Tuesday, 24 February 2015

London Feb 2015

A combination of half term and a short city break has interrupted proceedings for a couple of weeks.  The city break was in London and I managed to sneak a couple of museum trips into the itinerary.  First was the Guards Museum, which I last visited 8 or 9 years ago.  They have altered the displays to accommodate more emphasis on Waterloo (no surprise there).  Included are 'relics' such as the lock from Hougomont gates.  I particularly liked the display showing a pike and musketeer uniform from the 1680's and the examples of flags (sorry, colours).  No pictures I am afraid because they were only allowed if you bought a permit. However, standing guard over proceedings is Alexander of Tunis, who served in the Irish Guards

 There was also a brief foray into the maelstrom which is the Imperial War Museum on a half term weekend.  The displays have been 'updated' and for me it has not been a universal success. However, I did manage to spot some interesting maps

German map showing preparations for Operation Sealion, 1940

Two training maps for the D Day landings
The highlight of the trip was a visit to HMS Belfast.  Although not a 'battle wagon' it is still impressive, with its 6" guns and labyrinth of passages and compartments.  The displays are well done and the visitor gets an idea of what life may have been like for those servicemen aboard her.

40mm AA battery

6" guns, range 12 and a half miles

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Kelham Moor : an ECW scenario using Pike and Shotte

It has been a long time since the continuing campaigns in the county of Kelhamshire have featured in this blog; so for this week we set up a scenario with plenty of infantry, (to try out more of the Pike and Shotte rules), involving Lord Melchett's attempts to relieve the siege of Kelham.  The location was Kelham Moor, an open expanse with an isolated farm and a boundary hedge and ditch and plenty of room to manoeuvre bodies of infantry.

Lord Melchett had gathered 5 regiments of foot, organised into two battalia.  The first, under Sir Harry Vane comprised (left to right), the regiments of Broughton, Assheton and Taylor supported by two light guns.  In the second line, under the command of Lord Strange, were the regiments of Gerard and Butler, the latter being newly-raised.  On the right were the cavalry under Sir Fleetwood Hesketh with three regiments, the County Horse, Tyldesley's and Rupert's.  On the left flank were a unit of commanded shot under the veteran of the German Wars, Major Sharpe.  Melchett's plan was a general advance, pin the enemy line with his infantry and once the cavalry had driven their opposite numbers from the field, attack the enemy infantry in the flank.

An overhead view from behind the Parliamentary position
Sir Victor Meldrew had assembled four regiments of foot.  The front line was formed by the battalia of Ralph Muncaster, comprising the Green and Yellow regiments supported by a light gun.  Muncaster also commanded the medium gun which was placed in the farm complex on the parliamentarian right.  Supporting Muncaster was the battalia of Ezekial Thurston, comprising the Gell's regiment and the Kelham Trained Bands.  On Meldrew's left were his cavalry, commanded by Sir Roderick Livesey, comprising his own regiment, plus that of Shuttleworth.  A Forlorn Hope occupied the hedge line and a unit of dragoons defended the farm and provided support for the medium gun.  Sir Victor had decided to opt for a passive defence; slowing the Royalist advance with fire from the forlorn and the artillery, then falling back to let the enemy attempt to cross the hedge.  When they attempted this, (possibly becoming disordered in the process) his front line would charge and push them back.

The Royalist line prepares to advance
With the notable exception of Sharpe's command the whole Royalist force advanced.  Indeed the County Horse, with a flush of enthusiasm (perhaps engendered by their inexperience), outdistanced their supports and charged headlong for the enemy.  They were met with determined resistance from Livesey's regiment, which counter-charged and got the better of the melee.  As the County Horse fled towards their own lines, Livesey's surged forward to engage Tyldesley's regiment.  The resulting combat was a draw, but both units suffered enough casualties to make them take a break test.  Tyldesley's rolled low and had to retire; Livesey's rolled disastrously low, (see below) and fled the field.

The dreaded 'snake eyes'
In the centre, Vane's battalia had advanced into range of the Forlorn Hope holding the hedge.  Their first volley inflicted casualties, but did not disorder the Royalist regiments.  As the Royalists neared the hedge a second volley caused some disorder to Taylor and Assheton's musketeers.  The Royalist line halted and fired a volley, supported by their light artillery.  This proved too much for the Forlorn and they fell back. Encouraged Vane's men surged forward and Assheton's regiment began to cross the hedge and ditch.

Sir Victor had seen with some concern, the cavalry action on his left and ordered Thurston to relinquish Gell's regiment so that he (Meldrew), could move it to cover the flank of Muncaster's line.  Thurston took the opportunity to lead his other regiment, the Kelham Trained Bands towards the other flank to cover the gap between the Yellow regiment and the farm.

Meldrew repositions Gell's regiment
After a slow start, Sharpe had got his men moving and they now began exchanging shots with the dragoons in the farm.  They quickly got the better of the exchange and after suffering significant casualties, the dragoons retired, leaving the gun isolated, and the target for Sharpe's men.  After a couple of salvoes increasing casualties forced the gun to fall back.  This gun had been causing problems for the left hand unit of Broughton's muskets and the slackening of fire made it possible for them to recover from their disorder.

The Kelham Trained Bands arrived just in time to oppose the advance of Broughton's men.  The musketeers fired at their opposite numbers whilst the pikes steadied themselves for the inevitable charge.  They were not to be disappointed.  Broughton's green coated ranks swept forward towards the raw recruits. Outnumbered, the Parliamentarians stood their ground and against the odds defeated their opponents in a hard fought melee.

The Kelham Trained Bands see off Broughton's regiment
With one unit of musketeers also being driven off, the threat to the right flank of Muncaster's line was defeated for the moment.  At the farm, Sharpe had advanced towards the outlying buildings.  As he neared the fence the medium gun fired at close range.  The centre of the Royalist unit was shredded by the hail shot and one of the casualties was Major Sharpe.  As his men struggled to reform a unit of musketeers from the Trained bands charged them in the flank and the Royalists were swept from the field.  Ezekial Thurston's chest swelled with pride at the exploits of his men and he gave thanks to the Lord for his protection.

The end for Major Sharpe
Whilst his left was in trouble, Lord Melchett was more hopeful that his cavalry would win the day for him.  He was confident that Hesketh would quickly rally the County Horse and Tyldesley's and that Rupert's regiment would sweep Shuttleworth's from the field before swinging round to attack the Parliamentary infantry.  Gell's regiment was making very slow progress and the flank of the Green regiment at the end of Muncaster's line was very inviting.  As Rupert,s swept forward it received fire from the light artillery and musketeers of the Green regiment.  Casualties were taken but the Royalists continued their advance.  When they charged, Shuttleworth's counter charged and the melee was drawn.  However, both units had taken casualties in excess of their stamina level and had to take a break test.  Both had to fall back,disordered.  All the cavalry was now out of action until rallied and this gave Meldrew just sufficient time to get Gell's regiment forward and plug the gap at the end of his line.  Indeed Hesketh proved to be totally unable to rally his men, it took a personal visit from Lord Melchett to get Tyldesley's and Rupert's rallied.  The County Horse resolutely refused to rally and took no further part in the battle.

It was in the centre where the decision would be reached.  The two infantry battalia met in push of pike.  The Royalist musketeers were outnumbered and were more easily shaken (meaning they could not act as supports to their pikes).  Although the pikes soldiered on, one by one the musketeer units were destroyed and as Sir Harry attempted to rally one of his units he too became a victim, the second Royalist commander to fall that day.

Push of Pike
Lord Strange had brought forward his battalia and Gerard's moved to the left through the debris of Broughton's regiment and attacked the Kelham Trained Band.  Their was to be no repeat of their earlier triumph; the Parliamentarians were swiftly defeated and once again Meldrew's right was in danger. However, Assheton's and Taylor's were exhausted and Butler's men were urgently needed to increase the pressure on the enemy line.  Butler's pikes moved forward to support Taylor and charged the musketeers of the Green regiment.  They received a closing volley which inflicted two casualties.

Butler's come under fire
As a recently raised regiment they needed to roll for their reaction to being in combat for the first time.  Oh the fortunes of war!  The Kelham Trained Band had also taken this test and rolled a '6'; Butler's rolled a '1'. As a consequence they were disordered and only hit on a roll of '6' in the melee.  Needles to say they lost the melee, had to take a break test, rolled very low dice and ended up fleeing the field.  With half his army in rout, Lord Melchett ordered Hesketh to cover the retreat of the remainder with his cavalry.

We were pleased with the way that the rules dealt with the infantry melee.  Having the regiments as three separate sub-units allows for supports and also a more realistic representation of the contemporary deployments of armies in this period.  One thing to not is that small units of musketeers are very vulnerable; it is best to have what for us are large units of at least 36 figures (two units of 12 musketeers with a unit of 12 pikes) so that all the units count as being of 'standard' size.

Taking note of Will's comments on previous posts we did not use the caracole rule for the Parliamentary horse, instead we made the Royalists 'Gallopers' which meant that they HAD to counter-charge, make a sweeping advance if possible.  This gave a better balance.  We also changed the sequence of play to

Royalist move
Parliamentary fire

Parliamentary move
Royalist fire

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Vapnartak part 2: Hexham using Lion Rampant

Here are details of the variant of Lion Rampant we used at the Vapnartak show at the weekend.

Order of Battle Hexham 1464

Right Wing
Men at Arms (Thomas, Lord Roos*)
Retinue Archers (Robert, Lord Hungerford)

Nobles (Henry, Duke of Somerset*)
Retinue Archers
Levy Archers

Left Wing
Levy Foot (Sir Ralph Grey*)
Peasant Archers (Sir Humphrey Neville)

Right Wing
Men at Arms (Richard, Lord Welles & Willoughby*)
Retinue Archers (Sir John Tempest)
Levy Archers (Sir Thomas Talbot)

Nobles (John, Marquis of Montague*)
Billmen (Sir William Stanley)
Billmen (Sir John Middleton)
Retinue Archers
Retinue Archers

Left Wing
Men at Arms (John, Lord Scrope*)
Retinue Archers
Levy Archers (Sir Thomas Borough)

* = Retinue LeaderOrder of Battle
The plan was that the Lancastrians were commanded by one person, one of the group putting on the game, whilst each of the Yorkist 'battles' had an individual commander two of which would be from the public.
Each of the units consisted of three bases of troops, based as for the Impetus rule set.  This gave units of 18 or 24 figures, but it did give a better 'presence' on the table.  We still rolled 12 dice for each unit, as per the rules; including the Men at Arms and Nobles who would normally only have 6.  This made it easier for the participants who may have been new to gaming.  For each four casualties we removed one base.  The Quick reference sheet fitted onto one side of A5.  (the pdf did not transfer with the same format to the blog, so I scanned it)

Two significant changes we made for this particular scenario involved archery and melee.  For the archery we introduced an extra dice to roll with the shooting dice.  If this came up '1' then the unit was running low on arrows.  If in a subsequent shot a second '1' was rolled, then the unit had run out of arrows.  We did this to make the Yorkists attack and not just stand off and overwhelm the Lancastrians with their superior number of archers.
Secondly we increased the armour rating of the Lancastrians by 1 if they fought a melee from uphill of their opponents.
In addition, the Yorkists were given a time limit of one hour in which to totally destroy the Lancastrian army.

The factors we used for the troops are shown below

Here is Steve's photograph of the starting position for the battle from behind the Yorkist position.

Many thanks to Matt Ubiqiue for the link to the Lion Rampant discussion forum

Monday, 2 February 2015


Luckily the weather was kind to us as we made our way over the Pennines to the Vapnartak show at York. I always enjoy this show, a good mix of traders and games, plus the opportunity to catch up with fellow gamers after the Christmas/New Year break.   The Lance & Longbow Society had a stand as usual and we ran a participation game based on the battle of Hexham, 1464.  Following our recent play-testing we used the 'Lion Rampant' rules and they proved to be a success.  The members of the public who joined us all picked the basics very quickly, even the complete novices, and all seemed to enjoy the game.  We had made a few alterations to the known historical force sizes and deployment to give the Lancastrian army the ghost of a chance. On the day we added a time restraint, setting the duration of the game as 1 hour, by which time the Yorkists had to have completely driven the Lancastrians from the field.  The game ran four times, with the Yorkists winning two.  In the remainder, one battle saw Somerset (the Lancastrian commander), killed and only one battered archer unit remain on the hill.  The other battle had two battered Lancastrian units remaining, but both were edging towards the fords to their rear.

Above is an overview of the game with the Lancastrians on the hill and the more numerous Yorkists deployed ready to attack.

We didn't have much time to look around, playing four games and manning the busy society publications stand, but I managed to take a few photographs, my apologies to the many clubs/organisations whose games I haven't included.  First was the League of Extraordinary Kriegspielers with their Suez 1915 game which featured on Wargames Illustrated  on facebook.

Lovely terrain and figures from a little-gamed theatre of WWI.  Curtey's Miniatures put on a very well produced Arthurian period game,

Finally, the host club had a representation of John Paul Jones raid on Leith, I particularly liked the detail on the harbour and the ships.

A very enjoyable day out, I even found time to buy the bases I had looked for at the Pudsey show in December!

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.