Tuesday, 30 October 2012

FIASCO show at Leeds

On Sunday I visited the FIASCO show at the re branded Royal Armouries Exhibition Centre in Leeds.  There was a good range of games on show and also plenty of traders keen to sell you their wares.  Not only did the games showcase the diversity of periods available to the gamer, but also the levels at which a conflict can be fought.

At the truly strategic level was a simulation of WWII devised by Philip Sabin of King's College London .  This required the gamer to tackle the same strategic resources decisions that faced the Allied and Axis commanders; do I invade Russia, or build home AA defence?; do I protect convoys or build up the army?
Combat between armies is resolved by rolling dice.

At the other extreme was a game revolving around the US attack on Whitehaven during the AWI which I mentioned on my blog a couple of weeks ago.  This involved only a small landing party and a battery of guns.

One game that particularly caught my eye was "The Long Road North" by the Barnsley Association of Wargamers. 

All the scenery was scratch built and done to a very high standard. 

Next to them was the Battle of Marignano put on by the Lance and Longbow Society.   This featured a mass attack by Swiss pikemen on French army of missile infantry and gendarmes, supported by landsknechts and artillery.  Previously, the Swiss had found that a rapid advance  had proved unstoppable, on this occasion the artillery slowed and disordered their attack, giving time for French reinforcements (their venetian allies) to arrive.

More photos of this and other games can be seen on Will Mcnally's blog.

I also liked the look of the Hastings game.  Done in the grand manner with lots of figures, it seemed to flow really well, helped by the use of a rule set linked to the hexagonal terrain units.

Monday, 22 October 2012


Our group played this scenario a couple of years ago  and it produced a really good game.  As Alasdair had done some more research, including visiting the area, it came to the table a second time.  The first time I had taken the part of the Prussians, this time, Steve drew the short straw as Fritz and I took the part of Lacy, with Alasdair taking the part of Von Browne, the Austrian commander.

The Prussian attack on the Lobosch now included four battalions of grenadiers, with a Frei korps battalion in support, plus a light gun.  The Austrian defenders were three units of Grenzer with a light gun.  I had ten battalions of line infantry to hold the position between the Lobosch and Lobositz with a light gun.  Lobositz itself had a garrison of three battalions and it was flanked by artillery.  To the rear of Lobositz was my sole cavalry unit.

Between Lobositz and the Model Bach Alasdair had four battalions of grenadiers and three units of heavy cavalry, supported by two units of dragoons and a unit of converged dragoon grenadiers. Further to the left were a further 12 battalions of infantry with a light gun and howitzer.  The village of Sullowitz had a garrison of light troops.

Most of the Prussian infantry were arriving opposite Lobositz, 16 battalions of line infantry plus, leading the way, three guards battalions.  The cavalry arrived to the right of the Homolka Hill which had the main Prussian battery on it.

The battle began with the Austrian heavy cavalry advancing to threaten the flank of Prussian infantry marching on Lobositz.  In doing so they came under fire from the guns on the Homolka.  Steve also advanced the infantry brigade supporting the guns and with their double action (courtesy of Koenig Kreig) the infantry fired a volley into the cavalry.  This diverted the Austrians attention from the Guards battalions and they charged the line infantry.  The right hand regiment of cavalry (Portugal) ignored the casualties inflicted by the volley as they closed on the infantry (2nd battalion Von Pannwitz) and drove them back with heavy loss.  However, their colleagues suffered more heavily from the infantry fire and stalled before the unbroken rank of bayonets presented by the 1st battalion of Von Pannwitz.  The supporting regiment was unable to move forward to exploit the gap opened by Portugal because the Buddenbrock Cuirassier regiment had by now appeared to their left. The Austrian cavalry had no choice but to fall back and they helped on their way by further volleys from the Prussian infantry.  This further disorganised them and they were destroyed as a fighting force by a devastating charge by Buddenbrock.

Meanwhile, Bevern's attack on the Lobosch was making progress.  Although his lead battalions had suffered casualties, the grenzers had been pushed back up the slopes and the Frei Korps troops were also moving forward, occupying the attention of one of the grenzer units.  Seeing the Prussian progress I had ordered two battalions from the reserve to support the grenzers on the Lobosch.  However my main preoccupation was the seemingly unstoppable progress of the Prussian guards.  Ignoring casualties from my artillery they were advancing on the battalions closest to Lobositz, seemingly with the intention of breaking the line and covering the flank of the main attack on the town.  They had a howitzer battery in support and its fire caused one battalion to fall back and then a second was forced back as it failed to stand when charged by a guard battalion.  This exposed the flank of my artillery and the crews ran just before the guns were overun.

My cavalry reserve, the Wurttemburg Guard Cavalry, came forward to challenge the Prussians, who had by now lost almost half their men.  Undaunted,  the Prussians fired a volley as my cavalry moved forward and this must have knocked the fight out of them, because they failed the morale test to charge home.  A second volley by the Guards caused my cavalry to rout.  However, this debacle had given time for me to get a Hungarian infantry battalion into position to oppose any further progress by the Prussian guard infantry.

Meanwhile on the Austrian left, Von Browne had been busy moving as many troops as he dared towards the centre to counter the the threat of the Prussian cavalry.  Opposite Lobositz, the main Prussian attack was forming up..

to be continued      

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Visit to Cumbria

A rare weekend of good weather coincided with a short break on the Cumbrian coast.  By the harbour in Whitehaven I spotted this memorial.

It commemorates the raid on Whitehaven by John Paul Jones during the AWI.  A small shore party landed and spiked the guns of the battery defending the harbour.  A short distance away are what appeared to be castle walls.  Actually they are part of the retaining wall for Wellington Pit. 

All the pit buildings were designed so that together they looked like a castle; perhaps the improve the general vista of the harbour.  A few miles inland are the remains of a proper castle, Hayes castle. As you can see, there isn't much of it, but its ruination is not due to recent neglect, or even the 'slighting' which affected many castles following the English Civil War.  It was abandoned by Christopher Moresby in the late 14th century and was described on his death in 1392 as 'greatly ruined' and has obviously gone downhill since.

However, it at least has some visible evidence of its existence.  You could easily walk past the Roman fort as Moresby without knowing it was there.  Fortunately there is an information board to give some guidance  

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Freeman's (or should that be Threeman's) farm

As I said in the last post, this third run-through of the Freeman's Farm used the 'Patriots and Loyalists' (P & L) rules.  The game began with a British advance, Eccles on the British right, moving towards the hill to the right of Freeman's Farm to provide support for Moriarty's advance in the centre.  Thynne, on the left was to advance and pin down the American forces facing him under Sheridan.
The Americans decided on securing the farm in the centre, Tempest standing on the defensive and Sheridan advancing to threaten the flank of any advance by the British centre.  Tempest's moved his unit of riflemen into the wood on his left flank, from there they could fire on any British troops which advanced.  Eccles' men moved forward in a rather disjointed way which resulted in one unlucky battalion becoming the target for the concentrated fire of three units of American infantry and their supporting artillery.  The rating of British infantry does enable them to withstand fire better than the majority of the American units, but having to roll four times does test the rating rather.  However, Lady Luck obviously smiled on Eccles as the unit came through unscathed.  Now the British replied and soon two American militia units had been forced to fall back to rally.  (Long range volleys are usually ineffective, so this result was down to some rather unlucky dice rolls by the American commander).

Moriarty was moving units forward to try and take control of Freeman's Farm. In this he was forestalled by Shore who managed to take the central building just before Moriarty's grenadiers arrived. A melee then took place as the grenadiers charged home.  ( In  P & L a melee can last for several phases as a deck of cards is used to discover what action takes place; eg  Defensive fire, Attackers fire, Defenders check morale, resolve melee).  After a short melee (the first card turned was 'resolve melee), the American defenders were ejected and the grenadiers took up residence.  To their right a line battalion occupied the barn and these successes enabled Moriarty's second line , comprising two line battalions, to move to their left and move towards the American troops threatening the flank of the British advance.

On the British left Thynne had moved forward cautiously, delayed by finding an advantageous position for his artillery.  Sheridan had moved a unit of French infantry forward, supported by his cavalry; but with the bulk of his infantry being militia he was keen to defend against Thynne and move those units he could to assist Shore's flanking manoeuvre.  However, Sheridan's artillery did force Thynne's light infantry to fall back and this relieved a little of the pressure.

Eccles was finding it very difficult to make any headway beyond the crest of the ridge.  His units were beginning to acquire damage markers from the American fire (units can have up to five markers, the fifth means the unit is removed from play), and although the American units were also suffering, he was outnumbered five to three.  He sent his reserve battalion towards the wood to dislodge the riflemen who had forced his artillery crew to rally back.  Seeing a steady line of bayonets advancing towards them the riflemen fell back, their hurried shots causing no damage to the British infantry.

In the centre volleys were exchanged between the grenadiers and Shore's elite light infantry unit.  Neither was able to gain an advantage; the British volleys were restricted by occupying buildings and the Americans by the cover afforded by the buildings.  Shore's flank attack was not going well. His riflemen had been unwilling to meet a charge by the British line battalion and when they fell back to rally they were caught by artillery fire from Thynne's command.  Two supporting militia units were also forced to fall back to rally.  The one continental unit standing its ground found itself outflanked and had to give ground.

Sheridan tried a cavalry charge to relieve the pressure. Thynne's men stood and fired a volley and also had the advantage of having a second unit in support.  The infantry managed to withstand the first impact and following a positive morale check their supporting unit came forward to fight a second round of melee.  This too was inconclusive and both sides fell back to recover.  On the British move the infantry was able to fire a volley which further damaged the cavalry ,forcing them to rally back.
On the following move the infantry advanced and fired another volley at the French battalion which was also forced to rally back.  At this stage there was a group of five American units trying to rally.  Having two or three units already carrying three damage markers, the American commander decoded that it was time to fall back before the army disintegrated, so the day belonged to the British.

Overall we thought that these rules were the best of the three that we had tried.  They allowed for different grades of troops, and, those ratings could be adjusted to accommodate specific scenarios.  The bulk of the British troops were more likely to withstand enemy fire, but were not 'supermen'.  Historical tactics by the American player; ie using his militia to fire at long range and then fall back behind his 'continental' infantry to act as supports, would be rewarded.  The British would advance but would also tend to suffer some damage before they came to contact, levelling up the resulting melee.  We liked the idea of the multiple phase melee and the variable number of actions available to each side (decided by a dice roll; again ratings could be modified for specific scenarios).  In fact there were only two things which we thought we would alter; one I mentioned last week, adjusting the effectiveness of riflemen at long range.  The second was the the difficult of turning a column around.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

"Patriots & Loyalists"

We are having a trial run of a third set of AWI rules at the moment and for comparison purposes are using the same scenario as before, so you could perhaps call it Threeman's Farm.  The mechanisms are quite different from the norm; one of the biggest differences being that you don't roll to inflict casualties, but to 'save' the casualties indicated by the tables and variables in the rules.  Good quality troops are more likely to be unaffected and you can try and use your non-commissioned officers to offset the risk.  However, this also carries a risk and you could find yourself with reduced morale anyway. 

At the moment we are part way through the scenario and I will post a fuller report once the action is settled. So far, the American troops have proved to be more likely to suffer casualties and need rallying, but the British have not had things all their own way.  After capturing part of the village a line battalion was driven from the buildings by close range artillery fire, suffering quite heavy casualties in the process.  One thing that we may well alter is the fire from rifles.  Although they fire less frequently than muskets, they are very effective at close range.  We felt that the historical role of rifles would be to fire at longer ranges, so we may well amend the values to reflect this.

Meanwhile a couple of new units have been added to the Eastern Renaissance forces.  The Poles now have a unit of mounted dragoons, the dismounted figures came via an ebay purchase and just need a touch of paint and re-basing.

The ragamuffin force reflecting the Tartar horde has also had a small reinforcement.