Thursday 22 August 2013

Great Northern War bridge scenario

Following a first run out with the Ga Pa rules, Steve and I decided to invest in the 2nd edition.  This was a good move as the second edition is an improvement and explains the rules more fully.  The greatest improvement is the inclusion of an index, which proved invaluable during our second game.

Our scenario concerned control of a vital bridge over the Dvina river. Both the Swedes and Russians were determined to control this bridge and despatched forces to accomplish this.  Marshal Sheremetiev's Russians arrived first, but by a narrow margin, with the rearguard, comprising the field artillery and a dragoon regiment still on the far side of the river.  The Swedes under Rehnskold arrived in column close by a wood.  Both sides had reinforcements heading for the area, but their arrival would be decided by dice roll.

The Russians deployed their infantry in two lines, (the single Guards battalion forming a third 'line' with the Horse Grenadiers and a unit of dragoons), and the river covering their right.  Any reinforcements would arrive over the bridge,so that needed to be kept clear.

The Swedish guards battalion led the infantry forward with the two units of cavalry deployed on their right, hoping to lap round the infantry line before the cavalry closed up.

The rules give the Swedes an advantage in leadership and initiative which I hoped to utilise to get the infantry into combat before the Russian artillery did too much damage.  Unfortunately, the expected 2/3rds success rate for orders (dice dependent) became a 2/3rds failure rate, depriving me of a second 'march' move (not available for the automatic orders for units which have not already moved). 

Carrying on regardless the Guards moved forward and the next two battalions formed line on their right flank.  As they emerged from the cover of the wood they came in range of the Russian field gun.  Against the odds the Guards became disorganised and fell back under the artillery fire, requiring the intervention of Rehnskold to rally.  Whilst the Swedish infantry reformed their cavalry swept forward.  With the Finnish Abo regiment in the lead they crashed into the Russian dragoons which Menshikov, the Russian cavalry commander had led forward.

(Steve, commanding the Russians, had decided to offset the low Russian leadership value by attaching his commanders to specific units or groups.  This had the effect of having orders obeyed on anything but a '6' on a d6.  The drawback being that the commander would have to use one of his four available orders in order to move to a unit/group and another to move away in order to issue orders to  another unit/group.  As long as the groups stayed intact this worked well.)

The second unit of Swedish cavalry was on automatic orders (Rehnskold again having problems issuing orders!), and were given the order to charge. However, the Russian infantry were out of charge range and after their move the Swedish cavalry were within musket range.  The first battalion Tobolsk regiment then fired a devastating volley which destroyed the cavalry as a fighting force.  (Though the Swedish cavalry are powerful in melee, they have only one 'step' for losses, whereas the Russians have two)

Undeterred, Abo routed the leading Russian dragoon regiment in melee and in the next move charged the supporting regiment and routed this as well.  With the enemy fleeing the Finns set off in pursuit, but advanced too far and were caught by the Horse grenadiers, led by Menshikov.  The Finns veteran status enabled them to turn to face the threat, but caught at the halt and disorganised they sustained the 'step' loss and were eliminated.

Meanwhile the two infantry lines were coming into combat.  The Russian artillery was causing problems for the Swedes and presented them with the classic dilemma of whether to advance disorganised or, reform the ranks and then advance, taking more fire in the process.  In true Swedish style, Rehnskold
continued the advance and the Swedish infantry crashed into the Russian line.  The Viborg regiment pushed back both battalions of the Narva regiment, punching a gap in the Russian line and creating problems for Steve when issuing orders.  However, not all the Swedish units were successful and the battle on the Swedish right became a musketry duel, where the advantage lay with the Russians.

On the Russian right the four battalions of the Tversk and Smolensk regiments advanced on the initiative of their colonels, (Steve was busy trying to get the Guards forward to oppose the Viborg regiment and also rally the battalions of the Narva regiment.).  This threatened to outflank the Swedish infantry line and the Swedish guard battalion turned to face the Russians.  The 1st battalion Tversk were driven off, but the 2nd stood their ground and with the support of regimental artillery forced the Swedish guards to fall back.  In the next move the Guards were fired on by three Russian battalions plus some regimental artillery.  Against this storm of fire nothing could prevail, two step losses meant that this elite unit was eliminated.

Russian reinforcements now began to arrive, with three dragoon regiments in the lead.  The Smolensk regiment attacked the flank of the Savolax regiment (holding the Swedish left), but were repulsed with heavy loss. 

However, with his reinforcements only just arriving on the field and being outnumbered 2:1 before the Russian reinforcements came on the scene and Russian dragoons threatening both his flanks, Rehnskold decided that he would have to withdraw, leaving the Russians victorious.

This second game with the Ga Pa rules was much better than the first; partly due to us understanding the rules better, but also because the changes made in the second edition helped the game flow.  We reduced the size of the infantry units to 12's rather than 24's which meant that the frontages were more in keeping with those proposed in the rules.  The principal thing that gamers need to grasp is that this set of rules is about command of the battle, not command of battalions or regiments. 


Sunday 18 August 2013

Britcon 2013

Although primarily a show for those involved in games competitions, the Lance & Longbow did put on an Italian wars participation game at this year's Britcon in Manchester.  The organisers made the bold move of giving free entry to the public and at least on Saturday, visitor numbers seemed to have increased.

Will, Steve and I ran through the game (Novara, 1513) in the morning, chatting to passers by and customers for the Society bookstand.  In the afternoon we were joined by two members of the public, Mark and John for a second run through the game.  The scenario represented the surprise attack of the combined Italian/Swiss army on the French, who were in camp expecting no action  that day.  Die rolls decided the 'waking up' of the French units and overall they did better than historically.  The one real exception were the landsknechts under John, who consistently rolled one less than the number required for longer than seemed possible!

The sleepy heads

In both games the French camp was captured, but the Swiss pikemen were fought to a standstill by the landsknechts and stopped in their tracks by the French crossbowmen.  The French gendarmes galloped around the field, looking for opponents, but achieving very little.

A view from behind the French camp, with the Italians and Swiss closing in.

The French crossbowmen relying on a devastating close range bolt 'storm'

Friday 16 August 2013

Yorkshire trip

The Gentlemen Pensioners' summer excursion this year headed over the Pennines to Yorkshire.  Our trip had a medieval theme and a busy day saw us  visit two castles and the Towton battlefield.  The castles, Sandal and Pontefract, are both in the care of Wakefield council and plans and information can be downloaded from their website.

The castles remains are fragmentary and quite a bit of imagination is required to picture them in their complete state.

This is the view looking east from Sandal Castle keep over the remains of the barbican, inner ditch and inner bailey.

From the level of the inner bailey the base of the barbican can be seen and the sally port from the inner ditch.  Sandal Castle is quite compact and the Battle of Wakefield took place beneath its walls.  A demonstration game of the battle was put on by the Lance & Longbow Society at the Recon show a couple of years ago  .

Pontefract Castle was on a much grander scale, not surprising really as it was a royal castle.

The view across the inner bailey towards the keep
 There are information boards at each stop on the tour. 

After a stop for lunch at the Lanchester household, (many thanks to Dave's wife, Lynn, for an excellent meal),  Dave took us on a brief tour of the Towton battlefield.  It was a glorious summer's day, not at all like that wintery March day in 1461 when so many died.  More information on the battlefield can be found at the Towton Battlefield Society website.  We visited the central part of the battlefield, the Dacre Cross and the slope to Cock Beck, but then had to return to the car for the journey back to Lancashire.


Monday 12 August 2013

Scottish excursion

Last weekend Steve and I visited Alasdair for the weekend.  Our wives accompanied us, so it was primarily a social visit, but there was just time to squeeze in a game on the Friday evening.

In keeping with our location, the scenario featured a Roman patrol into the area north of the Antonine Wall.  The natives had been "restless" and the Pax Romana needed to be re-established.  The local commander had put the patrol under the command of Gaius Plautus Crassus, a keen young man of a noble (very noble) Roman family who saw this as an opportunity to add a military victory to his CV, prior to  a prompt  return to Rome and his political career.  Unfortunately for Crassus, his commander favoured a rival faction and the 'simple patrol' was something of a poisoned chalice.  The Picts were led by a wily chieftain (he styled himself 'king'), who had survived years of tribal in-fighting and delighted in giving Roman patrols a 'bloody nose'.

After two days march, Crassus was approaching the main Pictish settlement.  The commander of a local watch tower reported that none of his patrols had dared to venture out of sight of the tower for two days after a patrol was 'lost' investigating activity in a nearby wood.  The cavalry unit scouting ahead of Crassus' main body reported a number of Pictish slingers by a ford to their front.  Crassus sent the cavalry forward to capture a few hostages and turned to find the watch tower commander heading for the safety of his tower.

Undaunted, Crassus ordered a steady advance, giving attention to preserving close order.  Ahead, the slingers disappeared into the woods to be replaced by light chariots.  The commander of the vanguard cavalry halted, waiting for infantry support, but Crassus had received reports of enemy activity in the woods to his right.  He ordered his archers to turn to face this possible threat and loose a flight of arrows into the undergrowth.  This goaded the Pictish cavalry which was hidden there into a disorderly advance into the open.  Subjected to another flight of arrows they turned and moved out of range.  Buoyed by this minor victory Crassus was about to order the column to reform and continue its advance when more enemy activity was reported by the rearguard cavalry.  One unit of auxilia, a unit of legionaries and the rearguard cavalry were sent to counter this threat.

Meanwhile, on the left, the slingers had reappeared and were showering the auxilia on that flank with pebbles.  Crassus ordered the commander of the auxilia to 'drive off those barbarians' and then turned his attention to reordering the column.  As the auxilia advanced, the slingers fell back, drawing the Roman troops further away from the main body. Soon the slingshot were coming from flanks as well as front and the auxilia had to cease their advance and adopt a defensive formation.

Ahead of Crassus, the Pictish chariots advanced and charged the vanguard cavalry.  The Roman cavalry managed to absorb the shock of the Pictish charge and then began to gain the upper hand.  Abandoning his plan to form up around the supply mules, Crassus ordered two unit of legionaries forward to support the cavalry, leaving him with one unit of legionaries and the archers as a reserve.  Before the legionaries could reach the vanguard cavalry the Pictish cavalry intervened.  The last of the chariots were being destroyed when the Roman cavalry were hit by Pictish cavalry.  Heavily outnumbered, they fought bravely, but were in the end overwhelmed.

Behind Crassus, the warriors of the Bear clan had risen from their hiding place in the hills and charged down on the Roman soldiers.  The auxilia had already lost men to archers hidden in the woods and were unable to withstand the fierce charge of the warband.  However, the legionaries were made of sterner stuff and stood their ground, engaging in a fierce melee with their opponents.  The Bear clan concentrated on the fight ahead and did not see the cavalry moving around them.  With a roar the Roman cavalry charged home, hacking and slashing their way towards the enemy standard.  To their credit the Picts fought on doggedly.  Forming up around their chief and standard they fought to the last and by doing so drew off troops which Crassus desperately needed elsewhere.

With the Roman cavalry vanguard eliminated, the Pictish king launched the warbands of the wolf and his own serpent clans at the Roman line of legionaries.  The right hand unit of legionaries was hit in flank and Crassus charged to their assistance. His standard bearer was killed by his side and he was unhorsed, but he fought on on foot. The Pictish cavalry now made a reappearance and attacked the units guarding the supply mules with showers of javelins.  Their steadiness and drill prevented many casualties, but it stopped them going to the aid of their comrades.

We left the left wing auxilia surrounded by slingers; slowly the number of casualties rose and their commander realised that the only course open to them was to break formation and run for the main body.  This they did and some did make it back across the stream, but many were felled by the slingshot and then finished off by swords.  The slingers then began to move towards the supply mules.

The Romans were on the brink of defeat, but at the last minute the rearguard cavalry arrived, having destroyed the Bear warband.  Their arrival forced the slingers to pull back and lifted the morale of the hard pressed legionaries who just held the line against the Serpent warband.   However, the cavalry arrived too late for Crassus, who died fighting to the last with his legionaries.  With night falling and the Roman position holding, the Pictish king called off the attack.  There would be no attack on his 'kingdom' now and as a bonus, the losses of the Bear clan meant that their lands could be 'absorbed' within his own.

When the Roman patrol returned to their camp and reported the action, the camp commander was moved to write a letter to Crassus' parents extolling his bravery and saying 'he died like a Roman should'.  To his political masters he could report that the way was now clear for their candidate to enter the Senate and perhaps a posting in Italy could be obtained for him?

Many thanks to Alasdair for the scenario and his hospitality over the weekend. 

Thursday 1 August 2013

Great Northern War

There must be something in the air at the moment.  As I was settling down to compile this post I noticed that Phil Olley had updated his blog, including a new page featuring his homecast 40mm Prince August  figures.  After a couple of weeks away from gaming, Steve and I got together on Tuesday to try out the Ga Pa rules for the Great Northern War and used the Prince August figures that were formerly in Alasdair Jamison's collection. (more photos on this earlier post)

We set up a small scale scenario, 8 units of Swedes, (4 each of horse and foot) and  11 Russians (6 and 5 respectively).  The Russians had two batteries of guns to the Swedes one and also had an advantage of heavier guns.  Although outnumbered almost 3:2 the Swedish force was approx 10% bigger in terms of points, would the quality advantage help them overcome superior numbers?

The Swedish left wing cavalry

Steve commanded the Swedes and not surprisingly moved forward at speed, hoping to get into melee before my artillery did any damage.  His right wing cavalry charged my dragoons, who held their ground and fired at their attackers.  To my surprise, the Russian volley stopped the Swedes in their tracks, inflicting a step loss as well.  A second charge was also beaten back by a volley from the dragoons.  At this point, we were beginning to question if we were interpreting the rules correctly, surely the Swedish cavalry should have made more impression than this?  We then realised that I had managed to roll 3 on 2xd6 twice, ensuring that the dragoons fire had been as effective as it could possibly have been.  Normal service was resumed on the third Swedish charge when, although the dragoons managed to stand again, this time their volley was ineffective.  In the ensuing melee, class told and my dragoons were soon heading for the baseline.

The Russian infantry hoping their artillery will win the day
 The cavalry on the Swedish left also attacked and had an easier ride due to the inability of my wing commander to issue an order to get them moving. (I needed to roll a 1 or 2 and of course could not stop rolling 6's).  My first line of dragoons was soon moving towards the baseline at speed and my wing commander managed to evade the advancing Swedes, but this left the second line without his support and they also fled.

The Russian right wing dragoons prepare to advance

 Whilst this carnage was taking place on my flanks the infantry were preparing themselves for the clash with the Swedish infantry.  My artillery was doing its best to help, inflicting step losses on both front line battalions (the guards and a battalion comprising elements of the Dal and Bjornberg regiments).  Undaunted, the Swedes continued to advance, fired a volley and then closed to contact. The Tobolsk regiment didn't even wait for the Guards to contact them, fleeing before the impact.  This left the Narva regiment with Swedish horse to their front and the Guards on their flank.  In the centre the Smolensk regiment stood their ground, fired a volley and meleed the Swedish infantry.  Even with their losses to the Russian artillery, the Swedes pushed the Russians back.  Disordered, the Russians broke when pushed again.     Behind them, the Volgodski regiment unnerved by the retreating first line, didn't wait for the Swedish charge, they also fled.

The unstoppable Swedish infantry break the Russian centre
 At this point we called a halt to the action and had a quick review of the rules.  We liked the way in which the quality of the troops determined their ability to carry out orders/actions.  In this action all the Russian infantry were rated as 'Green', for actions like Poltava they could be upgraded to reflect better training and also experience gained on campaign.  Similarly the Swedish infantry were 'veteran', later war scenarios could reduce this as raw recruits were incorporated into units to replace losses.

The Russian dragoons decide that it is just not their day

One thing we struggled with was the 'order' mechanism for the generals; this has been amended in version 2 of the rules (we were using the 1st edition). There is also a mechanism for visibility, reflecting the increasing difficulty of commanding troops as the amount of smoke and noise increased during a battle, but we didn't include this in our first trial.

The army lists included in the rulebook say that the Swedish army is powerful, 'but brittle'.  I was quite lucky in my rolls for inflicting step losses against the infantry; the cavalry have only one step, so one loss would have eliminated the unit.  Steve was unlucky not to inflict any step losses, even though he had at least as many opportunities.  The fortunes of war!