Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ravenna (1512)

I decided to run Ravenna at Enfilade because I thought it presented a unique scenario opportunity. Occurring on Easter Day, 1512, the Spanish had dug a defensive ditch, clearly hoping for a poorly considered French frontal assault on said ditch, as had happened at Cerignola a few years earlier. Instead, the French bombarded the Spanish lines with cannon fire for several hours ("the most violent cannonade between armies in the field that the world had yet seen"), until the Spanish infantry fell back into the low ground behind the earthwork, which presented an opportunity for the French to attack. Additionally, the French were able to present flanking fire from across the Ronco River into the Spanish heavy cavalry, who decided they would rather charge the enemy than stand around being shot upon. I thought this to be a perfect scenario, a "defend a position" game, but where the defenders don't start on the target position.

So, the set-up was both sides arrayed roughly equal distance from the earthwork, with some of the Spanish men at arms in a more forward position relative to the rest of the Spanish forces. The French moved first. Play would continue until both sides have suffered cumulative combined losses of 18 units – artillery pieces do not count towards this total. When the casualty mark is hit, the current side in play may complete its turn. Points would then be awarded as follows:

(Above: the initial set-up, perhaps after the conclusion of the first French moves. The French are on the right and the Spanish on the left.  Both sides' light cavalry are closest. The Spanish men-at-arms who started in a forward position can be seen at the very top center.)

1. For each of the three sections of the earthworks, the side with more units on the “platform” will score 3 points (a unit counts as on the platform if half its figures are on the platform). Artillery pieces do not count.
2. On each flank, draw an imaginary line continuing out from the front of the platform to the edge of the table, and another line running back from the edge of the platform to the “rear” table edge. The side with more units in this zone will score 3 points (see below).\
3. The side which destroyed/routed the most units scores 3 bonus points.
4. Each side receives one bonus point for each enemy leader destroyed or routed or slain in a duel.

The earthwork counted as slowing movement to half-speed, but not as rough ground (and thus affecting shooting or melee). Units could not target units on the opposite side of the earthwork terrain piece unless the shooting unit was on the piece. Units on the earthwork's platform gained a +1 stamina bonus if being attacked from the "French" side of the earthwork.

(Above: another move or two into the game.  The Spanish are manning their defensive works, and the French are beginning their assaults on the same.)

There were several custom Lion Rampant rules (or perhaps "streamlined" rules is a better way of putting it) in play:

1. Pikes were always considered to be in close order, unless they fell below half casualties or were disordered.
2. Landskneckt and Spanish infantry units (of any type – pikes, bucklermen, arquebusiers) had the "Tough" rule - When this unit fails a Morale/Courage test, the player must reroll one or both of the dice. The new results stands, even if it is of worse result than the initial roll. This rule is intended keep units on the table longer – and it works!
3. When any Landsknecht units fight another Landsknecht unit, "Bad War" ensues, and both sides will reroll all missed melee to-hit rolls.
4. Skirmishing cavalry (ginettes and stradiots) could move a full move instead of a half move when skirmishing, and neither suffered a -1 to hit on that ranged attack (both had javelins at 6" range). Both could evade but without a skirmish action, with that evasion being at the full move distance and not half.
5. Spanish Pike is classed as "Terrible" and can reroll missed Attack To Hit dice once. French Gendarmes are also Terrible but not Spanish men-at-arms.
6. All 'Wild Charge' rules were removed.
7.  If a unit failed its activation roll, and its leader was within 12", it could reroll that activation. Can only be used once per turn.

In history, the French were able to take the Spanish flanks, and then dogpile on the fierce Spanish infantry in the center to eventually win the day. In my game, the Spanish left (the men-at-arms) lingered around, bloodying the French Gendarmes to the point where they were reluctant to make a final assault on the flank. On the Spanish right, the Ginette light cavalry, having dispatched the stradiots, was not faring well against the French mounted crossbows and bowmen. At that moment, the Ginette commander decided to challenge the French mounted crossbow leader to duel, which the Spaniard won 2 hits to 1. In the following courage checks many of the French units fell back, and out of the flank zone!

(Above: a big beautiful hot mess of infantry combat! I hink the unit of French landsknechts have just successfully pushed back some Spanish defenders in the center...)

Meanwhile, the battle on the earthwork was a hot mess of miniature melees, with Spanish forces being pushed off the terrain piece, then counterattacking and pushing the French back out. At one point the French player controlling a small reserve of Gendarmes under the French commander Gaston de Foix himself, charged and poured up and over the earthwork itself! They in turn were repulsed by Spanish infantry. The French, however, were getting the better of the Spanish, and when the 18-units-lost mark was hit, the French easily scored the +3 bonus points for destroying/routing more units.

I then tallied the scores, doubled-checked them, and read them out loud. The French scored points for most casualties caused (3 points), barely winning the light-cavalry side zone (3 points), and four Spanish leaders slain/routed (4 points), for a total of 10 victory points. The Spanish scored 3 points apiece for the opposite flank zone and two earthwork zones (9 points) and two points for slain/routed French leaders (2 points), for a total of 11 points! It was pretty easy to realize that the duel won by the Spanish was a critical bonus point! Additionally, the game could have easily gone to the French, either by securing one more zone or by simply winning the duel they lost!

As an observer and non-player I thought this game was pretty exciting to watch. I would run it again except that it doesn't fit on my home table and I'm reluctant to haul all the miniatures elsewhere to play it!

I did not take many photos, but here are some that other people took...

(Photo by Dean Motoyama

(Photo by Kevin Smyth)

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Enfilade 2019

Last weekend I again attended Enfilade!, the annual NHMGS convention, in Olympia, Washington. Like last year I ran two games in the two sessions on Friday and participated as a player the rest of the weekend.

My first game was the rigorously playtested Isola della Scala (for six players). While the first playtest, while not completed, resulted in a fairly balanced result, and the second result (run at Ambuscade!) saw a Venetian victory due to some spectacular dice-rolling, the Enfilade-version of this scenario saw the French absolutely steamroll the Venetians, destroying many, many Venetian units and burning many, many tents! Fortunately (?), the reason for this was evident to everyone involved (including the Venetian players, who, if they were feeling put out by the table results, did a great job of concealing it): some bad dice rolling (the Venetian center did not wake up quickly enough) and some extraordinarily bad dice rolls on the Venetian right (which needed to make a stout defense of the camp). As such, the game was over in just barely 2 hours. This really put a cloud over the rest of the weekend for me, because when you host a game you want it to be competitive for both sides.

(Above: things underway in the Isola della Scala game)

(Above: things underway in the Isola della Scala game)

(Above: the French close in on the Venetian camp)

(Above: participants participating)

(Above: three tents set afire)

(Above: my, that's a lot of tents on fire!)

(Above: someone else's pod-racer game)

My second game was the Battle of Ravenna (for eight players), which I had only done a playtest-by-proxy for using the Barletta scenario. This game was much more satisfactory, with interesting and compelling actions on the flanks between the French and Spanish cavalry, and an real slugfest between masses of infantry over the Spanish earthworks in the middle. While the Spanish took more casualties, they were also able to secure more victory conditions, including winning the game's one and only duel between officers (each officer killed/destroyed/routed was a +1 bonus point) which was effectively the tie-breaker as the Spanish won the game 11 points to 10!

(Above: Ravenna game underway)
(Song of Drums and Tomahawks game

(Above: Ravenna game)

(Above: Ravenna game, the first French troops are assaulting the earthwork)

(Above: Dave Sullivan's Irish rebellion game)

Saturday I played in Dean's Black Power 2 game, Sven's Deus Vult game, and Doug's Hussars Rampant game. Hussars Rampant is a variant of the Lion Rampant Doug has cooked up that is for nothing but Napoleonic cavalry, and I found it very enjoyable.

(Above: Dean's Black Power 2 game)

(Above: diorama from Dean's Black Power 2 game)

(Above: diorama from Dean's Black Power 2 game)

(Above: diorama from Dean's Black Power 2 game)

(Above: artillery and crew from Dean's Black Power 2 game)

(Above: these three units of American militia in Pete's Rebels & Patriots game were painted by me!)

(Above: Sven's Deus Vult game)

(Above: Sven's Deus Vult game)

(Above: Doug's Hussars Rampant game)

(Above: Doug's Hussars Rampant game)

(Above: Doug's Hussars Rampant game)

(Above: Doug's Hussars Rampant game)

(Above: Doug's Hussars Rampant game)

Sunday I played in Bill's Men Who Would Be Kings game set during the Boxer Rebellion (sorry, no pics).

I sold some old Dark Ages plastic figures at the Bring & Buy, and managed to pick up these 122 Swiss Renaissance figures at a great price. I don't really need them (wish they would have been at the B&B last year!), but you can never have big enough armies, amiright?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Barletta (1502)

I'm running a game based on the battle of Ravenna at this upcoming Enfilade, for eight players, the set-up for which was, sadly, too large for my own gaming table setup! This also meant it was too large to playest. Since Ravenna heavily featured Spanish infantry defending earthworks from French attackers, and the clashes between the Spanish and French ten years earlier in southern Italy also featured earthworks, I decided I could at least playtest rules for earthworks, Spanish pike and Spanish bucklermen, and certain victory conditions using a smaller engagement. Once again I turned to Peter Sides' Renaissance Battles scenario book, and decided on Barletta (July 1502).*

The French were deployed with Swiss and landsknecht pikes in the center, each flanked by culverins, crossbowmen, and Scottish longbowmen. Behind the French left, three companies of Gendarmes lay in wait. Across from them, the Spanish lurked behind their earthworks, with a concentration of arquebusiers and culverins in the middle with pikes on the flanks. On the Spanish right were three companies of Ginettes and on the left two of Spanish men-at-arms.

(Above: starting positions

(Above: Spaniards behind their earthwork

(Above: Spaniards behind their earthwork

Victory conditions were as follows: if you had more units than your opponent on the "platform" of the earthworks, you scored 3 points (2 earthwork sections, so 6 points maximum); if you drew a line out parallel from the "platform" to the table edge, and another one perpendicular from the outside end of the earthwork, you got a large "flank quarter" on each side, each worth 2 points; the entire area behind both earthworks was worth 2 points; also, for every enemy leader killed or routed, you received 1 point; and finally, the side that destroyed more units received a 3 point bonus. The game would stop when cumulative combined units lost by both sides totaled 10.

 (Above: French Landsknechts move out from behind the Swiss

The French decided to ignore history and not charge their Swiss right up the center, instead sending the Swiss, longbows, and Gendarmes left and the landsknechts and crossbows right. The Spanish attempted to run their Ginettes in front of their own earthworks in hoping of slicing up the French center to destroy guns and fall upon helpless archers. Instead they took too long and became pinned against the earthworks by aggressive Swiss pikes, who destroyed two of the three ginettes without much of a fight. The Spanish countered by sliding their mounted men-at-arms from their left to the right.

(Above: Spaniards behind their earthwork

(Above: Spanish ginette light cavalry rides out

(Above: Swiss pikes in French service advance

(Above: Spanish ginette light cavalry about to get pinned by the Swiss

(Above: the white skull counters are an experiment with tracking ammunition for the artillery - it had no effect on the game so will probably not try again

The fiercest fighting then proceeded to unfold on the Spanish right, with the Swiss pikes getting the better of two Spanish pikes and the Gendarmes getting the best of the Spanish men-at-arms. But eventually the Spanish began to push back or rout some of the Swiss.

(Above: the Swiss push the Spanish back off the earthwork)

(Above: Spanish artillery at work!)

(Above: the Swiss have now been pushed back out of the earthwork by fierce Spanish counter attacks)

In the end the Spanish lost eight units (including one leader) and the French three (including two leaders!), so the French picked up the 3 point bonus for destroying more enemy units.  However, they had only secured one flank and none of the earthwork platforms, so along with the one point for a killed enemy leader, their total score was only 6 points.  The Spanish picked up 10 points (2 leaders destroyed at 1 point each, both earthwork sections at 3 points each, and the rear zone at another 2 points).  The other flank zone had one Spanish and one French unit, so neither side received points for that.

(Above: that's a lot of casualties!)

(Above: end of game)

If this had used less complex victory conditions such as "first to lose half, they be the loser", this would have been a crushing defeat for the Spanish.  Instead, on a points basis, it was a major victory.  Retrospectively, it was decided the French should have concentrated all ranged attacks on a single unit if possible rather than along the Spanish line as a whole, and the Spanish should have utilized their light cavalry better.  The Spanish should probably also have sallied a sword and buckler unit out of the earthworks to fall upon the melee-poor(er) archers and crossbowmen.

Next up: Isola della Scala and Ravenna at Enfilade!

*NOTE: I am slightly doubtful of the historicity of this scenario – there was a rather light siege of Barletta in the summer of 1502, but I can't find anything documenting the "bloody rout" of the Swiss mercenaries in French employ described by Sides. In fact, the Barletta scenario is so similar to the Cerignola (April 1503) scenario (itself a very well documented event) that I think the Barletta one is some sort of misunderstanding of the source material, and that Sides mistakenly inflated the events at Cerignola into two battles.