Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Battle of Sabugal 04 Apr 1811 - A Polemos Refight

Prolific games writer Howard Whitehouse (now part of the Pulp Action Library team) wrote a scenario for the combat of Sabugal back in Miniature Wargames 37.

 It was in the Arthur Harman style, with detailed player briefings and the expectation of an umpire: perfect for a great evening of club play.  However, as a solo player, I had to try and make it work rather differently - see the Game Notes at the end for the mechanics of this.

Orders of Battle:

The Anglo-Portuguese Army: 

C-in-C Lord Wellington (Decisive)

Light Division: Erskine (Plodding)
Beckwith's Bde: 1 Vet/El Infantry SK2, 1 Vet Infantry SK1, 1 Trained Infantry SK2, 1 x 6lb Hs Bty
Drummond's Bde: 1 Vet/El Infantry SK2, 1 Vet Infantry SK2, 1 Vet Infantry SK1, 1 Trained Infantry SK2
Slade's Bde: 2 x Veteran Dragoons, 1 x Veteran Light Cavalry
Arendtschildt's Bde: 3 x Veteran Light Cavalry

Drummond's Brigade arrives after 6 turns (c.30 minutes); the Cavalry and Erskine himself after 12 turns (1 hour)

3rd Division: Picton (Decisive)
Mackinnon's Bde: 1 x Veteran Infantry SK2, 3 x Veteran Infantry SK1
Colville's Bde: 1 x Veteran Infantry SK2, 3 x Veteran Infantry SK1
Power's Bde (Portuguese): 3 x Trained Infantry SK1
Arty: 1 x 6lb Ft Bty

5th Division: Dunlop (Plodding)
Hay's Bde: 1 x Veteran Infantry SK2, 2 x Veteran Infantry SK1
Dunlop's Bde: 1 x Veteran Infantry SK2, 2 x Veteran Infantry SK1
Spry's Bde: 1 x Trained Infantry SK2, 2 x Trained Infantry SK1
Arty: 1 x 6lb Ft Bty

French II Corps: Reille (Capable)

1st Division: Merle (Capable)
Sarrut's Bde: 1 x Trained Infantry SK2, 4 x Trained Infantry SK1
2nd Bde: 1 x Trained Infantry SK2, 1 x Trained Infantry SK1
Arty: 1 x 8lb Ft Bty

2nd Division: Heudelet (Capable)
Arnaud's Bde: 1 x Trained Infantry SK2, 6 x Trained Infantry SK1
Godard's Bde: 1 x Trained Infantry SK2, 3 x Trained Infantry SK1 
Arty: 1 x 8lb Ft Bty

Cavalry Bde:
1 x Trained Dragoons, 2 x Trained Light Cavalry, 1 x 4lb Hs Bty  

The Weather:
The weather is foggy until turn 18.  There is the chance of intermittent showers (on each turn, roll a D6 and 1 = rain)

The Set-Up:


Looking over the battlefield of Sabugal, looking East.  Picton's Division is bottom-centre, Dunlop's Division bottom-left and Beckwith's Brigade of the Light Division is in the enclosures (right); Heudelet's Division is centre and left, with forward elements holding Sabugal whilst Merle's Division is around the woods (centre-right) and P. Soult's Cavalry Brigade is in the French rear (top-centre)

And looking South down the valley, French to the left on the high ground, the British mainly to the right of the Coa with the Light Division's leading brigade in the enclosures (extreme top)


A close-up of Beckwith's brigade occupying some stone walls; Ca├žadores, riflemen and light infantrymen, supported by horse artillery

Merle's Brigade occupying positions up the hill but ready to attack and drive back the Light Division!
 The Battle:
Merle's division advances slowly through the fog; Beckwith redeploys slightly to cover both enclosures, hoping that Drummond and Erskine will reinforce him before too long

The musketry begins as the French infantry move to c.100m away from the walls.

The French prepare to assault

Meanwhile, Picton begins to push elements across the water; the intention being to confuse and harry the French rather than launch a direct assault on the main strength of the II Corps position

The conflict increases in intensity - Merle, sword in hand, leads his infantry against the British riflemen

Will the British positions hold?

On the British right, the 95th have repulsed one French column (right) but Merle, leading a regimental assault in person has thrown them back out of the enclosure; meanwhile the 43rd and the Ca├žadores have thrown back the other French brigade.

Unfortunately the French brigade failed its morale check (left)...which led to the morale collapse of the whole division!!!

Merle's Division is spent and moving towards safety in the French rear

The other infantry brigade of the Light Division arrives to support; the French cavalry begin to move to forestall the danger

Meanwhile in the centre, Picton has been unable to resist launching an attack on Heudelet!  He leads Power's Portuguese in person in the assault

But with little success! The allies are thrown back with heavy loss.


The French cavalry withdraw a little after a failed charge against the 52nd in square...

The French tried a counter-attack but this failed due to the sheer volume of Allied fire.  After re-organizing his troops, Picton launches another assault: this pushes some of the French infantry back; although other Allied ttacks are again repulsed

Picton's success can be seen (centre-right)

Erskine's troops slowly advance as the fog lifts

After some intense fighting, the French cavalry is worsted, which spells defeat for the French
  
Picton's troops have pushed Heudelet's troops back into the woods, although the French line is holding in the main; however the outnumbered French cavalry have been defeated and II Corps' morale is broken
Game Notes: A game which did quite resemble the original action, although Merle's Division gave up slightly earlier than in the original action and Picton's attack began earlier.  The first circumstance was as a result of a failed French morale test, although fundamentally probably it was a result of my bad tactics.  It is often too risky to attack with two-base infantry base brigades, because if they are repulsed in the attack, then the brigade has roughly a 33% chance of breaking - but it is really not worth it if it is a two-brigade division in Polemos, because there is a 50% rule within divisions - lose half the brigades and the whole division is spent.  Normally it is worth doing a few attacks to try and achieve an exploitable success, but not with weak brigades like this.  It was a shame for the French, since Merle's attack had been so nicely executed, capturing some British guns and forcing the 95th Rifles back!
Picton was quite lucky that his failed first attack wasn't punished more severely, but this enabled him to achieve some degree of success; second attacks are much easier than the first in Polemos, because the modifier for first-firing is pretty chunky.
The Polemos game mechanics worked well to the extent that command and control for both sides was severely constrained, in particular early on, when the fog was such a factor.  Obviously in some solitaire games it is hard to cheat yourself, but the restrictions on Tempo seemed to produce a fairly realistic effect.  For those interested in the precise rules:

Fog limits visibility to 100m.  This becomes the maximum range and the maximum move distance.  All tempo points issued are counted as being to out-of-sight subordinates (i.e. the tempo points are halved).

As in recent games, the effect of being uphill as been limited to +1
Instead of using the precise modifiers in the rules for troop quality, here I have used:
Veteran/Elite +2
Veteran +1
Trained 0
This reflects the classifications given in the scenario; much the same could be achieved more strictly in the rules as rating many of the French units as Veteran +2 but 1-level shaken; that however is rather worse for the French (they are more brittle despite the same modifier, so I settled for this instead).  

I am moving more and more to the idea of using a single SK2 per brigade for the French, similar to the British system.  A further part of me thinks that maybe the player should be able to choose how many SK2 units are in the army, certainly for the Allied and French armies in the Peninsular.  Any thoughts?

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Total Battle Miniatures

Nuts! Game

Having been stuck in a bit of a work rut, last week I decided to set-up a quick game, entirely for its own sake.  With no time to think hard about scenarios and suchlike, and my 7-year old son expressing an interest in playing, I decided to have a game of Nuts!

 Apart from its many intrinsic virtues, the recent news that a new edition of Nuts! and a compendium are out may have put it to the top of my mind!  The other thing I wanted to do was get my US 15mm WW2 platoon to the table, since it was painted a while ago but I hadn't yet got to play a game with them.

Anyway, an extremely simple set-up; 2 x US squads (one of 11 and of 12 respectively, each Rep 4 with a Rep 5 leader) taking on an area relatively strongly defended by the Germans (investment level 4).

Americans approach a small French hamlet in the midst of some little woods over a stream.


It is a bit tricky to see, but there is a hill to the left of the two central buildings

The US go right-flanking; there is nothing obvious in the building so the Americans use it to anchor their position.

The US left-hand section then begins its advance, but the soldier on the extreme left sets off a mine - two soldiers are merely concussed, but another is killed and one more severely wounded

The US were advancing through the orchard having been assured by some local French people that it was safe; a German section was moving from the woods (top-centre) towards the Americans when it was engaged by a fire team to the left: the German point man and section commander were both made casualties, although one of the US soldiers was severely injured too.

With German attention focussed elsewhere, the US left-hand squad advances by skirting the hill to the left (bottom)


The US point man enters the woods (note the wounded Germans in the background)

The other US section achieves fire superiority but is then engaged by an MG42 hidden in one of the houses.

The arrival of the other US squad from the other flank tips the balance: a further German is injured and the MG42 team is silenced by combined fire from the squad leader's Thompson and the BAR man.

With the German section's heads being firmly kept down, the US sends a small team round the back of the German position

A further German casualty tips the balance and the Germans run for it!


The remaining Germans surrender to the US at the edge of the woods
 Game Notes: Not a lot to say about this one except to comment again on Nuts! being a great system for this kind of situation, where a quick solo or co-operative game is required.  The scenario promised to be a lot tougher except for the US good fortune in meeting the French civilians.  As well as using up one of the PEFs (potential enemy forces) this also (mechanically) reduced the enemy's investment level, meaning it less likely that further forces would be activated.  Given the number of buildings, which also could be hiding Germans, this dramatically changed the US chances, who would otherwise have been at severe risk of being out-gunned.  As it was, reasonable use of cover to end up putting the Germans in a cross-fire and a reasonable amount of fortune in the die rolls meant that the the US were able to come through this one okay.

US casaulties: 1 x KIA, 2 x WIA
German casualties: 5 x WIA (all captured), 5 x unwounded POWs.

Mechanically I wasn't sure what should happen when the running away Germans came into close combat range with the US group in the rear.  Entering melee seemed unlikely, so I ruled that they would have surrendered.  Any thoughts?

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Battle of Roundway Down 1643 - Another Refight!

This time I used Neil Thomas' Wargaming: An Introduction for the game to give a contrast to the Polemos rules, but keeping most other things the same as in my previous refight of this battle; see here for details. 



 Neil Thomas' rules don't specify troop ratios or ground scales or anything like that, but do give some very generic army lists.  I used the following forces:

Royalist Army:

2 units of Horse (Chevaliers, Medium Armour, Elite)
2 units of Horse (Chevaliers, Light Armour, Trained)
1 unit of Artillery (but allowed to move at the same rate as Pikemen)
1 unit of Foot (3 bases of Shot, 3 bases of Pike, Light Armour, Trained)
1 unit of Foot (3 bases of Shot, 3 bases of Pike, Light Armour, Elite)

Parliamentary Army:

1 unit of Cuirassiers (Reiters, Heavy Armour, Elite)
3 units of Horse (Reiters, Medium Armour, Levy)
2 units of Foot (4 bases of Shot, 2 bases of Pike, Light Armour, Trained)
2 units of Artillery

The Set-Up:
The same terrain as previously:  Parliamentarians (left) with Horse to the flanks and Foot and Guns in the centre defend Roundway Down from the approaching Royalist cavalry (right)

And centred on the Parliamentary army: note again the road by which the Royalist infantry can/will approach

And the view from behind the Parliamentary lines

And closer in on the defending Parliamentarians; the Cuirassier unit is top-right.

And a view of the Royalists approaching

And reversed angle
 The Battle:

The Royalist Horse advance - one unit takes some casualties from the defending artillery

The Royalist Horse advances; just before contact the Parliamentarian Horse advance and discharge their pistols, causing some further casualties

Same position, looking from the Royalist side down through the Parliamentary position

The fight gets to sword range; losses on both sides, but the Cuirassiers are coming off distinctly worse...

On the other flank, quite even but with a slight advantage to Parliament's troopers


On the near flank (bottom), the two units of Royalist Horse have finally overcome the Lobsters.  The Royalist reserves have come up but have suffered very heavily from artillery fire and then musketry.; the cavalry fight on the far side is a close-run bloody draw



On the near flank, the second line of Parliamentary cavalry tries to restore the situation; both Royalist Horse units are distinctly worse for wear!  In the centre the Royalist cavalry managed to destroy one unit of Parliamentary artillery before being destroyed itself

A grim slow struggle on the far flank as only small remnants of the initial units are still fighting!

With no further Royalist cavalry threat to the centre, the Parliamnetary infantry wheel to be in a position to fire on the Royalist cavalry; the Parliamentary reserve has already turned about to face the rear and the approaching Royalist infantry


On the far flank, the Parliamentary cavalry (much reduced) finally emerges victorious!  The Royalist centre and right is now completely open...


Parliamentary musketry finishes off another unit of Royalist Horse, now only  a single unit remains


The Royalist infantry approach and start taking some casualties from musket fire; the Parliamentary cavalry charge the Royalist artillery (right)

The Royalists concede as clearly nothing can stop the Parliamentary cavalry now
 Game Notes: Interesting for both the similarities and differences with the previous Polemos refight of this battle.  The main similarities were that the Royalist success at Roundway Down is difficult to replicate; that the game was fun; and that as the Royalist commander I made the same appalling mistake again by moving the reserve forward far too far and far too early!!  The differences are perhaps more interesting though: infantry is more effective under these rules, and artillery even more so.  There are no "command rules" at all really (I use a very tame one where the general can attach to a unit and allows a re-roll for failed morale tests, but counts as another unit eliminated if he is with a unit when it becomes eliminated), but the attritional model of combat means the game overall isn't any quicker (it takes longer to dispose of enemy units).  It is however far less hard on the brain, although that comes at the cost of perhaps a little under-writing and maybe less appreciation of some of the constraints really faced by commanders of the time.  Occasionally I suspect I am playing to the rules and not the intent.  I am not sure whether I feel that this game is calibrated better or worse overall than the Polemos rules.  The factors look as if they are bigger and bolder in Neil Thomas' rules, but I am not sure that this is in fact the case.  Some of the ranges and suchlike are definitely wrong, but Neil Thomas states that he is happy with such things if he is still creating the correct overall effect.  And for this battle, it depends on one's view of the relative effectiveness of horse, foot and guns in mid C17 warfare.
Incidentally, I can't recommend these rules highly enough to the beginner or to the fan of simple rules - they definitely give the smoother, lighter experience. 

Figures by Baccus 6mm.