Tuesday, November 7, 2017

'Almost the Alma' playtest

I'm running a Crimean War game at Ambuscade on December 2, and although I'm still furiously painting additional figures for that game, I figured we'd run a playtest with the armies that are currently table-ready.  Also I'm running Black Powder I have not played a ton so I needed the refresher. The scenario is basically the Battle of the Alma from the Crimean scenario in the back of the Black Powder rulebook.  The Russians command two earthworks, each atop a hill.  The British deploy on the opposite banks of the river across the board. Russians outnumber the British but the British have more special rules at their disposal.  The British objective is to take one earthwork for a partial victory or both for a stunning victory.  The Russian needs to break the British forces before they accomplish this.



The result was a pretty decisive Russian victory, which was troublesome for the upcoming Ambuscade game.  However, there were a couple muck-ups that probably made things easier for the Russians.  First off, the British player (me) complete forgot about the First Fire special rule which adds +1 to hit on any British infantry's first shooting attack.  Used correctly this could have softened up a spot in the Russian lines to break through later on.  Secondly, the British sort of walked calmly forward with little sense of urgency - the British player(s) need to really focus their forces on the earthworks and push hard from the get go.  Third, on a related note, the British heavy cavalry was barely involved at all, while Russian Cossacks succeeded in breaking an entire British infantry brigade (and basically setting up the eventual Russian win).

Some of these issues will also be corrected by the addition of more British troops, which should give them some resiliency and allow them to be a bit more aggressive early on.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Black Powder Retreat from Waterloo

Pete ran a great Black Powder game premised around French forces making a fighting retreat after Waterloo.  It's premised on the Napoleonic scenario from the back of the Black Powder rulebook, and involves the French starting at the middle of an impossibly long 12' table and needing to exit 10 unbroken units at one end over a bridge (river is otherwise impassible).  Coming from the other end is the pursing British.

Since this is intended to be a convention-game, Pete dropped most of the various special rules (so the French lost their advantages for using the Attack Column formation, for example) and also gave both sides pretty vanilla-flavored troops. French commanders were also rated at a low 7 compared to the British 8, to represent a post-Waterloo shattered command system.  Nick, Andy and I were the French and Dave, Alyssa, and Victor were the British.

The French players conceded declared an overwhelming partial victory after four hours of play, with nine units clustered around the bridge and ready to exit, but the key tenth unit necessary for victory still at the halfway point of the table and on the verge of being either destroyed or completely encircled by the advancing British. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Middlewich 1643

We played a game of Pikeman's Lament 'big battle' (no figure removal) using a scenario based on a real event, for a change, and given the pleasing result, I will probably try and make a habit of it more often!  The battle was Middlewich of March 13, 1643 during the first English Civil War wherein Parliament's Gen. William Brereton approaches Royalist-held Middlewich from one side while another Parliament force of Trained Bands infantry from nearby Nantwich is en route from the other direction.  Middlewich is defended by General Aston's Royalist Horse and some hastily conscripted infantry.

In Pikeman's Lament terms this worked out to a Parliament company on one side (Gen. Brereton) consisting of two elite Trotter units, a regular Trotter unit, a Pike unit and two Shot units, and a second Parliament company (Col. Robert Ellice) coming on the opposite side of the table on Turn 3 consisting of two Pike units, two Shot units, and a Commanded Shot unit.  Defending Middlewich is two companies of Royalists (Gen. Thomas Aston): the first being 3 units of Gallopers (with Wild Charge rule) and 2 units of Dragoons, and the second company being a Commanded Shot, three Raw Shot units and three Raw Pike units, plus two falconet guns and crews.  This all works out to 48 points per side.

The victory conditions are from the Lion Rampant book's 'Scenario B: Defending the Indefensible' and Parliament must push the Royalists off of a 6"x7" area (the boundaries of which are marked by a piece of cardboard) representing a fortified house in the middle of town (technically this should be a church per history but I do not have one).  The Royalists must destroy half of the Parliament forces' points value, for the purposes of which I made a handy tracking sheet that we filled in empty dots as the points were ticked off.

Brereton (Pete) started things off by bypassing the main bridge entirely and sending almost all of his company across an unguarded bridge to the 'south'.  Aston (me) mucked things up early by letting valuable cavalry units wander around in the open without much of a plan.  When the Nantwich Trained Bands arrived they promptly shot up a unit of Gallopers and both Dragoon units were put to flight by Brereton's Elite Trotters.  Brereton even rolled boxcars (double sixes) and received a unit of reinforcements consisting of Parliament Gallopers which thundered across the main bridge, tying of Royalist resources. Aston (me) finally got a clue and turtled up with the remaining cavalry tucked in the town ready to spring forth, which should have been my plan in the first place.

Parliament's grand strategy was to link up both companies to the south of town and make a giant assault to carry the day, and this came together quite nicely, even reducing the defenses of the defended house to just a single falconet, but the Royalists had all pikes form close order and sally forth, retaking the building. 

Somewhere around this time Royalist General Aston was either killed or fled the field. The remaining Royalist Galloper finally charged and routed a Nantwich pike unit and then followed-up and routed the Nantwich Commanded Shot as well. 

The assault on the key building was stalled and the Royalists were putting a lot of points on the board.  Parliament Col. Robert Ellice was either killed or fled the field.  Brereton at this time charged the defenses with his Elite Trotters (think Ironsides or Lobsters), rather easily routed the Royalist conscripts therein, and won the day!

This game was played in about 3+ hours, which includes some learning curve for Pete who had not played before. It was also a game designed for four players but we ended up with just two so that may have slowed things a bit (but more toys for us!).  I was very pleased with the inefficiency of the Royalist falconets, which only fired a few times, and only once to great effect. Musketry was generally inefficient, and probably more casualties were caused by the 'slow bleed' results of failed Rally rolls (lose one more casualty each time) than firefights.  As usual, cavalry essentially determined who carried the field (which seems historically right, to me).

Above: Brereton victorious.