Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Hagelsberg Aug 1813

Looking back it is six months or more since the 15mm Napoleonic figures were on the table; their last outing was for the Kukrowitz game at the end of August so a Shako scenario was long overdue.  I decided on Hagelsberg (or Hagelberg) which involved a force from the Magdeburg garrison under General Girard and

three brigades of Prussians under GM Puttlitz.  Girard had been ordered by Napoleon to particiapate in a joint advance on Berlin with Davout (from Hamburg) and Oudinot (from Dresden).  Oudinot's advance had been stopped at Gross Beeren and now Girard was on his own and having to cope with marauding Cossacks into the bargain.  Bulow eventually persuaded Bernadotte to allow an attack and the Prussians marched towards the French position. This is the map for my scenario based on the battle.

Girard holds the hill.  He has two brigades; Dupont (6 line battalions, foot battery) holds Hagelsberg and the right of the hill; Rivaud (5 battalions, a composite light cavalry 'regiment' and a battery) the left.  There is a third foot battery which can be placed at Girard's discretion.  His objective is to hold his position and maintain control of Klein Glein, which ensures his lines of communication back to Magdeburg.

Puttlitz has 14 battalions in two brigades under Hirschfeldt and Borstell  (7 battalions in each) and a brigade of light cavalry (Bismarck) with two landwehr regiments and one line regiment.  He also has two batteries of foot artillery.  The Prussians deployed their infantry in the woods where they got some protection from the French artillery.  Borstell on the left and Hirschfeldt the right.  Bismarck was in reserve in the open ground between the two woods as were the artillery.  All the infantry brigades, Prussian and French,include one skirmisher stand.

Supported by their artillery, the Prussian infantry left the woods, formed up and advanced towards the French position. Puttlitz intended to pass Bismarck's cavalry behind Hirschfeldt's infantry once the latter had moved far enough forward as there was more open ground on that flank.  Even though the Prussian guns were firing at long range Rivaud's front line soon began to suffer casualties.  However, as Hirschfeldt's men grew nearer to the ridge the French guns began their execution.  Particularly badly hit were a battalion of Frei Korps.  They were far happier menacing lines of communication rather than standing in line of battle.  Once the French changed to canister rounds and losses increased, the men could take no more; they broke and ran for the trees.To their left the Pomeranian Militia ignored these events and plodded on before halting, firing a volley and then charging their opponents.  The French line absorbed the shock and then repulsed this first attack.  Undaunted, the supporting militia also attacked,only to be stopped in their tracks by a devastating volley.

On the left, Borstell also moved forward. He edged to the lef to try and outflank the defenders, but Dupont responded by extending his line.  Once again the French artillery took a toll on the attackers.  Two Silesain line battalions charged into contact, but weakened by their losses they could not force their way over the wall held by the French defenders.  Falling back, they began exchanging volleys with the French, but could not subdue the fire of the tenacious defenders. Borstell next sent a column of battalions against the angle of the wall; but although the landwehr charged home they were unable to dislodge the defenders.  The brigade fell back to reorganise ready for a second attack.

Bismarck had now reached the right of the Prussian line, but he was too late to prevent a successfult French cavalry attack on Hirschfeldt's infantry.  One battalion of the 4th Reserve Infantry regiment strayed too far from its supports and before the inexperienced recruits could form square the French cavalry were on them.  Inevitably losses were heavy and as the survivors fled for the trees the experienced French cavalry officers held their men in check and ordered the regiment to fall back to reform.  They had seen the approaching Prussian cavalry and did not want to be attacked by superior numbers whilst still disorganised.

The Prussian hussar regiment had taken some casualties from the French artillery as they moved to the flank, so Bismarck put his two Landwehr regiments in the van.  As they moved forward to take on the French cavalry the left hand unit strayed into musketry range of the French infantry.  Their inexperience cost them dear as two well-directed volleys emptied many saddles.  The remaining cavalry charged forward and were counter-charged by the French.  In a brief, brutal melee the French prevailed and the remaining Landwehr cavalry fell back.

Both Hirschfeldt and Borstell sent their men forward again.  Once more the Prussians gallantly charged home through the French volleys, but once again they could not dislodge the defenders from their position.  The battered battalions fell back to recover, but with losses of 50% the survivors were not too keen to ry for a third time and so Puttlitz had to accept defeat and leave the field to the French.

I made a couple of errors compiling this scenario, the principal one being to make the defence too strong.  In retrospect  9 battalions against 14 Prussian battalions would have provided a better game, stretching the defence and making it more difficult to provide support for the front line.  Also, the original map shows the intervention of some Cossack units around Klein Glein.  Although the Cossacks may not be the most lethal attackers, they could have made the French 'look over their shoulders' and again stretch the defence. Particularly, they could occupy the French cavalry and enable Bismarck to pin some of the French defence in square and so support the infantry attack.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Sand of the Desert is Sodden Red...

The title says it all, this week's game is set in the Sudan, part of the continuing story of C V Firth-Newsome's adventures in the Queen's service.  The brigadier had received reports that the Dervish forces were gathering at Wadi el Dhan, a village up river from Khartoum.  Firth-Newsome was to command one of British infantry units in force which comprised two brigades of Egyptian and Sudanese troops, plus two brigades of British infantry. All the brigades had artillery or machine guns attached and there was a unit of lancers as a reserve. The whole force was commanded by Major Reginald 'Bulldog' Drummond, an experienced officer from India.

Anticipating that the Dervishes would have spies watching the British camp a great show was made of undertaking repairs to the steamer Tamei; which ad been involved in many of the previous expeditions. Under the cover of darkness, Drummond assembled his force and led them on a flank march through the desert.

Two days later the Imperial forces approached Wadi el Dhan at dawn, hoping to surprise the Dervish forces and trap them against the river.  Drummond placed his native troops on the flanks, and ordered them to push their cavalry forward to try and flush out any concealed enemy units.  The British troops were in the centre and Firth-Newsome found himself in the same brigade as Bolitho and his Bluejackets.  Drummond planned to attack on the flanks to draw the enemy out and then deliver the decisive attack with his best troops straight at Wadi el Dhan, breaking the enemy resistance and dispersing their forces.

A view from the Dervish left flank.  The white squares denote possible Dervish units, (approx 1/3 were blanks !!)
On the Imperial right the Egyptian cavalry moved forward very swiftly, leaving their infantry supports some way behind, this was to prove their undoing. From behind some dunes appeared a unit of Arab cavalry, eager to prove themselves the Egyptians charged forward, the Arabs responded in kind.  The two bodies of horse came together and the melee was fairly well balanced; until a second unit of Arab mounted troops appeared and joined in. Now the Egyptians were struggling and soon the battered survivors were racing for their own lines,pursued by the jubilant Arab horsemen.

The Egyptian commander of the right wing brigade was unprepared for this reverse.  Fortunately, some of the infantry could shelter in rough ground, but the machine gun was too far back,still limbered and unable to fire in support of the infantry.  One Egyptian unit formed square and fired in support of their colleagues who had decided to remain in line and trust in their fire power.  The Arab horse rushed headlong into this hail of bullets and suffered heavy casualties, forcing them to fall back to reform. But yet more mounted troops could be seen approaching the Imperial right flank, threatening to outflank the British troops in the centre and Drummond decided that he needed to take matters in hand and led his reserve cavalry over to shore up the Egyptians.

The Egyptian cavalry on the left flank had also discovered enemy troops, this time infantry,who were sniping at them from some rough ground.  The Egyptian commander decided to dismount his men into a skirmish line and drive off the enemy with rifle fire, not the best option. The Dervish commander saw his chance and ordered his troops to charge.  Just in time, the Egyptian officer saw his peril and ordered his men to re-mount and charge the enemy.  It was not an ordered charge, but it did enough to blunt the Dervish attack.  After further rounds of melee the cavalry prevailed and the Dervish infantry routed..

The next step was to secure the farm buildings (seen top centre in the photo at top of the post), from which they could support the attack by the British infantry on Wadi el Dahn.

In the centre, the two British brigades began their advance, but the one on the right (Maxwell's), soon encountered enemy forces. A unit of Dervish infantry charged out of some scrub and ignoring the volley from the British line surged forward.  Their fanaticism drove the line back, inflicting heavy casualties, but, heeding the barked orders of their NCO's the khaki clad infantry stood firm.  Eventually, the dervish fell back, sent on their way by a ragged cheer and a volley.

Firth-Newsome was in the left hand brigade and as they advanced the leading unit came under artillery fire from Wadi el Dahn.  The gunners had the range to a 'T' and soon there was a trail of dead and wounded behind the leading unit.  Suddenly, a second Dervish gun opened fire from the farm buildings and in no time the leading unit was so badly damaged that it had to fall back, taking no further part in the action.  Stuart, the commander of the brigade, decided that before an attack on Wadi el Dahn, it was essential to capture the farm and he deployed to face the threat from there.  Firth-Newsome and Bolitho, supported by their artillery opened fire on the farm.  At first, there seemed to be no effect, but after several rounds of 'rapid fire' the enemy artillery fire slackened and then ceased.  This was just as well, the men's ammunition was almost exhausted and fresh supplies needed to be brought forward by mule.

The left hand Egyptian brigade now approached the farm, but came under rifle fire from its defenders.  The Egyptians replied in kind and were joined by the men of Stuart's brigade once they had been resupplied with bullets.  No force could endure such a torrent of fire and before long, the survivors ran for the 'safety' of Wadi El Dahn, leaving the Egyptians free to advance and occupy the position.

Meanwhile, Maxwell's brigade recommenced its advance, only to be charged again, this time by mounted troops.  The leading unit formed square and opened a rapid fire on their attackers but failed to stop them.   Already weakened by the earlier infantry attack the British square broke and routed, not the finest hour for the British arms.

Maxwell's supporting units held their ground and drove off the Dervish camel troops with rifle volleys.  But where was the British commander whilst his infantry were fighting for their lives?

Drummond was with his cavalry, driving off the threat to his right flank.  The lancers charged forward against the enemy camel troops and a prolonged melee ensued.  Determined to be part of the action, 'Bulldog' joined the fray, cutting this way and that, accounting for three of the enemy.  Suddenly, the fight seemed to go out of the Arabs and they galloped off, among the dead was their leader and 'Bulldog' was happy to receive the leader's helmet as a trophy.  He was not destined to enjoy his success for long  With the enemy troops out of the way, a third Dervish gun opened fire, enfilading the British cavalry.  Amongst the first casualties was Drummond.  As more men fell, the lancers decided that it would be best to fall back to reform and it was left to the Egyptian infantry to subdue the Dervish artillery.

'Bulldog' leads the way
 The battle now became three separate actions; on the Imperial left the Egyptian brigade,plus Stuart's brigade were advancing from the farm towards Wadi el Dahn. In the centre, Maxwell's brigade was struggling to move forward against successive Dervish attacks.  Each one was defeated, but each exacted a toll and the brigade was finished as a fighting force for this battle.  Fighting was dying down on the right as what remained of the Dervish force fell back to the village and the Egyptians reformed and then followed them.

The Egyptian cavalry on the Imperial left had by now scouted the approaches to the village and reported the area clear of the enemy.  They were therefore sent to help Maxwell.  As the Egyptian infantry neared the village they were charged by a unit of Dervishes.  The melee swayed one way and then the other and a second unit of Egyptians moved forward in support.  This was countered by a second unit of Dervishes charging out of the town.  This second Dervish attack was roundly defeated but the first Egyptian unit routed and the victors flowed forward to take on Firth-Newsome's unit.  The order was given, 'Rapid Fire'.  In moments the Dervish infantry were hit by a hail of bullets and stopped in their tracks.  After some hesitation, the survivors turned and ran back towards the village.

British fire power prevails
 Yet another Dervish unit charged out of the village,catching the Egyptians unprepared.  Their scattered volley did nothing to deter their enemies and the dervish charge thudded home.  In moments the Egyptian line dissolved, all order was lost and the carnage was dreadful.  After a brief pause the Dervishes surged towards Firth-Newsome's unit.  Once again the order was given 'Rapid Fire'; the men fired with a desperate energy as the enemy came closer,seemingly unstoppable.  Then the Dervish standard bearer went down. As the flag fell, so did the spirits of the attackers.  At a hundred yards their pace slowed, as more men went down, they wavered and then suddenly the attack was over.  The ground in front of the British infantry was strewn with dead and dying Dervish warriors.  This proved to be the last attack.  As Firth-Newsome's men savoured the fact that they had survived another battle,a cheer came from the village.  Bolitho's bluejackets had taken the walls and raised the Union Jack.  The remnants of the Dervish force melted away into the desert and the Imperial troops drained by battle, did what they could for their wounded comrades. Drummond was buried
 on a small hill overlooking the scene of his last battle; a simple cross denoting his final resting place.  Tamei came up river to take the wounded back to Khartoum whilst the remainder of the Imperial force marched back along the banks of the Nile.

The game took two sessions (approx 7 hours) to play, and used the 'Battles for Empire' rules. We used the 2nd edition which gave the units 8 strength points, but each hit counts, removing one of the advantages enjoyed by the Imperial troops. The unit markers (including 'blinds') made it more of a challenge and in the end the game was very evenly balanced.  Although the Dervish force was beaten the Imperials lost over half their units, including two thirds of their British troops.  

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.