EXERT 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

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Taking the Low Road

Storm Day!  Well, not much of a storm but good enough for me, I retired to my room. (Should I have a "nifty" nickname for my hobby room?)  My intention was to paint but I had trouble settling in and suddenly thought "I want to play a game!" OK, then,  what should I play?

More of the same? Something different? Something easy? Yes, something quick and easy and something that hasn't been out for a while. I thought about NQSYW but pushing 200 individual figures around a table which is too small for them in their current state didn't appeal. Prince Valiant games kinda require a story line and write up which I didn't feel up to. Quick and easy did sound like I should haul out Thomas's book again. I flipped it open then turned pages until I found one I hadn't tried yet.
The new light fixture doesn't seem to have helped much. On to Plan C.
OHW about to begin.

"Scenario 23 Defence in Depth", inspired by Yellow Ford? Aha! 16thC English vs  Scots should be close enough to feel at home.  But... what about rules. I decided to try the Pike & Shot rules in the book. All the usual gripes occur. No artillery, ever? Really? etc  But in general what he has and the explanation behind the rules all work so I figured I'd give them a go and started picking troops.

The scenario calls for 4 units of defenders with 2 units swapped out for a scenario specific irregular light archer units. I picked a unit of Border Horse as Cavalry (in their minds), a unit of Highland Swordsmen and a unit of Highland archers as irregulars ..and...Hmm...out of Highlanders and damned well NOT borrowing English archers, Thinking back to an incident early in the Pinkie campaign when a group of Scots arquebusiers in a town blocked the English advance for a time, I decided to field arquebusiers for the 2nd irregular unit. The English fielded 2 cavalry: 1 Border Horse and 1 demi-lancer not that it mattered, 1 unit of "swordsmen" (mixed sword & buckler and shot in this case) and 3 "infantry" with bills and bows.  1/2 an hour later I was rolling a die, tracking hits, rolling a die, tracking hits, daydreaming, rolling, wondering what to do for lunch etc  until at long, lonnnng last the game mercifully ended with somebody or other winning.

Ah! Looks like the English won. I'd forgotten.
The markers here are black=4 hits, red=2, white =1. The Scots are all destroyed .

I think the main issue for me was the small number of units which were rapidly locked in melee with no way to break off which left me with no decisions to make, no way to influence events, just rolling and recording and rolling and recording until 1 side was eventually removed. Nothing wrong with the rules really apart from not being my style.

However, while the Pike & Shot rules which have a mix of the caracoling style of Reiters and  pike and shot infantry seem acceptable from the French Wars of Religion on, (despite the lack of artillery) they are not really suitable for the late 15th & early 16thC , despite claims to the contrary. If I was to pick just 4 troop types for the earlier period it would be massed pike, separate skirmishing shot, gensdarmes and the artillery which played such a key role in battles like Marignano, Ravenna and Pinkie.

I still felt the urge to have a fun game so I reset the table.

Reset! The English send their cavalry and a regiment of Bills and Bows around by the flank this time while probing the rest of the line with bows and a few swordsmen. 
These armies were originally built to play with a Morschauser variant that Rob Dean & I put together called Rough Wooing. During the difficult years I poked and prodded at these until they weren't fun to play any more and have laid them aside. We are now working on a Morschauser based Medieval/Fantasy game which is struggling. I'd already been thinking about it and with a few notes scribbled down I set out  to play the latest proposed Gathering of Hosts Rules (click).

 I kept the same number of stands but rearranged the English infantry into a more 16thC ish "Battle" with a block of bills and wings of bows plus a forlorn of swordsmen and archers.

After several turns of play the English were crying Foul! and claiming that Scots must be using loaded dice. Since I was rolling for both sides with the same dice I dismissed the claim out of hand but it was rather alarming while it lasted. In this game white markers are 1 hit and red are 2. All units normally take 4 hits with Elites (of which there were none)  taking 5 and Levies etc (the 2 Scots "Irregulars") only taking 3. And yes those archers in the foreground are on their way home. 
The Scots went from triumph to despair and back again several times. Early on their irregular archers and shot caused massive casualties shooting from cover with about a 50% rate of 5's and 6's on their dice while the return fire for 6's vs cover barely hit all game.

By turn 8 of the 15 turn game the remnants of the English Forelorn had given up on the bridge and were heading around while the main body had pushed forward, infantry vs the hill, cavalry vs cavalry on the plain. They were having a hard time of it though, not helped when archers and shot started turning up in their rear to take pot shots. In fact the English were only a stand away from reaching their army break point while the Scots had hardly lost anyone.

Speaking as a Macfarlane, it looked good!

Alas, Lord Dacre must have found a way to inspire his riders. After 3 turns of a running fight with the Scots who kept breaking contact and falling back, the English charged back in and the whole Scots cavalry broke and vanished from the field. At the same time, on top of the hill, Angus went down with 1/2 of his men. Now both sides were 1 unit away from breaking.

Scots initiative. 1 hit from archery! And a bucketful of 1's. Oh dear. They are still there.
English turn, Down goes the last Highland swordsmen, away run the levies! The way is clear with nothing between the English and the board edge.

"Huzzah!  Did I mention that my mother's mother was a Wright? "

I should take a picture. kinda missed the last 8 turns.

The English lining the board edge have actually left the board. The English in the woods are bracing for the race to the finish line while the Scots in the open are heading home for a wee deoch after a hard day's work. 

Oh but wait, "must exit 3 units (9 stands) by turn 15". Oh dear, The English have only straggled off with 7. 9 have been destroyed. They need the 2 wounded Forlorn Hope guys in the woods. Three turns to go, they advance, they run,  they reach.... within a spit of the board edge, and.... the sun is down! Too late! No wonder the Irregulars took off, their work of delaying and weakening the English was done.

"Scenario inspired by Yellow Ford you say? Did I mention that my father's mother was a Milligan?"


  1. Game looks great. Have you given up on the grid for G of H?

    1. Yes the 16thC lads have always been on 60mm wide bases and I have agreed to go back to that for the fantasy medieval troops. Elephants, guns etc being over size. The only grid I've found that will work with these armies is 5" squares and I had high hopes of moving all my armies to that standard again. Alas, my table is just not big enough to hold enough 5" squares for 19th/20th C games so the spear and armour guys are going grid free using a range stick with 60mm increments.

  2. Nice reports! The second game sounds like it was a lot more fun (with shifting allegiances throughout... ha ha)

  3. Thanks, yes, more my style. Always have trouble knowing who to cheer for in Anglo Scots games.