|Posted by Adam on September 24, 2020 at 5:00 PM||comments ()|
This was the last game we played before the current Covid madness crashed down on us. The first dozen units of my Bactrian Greek army had been staring at me accusingly from their shelf. Really needed to get them onto a table for that tricky first run out and Les agreed to try them out versus his contemporary Mauryan Indians (brave man!) I was volunteered to do the rosters for the armies and having see the Indians poor performance at the Battle Day game of The Hydaspes I knew it was going to be tricky to balance the encounter.
Bactrian Greek pike phalanx with Agema cavalry in support.
First of all the Indians would need numbers on their side. In Piquet a single fresh unit of reserves can turn a battle but they would need more than one. I opted for 16 units for the Indians, 12 for the Greeks, a 33% advantage. The details of the Indian force was based on the figures available. There were three elephant units so I pencilled those in straight away (I actually miscounted and we could have double that up to 6 units using elements of elephant escorts; but who needs more than three?!) The Indian cavalry are no great shakes so I opted to use them all - 4 units. Also a unit of chariots, light or heavy, they are equally useless. For the infantry the choice was confined to close order bowmen. I added in 8 units, 4 as mercenaries and 4 as militia.
Right wing of the Indian army.
The Indian foot are generally taken to be armed with substantial swords perhaps used two-handed. This would appear to make them a very dangerous close combat opponent but historically they don’t really live up to this, being specifically described as rarely used, by Megasthenes (A Selucid Greek ambassador to Indian courts of the time.) “Indians do not readily fight so amongst themselves” being his assessment. It is curious that soldiers would carry a large and presumably expensive piece of kit if they are not keen on getting stuck in with it. I wonder if it had a more symbolic function; the identifier of its owner as a warrior perhaps?
Left wing and centre of the Indian army (just look at all those elephants!)
The Bactrian Greeks would have 12 units (which matched up neatly with my specifically Bactrian figures.) The available cavalry included 2 units of Iranian / Greek colonist lancers also armed with bows. A unit of guard cavalry or Agema, also lance and bow armed. The fourth unit was a mercenary Skythian horse archer contingent. A solitary unit of elephants was included, pretty much compulsory for this army. The foot was composed of the phalanx; trained militia so competent but not amazing. I classed their armour as only light assuming it was all fabric or leather based with bronze helmets but only small pelta type shields. The two units of mercenary Thorakites were similar but with medium armour classification due to their much more substantial shields. This just left a sole unit of Cretan mercenaries, who are classed as Regular missile specialists. They are armed with bows as well as sword and shield.
Right wing of the Bactrian Greek army.
The battle itself saw the Indians line up in a fairly conventional manner with the elephants masking the infantry centre and the right of the line. On their left they massed ¾ of their cavalry on the more open flank with heavy chariots to the fore. Across the field from them the Greeks likewise massed their cavalry and then lined up their phalanx with a unit of Thorakites on each end, the whole line echeloned to the right. On the Greek left was the Cretan archer unit supported by the rather smaller contingent of elephants. The guard Agema were stationed to the rear.
Mercenary thorakites and Cretans protect the Bactrian Greek left.
The Greek first move was to throw forward their Skythian light cavalry to harass the Indian chariots. The bowfire was ineffective but it did prevent the chariots closing with the rest of the Greek cavalry. Following up behind were the Bactrian-Greek lancers (who would have been mostly local Iranians.) These were shot at and thrown into disorder by the Indian chariots as they closed but still pressed home their charge. The lancers own bowfire was also desultory and due to their fighting a disordered formation, the Indians were able to initiate melee immediately. Under Piquet rules however chariots are good shooting platforms and can cause morale checks but are at a disadvantage against cavalry in melee. This offset the disorder of their opponents and the chariots were narrowly beaten and attempted to flee. Not being able to outrun cavalry they took a lot of damage before scattering (off table.) The pursuing lancers now careered into a unit of steady light Indian cavalry. The Indians charged home but against heavier horses and well armoured riders they were again at a disadvantage and immediately broke and fled.
Elephants confront the pike phalanx in the centre.
In the centre the Indian Elephants rolled forward in a stately manner, carefully maintaining their unbroken line but slowed by the low hills they had to navigate. The front unit of the Greek echelon moved up to challenge for the ground and the pike phalanx edged forward so that its flanks rested on low hills. On the left Cretan archers (well-trained mercenaries) skirmished forwards through the woods to dispute that flank with yet more Indian elephants. The Cretans advanced and let fly but were soon running for the cover of the woods as the elephants trundled forwards.
Cretans skulking in the woods.
With the elephants in the centre slowing down their ponderous advance on the pike phalanx and showing no appetite to tackle the mass of spearpoints, the action swung back to the main cavalry flank. The victorious Greek cavalry had reined in from their pursuit but were now charged again by yet another unit of Indian cavalry. With the intervention of their general they just managed to reorder their ranks before the enemy made contact. The result was again the same massacre of the lighter unarmoured Indians. They fled but this time the Greeks did not pursue. (Luckily as they would have gone straight off the table. Instead the opportunity was there ahead of them, the rear of the Indian battle line!
The Bactrian lancers reformed themselves into a fast-moving road column and galloped around the flank of the Indian army. Just in time the Indians had the chance to about turn their back rank of units and avoid a bloody disaster. However one element of the army was not safe(?) behind the row of infantry, their King. Despite being on an elephant he was much too vulnerable against roving cavalry and almost certainly about to be captured or slain. We gave up the game at this point. Mainly in disgust at the ineptitude of the Indian army overall. The discussion was started however as to how to use them to any effect and some ideas were proposed for serious thought. The very clear lesson from the battle was the utter uselessness of Indian cavalry! They have light horses and no armour but do not skirmish or even have a missile weapon!
We will try some tweaks to make the Indians at least playable but trying to stay the right side of history. I still believe that the army is more about causing the enemy to run away, with the Piquet mechanism that allows elephants and chariots to initiate morale challenges and doing that early and often. In addition, our house rule making the infantry swordsmen Fearsome when within a move of the enemy, gives another possibility to damage the enemy morale (automatic morale check if the “Courage!” card is turned.) A few units that are a bit more capable in melee is the missing part of this army and not beyond the bounds of possibility considering they had previously encountered Alexander the Great and seen how it was done properly. Veteran mercenaries or hired foreigners might be a rationalisation for these more capable units. The other route to take is that we use the Indians mainly as allies of the Indo-Greek army and our battles will be the all too typical Indo-Greeks against their countrymen from Bactria.
Indian cavalry about to charge rallying Bactrian lancers in the flank.
|Posted by Adam on March 3, 2020 at 2:20 PM||comments ()|
I thought I'd get some boats on the table this weekend and try out a set of rules. I had bought an electronic copy of Galleys and Galleons by Ganesha Games and liked the way it looked on the page. The proof is, as ever, in the pudding however... I decided to try the rules solo, as written to see how the gameplay felt. Obviously I had already started tweaking the rules to do things they way I wanted (Why am I like this!?! I started wargaming at the height of WRG and Barkerism; I should be accepting the words as written on the holy page!) I decided to use the three ship models that I have based and ready to go (I have a few others painted but not based.)
The two sides were an English Merchant Galleon and a pair of Dutch privateers; a sloop and a Brigantine. The rules come with multiple scales so that it can be used with smaller playing areas and different sizes of model ships. I used a card table, which worked fine for this size of encounter. The ships are characterised by just two statistics: their Quality and their Combat value. The Combat score for a ship cannot be more than 1 point higher than the Quality score, so this means that the larger ships with higher Combat scores are at a disadvantage when rolling for initiative. So really Quality is a slight misnomer, it is more like a combination of agility and crew quality, whatever the naval word for that should be. The upshot is that smaller vessels can be easier to activate giving them a balancing advantage against gun-laden behemoths.
In my small playtest the English galleon outgunned either of its Dutch opponents individually but I was interested to see if the quality advantage swung things back their way. I decided the best tactic for the Dutch was to try to get on both sides of the enemy ship to try for a raking shot and the threat of boarding from two directions. The English weren’t too keen on this outcome so used the wind advantage to try to pick on the sloop before the combined attack could develop. This was when I realised that, as a merchant ship, the English galleon had a minus on all shooting so was hard pressed to cause damage to the enemy. Luckily for the English my aggressive tactics caused the Dutch sloop to miscalculate its course and collide with the stern of the English ship. Now the Dutch (and me) discovered that this was a bad idea against a ship with a reinforced hull and took 2 damage. The decision to grapple and board was equally poor against a high sided galleon and the sloop took another point of damage as their boarding party was repelled.
The sloop’s heroics/idiocy did pin the English ship in place long enough for the Dutch brigantine to fire a close range broadside into her. This caused major rigging damage and a permanent loss of speed for the galleon. The sloop took the first opportunity to cut grapples and put some distance between them. With three hits it counted as “crippled”. The sloops three white initiative dice had now all changed to red and each time a 1 is rolled on activation something bad will happen including the chance they will surrender to a nearby enemy. Any further damage once crippled causes a critical hit which includes the chance of sinking or catching fire.
The remaining Dutch privateer was finding out the hard way that it had perhaps bitten off more than it could chew. Although it damaged the St George (the English galleon) even a raking shot was not fatal against the galleon’s reinforced hull. The English ship was quite prepared to battle it out but a slight change in the wind direction meant that it woul;d have to turn into the wind to get closer to the brigantine. With the damaged rigging this was going to be a slow affair. I decided to stop there as a decisive outcome was looking unlikely.
I did enjoy the short playtest of Galleys and Galleons. I do like the activation mechanism where there is an inbuilt risk in trying to do too much with any one ship and worse outcomes possible once damaged. The rules are at the simple end of the scale but with interesting tailoring possible for individual ships by applying different characteristics (for example the sloop had “Razée” which allows additional move distance and the Galleon had “Reinforced Hull”, as previously mentioned.) There is little in the way of book-keeping required, although I will probably make up ship sheets as a reminder of which characteristics a vessel has and the effect during the game. Definitely worth trying some more and I can already see possibilities of house rules that I might try. (I know, I know… )
|Posted by Adam on July 26, 2019 at 2:05 PM||comments ()|
We had the little used 15mm armies for a run out last weekend. The later Republican Romans masquerading as Caeser's army on an expedition across the Rhine. Les had amalgamated the allied contingents of several armies to produce a veritable horde of ferocious Germans. The Germans outnumbered the Roman army by about 2 to 1 in units. They were however outclassed in quality and armour, also the Romana had a more efficient Sequence Deck (3 Leader Check cards and no Milling Around for example.)
With just two command groups and no cavalry, the German options were tpo be a bit limited (and rightly so.) My plan (such as it was) consisted of a right hook with all my veteran units and the sole Hearth Guard unit attacking the Roman left. They had a line of standard Warriors to their front to absorb the Roman pila, allowing the second line to charge in and win the day! The standard Warriors would suffer badly from missile fire having only a feeble shield for protection (very light armour class.) The Veterans have only a marginal upgrade (light armour) indicating a slightly sturdier shield or maybe a helmet.
My only other strategem was to line one of my skirmisher units along the forest edge on the Roman right flank. This was to suggest that ambushing units were lurking therein. I'm not sure that they fell for it however.
The battle went about as well as was possible for the German side. The Battle Lust card came up at a very opportune moment. This card acts as an extra Melee Resolution card and gives the Germans a bonus in melee as well. The flip side is that victorious units have no choice but to pursue. Also every unit under Battle Lust that is within a move of the enemy must move into contact using up impetus to do so. The unfortunate timing for the Romans was that they had not had a chance to react to the overlapping German units on their left. This meant that the Battle Lusted Germans were forced to turn and fling themselves at this open flank. A combination of frontal attacks, this flanking charge and rotten dice rolls caused this Roman flank to crumple and several units to rout to the rear.
The third line of Romans (near the corner of the rulebook) watch as their colleagues ahead of them are roughly handled.
With the sucess of the left of the German army (even before the decent veteran units had got involved) the left hand command of the army was also ordered forward. The skirmish line of bowmen was successful in diaordering some of the leading Roman units and the Romans sensibly refused to waste their pila on these light infantry. When they did brush aside the skirmish line the disorganised attack was less effective that the Romans needed to swing the battle back their way. To add to their woes the bowmen along the edge of the forest moved up to pepper the unshielded flank of the advancing Romans.
Fleeing Romans in the centre being pursued between their own lines.
The hard fighting and requirement to rally disordered units had quickly depleted the Roman supply of Morale Chips (these represent the overall staying power of an army, they are redusced by casualties and routs and spent on rallying or forcing enemy morale checks.) The final straw for the Romans was when the victorious German units that had pursued routers through the intervals in the Roman army finally had a chance to halt their pursuit (their enemy had routed off table). They both managed to halt and turn around. This now resulted in the Roman left being both depleted and surrounded. They were also (although not aware of it) about to face the better elements of the Geerman army (my cunning right hook plan.) Theis was a sensible place to finidsh our game with effectively no hope for a Roamn victory.
This decisive victory was acheived in effectively one turn of the game of Archon. The Romans really needed to hold on and be viable into a second turn when the Battle Lust card would no longer be in effect. It really did highlight that it is not enough in this rule set to have all the advantages in quality and equipment; the smaller better army needs to win the initiative and choose where the action will take place. Good dice rolls is also useful.
Caesar contemplates a rare reverse in his glittering carreer (obviously an off-day!)
|Posted by Adam on June 3, 2018 at 12:35 PM||comments ()|
We finally got some figures on the table. As we had a last minute loss of nerve about the quantity of young nerds at the Wayland Games venue (being ourselves very much old school nerds) we decided to do a game that would fit on my own dining table. Donnybrook was the obvious choice to me, so I told Les to bring his appropriately based ECW figures over.
A previous Donnybrook game set in the Highlands
Rooting around for some scenery the first box that came to hand was a big bunch of adobe buildings. This got me thinking about perhaps a North African scenario but something different to the English garrison at Tangiers. This brought to mind a plan suggested by the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in a series of essays to Louis XIV that he should invade Egypt in 1671 rather than Holland. Whether this was just an attempt to deflect Louis from attacking a fellow Christian nation or a real attempt to build a coalition against the Ottoman Empire, it is one of history's great what-ifs.
This was enough justification to set a scenario in Egrypt with a French force (including Scots mercenaries) looking to capture supplies in a small town. The first question was did I have enough figures to stand in for the Egyptian force? Luckily an Ottoman army is a long term project of mine so I had ten Sipahi heavy cavalry just sitting there on the shelf. Some generic turbanned cavalry who have represented Arabs from the 7th Century through to the 19th contributed another two units and some Afghan musketeers stepped in as Egyptian militia.
The French had four companies of musketeers in their raiding force (2 French 2 Scots) and an Elite detatchment of pikemen. The Egyptians had two units of Elite armoured Mamluke lancers, two of drilled native light horse and a unit of a dozen recruit level local militian with muskets. Never having used a Tribal force in Donnybrook before I used one of each of the character types including: an Imam, a Weapons Master and a Fearless Warrior (a lone lunatic with a two handed sword.)
We are a bit rusty with the rules so probably made many mistakes but it wa great fun to fling tribal cavalry in with reckless abandon, who then mostly got shot out of their saddles!
My Egyptian militia flung themselves into the town with the Imam cheering them on from the rear with a few choice quotes from the Koran. Easy to disdain but they can cause some casualties with their twelve musket shots. Luckily they didn't get into a stand up fight with eith er of the superior Scots mercenary companies.
We ran out of time to fight it to a conclusion (I think you resigned yes, Les? ) I was lining up to trample the French commander beneath the hooves of Sipahi unit as he was accompanied by only two remaining pikemen. If they didn't get him Khalil Ahabbi was sneaking up with his big chopper!
As a game a bit of fun and a good remonder that it is easy to knock together a scratch force just from ods and ends of figures I have sitting around. The Arab with a two handed sword I bought in a pack of Citadel men at arms when I was about twelve!
|Posted by Adam on November 30, 2017 at 3:25 PM||comments ()|
Our first run out with new toy soldiers and the draft amendments for the Donnybrook rules was arranged for the weekend. Based around the figures that I had already painted and suitable ones from our collections, the scenario was a scouting mission by a small British force. This comprised of a squad of Heligoland Garrison Regiment (Inexperienced, 12 figures + a sergeant, D6) and three volunteer detachments of veteran British reinforcements. These were from the Grenadier Guards, Suffolk Regiment and Seaforth Highlanders. All regiments with experienced hands who had seen a lot of action recently in India. These were all Veteran, 4 figures, D10. The party was under the command of Lieutenant Delacroix of the Garrison Regiment but with instructions to listen to the advice of the Colour Sergeant of the Highlanders. The Grenadiers, being an advance party without any officers were accompanied by Major Rumbol-Smythe, as theirs was a regiment he had once been seconded to for a mission in the Congo.
The briefing was to investigate a report that a German ship had been seen docked at a secluded landing stage on the estuary of the Jagstavon. Discovering what they were up to and stopping it, if possible, was to be attempted if the reports were true.
The German force which was instructed to protect the cargo whilst being unloaded and then until transport arrived to take it inland. To carry out this task the lucky German officer Hauptman Schultz had a squad of the 49th Regiment of Infantry (8 figures, Drilled + a sergeant, D8) Arriving with the cargo steamer was a Seebattalion squad (8 figures, Drilled + a sergeant, D8) and enough spare sailors to provide another squad (8 figures, Drilled + a coxwain, D8). They also had a machine gun…
The landing stage had a small clump of industrial buildings and stockades clustered around it. IT was around these that Hauptman Schultz deployed his troops but close to the gangplanks in case a large enemy force turned up. This allowed the British to infiltrate the buildings without coming under too much fire. The Garrison Regiment occupied a large building that overlooked the landing stage with the intention of punning down the Germans whilst smaller parties worked their way around the left flank to catch them in a crossfire.
The plan worked well. The Garrison squad took a casualty as they milled around trying to get through a door and the Seaforths had one unlucky Highlander hit by a German bullet but the were soon able to start a close range fire on the enemy infantry huddled behind crates and bales. The Germans found themselves being whittled away and when Schultz sent his group of sailors in to shore up the position they took a terrific hail of bullets trying to cross a wall. The remnants of the Reichmarine party hunkered down but were eventually sent retreating back on board the steamer.
On the left the Seebattalion were making very slow progress and their machine gun seemed to take an age to get into the action. When it opened fire the machine gun was able to kill several of the Garrison Regiment in the top floor of their building but not enough to drive them back. The Seebattalion riflemen worked their way into the rear of the British in the meantime and opened fire on the flank of the Suffolks, killing one private before they knew where the attack was coming from. This was potentially bad news for the British. All their soldiers were engaged in the firefight with nobody left to respond to the flank attack.
The crumbling position of the rest of the German force, particularly after one of their sergeants was hit (50% casualties and morale check time) now prevented the Seebattalion pressing their advantage. Hauptman Schultz was forced to order a retreat. Under covering fire from the machinegun, the Germans dragged their wounded onto the steamer and slipped the hawsers to rapidly move away from the shore.
The Heligoland Garrison Regiment had soundly beaten the invaders (with a little help.) The delivery of supplies had been stopped but still it was not known. What was this mysterious cargo?
|Posted by Adam on October 15, 2017 at 5:15 PM||comments ()|
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.)
|Posted by Adam on May 20, 2017 at 7:45 PM||comments ()|
I fished out an old Tabletop Teaser scenario for our most recent game. Called "Wagon Train" it is a convoy of vital supplies to a fort or town; with one side trying to stop the wagon train and the other side trying to protect the wagons. We hadn't had the medieval figures out of their boxes for many months so I set this scenario in the Italian Wars with a Milanese wagon train being intercepted by a French force.
I had decided to concentrate on the day to day mercenary and utilitarian troop type for this game rather than the battlefield elites (knights and good quality pikeblocks.) The Milanese had a choice of two directions to come onto the table or to split their force. They decided to go for "B".
The Milanese led the convoy with their only unit of Knights (somewhat unenthusiastic Condotta kinights...) Their main issue was starting the game in march column as a formation chage card proved very elusive. The column very quickly ground to a halt whilst the knights desperately tried to chnge into a battle formation. The "Deploy" card was difficult to turn when they kept getting measly amounts of initiative and being forced to discard useful cards. (This was partly a poorly remembered part of the rules for initiative - my fault there!)
Frustrated by his situation, the Milanese general sent his Condotta knights gallopping down the road with the intention of alerting the town garrison and triggering assistance from that direction. This bold move was however what the French crossbows had been stationed in the woods to counter. Their volley of bolts ripped into the passing column emptying many saddles.
To really make their day, the knights next found themselves being charged by a scabby squadron of segeants, who fancied their chances against the depleted and surprised knights. Predictably the Italians crossed swords for a few moments before breaking and heading for the safety of the town. It was very much a Phyrric victory for the sergeants as their charge and partial pursuit took them well within range of the cannons on the town walls. They quickly found their range and stone shot was soon tearing through the victorious horsemen, prompting them to retire out of range.
Behind the wagon traffic jam some more of the guards had made their tortuous way onto the table. This was more than balanced by the entrance (random timed event) of a unit of Swiss mercenaries from the north edge of the table. The mercenary pikemen were quite keen but unarmoured which could be fatal in the crossbow rich setting they found themselves in.
The depleted Frenchsergeants cantered back along the road to see what more mischeif they could get into. Teh Milanese were pushing marching columns of foot past the wagons to give them some cover but the need for speed was leaving them vulnerablwe in their columns of route formation.
The Milanese militia were not too shabby (or they might have been hangunners, either way they didn't get to use their missile weapons!) In hand to hand they were almost the equal of the Sergeants. However even in their depleted state the French horsemen were able to beat a unit in march column.
More bad news for the Milanese was another unit of good quality mercenary crossbows marching to the sound of the guns. In a fit of enthusiasn the French general also flung forward his Italian levies, which may not have been a realistic threat in a stand up fight but added to the pressure on the stymied relief column. In an attempt to turn the momentum the rallied Condotta knights and some mounted crossbows from the town garrison sallied out to worry the French about their exposed position.
The heroic sergeants finally pushed their luck too far as they sautered past the set up Milanese crossbows. The unit was pincushioned and the sad remnants left the field. This did though open the way for the Swiss to charge into the wagon convoy before any of the covering Milanese units could interpose themselves. The Swiss duly chopped heir way through the wagons, not even bothering to capture any of the contents for their starving French colleagues! With the convoy destroyed there was no more point to any heroics and the Milanese retired to leave the town garrison to their fate.
The main learning points for me for scenario design was that it does not take many units present on the tabletop to give the players plenty of challenges and a lot to think about. (Maybe with a full army of 15-20 units the loss of one is a more slight psychological impact than when you have just a handful...) It also showed up that there is no foolproof initiative system (we used a card based one so that the balance between red and blue would even out but I did slightly misinterpret the rule for discarding action cards and it hit the Milanese side at the worst possible time in the game (mea culpa.) Despite being outnumbered the entire game the French side took their chances and used the freedom of movement to maximum effect.
|Posted by Adam on March 29, 2017 at 8:55 AM||comments ()|
Last weekend we brought together most of the Gallic/ Keltic troops that we all have in 25mm. These amounted to approximately: 320 infantry, 70+ cavalry and 8 chariots.
There was some initial fiddling about with an idea for a four way micro-campaign but we ultimately decided to do a straight forward tabletop encounter with the majority of the foot figures fighting in 2 loose alliances. Each player had 3 units of veteran warriors and 4 of normal tribal soldiers. Althjough this might sound like a predictable force In the Piquet Archon rules every unit has a Basic Dice Value that their combat skills and Morale value are developed from.
The result of this is that any unit can start the game with an average value, battle weary, enthusiastic or keen as mustard! The variation is on a simple bell curve with only the score of 1 to 4 and 17 to 20 on a twenty sided dice (D20) changing the BDV from an average D6. Pluses and minuses on this dice roll can be quite powerful, but it is a nice simple way to incorporate effects such as good, veteran troops being shorrt of supplies or other reasons to be under-motivated.
Once we had rolled for the BDV values Nick had the most gung-ho enthusiastic command any of us had ever seen, Jim and Adam had average troops and Les was lumbered with a sorry pack of battle weary skivers! Even though we all had identical troop rosters it meant that every one was different with it's own unique character. What strategy we adopted was only partly based on these differences. Adam attempted (with some success) to draw away a part of Nick's command so that Jim could crush the remainder. Despite Nick feeding his heroes into the fray piecemeal Jim's progress was positive quite slow.
Last unit of naked Gaesati about to be engulfed...
On the other flank, Adam's gambit to draw the enemy his way reaped it's rewards as every unit of his Kelts managed to lose the close combats the got into. So, a victory to Les and Nick and a nice occasion to see a lot of our various collections of Gauls/ Kelts on the table.
|Posted by Adam on January 28, 2017 at 7:35 PM||comments ()|
Our game last weekend saw the welcome return of our Bronze Age armies to the table and the debut of a new army. As we were getting the 28mm figures out of their boxes we wondered aloud why we had left it so long between games with these appealing looking armies. Lots of different reasons combined I suspect but I was a bit nervous of the reason being that the rules we favour for ancient games (Piquet: Archon) not really working for this sub-period.
The Allied army deployed.
The newbies appearing for their first game were Les's Hebrew army; an Ebay purchase that had been waiting patiently for some time to be rebased. As most of the figures we own are solidly of the golden age of chariot warfare (New Kingdom Egypt, the Hittites and Canaanite city states) these residents of the Levant would be of a slightly later period. Although we are not too prissy about strict historicity of our wargames, I decided that Les's new boys would on this occasion represent their probable ancestors, the semi-nomadic hill tribes that eventually coalesced into the Israelite nation. These are probably what the Egyptians termed "Apiru" or "Habiru" so that was good enough for me.
The Habiru army deployed with skirmishing Edomite mercenaries leading the way.
The slight issue this left was the decent sized chariot force in the army. Strictly speaking the Habiru would not have fielded them, being unsuitable for very hilly terrain and very much associated with the ruling class of the city resident Canaanites. My way around this was to label the chariot part of the army as semi-willing allies from Canaanite towns that the Habiru had already conquered. (Probably using unorthodox tactics involving trumpets!) The game scenario was thus fleshing itself out nicely. We would have a Habiru host with a lot of good quality spear wielding infantry some mercenary bowmen and allied chariots on one side. On the other would be a scratch coalition from the Canaanites and Syrian city states and some reinforcements sent by their Hittite and Egyptian overlords to try to nip the chaos in the bud.
Allied right wing chariots; Egyptians, Philistines and Syrians.
I thought it would be interesting to see how well the elite chariots of the Allies would be able to handle large quantities of good quality infantry, usually a rarity in this period. (That is a generalisation of course, the Egyptians can field a core of well trained infantry in this period but most armies rely on the chariot as the main, and sometimes only, strikeforce.) With an advantage in numbers and quality of chariots the Allies would however be balanced by having a small infantry force, with a preponderance of levied spearmen. It being assumed that the Hittites and Egyptians have sent only chariots due to the speed required in responding to the crisis.
Allied foot, mainly levied Syrian spearment.
The Habiru Army
5 units of trained militia spearmen with shields
2 units of Gibborim (Regular Guardsmen) with body armour and shields
3 units of Edomite bowmen (skirmishers)
6 units of Allied Canaanite chariots, all 2nd rate Militia (being unwilling allies and their best cadre already dead or exiled.)
Unenthusiastic allied chariots of the Habiru army.
The Allied Army
2 units of Hittite chariots, both well armoured, one of them elite
2 units of NK Egyptian chariots, both well armoured, one of them elite
4 units of vassal chariots, a mix of Canaanites, Mittanians and Anatolians, all competent.
3 units of Syrian levy spearmen, 2nd rate militia
1 unit of Canaanite palace guard, armoured regulars with bows
1 unit of Levy Syrian bowmen, 2nd rate militia
1 unit of mercenary Shosu skirmishers, javelins, no armour
Apart from driving the enemy from the field the two armies also had secret objectives: The Habiru needed to capture and destroy an old pagan altar beneath a ruined royal pillar and the Allies needed to occupy and hold the central pass through the hills. As always with scenario construction it is tricky to get the balance perfect, With hindsight the quality difference between the chariot forces may have been too great but then I was concerned that the Allied chariots were going to have to do the bulk of the work in stopping the enemy infantry. The chariots do have an Achilles heel in that they only take 2 hits per base from shooting or melee, so can quickly evaporate if things do not go their way.
The ruined Royal Pillar and altar.
The game was staged at our usual venue in Coggeshall which, although mid-renovation, was warmer and brighter than previously at this time of year. The armies (new and old) looked suitably impressive deployed on the table and my new piece of resin scenery, the Royal Pillar, looked fab! In Piquet games we have tried a variety of initiative systems, mainly to try to mitigate against some legendary poor dicing performances. For this game we used a deck of playing cards to ENSURE a balance of black and red initiative. Naturally the Habiru got about the first 25 point of initiative!
The Allied chariotry await their Habiru opposite numbers.
The Habiru generals used their initiative windfall to push forward their chariot force to engage the right wing of the Allied army. Here they had superior numbers having concentrated all their chariots on one wing (6 units) against half of the Allies (4 units.) The hills across the centre of the table did cause some problems with manoeuvring the chariots but they were still swift enough to be the first part of the army to engage. Although the Habiru chariots were outclassed in quality some lucky dice did intervene as they rolled for their basic battle readiness. Three rolls of 18 on a 20-sided dice gave them some chariot warriors who were well up for a fight. The leading Egyptian unit also rolled a 20, so there could be no complaints except from me. My dice have NEVER performed like that when I am rolling them!
The Habiru army heads for their secret objective.
The first fight went the way of the Habiru. Deadly bowfire was followed up by a move into contact and the Syrian charioteers were soon streaming away in rout. The Egyptian chariots struck back but early in the game the Allies on their right wing found themselves with one unit in rout and two disordered versus a wave of yet uncommitted enemy chariots. The odds were on quality winning however unless the better troops rolled a 1 on the dice. They rolled a 1 (one of Jim's few poor rolls of the day to be fair...) The Habiru unit needed anything but a 1 to rout them and leave the Allies flank in ruins. A massacre of levied foot was sure to follow. The Habiru chariots also rolled a 1! By the skin of their teeth the Allied chariots had held the line.
Chariots tangle amidst the hills.
The rest of the Habiru army steadily advanced towards the hills and their target at the Royal Pillar. The Alied response was to keep the levy foot skulking at the baseline whilst just the Shosu and Palace Guard advanced towards the central pass. On the Allied left the other half on their chariots headed forward to tackle the Habiru foot.
The Habiru horde occupy the pass through the hills.
My initial concern about the Archon 2 rules facility with representing the chariots was misplaced. The rules deal with the interaction of more or less mobile troop types with the Melee Qualification Table. This dictates which troops may melee opposing formation types. The light chariots when contacted by formed foot have the choice of evading away or staying to fight. This makes the chariots very powerful in this period as they can choose to fight when they have the advantage (such as when they have first disordered the enemy with bowfire.) Seems fair enough for the late Bronze Age when the chariot was the king of the battlefield.
The left wing Allied chariots employed just these tactics. One squadron charging in after disordering the enemy foot with their bows. Another backing off when their shooting was less effective. Although the Habiru foot could keep chasing after the evading chariots they would risk being isolated and charged from all sides.
Anatolian and Hittite chariots deal with the Habiru foot who have no chariot support on this flank.
Both flnks were now looking dicey for the Habiru. When they next turned their "Appeal to Jehovah" card the Habiru generals decided now was the time to try it. They did successfully roll the dice score needed (less than their number of routing units) to gain a bonus on all future melee and morale dice, but was it too little too late? The Habiru's Canaanite allies flung their last reserves at the enemy chariots but were beated back. They had however held the flank long enough for the Habiru bowmen to occupy the Royal Pillar.
Edomite bowmen capture the hilltop with the Royal Pillar and temple.
On every movement card the Habiru players were now able to try an engineering test to destry the altar. Unfortunately even with the Jehovah bonus it was a struggle to beat a D8 with a D6. The Habiru flanks were imminently about to crumble, and now the Allied players knew that something was up. A "Heroic Moment " card was turned for the Habiru and I offered that an unusually strong and hirsuite Habiru soldier would have the chance on this card to bring down the temple on himself, destroying the altar and his own unit of bowmen. With the Heroic Moment bonus a D8 vs a D8. They rolled and succeeded!
The temple comes crashing down wiping out the Edomite skirmishers, I wonder if their heroic captain will be remembered?
As the Habiru would not be able to defend the pass for much longer I ruled that there would be nothing to stop the Allied army completing their objective of taking the pass post game. Thus the game was a draw, maybe a winning draw to the Allied army having had much the better of the combats on the battlefield.
It was good to get the chariots on the table after a long absence. Although the Habiru generals felt hard done by that their chariotry was so outclassed, they almost won the game for them. It cam edown to a couple of crucial dice rolls that could have gone either way. The rules seem to give the chariots a distinct flavour, making them very effective but not unkillable tanks. I am sure we will have these boys back in action very soon.
|Posted by Adam on July 30, 2016 at 7:00 PM||comments ()|
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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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The second repercussion was my Pindari cavalry getting shot to pieces by the infantry they were trying to pick on.
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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.
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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.)
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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.
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