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.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Polemos General de Division Refight: The Battle of Maida

The Battle of Maida has always seemed to be a popular scenario amongst wargamers since it features a British division against a French division in an independent action, without any great complexities of terrain.  I noticed a workable scenario whilst perusing a copy of Wargames Illustrated 186 and decided it was time I gave it my first go (assuming my memory isn't playing me false and it turns out I have played it before - I wouldn't rule this out!)

Using the typical Polemos practice, the individual units aren't focused upon but rather the army as a whole.  This gives forces of:


C-in-C: Stuart (Capable)*

1st Brigade (Kempt): 2 bases of Trained/Elite Infantry SK2, 1 base of Trained 6lb Foot Arty
2nd Brigade (Cole): 1 base of Trained/Elite Infantry SK1, 2 bases of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 base of Trained 6lb Ft Arty
3rd Brigade (Acland): 3 bases of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 base of Trained 6lb Ft Arty
4th Brigade (Oswald): 2 bases of Trained Infantry SK1
20th Foot: 1 base of Trained Infantry SK1 (under Stuart's direct command)

I set up the 20th Foot on the extreme bottom-left of the table and ruled it could only move after the first combat (other than artillery bombardment) had taken place.

* Some books I have read suggested that Stuart was ineffectual and the battle won despite him, rather than because of him.  The magazine scenario is more sympathetic, hence his rating as Capable.

One could designate any or all of the elite units as veterans too, although I tend to think the evidence doesn't really support it.


C-in-C: Reynier (Capable)

1st Brigade (Compere): 2 bases Trained Infantry SK2, 2 bases Trained Infantry SK1
2nd Brigade (Peyri): 1 base Trained Infantry SK1, 2 bases Raw Infantry SK1
9th Chasseurs a Cheval: 2 bases Trained Light Cavalry, 1 base Trained 4lb Horse Arty
3rd Brigade (Digonnet): 3 bases Trained Infantry SK2

The 23rd Light had fought at Caldiero.  I am not sure of its performance that day, but if the player(s) prefer, one could designate 1-3 bases in the 3rd Brigade as Veteran.  Some of the 1st Swiss had been assigned to naval duties and fought at Trafalgar, but I find it hard to believe that theur experiecnes that day would contribute very much to "veteran" status.

The scrub on each flank is counted as defence value 1; the watercourse is a stream.

 The Set-Up:

The set-up: French top, from right-to-left: Compere, Peyri, 9th Chasseurs, Digonnet; British from right-to-left: Kempt, Cole, Acland, with Oswald in reserve

Another view, French left, British right

A closer view of the French: Compere on the right, with the 1st Light leading; Peyri on the left, with the Swiss in front of Reynier and the Polish-Italians in column

And the remaining French: the 9th Chasseurs (right) with the horse artillery attached and Digonnet's Brigade (left), consisting of the 23rd Light

And some of the Brits: Cole's Brigade is central, with the Grenadiers and 4 guns in front of Gen Stuart; Acland's Bde is right, Oswald's Bde, led by the Swiss Regt de Watteville is in reserve (top).
The Battle:
Both sides advance in more-or-less echelon; the French 1st Light Infantry is about to meet the British light infantry (top-right)...

A closer view of the advancing French light infantry

And another one (I was experimenting with close-ups)

And the same thing, but from behind the opposing British light infantrymen

The sides close; Reynier decides to bring up his second brigade in support before initiating his attack

The remaining French are still in echelon

More shots of the British light infantry facing their French counterparts, with Gen Stuart and some artillerymen looking on

Same again (more photo experimentation, apologies)

Last one! (I was working out the balance between focusing on the British in the foreground and the French in the background)

The eagle-eyed may be able to spot the red of the 1e Swiss (centre) and the white-and-green of the Italians (left)

Reynier decides on a more cunning plan than just a straight attack; he sends the 1st Light Infantry into the scrub on the flank to extend the British line... can be seen by the wider shot; also note that Reynier has transferred himself to join the 9e Chasseurs on the other flank (left)

Acland's Bde faces the French cavalry

The French light infantry attack through the scrub: the British light infantry become slightly shaken at the approach of the French, but hold their fire until the last moment...

The French push on to mere metres from the British light infantry...

The French cannot push forward their attack through the hail of fire and retire in disorder

Reynier in person has led the 9th Chasseurs in a glorious charge and has captured 4 British guns!  The British reserves face him...

The other squadrons of the 9th Chasseurs have been routed by the supporting British infantry, but Reynier determines to lead his horseman and supporting gunners onwards...

Another successful charge routs one of the British battalions and leaves the other shaken!

A wider shot of the same

However Stuart launches an attack all across his right...

The French 1st Light Infantry return their compliments to the British lights and send them scurrying back in disorder; however elsewhere things did not go as well...

A very neat bayonet charge routs a French line regiment and the Swiss battalion!

The Polish-Italian troops hold on but are in some disorder (top-left), otherwise the French left wing is in rout

The French Cavalry charge the shaken British infantry reserve (which subsequently routed)

Unfortunately the loss of two French brigades and a poor morale roll (high is bad in Polemos for morale) sees French army morale collapse

The other French units collapse as the rout widens

And the victorious 1st Light must retreat as the rest of the French run
Game Notes:
A very enjoyable game - Polemos as DBA, almost.  This is the lowest level where Polemos will work as designed, it can be (and I  have) played with even fewer units, but that requires some morale re-jigging or living with the fact that three shaken battalions can, under the right circumstances, lead to the collapse of the army. But 12-13 bases a side is perfect for a small game, and this is a scenario that can easily be played with a starter army on each side, with a few bits of terrain on a small table.
Maida is rightly a favourite scenario amongst Napoleonic wargamers, since there is a pleasing variety of troops and lots of tactical options.  Polemos handled it nicely.  The French were slightly unlucky to lose the first clash in the woods, but this was rather balanced out by having a little luck in the cavalry charge.  What really made the difference here was artillery: the use of horse artillery was instrumental in the French achieving their breakthrough but the British use of artillery on the centre-right helped their infantry achieve the decisive victory in the bayonet charge.  The other problem with the French battle was that the last French brigade didn't manage to get into action at all - it may be worth re-fighting the action in a more deliberate manner.

And for the superstitious gamers' amongst us, three battalions (two French, one British) fell to "first battle syndrome"...

Figures by Baccus 6mm.

Monday, 1 January 2018

A Review of 2017 and a Look Forward into 2018

Happy New Year to Everyone!  It has been a very busy year with lots of changes to deal with, but it has been quite a happy year - and not least because I have managed somehow to fit lots of games into the gaps between all the busyness!

Looking Back...

My declared priority was to begin another engrossing campaign, to fill the gap left by the conclusion of my refight of the Peninsular War.  I had hoped to refight the campaign of Caesar's conquest of Gaul (and invasion of/raid upon Britain) using the boardgame Caesar's Gallic War:

With the other alternative being to refight the entirety of the English Civil War (although unfortunately not the entirety of the War of the Three Kingdoms) using the boardgame The King's War as the engine:

Unfortunately, none of this really came to pass.  I did start the ECW campaign but  this lost impetus during a house move and then was hamstrung by some unfortunate data losses.  I did want to resume it, but I haven't had time to do so because I became focused on achieving the Boardgamegeek 10x10 challenge.  In theory the campaign games would have counted, but I didn't get around to spending the time to re-construct the campaign.  I am still unsure whether to do so or whether in fact I would be better off just starting again from scratch and thinking of the first campaign as a test run.  After all, my Peninsular War campaign took three goes I think before I got it properly started and running to a conclusion.  The Gallic Wars campaign never really got started because I couldn't answer the question to myself about how much "bath-tubbing" I was comfortable with.  Broadly speaking, a Roman legion is 8-10 or so bases-strong in Polemos SPQR (and in DBA, if using the suggest ratios in v3.0).  Battles in the Gallic Wars could easily involve six more or less full-strength legions, facing perhaps even more Gauls, implying forces of around 60-bases per side.  Until recently, I had a Roman army of about 20-30 bases and a Celtic force of 30-40.  Without bathtubbing then, I would need another c.60 bases of infantry.  Of course, that might not be the best way to tackle it, but my thoughts didn't actually progress past that.

However, I did however manage to do one of the TooFatLardies pint-sized campaigns.  Not the "Scottish Corridor" campaign:

but rather their other one focusing on the Normandy fighting, Operation Martlet.

The Too Fat Lardies' Operation Martlet "pint-sized" campaign was too good not to have another go at it!

I have still been using the venerable but excellent WRG 1925-1950 rules. 

I did also start the fictional horse-and-musket "Martinstaadt" campaign, written by Henry Hyde, in Battlegames 034:

I was having an enjoyable time with that one, until a combination of having to play other games to fulfill the 10x10 challenge and some annoying data losses meant that I rather "lost my place" about that one too.  Same dilemma here as for the ECW campaign - whether to try and reconstruct and resume, or wipe the slate clean and start again.

But concentrating on the list of things that I didn't manage to do ignores the tons of things that I did get to do.  I re-fought lots of battles from old magazine scenarios, which were full of interest and meant that I played games from a very wide spread of periods this year.  I have played games in 1/600, 15mm and 28mm in addition to the 6mm stuff.  I discovered the Two Hour Wargames stable of games, specifically Nuts! and Two-Hour Dungeon Crawl, which really suit me as a solo player with some times very limited time and space for games.  I went down memory lane and enjoyed replaying some old Lone Wolf game books.  There were really too many highlights to list them all, but suffice it to say I have really enjoyed my gaming this year.

What the year did leave me was in something of a dilemma.  I played quite a lot of DBx, Polemos and Neil Thomas rules this year.  I was rather hoping I would get some kind of feeling as to which family of rulesets I prefer, but it simply didn't happen - all have very strong virtues and a few small but annoying vices!  I think unusually in the hobby I prefer to play fewer rulesets on the whole since the fewer rulesets to learn, the more chance of getting that deep understanding which speeds up play, makes it smoother and allows one to concentrate on the tactics more.  However, if I were to have to pick one family, I am not sure which one it would be.  So I am hoping slow evolution rather than rational argument will help, as hopefully I will unconsciously gravitate towards the ruleset I prefer!

Lead Mountains, Plastic Piles and Dilution Theory

I have rarely had a huge plastic pile or lead mountain but I have noticed the sometimes debilitating effects of these things, so I make a point of avoiding it.  My ideal is to have two small contingents of stuff needing painting at any one time, one in 6mm and one not, ideally in two different periods as well.  As well as avoiding feelings of overwhelm, it allows lots of flexibility in that since no project has more than a week or so of painting in it, I can easily switch projects if I feel like it without piling up the lead.

"Dilution Theory" has had some discussion this year on the Meeples & Miniatures show.  The linked articles discuss it well but this year has been interesting for showing me in my own gaming the realistic limits of what can be achieved.   I managed to get in just over 100 games this year and it is difficult for me to imagine playing that many more.  This provides a somewhat fuzzy but higher boundary to the amount of gaming I will do in any one calendar year.  Therefore, for me, the ideal collection of boardgames, rules and figures will support about that many games per year.  Of course having a bit of choice is nice too, but this number shows the order of magnitude.  I don't think I have reached the peak for miniatures, although I do think I have as many, or more, boardgames and rulesets that I can reasonably expect to get to the table in even a two-year period and I will look to try and rationalize the collection in the next few years, to keep its cost and the space it takes up within the limits I am happy with.

Shopping & Painting 2017

I'm not a very assiduous recorder of such things, but off the top of my head, I bought and painted:

A 6mm Medieval Arab army
Reinforcements of Horse for my 6mm ECW armies
Reinforcements for my 6mm Late Republican Roman armies
A few extra reinforcements for my 6mm Napoleonic armies
Some 1/600 WW2 aircraft, early war British and German
A 15mm US WW2 Rifle Platoon
More 15mm Normandy MDF terrain
All the 28mm miniatures in the Conan boardgame, plus a force of Shieldmaidens and a force of Cultists, plus several heroes and heroines from various manufacturers.

Some lovely new Baccus 6mm ECW foot have just arrived to add to my lead pile, which is pretty small - just a few Gallic foot warriors and some C18-19 Native Americans, plus a box of Grippping Beast 28mm Arab warriors.

I also got given the boardgames Churchill: The Big Three Struggle for Peace and Labyrinth, which I am looking forward to getting to the table.  I have played a game of the first already and it was very interesting.

Plans for 2018

In a way, the plans for 2018 will look a lot like the plans for 2017 since so many of them were not quite achieved!

1 - Caesar's Conquest of Gaul campaign - after I have mulled through the last teething problems.  I have got the VASSAL module to work, which will help though.

2 - Re-fight of the ECW campaign - I think I am ready to go with this now, as soon as I make that decision between resurrecting my old campaign or simply starting afresh.

3 - The Battlegames' Martinstaadt campaign - exactly the same position as the ECW campaign.

4 - The Scottish Corridor campaign - I'd like to convert this and Operation Martlet to campaigns for Nuts!

5 - Design and fight an air warfare campaign.  It will be early war - perhaps France and the Battle of Britain - to get some more games of Lacquered Coffins to the table.

6 - Try out some new rules.  I have bought the re-released version of WRG 1925-50 so I will have a go at that.  I want to try out Lost Battles, and maybe Armati too if I can find a copy.  I am sure I have some others knocking around that I want to try.  I'd like to give the Et Sans Resultat Napoleonic rules a go too, they look interesting.  They are a lot more expensive than the rules I normally buy, but I am tempted to stump up for them.

7 - Continue to play through old magazine scenarios, as they help give width as well as depth to my gaming!

8 - Look at the Thirty Years War, as an adjunct/extension to my ECW/WotTK gaming.  I don't know which rules for the period can handle that number of troops mind.

9 - Give the War of 1812 a go, using the Polemos Ruse de Guerre rules.  Since I am a heretical gamer, I'll probably proxy stuff for the FIW and AWI as well.

10 - Get as many boardgames to the table as I can, in particular ones that have hardly had a run out - although for practical reasons, this may be hard to achieve.

11 - Be completely and totally lead mountain & plastic pile free by December 20th next year.

12 - Play lots of THW wargames as a way of playing more games with an emotional investment - normally I try and avoid this in my solitaire games, but THW games positively encourage it.

13 - Develop properly some of my extensive modifications to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, in case anyone else may be interested...

14 - I am also toying with the idea of branching out into another theatre - France 1940, Desert War and Eastern Front all suggest themselves.  The Spanish Civil War is also vaguely interesting me here.

15 - And I still have some ambitions to begin C19 colonial warfare...

Shopping List for 2017

I am really past the point of "needing" anything - most things would fall within my tolerance range of proxying (and noting that other people have very different attitudes to this).  But to fulfill the plans outlined above, I am looking at:

1 - Some additional 15mm WW2 stuff -  a few civilians, a few partisans, a few more buildings, a few more vehicles, a couple of anti-tank guns etc.

2 - Maybe some additional Romans and Gauls for the Gallic Wars campaign.

3 - Maybe some additional troops for the ECW and TYW  - more cuirassiers for the latter.

4 - A Scots' Covenanter army and Montrose's army when the re-sculpts are done by Baccus 6mm.  When the Highlanders come out, I may do a small British force for the Jacobite rebellions too.  Or I might just proxy some Napoleonics.  We shall see!

5 - A few extra 1/600 aircraft.

6 - I'd really like to improve the look of my terrain.  This is more of a long-term project since I can't do everything I would want modelling-wise where I am, but it is definitely something I want to look at doing.  Any helpful hints and tips very gratefully received.

7 -  A hard copy of the Ruse de Guerre rules.  And maybe a copy of Et Sans Resultat.

8 - A few extra 6mm WW2 odds and ends, for my existing forces and maybe start a new theatre too.

9 - Maybe acquire a few bits and pieces for 6mm C19 colonial games...

10 - Try and acquire a copy of the Fall of Rome boardgame.

 I'd like to thank all those who have encouraged, commented and/or read my blog or my postings on the various forums.  I'd also like to thank those many bloggers and posters on the forums who have inspired me by the quality of their content to try out new ideas.

Anyway, that is the outline of my plans - I hope that your plans go well too!  Happy New Year

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Battle of Otterburn: two DBA Refights

I had a go at re-fighting the Battle of Otterburn 1388, using the information given in a scenario published in Miniature Wargames 51.

The scenario is written in the now obsolete "a battle you may not have heard of" style and information on how to actually game the battle is quite sparse, beyond the Scots having c.5000 men, of whom 500 were men-at-arms and the remainder unarmoured foot soldier and the Rnglish having c.7000 men, including 1000 men-at-arms.  The wikipedia article linked to above gives smaller totals to both sides, which I find more believable - the figures in the article would have made Otterburn on a par with Hastings, in terms of size.  More information can be found here, and you can have a look at the site of the battle here. The watercourse is on a slightly different course now, and the land is drier (it was drained in previous centuries).

What was very useful information in the scenario concerns the timing of the battle; it was fought very late in the day and continued under the moonlight.  With that in mind, it seemed appropriate to penalize archery, which would encourage one or both sides to get stuck in to hand-to-hand combat.

In lieu of anything else, I used the DBA lists.  I do have my suspicions that they are radically inappropriate for this battle, but this really isn't my period.  I reduced the Scots to 10 bases to reflect their numerical inferiority.

More information here from the Douglas clan site

The Scots:
 Commander: James, Second Earl of Douglas
7 bases of Pikemen (4Pk, inc. the general's unit)
1 base of Archers (3Bw)
1 base of Mounted men-at-arms (3Kn)
1 base of Rabble (7Hd)

The English:
Commander: Harry Percy "Hotspur"
2 bases of Dismounted men-at-arms (4Bd, inc. the general's unit)
2 bases of Mounted men-at-arms (3Kn)
7 bases of Archers (4Lb)
1 base of Infantry (Sp)

I added an extra -1 to all missile fire, to reflect the poor light.

For the first game, I made the hills rough going; for the second I made them good going.  They look like they should be rough to me, but the dynamics of the actual battle suggest that that the English mounted men made quite good progress on their flank attack, this maybe good is the better rating.

I don't have any C14 troops so I used my late C15 / Wars of the Roses-era troops as proxies - they looked well enough!

The Set Up:
The view from Otterburn village along the stream

And another view

And to show the relief of the hills to the right

The Scots drawn up: a solid block of pikmen with some archers on the flank; the ill-equipped foot soldiers and the mounted knights are to the rear in reserve

Looking at both armies, Scots to the left, English to the right

A closer view of the main English position, with longbowmen and dismounted-men-at-arms intermixed in the front rank; note the position of the mounted knights off to the right flank (top-left)

The English knights
The First Battle:
The Scots waste no time in closing down the distance - the archers exchange salvos of arrows, causing some disorder in each line

A closer view of the Scots' advance; some of the pikemen have been pushed back

More arrows are exchanged causing a little bend in the Scots' line where the arrow fall is thickest

The English archers, having disposed of the Scots' archers before them,  try to gain a good vantage point for firing (right); the Scots' reserves move towards them

The melee begins in earnest: Douglas (centre) leads a ferocious charge which exterminates the English bowmen facing him; but all along the line, the Scots have gained the advantage

A closer look at the Scots' success!

The melee has developed; the Scots are winning in the centre, but the English seem to have developed an advantage on the right of the main line...

The English press home that advantage!  However, the remaining English troops in line are hard-pressed...

There is stalemate between the ill-equipped Scots' warriors and English bowmen on the hill; but the English knights have exterminated their opponents (right)

The position at the end of the battle - the Scots' have lost their fourth element and are thus defeated, despite having had the better of the central melee
 The Second Battle:

Quite pleased with how that went, I re-loaded and went again...

The toy soldiers troop back to their original positions!

The Scots' advance again!  A more active English army advances a detachment of archers earlier this time around

English archery again eliminates its Scottish opposition and also slightly disrupts the Scots' advance; note on the right that yet again the Scots archers have been destroyed by being outshot by their English opponents!

Another view, so one can see the flank developments in relation to each other

The battle lines join; the Scots eliminate a body of the English dismounted knights (centre-right) and have generally pushed the English back

The English reserves have been thrown in to attempt to stabilize the situation; the group of English longbowmen, benefiting from close support from the dismounted men-at-arms, is heroically resisting Douglas' own pikemen

Yet again, bowman takes on knifeman whilst the mounted contingents battle it out (top)

The English grimly hold on in the centre whilst triumphing on both flanks of the main press!

The English knights took a bit longer this time, but have again dispatched their Scottish opponents

Both the flanks of the Scots' main body have collapsed or are collapsing...

Hotspur himself eliminates the Scottish pikemen that cause the Scots army to lose heart and break

A confused mess, but generally now going the English way - they have even achieved the very improbable and forced back Douglas himself! (centre-left, by the green and white hooped banner)

Victory to Hotspur!  With the English knights across the line of retreat, it will be again a night of wraiths trying to evade pursuit across the Northumbrian border...
Game Notes:
Two very enjoyable games once I had managed to get the scenario into some kind of workable shape.  I re-iterate again that I have my doubts about the army lists: the English one seems more focused on the English army with the king present and the wars in France; and was Douglas' force mainly made up of "yeomen pikemen"?  I await with interest the comments of the learned!  I'd also be very interested if anyone could point me to any other refights of this battle.
DBA again did a great job of producing an exciting game with believable outcomes. I am however thinking of abandoning the zero-pip moves,  I think it would give a better game if a commander knows that he/she may only be able to move a single unit or group per turn and partly think it gives a better recreation of history if we think of all of the mishaps and pratfalls that may occur in warfare as being able to afflict all troops, even those doing very simple things.  I understand the objections about units appearing to suddenly stop moving for no reason, but I have never quite accepted that logic.  But all this needs a little more thought first...