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, 19 August 2016

Dragon Rampant - First Taste

I had a first play through Dan Mersey's Dragon Rampant fantasy rules today.

This was only a walkthrough to figure out the mechanics, but it seemed lots of fun and very smooth in play.  It seemed to combine a bit of the Warmaster/Black Powder unit activation mechanic with a Neil Thomas-esque combat mechanic with DBA smoothness.  I think that my kids will be able to handle the game, with a little help.  I'm looking forward to exploring this ruleset a bit more.

A small set-up on a 3'x2' table.  Perry Late Medieval Men-at-Arms, GW Elves, Heroquest Foot Men-at-Arms (from the Wizards of Morcar supplement), Heroquest Orcs and Chaos Warriors, Westwind Nordvolk and various female adventurers from Bad Squiddo. This might be the impetus I need to improve a couple of the paint jobs and make the basing consistent.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Polemos ECW: Shieldfield Redux

Not being happy with my first attempt at re-fighting the Battle of Shieldfield scenario from the Polemos ECW rulebook, I had another go.  I used the same orders of battle for each side, but deleted the sub-commanders given in the scenario (details given in the link to the first battle).  The scenario in the book gives subordinate commanders for each side, and rates one as "Good", which strongly implies that these commanders are not there for flavour but are intended to be used.  However, the overall size of the forces seems to0 low according to the rules to justify sub-commanders.

The Deployment

The Covenanters advancing on Brandon Burn from the Northwest (top-left), with infantry at the front supported by frame guns, with a cavalry brigade in the rear.  Four battalia of Royalist foot, one occupying a half-completed fort, oppose them.

The fully-built fort in the rear, occupied by c.1000 infantry and some foot artillery

The position from behind the Royalist infantry.  In contrast to the first battle, the frame guns have started deployed and ready-to-fire.
 The Battle:

The Scots try to cross the Brandon Burn in the face of the Royalist musket fire
The Covenanter cavalry move right around the Royalist flank.  Royalist infantry from the fort move to block the threat.

The Covenanter cavalry deploy from their march column to threaten the Royalist position.  The Royalist infantry have succesfully halted the first Scottish infantry attack

The Scottish infantry again fail to make progress but the Scottish cavalry and dragoons ride forward to threaten the Royalist infantry
The Scottish dragoons push the Royalist infantry back but they retain their cohesion, despite their difficult position

Apologies for the shadows on the picture: the Royalist infantry around the incomplete earthworks is pushed back as it is attacked alternatively by the Scottish infantry and dragoons.  The Royalist infantry on the other side of the road is locked in struggle against the attacking Scots: half the Scots have been pushed back with heavy loss, but other Royalist infantry have been pushed back.  However, the Royalist cavalry have arrived in march column into the rear of the position.

A further attack by the Scottish infantry and dragoons finally defeats the Royalist infantry on this side, which flees from the battle.  Note the deploying Royalist cavalry top-right.  The remaining Royalist infantry continue to hold on.

A wider shot of the battle as the Scottish infantry reform beyond the incomplete fort.  They have also pushed back the Royalist cavalry, which refused to charge their Scottish opposite numbers.  The Royalist infantry battalia on the right flank has also routed and a single foot unit is holding on by the bridge - but is now practically surrounded by its enemies.

A closer shot: that third Royalist foot unit fleeing the Scots.

Both sides spent the next 10 minutes or so reforming battle lines...note that the Royalist infantry by the bridge (blue flag) has turned around to avoid being hit on the flank, then to try and break out back towards its own lines.

The clash between pike-armed Scottish infantry and the English cavalry troopers predictably ends in the defeat of the latter: one base in rout another with heavy casualties...the Royalist commander offers the Scottish commander his sword...

The last Royalist infantry by the flag is routed after its heroic performance - with no way out, it surrenders.

A further Scottish advance routs another English cavalry base and with the Royalist centre compromised, the battle ends as the Royalists cry out suave qui peut...

And a wider shot of the victorious Scottish centre

 The Result:
A fairly easy and decisive Scottish victory, although the Royalist infantry did fight quite well.  The Royalists lack an arm really capable of inflicting decisive damage, whereas the pike-armed Scottish infantry, although slightly outgunned in a firefight (and indeed didn't inflict any damage by fire throughout the battle), were able to break the English infantry when presented with the opportunities to do so.  The Royalist cavalry did get in position by about turn 10 (i.e. after c.50 minutes) but just too late to tip the scales of the battle.  As it was, the Royalists' cavalry was spectacularly unsuccessful during the battle, only one base carrying out a somewhat successful charge.  Its failure to charge isolated Scottish cavalry just when the Scottish infantry were clambering over the earthwork effectively sealed the result.  When the Covenanters reformed the battle line, the result was no longer in doubt...

Game Notes:
A much better game, which followed the same pattern as the first, but I didn't mess up the morale rules this time!  I still have a few little doubts about the army morale system - it seems too random and doesn't seem too well calibrated for these smaller ECW armies.  The original battle resulted in an easy victory for the Covenanters and I imagine it will be quite hard to achieve a Royalist victory.  But the game worked cleanly and well, with no problems encountered.  The battle took about 70 minutes of playing time, on a 5'x'3 home-made terrain mat.  Figures by Baccus 6mm.


Thursday, 11 August 2016

Polemos ECW: The Battle of Shieldfield 1644

This morning I had a go at refighting the Battle of Shieldfield, fought as part of the War of the Three Kingdoms on 3rd February 1644, referred to as "capturing the earthworks north of the city".  The scenario is an introductory scenario included in the Polemos ECW rulebook.

The forces involved are as follows:

Scots Covenanters

1 C-in-C and 3 generals
4 bases Trained infantry (Pike-Heavy)
4 bases Raw infantry (Pike-Heavy)
4 bases Frame guns
3 bases Trained Horse (Dutch tactics)
1 base Trained Dragoons


1 C-in-C and 2 generals
4 bases Raw infantry (mixed)
2 bases Trained infantry (mixed)
1 base artillery
4 bases Trained horse (Swedish tactics)

The Deployment

Battle of Shieldfield: the Covenanters moving from the top-left towards the incomplete Royalist earthworks by the bridge over Brandon Burn.  The complete fort is the square completed fort in the centre-right.  The dark areas are coal pits.

A closer view of the bridge: the infantry square off, with the Covenanter cavalry in the rear (top-left)

A closer-view from behind the Royalist infantry

The Royalist infantry and artillery occupying the fort
 The Battle:

The infantry battle: one Covenanter brigade has managed to cross the stream, although it hasn't broken into the partial earthwork; on the other side of the bridge, the Royalist infantry has repulsed the Scotsmen with loss.  However, Scottish cavalry has forded the stream to the South (left) in order to get into the Royalist rear.  Unfortunately, the Royalist cavalry hasn't reached the battlefield yet...

The Royalist infantry on the right is resolute and has repulsed the Covenanters for the third time.  The infantry in the earthworks is holding out, but the left-flanking battalia has been knocked about very badly...

The same situation, looking North along the stream

The collapse happened very quickly, bringing a promising battle to a premature end!  Note the Scottish cavalry has deployed to intercept the Royalist infantry marching up...

A closer view of the infantry battle and defeat - the collapse of the left-flank battalia precipitated the collapse of the whole army, just before the Royalist cavalry reached the battlefield, which might have turned the tables.
 Game Outcome: 
A game simultaneously exciting and disappointing.  The combat was intense and exciting whilst it lasted, with the raw Royalist infantry performing better than might have been expected against better and more numerous troops.  Only one battalia was routed but this led to the demoralisation of the whole army.

Game Notes:
The battle was taken from the scenario in the Polemos ECW book, modified for a slightly smaller table.  This was simple enough to do with a slight re-orientation of the field to include all the major features.  The only change I made was to rule that the Royalist Cavalry, whose appearance is dependent on a die roll, would appear two turns after the successful roll, to compensate for the slightly shorter distance it would have to travel.
The Polemos ECW rules give a believable restriction of command effort and scope and the individual combats all had plausible results.  But the army morale...
There is no intermediate stage between unit morale and army morale in Polemos ECW: "brigades" and "wings" do not have separate morale.  So with small armies, there is a distinct possibility of an instant death result - which is more or less what happened here.  This seems to be entirely realistic however, reflecting closely the original combat...
Played solitaire on a 5'x3' table, using Polemos ECW rules and Baccus 6mm figures. All the terrain was home-made except the bridge.  The game didn't seem to take too much time up! I plan on having another go at this later today, life permitting...
For anyone coming new to this, the way I use the Polemos ECW rules solo is described at the bottom of this post here.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Campaign Battle 23: The Battle of Arevalo

The Battle of Arevalo, early July 1809

General Situation: Elio, who had retreated in the face of Moncey's surprise advance from the main French concentration area near Salamance towards the northern passes to Madrid, decided that he needed to resume his advance and threaten the French line of communication with Burgos and risk battle to achieve that objective.  Moncey, who had thought his aggressive move had been sufficient to restore the French situation, was surprised and perturbed to hear of Elio's advance and quickly moved to occupy a defensive position.  He was determined to hold on at all costs, as defeat would probably imply a retreat for the entire Army of Spain as far as Burgos, if not France itself...

Orders of Battle:

The Imperial Army

III Corps - Marshal Moncey

Clauzel's Division: 3000 infantry, 6 guns
Vandermaes' Division: 4000 infantry, 6 guns
Foy's Division: 2000 infantry, 6 guns
Merle's Division: 4000 infantry, 6 guns
Merlen's Brigade: 1000 cavalry
Corps Artillery: 24 guns

Totals: 13000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, 48 guns

The Spanish Army

IV Army - General Elio

Anglona's Division: 6000 infantry, 6 guns
Henestrosa's Division: 6000 infantry, 6 guns
San Roman's Division: 4000 infantry, 6 guns
Mendizabal's Division: 5000 infantry, 6 guns
Loy's Division: 3000 cavalry, 6 guns
O'Donoghue's Brigade: 1000 cavalry

Totals: 21000 infantry, 4000 cavalry, 30 guns

The Deployment:

View from the East: Spanish to the left, French to the right

A wide shot from behind the Spanish lines.  Loy's Cavalry Division is out of shot to the left, then Anglona's Division in checkerboard columns, Henestrosa's Division in the centre, Mendizabal's Division to the right.  On the French side, Merle's Division is just south of the river (top left), there is a grand battery across the road, Clauzel's Division is next to the grand battery and Vandermaes' Division is to the top-right.  Foy's Division is further right still (not seen). Merlen's Cavalry is in the rear of the French position.
Loy's Division in dead ground behind a hill, overlooking Merle's Division.
The Battle:

Elements of Henestrosa's and Anglona's Divisions advance; French artillery fire causes severe disruption in the centre

On the Spanish right, Mendizabal and San Roman's troops advance in stately fashion towards the French left-hand corps

Mendizabal's leading brigade prepares to assault Vermaesen's men

Clauzel leads a spoiling attack at the head of his light infantrymen: Mendizabal's left-hand brigade is routed!

However Mendizabal's leading brigade has pushed back Vermaesen's troops

Henestrosa, showing great élan at the head of his troops, punches a while in the French centre, overruning half the French artillery!

Clauzel led his counter-attack into the depth of the Spanish position, when a shot from a Spanish musket killed him.  The Spanish are under severe pressure in this part of the field and barely hang on...

Luckily for the Spanish, the C-in-C personally leads a counterattack into the flank of the French brigade, which is almost surrounded and severely shaken

A see-saw battle between Vandermeas' troops and Mendizabal's continues - both have lost another battalion

Moncey himself leads Clauzel's other brigade in a counter-attack and drives back some of Henestrosa's units.  Henestrosa and his leading brigade look sorely exposed (top, facing the French cavalry)

Hard fighting, reinforcements and the collapse of the rest of Clauzel's division persuade this brigade to retreat from the battle too - there is now a large gap in the French centre

General Foy suddenly goes onto the offensive, hoping to turn the Spanish right and divert attention away from the gap in the French centre; San Roman's units have been thrown back with heavy losses

Merle also attempted a counter-attack on the opposite flank.  Here the Spanish resistance was much stouter and the French have come off worst.  One Frnech battalion is broken and others have suffered severely.

Showing great determination, the disordered French troops manage to put in sufficient effective musketry to defeat the Spanihs riposte!

Foy leads two battalions onwards, routing more Spaniards and disordering others.  However, (top-right) some Spanish units have put in a very effective counter-attack

The combination of Hensetrosa and Anglona has swept away Merle from the enclosures

The French right is shattered and broken have the units on the French left, all three remaining divisions collapsing more-or-less simultaneously

Loy's troopers were barely involved...and are thus fresh, ready for the pursuit!

View from the right at the end of the battle.

A reasonably sanguinary battle for the Spanish, but a true horror story for the French: the fresh Spanish cavalry were able to really hurt the defeated French forces in the post-battle pursuit.  The Spanish lost c.3500, almost entirely from the infantry and mainly from Mendizabal's forces which had two distinct hard fights.  The French lost c.7300, over 4000 of them in the pursuit, in addition to 30 guns.  General Clausel fell at the head of his troops, on the point of achieving an unlikely victory:

This result is likely to have the most profound consequences and there is no time for Moncey to rue the outcome of the battlefield.  He has no cavalry and his infantry are shattered: does he withdraw northwards to safety but leave the Army of Spain with Elio's army on its lines of communications with Wellington at its front?  But will the situation be even worse if he marches westwards back towards the Army of Spain.  A sleepless night to follow a bloody day for the unfortunate Marshal...

Game Notes:
A good, tight game which just might have gone to the French.  The first crisis was only resolved because of the unfortunate death of poor Clauzel at the critical moment robbed the very successful French spoiling attack of its impetus.  The second crisis was survived because every Spanish brigade held on, in some difficult circumstances.  In no individual case was a Spanish brigade more likely to break than not, but it was much more likely than not that at least one Spanish brigade would.  As it was, once Clauzel's division was broken, then it was only a matter of time before the Spanish would exploit their better position and numerical strength to overcome the (marginally) more skillful French troops.
It is noticeable that as the campaign progresses and the Spanish have suffered rather fewer disasters than their historical counterparts, the Spanish armies are becoming relatively much stronger and more capable than their historical counterparts.  Many Spanish divisions are approaching the quality levels of their opponents.  Conversely, many French divisions are at 1811-12 levels of ability rather than 1809-10 levels.
Once again, the Tomb for an Empire campaign rules provide a powerful incentive to not use cavalry in the battle but save it for the post-battle pursuit: the fresh Spanish cavalry effectively doubled the size of French losses.
I discovered I have been making a small mistake in the distribution of losses after a pursuit.  As the rule would have materially affected the way I approached this battle, I will implement it from the next engagement.  I still need to sort out the artillery! Moncey seemed to have far too much. Not that it did him much good in the end, and he did lose it all..
As ever, Polemos General de Division gave a very good game. The game did bring up what I dislike most about the rules though: the occasional clash of rules with no idea how to resolve them.  Here, it was the situation of what happens if a unit, which must pursue for 1BW after breaking its opponents, contacts another enemy unit or approaches within 1BW (which wouldn't normally be allowed)?  I have personal answers for this kind of thing, which I have either got from the forum or just given myself a common-sense ruling, but it is the kind of thing which causes interruptions in the flow of the game.
This is the first game I have played using one of my new home-made terrain mats. I tried to make this one reminiscent of the drier, browner look to many parts of the Peninsular.  I was quite pleased with how it turned out!  Otherwise, as usual, figures from Baccus 6mm and buildings from Total Battle Miniatures.  Game played solitaire on a 5'x3' table and took about two-and-a-half hours of play.