EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not such a Grand Enterprise: Smoothing out Rough Wooing

40mm Landsknechts, about 1/2 original homecast figures, the rest are a mix of Irregular, Sash & Saber, Doug Miller and Elastolin.

There were lots of things that I should have been doing today, too damp to scrape and paint the house, the grass could use some drying time, probably .....   but then there are tiles to layout in the foyer and the bathroom reno's to finish.  I don't bounce back from breaks in my routine or weather, long drives etc as I used to though and between spiking blood sugars and  the bloody heart medications with their "may cause fatigue", I have learned to be patient with days when I'm tired and fuzzy headed even when I slept well and the sugars are finally back to normal. Otherwise I am liable to end up wasting more time fixing stupid mistakes the next day than I saved by trying to force the issue. Luckily, if I screw up something in a solo wargame there is no harm done and if I waste time pondering a silly rule change, well, fixing it back is a pleasant enough diversion. So, after routine chores were done, I turned my mind to the 16th Century.

The 16thC is one of my 3 Desert Island pick contenders, you know, if you had just one period.... ancient warfare meets modern, knights in shining armour and cannon, Machievelli and the Chevalier Sans Peur, veteran professionals and raw levies, soldiers facing professionals across a field or breach in Europe or facing wild savages in the hills of Ireland or the deserts of Africa, not to mention savage Turks and Tartars. You get the picture.   The rules I use were adapted from Morschauser's rules by Rob Dean and myself nearly 10 years ago.  I have fiddled with them  from time to time since then but with insufficient games, it was easier to pick up on a few things that were wrong then it was to find solutions that worked rather than just making new problems. So in 2009, I put them aside apart from a New Years Eve game last December.

Without getting anymore tedious than necessary, the main problems were that the Command Control system was too random for my liking, the rules encouraged light troops to operate as single stands and then made it tedious to do so, The English longbows were just too deadly. and the melees were either too quick and deadly (cavalry) or tedious (pikes).  Having spent far too much time in the last year contemplating rule mechanics in general, I felt ready to tackle this again. Since Rob is safely lost in the woods of Upstate New York, it seemed safe to proceed.

In the last issue of Battle Games, Bill Protz presented a scenario based on an armoured breakout from a  bridgehead which I wanted to try. Gendarmes, Panzers, close enough. I made a rough translation of forces basically 1 company of infantry per infantry platoon or heavy weapon, 1 cavalry stand for each 2 AFV, and artillery in proportion, more or less.

This gave the following:
On the West Bank, holding the bridgehead: Sir John Smythe with 4 companies of billmen plus 6 of archers (later amended to 4 archers, 1 arquebusier and 1 sword & buckler).
On the East bank:
The Earl of Belmont with his bodyguard of gensdarmes, a heavy gun and a light gun
Sir Henry Percy and 5 stands of light cavalry.
Capt. Hauser with 2 companies of mercenary heavy cavalry.

Facing the English on table was the Rhingrave with 10 companies of Landsknecht pike supported by 6 of arquebusiers and 1 light gun. The gun and 2 companies of the arquebusiers were entrenched in a farm on a hill.

Off table was  Lord Home with a mix of 6 Scottish and French Light cavalry companies
M, Le Duc de St. Lambert with 2 companies of gensdarmes and 2 of lancers.

The first run through used a reversion of the rules to something closer to the original with more dice and armour saves for 3 classes of armour. The expanded command control rules, which separated the odds of something going wrong from what a unit or commander will do if that happens, worked well and felt better to me. The English longbowmen were still supermen and a number of other things just didn't feel right. Barely an hour in, I quit and reset the table, a rarity for me.  

I decided some more drastic action was required and spent the morning reworking the rules to get rid of the saving throws (sorry Rob), it also belatedly occurred to me that if I got rid of the things that made individual stands of light infantry the optimum, then I wouldn't have to deal with so many single stands. This had the usual knock on effects and resulted in some other minor but important improvements.

 A by product of a change in how hits are consolidated was an unsightly mushrooming of casualty caps. 
 Finally those little green dice I bought to mark Cold War Commander hits came in useful.

This game was much better, it was hard to tell if the longbows had been tamed since they appeared to have filled their quivers with nothing but 6's but it was a close fought game. An attempt by the Landsknechts to drive the English bills back over the river got hung up on a hedge. Finally both battles drew back 1 casualty short of being broken. Arquebus fire broke the English but just as the Germans were feeling smug, one of the English guns finally found the range and they broke in turn. It came down to a clash between opposing heavy cavalry which saw the Earl wounded and his men scattered. I made a few minor corrections to the shooting rules to match what I had actually done and set it up one more time (each game took about an hour).

 Once more across the bridge.

 This time the French and their mercenaries and allies picked up all the 6's leaving the English empty handed. Instead of sweeping away the Germans in the farm again, the archers and arquebusier bogged down while the billmen somewhat rashly advanced boldly to sweep the Landsknechts away and open up a path for the cavalry. Two companies of lancers rode forward to cover their flank.  After a stiff fire fight,  the arquebusiers and gun on the hill put paid to the last of the archers while the pikes held firm. The French gun supported by arquebusiers turned on the flanking cavalry with astonishing accuracy. The remnant fell back.

The opposing light cavalry deployed and charged into a huge swirling melee which say Percy and nearly 1/2 his men cut down. Both sides rallied  and then the French and Scots charged  forward again and swept the remnant  away. To everyone's surprise,  The Duc de St. Lambert suddenly appeared, much earlier than expected and led his gensdarmes straight into the already wavering billmen.  Behind them, the Earl was left as the only target for the French firepower, a cannon ball smashed into his entourage, then a bold arquebusier crept forward and had to be chased away. Before the Earl could rally back to a safe place, another arquebusier crept forward and just as the Bills broke.......

   Ok, maybe I need to revisit the translation of the forces to give the English a better chance but it was 2 fun games and I'm happy to put the rules out for more testing. (or see link at upper left). Not today though. Next up I give myself a day off, there has to be some time spent putting my games room to order and I need to catch up on painting and casting.


  1. Great looking game and good to see some Elastolins on the tabletop- I found many 40mm Swiss and Landknects ( got when I was a boy) in the garage the other week when clearing stuff out.First time I have seen them in someone's blog in a wargame I think. I am off to read your rules now...

  2. Lovely photos - nice to see these old chaps in use.

  3. I can remember looking longingly at the Elastolins in Eaton's when I was a kid but out of our price range. If I could have found more kits and broken figures, I'd have happily built my whole army out of them, though they look kinda small next to Rob's chunky 43mm Meisterzin's. If you decide you don;t want to keep those Elastolins and don;t want to get rich selling them at collector's prices, let me know :)

  4. Old chaps? Oh! On the table! Yes.
    The French Gensdarmes are 50 years old