Sunday, January 19, 2020

Muster Green (1642)

I made some excellent progress in researching lesser known English Civil War "battles" (scare quotes because some only involved 1,000 men per side). Thankfully, many are simple affairs, with both sides facing the other across an open field or green, so no need for specialized terrain.  One such event was a hard-fought battle at Muster Green in December of 1642, in Sussex near Hayward's Heath.  This battle was the farthest point south of London reached by a Royalist army for the duration of the civil wars, and was fought between a larger Royalist army (commanded by the High Sheriff of Sussex, Edward Ford, who had offered the King to "undertake the conquest of Sussex" with 1,000 men) mostly comprised of conscripted infantry, and a smaller but more determined Parliament force under Colonel Herbert Morley.  Neither side possessed cannon of any kind.

(Above: starting positions. Royalists on left and Parliament at right)

To simulate the "smaller but more determined" Parliament forces, I gave the Royalists more infantry but classed all of it as "Trained Band" pike and shot (increased difficulty to move, poorer starting morale of 5+) and based the Parliament foot on my London Trained Bands unit profile (same difficulty moving but a very strong starting morale of 3+).  Cavalry was evenly matched. The Parliament right flank also received some dragoons.

(Royalist cavalry)

We had three players, so made do with a smaller command of just two shotte and one pike on the Royalist left flank (Col. Hawker's men), and Nathan took the rest of the Royalist forces and Jesse the entirety of Parliament.

(Royalist infantry)

Parliament was unfortunate dealt a terrible blow early in the game when Royalist shot laid out 5 casualties in a dreadful volley to a Parliament shot unit, which, combined with a bad dice roll, caused the unit to leave the field. Give the numerical superiority of the Royalist foot, this made a Parliament victory a considerably steeper climb.

(More royalist infantry)

The rest played out rather as I expected - the Royalist forces mostly struggled against the poor quality of their troops while a cavalry clash played out on the flank (with the Parliamentarians emerging victorious).

(Parliament cavalry)

However, the Royalists perhaps wasted too many resources trying to shoot at the Royalist pikes (stamina 3) rather than the fragile shot units (stamina 2), and before you knew it, it looked like a Royalist conquest of Sussex would be a reality!

(Parliament infantry)

(Parliament dragoons)

However, I had written the victory conditions to include bonus points for winning duels, so the Royalist officers, with nothing to lose, began to seek out their Parliament counterparts.  Over the course of four duels in two turns, all three of the remaining Parliament officers were slain in turn (the fourth had left the field when his unit was broken earlier)!

(Parliament infantry)

So, as a tenth unit was removed from the table, ending the game, the points were tallied - 2 points to the Royalists for having more units on the opposite half of the table than Parliament, plus 2 points for destroying/routing more units, for 4 points total.  However, the Royalists snagged 3 points for won duels, and a bonus point for have more officers left on the table at the end of game, for 4 points total.

(Even more Royalist infantry)

So... a DRAW!  However, we figured it would be a strategic victory for Parliament, as the Royalist conscripts, seeing the lack of officers, would probably desert over the course of the evening, leaving the remains of the Parliament army (which presumably withdrew in good order with its surviving officer in charge) in command of Sussex. Huzzah!


Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 Year in Review

1. Games Played

Black Powder 2 - Hundred Days (January)

Agnadello II (February)
Battle on the River Glein (February)
Isola della Scala (March)
Isola della Scala (April – Hosted)
Tekumel (April)
Barletta (May)
Isola della Scala (May – Hosted) (Enfilade)
Ravenna (May – Hosted) (Enfilade)
Black Powder 2 – Toulouse (Enfilade)
Deus Vult (Enfilade)
Hussars Rampant (Enfilade)
Men Who Would Be Kings – Boxer Rebellion (Enfilade)
Battle of River Dubglas (June)
Battle of Bassa's Ford (June)
Stratton (July)
Rebel & Patriots x2 (July)
Celidon Forest (September)
Seminara (October)
Agrigentum (November)
Himeras River (November)
Open Combat (December at Ambuscade)
Seminara (December – Hosted)
I hit my minimum goal of playing at least one game per month, which makes all that painting not just a pointless pursuit. Lion Rampant was again my rules of choice, with 9 games played and four hosted.  

2. Miniatures Painted

What I am particularly happy about in retrospect is that I got my Arthurian/"Barbarian West" armies table-ready, and also finally got my 20mm Hail Caesar armies truly table ready, which gives me four eras/periods that I can host an 2 player game in (English Civil War, Italian Wars/early Renaissance, Punic Wars, and Barbarian West).  I also increased the size of my Italian Wars collection to 430-450 figures by adding crossbowmen, archers, and Spanish troops, and made better infantry command stands for my English Civil War stuff.

3. Up Next

On the lead mountain I have 30 English Civil War cavalry and 24 pikemen I would really like to get painted up and table-ready - these will make it much easier to host 4 player games (6 in a pinch) as well as play a wider variety of battles from that period.  I also have 60 Franks and some cataphracts that need to be done up for the Barbarian West project - these will allow me to shift battles out of Britain and onto the continent, setting things up for the real prize of that era (for me at least): Huns and Byzantines.  Also lurking on the pile are the 110 Swiss pikemen I got at the bring and buy last Enfilade.  I hope to continue to slowly add to my 20mm ancients for the specific purpose of playing Hail Caesar at Guardian Games, hopefully once a month (20mm plastic is much easier to transport than 28 metals!).

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Himeras River (211 BC)

We played the Battle at Himeras River (from Carthage's failed attempt to begin an offensive in Sicily during the second Punic War) at Guardian Games the Hail Caesar rules. Because I was playing but also hosting I was pretty busy and forget to take a lot of photos, but I did manage a few.


The scenario had four units of Numidian horse at the extreme edge of the Carthagenian right flank – these units were reluctant to join the fight due to the poor treatment their beloved commander Muttines had received. Each unit had two disorder markers placed by it at the start of the game and at the start of the Carthagenian turn (me), I could try to rally one of the markers off each of the units. Without those four units, my infantry was outnumbered by the Romans (Tom), so the Carthagenian strategy weighed on holding out until the Numidians could be convinced to join the fight and the Romans obviously wanted to try and do as much damage as possible early on.


I did well with dice and removed all markers from the Numidians in the first two turns (so they could move normally starting on the third), and I thought I was appropriately cautious with my infantry. However the Romans surged forward quickly against the medium infantry on the Carthagenian left, which, after several rounds of melee, began to break and the Romans started to prepare to turn that flank.


Meanwhile, the Numidians dispatched the Roman cavalry and flanked (and broke)Triari and who were already engaged against elephants and Iberian infantry. With a victory condition of six enemy units destroyed, the "score" had gone from 4-0 in favor of Romans to 4-3 very quickly. However at this point two units of Carthagenian heavy infantry retreated off table to end the game with a Roman victory.


This was my second Hail Caesar game in two weeks, and I spent way less time looking up rules than before. I don't think any special rules were forgotten (especially morale modifying ones for the Romans) and I did a better job identifying how engagements lined up. The only error was not giving the +1 to hit modifier to the side which won the previous round of melee (which should be called a "impetus" bonus for clarity, instead of "winning side"), for which I need to acquire or make some sort of marker to indicate that a unit still in melee won the previous round.


I am really enjoying playing and running Hail Caesar. I like how it captures a sense of the linear slugfest of ancient warfare.

I especially like how tactically engaging it becomes as the game progresses, despite the tabletops lacking terrain differences and the opposing armies mostly being heavy infantry-based with largely ineffective skirmish/ranged attacks and small cavalry wings.

I like how light infantry or skirmishers in open order can melt back through friendly heavy infantry for protection (and then start offering up support dice).

I like how when you get to about the third round of the same melee between Roman infantry and their opponents, the Romans suddenly gain an upper hand and dump 10-15 casualties on you.

I like how Numidians, with no help of any wonky special rules, can effectively start to turn a battle by attacking in the flanks.

I like that my 20mm armies, which kicked around in boxes largely unused for six years, are finally being used – up next is to paint more Greeks which will feature as Syracusans in the Sicilian Wars between Carthage and Syracuse.

(Above: the typical "key moment" gift from the Romans)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Agrigentum (262 BC)

I painted some new 20mm ancient figures (Carthagenian African heavy infantry and some Greek hoplite mercenaries, a few extra elephants) and rebased even more (although I haven't flocked any of the new bases yet), wrote up some alterations to the rules, and we gave Hail Caesar another try using the battle of Agrigentum as the scenario. 


(Above: About one move in, Carthagenians at bottom)

Agrigentum was a Carthagenian defeat in southern Sicily at the hands of the Roman Republic during the First Punic War in 262 BC. The Carthagenian leader, Hanno, deployed his mercenaries in the front, his elephants in a second line behind the first, and his African troops in the third. The Romans deployed in their customary manipular legion manner. The historical outcome was that the mercenaries did well at first but then broke, and as they fell back caused the elephant line to panic. The third line also managed to hold against the Romans as well before breaking as well. As you will see, the game result did not differ much…


(Above: Roman maniples - heavy infantry deployed as small units)

Since I am very unsatisfied with my 20mm command figures, I decided to just ditch the entire part of the Hail Caesar rules that deal with individually based commanders. I also wanted to incorporate my card-draw mechanics for activation-rerolls from my last Lion Rampant game into this game. The adaptation was that if you draw a number card, you divide by three an round down to determine your number of rerolls for failed activations. This leans the result towards 1 reroll, which is how many you get in the rules as written for your army general. The face cards correspond to other actions the commanders could take under the rules as written (Follow Me!, Rally, and Commander Joins Combat) – I'll put the full details at the end. Ace is a wild card can either be 3 rerolls or played as any of the other face cards. Face cards can be saved for later, but must be played prior to any activation rolls.

The Carthagenian first and second lines advanced, with the third line remaining stationary and the Numidian light cavalry also having difficulty. Retrospectively, it would probably have helped if we were using the Hail Caesar criteria for a successful order (roll below the command rating of 8) instead of the Lion Rampant criteria (roll above 8, which is much more difficult)! There wasn't too much time wasted looking at the rules, but this was certainly the first time I fully grasped the prominence of the Initiative Move, wherein if your unit is within 12" of an enemy, you may make one free move without an order, as long as you obey the general Proximity Rule, which says that you must move generally towards or away from the closest enemy unit (this is to prohibit players from making "gamey" moves).


(Above: Elephants skirt around behind Gallic and Greek mercenaries)

As the Carthagenian player, I (probably) played my hand poorly – my Gallic mercenaries attacked the Roman right flank only supported by a unit of elephants and did poorly – both being routed. The other elephant unit routed the Roman cavalry, supported by Gallic cavalry. The Numidian cavalry finally engaged on the other flank but both units ran of table while evading the Roman cavalry.


(Above: Numidians on the attack!)

With the Carthagenian third line of heavy infantry moving against the Roman right, the Roman left realized that it was only faced by two units of medium Iberian infantry, so it charged the Iberians and sent them running.


(Above: Iberian medium infantry! Forgetting to use their ranged attacks!)







The Greek hoplite mercenaries having also turned tail, the Carthagenian heavy infantry put together a nice final assault, supported by the remaining elephant and Gallic cavalry, to which the Romans responded playing two "Commander-Joins-the-Fray" (add 3 attack dice) cards and then pouring FIFTEEN CASUALTIES onto one of the Carthagenians for the final victory point (probably enough to shatter at least one supporting unit as well as the engaged unit).


(Above: the final Roman assault)

Somewhere in the mix, the Carthagenian commander Hanno was slain in battle. The final tally was one broken Roman unit (the cavalry) and seven, probably eight, Carthagenians. Just like history!

Hail Caesar Rule Modifications:

1. CHAIN OF COMMAND.

Do not use figures for commanders. Use tags to identify divisions within an army. Assign each division a command value (7+ or 8+ for example) as you would with a commander figure. 6" maximum grouping required for division-wide orders (in which case all units being given the group order must be within 6" of all other units being given the same order) still applies. Ignore all other command distance modifiers – everyone forgets about them anyways.

2. REROLLS & GENERAL'S ACTIONS

At the beginning of your turn, before issuing any orders, draw a card. If the card is a number-value, divide that number by three, rounded down: this is the number of failed orders your army may reroll in that turn (a number between 1 and 3). If an face-card is drawn, keep the card and keep drawing until you get a number card. If an Ace is drawn, the player may treat this as 3 rerolls, or may treat it as a "wild" face card (a King, Queen or Jack) and play it accordingly. A joker is a face card, but movement actions whatsoever.

Face cards are played as follows and allow the rules that would usually apply to a commander model to still be used. Only one unit per division may benefit from a King, Queen or Jack card per turn.

King: (General joins combat) A division commander enters the fray – add 3 attack dice to a melee of your choosing (must be played when your attacking unit becomes engaged, but before the next order is diced upon). Leave this card by this unit until the start of your next turn – if the unit is attacked the +3 dice will still be included. If this unit is broken or shattered as a result of a melee, or is shaken or suffers casualties from ranged attacks while the card is in play, consult "Risk to Commanders" on page 82. You may play a King and Jack on the same unit in the same turn.

Queen: (General's Rally action) Play this card on a unit that has suffered two or more casualties. Remove one casualty. Leave this card by this unit until the start of your next turn. If this unit is broken or shattered as a result of a melee, or is shaken or suffers casualties from ranged attacks while the card is in play, consult "Risk to Commanders" on page 82. If you play a Queen then that must be the only action that unit takes that turn. You may not play a King or a Jack on that unit or any other unit in that division in the same turn that you played a Queen.

Jack: (General's Follow Me action) Play this card on a single unit – this unit may take up to three moves automatically. Leave this card by this unit until the start of your next turn. If this unit is broken or shattered as a result of a melee, or is shaken or suffers casualties from ranged attacks while the card is in play, consult "Risk to Commanders" on page 82. You may play a King and Jack on the same unit in the same turn.

3. SUPPORTS

Units within 1" (or a finger's width) of each other may support each other in melee. The intent of this rule is to maintain small gaps between friendly units so as to be easier to discern where one unit starts and another ends.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Seminara (1495)



The French had invaded Italy in 1495 in order for Charles VIII to assert his claim on the crown of Naples. He easily drove the Neapolitan king Ferdinand II from the city, and then made his way back north to eventually clash with the League of Venice at Fornovo.  Ferdinand II assembled his own army and asked for assistance from his cousin, the king of Aragon & Sicily (also titled Ferdinand II) in Spain, who sent an army under Gonzalo de Cordoba (the "Great Captain") consisting of veteran troops from the conquest of Granada, well experienced in guerrilla and siege warfare. Perhaps prematurely, the joint Neapolitan/Spanish army crossed into Calabria (the "toe" of the boot of Italy) and headed north, only to come upon the French army (consisting mainly of gendarmes and Swiss pikemen) under Bernard d'Aubigny arrayed before them. The resulting battle of Seminara is one of the few, if not only, "set piece" battles of the numerous Italian Wars of the renaissance period ("set piece" here meaning both armies fully deployed on what amounts to an open plain – Fornovo comes close, as does perhaps Ravenna, but Ravenna and many others typically feature one side dug in behind earthworks of some variety, or one side caught off guard and not truly drawn up for battle).

(Above: the Spanish/Neapolitan left)

Seminara was a crushing defeat for Ferdinand II – his Calabrian subjects who had rallied to his flag fled almost immediately (possibly mistaking the Spanish ginette light cavalry hit-and-run tactics for actual fleeing), the French heavy cavalry Gendarmes routing all his remaining cavalry, and the Swiss mercenary pike blocks steamrolling the remaining Spanish infantry.

(Above: French gendarmes)

Having been disappointed in how artillery performs in prior Italian Wars as well as English Civil War games, I devised an "Opening Artillery Barrage" phase or mini-game, which we tried for the first time in this game (and it worked quite well, putting a single casualty on a Spanish unit, as I recall). The rules for the phase were as follows:

Opening Artillery Barrage Phase
At the beginning of the game, before proceeding with regular activations, roll a d6 for every artillery unit you have, then subtract the number of units from the resulting total – this is your available barrage ammo. For example, if you have two culverins, you roll 2d6 and get a 3 and 5, for a total of 8. Subtract 2 from this because you have two culverins (this represents ammo for the remainder of the game) for available an Opening Barrage of 6 shots. You must divide these shots up between available guns of that type as evenly as possible. You may then take that many shots without need for an activation roll. You may not change your guns facing during this phase. Units hit during opening barrage track casualties as normal but only take a morale check at the end – the worst result that will be allowed is a disorder + retreat – results of 0 or less are treated as result of “1”. Note that each shooting action is still carried out separately.


(Above: Swiss mercenaries in French service)

Our game used my usual "game ends when half the units on the board have been removed" scheme, with the following victory points then awarded:

• +2 to the side that has had less units removed from the table.
• +2 to the side that has more units on the opposite half of the table than it started on.
• +1 to the side that has lost fewer command stands
• +1 for every duel won
• +1 for every captured artillery piece

Again, wanting to make artillery more interesting, I added rules for capturing guns as follows:

Capturing Artillery Pieces:
When an artillery piece loses its last strength point, do not remove the model from the table. If an enemy unit removed the last strength point as a result of melee, it may “carry the position” and move adjacent to or around the gun but no further than its opposite back base. The enemy unit has captured the gun, and if the enemy unit was an infantry unit and has more than half strength, it may re-man the captured gun, in which case the gun is given a single strength point and may be rotated once up to 180 degrees for free. If the gun was loaded when it was captured it remains loaded. If the enemy unit is at less than half strength the gun will count as captured for the purposes of a victory point only if a unit is in base contact with it at the end of the game.
If the gun lost its last strength point due to enemy shooting, place a marker by the gun to indicate that it is unmanned – however it does not count as captured for the purpose of a victory point. The gun does not count as captured, but an enemy infantry unit may capture it by simply moving into contact with it, which case proceed as noted above.
If a gun loses it last strength point to artillery fire, it is truly destroyed and removed from the table.

(Above: the Spanish Ginettes can be seen slipping between the opposing armies and through a gap in the French lines)

(Above upper center: Spanish ginettes exploit a gap in the French lines)

I also tweaked existing unit profiles for Gendarmes and Swiss pikes so their "Terrible" rule was not to reroll all missed hits (which was vastly overpowered) but rather the "Venomous" rule from Dragon Rampant (all sixes count as two hits). This had the desired effect insofar as on one (and only one) occasion, a French Gendarme unit scored a devastating 13 hits! On other occasions the rule was useful for an extra hit or two or three but with accounting for the mitigating factor of armor values, at best this usually resulted in just one extra casualty – which is a nice little "extra advantage" for elite units but not dominating.

(Above: the Calabrian infantry)

Yet another new experimental rule was using a deck of cards to determine how many re-rolls on failed activations each side got each turn. At the beginning if your turn, you flipped card. If the card was a number 2-10, you divided that number in half and rounded down and that was your total rerolls for the entire turn (so 1-5). If the card was a face card, you kept the card, which could be used before rolling an ordered activation to make an automatically successful activation without rolling at all. If the Ace was drawn, you could opt to either treat it as 5 rerolls or you could treat it as a face card. If you drew a face card you kept drawing until you got a number card. You moved through the activations of each company commander in the usual way – when an activation failed you could decide whether or not to use a reroll or not. You could use more than one reroll (or all of them!) on the same unit if it kept failing. When I run this game at Ambuscade, which will be for 4-6 players, I'm planning on each side using the rerolls and face cards by designation, with one player being the general who gets the final say.

(Above: Neapolitan men at arms)

There were three items of note that resulted from this game. The first was that the Dragon Rampant "venomous" rule worked great as a elite unit advantage. The second was that my ginettes avoided getting shot to pieces early in the game and actually succeeded in getting behind the French front lines where they drew off resources for the entire game – this was very light-cavalry-appropriate and added to the "historical" feel of the game. The third was it was definitively decided that crossbows, which use the stat block from the Lion Rampant book as written, are too lethal in respect to everything else, especially when there are rerolls of failed activations involved. The 4+ to hit at up to 12" has extremely good odds of hitting, and it quickly became priority number 1 for each player to make sure the crossbows shot first in each turn. After a bit of chat after the game, it was decided that crossbows should have same stats as bows, but the maximum range for bows is increased to 24" (hitting at -1 over 12" of course). The real ill effect of the regular as-written crossbow stats was that enemy units would try everything to keep outside of 12" of them, resulting in the fearless Swiss pikes "standing around" for fear of being shot to pieces by Spanish crossbowmen.

As for the result of the game played? A total catastrophe for the Spaniards points-wise, although I felt they were doing well for a stretch give that they do not have the offensive punch that the French gendarmes and Swiss pikemen do.


(Above: in the game, as in history, the battle ends with the Spanish foot standing alone against the Swiss pike power blocks, while in the upper left hand corner you can see French cavalry driving off the Spanish ginettes...)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Battle of Celidon Forest

Continuing to play our way through the scenarios presented in the old (and quite excellent) Warhammer Ancient Battles' Age of Arthur supplement, we played the battle of Celidon Forest (Arthur's seventh battle). Joining the units on the table were Jamie's two freshly painted units of Picts and my two freshly painted units of late Roman Legionnaires. Based on prior games' experience, I tweaked several of the unit profiles and special rules.
  • Shieldwall went from -1 for enemy's to hit target unit on shooting and melee to just a +1 armor – the -1s were making shieldwalls to powerful. I also added that a unit with the Shieldwall rule simple made a Courage test every time it was the target of a melee or shooting attack. If it passed the check the shieldwall was formed or "held", but it if failed it either broke in the face of the oncoming assault or failed to "form up" for whatever reason. All usual modifiers (cumulative casualties, leader with 12", other special rules) still applied to the Courage check, which gave some nice nuance, with units becoming more and more likely to not "hold the line" as their morale was worn down with casualties.
  • The Gregarious rule (based on the "Warband 1 and 2" rules from WAB) was also dialed down a notch. Previously, at the end of a melee, a Gregarious unit received +1 to the resulting Courage check for every strength point by which it outnumbered or vice versa, so if the Saxons had 10 figures and the Britons 6, the Saxons would receive a +4. This is supposed to reflect a troop type who's confidence soars when they are doing well but crumbles when things don't look so good. In prior games this plus/minus was too "swingy", so it was reduced to a simple +1 if the Gregarious unit outnumbered its opponent, with an additional +1 if the Gregarious unit was still generating 12 melee dice and the enemy was only generating 6 (with a negative mod if situation reversed), so the max modifier was +2 or -2.
  • The Impetuous Charge rule (also based on the "Warband 1 and 2" rules from WAB) is now only checked if the unit is within 6" of an enemy unit. On a "1" on a roll of a d6, the unit charges. Otherwise you may activate as normal. This eliminated units trying to charge from 48" away!
  • Removed javelins from Irish ceithern units. Their base morale was also lowered by 1, added a rule where they received a +2 to courage checks if within 6" of their leaders' unit, reflecting the dependence of Irish ceithern to be inspired by a heroic leader.
  • Picts are Fleet Footed and Hard to Target, but like the Irish had the "Ferocious Charge" rule wherein they reroll all misses in the first (and only the first) melee in which they are involved in the game.
The late Roman legion units were profiled as regular miletes but with the Drilled rule, reflecting Briton or Romano-British troops who has been trained by a continental veteran or former Roman commander who had trained them in the Roman manner. Drilled allowed them to reroll a failed Courage check, either both dice or the lower of the two (including on Shieldwall checks).

The Celidon scenario had the Romano-British army (played by yours truly) retreating from a failed raid through the woods, who are then set upon by the Saxons and their Irish and Pictish allies/mercenaries (Jamie played these). The Britons needed to get three units, or two if one included the "army general" leader unit, off the opposite table edge. For a strategy I decided to shift my entire force to the left and try and run up the table edge, hoping the opposite Saxon flank would fail to come across in time to make a difference.

(Above: starting positions, Romano-British/Britons on the left)

(Above: Romano-British milites)

(Above: Jamie's Pictish chief)

This strategy immediately ran into trouble because the entire Saxon force moved forward quite quickly while the Britons were still trying to maneuver to the left, so that the net result was the Britons had not advanced forward hardly at all by the time the lines started to hit eachother – the opposite side of the table suddenly seemed very distant!

(Above: Romano-British suddenly find a large number of Saxons directly in front of them!)

(Above: Saxons prepare to attack a Romano-British shieldwall)

Second mistake was the Britons held their cavalry back instead of just having those two units sprint to escape. My thinking was I wanted the leader attached to one of the cavalry units to hang around and lend his +1 to Courage checks. The other reason was that the cavalry might be able to help break up some Saxon units and allow infantry to escape.

(Above: late Roman Legionaries posing as more Romano-British milites trained "in the Roman manner")

(Above: Romano-British foot trying to move to the left even as Saxons swoop in)

However, by about halfway through (our game "clock" would stop when both sides had combined to lose 8 units), it looked like the Britons' plan was going well – a few Saxon attacks had been repulsed by sturdy Shieldwalls and two or three Saxon army units had already broken or were on verge of breaking. Then came a key moment – a Saxon unit attacked a drilled Briton milites unit, and Britons did not hold their Shieldwall (even with their reroll from Drilled!)! The unit was shattered.

(Above: Picts advancing on Romano-British right)

(Above: things towards the end - Romano-British pedyt archers not doing well...)
 
The Saxons pushed the attack, destroying another foot milites and a mounted milites unit, while loosing just as many in exchange – but the Saxons could afford to lose units in order to both delay the Romano-British advance and to "stop the clock". And sure enough, in the end the eighth unit was removed and not a single Romano-British unit was within even 30" of the opposite table edge. Arthur was heard to shriek:

"Now I know how the Romans felt at Teutoburg Forest!"

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Stratton (1643)

I got a new foam-cutting hot knife, so I carved a nice big hill out of old insulation foam I took from a recycling bin. The hill was specifically for a scenario I had in mind based on the battle of Stratton from the English Civil War. Stratton is a good wargaming scenario as it involves roughly equally sized forces (mainly infantry), with the Royalists under Sir Ralph Hopton trying to take Parliament's (under coming of Lord Stamford) positions, which provides a good victory condition. I've been focusing my recent painting efforts on increasing the size of my ECW collection a bit to give me more flexibility in scenario design, and this game featured the first table action for four new units of musketeers.

This game used the same modified set of unit profiles as my Braddock Down game – the Royalist foot was divided up into four brigades of a unit of Cornish pike, a "Seasoned Regiment" shotte unit, and a falconet or demi-culverin, and included a brigade of three Harquebusier units at the center rear. Facing the eight Royalist infantry units were ten Parliament units in two lines atop Stamford Hill (two pike and eight shotte, evenly split between Seasoned and Trained Band regiments), four demi-culverins, and two '42-'43 Harquebusier squadrons (Trotters from the Pikeman's Lament book) at the rear.

(Above: starting positions)



The game was to be played until the cumulative lost units for both sides was greater than half (12 units), not counting ordnance, at which point, if Parliament had even one non-artillery unit still on the hill top, it would receive 4 victory points. The Royalists would receive 1 victory point for each unit on the hilltop. Victory Points were awarded per the rulebook for winning duels or as an appropriate result to rolling double 1s or 6s. I played Hopton and Pete played Stamford.

(Above: initial movements)

The Royalists attempted an ineffective opening artillery barrage, and then advanced to just out of musketry range of the Parliament lines, with the exception of the Royalist left which lagged behind (referred to hereafter as "Godolphin's company," after the historical commander at the battle.. Parliament responded by fanning its second line of infantry out to each flank, lengthening its lines and allowing more units a clear shot. The Parliament also headed towards Godolphin's stalled advance, while the Royalist horse moved to support the Royalist right, so a cavalry engagement seemed unlikely.

(Above: Grenville and Hopton's assault)

(Above: Grenville and Hopton's assault)

(Above: Cornish pike gain the hilltop)

After all this maneuvering, the two rightmost Royalist brigades (under Grenville and Sir Ralph hisself) commenced their assault on the corner of Stamford Hill (defended by Parliament officer Chudleigh), succeeding on all movement activations and quickly bringing two pikes, two shotte, and two horse units into close range at the base of the hill. The Parliament shotte units which had fanned out to lengthen the line on that flank provided ineffective fire, and were pushed back, and a company of Cornish pike became the first to top the hill.

 (Above: Hopton hisself!)

On the other flank, the Parliament shotte advanced from their hilltop positions and poured fire into Godolphin's company, routing his muskets, and his gun was captured by the Parliament harquebusiers. The remainder of the Royalist center (referred to hereafter as "Slanning's company") moved to support Grenville and Hopton's assault, while Godoplin's pikes and a unit of Slanning's shot backpedaled and kept the Parliament right from encircling Grenville and Hopton. Around this point I rolled double-sixes on an activation and received the boon of +1 victory point, which meant that the Royalists only need 4 units instead of 5 on the hill to win the game.

(Above: Parliament counterattack clears out Hopton, Grenville and Slanning's troops mass for another try)

(Above: Godolphin's pesky pikes are in the blue jackets in the center)

(Above: Grenville and Slanning's horse and Cornwall pike gain the hilltop)

MEANWHILE! Grenville's harquebusiers had finally positioned themselves at the base of the hill and charged. I worked hard to preserve the "Compulsory Follow-up" marker for both of these squadrons (one-use only), and they were able to further push back Chudleigh's defenders. Although things were going well, the superior numbers of Parliament were beginning to tell as fresh units of shotte, having successfully decimated Godlophin, returned to the hill to fight alongside Chudleigh's men. So, I took a calculated risk, and Godolphin challenged the captain of the Parliament horse to a duel! My theory was that if I won, I would gain another victory point and only need a mere three units on the hill to win the game – if I lost I would merely be back to where I started. Pete rolled his three dice and… three hits. I rolled my mine: 1 hit. Oh well.

(Above: getting close to endgame - two Royalist units on the hill, several more lingering around at the base and capable of gaining the hill)

Things then became very dicey, with both sides pushing hard. In the end, the Royalist assault came up short, with two or three units on the hilltop, but all the necessary units for the three remaining (and game winning) points just at the base of the hill.

(Above: endgame or close to it.)

Takeaways from this game:
  • The unit profiles I used in this and the Braddock Down game work very nicely. I did however tweak the artillery ranges a bit (more on that below). As previously note the profiles are pretty much straight from the Pikeman's Lament rulebook, but with teeny tiny changes to things like morale or attack activations and not to "to hit" target numbers, like Cornish Pike have a morale of 3+ instead of 4+.
  • About the artillery. This game led me to do the best online research I could, and I think I am going to try adding an "artillery barrage" phase takes place before a game starts. Source materials seem to heavily point to guns just not moving at all during a battle – they were set up and stayed put in that initial place. Perhaps roll 1d6+3 for each gun for available ammunition, then during barrage phase, the player can decide how much ammunition to expend at the start and save the rest for the actual game. During the barrage no activation rolls are made, just resolve shooting attacks by the artillery. "To Hit" values remain the same, but even if the best I can do is one casualty, I'd rather have five consecutive attempts and see if I can maybe weaken a unit or two at the start. The way things are now, the line of sight for shots narrows very quickly once your own troops move forward, and I don't like the guns creeping around 3" or 6" at a time like they currently do.