Monday, 30 December 2013

Combined Operations in the Sudan

The last post for this year returns to the Sudan.  The Brigadier has received reports that the Ansar are gathering stores and munitions at a small Nile-side village to the south of the British headquarters.  In his opinion, a swift moving force, supported by the steamer 'Victoria' could attack the village, seize or destroy the accumulated stores and munitions and be back at base before the Ansar reinforcements arrive.  For this foray he called on Lieutenant Bolitho of the Royal Marines to command steamer and Bluejackets; whilst the mounted column would be commanded by Captain Bertram Yoxall Eckersley, recently transferred from the 33rd regiment (Duke of Wellington's).  The captain was popular with both his brother officers and the men under his command; (the latter referring to him by the nickname "By Eck").  Although new to the Sudan, Eckersley had served for 5 years in India and was experienced in dealing with native opponents.

Bolitho and Eckersley planned to attack the village shortly after dawn, closing on the objective during a night march, taking advantage of a full moon.

This is the view from behind Eckersley's force.  The objective is the village in the distance by the banks of the Nile.  Bolitho's steamer is just out of shot.  Eckersley decided to advance directly towards the objective, but needed to be sure his left flank was secure and therefore asked the 2nd squadron of the Lancers to send scouts towards the compound.  Scouts also investigated the broken ground between Eckersley and the river village.  For his part, Bolitho had orders to check the wadis running into the Nile and disperse any Ansar lurking there.

As the cavalry scouts neared the walls of the compound shots rang out.  Turning quickly, the scouts fell back on the main body and the whole squadron retreated.  As they did so ragged volleys were fired from the compound, obviously, it had a garrison and also, the sound of the shots would alert the river village.  Eckersley called forward C company of the mounted infantry and ordered them to engage the Ansar with rifle fire.  The field gun added its fire to that of the infantry.  The Ansar quickly found that the British infantry were out of range for their firearms, but, that they were within range of the British.  Losses began to rise and the fire from the compound slackened.  Before Eckersley could take any satisfaction from this, a lancer trooper galloped up with a report of Arab cavalry gathering beyond the compound.  Scanning the area with his binoculars Eckersley saw a growing cloud of dust and then a large body of camelry swept into view.   The 1st squadron of lancers were scouting out the advance and reacted to the arrival of the enemy by forming line against this new threat and then moving towards them.  The thin sound of cavalry bugles carried across the desert and through his binoculars Eckersley saw the lance points lower as the two units came together.    Then all was obscured as the dust rose about the combatants.

Suddenly a few camel riders burst from the cloud and fell back towards the compound.  Then a mass of cavalry and camelry moved in the same direction.  All order lost the British cavalry did as it had done for almost a century, forgot orders and pursued the enemy.   As had happened many times before this proved its undoing.  There was a large body of Arab cavalry behind the camelry and that absorbed the shock of the British pursuit and then began to lap around the lancers.  Realising their predicament the officers attempted to restore some order, but it was too late.  A small body managed to cut their way out of the melee and gallop for the main force, but over half the squadron was lost.

Meanwhile D and E companies of the mounted infantry had continued to advance on the river village.  Scouting their way forward they had covered half the distance when a gun, concealed in the village opened fire. Fortunately, the shot went wide and caused no damage.  More serious was the body of Ansar which rose out of a wadi and surged towards d company.  Bolitho had been making slow progress towards the village.  He had ordered the engineer to try and hold the steamer against the flow of the river so that they could support Eckersley with the fire of the machine gun and the rifles of the Bluejackets. This proved its worth now as all the fire of the men on the steamer was concentrated on the Ansar.  Many men fell, but the mass surged on.  D company was directly in their path and opted to stand and try and drive them off by rifle fire.  However, the broken terrain made forming a proper firing line impossible and before the mistake could be rectified the Ansar were upon them.  Caught in the broken terrain the British fought in groups rather than in a steady square and suffered heavy casualties.

 The battered remains of D company fell back towards Eckersley, pursued by the victorious Ansar.  However, the pursuit was now caught in the crossfire of the British artillery and E company.  Unable to withstand this volume of fire the Ansar fell back.

Pressure now began to increase against C company.  Although they out ranged the Ansar in the compound, the latter now received reinforcements and this second unit began to move round the flank of the British. The British artillery was fully employed trying to drive off the Arab cavalry and also a unit of Hadendoa which had appeared from behind the compound and could offer no support.  Turning to face this new threat C company had time to fire two volleys before the wave of Ansar hit them.   Spears and scimitars clashed with bayonets and a fierce melee took place under the blazing sun.  Bravely they fought, but C company were fighting against overwhelming odds and in the end they perished.

With two thirds of his infantry dead, together with half his cavalry and sensing that there was now no chance of reaching the village, Eckersley ordered that the signal rocket to retire was fired.  Covered by the remaining lancers the battered remnants of Eckersley's force retreated.  For his part Bolitho had done what he could.  The presence of the 'Victoria' had flushed the Ansar from the wadi and the fire from the steamer had inflicted heavy losses.  However, he could see three fresh units of Hadendoa near the village and the Ansar artillery had begun to get the range of the 'Victoria'.  He therefore ordered the helmsman to turn upstream and head back to base.

Not a good day for the British.  We had been experimenting with a new method for the arrival of reinforcements and it seemed to assist the Ansar more than the British.  All the cavalry arrived within the first three moves; which really hampered the advance.  Also, the although the Hadendoa arrived at the far end of the table, they also arrived quite early and made it very unlikely that the British would achieve their objective.  Some of the blame must rest with Eckersley (ie me) because I neglected to put the mounted infantry in square which would have helped them when facing the Ansar.  (it would also have helped if they had not been in broken ground).   

Monday, 16 December 2013

Soave, 29th April, 1809. A shako scenario

Historically, this was a minor encounter in Eugene's campaign against Archduke John with action spread over two days . For the Shako scenario I 'beefed up' the French frontal attack and also allowed Sorbier's force to appear on the Austrian flank.

John has just received news of the battle of Aspern and has orders to fall back towards the Danube valley to support Charles against Napoleon.  To cover the withdrawal he orders VIII Corps (Gyulai) to hold the line of the Alpone river whilst the remainder of the army falls back towards Vicenza.  The wooden bridge at San Bonifacio has been dismantled, but the stone bridge at Soave is still intact.  Reinforcements can be called up, but doing so gives victory points to the French. The Austrians score victory points for holding Soave, breaking enemy divisions and preventing the French from establishing a bridgehead at San Bonifacio.

Eugene has ordered the divisions of Grenier and Broussier to pin the Austrians in position with a frontal attack.  Broussier has a unit of engineers who are tasked with building a bridge to allow progress across the Alpone.  A brigade of Italian troops, (three units of guards plus a light battalion and a regiment of dragoons) have been sent on a flank march to cross the Alpone upstream and then advance on Soave.  The cavalry brigades of Pully and Grouchy are held in readiness to exploit any success.  Eugene gains victory points for controlling Soave, breaking enemy divisions, building a bridge at San Bonifacio and passing the reserve cavalry over the Alpone to pursue the Austrians.

Gyulai placed most of his strength in Soave, with skirmishers and Frolich's cavalry to watch over San Bonifacio.  After a short bombardment the infantry of Grenier's division surged forward,led by the combined elite light companies and the 3rd Croat regiment.  These doughty fighters ignored the volley from the 1st battalion of the Weidefenfeld regiment and charged home.  After a short tussle the Austrians were bundled back over the bridge into the eastern half of Soave.  Scarcely pausing for breath the Croats pursued them sensing that victory was in sight.  They were rudely awakened as crushing volley was fired into their ranks as they crossed the narrow bridge.  The defenders of eastern Soave (2nd battalion Weidenfeld), were keen to avenge their colleagues in the first battalion and a second volley forced the Croats to fall back to reform. On the southern flank of the village the Austrian artillery was inflicting casualties on the approaching columns of infantry.  As the range shortened the gunners changed to canister and losses began to rise.

At San Bonifacio Broussier was carefully screening his engineers from the fire of the Austrian jagers.  Deploying two battalions of the 8th legere as skirmishers the fire of the French began to overwhelm their opponents.  Broussier's artillery targeted Frolich's cavalry brigade, forcing it to fall back further from the river.  Unhampered, the engineers began their work constructing a temporary bridge over the Alpone.  With hindsight, now might have been a good time to summon Meyer's brigade forward to bolster the defence at San Bonifacio, but for the moment Gyulai had all his attention focused on the battle for the town of Soave.

Intent on giving the Austrians no chance to mount their own attack to recover the western half of Soave, Grenier turned to the elite light companies and commanded them to drive back the defenders of eastern Soave.  Formed up in column and led by their senior captain, the French levelled their bayonets and crying 'Vive l'empreur' charged over the bridge.  This time the volley from Weidenfeld could not halt the attack and a vicious melee took place in the packed streets.  The impetus and elan of the French proved too much and the Austrians were driven from the town.  However, Gyulai had moved supports forward and sent in a counter attack.  Battalions from the Chasteler and Weidenfeld regiments both attempted to regain control of the town, but the Frenchmen held on and the Austrians had to fall back.

It was at this point that Sorbier's flanking force appeared on the Austrian flank.  (From the end of turn three both commanders rolled a d6.  If the French rolled higher then Sorbier had defeated the Austrian flank guard and could advance.  After turn 6 the French would receive +1 to their roll, turn 7 +2 etc. In the event it was the end of turn 5 when the Italians entered the field).  Gyulai now had real problems.  He knew that he had to hold the French back for a full day (12 turns) to allow the baggage and artillery park to move towards Vicenza.  Reluctantly, he now ordered forward Meyer's brigade from the reserve and sent it towards San Bonifacio; he also sent an aide to Frolich with orders for the cavalry to move north to counter the dragoons accompanying Sorbier. In the gap between the hills and Soave, Gyulai placed the first battalion of Weidenfeld in square.  On the hill the first battalion Lindenau covered their flank,but was faced by the advancing line of Velites and Grenadiers of the Italian Guard.

By Soave the 2nd battalion of the Reuss-Greitz  found it self in an impossible position.  It was exchanging volleys with a battalion of the 23rd Line across the Soave whilst both flanks were threatened by the enemy.   With no supporting units nearby the battalion could do little but surrender when charged by the elite light companies and the 2nd Italian light infantry.On the southern side of Soave the 3rd battalion of the 23rd Line charged the rear of the Austrian artillery; silencing both batteries and relieving the pressure on Broussier's skirmishers who were defending the engineers.  However, the job of building the bridge was almost complete and as the lead battalions of Broussier's division formed up to cross the first units of Meyer's brigade (three battalions of Deutschmeister) appeared from  behind Villanova.  Charging forward the Austrians closed on the French infantry .  The 2nd battalion of the 10th line fired a volley which halted the attackers in their tracks, but their neighbours were not so lucky, having to rely on the bayonet as their opponents closed on them through the smoke.  In a close fought melee it was the French supports which decided the result and pushed the Austrians back.  Although unsuccessful, the attack had gained time for Meyer to send a battalion into Villanova.

Unfortunately, it was at this point that we had to call an end to proceedings, being beaten by the clock.  However, the result was unquestionably a French victory.  They had captured Soave and established a bridgehead at San Bonifacio.  The Austrian position was difficult and they would probably have had to call on yet more troops to hold the French pursuit away from the baggage train (giving the French more victory points in the process).  The way was also clear for the French to pass their reserve cavalry over the Alpone.  

Monday, 9 December 2013

RECON at Pudsey

The final wargaming outing of the year was to the RECON show at Pudsey.  I was with the Lance & Longbow Society and we reprised the Deepdale game which had first had an airing at the Phalanx show in June.  As I mentioned in an earlier post the location of the battle moved (if it is good enough for Hastings..).  The new 'best guess' can be seen in the photograph below.

Top right are the northern limits of the town of Preston, with the rebel forces under Banaster moving onto the open moor.  In the distance is Vavasour's force from Pontefract, hoping to link up with Nevil's men.  The forces of Nevil (left) and Strickland (foreground) have been placed on the table but do not actually arrive until two moves after Vavasour comes into action. A detachment of rebel archers is in the field to Vavasour's left. 

Vavasour takes the first move and as with our previous staging of the game belies his impetuous grading and advances in a steady fashion, totally ignoring the harassing fire from the archers.  However, on seeing Banaster and the mounted knights Vavasour decides to bring the rebellion to a swift conclusion and moves into contact.  The first round of melee is drawn, but in the second Vavasour (as in history) is killed and is knights rout.  The sergeants following, ignore this reverse and carry on their advance towards the foot knights of Banaster's reserve.  In a prolonged tussle they are unable to make much progress against these tough fighters and the remnants of the sergeants eventually pull away and take little further part in the action.

Banaster's pursuit of Vavasour's knights leaves his flank open to attack by Nevil's knights who have just arrived on the field.  However, the sheriff is slow to take advantage of this opportunity and this gives time for part of Banaster's group to face the lumbering charge.  Again the initial charge is ineffective, but in the subsequent round Banaster's men are forced back.  Nevil's knights follow up confident in their ability to win the battle.  Against the odds, Banaster manages to absorb the pursuit and then counter attack.  Nevil's men are overrun (ie they were outscored on the pursuit die roll). 

Meanwhile, the infantry on both sides are advancing towards each other.  Nevil's crossbowmen are targeting Lee's battle, whilst his bowmen concentrate on Bradshaw.  The main infantry force of the sheriff  is advancing steadily towards Bradshaw, who now has Strickland's force also bearing down on him.  To cover the flank of his attack Nevil launched his mounted reserve against Banaster's knights.  Again, the rebels manage to withstand the first onslaught and then regain the initiative.  Nevil's men rout, Banaster opted to pursue and once again out rolled the sheriff, another unit of knights eliminated.

Seeing an opportunity, Lee gathered his mounted bodyguard around him and charged the now unprotected flank of the sheriff's infantry.  The result was predictable,caught unaware and at a disadvantage the infantry could not withstand the charge of the mounted men and broke, running for the 'safety'of the Forest of Fulwood.

Strickland's sergeants had by now charged Bradshaw, but were unable to gain any advantage against the solid phalanx of infantry.  With losses rising they fell back, straight through their supporting infantry, who promptly routed.

By this time Nevil could see that the day was lost and galloped north with a few retainers, leaving his infantry to fend for themselves against the rebels.

My thanks to Steve, Will and Bob who played the game and to the visitors to the show who stopped for a chat.  Mention must also be made of Dave, who not only sorted out the booking, but kept us supplied with cups of tea on the day.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Entzheim - a Grand Alliance scenario using the Ga Pa rules

Ever eager to reduce the number of different rules sets we use, our battle last week tried out the Ga Pa rules with my Grand Alliance collection.  Normally we use the Wargames Holdiay Centre rules, but have found that the differing methods used for calculating cavalry and infantry morale caused some odd results.

Those seasoned campaigners, the Comte de Salle Forde and Graf von Grommitt entered the field again and the scenario featured an attempt by the Comte to carry out a flanking manouevre and breach the lines defending the Palatinate.  The Comte had carrried out a night march and arrived with his men at the ford crossing the Entzerbruch; a small watercourse, but possessed of marshy banks and only crossable at a few locations.  His forces were in two brigades, each containing infantry, cavalry and a field gun.  The Comte was with the reserve brigade, leaving the initial attack in the capable hands of the Duc de Fromage,who determined that he would lead the attack with his infantry, secure a bridgehead, and then exploit it with his cavalry.

The Graf was too wily an opponent to leave any crossings unobserved and had ordered earthwork to be constructed covering the ford of the Entzerbruch.  A field gun was positioned in this work and a short distance behind a Danish battalion in Palatinate service was camped.  In the grounds of the nearby  Entzerschloss two battalions of Palatinate troops were camped and further back at Entzheim itself wee the two squadrons of the Veningen Gendarmes.  This detatchment of troops was under the command of Major Waldstein, whilst the Graf, with the Hessian brigade was off table and would arrive a number of moves (determined by a di10 roll) after the first round of artillery fire.

Fortune favoured the Comte and the French forces found that an early morning mist was still hugging the course of the Entzerbruch.  The first battalion of infantry cautiously approached the ford, hoping to catch the defenders off guard.  Unfortunately, the sentries had just been changed and their senses had not been numbed by the chill, the French were spotted as they reached the river (the die roll favoured the Palatinate troops) and a warning shot was fired.  The Duc urged on his men, knowing that they needed to secure a bridgehead quickly.  Out of the rapidly thinning mist, the first round from the Palatinate artillery flew high overhead and buried itself  in the marshy ground.  Needing no further encouragement, the French infantry increased their pace, eager to get out of the arc of fire of the artillery.

On the Palatinate side, all was chaos as the Danish infantry struggled to form up.  Away at the schloss, Waldstein hastened to the infantry camp to take command of his men. (The need for commanders to roll a die to have their orders carried out does cause some 'friction' to a commander's  plans.  In retrospect with this scenario we could have reduced the chance of success for a couple of moves to simulate the unexpected alarm).  In the village the horsemen were also rushing around, gathering equipment and saddling their horses.

The constricted ground near the ford caused bunching of the french infantry and made it difficult for them to deploy.  The Duc ordered them to make towards the grounds of the Schloss, (which would take them away from the artillery), to give room for the cavalry.  After finding the range, the Palatinate artillery began to inflict heavy losses on the French.  The Solre regiment in particular was driven back by its losses as it tried to form line.  The cavalry fared no better, the first squadron of Vaillac was caught by a close range salvo which drove it from the field.

It was at this point that the Comte arrived with the reserve brigade.  Assessing the situation he saw that the Duc's infantry were moving to a position flanking the Palatinate battery.  Also, Waldstein had moved his infantry forward to support the artillery in the earthwork, leaving the schloss undefended.  If the Duc's cavalry could pin the Palatinate infantry, or even drive them off,  he could enjoy an early lunch in the inn at Entzheim.

What the Comte did not know was that his opponent, von Grommitt had also arrived on the field (lucky dice for the palatinate yet again!).  Four more battalions of infantry and four squadrons of cavalry were marching forward to reinforce Major Waldstein's troops.  They were sorely needed.  The cavalry of the Duc de Fromage had eventually formed up and now charged the Palatinate grenadiers.  A steady volley from the grenadiers checked the first attack.  The second squadron of Spanish cavalry now charged whilst the first squadron reformed.  Again, a volley drove them back.  The commander of the first squadron sensing that time was short, ordered another charge.  The cavalry swept forward and this time the grenadiers' volley was ineffective.  Closing to combat the troopers swung their swords and cut into the infantry formation.  The grenadiers broke and ran back towards the men of the Palatinate Life Regiment, a traditional unit which still boasted a good proportion of pikes.  However, the men of the Life regiment, seeing the grenadiers rout and also the French cavalry bearing down on them, also ran.  It looked as if the way was now open.

Fortunately for von Grommitt, the Palatinate cavalry, the Veningen Gendarmes had formed up to the right of the grenadiers and now charged the Aubusson cavalry regiment which was supporting the Spanish horse.  The lead squadron of Gendarmes was defeated, but the second squadron managed to defeat both squadrons of Aubusson.  Von Grommitt had deployed his infantry to recapture the grounds of the schloss from the French infantry.  The breakthrough by the Spanish horse threatened to roll up this line.  Galloping forward von Grommitt rallied the Palatinate grenadiers, just in time to face a charge by the Spanish horse.  Although a ragged volley, the Palatinate fire was just enough to stall the disordered charge of the cavalry, buying time for von Grommitt to also rally the Life regiment. The French cavalry were now isolated and faced fresh squadrons brought up by von Grommitt.  The French infantry in the schloss grounds now faced superior numbers of Hessian infantry and the Comte's reserve infantry would have to advance in the face of fire from the artillery in the earthwork.  With all surprise lost and losses rising, the Comte decided that he would have to withdraw and enjoy the meal at the inn at Winnnergam instead.

This was the least successful of the Ga Pa battles.  Possibly due to the smaller number of units, but perhaps more to do with the constricted nature of the battlefield.  The French found it really difficult to make progress against the artillery in the earthwork.  The rules would seem to work better on set piece battles rather than what is in effect a large skirmish.  The solution? Perhaps paint up some more troops? It is perhaps a case of using the Wargames Holiday Centre rules  for these smaller scale scenarios.  All part of the learning process.  

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Storming of Leeds: a WAB ECW version

Steve and I thought it would be interesting to run the "Storming of Leeds" scenario again, but this time use the WAB ECW rules and see how they worked with the small units involved.  All the forces and terrain were identical to those used for the game a fortnight ago using the 1644 rules.  One significant difference was that the Parliamentarian dragoons were deployed as skirmishers, as were one unit of Royalist dragoons.

Here is the map again.

The Parliamentarian forces south of the river were first into action, the dragoons firing at the defenders of the barricade whilst the clubmen formed up ready to charge across the bridge.  I decided that it would be better to replace the dragoons at the barricade with my small infantry reserve, (which had some pikemen) and therefore began to move them forward.  Meanwhile my artillery was attempting to find the range to inflict some damage on the clubmen.  [The WAB rules require you to estimate the range and then roll an "artillery dice" to determine the actual point of impact, followed by a second roll to determine the 'bounce'].  In the end it was the third round from the gun which hit and the clubmen had to take a test.  Although raw, they did have the advantage of being able to count extra ranks and this enabled them to pass the morale test.

Supported by fire from the Parliamentarian musketeers and dragoons the first unit of clubmen surged across the bridge.  There was no fire from the barricade as the Royalist infantry had only just taken up their positions, but the field gun did fire and a round of hail shot swept across the clubmen.  Undaunted they charged the barricade, but could make no impression against the pikemen.  Pulling back to regroup they were hit by another round from the gun and also suffered casualties from the musketeers.  This proved too much and they routed back across the bridge, their movement unsettling the dragoons and musketeers who also fell back.  For the moment, the bridge was safe.

Savile saw none of this; his attention was focused on the western defences.  Two further units of clubmen, those from Birstell and Liversedge were approaching the town.  They had been shielded from the fire from the defenders by dragoons in a skirmish line, but their final charge was met by a solid volley from the Royalist musketeers.  The clubmen ignored their losses and closed to melee.  Even though the Royalists were supported by a unit of pikemen the impetus of the Birstell clubmen carried them over the defences.  A further push was rewarded by the sight of the Royalists fleeing back towards Briggate.  Savile galloped over and rallied the defenders, but Parliament had gained a foothold in the town.  To the left of the Birstell men, the clubmen from Liversedge also charged the defences.  Their first push was stopped, but regrouping, and inspired by the preaching of Ezekial Sowerbutts, a local minister, they returned to the task and also gained lodgement within the defences.

Savile had moved a unit of pikemen from the church sector to support the endangered section of the defences, but these men refused to charge the flank of the clubmen.  A second order was sent, but the pikemen resolutely  stood their ground.  What was worse these pikemen also blocked a unit of cavalry which was trying to intervene.  Eventually, Savile intervened and ordered the captain to move his d*** men out of the way.

Nearer the river the Royalist defenders were also stretched to the limit.  They had managed to hold the skirmishing dragoons in check, but the introduction of  Fairfax's musketeers dramatically altered the balance of forces.  Fairfax's first volley inflicted crippling losses on the defending dragoons and although they stood their ground, their fire was too weak to slow the advance of the parliamentarian musketeers.  This is the view of the western defences as we halted proceedings for lunch.

The Birstell clubmen (yellow flag by the house) have advanced to make way for the first of the Parliamentary cavalry to cross into the town.  The Liversedge clubmen are part way across the defences, but threatend by cavalry to their right.  In the distance Fairfax's musketeers are ready to cross the defences and enter the town.  Not a good morning for the Royalists, but still with a chance to regain control.

When we resumed Fairfax ordered the Liversedge clubmen to charge the Royalist infantry behind the hedge.  Ignoring the cavalry to their flank they did so and pushed back the Royalists again.  Savile ordered the cavalry to charge and they failed to do so.  The Liversedge clubmen moved forward again and once again charged the Royalists, pushing them out of the enclosure and into the streets of Leeds.  This had the advantage of removing the cavalry threat to their flank.  The Royalist horse did manage to advance and take up a position threatening the flank of any further Parliamentarian cavalry crossing the defences. 

The Birstell clubmen were charged by Royalist infantry and beat them off.  Rallying, the Royalists charged again and this time it was the clubmen who were defeated.  Scattering before the pikemen they quickly crossed the defences and made for their own lines.  This allowed the Royalists to move further forward and take on Fairfax's musketeers.  The musketeers had little chance of withstanding the pikes and were soon joining the clubmen outside the defences.  However, this second advance had moved the Royalists too far from their supports and the Parliamentary cavalry swept down on their flank and cut them down.  The sight of the destruction of this unit panicked the Royalists nearby and three units of musketeers/ dragoons took to their heels.  Presented with such an opportunity the Parliamentary cavalry wasted no time in riding down the hapless Royalists.

At the bridge a second attack by the clubmen was rolling forward.  Again, the field gun welcomed them with a round of hail shot, but the clubmen pressed on.  The Royalist defenders didn't stand this time and abandoned their barricade and headed off up Briggate.  This precipitated further routs and soon a large body of infantry were heading for the road to York.  Seeing the infantry leaving the artillery men decided that they had done enough and joined the exodus.

It was left to the Royalist cavalry to cover the rout.  The only bright spot for Savile was that his sole remaining infantry unit managed to defeat the Liversedge clubmen and drive them back out of the town, buying the time for the remainder of the Royalists to pull back.

The scenario played out close to the historical facts.  The WAB ECW rules enabled the clubmen to stand up to morale tests better and they fared better in the melees, mostly due to their large size.  Artillery was much more of a lottery than in the 1644 rules.  The use of dragoons as skirmishers enabled the Parliamentarian clubmen to get closer before they came under fire and this too helped them prevail in the ensuing melee.  

Monday, 18 November 2013

Deepdale mark 2

In June this year Steve and I put on a game for the Lance and Longbow Society at the Phalanx show.  The game will have another run out at the RECON show at Pudsey in December.  Having done a bit more research about the Banastre Rebellion it seems that the battle may have taken place closer to the town fields of Preston. Also, the forces under the command of Vavasour probably came from the Pontefract area and would arrive at Preston from the east via  Ribchester, rather than from the north.

We used the WAB Ancient Battles rules with troop characteristics from the Western Christendom list. 

Vavasour was rated as impetuous and would charge any rebel force on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6.   Surprisingly, Vavasour restrained himself and was in the end charged by the sole unit of rebel knights.  Having gained the initiative the rebels proceeded to cut through the Yorkshire knights.  When the latter broke the rebels followed up but met the mounted sergeants of Vavasour's command.  Against the odds, the sergeants stood their ground and held the charge of the rebels. 

We didn't get chance to run through the whole scenario as we spent quite some time re-acquainting ourselves with the rules, (not having used them since June).

However, we have checked we still have all the figures we need and also what scenery/buildings etc we will have to take with us on the day.

If you are attending the Pudsey show please stop by the Lance and Longbow Society stand and say hello.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Storming of Leeds, January 1643

This week we had another scenario from the series of books published by Partizan Press which have featured in earlier posts. The action concerns the attack by Thomas Fairfax on Leeds.

Above is a photograph of the map for the scenario.  The River Aire can only be crossed by the bridge and the defences, although providing cover, can be crossed by horse if there are no defenders to oppose them.  A roll of the dice determined that I should take the part of Sir William Savile, commanding the Royalist forces defending the town, Steve took the part of Fairfax.  I had five small mixed units of infantry and three of dragoons (all raw). A field gun commanded the bridge and in the town centre I had three units of horse (one of which was trained) and a second field gun. 

Faifax had four large units of clubmen, (all raw), two  south of the river and two north.  South of the river he had two raw musketeer units. North of the river he had a large unit of trained musketeers and two smaller raw musketeer units, plus three large units of horse.  Although we were using the 1644 ruleset the parliamentarian horse were rated similar to 'trotters' in the Warhammer ECW rules reflecting their preference for caracole type tactics  rather than the charge.  A major problem for Fairfax was the lack of any artillery.  [A note about the following photographs; lacking sufficient clubmen figures we used pikemen instead.] 

The battle unfolded with the parliamentarian clubmen south of the river forming up to charge across the bridge, covered by the fire of the musketeers.  My artillery started off well, hitting one unit of musketeers with their first round, but this was to prove their sole success for sometime.  My dragoons, manning the barricade blocking the bridge, began a prolonged musketry duel with the opposing musketeers, but over time my losses began to rise. Although I managed to stop the first attack by the clubmen my line was beginning to look rather thin.

The western defences were also now under attack.  Two units of clubmen were nearing the town, covered by the fire of their supporting musketeers.  Fairfax seemed to be planning to pin my infantry with this attack and then overwhelm the dragoons manning the defences nearer the bridge with his trained musketeers.  This would then open the way for his cavalry to break into the town.  As there was no immediate threat to the northern section near the church, Savile ordered their pikemen to move to support the defences nearer the river. He also sent the sole infantry reserve from the town centre in that direction, plus a unit of cavalry.  The second field gun was moved slightly forward to support the dragoons by the bridge.

The first unit of clubmen charged forward and attempted to break into the town.  A feeble volley failed to stop them, but the supporting pikemen proved just enough to hold the line and then push them back.  As the clubmen tried to reform a further volley crashed into them and they broke.  Fairfax galloped over to stop the rout, but it took some time for the unit to recover.

To their right, the second unit of clubmen had more success.  Their attack had initially been stalled by fire from the defenders, but, recovering they now resumed the advance and their energetic charge carried them through the defenders' fire and over the defences.  Desperately, the defenders fought back, slowing the attackers then forcing them back.  Eventually, the defenders regained their lines and the two sides paused to catch their breath.

Nearer the river the Royalist dragoons were having a torrid time.  Although enjoying the benefits of the cover afforded by the defences they were unable to counter the weight of fire which was coming their way.  Within no time they had lost 50% of their strength and the line was stretched very thin.  Fairfax's musketeers continued their steady advance,supported by a second unit of musketeers. A final close range volley cleared the defenders from the works and the way into Leeds was open.  Fairfax ordered his cavalry forward, ready to exploit the gap.

However, just as the musketeers reached the works they were surprised by a charge by the Royalist defenders.  The reserves sent by Savile had reached the defences in the nick of time.  Unable to resist the push of pike the musketeers were forced back in disorder, the line was held.

[It was at this point we broke for lunch, with both commanders thinking their opponent was on the brink of success]

The success of the Royalist counter attack was short-lived.  With little fire support the pikes were vulnerable to musketry fire and they could not venture out of the defences because of the Parliamentary cavalry.  Once Fairfax's musketeers recovered their composure, their volleys forced the Royalist pikes to fall back.  Again, the Parliamentarians reached the works, again the Royalists charged, but this time they lacked the numbers to halt the advance.  The Parliamentarian musketeers pushed the pikes back and crossed the works.
At the bridge the second attack by the clubmen was forming up.  The Royalist artillery seemed unable to hit the proverbial barn door and the Parliamentarian musketeers were successfully reducing the firepower of the dragoons defending the bridge barricade.  As the clubmen surged over the bridge the dragoons fell back to take shelter in the houses.  Unopposed, the clubmen crossed the barricade, sensing victory.  It was an illusion.  Hit by fire from both guns and a close range volley from the defending musketeers the clubmen stopped.  A second round of firing inflicted yet more casualties and the clubmen broke and routed back over the bridge. For good measure, the Royalist artillery then fired on the other unit of clubmen which was still reforming and caused that to rout as well.  The threat from the bridge sector had been defeated.

Savile still had the threat from Fairfax's musketeers to overcome.  He had already sent his sole trained unit of cavalry to support the first reinforcement and as he galloped to the threatened area he ordered both units of cavalry to follow him.

Savile saw that Fairfax's musketeers were still reforming after crossing the works and immediately ordered his cavalry to attack.  Unable to fire the musketeers had to resort to their musket butts but could not stand against this new attack.  Those trapped inside the works were cut down, the rest ran for their own lines.  With the whole Parliamentary cavalry force in the vicinity Savile ordered his own cavalry to pull back and reform.  His trained men did, but the raw recruits saw only a fleeing enemy and in a ragged mob picked their way over the defences and pursued their opponents.

With his dragoons driven off with heavy casualties, Savile was relying on pikemen to line the defences; but with no supporting fire they were being 'picked off ' by Parliamentary musketeers and also pistol shots from the cavalry.

The western defences also required Savile's attention.  The clubmen were reforming for  a second attack.  With Fairfax in attendance, the clubmen surged forward and crossed the defences.  Even the pikes couldn't halt them.

The position seemed lost; but, taking a chance, the commander of the Royalist unit to the right of the one being pushed back, reformed his own pike block and led into the flank of the clubmen.  Doing this he left his own musketeers to face an attack by the second clubmen unit on their own, but he calculated that there would be time to return to his position.  Caught off guard by the supporting pikes, the clubmen were pushed back in disorder.  However, the supporting pikes were also disordered and until reformed were useless.  Savile moved to rally them, but at first he was ignored.  The Parliamentary clubmen had by now charged the unsupported musketeers.  A combination of lucky (and unlucky) dice meant a drawn melee and this gave just enough time for Savile to rally the pikes.

With his infantry units battered and his cavalry unable to affect the outcome, Fairfax reluctantly decided to withdraw.  For his part Savile was thankful that he had held on.  Truly, a 'close run thing'

Friday, 1 November 2013


No game this week as I set off for a short city break in Glasgow.  The aim was to visit the museums and art galleries and this was achieved in fine style; you are spoilt for choice in what used to be referred to as "the second city of the empire". 
At the Burrell collection I came across the small display of medieval armour and weapons

This is a nice example of a late 15th C Burgonet as favoured by the light cavalry of the time.  What I found particularly interesting was the painted tomb of a knight of the Spanish Espres family from the mid 14th C.

There is still some of the detail remaining and it must have been a stunning sight when first completed

The Hunterian Museum, at Glasgow University has recently opened a display of artefacts associated with the Antonine Wall.  Ballista balls and javelin heads have been recovered from the Roman fort at Kirkintilloch as well as lead slingshot from Birrens fort.

A number of the distance memorials are on display.  One of the largest, (a cast of the original) has an excellent representation of a Roman cavalryman
Both museums are free to enter and well worth the visit.  Also worth a mention is the Transport Museum with it's collection of model ships and Kelvingrove with it's armour collection.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Poles v Cossacks, a Ga Pa scenario

After a few trials with the Ga Pa rules using the GNW Prince August figures we decided to 'push the envelope' a bit and use the Polish and Cossack troops.  The second edition of the Ga Pa rules does have a useful appendix which enables you to build up your own forces and it covers most troop types for the late 17th and early 18th century period.  There are army list volumes published to support the 2nd edition of the Ga Pa rules, but we managed to make do with the appendix lists for this small scale scenario.

It is based on an article which appeared in Miniature wargames about 10 years ago on John Sobieski and his military exploits.  The Vienna campaign of 1683 is the one which most people have heard of, but the Polish forces spent many years fighting the Cossacks and Muscovites on the eastern borders.  For our scenario, a local centre is being threatened by a Cossack raiding force.  The local commander has gathered two units of the local militia infantry to form a garrison and do what they can to improve the defences.  He also has a single 3lb gun and a small unit of light cavalry.  A messenger has been sent to the nearest garrison requesting help.

The Cossack force consists of 3 units of infantry, seven of light cavalry and four units of tartar 'allies'.  Their objective is to capture the village and carry off the stores within it, before any relief force arrives.  The Polish relief force consists of 1 unit of hussars, 4 of pancerni and one light cavalry unit; they would arrive on turn 4 +d6. (In the event 1 rolled a 6 so the reinforcements didn't arrive until turn 10)

The Polish village and defences
The Cossacks attacked with their infantry in the centre and 4 cavalry units on the left wing.  The Tartars were on the right and the cavalry reserve of three units, initially in the centre, moved to the right to follow the Tartars.   First blood went to the Polish artillery which targeted the lead Cossack cavalry unit. Long range fire was ineffective, but once in close range, the Cossacks suffered and took a step loss which,as they were a small unit, removed them from play.

The Polish artillery
The Polish light cavalry, although outnumbered, decided to take on the Tartars.  They charged the leading unit, which evaded (ie fled) and then carried on towards a second which also evaded.  Unfortunately, their success meant that they were now disordered and in danger of being surrounded.  To their left were the remaining two units of Tartars and to their front Cossack light cavalry.  The Tartars shot their arrows and moved round behind the Poles and Cossacks also fired.  Unable to recover their formation, the Poles were helpless to resist as they were charged from front and rear and were destroyed.  Their action had however, slowed the advance of the Cossack right and also forced them to spend further time reorganising.

The Polish light cavalry endangered by their success
Steve, as the Cossack commander, knew that Polish reinforcements were on their way and roughly from which direction they would appear.  Therefore his cavalry spent the next few turns moving into a position to screen his impending infantry attack from 'interference' from the Polish cavalry.

Before the Cossacks had arrived, the Polish levy infantry had managed to create an obstacle across the likely line of attack.  This now proved its worth as the Sandormirz unit of Cossacks were brought to a halt by the stakes as they came in musketry range.  Supported by fire from the gun the levy were able to prevent the Cossack infantry from making any further progress.

However, two more units of Cossack infantry avoided the obstacle and attacked the village.  Although one unit refused to attack, the Godicz unit closed with the defenders.  Forcing their way over the improvised defences they established themselves in the houses.

The Godicz Cossacks enter the village
As the defenders from that face of the village fell back, I formed up the defenders from two other sides of the village to oppose any further Cossack progress.  With everyone disordered by the terrain and also benefiting from the cover provided by the buildings a stalemate developed.

At this point the clock intervened.  It was the end of turn nine, so the Polish reinforcements would have arrived next turn.  It is possible that they could have driven off the Cossack cavalry and so saved the Polish infantry.  Equally, the Cossack cavalry could have delayed the Polish cavalry long enough for their infantry to capture the town.

The rules worked well for this scenario, coping with the small units.  They do give units carrying out 'perimeter defence' an increased firepower, though at the cost of reduced melee power which balances things out.  Although the 2nd edition of the rules have an index (a notable improvement over the first edition) we still had problems with the various aspects of fighting in villages; though this perhaps may be due to our unfamiliarity with the rules.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Battle of the Brandywine, part 2

The second night of our Brandywine scenario began with a renewed British push towards the fords over the river.  Grey, the British brigade commander, had taken quite heavy casualties, but they had been concentrated on just two units, so he felt confident he could make progress.  His opposite number, Smallwood, (misnamed Sullivan in the previous post) was struggling to keep his brigade on the field because the loss of an infantry unit and the casualties inflicted by the British artillery had forced all his units to fall back to reform at least once.

Smallwood's men holding the line

As the British advanced their left hand unit strayed out of supporting distance as it struggled across the hedges lining the lane towards the fords.  When the infantry crossed the second hedge and reordered their ranks they were subjected to sniping fire from the a unit of riflemen.  In no time officers began to be wounded and the British line infantry had to fall back across the lane to reform.  Bouyed by this success and the support arriving from De Borre's brigade, Smallwood concentrated his fire on the leading British battalion.  Grey, seeing that this particular battalion had suffered heavy casualties decided to pass his supporting battalions through it.  The new leading battalion was reforming following this manoeuvre when it was hit by two volleys from the Americans and forced to fall back to reform.  This uncovered the British artillery which repaid the complement and fired at the leading American unit.  Seeing the effect of the shot on their ranks the American infantry broke and made for the rear.  It took all of Smallwood's efforts to rally them.  The brigade was then hit by further infantry volleys and the whole brigade moved to the rear and took no further part in the action.

On the opposite flank Agnew was still making slow progress towards the meeting house.  Hoping to outflank the American defensive line he ordered the skirmishing light companies to move round to their left, cross the lane and then fire in support of the British line.  The skirmishers carried out their manoeuvres and began shooting at the Americans covering the meeting house.  However, the delays in getting into position had enabled militia from Scott's brigade to come to the aid of Woodford's line and the skirmishers found themselves under fire from the militia, who had taken up a position in the woods to the skirmishers left.  In no time at all the British light troops were forced to fall back and reform due to their losses. Fortunately, Agnew's artillery was now in position and it's fire was sufficient to check any attempt by Woodfood's men to advance.

Agnew's brigade advances
Agnew now ordered his brigade to advance and the line moved forward, up to the lane and engaged in a prolonged musketry duel with Woodford's brigade. To Woodford's left, Conway's brigade was still trying to make progress towards the crossroads.  His lead battalion advanced one again up the lane, but again was forced back by fire from the Hessian artillery. 

Conway's men advance again

The defenders of the meeting house grounds also now came under fire from the Hessian jaegers and the rest of Von Donop's Hessian brigade mas moving up to support Agnew's right flank.

In the centre, Matthew's elite brigade had reached the lane running from the meeting house to the river, but progress was slowed by the concentrated fire of Conway's and Maxwell's artillery.  The leading grenadier battalion was forced back by the losses it sustained from the guns.  Maxwell's militia also added their fire and stalled the British advance.  However, when Matthew's artillery deployed it soon found the range and forced back Maxwell's infantry.

The fire from Agnew's brigade had driven off Woodford's supporting artillery and now two battalions concentrated their fire on his leading line battalion.  Heavy losses forced it to fallback behind Scott's line and this left the riflemen in the meeting house grounds unsupported.  Agnew's men surged across the lane and drove back the Americans with a bayonet charge

Agnew captures the meeting house grounds
On the banks of the Brandywine De Borre's brigade was beginning to wilt under the fire from Grey's battalions.  The militia units had done their best but with losses mounting they began to edge backwards.  The sight of the riflemen covering their right falling back behind the crest of the hill proved too much.  Although the riflemen were under command, the sight of comrades 'retreating' caused De Borre's men to rout and this uncovered the Brandywine fords.

Grey could now swing round and threaten Maxwell's left flank, which in turn would put increased pressure on the remainder of the American line.  Maxwell had just received a messenger from his artillery commander to say that the guns had run out of ammunition.  With this news Maxwell sent an aide to General Washington to advise him that his (Maxwell's) brigade would hold as long as it could, but the whole flank of the the American army was shattered.  Washington therefore gave the order for a withdrawal, with Conway and Scott fighting a delaying action, covering the brigades of Maxwell and Woodford.

The battle ended quicker than Steve and I anticipated. A flurry of unfortunate die rolls precipitated brigade morale checks on Smallwood and De Borre, which made Grey's advance easier.  Also Conway really struggled to reform his units (poor dice again).  However, this was a most enjoyable game and we are beginning to appreciate the subtleties of the Patriot and Loyalist rules.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Battle of the Brandywine,1777

Our battle this week (and for the next couple of weeks), will be the Battle of the Brandywine from the American War of Independence.  The scenario focuses on the fighting around the Birmingham Meeting House and Washington's attempts to prevent Howe's flanking force from 'rolling up' the American line.  The British objective is to clear American forces away from the fords over the Brandywine, capture the area surrounding the meeting house and secure the high ground between the meeting house and the river.  They have four brigades of infantry, plus a single cavalry unit to accomplish this. Facing them are six brigades of American infantry, but only three are present at the start of the battle, the rest arriving piecemeal.

General view towards the meeting house from the Brandywine river
Sullivan's men were covering the fords, but found that they had been outflanked and that the British cavalry were bearing down upon them.

As the American infantry struggled to reform their line to face this new threat, one unit of continental infantry advanced to cover the slower evolutions of the states militia.  Without waiting for their supporting infantry the British light dragoons charged the American line, ignoring the ragged volley from their opponents they closed to short range, fired their pistols and fell on with their swords.  A swirling melee ensued with the momentum of the cavalry balanced by the superior numbers of the infantry.  Neither could gain the decisive advantage. In the end both units fell back exhausted and unable to take any further part in the battle.  However, Sullivan's brigade was severely weakened and about to be tested again as the British infantry deployed to commence volley fire.

On the American right a sole unit of continental infantry was holding the area close to the meeting house. Against them were the four battalions and skirmishers of Agnew's brigade, covered on their right by the Hessians.  Agnew was struggling to deploy in the close terrain, but his skirmishing light companies took up a harassing fire against the American troops.  Their directed fire soon picked off several officers and the unit lost cohesion, forcing the colonel to pull it back to reform.  Now was the time to push on and gain the ground, but Agnew dallied and the Americans were able to recover and just in time a reinforcing brigade of infantry arrived.

In the centre, the Guards had no opposition and advanced unhindered up to the lane from the meeting house to the fords.  However, as they closed up to the fence they could see the first units of further American reinforcements approaching.

The Hessians, who had taken up a position in fields between Agnew and the Guards saw a further American brigade coming down the road towards the meeting house.  Quickly deploying their artillery they sent two rounds of ball shot crashing through the packed column of men.  The stalled the American advance as the leading unit had to fall back to reform.

So by the end of the first night's gaming the British had made some good progress, but the Americans had now reacted to the flank march and were deploying in strength.  The second round of this bout was going to be far tougher