Monday, 28 November 2016

A Fictional ECW scenario for Pike and Shotte

We have been looking at the 'sweeping advance' rule in Pike and Shotte and Steve came up with some alternative mechanisms.  In place of the sweeping advance he proposed a pursuit move which would be different for the different categories of mounted troops (Caracole, Horse and Gallopers).  Caracole would be very unlikely to pursue, and Gallopers almost certain to, with Horse somewhere in between. There would also be a modifier for the rating of the brigade commander.  To try them out he devised a fictional ECW scenario in which two opposing forces meet.  The Royalists are slightly stronger in cavalry and have better commanders, the Parliamentarians have more foot and a higher proportion of musketeers.

The Royalist infantry
A roll of the dice allocated the Royalist command to me and I deployed with cavalry on the wings and infantry in the centre.  My intention was for the cavalry to advance, drive off their opponents and then threaten the flanks of the Parliamentary foot.  At this point my infantry would advance to complete our victory.  With Prince Rupert commanding the cavalry what could go wrong?

Steve also deployed conventionally with infantry in the centre and cavalry on the wings and so we started the first move.  It was at this point that Lady Luck decided that it was time she went on holiday (at least as far as the Royalist cause was concerned).  Rupert's men failed to move; on the opposite wing one unit surged forward, but the rest failed to follow suit.  In  the centre, the foot plodded up the hill with the artillery, before establishing themselves in position to await the Parliamentary foot.

The Parliamentary cavalry await their orders
Steve managed to get more of his cavalry moving, but his dragoons resolutely held their ground ignoring all orders to advance.  After a couple of moves the cavalry did come to blows but, refusing to adhere to the script my dashing troopers were constantly bettered by their opponents and when falling back disordered their supports.  In no time at all half my cavalry were disordered, with two more Shaken.  The only fresh units were trapped on the baseline behind their defeated comrades. Disaster was only averted by Steve's units also being shaken.

Parliamentary foot advance with a light gun in support

One of the many cavalry melees
It was not all doom and gloom, I did win two cavalry melees; but the victories proved to be poisoned chalice.  In the first, my victorious troopers charged off in pursuit of their defeated foes and ignoring all orders to pull up disappeared into the distance, probably to the nearest inn.  The other victorious unit did not pursue (it was shaken), was charged by a nearby enemy unit and utterly routed in the ensuing melee.  To complete the job, it then disordered a couple of units before leaving the table.

Astley's foot in position
 With my cavalry being below par, it was up to the foot to show a bit of resolve.  Astley had put them at the foot of the hill with the artillery able to fire over their heads.  When the parliamentary foot advanced into range the opening volleys were fired and were a little ragged to say the least.  Although I had two units firing at one opponent casualties were about even.

Another success for the parliamentary cavalry
 Thankfully, we ran out of time at this point, battle will recommence next week, so there is a chance things will even out.

How did the proposed amendments work?  Well, they seem to reflect the tendency for some cavalry to gallop off into the distance rather than stick to their orders and they do present a few more challenges for the Royalist cavalry commanders, trying to control their troops.  However it is early days yet, one outing is not enough to make a decision.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Battle of Lomitten, 5th June 1807; a Shako scenario

This week's scenario was set up to test out our proposed 'tweaks' to the Shako rules to cover actions around redoubts. (set out in the previous post ).  The action is one of several attacks by the Russians under Bennigsen aimed at eliminating French bridgeheads over the Passarge river, in the days prior to the decisive battle of Friedland.

Here is a sketch map of the table with the Russians attacking from the left.  They have two divisions,  (Rachmanov and Bikov), each of 6 battalions.  Another division (Baggowut) of 6 battalions will arrive in d average moves.  Dochtorov also has a cavalry division (Lvov) and two heavy batteries in a redoubt.  The Russian orders are to eliminate the bridgehead and take control of the bridge over the Passarge.

Ferey's position
The French forces are commanded by Carra St Cyr who has two small divisions (Ferey and Chassel) each of four battalions.  In reserve he has one regiment of Chasseurs a Cheval and his position is supported by a field gun in a redoubt across the river.  On a hill to the east of the village of Lomitten are two redoubts connected by a line of earthworks.  Carra St Cyr's orders are flexible, he is to hold his position unless attacked by overwhelming enemy forces; in which case he is to fall back across the river.

The Passarge can only be crossed by the bridge and as the French have held the position for some time.  This has enabled them to construct an abatis in front of the entrenchments and  also construct obstacles in the woods on the French left.

The Russian infantry advance
Seeing that his cavalry will be of little use in the initial phase of the battle, Dochtorov planned a straightforward attack against the entrenchments.  The heavy guns were to soften up the defences prior to the infantry's final charge. Ferey's field gun caused some disruption as the Russians moved forward, but not enough to slow the attack.  Chassel had held his troops within the woods until the Russians came abreast of his position, he then advanced and threatened their flank.  Bikov turned half his division to meet this new threat whilst the remainder plodded forward.  Rachmanov's men had by now reached the abatis and were suffering from musketry volleys and canister shot.  Undeterred, they gathered themselves and charged the emplacements.  The 1st battalion of the 54th Line had taken casualties from the Russian heavy guns and were unable to stop the avalanche of Russian infantry.  Fortunately, Ferey had placed his infantry reserve (2nd battalion 54th line ) in support and they were able to re-establish the French line.

The Russians cross the entrenchments
Dochtorov had directed Baggowut's division to help Bikov and their combined strength overwhelmed Chassel.  The attack was joined by Lvov's cavalry and they destroyed a French battalion before it could form square.

The Russian Hussars strike

Only two much depleted battalions made it back into the woods and they would be unable to stop any Russian flanking manoeuvre.  On the opposite flank  two attacks by the Alexopol regiment against the redoubt had been repulsed.  A flanking move by the 1st battalion 8th legere  was countered by the New Ingermanland regiment, but that unit now found itself the target for the French artillery on the west side of the Passarge.

With Baggowut moving through the woods, Bikov now prepared to join the general assault on the French entrenchments.  Ferey now had only two full strength battalions, the remaining three had taken significant casualties.  He felt he had done all he could and so ordered a withdrawal across the river, covered by the Chasseurs.

The scenario only took a couple of hours to play, so we re-ran it after lunch which resulted in a similar result, but with heavier losses to the Russians.  The high spot of the Russian attack was when the 1st battalion Lithuania regiment carried the left hand French redoubt.

Lithuania take the redoubt
Overall the redoubt rules worked well.  The skirmisher type fire had some effect and the all round fire meant that they could fire into the flank of any enemy unit which crossed the earthworks.  In addition they were hard to take, but could be reduced by gun fire and the garrison reduced by close range musket volleys.  Redoubts do not feature on many battlefields and so our rules for them are always going to be in the 'optional' category.  Two of the sources I used for the battle Peuchet and Petre both comment on the battered state of the defences due to the Russian bombardment.  We gave them a nominal 5 strength points which was reduced by 'hits'.  Perhaps an extra point could be deducted for each melee fought over the works?  Something to ponder at a later date perhaps.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Thoughts on Shako rules following recent game

The last post recounted our recent playing of a Shako scenario based on the battle of Tarvis, 1809.  During the play, Steve and I thought that the rules didn't really cover the fighting in redoubts and some 'post match' discussion followed.  Later, I jotted down a few ideas and emailed them to Steve for his input and I thought that they may be of interest here also.  As a point of information we use the early version of Shako, not Shako II.


Generally had a small garrison,(a company or two at most), so could be represented by one 6 figure stand.  This would mean that the feature would not take up too much room.  Constructed of earth with timber/gabion reinforcing and enclosed, (ie had four sides).  Fleches should be considered as earthworks and therfeore use linear obstacle rules?  

Do we assume that they incorporate a ditch and stakes?  (see section on melee) 

Shooting:  From all four sides.  Use skirmisher fire rules, ie first hit inflicts stagger, not kill.   Can target units not attacking redoubt

Melee:  Defenders have an MR of 1 fewer than that of a full unit.  (ie a line reg would be a 3, militia a 2)
            Attackers use disordered MR (again assuming ditch and stakes/abbatis)
            No other modifiers used in melee (support, losses, failed volley) 

            Defenders do not Fall Back if only lose melee by 1, but they do take a casualty.  (start with 3 strength points)
            If Defenders win they use an MR of full unit (ie 4 for line infantry) when determining if they take a casualty. (A roll of 6 is always a casualty)

As an added element, forts and blockhouses could use the same procedure but with a +1 for the defenders in addition to the attackers using their disordered MR.

One further area we discussed was the situation when two staggered units are facing each other within 4 inches and thus unable to recover normal command.  Their command state means that volleys are unlikely to be effective, so the only option is to charge and hope to drive off the enemy.  It seems rather artificial and can lead to units getting in the way of an advance.  So the proposal is:

If a player opts to try and charge their opponent they have to pass a morale test to do so, if they fail they roll again.  A successful test results in the unit making a Fall Back move but remaining staggered.  Failure results in dropping to Fall Back status and moving the 6" backwards.

If any readers of the blog have any thoughts/comments please feel free to join in.