Monday, 30 May 2011

Triples 2011

Last Sunday I went to the Triples show at Sheffield. There was the usual good selection of games to look at and the following particularly caught my eye:

Grimsby Wargames Club with their War of Spanish Succession scenario, using their home-grown rules Corporal John and the Sun King. The fortifications and entrenchments were very impressive.

There were two Lutzen games. Nice John and Evil Trev depicted the Thirty years war encounter

and Bramley Barn the napoelonic version.

I was helping out on the Lance & Longbow Society stand with their "Raid on Croix Saint" game. Bob Metcalfe provided some excellent ships, figures and buildings for the game which generated interest from visitors.

I was in command of the English fleet with the task of landing the raiding force. Light (or at times non existent) winds made manoeuvring difficult for both sides. Things were not helped by a certain laxity in the terminology used by the commanders. Too late we discovered that by saying our ships had collided we automatically ran the risk of sinking. After losing 5 ships we realised our mistake and began to claim that we were "coming alongside to grapple". By mid-afternoon I managed to land some troops and set fire to the village.

But by this time the 'locals' had raised the alarm and Breton troops were on their way.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Cerignola 1503

Our most recent battle was Cerignola, from the Italian Wars. It pitted a small Spanish force under the command of Gonzalo Fernandez of Cordoba against a much larger French force commanded by Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours. Gonzalo had occupied a vine covered hill near Cerignola and further strengthened his position by digging a ditch and entrenchments. This latter development was unknown to the French who attacked without adequate reconnaisance.

The Spanish force of 8000 was predominantly an infantry one, with a significant number of arquebusiers, backed up by blocks of pikes and swordsmen. The French force, (32000 strong), consisted of large bodies of heavy cavalry Gendarmes and Swiss pikes as the main strike force, supported by units of missile foot (predominatly crossbowmen).

Our refight gave the Spanish some small units of light cavalry which were used to harass the Gendarmes as they advanced. The homegrown rules we used required the army commanders to roll a d6 each turn to find the number of action points each general had to move units. The French had two generals, Louis and Chandieu, who commanded the Swiss. For the Spanish there was just one general, Gonzalo. With a command span of 18" this meant that units on the wings of the Spanish army would require double points to move, unless Gonzalo were to move from his position in the centre. However, as things turned out this did not prove too disadvantageous for the Spanish, as Gonzalo managed to consistently roll more command points on his one dice than the French did on their two! To avoid complete paralysis in this situation, the rules do allow for a unit which has previously been activated to continue to move at half speed without cost. Thus the French and Swiss infantry slowly, very slowly, lumbered forward. Louis' own light cavalry had been quickly dispersed by their Spanish opponents and then gallantly hampered the Gendarmes advance. In the end they were caught (mainly due to a lack of comand points) and quickly dealt with by the French heavy cavalry.

With this irritant removed the Gendarmes immediately moved towards the ridge, aiming directly for Gonzalo's standard in the centre. As they surged up the hill they discovered to their consternation the ditch and entrenchment. Instead of being able to overrun the arquebusiers they found that they were trapped in a shooting gallery. Instead of recording casulaties the rules simulate increasing disorder by causing stands of figures to be separated from the main body. To reform costs command points, so the decision needs to be taken whether to reform in place and regain strength, or fall back and then reform before returning to the fray. After a period of indecision (ie low dice rolls for command points), Louis decided to reform his Gendarmes behind the Swiss and let them clear the way. All this time the French missile foot and artillery had been struggling to advance, (in the end half the French guns never got into action at all).

The emphasis now moved to the Swiss, who advanced into the fire of the Spanish artillery and Arquebusiers with no supporting fire of their own. By the time they reached close quarters a third of their bases had been separated, but they still managed to gain entry to the position, forcing back the arquebusiers. (The rules give the missile foot a melee value equal to their close rage fire effect in the first round to simulate the final close range volley. If the melee continues there fighting value drops dramatically).

Just as Louis thought he was gaining the upper hand Gonzalo committed his reserve of pikes and these fresh troops pushed the Swiss back over the entrenchments and down the slope. As they attempted to reform the Swiss were subjected to more harassing fire from the Arquebusiers who had taken up their former position lining the entrenchments. As he saw his men struggling, Chandieu asked Louis angrily what the French crossbowmen were doing, "having their lunch perhaps?"

Louis did not respond, but in fact the crossbowmen had succeeded in moving forward far enough to engage with the arquebusiers on the French left. Supported by the artillery which had also manged to get forward, they eventually pushed the arquebusiers back and even managed to cross the entrenchments. Gonzalo was preoccupied on his left with the repulse of the Swiss and the reserves on the opposite flank were tardy in their response. The French crossbowmen, presented with such a prime target did not waste the opportunity and their fire disorganised the pikes, dissuading them from attacking. Now would have been the time for Louis to commit his reserve and perhaps win the day, but the Swiss and Gendarmes were in no shape for further action at the moment and were far away from the decisive point. So reluctantly, the French crossbowmen fell back, as did the remaining Swiss and Gendarmes.The Spanish had achieved a notable victory.

In spite of his heavy losses our Louis had improved on the historical result, mainly because he had survived the battle and his troops had managed to cross the entrenchments.