Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Agnadello 1509

Last Saturday evening we played a scenario I set-up for the battle of Agnadello (1509) fought between a French army under king Louis XII and a Venetian one under Niccolo di Pitigliano (based on a scenario presented in Peter Sides' Renaissance Battles 1494-1700 Vol. 1).  The historical context was that the Venetians had positioned themselves defensively on a hill.  Louis XII was unwilling to attack them so began advancing towards the unguarded town of Rivolta, and the Venetians left their hill in pursuit.  The French then turned to face the Venetians and the battle ensued.  The set-up is therefore that the French right and Venetian left are facing each other, but the French left and Venetian right are still in marching formations parallel to each other and not deployed in anyway.  This game was set-up for four to six players but it ended up just being me and Pete (no objections here, I like being greedy sometimes and playing with as many of my little soldiers at once as possible!).  Each side didn't really have a "center", so basically each flank had three officers commanding some assortment of units. 

(Above: French left)

The French left consisted of four units of elite pike plus two light guns, and a lone gendarme unit. 

(Above: Venetian right)

Opposite them were three units landsknecht pike, three arquebusier units (bidowers), and three Italian mounted men-at-arms units. 
(Above: French right)

The French right consisted of two more gendarme units, two mounted French "Archer" cavalry units, six (!) arquebusier units (again, bidowers), and two medium guns.  The Venetians opposite them were two landsknecht pike units, two "militia" units (raw pike), two medium guns, and a single unit of mounted men at arms. The Venetians also had two units of stradiots roughly between their two flanks. 
(Above: starting positions, French at bottom, Venetians at top)
With the exception of the far right flank, the entire Venetian army was on one side of a dry riverbed (rough ground).  My plan at the beginning of the game was for the stradiots come down off the hill, cross the river bed, and beginning harassing either French flank from the center.  Meanwhile, the heavy cavalry on the right flank would also try to move to the center and then attack the French right.  The French right would be kept busy by the two Landsknecht pike units aggressively advancing forward.  The landsknecht on the left would do their best to keep the Swiss occupied.

(Above: game underway!)
Of course, what actually happened is the heavy cavalry just sat dead still for three turns or so.  Likewise the stradiots were very slow to move. We were using several rules adjustments from a recent issue of Wargames Illustrated ("Renaissance Rampant"), namely more incremental range options on artillery (which had a nice effect) and increased movement rates for pikes (8" instead of 6", which I also liked).   The increased movement rates meant that the Swiss and landsknecht pikes on one side quickly came to striking distance and there was some very aggressive combat on that flank.  On the Venetian left, the two two Landsknecht pike units (Victor's pike!) did indeed push forward aggressively into a field of arquebusier fire, and although both were broken before reaching any enemy units, they did ALMOST close the gap.

(Above: landsknechts on Venetian left begin their advance across dry riverbed with artillery support)

(Above: French archer cavalry crossing dry riverbed)

Meanwhile, French gendarmes made quick work of my Stradiots, and the next thing I knew the game was almost over!  Instead of tracking points lost, for this game I just totaled the number of units and said we would stop the game when one side reached 50% casualties and then evaluate the board.  The French were able to knock my medium guns and that pushed them over the finish line.  Looking over the board, only a lone Italian men at arms unit was on the French half of the field, and the Italian left was non-existant with several French units in that quarter of the board – so the field clearly belonged to the French!

(Above: things turning into a right hot mess! In center left of photo, Stradiots have finally crossed  the riverbed but are confronted by French Gendarmes. Pike blocks approach and clash with each other beyond)

(Above: action in the center)

(Above: looking down the line from the French left)

(Above: I thought I had the French Gendarmes dead to rights what with a point-blank cannon shot but I bungled the dice roll!)

(Above: Louis XII)

(Above: the last Venetian men at arms unit)

(Above: landsknecht pike (repeatedly) attacking Swiss pike)

There followed some post-game discussion.  It was agreed that the bidowers-as-arquebusiers stat block is a little unbalancing, simply because they are able to potentially Evade (and usually do) any attacked and get a shot off in the other players turn, which makes them very difficult to chase down by superior melee units such as pikes and even heavy cavalry.  The "Renaissance Rampant" article suggests an arquebusier profile very similar to bidowers but with the Evade rule removed (they can still Skirmish), which seems like a nice minor tweak to make.  The other tweak would be that artillery not count towards the 50% casualties, since they are too much the low-lying fruit in that instance.  I really like the artillery rules, which made artillery potentially powerful, but not guaranteed as such. 

Overall it was a game which was just a wonderful mess of melees that was fun to play as well as to witness.

Thursday, September 6, 2018


A few weeks ago fellow Portland war gamer and all around great person Victor (of Operation Wargaming) emailed me to ask for my mailing address, as he had "something to send me."  My best guess as what he was sending me was some unpainted ECW or Italian Wars figures he was looking to unload, or even maybe a unit of say, 12 painted figures for one of those periods. 

What I instead received was TWENTY-FOUR landsknecht pike men along with four command figures (Vic detailed their painting here)!  They were not based and did not include a flag.  Last night finished basing them, and attached the hand-painted the flag you see below, and present them below...

I am somewhat constantly amazed at the generosity and authenticity of the miniature wargaming hobby - Victor's unbelievably kind gift only underlines that wonderfulness.

Thanks, Vic!


If you, too, would like to be cool like Victor and send me painted units of English Civil War or Renaissance 28mm miniatures, please email me and I would be happy to provide you with a mailing address!!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Calvern 1499

The battle of Calvern is part of the Swabian War (fought between the Swabian League of southern German cities led by Emperor Maximillian I against the Swiss Confederation), a conflict I had seen mentioned here and there, but always mistakenly thought it involved the Schmalkaldic League (a later military alliance of Protestant German princes).  

The background is that an Imperialist/Swabian army under Maximillian I has advanced into the Umbrail Pass to assert Habsburg rights (and to secure a route for dropping future Imperial armies into Italy!), and, knowing that a Swiss army (the most vaunted infantry in Europe at the time) was en route, the Imperialists constructed a letzi, a type of earthwork particularly well suited to defending mountain passes (and which would not quite look like mine).  The Imperialists assumed that when the Swiss arrived a drawn-out siege-type affair would follow, so the letzi was "thinly defended", with reserve of infantry in the rear, and the Imperial gendarme heavy cavalry even further in the back.    However, Benedict Fontana, the Swiss commander, decided to immediately storm the letzi instead.

 (Above: starting positions. At the top you can see the Swiss, then the letzi defended mostly by Imperial arquebusiers, then the Imperial infantry reserves, and at the bottom the Imperial Gendarmes in far reserve)

The Swiss have 12 units and the Imperialists 16, although both math out to 56 points of Lion Rampant forces.  The letzi is defended by two pike units and seven arquebusiers (bidowers in LR).  The Imperial infantry reserve is two units of doppelsoldners (fierce foot) and another pike block.  The second reserve line is four Gendarme units (mounted men at arms).  The Swiss have four units of elite pikes (defend on 2+ in close order!), two units of halberdiers (fierce foot), four units of elite arquebusiers (bidowers who do not skirmish with the -1 to shoot), and two light cannon.

 (Above: Imperialists defending the letzi)

 (Above: the Swiss)

 (Above: the Swiss advance, while some Imperial arquebusiers take heavy casualties form Swiss fire)

The Swiss went first and instead of a straight on assault decided to focus on the left end of the letzi. The two pike units and one halberd unit from the Swiss right thus formed a sort of second wave behind the Swiss left.  The arquebusier units from the Swiss right piled into a wooded area and the mountain slopes to create diversionary fire - however a very good opening round of shooting by the Imperials beat these Swiss up as early as turn 2.  The Imperial reserve infantry  shifted to its right to meet the oncoming massed Swiss assault [retrospectively, the Imperial reserves should not have been allowed to try ordered activations for the first three turns to represent the element of surprise gained by the Swiss].  Shooting on the Imperial right was ineffective and the first unit of halberdiers came on fast, and stormed the letzi, dislodging a unit of arquebusiers.  They were counter-attacked by doppelsoldners and destroyed. 

 (Above: Swiss halberdiers successfully breach the Letzi)

(Above: the Swiss halberdiers have been destroyed but a second halberd unit attacks the Imperial pikes while the Swiss pikes close in)

However, the turn after that the Swiss pikes assaulted and dispatched the weakened doppelsoldners and entered the earthworks, followed quickly by a second pike unit – at this point the Imperial arquebusiers were falling back to make way for counterattacks by the reserves, and the Imperial Gendarmes had maneuvered up into striking distance of the earthwork as well. 

(Above: Swiss pikes enter the earthwork)

The Swiss formed up in close order and there were some interesting pike vs. cavalry fights that usually saw the Gendarmes take the worse of it, but by this time, given the expensive nature of their pikes & arquebus units, the Swiss were on the verge of complete army collapse – the Imperials by comparison had a lot of damaged units but most had drawn back from where the combat was.  In the end, an unfortunate roll on a Swiss pike block morale check threw the game to the Imperials ("O Fortuna!").

(Above: Imperial reserves closing in)

I'm making the game sound a little one sided but the Swiss were definitely on a roll early on, and if I ran it again, I would not allow the Imperial reserves to start activations until round 3, as noted above.  The earthworks were not a "game killer" for the Swiss (i.e. impossible to assault), partially because the halberdiers were great at punching an opening in them for the pikes to follow up into, and partially because I set the scenario to  have the earthwork mostly defended by weak IMperial arquebusier units initially.  The game had some nice dramatic "movie-feeling" moments to it as well, what with the Swiss breaking through the earthworks only to be faced by the approaching Imperial reserves.

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!