Friday, 31 March 2017

River crossing - an eastern renaissance scenario for Pike and Shotte

This week our game was 'out east'.  It was a fictional scenario from the Smolensk war between Poland and Muscovy (1632-1634).  The Polish forces are coming to the aid of a besieged city and need to establish a bridgehead over the river Dneiper.  Scouts have identified a suitable crossing point, with a low ridge half a mile beyond on the eastern side.  Unfortunately, the Muscovites have discovered the Polish plan and the local commander, (Prince Dimitri), has taken steps to oppose the crossing and requested reinforcements.
Initial table layout
The Muscovite forces in the immediate area consist of 3 'units' of noble levy cavalry, 2 units of streltsy, a unit of border muskets and a gun which has been 'requisitioned' from a local arsenal.  Prince Dmitri's artillery commander is of the opinion that it would have better to leave the rather antiquated piece where it was, but was over-ruled.  Some works have been constructed on the ridge facing the crossing and a unit of Cossacks have ventured across the river to provide warning of the Polish advance.  Prince Dimitri has been assured that reinforcements are on their way, but he does not know when, or the order of arrival.  His superior, Grand Prince Michael, has informed him that he is on his way with some of the 'new units' recently raised on the western model.  One unit of soldatski and 3 units of reiter, together with two further units of streltsy, and the Grand Prince Michael's bodyguard.

The Russian left

The Noble Levy cavalry
Shortly after dawn the Cossacks galloped through the ford and reported that the Polish army was approaching, led by a vanguard of cavalry, including Hussars and Pancerni.  Prince Dimitri readied his forces with the gun, one streltsy unit and the border muskets on his left, the noble levy cavalry in the centre, (opposite the ford) and a further streltsy unit on the right.  He anticipated that the reinforcements would come on his right, so that flank would receive help first.

The Polish vanguard
The first clash was between the rival scouting units, with the victory going to the Poles, perhaps their spears were more effective then the Muscovites'' swords?  Assessing the situation, the leader of the Polish vanguard decided the best strategy was to drive off the Muscovite cavalry, leaving the Poles to 'mop up' the infantry at their leisure.  To this end he led the vanguard forward against the Muscovite centre, with the Hussars leading the way.  Undaunted by their illustrious opponents, the leading Noble Levy cavalry unit advanced against the Hussars.  However, harsh reality soon made itself  felt. Although outnumbering the Poles 3:1, the Muscovites were defeated, being driven back in disorder. Encouraged, the Hussars swept on, charging a second Noble Levy unit.  This melee was less one-sided, both sides having to fall back to re-group.

The Hussars charge the Noble Levy

This allowed both sides to regroup.  The Poles were having some difficulty their Pancerni units to advance in support of the Hussars.  Also, their second 'brigade' of cavalry was having problems crossing the river through poor command dice!  Giving a breathing space, the Muscovite cavalry recovered and prepared to return to combat, Prince Dimitri's sole problem was the reluctance of his Cossack scouts to move to the right flank and cover the advance of the anticipated Muscovite reinforcements.

The Poles advance

Polish reinforcements arrive
With the Hussars falling back they came within arc of the streltsy unit on the Muscovite right.  Although more of an irritant than deadly, the fire did encourage the leader of the Polish vanguard to use his Pancerni to draw the infantry fire.  On the Muscovite left this resulted in one of the more dramatic events of the day.  A unit of Pancerni had been harassing the opposing streltsy with their bows.  Over time the streltsy suffered sufficient casualties to have to fall back to recover.  Sensing an advantage the Pancerni moved forward, in doing so they came within close range of the Muscovite gun.  Whatever the reason, over-enthusiasm, or carelessness, normal loading procedure  was not followed.  When the charge was ignited an explosion resulted and when the smoke cleared the gun was in ruins and the crew dead.  The explosion seemed to have stunned the Pancerni, because they failed to continue their advance and thus allowed the streltsy to regain their position on the ridge and prepare to receive the enemy cavalry.  When the Pancerni did charge, they were met by a devastating volley which drove them back before they came to contact.

The end of the gun
By now the reinforcements were beginning to arrive for the Muscovites, with the reiter regiments leading the way.  Grand Prince Michael ordered them to advance towards the ford and attack the flank of the Poles.  The Polish forces were also increasing in numbers.  The second 'brigade' of cavalry had crossed the river and formed up and behind them were four units of infantry.  The latter were sent towards the Muscovite left flank to remove the threat of the streltsy stationed there.

The Hussars attack again

The Soldatski stand firm

Grand Prince Michael's bodyguard are driven off

A second attack was now launched on the Muscovite centre.  Once again the Hussars led the way and once again the Noble Levy cavalry were defeated.  However, on this occasion, the Hussars were better supported and a unit of Pancerni charged with them and also drove off a unit of the Noble Levy.  A gaping hole had appeared in the Muscovite line.  Grand Prince Michael deployed his newly arrived streltsy units to face this threat, whilst leading forward his own bodyguard.  Behind the bodyguard were a small unit of Noble Levy.  The clash between the Hussars and the bodyguard was brief and ended with the Muscovites being driven from the field.  Grand Prince Michael managed to hack his way clear of the carnage and return to his infantry line, but the Noble Levy were determined to avenge their comrades.  They charged forward and must have caught the Hussars by surprise because for the first time that day the Polish elite cavalry tasted defeat.  Forced back by the onslaught, the Poles were driven towards the unit of Border muskets, who fired a salvo at them. Caught between two forces the Hussars were forced to surrender.

The Haiduk attack

More Polish success

The attack on the reiter
On the Muscovite left the attack by the Polish Haiduk infantry was halted by the streltsy, but only after a fierce and prolonged struggle.  The Muscovite right was now moving forward together, though the attack by the Hussars had diverted two units of streltsy and the unit of Noble Levy away.  Two reiter units, with the Soldatski regiment providing a solid flank had now moved forward almost to the river.  Opposing them was the third cavalry 'brigade' of the Polish army.  The Soldatski had manged to disrupt an earlier attack by a unit of Pancerni and the reiter had easily driven off the Polish light cavalry.  However, they now faced a sterner test as fresh units of Polish cavalry attacked.  With the Soldatski screened by one unit of Pancerni, the reiter were charged by a unit of Hussars and one of Pancerni.  Galloping through the ineffective close range pistol fire the Polish cavalry smashed through the Muscovite ranks driving the tattered units back in disorder.  Grand Prince Michael managed to establish a line of streltsy to give a haven for the battered reiter to rally, but with very little cavalry remaining he would be unable to hold his position for long.  The remains of the Muscovite force therefore began to withdraw eastwards, leaving the Poles to establish their bridgehead.

The scenario provided an enjoyable game which lasted for 4 hours.  In our 'post match discussion' we talked about the strength of the Hussars.  The special factors gave them a better morale rating, the chance to re-roll one failed morale dice, an extra increment when deciding the victor of a melee, and a lance which reduced the morale rating of their opponent in the melee.  Overall we felt that this was 'over-egging the pudding'.  As an experiment next time they take the field, the Hussars will lose the Heavy Cavalry 3+ in melee and instead win draws.

Also, the streltsy have a bonus for the double handed melee weapon (ie axe), whilst the Haiduk do not, so again as an experiment the bonus will be given to the Haiduks as well.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Mittelstadt - a SYW scenario for Konig Krieg

Mittelstadt is a small town on the Braunwasser a minor tributary of the Main.  The French command have begun to establish a magazine there to support their planned advance eastwards.  The Allied command have heard news of this development and sent a force under General James Marlborough Blackadder (last in action over 2 years ago ( post ) to capture the town and destroy (or carry off) the magazine.  For this action he has 4 brigades of line infantry (4 battalions Hessians, 4 battalions British, a mixed brigade of Brunswick and Prussians,  and 3 battalions of highlanders).  In addition he has 1 converged grenadier battalion and a battalion of jaegers.   The cavalry arm is represented by 3 regiments of dragoons and there are two light guns.

The French defenders of Mittelstadt

The French cavalry

The Braunwasser flows across the battlefield,with Mittelstadt on the western bank close to the bridge. On Blackadder's right is a wood and a ford of the river.  His left is fairly open terrain and he therefore stationed his cavalry there.  The jaeger are on the right and the infantry make up the centre. Blackadder aims to pin the French in the centre and then force the ford using his highlanders, rolling up the enemy line.

Royal Allemand drive off the British dragoons

As the allied forces deploy, the French commander, the Marquis d'Ecoles deployed to defend his position.  His 15 infantry battalions (in 4 brigades) were deployed along his front from the bridge to the ford.  On his right the cavalry, 2 units of French cavalry supported by a regiment of Reichsarmee cuirassiers, faced up to the British dragoons.  The two light guns were supporting the infantry line. Expecting his cavalry to be stronger than their opponents, the Marquis intended to attack with his right, drive off the enemy cavalry and then roll up the infantry as they attacked.

The firefight develops along the river bank
The battle opened with a general Allied advance.  Once the two forces came within artillery range, the French cavalry moved forward.  Their charge proved too much for the dragoons who were driven back in disorder and then attacked again by the exultant French.  The issue was not in doubt. In a trice, all Blackadder's cavalry had fled the field and his left flank was 'in the air' .  This required one of his brigades, the mixed Brunswick/Prussian, to abandon its advance and turn to meet this new threat.   Quickly forming a line towards the enemy cavalry, the infantry awaited the onslaught.

The Frei Korps rout

On the opposite flank the jaeger had made good progress through the wood and soon began a nagging fire on the French infantry across the Braunwasser.  By the time the highlanders approached the ford one of the enemy battalions had been forced to retire due to its high casualties.  Supported by one of the light guns, the highlanders prepared to force their way across the river.

In the centre the British and Hessian brigades were having a tough time.  Under fire from the French artillery and lashed by volleys from the French infantry, their ranks were thinning.  However, true to their traditions they stood their ground and replied in kind, tearing gaps in the French ranks with their volleys.

On the Allied left the crisis of the battle approached.  The reformed French cavalry charged the infantry opposing them.  A Brunswick battalion remained in line and stopped the cavalry with a devastating volley.  To their left, a unit of Prussian Frei Korps had formed square, but their nerve broke as the horsemen closed and they broke and ran.  Fortunately for the allied cause, Blackadder had formed up his grenadiers behind the Frei Korps and the sight of the steady ranks of mitre capped infantry was enough to halt the onrushing French.    Withdrawing the French cavalry attacked again, but once again were beaten back.  A final charge by the Reichsarmee cuirassiers ended in dismal failure as the leading squadrons were shredded by canister as they closed on the Brunswick infantry.

Artillery supports the Brunswickers

The second French cavalry attack
The Marquis ordered forward infantry to support his cavalry and they threatened to swing the balance in favour of the French, but Blackadder re-deployed a hessian battalion and this supported by the second light gun drove back the French.

The French infantry attack the Hessians

The highlanders attack across the ford

Following up a salvo of canister shot, the highlanders rushed across the ford.  The battalion facing them, already shaken, was unable to stand against the charge and retreated.  A second highland battalion now crossed and drove back another French battalion with musketry.  Reacting to this threat, the Marquis ordered one of his light guns to the endangered sector.  The fire from this gun halted the allied attack just long enough for the Marquis to rally his fleeing infantry and form a new defence line.  Blackadder for his part could see that his British line battalions were at the end of their tether, all had suffered heavy casualties and their retreat opened a gap in his line.  The highlanders advance although successful was leading them into a salient and further advance risked their destruction.  He therefore decided that withdrawal was the best option.  Although Mittelstadt had not been captured the French forces had suffered heavy casualties and it would be some time before they could contemplate an advance.

Friday, 17 March 2017

In Kelhamshire again part 2

In an earlier post I began a report on our most recent ECW game.  Returning to the action with the continuing ebb and flow on the Royalist right wing.  Although the Parliamentary cavalry were gaining the upper hand, the Royalists were helped by support from an infantry unit.  Fire from this unit inflicted sufficient casualties to cause a couple of units to halt and rally and this gave enough time for the Royalists to do the same.  To remove this irritant, the Parliamentary candidate moved forward some of his own infantry, threatening to outflank the Royalists.  Unfortunately for this plan the infantry was sluggish, all except one unit which moved forward with speed and became isolated. It then found itself the centre of attention, as two Royalist infantry units, plus some light artillery all fired on it.  Against such odds the end was predictable, after a short time the losses became unsustainable and the Parliamentary infantry unit broke ranks and routed.  The best attempts of their brigade commander to get them to stand went unheeded and the infantry fled the field.  Their flight doing nothing to inspire their comrades to advance in their place.

The contest across the river develops

In the centre, both banks of the river were now lined with infantry firing volleys at close range.  With their greater ratio of muskets to pikes, the advantage lay with parliament, especially as they had dragged forward some artillery to increase the volume of fire.  After a short time the weight of  fire proved too much for a newly raised Royalist unit which first edged backwards and then, following another volley routed.  Ignoring all appeals to halt the raw recruits headed for the road home. Another Royalist infantry unit also routed from the fire, but they were rallied by the Royalist commander and eventually returned to the fray.  Fortunately for the Royalists other units were on hand to fill the gaps and the Parliamentary infantry were slow to exploit their advantage.

The Royalist left re-organising
On the Royalist left the cavalry fight was a matter of isolated attacks as units reformed and then charged forward.  Neither side could gain a significant advantage.  The Royalist cause was helped by a unit of dragoons ensconced in a barn who were able to provide a harassing fire on the left of the Parliamentary line.  Of more potent help was the light artillery which was brought forward.  This managed to halt an attempted charge  directed at the weakest Royalist unit which was desperately trying to reform.  Eventually, the Royalists managed to sort themselves out and a more co-ordinated attack was launched.  This was met by a vigorous countercharge by their opponents and a tough struggle ensued.  Eventually, the Royalists prevailed and the victors swept forward, driving their disorganised foes from the field.

The Parliamentary infantry slowly deploying on their left
The Royalist success on their left was mirrored by Parliamentary success on the other flank.  Led by a unit of 'lobsters' the Parliamentary cavalry swept forward.  The Royalists responded in kind, but on this occasion their natural elan was not enough to prevail.  All the Royalist cavalry, plus their supporting infantry were driven back.  The infantry were rallied by the Royalist commander once they had crossed the river, but the Royalist cavalry quit the field.

Royalist infantry flee
In the centre the fire fight continued.  Both sides were reluctant to chance an attack across the river because of the risk of becoming disordered (50% for pike armed troops).  Parliament had manged to get one unit across and this had manged to beat off an attack by the Royalists which threatened to drive it into the river, but further progress was proving difficult.

As gaming time drew to an end a winning draw was adjudicated for Parliament.  They had managed to get troops across the river and also had inflicted heavier casualties on the Royalists.

Monday, 13 March 2017


Once more we journeyed down the M6 to the WMMS at the Aldersley Leisure Village.  We arrived later than planned and parking was not easy, but the show made up for it.   The atmosphere was friendly, there was ample space to wander around, stop, chat to friends and not get in the way.  The standard of modelling on display was very good and a wide range of games were represented.  I was particularly taken by the number of 'horse and musket' games, especially as they had seemed to be in decline over recent years.

All the above were of the Shrewsbury club's 18th century game.

An impressive Zulu Wars game

A fictional Grand Alliance game with a Jacobite invasion of England after William lost the Battle of the Boyne.

Something a little unusual.  the War of Austrian Succession in Italy

A second Grand Alliance game.  Both games used the 'Beneath the Lily Banners' rules produced by Barry Hilton.

Finally, a Peninsular skirmish game.

A good show and one which Dave, Steve and I will hope to visit again next year.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

In Kelhamshire once more

This week Steve and I began another Pike and Shotte game trying out our amendments to the 'sweeping advance' section of the rules.  This scenario was on a larger scale than last time and also included infantry and artillery.  Both forces had 8 infantry regiments, 8 cavalry regiments, 1 dragoon regiment and a couple of pieces of artillery.  The objective was to seize control of the bridge over the river Kelham.  The river could be crossed anywhere by infantry and cavalry (at a risk of becoming disordered), but the artillery could only cross at the bridge.  The hills were 'gentle' and offered no hindrance to movement.

Two views of the table set up for the latest action in Kelhamshire.  As you can see the ground is fairly open on both flanks, giving the cavalry plenty of opportunity to manoeuvre.

A roll of the dice allocated command of the Royalists to me and I decided to advance with my cavalry to hold back the enemy cavalry and prevent them interfering with the deployment of my infantry.  These were to advance on either side of the bridge and support the advance of units over that bridge, thus securing the crossing.

At first things seemed to be going my way.  The left flank cavalry moved forward with elan and occupied the hill easily.  In the ensuing melee the front line of units were successful and drove back their opponents.  My small cavalry unit suffered sufficient casualties to prevent it following up, but the other one  careered on and won a second melee.  It seemed like I was on the verge of driving the Parliamentary right wing from the field, but it was at this point that the command dice began to fail me and Steve was given enough time to rally his units whilst mine dithered.

The first clash on the Royalist left
In the centre all the infantry struggled to deploy, hampered by hedges and the river.  Once again the Royalists made quick progress at first, but then slowed and allowed the Parliamentary units time to advance and prevent a successful advance across the bridge.  Twice one of my units began to cross the bridge, but on each occasion they had to fall back, because to go any further forward would have resulted in them being attacked in flank before they could deploy.

The Parliamentary infantry advance
The Royalists attempt to cross the bridge

On my right, both forces of cavalry advanced fairly slowly, but once combat began the Parliamentary cavalry gained the upper hand.  Although both sides had shaken units, Parliament had one unit which was in good order, whilst I had none.  My hope was that the unit of foot which I had manged to get across the river would provide sufficient support to bolster the flank long enough to enable me to rally my men.

The Parliamentary cavalry prepare to drive home their advantage
After 3 hours play the majority of infantry were still deploying, although some volleys had been exchanged.  The cavalry flanks were on the brink of  decisive melees and everything was still to play for when we resume later this week.

The view from behind the Parliamentary centre

The Royalist infantry deploying