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The Heroes of Heligoland

Posted by Adam on November 20, 2017 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Steadily painting up the combatants for the two sides but I snuck in a couple of command characters (who might bear a resemblance to friends I game with*.)

 

First is Sir Leslie A. Rumbol-Smythe, Archie to his friends.

 

 

And his old sparring partner, Baron Nikolaus von Langenfordt

 

 

These two will have some backstory including previous encounters in other parts of the world. Archie is rumoured to be a handy chap in the sort of situations where Her Majesty's Government cannot get directly involved. The Baron is a fanatical patriot and has used his family fortune to support various schemes (dastardly ones natuarally) that he sees as advancing the cause of Greater Germany.

 

No images exist at the moment for the notorious Anarchist leader known as Adamos de la Hay...

 

I cannot for the life of me remember where the British office figure came from, maybe London War Room's old range of figures for battles on Mars. The Baron is a Westwind Miniatures chap from a pack called German Archaologists (I'm not sure how you use a sabre in a dig but there you go.)


(*Mainly the names to be honest...)

The Battle of Epping 1693

Posted by Adam on October 15, 2017 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (2)

Another weekend in Dumfries, another chapter of the Battle for Britain "what if" campaign set in 1693.  


Following the Battle of Drax earlier in the year, where the Jacobite army was defeated as it tried to drive the remaining Williamite forces from the north of England, a new threat had emerged to King James' English Crown. An army composed of hired and allied soldiers from the Continent had landed in Essex (having intended to sail up the Thames) led by the rising star of the Hapsburg Empire, Prince Eugene of Savoy.


The fog lisfts to reveal the marketplace is full of Williamite cavalry.


The first game on Saturday morning was a skirmish between leading elements of the two armies in a thick fog around the Essex town of Chelmsford. To simulate the very real fog of battle, units were initially represented on the table by markers and only revealed when close to the enemy. In addition there was a strong chance that each unit would be some distance from the location of its marker and even facing in a different direction.  This made for a challenging task for both attacker and defender but with the aid of lurking Essex militia the scratch Jacobite force was able to hang on and deflect the majority of the invaders away from the crossings over the River Chelmer. 


Danish mercenaries flee from companies of Essex Militia supported by Jacobite musketeers and dragoons.


The Jacobites made good use of the delays inflicted on the Williamite army. Every available man was assembled between the approaching enemy and the road to London and all the artillery available gathered. On the edge of Epping Forest the Jacobite army made good use of the available trees to construct a series of  hefty bastions that their regiments could shelter behind.  The large and professional Mercenary army had combined with the remnants of the northern Williamite army under General von Tettau. There were also a couple of  newly raised English regiments as a fig leaf for their legitimacy as forces of the English king William.  When they arrived  near the small Essex town of Epping they discovered the Jacobites well dug in in multiple defensive lines in the forest. This would be a tough nut to crack, but the opportunity existed to crush the remains of the Jacobite forces in England and capture London.



The massed Williamite regiments (left) advance on the Jacobite lines.


The Williamite army struck first at the left and right ends of the Jacobite earthworks. This was when they discovered that amongst the standing trees a series of hidden trenches were across their path. The concealed musketeers within only slowly gave up their ground at the point of the invaders' bayonets. With the way through the trees untenable the Williamite generals would have to take on the earthworks head on.Eugene committed his men against the full length of the right hand redoubt whereas General von Tettau attempted a more surgical approach, sending a massed column against just a few points on the Jacobite left.



View from behind the left hand Jacobite bastion.


Ultimately both methods ran into the same rain of destruction before the Jacobite fortifications. Whereas the soldiers of King Jmes could shelter from the worse of the enemy fire behind thick log ramparts, the Williamite regiments were exposed to devastating musketry and cannon fire before they could attempt to storm the enemy positions. Wave after wave of the best professional  soldiers in Europe marched up to the Jacobite barricades and the remnants streamed back the way they had come. A moment of crisis did occur on the Jacobite left when a popular Brigadier was plucked from his saddle by a snipers bullet. The dead general's regiments were shaken by his loss and Polruwans English Guards started to retire from the fight. It took the personal intervention of General Hamilton to steady the line and put heart back into his troops.


Polruwan's Foot Guards return to the fight.


The continuous attacks were however gradually wearing down the front line of the Jacobite defenders. The First Battalion of the Kings Foot Guards fought all day to see off massed assaults on the right of the position and by sundown had not a man left who wasn't dead or wounded. In the centre Lord Louth's Regiment heroically fought against three battalions of  fearsome Dutch Guard and only grudgingly did the survivors retire with their colours held high as the Orange Guards broke through.



Lord Louth's Regiment, heroic defenders of the central redoubt.


The battle had reached the moment of decision. As the victorious Dutch Guard streamed into the central redoubt, the Jacobite cavalry seized their chance. Leading the way, the squadrons of the Volunteer Gentlemen of London, who spurred their horses and charged into the disorganised mass. King William's Foot Guard had fought their way out of many tighter straits than this, but on this occasion the exhausted Netherlanders had nothing left. They broke and scattered pursued by the victorious cuirassiers.



The thin red line of Jacobite defences.


On the Williamite right a fresh assault had been sent into the fight by von Tettau. His hand picked Danish regiments had always fought hard for their Chief and did so again. The Jacobite Earl of Antrim's Regiment, which had taken the brunt of the fighting all day, finally could take no more and sullenly retreated away from the prolonged hand to hand fighting. The defences had been breached! It was at this very moment however that von Tettau got the news from his commander. Eugene of Savoy had taken stock of the situation. His army was now dangerously depleted. Any reverse could turn into a disaster and thus he had ordered the retreat.



The Danish regiments finally break into the defences but it is too little too late...


It remains to be seen how this Williamite reverse will affect the ongoing "Battle for Britain" campaign but the failure to best the previously despised Jacobite Foot by the cream of European regiments for hire, will be a major psychological blow to the Williamite cause.

(As usual click on the photos for larger versions.)

The First to Fight

Posted by Adam on September 17, 2017 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The initial armed encounters of the Heligoland Crisis in 1895 were between units of the invading Imperial German Army and the islands' sole defenders., the Heligoland Garrison Regiment. The Heligoland Garrison Regiment (HGR) was an unusual and neglected offshoot of the British Army. The first garrison of the newly captured islands in 1810 was a handful of men from the Invalids Company Royal Artillery and a battalion of  the Royal Veteran Regiment. After Waterloo and peace in Europe the islands' defence was taken over by a ragbag of auxilliary formations, which had fought for the British in the Peninsula and elsewhere. Gradually these units were disbanded and the soldiers returned to their homelands, more or less enthusiastically.  


The need for a permanent garrison was recognised but under ancient  and renewed rights, the population of the islands could not be compelled to provide any military service to the islands' ruler. The inception of the Heligoland Garrison Regiment was only possible in 1818 by the recruitment of a core of French Exiles, who could not return to Royalist France. In the main these Frenchmen were officered by "volunteers" from British line regiments and, unsurprisingly, these officers were not high calibre men that a Regiment's Colonel was going to miss. Fortunately the rank and file had mostly seen service through the long years of war on the Continent, so a passable imitation of a military formation was acheived. In later decades a compromise was concluded, that allowed Helgolanders to serve in the HGR on a "permanant loan" from the islands' volunteer militia. However foreign recruitment was still practised and  French surnames continued to feature strongly amongst the officers and men of the unit.


The inexperienced soldiers of the Heligoland Garrison Regiment bravely confronted the elite German forces that landed in 1895, only grudgingly giving up their native farms and villages as the invader's numbers told.


The HGR had settled to a constant size and organisation by the middle of the century. Not conforming to any typical pattern the unit was formed of four companies, three of "fusiliers" and the fourth all gunners. A static defence role was seen as the regiment's only real option manning the battery positions and coastal forts its natural home. Some of the unit's commanders had other ideas training their infantry element as everything from light infantry to ship-board marines, but the reality mostly remained a coastguard/customs role. The gunners of the HGR tended to have a higher status (at least in their own eyes!) Their drill was up to the highest standards even if much of the ordnance was of an older or inferior stock.


The uniforms of the Regiment followed the general scheme of other British Regiments. The War Office beurocrats rigorously supplied the latest equipment and uniforms to the Islands even if not with the highest priority. The unusual status of the HGR did lead to their most distinctive item of uniform. In 1879 the regiment received a supply delivery including tropical service, white pith helmets. As a foreign stationed unit they had been mistakenly sent on the assumption that Heligoland was in warmer climes! As the unit had not yet received their new spiked Home Service Helmets they enthusiastically adopted the pith helmet into their parade order of dress. Despite occasional demands to relinquish them, the HGR  steadfastly kept them and they were worn almost without exception in preference to the Home Service headgear.


Shown here the typical dress of the HGR circa 1889. The tricolor flash

on the left upper arm the most obvious regimental distinction.


The status of the HGR was in doubt for a time when the negotiation for the handover of the islands was under way. The decision had been made to disband the unit and distribute any personel who wished to remain in the Army to other regiments. When the treaty fell through the HGR found itself in a bit of a limbo state with all War Office plans for the future already regarding them as no longer in existence. The Regiment continued its normal duties but it was some years before it regained official acknowledgement as being still operational. This did nothing to improve the already disgruntled morale of the unit. They entered the conflict in 1895 with out of date uniform jackets and black powder rifles but with the burning indignation of a disregarded servant to the British state.

The Heligoland Crisis 1895

Posted by Adam on July 29, 2017 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (3)

Here is the background notes for the 1895 campaign set on the Heligoland Islands.

 

The Heligoland Crisis 1895

 

In February of 1895 a small group of “scrap metal dealers” raised the flag of the German Empire over an abandoned herring canning plant on the uninhabited island of Duene. The significance of this action lay in the ownership of this sandy speck in the North Sea, the British Empire.


Following the collapse of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, the small island group generally just known as Heligoland, had become an unwanted diplomatic headache for the British Government who had administered the islands since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Their preference had been to hand them over to the newly united German Empire in return for a few useful concessions in Germany's expanding African colonies. A finely crafted treaty had been scuppered at the last knocking by the young German Emperor Wilhelm II.



The departing Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck arranged for publishing of the minutes from a meeting with the Kaiser, where Bismarck had queried the real value of the islands compared to potential colonial wealth. The Kaiser had responded with a stream of bellicose abuse and bravura openly bragging of his wish to build a German navy that would control the World’s oceans and allow Germany to control any overseas colonies she saw fit. To what extent Bismarck stage managed the meeting is hard to know but his fingerprints are certainly on the route that it took to a journalist in the Washington Post after his resignation.


“As fine a piece of political chicanery as I have ever seen,” commented one Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister. Whatever the real machinations were behind the newspaper story, it effectively killed off any chance of the treaty being ratified by the British.


 



On hearing the startling news that Kaiser Wilhelm was planning for the Royal Navy to be demolished by his new German fleet, some voices within the British Admiralty were raised in support of keeping a naval base which could observe and if necessary block aggressive naval forces emerging from the Kiel Canal. That wiser heads did point out the difficulties in defending a station only 50 miles from the German coast, only served to cause there to be a political deadlock within the British establishment. National pride was feeling bruised in London and Berlin, but little appetite could be summoned to hash out a face saving compromise. With the Kaiser’s credibility still in tatters it only took the activities of a small nationalist society to bring matters to a head.


The Bremen Fatherland Society had a well organised "Rifle Club" including several off-duty NCOs from the Imperial German Army. On February 20th 22 of their number were transported to Duene on the paddle steamer Ozeanwelle. Reports that this was crewed by Kriegsmarine personell were never substantiated and quite unlikely. Within 48 hours their provocative flag raising had been noted by passing fishing vessels and reported to the British authorities.



The first response was a visit from HM Steam Patrol Boat Fowey, which scouted out the small island on the 23rd February. Seeing the German flag still flying over the old cannery and a ramshackle group of tents erected around the crumbling buildings, a small shore party was landed.


Lieutenant Franz Hoeskstra of HM Coastguard decided on low key approach to the situation taking only one Seaman with him to go and talk to the interlopers. Neither man had a firearm despite the shore party being well equipped with modern Lee Metford rifles and Hoekstra by regulation should have been wearing his holster and Webley revolver. The Coastguard officer's diplomatic approach had no sway with the Bremeners and all he receive in return was nationalist slogans and personal abuse. When the first shot rang out the pair were already halfway back to the boat and the remainder of the shoreparty. Hoekstra was killed instantly by an expert rifle shot to the head and AB Dudley was hit twice as he attempted to carry his stricken officer to safety.


The shore party was thrown into confusion at this turn of events but cooler heads amongst them were able to lay down some covering fire (perhaps causing the only German – non Coastguard German that is, casualty of the encounter.) Whilst retrieving the shore party the HMPB Fowey fired rounds from its 2“ gun into the cannery where the initial shots were supposed to have come from. The Bremeners had already made tracks however, crossing the tiny island to where they had boats hidden and splitting up into several smaller groups. Effectively their task was complete.


The importance of this incident was not initially realised. The newspapers in London and Berlin ranted and complained but none of them openly predicted that this would be the spark to a wider conflict. The British reaction was initially muted. The German Ambassador was not summoned for almost a week to the Foreign Office and then it was for an informal discussion. In the War Office it all barely raised a flicker of interest. On the islands themselves the Heligoland Garrison Regiment stepped up shoreline patrols and the small police force was on the lookout for the Bremeners in its own way.


It was not the Bremeners who the Garrison Regiment members of B company found on the 28th February however. Just before dawn the five man patrol almost walked right into a full company of the German Imperial Army (Lower Rhine Fusilier regiment, No. 39) recently disembarked in a secluded bay under the cover of darkness. Luckily the sergeant was an old India hand and realised that getting word to his superiors was of more importance than any heroics. Embassy staff in both Capitals were about to have a very long day!



(Before I get any grief from nutters and button counters, please let me make it clear most of the above is an alternative history exercise in "what-ifs..." I have for a start added a sizable companion to the real main island at Heligoland and the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty did take placeand wasn't scuppered in 1890. Much is based on truth however: the Kaiser's unfortunate penchant for saying the wrong thing to newspapermen, the falling out between him and Bismarck and the wish by some in the British Establishment to keep hold of the island - Queen Victoria for one!)

Mahratta Mini Campaign

Posted by Adam on July 30, 2016 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Our game at the weekend was a test drive of a mini campaign system devised by Mr. Langford (if Nick "borrowed" it from elsewhere he didn't let on to me!) We had an invasion by a Mahratta Indian army across difficult terrain (jungle infested mountain passes?) with the intention of arriving at an enemy town with a large siege gun and knocking the gates down. The invaders would have to find their way to the enemy town and disperse the forces sent to slow / stop them. The way to the town was via a 3 x 3 grid of small tables representing possible route. (The original scheme was for a 4 x 4 grid but with fewer than the 4 players originally expected the grid was reduced.)



I chose to spread my 3 army commands across tables G, H and I, with the cavalry commands scouting either side of my main force in H. What I discovered was that G and H only had lateral exits from the tables and no enemy presence. Table I also had an exit into table F. So that is where I sent (what was now) my vanguard.




The Vanguard discovered an enemy force of matchlockmen and cavalry holding the pass ahead of them. This looked like causing some difficulty to my light Pindari cavalry despite their (or probably because of) support from a battery of camel borne rocket artillery. Despite the overwhelming firepower disparity, my brave Pindari cavalry pressed forward and peppered arrows at the enemy cavalry. The enemy shrugged off the hits and charged the skirmishing Pindaris but initially the combat was tied (only the impetus of the charge giving them some advantage.) A second round of melee was fought and the Pindaris were thrown back in disorder. Luckily for them the enemy cavalry commander was quite nervous of the remaining Mahratta Pindari regiment (which had, to be fair, formed up into a solid clump and wheeled to try to catch them in the flank) and he slowly retired the victorious cavalry to reorder their ranks.



(Click on photo for larger version)


Now the main force of my Mahratta army entered the battle – the enemy didn’t look so clever now! Behind the screen of Pindaris and Pathan mercenaries the Mahratta Matclockmen and new-fangled, European-trained Sepoys advanced rapidly in march columns. The Pathan jezzaillichis soaked up the first volley of the enemy matchlocks and then nimbly moved aside to allow the Sepoys to attack.



(Click on photo for larger version)


The controlled(ish) volleys of the Mahratta Sepoys reduced the enemy matchlocks to ruins and the remnants didn’t hang around to receive a bayonet charge. The next enemy infantry units now looked in imminent danger of being flanked and similarly dealt with, but their commander had seen the way the wind was blowing and retreated his survivors off the table so they could fight again another day.



(Click on photo for larger version)


There turned out to be only one route off table, F, so the battered retreating command was immediately followed up by my Mahrattas when they chose to stand and fight again.

 



They were down a unit from the previous fight and I should have been up one unit of sepoys but forgot to deploy them… Keen to cause more losses to the enemy units I acted more aggressively with my Pindari cavalry than previously. This had two unfortunate repercussions: the first was that by attacking the enemy infantry with my Pindari cavalry I left the Camel mounted rocketmen unsupported (where those extra sepoys would have been handy!) The rocketmen were chased off the table by enemy cavalry before they had even got off their camels or lit one blue touchpaper. I blame "newly painted unit syndrome" for this poor showing. Oh well they looked quite pretty which is the most you can hope for with a lot of Indian units!



(Click on photo for larger version)


The second repercussion was my Pindari cavalry getting shot to pieces by the infantry they were trying to pick on.



(Click on photo for larger version)


The enemy Sepoys blasted my skirmishing screen out of their saddles and then just by the skin of their teeth managed to form square before the second unit of Pindaris could fall on their flank and avenge their colleagues. Thwarted, the Pindaris carried on into the rear of the enemy line to find an easier target. They did spook the enemy cavalry into running away but once again a charge into the rear of matchlock armed infantry was scuppered when the infantry pulled out a manoeuvre card just before the cavalry could attack. To add insult to injury the matcklockmen also delivered a withering fire that soon had the Pindari unit much reduced.



(Click on photo for larger version)


The enemy holding force did not wait around for the main body of my army this time and slipped away, leaving two possible exits from the table.




Lessons learned there (or re-learned for the umpteenth time more likely); use the right soldiers for the right job. The Pindari cavalry is fine for scouting and getting into the rear of enemy horsemen but should steer well clear of infantry, even the modestly dangerous matchlockmen. Mobile close fire support is not the forte of rocketeers they should be dismounting and getting their missiles ready as soon as they arrive on table.

The strategic choice for me was to either press on after the retreating enemy force or head into table B on the chance it was my objective location (enemy town.) With my vanguard all but destroyed I had to decide if I would pursue with my main infantry command or ignore the enemy force and gamble that my rearguard, of mostly cavalry, could handle them if they came back into the rear as I advanced. Obviously, it being me, I took the dicey option and pushed the army into table B. This was indeed where the enemy town was located and would be the showdown of remaining armies (and more importantly the remaining Morale Chips that either side still had.)

 


(Click on photo for larger version)


Unfortunately we did not have time to fight this final game, as I had a prior appointment with my wife’s choir recital. The concept had been shown to be a good one anyway and should be improved with the addition of more players, so less control over the decision making when it comes to supporting a command that is in combat or sacrificing a screen to stop reinforcements getting to a battle. The small table encounters still had all the Piquet edge of the seat character and plenty of difficult decisions about where to spend initiative and when to husband resources for the future.



(Click on photo for larger version)

(Click on photo for larger version)

Truceless War Campaign - Ambush at Hippo Regius

Posted by Adam on November 10, 2014 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The Ambush at Hippo Regius

 

Following the disastrous defeat of Hanno the Great at Utica, it was with some hysteria that the citizens of Carthage heard the news that another of their stalwart allies, the city of Hippo Regius, was suffering disorder in the streets. Different political factions were arguing violently over the future of the town. Predictably the rebellious Mercenary captain, Mathos the Libyan, had taken this opportunity to march his army there. Blockading the town and lending weight to the faction sympathetic to the Mercenaries.


 

Voices were raised in Carthage demanding that another loyal ally not be intimidated into the enemy sphere. The generals currently in Carthage, Hanno the Great, Hamilcar Barca and Hannibal (the Elder) were forced to accept that working together would be vital to prevent another military disaster. Despite their festering personal differences Hamilcar and Hanno agreed to cooperate in a scheme to come to the aid of Hippo Regius.


 

Their plan, not only to break the siege but to destroy one of the rebellious armies plaguing Carthage, was that Hanno would march on Hippo Regius with a small force, which would tempt Mathos to engage, in the hopes of another easy victory. Hamilcar with a larger army would surround and destroy the Libyan rebel, when it was too late for him to change his mind and retreat. The scheme worked better than they could have hoped. Despite spies reporting to Mathos’ colleague, Spendius, that there were two armies heading west from Carthage, the Italian mercenary general decided not to bother sending a warning. s they approached Hippo Regius, Hanno’s deliberately poor reconnaissance allowed the enemy scouts to get close to the marching Carthaginians and report to Mathos exactly what was approaching. Mesmerised by the apparently clueless marching army of Hanno, the Mercenaries did not spot the following army of Hamilcar.


 

Mathos determined to not only beat Hanno but to totally crush him. Sending his Numidians to find a likely ambush location, he took most of his army there, leaving just a skeleton force to carry on the blockade of Hippo Regius. Mathos’ scouts did now report the presence of Numidian cavalry nearby, who must belong to a force other than Hanno’s army (which clearly contained no Numidians.) Mathos was too intent on his impending victory however, to comprehend the significance of the information.


 Hanno's army marches into danger.


Hanno the Great, desperate to repair his reputation after the debacle at Utica, pressed forward along the road to Hippo Regius, knowing that he could encounter a superior enemy at any moment. However he dared not take obvious preparations for battle, in case he alerted the rebels to their danger. As Hanno’s army neared the ambush location a small band of levied Africans was sent to scout the woods along one edge of their route. The rest of the army however pressed forward in their extended march columns, terribly vulnerable to an enemy hidden so close to their flanks.


 

It can only be speculated what caused the ambush to be sprung too early. A group of Numidian horsemen plunged out of the cover between the trees and charged down the road towards the marching Carthaginians. Maybe it was simple indiscipline by the soldiers or a loss of nerve by their commander. Possibly on a subconscious level Mathos suspected there was something not right in the situation and decided he could not risk waiting for the enemy to be in a more perfect position for the ambush. The launch of the attack at this juncture probably saved the life of Hanno, as he was near the rear of the march column.


 Rebel Celts and Libyans, (sporting tall white feather plumes) surround and destroy the loyal Celts of Hanno's army.


Despite the bulk of the Carthaginian army having not yet reached the defile between the hills and the woods, the vanguard was caught right in the teeth of the prepared surprise attack. The African levies were hurled back from the woods as elite Celtiberians swarmed out to attack the flanks of units presented to them. Hanno’s hired Celtic warriors found themselves beset on all sides and despite brave charges by the cavalry, initially dispersing the Numidians, the position was hopeless. Hanno flung his citizen militia down the road in an attempt to help the doomed vanguard but the wide intervals between units as they deployed from march order prevented them from properly supporting their comrades. A brave stand by the lowly African levies and some of the Carthaginian militia did buy enough time that Hanno was able to direct the remnant of his force into the fight. The Mercenary’s success was finally halted as Hanno’s elephants entered the fray. The Mercenary cavalry unused to facing these noisy smelly beasts panicked and ran, elephants in hot pursuit.


 Carthaginian militia advance to try to aid the doomed vanguard.


The check to the enemy gave just enough of a respite to save Hanno’s small force. Hamilcar had had no choice but to march several hours behind his colleague’s army. Not only that, but to avoid being detected he was not able to aggressively scout out his enemy’s deployment. Hamilcar had to send his army at speed and blindly toward where he thought Mathos would be. Luck was with Hamilcar as not only had Mathos  positioned no rearguard but the Libyan general was alone and in the path of the swarm of Hamilcar’s light cavalry that came charging out of the hills. The fierce Numidians attempted to capture Mathos, but despite having his horse killed beneath him Mathos was able to fight his way clear and join a group his own cavalry waiting to join the battle in the defile. The arrival of friends brought new energy to Hanno’s soldiers and where spirits had been sinking, they now rose again. Hanno brought up the rest of his elephants and bodyguard cavalry and moved to trap the Mercenaries; the hunters now being hunted themselves.



 Loyal Celt cavalry charge into the teeth of the ambush, through their routing comrades.


The situation rapidly became bleak for Mathos. The enemy Numidians that were pursuing him now peppered the cavalry he had joined, with javelins whilst some of their number attacked the flanks and rear of the heavy Liby-phoenician horsemen. This was more than they could bear and despite(?) the presence of their commander they finally broke, the survivors scattering. Mathos was forced to flee with them and it was only by luck that the victorious Numidians were not quite able to catch him in the general rout that followed.


 


 

The Battle of Utica

Posted by Adam on July 27, 2014 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Learning that the allied city of Utica was being invested by rebel mercenaries under Spendius the Italian; Hanno the Great gathered the remnants of his army and part of the garrison of Carthage and force marched to their aid. His army contained a diverse mix of loyal mercenaries (Spaniards and Kelts) and Liby-phoenician horsemen plus additional cavalry formed from recruited grooms and stable boys mounted on spare horses. Also in the marching column were the famous war elephants trumpeting as they walked; making the horses shy and ground tremble.


Hanno had carefully apportioned his meagre treasury, allowing for supplies to be carried for the army. Unfortunately he had miscalculated quite how much water and fodder the elephants would require across the harsh terrain; so when the force hove into sight of Utica half the soldiers and mounts were parched and exhausted.


The Carthaginian army spread across the plain.

 

The Mercenary army with Numidians on left and right flanks.


Spendius had been calmly waiting for the garrison of Utica to seek terms, putting the city into his control. However when his scouts reported the presence of the Carthaginian army he responded immediately, bringing his scattered blockade together and forming a battle line either side of his palisaded camp. The mercenary leader found himself in the situation of being outnumbered almost 2 to 1 (14 units versus 8 and having to hold his position if he wanted to carry on investing Utica. The opportunity to retire into the hills being refused, Spendius did have some advantages. His Numidian cavalry were unmatched by the enemy and had the possibility of tying up superior numbers with their hit and run tactics. In addition his deadly Balearic slingers would be able to take a heavy toll on the enemy before they could get to grips with his battle line.


The armies deploy (click for larger image)


What Spendius did not know was that Hanno had spent a lot of silver (2 talents) spreading bribes amongst the mercenary captains. The result was that 50% of the Mercenary army were vulnerable to desertion and their actions would only be known after the battle had begun. Spendius had not neglected to spend on bribes himself but his efforts had only been rewarded with 2 possible desertions amongst the Carthaginian army. The other asset that Spendius had was General Adherbal whose inspiring presence raised his command’s morale to fanatical devotion.



The Mercenaries prepare to defend their camp (click for larger image.)


Hanno deployed his men in one extended line meaning to outflank the smaller force on both the left and right. He ordered his entire line to advance uniformly except where the massed heavy cavalry got in each others way circumnavigating some small scrubby hills. As the advance continued Spendius’ Numidians could only manoeuvre to try to deflect the double envelopment. As the enemy drew near the Balearic slingers defending the front of the camp suddenly let out a cheer and turned about to face their erstwhile comrades. The deserters readied their missiles to complete the betrayal. (Luckily the other 3 units vulnerable to desertion passed the morale test.)



Balearic slingers desert.


With his camp in enemy hands Spendius had to act quickly. He sent his general and fellow Italian Dominus to personally lead a unit of levied Libyan spearmen in an attack on their former comrades. The Libyans advanced so swiftly that they hurled the traitors across the palisade before they could get the range with their slingshots. The crisis not yet over, Spendius ordered the Numidians on both wings to attack before they were brushed aside and the trap sprung. The Numidians closed on the Liby-phoenician cavalry peppering them with javelins. This stopped their advance and Hanno's newly raised cavalry regiment took the opportunity to depart the battlefield, (happy to accept bribes in preference to hard fighting.) The close proximity of elephants also upset the Numidians doughty ponies, the horses not being impressed by Adherbal’s rousing speechifying.





 

On the far flank Hanno had ordered forward a mixture of infantry with little cavalry support and the Numidians took full advantage, riding around the flank of Kelt warriors and slaying many with wickedly accurate javelin throws. The Kelts could not bear the unequal contest, broke and ran only to be ridden down by the merciless cavalry.



 

Hanno now decided it was time to retake the initiative and dismounting from his horse joined the cream of his army, the Spanish Scutarii. He led the Spaniards in a wild charge against the enemy Keltic mercenaries (guarding the left of the enemy camp,) running right up to the Keltic shieldwall howling their battle-cries. (A good use of a Heroic Moment card.) Unknown to Hanno, the Kelts had spent the bribes that had come their way on a great many amphorae of the strong local wine, so were in an equal state of battle rage! (Both were D10 BDV value.)  The Kelts own bards record that death was preferable to the hangover that was sure to come to survivors of the battle. The Kelts drew their long swords and rushed at the closing Spaniards, hurling them back before they could loose their heavy javelins. Encouraged by this, the neighbouring Mercenary Greek theurophorai also charged the enemy. Putting to flight levied Libyans and then crashing into fellow Greeks and routing them whilst they were still suffering from effects of the forced-march.



 

Rowdy Kelts defeat Hannos elite Spaniards.

A moment of decision had arrived and it was Spendius who grasped it. He sent his generals Adherbal and Dominus to lead their men against the emblematic enemy troops – the fearsome elephants. Despite their devotion to Adherbal, his soldiers could do little against the trampling, trumpeting monsters and they soon broke and fled for the rear. Spendius himself forced his horse into their routing ranks and brought them back into a state of order. Dominus saw the fate of his fellow general and instead of a headlong clash lead his men through a gap in the enemy line (where the enemy Scutarii had stood) so that they could attack the elephants from the side, stabbing at their soft bellies and causing the herd to panic and run home to their stables.


The elephants see off the first Mercenary attack.



 

Hanno had one last chance to stop the battle slipping away from his grasp. His Spaniards could still hold the centre for long enough that the still mostly undamaged wings of the army could close and finish off the rebels. Fate did not look kindly on the Carthaginian cause however. As the Spanish were rallying to Hanno’s banner the drunken Kelts charged again and this time it was too much for the Scutarii. They crumpled under the attack and then turned and ran sweeping their Commander along with them in rout. Hanno now gave up the cause as lost and what was left of his army retired from the field and headed back to Carthage.

 

Hanno and his Spaniards flee.




This game was our second attempt at fighting the first battle generated by my Truceless War campaign (see here.) Our first attempt to fight this game I messed up the rosters and tge mercenaries were comprehensively beaten within a turn. This time we increased the "budgets" of the armies by 50% to try to make the game a larger, more interesting affair. 

 

Hanno's 3 points of recruitment gave him 45 Florins to generate an army on the Beat the Drum (BtD) table (here.) His other points had gone on Pay: 1, Diplomacy: 2 and Supply: 1.

The cards were kind for Hanno and the army generated included 14  units, including 2 of elephants! The additions over the first game were 3 units of Liby-Phoenician cavalry and one of levied spearmen. The spades drawn were more of a mixed bag.

Pay: D6 versus desertion (usually a D4)

Diplomacy: 50% of enemy mercenaries vulnerable to desertion.

Supply: 50% of units out of supply!!! (Obviously didn't realise how much fodder elephants require on a route march!)

 

Spendius' 2 points gave him 30 Florins this time to spend on the table (here), which gave him 8 units including 2 units of Numidian cavalry, 2 units of Libyan spearmen (one of them levy) and a unit of Spanish Scutarii. The spades gave

Diplomacy: 2 enemy units vulnerable to desertion

A strategy: Heroic commander. ne of the Mercenary sub generals is an inspiring commander, no units need take a morale test whilst he is on the field but he is at greater risk of dying if he leads a unit in combat. Useful against those elephants...


Much against the odds Hanno's larger force was decisively beaten in this game. The Carthaginians were unable to use their superior numbers effectively and the initiative never quite turned up when they needed it. In a way the smaller army had the easier task; the choices were much more limited and every chance to strike a blow had to be grasped (particularly once the Balearics had deserted in the first turn.) This aggressive strategy worked for the Mercenaries, winning the battle before the numbers could tell. In Piquet-Archon fortune really does favour the brave!

 

Spendius the Italian, victorious!

Truceless War Campaign - First Battle

Posted by Adam on June 29, 2014 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (0)

The Truceless War was the conflict that occurred between the 1st and 2nd Punic Wars when Carthage made a disasterous hash of paying off its largely mercenary army. The mercenaries mutinied and things soon turned bloody when they ransacked Carthaginian towns and the Libyan subjects of Carthage revolted and threw in their lot with the mercenaries.


This war had always seemed like facinating subject matter for a wargames campaign and offers an interesting mixture of troop types that we already have available from our Hellenistic and Punic Wars collections. The absence of the Romans (apart from their historical small and late intervention) should make battles less formulaic and wide open too.


I put together a simple boardgame style set of campaign rules taking some ideas from Piquet's "Theatre of War" campaign system (the reason I did not want to just use ToW is that as a card driven system it is difficult to use as an ongoing email campaign; the players really need to be in the same room, which would eat into our gaming time.) Another Piquet system that I drew on heavily is the Band of Brothers army generation mechanism, which is called "Beat the Drum" (BtD.) This uses a standard playing card deck to select an army from a roster up to a preset total of points (they call them Florins.)

I like this as a campaign mechanism as it allows armies to be recorded as a points total without keeping track of individual units with any particular force. In BtD the spades cards that are drawn are used to upgrade training and weaponry if points have been allocated in these areas, otherwise they are wasted cards. I used the spades column on the roster to incorporate supply, diplomacy and the chance of mercenaries desserting. I wanted these issues to be a bit abstracted but an always present factor for the players.


I scribbled my rules and the army generation tables down, borrowed a part of the map from the excellent boardgame Hannibal by Valley ames and handed it out to the players. I didn't get any negative feedback from our little group (I am sometime not sure they can even read mind you...) So the campaign was kicked off and the players pondered and eventually handed in their first week's orders. I took on the role of Hanno the Great (not so great historically) so that we would have 2 a side. I started by stitching up my fellow Carthaginian general, Hamilcar, by swearing blind I was going to stay in Carthage that turn and promptly marched out with the garrison to attack the nearest Mercenary rebel.


The neighbouring city of Utica was in a state of unrest which made it vulnerable to swapping from Carthaginian controlled to backing the Mercenaries.  The presence of a Mercenary army outside its walls under Spendius the Italian increased this chance too. I decided that the loss of resources represented by this city was too great a chance to take, thus the headlong attack by Hanno. Luckily for Hanno/me, the Mercenary players had split their resources almost equally between their three active generals and Spendius had spent less than half his share in recruiting soldiers. Knowing only the total value of the releiving force (including supply, diplomacy etc.) Spendius decided to stand firm and try to repel the enemy  to maintain his siege.


Hanno's 3 points of recruitment gave him 30 Florins to generate an army on the BtD table (here.) His other points had gone on Pay: 1, Diplomacy: 2 and Supply: 1.

The cards were kind for Hanno and the army generated included 10 cheap but effective units, including 2 of elephants! The spades drawn were more of a mixed bag.

Pay: D6 versus desertion (usually a D4)

Diplomacy: 50% of enemy mercenaries vulnerable to desertion.

Supply: 50% of units out of supply!!! (Obviously didn't realise how much fodder elephants require on a route march!)


Spendius' 2 points gave him 20 Florins to spend on the table (here), which gave him: 2 units of Numidian cavalry, 2 units of Libyan spearmen (one of them levy) and a unit of Spanish Scutarii. The spades gave

Diplomacy: 2 enemy units vulnerable to desertion

A strategy: Heroic commander. The sole Mercenary sub general is an inspiring commander, no units need take a morale test whilst he is on the field but he is at greater risk of dying if he leads a unit in combat. Useful against those elephants...


The armies deploy.


A tall order for the Mercenaries to hold the field, even with their pallisaded camp to defend and to make it worse I forgot to include their Spanish unit on the rosters (doh!)  The game was short and just about as disasterous as it could have been!  Half of the Mercenary Numidian cavalry were chased off the battlefield by Keltic foot warriors and the other half slowly engulfed by enemy cavalry whilst they sat there ineffectually. The elephants (despite being weakened by their lack of food and water) stormed into the Mercenary camp and trampled all over Libyan spearmen. The charismatic general routed away with them. A counter-attack by Spendius himself at the head of the remaining spearmen sent the elephants packing (and straight back towards the Carthaginian foot) but the Carthaginian Spaniards charged in turn and cut to pieces this final unit and killed Spendius during the fight!



Elephants break into the Mercenary camp.


Luckily for Spendius we will have to refight this one with all the soldiers present. We will perhaps increase the FLorins total to 15 per Recruitment point budgetted so that we get slightly larger games to fight.



The death of Spendius the Italian?

(As usual click on the images for larger versions.)

Return to the Punic Wars

Posted by Adam on March 16, 2014 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The wars between Carthage and Rome, being a period several of us have gamed for many years (decades in some cases!) we have sizable collections of figures available to set up scenarios with. However, now  we say a sad farewell to the veterans who have made up the lion's share of the Roman armies, as they march off into exile with their owner Mr Skinner (AWOL.)



Mainly Minifigs and Garrison figures I suspect, with a scattering of newer ranges too.


As the owner of the next largest Roman force I am feeling under pressure now to replace the absconding legions with units to bring my own army up to strength. I already have the figures in the leadpile so there is no financial hardship involved; just a re-jig of the painting queue. (This probably pushes my 16th C. Italian Wars project back towards the end of 2014.) My Republican Romans are in the main Wargames Foundry figures and are in my opinion still one of the best and most accurate ranges out there for this period (sculpted by the Perrys or Dave Gallagher I'm guessing.) . Compared to the 32mm+ size that new figures are turning up now, these guys are on the small side being "only" 27-28mm to the top of their heads. The detail is superb even including the engrave edge of the ontefortino helmets. I have command figures froma variety of sources (Gripping Beast, Navigator, 1st Corps and Crusader) to bring each unit to life with some individuality.



I have the 4th Legion completed  - 7 units of infantry in Piquet, and a couple of units done for the next Roman legion. This weekend I finished the cleaning up and gluing together ready for undercoating for the Triari and another unit of Hastati.

The Battle of Rossbach, Part 2

Posted by Adam on February 17, 2014 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

In our version of 1757 the Battle of Rossbach, (Part 1 here), did not pan out exactly as the overwhelming Prussian victory that could be expected. Unfortunately there are no first hand accounts from the participants (the lazy sods!) However the aftermath of the battle is recorded.


As the day of the battle drew to a close the Prussians, who had found it impossible to capitalise on their early success against the mounted vanguard of the Allies, were faced with a mass of French infantry well supported by cavalry and guns, marching towards their ad hoc battle line. The Prussian ambush had run out of steam and worse, one of their elite Grenadier regiments had been put to flight by the heroic Swiss of Regiment Diesbach. Only on the Prussian left were they having some success, as disciplined volleys were cutting down inferior Imperial regiments. Frederick had a difficult dilemma; stand and fight and risk his veterans being roughly handled, or attempt to break contact with the Allies and get his army to Silesia where they were desperately needed.


The choice was taken out of his hands when, against all military logic, General Soubise ordered a withdrawal of the French part of the Allied army. His decision could easily be justified by the imminent collapse of the Reichs regiments, holding his flank and the large formation of uncommitted Prussian Cuirassiers that were advancing to perhaps exploit the gap. The Reichs General Hildberghausen was predictably furious at this “betrayal” and loudly (and correctly) bemoaned the lost opportunity to cause real damage to Frederick’s army. Soubise however was acting in perfect accordance with the orders he had recently received from Versailles; to withdraw his entire force across the Main into winter quarters. So, the Prussians held the field although could hardly claim a victory.


Frederick however was not content to slip away to the east with the French retiring unmolested, a spring in their step and success against the vaunted Prussians to warm their hearts through the winter. The Prussian army watched by a few curious hussars marched east but once masked by the Janus hills did a 90 degree turn to head back past their original lines and towards the retiring Allied army. A hard march would be needed to catch up with the French column but with surprise on their side the entire enemy force could be at his mercy!

 

In fact the Allies know they are coming. The Austrian General von Loudon and French General St. Germaine have persuaded General Soubise to allow them to attempt to counter this Prussian thrust. Soubise has agreed with the warning that there will be no reinforcements or assistance if things go badly. (There is a small chance that disorganised remnants of the Reichsarmee might make an appearance.)

 

The Franco-Austrian briefing

The Allies drew 32 Morale Chips, an extra Heroic Moment card and a Strategem - reinforcements! Those Reichsarmee Imperial troops will be making an appearance after all (5 units in D6 turns after the Strategem card is turned.)

The Prussian Briefing

The Prussians drew 43 Morale Chips and an extra Infantry Move card. Also when rolling for their basic value dice (BDV) four of their eighteen units ended up with the maximum value of a D10.


The Prussians attacked in two directions from either side of the town of Groest. One column heading for the Zeuchfeld – Branderoda road the other for the Austrian rearguard deployed along the rocky slopes of Almsdorf Hill. The screening command of light forces and garrison regiments also headed towards the Austrians from the other direction. As the Prussians deployed in the open ground with their typical clockwork, precision, a nasty surprise became apparent. Sited on the crest of the ridge was a battery of French artillery unlimbered and with linstocks poised. The Prussian attack had clearly been anticipated… Worse was to follow. Cavalry flanquers and staff gallopers reported in that beyond the ridge lay a fully formed French army arrayed in battle formations and facing the direction that the Prussians were approaching from!

 

Initial deployments on the table.



The Austrian View

General von Loudon was forced to deploy his Grenzers across the Almsdorf Hill facing south, as any sign that his force was expecting the actual Prussian axis of attack would give away the element of surprise that the French were relying on. The Prussians tipped their hand as to their strategy when they pushed their light screen up close to the deployed Grenzers. It was then no surprise then when a command of Prussian elite foot regiments was hurled at the open flank of the Austrian command.


The Austro-Hungarian Rearguard clusterd around the Almsdorf Hill.


Despite being the cream of the Prussian assault force, the soldiers sent to root out the massed Grenzers on the Almsdorf Hill found themselves facing a difficult climb up the rocky and precipitous slopes (a type 3 hill in Piquet.) As the rigid line of Grenadiers sought a way up the side of the hill, the Grenzers at that end swung around and commenced to pour a murderous fire down on the brave Brandenburgers. Some veterans and non-commissioned officers tried to scramble up goat trails to get at their tormentors but, even if not up to the standards of a Prussian parade ground, the Croat volleys were very effective at cutting down all these attempts. After an hour of torment the Grenadiers had ceased to exist as a fighting force. Refusing to flee or take cover they stood in the withering fire until their supports shouldered their way through the pitifully depleted remnants to take up their turn in the attack. These veteran musketeers traded volleys with the Grenzers and started to whittle down their close-formed line. Slowly they worked their way closer to the enemy line; the routes up the hill were now visible, marked by the sun gleaming off the mitres of fallen grenadiers.


On the other side of the hill the Freikorps and Free battalions pressed on towards the Austrian rearguard. On their left the Prussian Szekely Hussar Regt raced towards their Hungarian opposite numbers who rapidly gave ground, although riding forwards in small groups to try to slow down the Prussians with potshots and skirmishing. The Prussians were not to be halted however and once the elite Hungarians found themselves pushed back upon their supporting heavy cavalry they had no choice but to reform their ranks and charge! The hussars caught Regiment Szekely at the full gallop but it did them no good. The compact formation of Prussian horsemen cut straight through the Hungarians, putting them to flight. Worse was to come. The immaculate Prussians reformed their ranks and charged again into the Austrian Cuirassiers of Regiment Tratmannsdorf, who had turned to counter their assault. The cuirassiers, who had been roughly handled two days earlier, counter-charged the rampant hussars but despite all the orthodox opinion they were soon, too, streaming away in defeat. [As a word of explanation for this unlikely double victory, the Prussian hussars had rolled the maximum value for their Basic Dice Value (BDV) - a 20 on a D20, so started with a distinct advantage over their opposition despite any apparent disparity in weight or tactical situation. Added to this the Austrian cuirassiers had been automatically rated as the worst BDV – battle weary, to recognise their being broken in the previous battle. Also the Prussians rolled nice high numbers on the dice which always helps.]

 

View along the French lines, the Prussian cuirassier brigade to the far left and in the distance the fight over the Almsdorf Hill.


North of the Almsdorf Hill the other half of the Prussian army advanced on the newly discovered enemy army. Five battalions assaulting more than twice their number; a magnificent sight! However much disdain Frederick had for the soldiery of his French opponent, he could not ignore that the French battery was soon cutting bloody swathes through the neat lines of the Prussian musketeers. The leading battalion march straight into the muzzles of the guns only to be reduced to ruins by the frantic salvos of grapeshot hurled by the enemy gunners into their ranks. As he urged his troops forward General of Infantry Fuerst von Anhalt-Dessau was stuck down by randon ball and carried from the field mortally wounded, a terrible loss for the Prussians. Despite this the Prussian attack passed by the battery like a tide lapping around a stubborn rock and the brave French gunners kept up their devastating fire throughout the rest of the battle.

 

The French guns looking very isolated as the Prussians advance.


The setback to his infantry may have been what caused Frederick to launch his brigade of cuirassiers at the steady line of waiting French foot but then again if ever there was a finer body of cavalry they too must have been favoured to sweep away the opposition with their charge. The Prussian squadrons advanced in turn as they crested the ridge. Only a thin shell of Swiss and German veterans stood between the galloping horsemen and the easy pickings of the inexperienced French second line. But stand they did. Loosing close range volleys and fending off the survivors with their gleaming bayonets. The remnants of the Garde du Corps regiment did charge through the fire and sabred down the Swiss of Regiment Wittmer but this was the solitary success of the day for the Cuirassiers. It was during these charges that Major-General von Seydlitz had his horse shot out from under him and was too badly injured to take any further part in the battle. [The loss of a second general was a dramatic blow for the Prussians. Under Piquet their sequence deck would now be losing a card permanently every turn, representing the permanent damage to the army command. Two generals meant two cards lost per turn and Seydlitz Brilliant Subordinate card. The Prussians would be finding it much harder to do what they wanted when they wanted from now on.]

 


The French had their weaker infantry in reserve and enthusiastic if outnumbered cavalry in the rear.

Now the Prussian infantry got to grips with their French counterparts and in the close range firefight their drill gave them the advantage. Also, on their left the Austrian Grenzers had finally been evicted from the top of the Almsdorf Hill. This had come at the cost of almost half of the assaulting Prussians and the death of a third Prussian general! The carnage amongst his senior officers and the sight of Austrian cuirassiers charging through the gap in his lines, chasing routing musketeer,s was enough for Frederick. He ordered the recall to be sounded and the Prussians extricated themselves (with great difficulty) and marched back the way they had come.


 


This was an interesting game to plan. The Prussians had the advantage in quality in horse, foot and guns, and I was getting quite nervous about the Allies prospects as the soldiers were being organised out of their boxes. However the faulty Prussian intelligence did catch the Prussian players unawares and I suspect they would have chosen where they attacked differently if they had known they were facing a numerous and well-organised enemy army. As it was, the choice to send one of the infantry commands to assist in rooting out the Grenzers on their steep hill fatally weakened the main Prussian attack and it was too damaged once the task was achieved to materially affect the rest of the battle. A facinating game.



The final dispositions before the Prussians were forced to throw in the towel.



 The lone French battery of medium artillery were undoubtedly one of the deciding factors in the battle.