Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Trying out Napoleonic Lion Rampant

Pete really wanted to try and adapt Lion Rampant to the Napoleonic setting.  I am particularly fond of his great collection of Napoleonic French and British armies so when he offered to bring those over on a Sunday afternoon, I was all for it!  Pete drafted up some rules/notes, sent them over to me, and I did the same.  We did our best to synthesize the results and then tried them out on the table. 

In the first game I played the British.  The rules were seemed okay at first, but infantry tended to hang back and slug away with musketry and never attempt to close. This was probably because we had all shooting actions as automatic successes, supposedly offset by units in column getting automatic movement activations. 

We also tried a "supporting unit" role wherein all units within 6" of unit taking a morale test received +1 per supporting unit.  This led to the somewhat silly endgame where the British had five units still on the table but all of them had taken around 50% or more casualties yet were still unwavering! 
(Above: towards the end of the first game - the British are carrying a lot of casualties but are not wavering at all due to over-effectiveness of the Supports For Morale rule)

We reviewed the notes again and ditched the support rule and the automatic shooting rule.  Being in column however was still an automatic move. We also switched sides and added a few more units to the mix.  The opening rounds of the second battle clipped along nicely with some surprises and even a little tactical back and forth.  However, again, once the infantry lines closed to about 12", both lines came to a complete halt and a musketry duel ensued (which the French ultimately lost). 

 (Above: photos (with different focus points) of my French attack column. I had drafted what I thought were pretty nifty rules for French attack columns - basically two units could combine and move automatically, and their stamina was upped to 4 [from a base of 2] and movement upped to 9".  The idea was the column could relentless move forward and soak a lot of damage from closing fire. It... sort of worked.  In both games the attack column got close then ended up settling for musketry instead.)

In the post-game discussion the verdict was that to adapt the Lion Rampant system to the Napoleonic period, you had to add on so many rules that you might as well just play Black Powder!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

1st Newbury 1643

For a long time now I had promised to combine my 28mm collection of ECW figs with Alyssa's and host a big battle.  I finally fulfilled that promise and hosted an big Pikeman's Lament English Civil War game last weekend for many of my fellow Portland historical gamers.  Alyssa and Andy brought their figures, and although Gabe could not make it, he lent me four units of horse as well (my math says we had in excess of 450 figures on the board at the start of the game). 

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

At first I was planning on running Edgehill, since that's a sort of simple "both sides lined up opposite each other and have at it" kind of battle.  But upon closer examination of the armies at Edgehill, I felt our collections didn't match that battle very well. I went browsed around for another and settled on First Newbury in 1643, which not only fit our collections better but also had an interesting but easy-to-replicate map.

(Above: the ten starting players - an eleventh showed up a shortly after things were under way)

Although eleven (!) players showed up almost all of them had previously played in one of my Pikeman's Lament/Lion Rampant games so everyone just dove in and there was very little for me to do other than enjoy watching.  The Parliamentarian right players concocted a plan to deal with the Royalist charge of gallopers led by Prince Rupert, and they destroyed the entire Royalist left while keeping quite a bit of their own horse and foot intact. 

(Above: at the bottom center the Royalist cavalry can be seen charging forward)

However, the Royalists had gathered a "grand battery" of cannon in the center-left which whittled down the Parliament center the entire game.  And finally, on the Parliament extreme left, an officer (probably Fontesque) was subject to a "lucky blow" in combat and killed in battle, causing that entire flank to fall back. 

(Above: Royalist cavalry - Alyssa's figs)

The game victory condition was the usual simple "first side to lose half their units loses" and the Royalists squeaked it out even though their overall situation was pretty dicey given the annihilation of their left and a rather thin center line.

(Above: view from other side of table, where the infantry fight is going on)

The Portland wargaming community that has developed nicely in the last few years and is really quite delightful.  When I run Pikeman's Lament multiplayer games I like to designate one player on each side as "commander in chief" – a fancy title for the simple job of being the player who declares that their side's turn in over and that the other side may proceed.  Since this was First Newbury the Royalist CinC was King Charles (Andrew) and Parliament's was Jeff (Earl of Essex).  As is somewhat evitable I suppose, the concept of "the King" being at the table led to a lot of banter and trash talking which at one point carried one long enough that the players forgot whose turn it was!

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Last weekend was Enfilade at the Olympia Red Lion. I hitched a ride with Gabe again and we made great time, arriving a little after 11:00 a.m.  Luckily the hall was already open and I was also able to check in early, so by noon my Fornovo game was already set up and my suitcase was unpacked, leaving me two hours to just mill around and wait for the players to arrive.  I ran the Fornovo game consecutively in Periods A and B on Friday.


The first game was an absolute blast!  I was blessed with two very players on the Italian side who were well versed and experienced Dragon Rampant players who voluntarily took up coaching the other players around them and explaining basic mechanics. This essentially caused there to be three GMs instead of just me and made the game move very quickly.  The game itself was very competitive for the entire 3.5 hours it took to play. The artillery played exactly as I wanted it to (some early successes followed by irrelevance thereout) and while the Italian light cavalry did not get wiped out as it did in playtests it did not deliver a killing stroke on the escaping French baggage either.  In the center and the French right/Italian left there was lots of heavy cavalry charges and counter-charges and infantry melee.  Each side had 100 points worth of troops and the first to fall to 50 or less was the loser. Over 3 hours in and the both sides were at about 54 and 56 (or so) and suddenly there was a lot of conferencing by each side about how to get the last few points without risking losing too many in exchange.  The dramatic finish was provided by a lateral shot by a unit of Italian arquebusiers upon the royal body of Charles VIII (King of France) himself!  Also, Chris from Cigar Box Battles played in this game and generously gifted me TWO of his great play mats! Thanks Chris!

The second game was not quite as dramatic, with the Italians winning by an almost 20 point margin (!), although this was largely accomplished by the Italians managing to withdraw almost 20 points worth of units out of the melee zone and back towards their own board edge – the Italians also succeeded in destroying 3 of the 4 French guns.  The gaming hall seemed impossibly loud Friday night which made running this game a challenge – I'm guessing the loudness was due to most the attendees having finally arrived and everyone's voices not being raw and hoarse yet!

Having run two games on Friday I was free on Saturday to play in three games.  First up was Dean's War of the Roses Lion Rampant game based on the battle of Tewkesbury.  My units made up the Lancastrian right, and consisted of three foot men-at-arms units, an archer unit, and foot yeomen unit.   

I was able to move all five of my units from their starting position, over a bridge, and into deployment against the far right edge of the board, from which I destroyed to flanking mounted yeoman Yorkist units and some handgunners.  THEN I moved all the same units back over the bridge and into the center fray where I made a good show of making it a close game.  For me, lots of fun since I felt moving a lot of units even if not victorious.


The next game was Dave's Battle of the Ford of Biscuits game set in 16th century Ireland using Pikeman's Lament.  I took one look at the board and saw a company of saffron-clad Irish lads consisting of some heavily-armored gallowglass types (forlorn hope), pikes, and four units of commanded shot.  In Pikeman's Lament units within 12" of their officer get a +1 on their activation rolls, so again, all my units had a 5+ to move which is effectively a 4+, so I had my entire company beeline along the long edge of the board toward the aforementioned ford and English baggage train trying to cross it. 

I had some good dice and had two rounds of successful skirmish actions which destroyed a unit of English formed shot in a wooded terrain area, and also destroyed one of the three wagons.  The Irish won this one and I had a lot of fun because at the very least I was moving my units around.


The final game on Saturday was Nick's "Jackson's Night Raid" which was an minor action prior to the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.  Nick was using The Men Who Would be Kings and playing with 54mm figures!  I played on the side of the British. 

The Americans were advancing under cover of darkness and the two British pickets had to roll a double of any number on 2d6 each turn to "detect" the approaching raid.  Of course the pickets failed to do this completely until the Americans were right on top of them, at which point Nick just ruled that the British could see the Americans. However this meant the bulk of the British were still in their tents so they had to get into position while taking whithering fire from American riflemen. After a few hours of play the British players agreed to call it for the Americans.


Sunday we hung around after the business meeting and I took a seat at Kevin and Dave's big Borodino game using Shako II.  They were a little late finishing setting up and it took forever for the French to move so mostly I sat around and took and received a few cannon shots before having to unfortunately bow out so I could get on the road.

I also successfully sold everything I brought to the trading post, although I didn't find anything to buy.

Enfilade was really really enjoyable this year! I hit one goal which was to try and play only in games run by people not from Portland (the exception being Sunday's game).  I didn't mean for the weekend to be a Dan Mersey-rule-fest but being familiar with the rules you're playing never hurts!  I also got to meet and talk to a lot of non-Portland gamers and also met a few Portland-area gamers I had not known before, whom I hope to be in touch with!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Italian Wars painting completed!

Well, not really.  I still have a box of Perry plastic War of the Roses 'European Mercenaries' (and the separate metal Italian heads) to assemble and paint, another six Perry light cavalry (I'll do them as mounted crossbows) and 12 Perry plastic men at arms, but none of those were required for this project to be done.  Since November 2017 I have painted:

  • 36 Landsknecht pike
  • 60 Italian/Swiss pike
  • 36 Landsknecht aquebusiers
  • 36 Italian/Swiss arquebusiers
  • 24 Landsknecht doppelsoldners 
  • 24 Halberdiers
  • 30 Gendarmes
  • 30 Elmeti 
  • 12 'Archer' cavalry
  • 12 Stradiots light cavalry
  • 12 Mounted Crossbowmen
  • 12 command stands
  • 4 Heavy Guns with 5 crew each
  • 4 Guns (with 'Burgundian Carriages') with 3 crew each
  • 4 Baggage Stands
 This is a total of at least 350 figures in approximately 6 months, which is a nice clip of roughly 2 figures per day! Now, let us never attempt such a task again! I must confess I feel very liberated now to have this lead mountain completely painted and done with. 

(Above: my French king/commander stand - figures by Foundry - very pleased with how this came out)

(Above: the opposing general, for my Fornovo scenario this will be Gonzaga - figures again by Foundry)

(Above: A Perry Italian Wars commander.  I wish I could have made his horse more interesting but by this stage I felt unmodivated to come up with something unique - that said I'm very pleased with my armor effects at this point!)

(Above: Stoked on how these heavy artillery stands came out.)

(Above: A playtest underway. Play time was about 3 hours. Might go faster or slower at Enfilade! with more than two players playing.)

(Above: From the playtest - the French Gendarmes in the lower left move forward - while Italian Elmeti surge forward in the center right.  Getting these heavy cavalry units 'right' stat and rules-wise has been challenging.)

Not sure what the next painting projects/focus will be. As noted above I have more Italian Wars stuff to paint, which I will do at a relaxed and leisurely pace involving small batches!  I have also been acquired small units of fantasy stuff for Dragon Rampant which I would like to have a few more go-arounds with.
See you at Enfilade!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Italian Wars playtest!

Roughly 5 months after starting my forced march, I put two 48-point armies on the table to try out unit profiles for my Fornovo 1495 scenario that I will run at Enfilade! in just a few weeks.  The unit profiles a mix of unit types from both Pikeman's Lament and Lion Rampant, since the Italian Wars, especially the early part of the era, does bridge both high medieval warfare and the kind of pike-and-shotte tactics and weapons best represented by the Thirty Years War and English Civil War.   I played the French, with three units of elite gendarmes heavy cavalry (mounted men-at-arms from Lion Rampant with the 'drilled' option - expensive and heavy hitting, but with the compulsory follow-up rule from Pikeman's Lament added on), three units of elite pike (as stated in Pikeman's Lament), a unit of doppelsoldners (foot sergeants from Lion Rampant with the 'offensive' option), and four units of arquebusiers (commanded shot from Pikeman's Lament).  Gabe played the Italians, with four units of Elmeti heavy cavalry (elite gallopers from Pikeman's Lament), four units of elite pike (as above), a unit of halberdiers (same as above doppelsoldners), and three units of arquebusiers (as above).

Since I was more interested in trying out profiles and the balance of unit strengths and weaknesses in relation to each other, I chose a simple "first side to lose half their points loses the game" scenario.

The basis ebb-and-flow of the game was the French gendarmes beat up on the Italian elmeti, but only succeeded in reducing most of them to half strength but not destroying them outright. Gabe was able to backpedal his elmeti to safety and not take the points loss.  The battle between the foot had the feel I wanted, with the arquebusiers being annoying but not too effective.  The pike with 'elite' added was a day-of decision and worked really well - it gave the pike blocks the effectiveness they needed in order to represent them as the 'kings of the battlefield' at the time.

The result was a terrible defeat for the French (the result of some unlucky morale checks more than anything), with the Italians only loosing a single unit or two!

P.S.  The only unit profile I was not satisfied was the doppelsoldners/halberdiers.  They lacked the punch to realistically challenge elite pike in close order (pike would have a defense value of 2+ in such an instance!) and just came off as lesser infantry.  Next playtest they will be profiled as 'fierce foot' from Lion Rampant - a lot of offensive punch but low stamina, plus a little extra range on movement so they can close with the enemy a bit closer...

P.S.S. For this playtest I didn't even use all the figures which were table-ready!  The Fornovo scenario proper will have nearly double the number of units on the table!