled?
Helgin and his whole force now stood between Micheal and the tower. There was nothing to be done but gather up the wounded and the catapult which had been dragged so far to so little purpose and retire to Fulford Castle leaving scouts to keep an eye on the Saxons.
Episode 4. The Cattle Raid. (Redbook Scenario 41)
Dearg Mor, the Pictish chieftain, with his men and a herd of Count Hubert's cattle were in sight of their stronghold when Preisages the Sarmatian and 3 of his men rode into sight, spreading across the way in a thin line. "These are mine" he had told Prince Micheal, "stay here and watch" .
Waving his footmen to herd the cattle to the right, Dearg Mor and his 3 riders spread out to cover them. With a soft hiss an arrow slipped past a shield and Ferglas the hornblower went down. With a wild cry, Buidhe spurred his horse across the stream and one of the mercenaries fled firing a wild shot over his shoulder. The way to the right appeared open and the herdsmen urged on their beasts. On the left another arrow flew straight and true and Scalplock the Traitor went down. Slowly, Blugh the swordsman rode forward, eyeing the herd but reluctant to charge for fear of startling the beasts. (failed morale). It was now or never, Preisages spurred his horse forward. Dearg Mor saw him coming, saw the glistening axe and the mace symbolizing the power granted by Count Hector and his heart failed him, Jerking his horse's head around the cravenly Pictish knight fled into the woods. Preisages spurred on, ducking sling stones and engaged Buidhe in hand to hand combat. One of Preisages archers rode forward to join the battle but still the Pictish knight held his own and rained blows on his enemies. The herdsmen drove the cattle past the melee as the remaining mercenary rode into them, seeking to drive off the herders. At last, however, Buidhe tired. Rising up on his black stallion, Preisages struck him a mighty blow, cleaving his helmet in two. His dying shriek startled the cattle and they scattered just as the first herder went down. When the dust settled, the mercenaries had the cattle in hand while the fleeing Picts drove a bleating flock of sheep towards the fort. ________________________________________________________________________________
Episode 5. Midnight Raid. (Redbook Scenario 42)
Four heavily armoured knights, Sir Gawain, Prince Valiant, Prince Arne and Prince Micheal, each with a retainer laded down with pitch and a bag of embers, crept noiselessly through the woods towards the wagons full of food and forage being gathered for the siege of Caer Hubley. Inside a nearby cabin, the young Saxon witch stared into the dying embers of the fire. As the attackers neared the edge of the wood, the witch straightened and cried aloud " Saxons arise! Your foes are upon you!". As the attackers stumbled across the muddy fields, the Saxons came broiling out of their tents and cabin.
At first, combat favoured our heroes as the Saxon chief and his standard bearer went down and as arrows bounced easily off armour. Then Gawain's retainer went down spilling pitch over him. A Saxon grabbed a burning brand from the watch fire and advanced menacingly towards Gawain who quickly ran back to wash off the pitch at a stream they had past a few miles back. (box cars on morale, what can I say?). Then one of the Pictish shepherds took aim with his sling and sent a stone straight through Prince Arne's helmet slit stunning him. (More boxcars to hit and penetrate!). Prince Valiant gave a cry and rushed forward and leaping a fence launched himself at a grizzled Saxon warrior, unfortunately his cloak caught on the fence and the Saxon dealt him a mighty blow on the head laying him out as well.
This left Prince Micheal who, undaunted, rushed alone at the Saxon horde only to be subdued after a fierce struggle. (Well ok there was a prolonged melee but it was only with 1 unarmoured archer but Prince Michael was very tired after all that trudging in heavy armour...) . We draw a veil across the sorry scene as our wounded heroes are dragged to the cabin. Will Gawain manage to return and rescue them?.
Episode 7. Raiding the Pantry. (Redbook Scenario 43
As Saxon preparations for the siege of Caer Hubley continue, Count Hubert decided to send out a larger expedition with the aim, not only of denying supplies to the enemy but of bringing them back to prepare the stronghold for a siege. Coming through the passes the force divided in two. To the north was Duke Stephen and Sir Jeffery, 2 of the Alan mercenaries along with Prince Micheal, Prince Arne, an archer and 5 spearmen. To the south was Preisages with 3 of his horse archers as well as an 8 man cohort from the Count's garrison on the wall. Two wagons followed each column. The Saxons were alert and formed in shieldwall facing the north ford, chieftain, standard bearer, archer and 5 spearmen. To the south, their Pictish allies were also ready, 2 nobles, an archer, slinger and 4 spearmen. The cavalry spurred forward to cover the infantry while they crossed the ford and then worked their way around the enemy's flanks. A shot from the Pictish archer brought down 1 horsemen then the infantry was closing and there was no time for arrows. The Picts braced themselves as the Roman soldiers crashed into them and traded blow for blow until their chieftain went down then they scattered backwards, rallying behind the ruined walls of a British village. To the north, the Saxons were less steady, their chief being the first to run. As the Saxons broke, Micheal rushed ahead and brought his sword down on a fleeing Saxon. The blow glanced off and the wily Saxon turned and swinging his spear low, slipped it up under Micheal's hauberk. Before he could strike a 2nd, killing blow, the British spearmen covered the wounded knight with their shields and pulled him to safety. Seeing the enemy soldiers all occupied, a Pictish slinger crept forward, shooting down a wagon driver, Preisages men were on the alert though and he was swiftly hunted down. As the Saxon's regrouped amongst the stacks of supplies, Arne led the spearmen forward and the Duke rode in to challenge the Saxon chief whose courage had returned. To the south, a determined assault laid low all but 1 Pict after a fierce battle. Maddened by the deaths of his clan, this warrior struck down the centurion, then the standard bearer and the twirling his shield over his head, warded off an assault from Preisages who had ridden up behind him. The soldiers fled but Preisages was not to be denied and beat him down. To the North the duel between the Duke and the Saxon chief was long and fierce but in the end the Saxon was no match for the heavily armoured Duke on his warhorse. Now could the supplies be delivered to Caer Hubley on time?
Episode 8. The Siege. (Redbook Scenario 47)
Count Hubert and his knights were seated at supper when a dusty messenger appeared. King Thom of the Visigoths had landed and was marching to attack Caer Hubley. Tribune Johan, the garrison commander, needed help! Preisages with some of his Sarmatians and a few lightly armed spearmen was sent ahead but only a few men made it past the Visigoths to reinforce the tower. The next morning, the main relief party under Duke Stephen arrived. In a fierce melee, the Duke and his men almost broke through but a glancing blow had struck the Duke and as he faced the charge of King Thom, he reeled in the saddle, dizzy from his wound and had to retire from the field. Seeing the Duke retire, his men turned and fled. Helpless to intervene, Prince Micheal and the two remaining Valdurian spearmen who stood by him, could only watch in dismay as the Visigoths stormed the tower putting all of the defenders to the sword. Micheal swore that one day he would travel to King Thom's homeland and seek revenge.
Episode 9 The Tourney (Redbook Scenario 48)
During treaty negotiations between himself and King Pharlain, Count Hubert has arranged a friendly tourney. Initially each mounted knight would fight one knight from the opposing camp. If neither was unhorsed after 3 passes, a draw would be proclaimed. Next each knight would fight one different knight on foot and lastly a general melee would occur with only 1 Champion being left standing. (Remember, in Foster's Prince Valiant strip, some knights dress like medieval knights, some don't). The 3 champions for the Count were Duke Stephen, Sir Preisages the Alan and Prince Michael. On the other side was the King himself with his ally Dearg Mor the Pict and Sir Gorm.
The first pass saw the Duke and the King exchange mighty blows as they passed, wheeling their horses about the charged again but this time, the Duke, standing high in the stirrups smote a mighty blow and sent the King reeling. Next up was Prince Micheal vs Dearg Mor, 3 passes did these famous warriors make but neither could best the other. Lastly Preisages took the field and on the first pass, dumped Sir Gorm on the field.
Next came the foot round. This time the Duke smashed down Dearg Mor, Prince Micheal won over the unlucky Sir Gorm and Preisages fought a drawn combat against the King.
Last came the melee, a swirling cloud of dust and steel, sparks flying as sword and mace bit on iron bound shield and steel helm but at last only 2 warriors were afoot. Panting heavily, Duke Stephen looked across at his nephew, Prince Micheal. Many times they had faced each other on the exercise ground but never yet had the Prince bested him. They met with a mighty clash and exchanged blows with the nimble Prince skipping lightly aside from his Uncle's powerful blows. Sweat poured down their faces and their breath grew laboured. At last Micheal saw his chance and darting in managed to hook his leg around his uncle's and brought him down. Not the most glamorous victory but within the rules of the tourney and Prince Micheal smiled at the bright eyes shining at him from beneath a tall yellow yellow cap as the Count proclaimed him as Champion.
New Year's Eve Special: Prince Valiant and the Robber Knight (Redbook Scenario 52)
Word had reached Count Hubert that the Red Knight and a band of ruffians were stopping travelers on the road to Belmont. When ever a patrol of the Count's men came down the road, the robbers melted away into the forest. Hearing of the problem, Prince Val who had been visiting, approached Gawain with a proposal. The next day as an envoy from Rome and the Lady Alison climb into the carriage, two strangers muffled in cloaks climbed in behind them. Shortly after the carriage left the way station at Mount Uniake and entered the woods, a fallen log blocked the road. As the driver slowed, a cry rang out "STAND and DELIVER!" and an archer with draw bow stepped from the shadows.
In accordance with his instructions, the guard put his bow aside and stepped down. The passengers stepped out as the Red Knight and a ruffian swiftly moved out on the other side and began pilfering the envoy and the Lady Allison. Seizing the moment Gawaine threw off his cloak, drew his sword and lunged at the ruffian. Val started forward but his cloak caught, taking a moment to clear but he was on the Red Knight before he could escape. The guard now drew his sword and rushed on the archer who, startled, shot wide then drew his own sword. A clash of blades rang through the forest and the issue stood in doubt but at last the guard felled his man and Prince Valiant pulled the Red Knight from his horse and put an end to his thieving ways. The last ruffian turned and fled for the woods. Gawain started in pursuit but Val grabbed his arm saying "Let him go, tomorrow is New Year's Day and we have fought enough battles for one year." .
For more on my Elastolin Prince Valiant figures and games including background information about the games, painting and converting the figures, rules and so on, please check back periodically by clicking here>
The Adventures of Prince Micheal
To read the adventures themselves, please click on the episode titles below:
Episode 11 Raiders in the Pass
Episode 12 Back to the Wall
Episode 13 Rude Awakening
Episode 14 The Lady of the Woods