Thursday, 30 April 2015

Roundway Down - a Pike and Shotte scenario

It is a couple of months since the last ECW outing, so this week Steve and I revisited the Pike and Shotte rules.  Steve had chosen the action at Roundway Down and it is one of those battles that once you have gamed it you begin to wonder how the historical result was achieved.  The numbers involved were approximately Royalists; 2,000 cavalry (Wilmot) plus potential attack by Lord Hopton's infantry from Devizes (1,000?); Parliament c2,000 cavalry and c2,500 infantry.

The battle began with Wilmot's cavalry deployed in three brigades (ie units) with a small unit of dargoons and Prince Maurice's brigade in reserve.  Between the Royalists and Devizes was Waller's army.  This was deployed in the traditional manner with cavalry on the flanks and infantry in the centre.  In Devizes, to the rear of Waller, was Lord Hopton with four units of infantry.  He would intervene if Wilmot successfully rolled  a 6 on a d6 to activate him.  The dice decreed that I would take the part of Wilmot and with some trepidation I began to move forward against the numerically superior Parliamentarian force.  We used the Pike and Shotte special rule 'eager' for one of Wilmot's brigades and this cavalry soon outdistanced the rest and charged Heselrige on Waller's left flank.  It was at this point that things began to unravel.  The supporting Parliamentary artillery fired on the Royalist cavalry as they closed and disordered them.  Then the 'lobsters' fired their pistols and inflicted another casualty. My 'saving' dice all failed to 'save' and so these casualties 'stuck'.  In the melee Wilmot's men managed to inflict more casualties, but unsupported, they ended up drawing when the result modifiers were added.  Having reached their stamina level they had to take a break test and of course failed, falling back.

Wilmot attacks Heselrige
In the centre, my cavalry moved forward more slowly, (due to rolling 7's and 8's for command, which allowed me only one move).  This allowed the Parliamentarian artillery plenty of time to inflict casualties. Fortunately for Steve, he rolled quite a few 6's which disordered my cavalry and meant I couldn't give them any orders until they recovered.  As he threw a six on each of the next 4 moves this rather threw a spanner in the works!  Byron, on the left was more fortunate, that is until his charge left him 2" short of the enemy cavalry.  A round of hail shot and a pistol volley quickly sent him back towards the base line.  Just to put the icing on the cake, my reserve cavalry decided that they would be spectators for a bit and rolled a succession of 9's and above.

The game could have been over in 30 minutes, but for
1  Rolling a 6 at the first attempt so Lord Hopton moved his infantry out of Devizes and towards the rear of Waller's army.
2  Steve became infected by my ability to roll 'high' when attempting to issue orders and Waller's army stood it's ground rather than press home it's advantage against my cavalry.

Wilmot attacks Waller's regiment
After 3 moves Wilmot and Byron had recovered and moved forward again.  Once again Wilmot attacked Heselrige and this time prevailed, driving the 'lobsters' back behind Waller's own regiment of horse who were supporting them.  Wilmot followed up, expecting to achieve a decisive breakthrough.  In the melee they rolled 10 dice requiring 3 or more to inflict a potential casualty.  Against this, Waller's regiment rolled 8 dice requiring 4 or more.  The result was 8 - 6 in favour of Wilmot, we then rolled the 'saving' dice; each of us needing to roll 6 or more.  Steve rolled 8 dice and got 4 or more on each one.  My 6 dice can be seen below, only one 'save'.

With 5 casualties, Wilmot's had to take a 'break' test, they failed and had to fall back.  Waller's followed up,
meleed Wilmot's again and drove them from the field.  The reserve cavalry managed to stop the rot and halt Waller's charge, but both units became shaken and had to fall back.

Waller's infantry wait for Lord Hopton's attack
Lord Hopton's infantry had deployed and were now attacking Waller's second line, but they had had plenty of time to prepare.  The fire-fight between the musketeers was evenly balanced, but the intervention of Lord Hopton's pike blocks drove back the Parliamentarian line.  However, this was the Royalist's 'last hurrah'. The cavalry was a spent force.  In the centre, the seemingly perpetually disordered cavalry failed a 'break' test and fled the field.  Byron's cavalry, hit again by the Parliamentary artillery (another 6 inflicted a further disorder) also failed a 'break' test and followed their colleagues from the field.  With only the reserve cavalry remaining, Wilmot decided that the day was lost.  Left to his own resources, Lord Hopton fell back to Devizes.

At this point we called a halt and had lunch.  Steve and I chatted about how the rules had worked and we decided that the rules about disordered units not being able to be given orders and 'Initiative' which was limited to units within 6" of the enemy was too limiting.  We therefore adopted the 'Piffy' rule. (Piffy after the phrase "stood around like Piffy on a rock bun".  This enabled disordered units to fall back a move like Shaken units.

In the afternoon, we ran the scenario again, swapping commands.  Once again the Royalist cavalry struggled, although the central unit did at least manage to break the  Parliamentary infantry line.  However, they then became enmeshed in a melee with a mixed unit of musket and pike in 'hedgehog' formation and were driven off with heavy casualties.  Steve, had real difficulty getting Lord Hopton's force moving and once again by the time they deployed the Royalist horse had been defeated.

Monday, 20 April 2015

St Amand - a Shako scenario

The 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo comes round in just a few weeks. During June I am sure we will be treated to some great Napoleonic games at the shows and most Napoleonic gamers will be running their own versions of the battle.  The anniversary weekend coincides with the Phalanx show at St Helens. Steve and I will be putting on a game for the Lance & Longbow Society and thus the weeks before will be taken up with ironing out the scenario/rules/figures we will need. Therefore I decided to get a Waterloo themed game in early and as the action on the 18th June is so well known (and I don't have a single Napoleonic British figure in my 15mm collection) the choice settled on Ligny.  With a 6 x 4 table the best option was to concentrate on a sector of the field and so Vandamme's attack on the villages of St Amand and La Haye was chosen.

 Here is a map of the table layout.  For clarity I have not drawn in the hedges and fences around the villages.  The Ligny brook takes a full move to cross unless the fords behind St Amand or the bridge behind La Haye are used. (The bridge and fords are the only places artillery can cross).  Vandamme commands four divisions (25 battalions) of infantry (Lefol, Berthezene, Habert and Girard) with the latter arriving as reinforcements on turn 6.  Domon's cavalry division (2 regiments of light cavalry) is functioning as the flank cover for the army and can only be used in extremis.

Zieten's Prussians have two brigades (16 battalions of infantry) along the Ligny brook with Tippelskirch's infantry (8 battalions) and Roder's cavalry(3 regiments of light cavalry) available as reinforcements if the two villages are occupied by the French.

Berthezene's division
Overall, the Vandamme's strategy was to draw the Prussian reserves into action creating the opportunity for the decisive attack elsewhere.  Zieten hoped to slow the French advance by contesting the villages and then establish a second line on the brook, with a final stand (if necessary) at Brye.  Hofschroer, (1815: the Waterloo campaign, Wellington, his German Allies and the battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras) seems to have a generally low opinion of the Prussians. On page 235 he states:

"A substantial part of Blucher's forces consisted of raw levies capable of two basic manoeuvres; going forward in a state of disorder and backwards in a state of chaos."

Each of the Prussian brigades therefore has 6 2nd rate battalions and 2 1st class battalions (shako ratings) and the cavalry has 2 militia and 1 line regiments

The dice determined that Steve would command the French and Lefol and Berthezene's divisions advanced on the villages.  All the Prussian artillery was deployed north of the Ligny brook and therefore took little part in the early stages of the battle, waiting for the French formations to come into range.  With only 3 battalions deployed to hold St Amand,  Jagow's men were outnumbered 2 to 1 and soon had to fall back from the hedges and fences into the village.  Two of the attacks were repulsed, but the central sector of the village fell as the 2nd Pomeranian Militia was totally overwhelmed by the 1st battalion of the 46th Line. Lefol attacked a second time and secured one more sector of St Amand, ejecting the 1st Battalion of the 1st Silesian Infantry Regiment after a fierce melee.  The 2nd Silesian Infantry Regiment tried to recover the central sector from the 46th Line but was thrown back in disorder.  The 2nd Pomeranian Militia charged forward to cover the retreat of their comrades, but their bravery cost them dear.  A deadly volley from the French was followed by a bayonet charge which inflicted such heavy casualties that the battalion took no further part in the action.

Steinmetz at La Haye
At La Haye, Berthezene was also making good progress.  He had moved forward his artillery and after canister had softened up the defenders the 3rd Legere charged forward and drove the 1st Battalion 4th Reserve Infantry from the village.  Buoyed by this success the Legere continued over the bridge, attempting to gain a foothold on the northern bank of the Ligny brook.  However, they paid for their rashness as they were scythed down by canister and then charged by the 1st West Prussian Landwehr.

After 5 moves all the village sectors were in French hands and this triggered the release of Tippelskirch's brigade.  In view of the heavy losses Jagow had suffered, Zieten directed this brigade towards St Amand.  Vandamme also received reinforcements and Habert moved to the right of St Amand to outflank the line Jagow was forming along the Ligny brook.  Girard went towards La Haye where Berthezene was struggling to make headway.  Zieten had already moved the reserve artillery forward to support Jagow, and these guns came under increased pressure as Habert and Lefol's artillery, plus the French reserve artillery attempted to suppress them.

The action along the Ligny brook
Lefol was making pinning attacks against Jagow, buying time for Habert and Girard to come forward.  Berthezene also attacked again, preventing Steinmetz from aiding his colleague by extending his line to the left.  Girard's leading unit, from the 23rd Line crossed the ford and charged the flank of the 9th Reserve Infantry.  The Prussian unit dissolved into chaos and streamed for the rear, passing the leading battalions of Tippelskirch as he advanced to support Jagow.  The latter was in dire need of assistance, his command had losses nearing 50% and when the Fusilier battalion of the Pomeranian Infantry regiment was routed as it attempted to hold the other ford behind St Amand, it carried with it the remainder of Jagow's command.

As Tippelskirch hastened to deploy, Zieten commited Roder's cavalry in a last attempt to shore up his left flank.  Roder's men arrived just as Habert's infantry crossed the Ligny.  Luckily for the French they managed to form square in the nick of time.  Carried away by the thrill of the charge, the inexperienced Landwehr cavalry did not rein in, but continued towards the squares.  The experienced French infantry stood their ground and drove back the impetuous cavalry in bloody ruin.

23rd Ligne cross the Ligny brook
On the Prussian right Steinmetz was holding his own.  Berthezene's division had fallen back to lick it's wounds and Girard's men were struggling to cross the brook near La Haye.  However, it was on the Prussian left where the action would be decided.  An attack by Tippelskirch's leading battalions had been repulsed and as the men fell back they were charged in the flank by battalions from Girard's 23rd Line.  The Prussian line was in danger of being rolled up and Zieten requested more reinforcements.

We called a halt at this point.  The French objective had been achieved, more Prussians would be drawn into the fight near St Amand and this would reduce the number available to challenge the main French attack near Ligny village.  French losses had been heavy, particularly in the divisions of Lefol and Berthezene, but those of the Prussians had been even heavier.  In retrospect I could perhaps have cut my losses and pulled Jagow's men back behind the Ligny brook sooner.  This may have produced a more resilient defence against Lefol and Habert.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Rawkins Uniform books

I am sure that most of us who wargamed Napoleonics in the 80's had a few of the Rawkins uniform guides on their shelves.  For the time they were essential reading. Even though the illustrations were line drawings, the information on uniforms and organisation made their purchase worthwhile.   The books have been out of print for some years, but I recently received an email from Bob Metcalfe, one of the gamers who helps out on the Lance & Longbow stand at shows in the North.  He pointed me to a website where the titles can now be purchased on CD Rom.  These are new editions, with colour illustrations and greatly expanded text. They are very reasonably priced, roughly the price the paperbacks were all those years ago.  I ordered the guide to the Italian army and was delighted with the new edition.

So if you haven't already visited the historyman website (link above) it is worth a look.