Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Smolensk War

For our second outing with the Pike and Shotte rules we moved east, for a scenario based on the Russian campaign to recover Smolensk.  We had a large Muscovite force attacked by a smaller Polish force, although the latter did have the edge in troop quality.  The rules do provide an army list for a 17th century Polish force, but do not have one for the Russians, so in true wargaming tradition, I created my own.

The two wings of the Russian force were each made up of 4 units of noble cavalry, which I rated as 'freshly raised' to reflect the variable quality of this force.  In retrospect adding 'militia' .  may have been a little too much of a handicap, especially as the flank commanders were rated average/poor.  The right flank also had a unit of Cossack skirmishers.  In reserve were the Dvor, the general's bodyguard.  The centre of the Russian position was held by the infantry and artillery,who had occupied a village and attendant enclosures as protection against the Polish cavalry.  The Soldastski regiments were a recent innovation by the Russians and so were also rated as 'freshly raised', as were a unit of urban streltsy.

The Russian centre
 The Poles were outnumbered nearly 2 to 1 in cavalry, but of course they had three units of hussars.  These famous troops enjoy three bonuses under the Pike and Shotte rules, they are elite, so test to remove disorder sooner, they are stubborn, so can re-roll one failed 'saving throw' and they get up to 3 extra dice in melee as heavy cavalry.  In addition, being lance armed, enemy saving throws are -1.  To try and reduce the 'super troops' effect I made all the hussar units 5 figures which meant that they were 'small' and consequently loss dice in melee and had their stamina reduced by one.  Supporting the hussars were three units of pancerni and one unit of Cossack skirmishers.  In the centre of the Polish position was a tabor and within it were two units of Haiduk infantry and a pike and musket unit of mercenaries.  For artillery, the Poles had one light gun.

The Polish cavalry advance
Steve rolled the dice and got the Poles; deciding that he needed to get forward as soon as possible and deny the Russians the chance to deploy there was only one order possible...Charge!  His left wing responded by their commander rolling 3 on two d6 and therefore having three actions.  A 27 inch move brought them into contact with my front unit of noble cavalry, who reacted well, rolling a 3 which meant that they acted as normal.  Unfortunately, when I rolled against their command rating to counter-charge, they failed and were therefore caught at the halt.  The ensuing melee did not go well and after suffering heavy casualties the Russians failed their break test and routed from the field.  The hussars carried out a sweeping advance and hit the second of my units.  This did not react as well as the first, probably due to seeing them flee the field and would only inflict casualties with a 6 on a d6.  Not surprisingly this melee also went the way of the Poles, but at least the battered Russian survivors managed to fall back rather than flee.  Further carnage on this flank was avoided when my Cossacks managed to evade the hussars' charge, but I had the feeling it was only a temporary stay of execution.
On the Polish right the commander did not roll quite so low, so the hussars only had two actions, preventing an immediate bloodbath.  In the centre the Polish infantry slowly began to move out of the tabor to begin its advance.

The carnage begins!
Now the Russian turn began and my first command roll, for my right wing, was a failure, so no units advanced, even the attempt to rally the battered unit of cavalry failed, so they remained shaken.  On my left I had more success, the first unit of noble cavalry charged the hussars, supported by the second unit.  My attempt to move the third and fourth units to support the flank of the first two failed, with dire consequences.  Not surprisingly the hussars counter-charged my cavalry and again won the melee.  They then went on to defeat the second unit and so by the end of my turn nearly half my cavalry was shaken or routed and the Poles were hardly scratched.
This set the precedent for subsequent rounds as Steve methodically crushed my cavalry wings, although I did have the satisfaction of destroying one unit of hussars.  An attempt to move round behind my infantry was defeated by the Dvor, but with only one unit and two flanks to watch, the writing was on the wall.

At last, some Russian success
Fortunately, it was now lunch time, so the dice were laid aside and as we ate our sandwiches we put the world to rights.  After lunch we reset the game, swopped sides and tried again.  This time we introduced a 'house rule' (no doubt the first of many), that, following melee and/or a sweeping advance to a second melee, a successful unit would become disordered.  At first it seemed as if nothing had changed as the hussars on the Polish right took on and defeated the Russian left single-handed.  Their pancerni supports resolutely refusing to move forward.  It was only the proximity of the Russian cavalry which enabled the hussars to charge under the initiative rule.  Indeed the Polish infantry advanced further than the pancerni on the Polish right.  By the end of the game they were exchanging volleys with the streltsy in the village.

On my left the hussars were initially successful, but took fairly heavy casualties, by the end of the game all the Polish cavalry were shaken and it would take at least four moves to rally them all.  Fortunately,all the remaining Russian cavalry on that wing were also shaken so hostilities died down.  In the centre the Polish infantry had plodded forward to musketry range and had engaged the streltsy and soldatski.

On reflection, the game worked reasonably well. I had thought that a 2 to 1 superiority in numbers for the Russians would provide balance, but I was proved wrong.  Perhaps rating the noble cavalry the same as pancerni would be better, or increasing the size of the noble cavalry units to give them more melee dice. Given the size of my table (6 by 4), increasing the number of cavalry figures (95 for the Russians) would reduce the opportunities for manoeuvre , which was the very nature of much of the fighting in the east.

The Polish infantry advance on the village
Our next game with these rules will need to test out the infantry battle, particularly push of pike.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Lion Rampant test

Another game, another new set of rules.  Lion Rampant is a set of medieval rules published by Osprey. Steve thought that they looked  promising as a set for us to use with Lance and Longbow participation games and so he set up a simple scenario for us to try them out.  The rules are aimed at skirmish level actions and in the illustrations all the figures are individually based, though this is not essential.  Units are of 12 or 6 figures and formations are 'loose', armies are collections of 'mobs' of men, rather than serried ranks.  To move/shoot a unit needs to pass a die roll (usually between 5 and 8 on two d6; failure means that your turn ends.

In the first game we started slowly, but after c20 minutes we began to get the gist of the rules.  Mutual exchange of archery inflicted a few casualties, but the first real blood-letting occurred when my serfs were charged by Steve's yeomen.  The rules meant that we each rolled 12 dice (d6's), but whereas I needed a 6 to inflict a hit, Steve only required a 4.  Not only that, but the armour factor meant that each of Steve's hits inflicted a casualty, but I needed two to do the same.  The dice gave their decision, 4 serfs down, 1 yeoman. Not surprisingly the serfs failed their courage (ie morale) test .  If they had failed narrowly, they could have been 'battered' and given a chance to rally, but they scored below 0 and therefore fled the field.

At the beginning of the game we had rolled dice to find out any special characteristics of our commanders; mine was 'rash', meaning he automatically charged any enemy unit within 10 inches.  This meant that my unit of mounted men-at-arms ended up charging Steve's serfs.  Which would have been a good thing, except that the serfs were in broken ground and consequently my mounted troops were at a severe disadvantage. Things went further downhill when I suffered a casualty in the melee.  If your commander is in hand-to-hand combat you roll 2d6, a result of double one means he has been killed;no prizes for guessing what I rolled!

This set the pattern for the next 20 minutes as one by one my units were either cut down, or fled.  The last man standing was a man-at-arms who gallantly fought on until he too was killed.  (Just like the games I played as a schoolboy).

Having plenty of time left we set up a scenario from the Northern Crusades (the rules come with 'army' lists); Teutonic knights against pagan tribesmen.  Again, my leader was 'rash', well that was fairly accurate historically; but you wouldn't have known it from the way things played out.  I seemed to have specially doctored dice which couldn't achieve a total of more than 6 (with two dice!) and I needed 7 to move or shoot.  My men-at-arms sat there on their horses and watched as the bands of Pagan tribesmen advanced across the table. Only when the tribesmen got within 10 inches was I able to move and even then I got a slice of luck because Steve unluckily rolled very low dice which prevented his tribesmen attacking my cavalry, which would have reversed the attack and defence factors.  The resulting melees both went my way and when the crossbows saw off the third unit of tribesmen, victory was allocated to the Germans.

We got through two games in the evening, even though we were new to the rules.  They are simplistic, but then if you are thinking of using them at shows, they need to be easy to understand.  You roll plenty of dice and luck plays a big part.  They give a fun game, which is after all a big part of why we follow this hobby. A beginner could build up two armies very quickly (and cheaply) and therefore be gaming whilst the first flush of enthusiasm is still bright.  That being said I wouldn't want to play only games which used this type of rules  

Friday, 9 January 2015

Ripple Field mark 2

2015 gaming began with a re-run of Ripple Field, but using the "Pike and Shotte" rules.  This was our first outing with this particular set and if they prove successful they could be used for Italian Wars, Poles and Muscovites (plus Ottomans if Steve and I can base up the figures we have acquired in the last 12 months) and Grand Alliance.

This photo (apologies for the quality) gives an idea of the layout and the deployment of the Parliamentarian forces (those nearest the camera).  The horses in the bottom left corner belong to a dragoon regiment which is deployed in the wood covering the lane,  There are only a few narrow gaps in the hedges which line the lanes and this hampers the Royalist outflanking manoeuvres.

The dice decided that Steve would command the Royalists and so I awaited the onslaught.  Die rolls against command ratings decide on the speed of advance (or not) and so coordinating attacks can be tricky,as Steve discovered.  One feature of the rules which we soon discovered was that a hit by artillery at long range was an automatically disrupted the target, whereas at medium and short range hits can be achieved but do not affect the target as badly.

With a 12" move for the Royalist cavalry melees soon occurred. The Parliamentarian horse attempted caracole tactics with little effect but at least they held their own in the first clashes.

Waller's regiment advance
The cavalry melees tend to be short, decisive affairs; even if the result is a draw, poor morale can mean both sides fall back to rally.  Units which are shaken are likely to fare poorly if caught by a fresh enemy unit and this is what happened on my left flank.  Steve's supports charged forward, benefiting from a low die roll which gave them three actions.  My supports, unable to counter-charge, attempted to stand and fire and achieved nothing.  They suffered heavy casualties in the melee, failed the break test and routed from the field. Steve's unit followed up and hit my rallying unit.  This lost the melee and had to retire again; but disaster was averted when Steve's unit also failed it's test (due to heavy casualties) and became shaken.

In the lane on my right more Royalist cavalry were looking to outflank the ridge, but Haselrig's small unit of 'lobsters' was trotting forward to meet them.  The rules prevent columns from charging, but we decided that as combat in lanes did take place, a 'house rule' would allow charges in this particular circumstance.

The Royalist horse advance
  At first the 'lobsters' were pushed back, but their superior morale and stamina saved them.  Eventually the Royalists broke, but by then affairs in the centre had taken a turn for the worse.  The firelocks supporting the light artillery had re-deployed to meet the threat to their flank as the Parliamentary horse were driven from the ridge.  Their volley, as the Royalist horse closed, inflicted heavy casualties, but did not stop the cavalry.  However, against the odds the infantry managed to survive the first impact.  They were not so successful in the second round, losing heavily and routing.

The firelocks break
The Royalists swept forward and hit Waller's own regiment which had been rallying.  The Parliamentarians had enough time to turn to face the charge, but it did not save them and they also routed.

At this point a Royalist victory was declared.  Both of the Parliamentarian 'battalia' had suffered such heavy losses that they were unable to rally.

For a first run through it was quite a successful game.  We liked the variable moves and the benefits gained from supports in melee. Also, the melee system avoided the situation which can arise in '1644' when two small units are locked in melee and are unable to inflict casualties.  It will be interesting to see what happens in more open terrain with room on the flanks.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Ripple Field

For our last game of 2014 Steve set up a scenario from the English Civil War, Ripple Field.  He used Steve Maggs' book  of ECW scenarios and set up a table with a low ridge flanked by two hedged lanes. Waller's Parliamentary forces were trying to prevent Prince Maurice from moving further west.  Both sides were predominantly cavalry, with Waller having the slight edge in artillery.  (Historically, the Parliamentary artillery was ineffective and was swept away by the Royalist advance).

The dice decided that I would command the Parliamentarians and I decided to place my dragoons on my right to try and prevent an outflanking manoeuvre, the cavalry reserve was placed behind my left.  From the beginning I rolled some very lucky dice for my artillery.  The Royalist cavalry in the centre was particularly severely damaged and very few reached the guns.  Those that did saw my gunners running for the safety of Middleton's musketeers and were then driven back by a discharge of hail shot from a second gun.

In the lane on my right, my dragoons fired on the Royalist horse as they galloped past,but to little effect. They then turned their attention to the Royalist musketeers who were following in the wake of the the horse. To try and prevent the Royalist horse breaking through I sent forward the small unit of 'lobsters' under Haselrigg. Although outnumbered, the confines of the lane would be to their advantage and I trusted they would plug the gap.  It was not to be.  The dice decreed that this was not to be Haselrigg's day.  Although better armoured, his men were pushed back and eventually routed.

Meanwhile, the two main cavalry forces crossed swords on the flanks of the ridge.  On my right, the fight was close,with the advantage swinging one way and then the other.  Steve committed his reserve on this flank and this proved decisive, my forces eventually being driven from the field.  On my left, the artillery had disrupted the Royalist advance and I took advantage of this. Committing part of my reserve, I drove the Royalists from the field, but then found myself under fire from the Royalist musketeers lining the hedge. Losses mounted and the battered remnants of my cavalry eventually straggled back to the ridge, but were too weak to take any further part in the battle.

The Royalist dragoons had by now moved right round my left flank and were threatening to attack the rear of Middleton's musketeers.  I had to commit my final reserve, a raw cavalry unit to drive them off and this left Middleton's men alone on the ridge as Maurice's own regiment of horse,joined by the victors over Haselrigg swept forward.  The gunners saw the enemy horse and ran for safety.  Waller personally formed up Middleton's men to face this threat and as the Royalist horse closed a devastating volley was fired.  The losses were such that the Royalists had to fall back to reform.  Again they charged, and again a close range volley stopped them in their tracks.  Prince Maurice rallied his men once again and then led them forward a third time.  Middleton's third volley was not as effective and this time the cavalry closed to combat.  The musketeers did their best, but without pike support they began to edge back.  At this crucial point the Parliamentary cavalry reserve returned from driving off the Royalist dragoons.

Charging forward, they joined in the melee and their intervention swung the advantage back to Waller's men. Maurice's cavalry were driven back and the battered remnants of the Royalist force retreated.  A reversal of history, but the action could have gone either way.

After lunch we reset the troops and fought the action again, with me taking the part of Maurice.  Again the artillery was quite effective and again the melees were close run affairs.  This time Maurice won by a narrow margin, but with heavy casualties.

The 1644 rules which we used are quite simplistic and results often rest on the commanders ability (or not), to roll a '6'.  The artillery can be effective against small units and perhaps we should have reduced the number of guns.  But, two close-run games in a day, with plenty of fun involved, why change things?

Many thanks to everyone for their continued interest in the blog over the year.  Happy New Year and I wish you all a successful 2015.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


At the weekend we had a city break in London.  We had not visited the capital in December before and it was well worth the long trip.   Military themed sights were not high on our list, but we did see this diorama depicting a V2 rocket launch in the Science Museum space gallery

At Somerset House we saw an exhibition by the photographer Bryan Adams, entitled "Wounded: the legacy of war".  Not an easy collection to view, but in my opinion all MP's should go and see the consequences for the armed forces of the deployment decisions voted on in the Commons.

On the river we saw the Dutch Naval ship HNLMS Luymes as she came under Tower Bridge

Sunday, 7 December 2014

RECON at Pudsey

The Pudsey show has been our last outing of the 'season' for a good number of years.  Usually the Lance & Longbow Society has a stand, but unfortunately, this year we left out application too late and the hall was fully booked.  Anyway, we set off across the Pennines looking for those Christmas bargains.  The show was well attended, but it seemed that the range of traders was not as broad.  Certainly, I was unable to buy the 30mm x 30mm bases I needed for the SYW cavalry.  The B & B was well patronised and had a good range of items on offer and I picked up a copy of Bowden's "Napoleon's Gande Armee" for a very reasonable price.

Will took some pictures of a Battlegroup Overlord game, but it was a game by the Furness Warlords which caught my eye.  It featured the Battle of Lake Erie from the War of 1812.  All the models (1/300 scale) are scratch built and a jolly good job has been made of them.

At the other end of the wargaming scale was this strategic level game of WWII

I think this was the Sabin game I saw at the Fiasco show a couple of years ago.

Overall a satisfactory day out, another book for the collection and a chance to catch up with fellow gamers; shame about those bases though.

Monday, 1 December 2014


With no game this week, I thought I would take a closer look at one of those battles which tends to capture the imagination, Minden.  One particular incident, the charge of the French cavalry against the British infantry was of interest. This is because, in the Konig Kreig rules, which Steve and I use, the French cavalry units only field 6 figures and so are vulnerable to failing morale tests when they start to take casualties. In addition, the rules make the British musketry fire more effective (a 50% chance of inflicting a casualty with each die rolled).  So,to see if the charge could work using these rules I carried out a paper exercise, running through the charge procedure 20 times.  All dice were d6.

I began by checking the morale of the participants. The French (rated 6) could not fail, the British rated 5,could fail on a 6.  On 4 occasions the British failed the test and retreated.  When the British stood, they fired a volley.  Six dice were rolled, requiring 4 - 6 to hit.  On average you would expect to inflict three casualties on the French cavalry with each volley.  In the event a total of 41 hits were obtained for 16 volleys, a rate of c2.5.  The casualties on their own would not stop the charge as you only check morale once per phase, but they could effect the melee value of the cavalry, as increments are gained for ranks and numbers of figures.

However, before the melee takes place the cavalry have to 'break the bayonets' and close on the infantry.  Again this is a 50% chance if the infantry are in line; so you would expect a melee in 8 of the remaining 16 charges.  In the event only 6 melees took place and of these 3 were won by the cavalry and 3 by the infantry.

In total, of the 20 charges only 7, ( 4 in which the infantry failed their morale check and 3 victorious  melees) could be counted as a success.  Bearing in mind that I discounted the effect of the supporting British artillery it would seem that the commander of the French cavalry would be well advised not to charge full strength British infantry units as the chances of success are not good.

I ran the exercise again using Brunswick infantry, they inflicted fewer musketry casualties, but the French cavalry only managed to 'break the bayonets' 7 times out of 17 attempts. However, they won 4 of the resulting melees, meaning that the overall result was the same as for the British infantry; 7 French successes out of 20 attempts.

For my third attempt I charged the infantry with a larger unit of Reichs Armee cuirassiers, (12 figures strong). They had  more luck with the dice; breaking the bayonets on 9 out of 17 attempts and they won all of the resulting melees. Even allowing for the vagaries of my dice rolling it seems to support the dictum about 'big battalions'.  The solution could be to combine two French cavalry units together to make them less vulnerable; but this would then have a negative impact on British cavalry units which are of 8 figures and are generally classed as medium rather than heavy.  In a melee therefore, the British (melee value 7) would face French cavalry with a melee value of 10, rather a large handicap.