Saturday, December 31, 2011

One last game

I have struggled this last year to keep 2 blogs active and have found it awkward to have the run up to my ancient games happen on the other blog while the final battles appeared here. The thought crossed my mind to shut the other down but luckily I slowly realized that I could just shift the ancient reports over there. So it shall be from this day forth.

So, to read an account of a wargame based on Thymbra, Cyrus the Great's famous victory over Croesus of Lydia, where reserves and a central position were used, along with some WRG worthy Gimmick troops, to defeat a double envelopment, please step over to the Gathering of Hosts blog

Happy 2012 to all. 

More thoughts on wargaming and battle reports to come here in the New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Moving Right Along

Thank you to all who left Christmas Greetings. It has been a very relaxing, enjoyable family Christmas including a run up to Fredericton., but not including any hobby time. Tomorrow I begin a Stay-cation.

The armies are gathering at Thymbra!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Santa's using his snow sprayer again!

May there be good food, good company and exciting new toys for all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

MOMBATS in the Belfry

The Roscian column comes under fire.
It is my intent that each of my "active" collections see action at least every other year. My 1/72nd forces last hit the tabletop in November of 2009. When Bob Cordery released the lastest version of his Memoir of Modern Battle, it seemed like a good time to take an hour or so to give the  soldiers of Naryatria and Roscia a quick outing. The table was still set for Holding Action, all I had to do was swap out the buildings, swap in the palm trees that show I'm not in Kansas, swap about the hills so that the crucial ones would be hexed, and select troops to deploy.
 The Balimont Rifles prepare their recoiless rifle. (figures from the spares box and a few plastic scraps made into a very accurate representation of a Mk 2 Ross Recoiless, the Naryatrians use a Mk1)

The opposing armies are those of Naryatria, which first saw light of day for a few AK47 games back around 2004 give or take a year and Roscia which were created in 2009 for CWC. They were both formed to resist the forces of Centralia but since these have not been seen since the repulse of their invasion of Roscia in the spring of 2009, it seems inevitable that there have been border skirmishes. Not that they share a border to the best of my knowledge but the geography is a little hazy to be sure. The time frame is almost as hazy, mid to late 60's is about as close as we are likely to make it.
The Hereditary Foe: Jerry's Centralian Hordes. Photo courtesy of E Tenibris Lux.

The scenario called for "light cavalry" and "heavy cavalry". Translating the latter into Tank was easy, but the rules had no real equivalent to the former. Luckily, Bob has been kind enough to send me a doc file of the rules to make it easy for me to tinker. I decided to add Armoured Cars as a catch all for obsolete tanks, armed APC and armoured cars. I ruled that they would be treated as a "Tank" when being shot at, but would have only 2 strength points and would only fire with 2 dice.

I wasn't happy with the anti-armour capability of machine guns, mortars and infantry so deducted 2 dice for MG's and 2 dice from the others. I considered ruling that small arms could only drive back AFV but decided not to complicate matters.

'A' Company of the Balimont Rifles, complete with Bazooka for anti-armour defence. (Almark WWII British, plus Imex Korean War US, an old paratrooper and a bren gunner from somewhere.

In order to allow my "new" Pershing tank(only a year 1/2 old)  to take  the field, I let Roscia be the advancing force, chasing a retreating Naryatrian incursion no doubt. The Naryatrians dug in around the pass with 4 companies of infantry, a mortar, a recoiless gun, an armoured car, a Technical mounting an MG (treated as an infantry target but with vehicle movement), and a field gun. The Lions in their Red Berets deployed their left of the road and in reserve while the Rhino's deployed to the right.

The Roscians deployed two tanks from the Hance Horse, an Armoured car, APC and company of armoured infantry from the Newpore Lancers, a mortar, recoiless rifle, mg and 3 companies from the Balimont Rifles and a local defence company and mg.  There should also have been an M113 SP mortar but it seems to have run out of gas or broken down en route. Since I had already failed to adjust force levels  to account for the Naryatrians being entrenched, this didn't help.

 Volunteers from the Local Defence Forces move to the assault. (Esci Muslim warriors with some new weapons)

I assumed that the Naryatrian positions were concealed until they opened fire. The first round of the day, from a field gun firing at extreme range from dead ground and controlled by an observer, drove back the lead Saracen. Not at all dismayed, the Roscian armour advanced up the road while the infantry deployed to either side.
The Newpore Lancers debus from their APC and prepare to assault the hill covered by tank fire. (British armour from Airfix kits, the Pershing is a die cast model by somebody or other, Modern British Infantry by Revell.)

It didn't take long for 2 truths to sink in: entrenched infantry is tough, and sending your infantry forward in a solid mass is going to cause additional casualties.

The Rhino's Recoiless Rifle zeroes in on the Saracen.

There was a short lived  duel between the Rhino's Recoiless rifle which was being treated as a Mountain Gun, and the Saracen. The boxcars rolled by the rifle provided the first loss of the day. Not having the special die, I ruled the following: 1=Miss, 2=Retreat, 3,4=Infantry, 5= Tank, 6 = Hit Anything.

 The Lion Brigade takes heavy casualties.

Once the tanks opened up, the Naryatrians began to take losses despite the entrenchments.  The Pershing quickly succumbed to a mix of medium range infantry fire (RPG) and artillery. A duel between the Centurian and the Naryatrian Armoured car ended badly for the latter. Supported by 1 company of infantry, the Centurian took the right hand ridge despite heavy fire. An infantry assault on the left, took out the Rifle and a company of infantry but at a heavy cost. When a counter attack took out the last rifle company on that flank, it was time to go home.

Highwater mark.

The game was fast, furious and fun. I have a couple of quibbles over a few minor details but the rules work well and are easily tweaked. I thought my 2 grades of armour worked well and could easily be tweaked even farther to account for the latest super tanks if one wanted to, without new rules, just new unit stats.

The infantry stats worked well, but I'm not so keen on the mortars and MG's not only being able to fire and move but being extremely dangerous at point blank range making the mortar the most effective close assault unit.I am guessing the reduction in effect with range for the mortar and artillery accounts for the increased difficulty of target acquisition. (oh yes I also ignored the LOS rule for mortars and allowed them to use an observer as well.)  I might be tempted  to try flattening their hit dice like the tanks but will definitely make mortars and MG's move OR shoot only. The artillery ranges seemed a little short to me and it seems that when using indirect fire, that the distance from observer to target  is probably more important than the range from the gun if it is on table, so I may just measure artillery range from the observer for indirect fire, but then the heavier guns wouldn't have a longer range. Perhaps a maximum range for indirect fire as well as the direct fire chart.. I'll have to think about it. The current mechanism works anyway.

So there we are, an enjoyable excursion for my "modern" troops. I predict that they and MOMBAT with or without ross-visions will see the table again ere long (Thanks Bob!).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Scots Wha Hae

The Scots pike shelter behind the hill. 

By happy circumstance, my Scots had exactly the right number of stands to hold the pass in turn. Six of pike, 3 shot, 6 Highlanders, 1/2 bow, 1/2 swordsmen, 3 Border Horse and 2 guns. Which means of course that I really ought to paint more. The plan called for at least 18 stands of pike, not 6 but the mold is faulty and has been waiting nearly 6 years now for me to test out my vulcanizer and spin caster. Maybe this year? If there are no new life upheavals to deal with?

The Earl of Belmont. These are all Elastolin figures.

I divided the English cavalry into 2 slightly larger Battles this time, leaving 1 stand of Gentlemen Pensioners to escort the Earl. There weren't enough Bills and Bows to do the job so some German mercenaries were employed as usual. The dice were kinder this time. Both cavalry Battles came on the South, but so did the Whitecoats while the Redcoats and Germans came on the other road, reducing congestion.

The Red Coats deal with the narrow streets of Cornerton.

It seemed to me that anything that could push the pikes off the hill wasn't going to be bothered by a handful of light horse so I sent Lord Home out to do what he could to delay the English. I'm not sure they entirely noticed. The English foot smoothly navigated the town and deployed behind a screen of archers. I tried to send the White Coats around the village but by the time they agreed to follow an order, any order, the road was clear anyway.

The English cavalry covers the march of their army.

The Scottish shot and Highland archers tried manfully to hold the English  light cavalry back from the guns and then to out shoot the English bows but eventually the remnants had to retreat to safety. The Highland swordsmen fell back behind into dead ground behind the hill, meaning to reoccupy it time to hold the English bills but the Redcoats were a bit too fast for them. An uphill charge to retake the hill ended with the Highlanders  streaming off the table. It looked for a moment like the Scots pikes could hold their side of the pass till nightfall. Neither the German Pike nor the White Coat Bills could come up in time to push them, though their shot and bows were taking a heavy toll, and a charge by cavalry was easily repulsed. The Red Coats came through again though, wheeling about, without  waiting to order the ranks (6 on the control test), they charged  across the gap and pushed the Scots back to the edge of the woods. Just far enough to be able to claim control of the pass at last light.  A draw by the book.    

Apart from a desire to give my 16thC troops an outing, these games were played to test out a slightly modified control test (reduced chance of units misbehaving), a switch from saving throws for armour and cover to a die modifier and some tweaking of the melee rules. I'm happy with them but I'm going to pop the troops back on the shelf for a few weeks until I paint some more and until Rob and I have a chance to discuss the changes more fully.

I've just about done in this scenario for now but being familiar and thus good for testing new rules, I just may play 1 more game. There is one collection on my "active" list that hasn't been out in nearly 3 years and I'm thinking about a test game of Bob Cordery's Memoir of Modern Battle rules. I don't have the special die, but it will be easy enough to give a numeric equivalent to each symbol. The short name of the rules is  MOMBAT. The "BAT" bit reminds me that I still I have my old Britain's BAT anti-tank gun and a score of Crescent and Herald troops and gives me an itch to do it in 54mm but I should stick to my guns and pit Roscia vs Naryatria in 20mm.   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ohh...The traffic is terrific

The Sieur de St. Lambert. 
The start of this 40mm 16thC collection and the figures that I have been playing with the longest, since Christmas 1959 in fact, back in St. Lambert, across the river from Montreal. Yes, they have been repainted. If any one knows the origin or make of these, I'd love to know. They are 40mm soft plastic and the horses have hollow bodies. In their original state they are armed with lances and have bare armour as in the next picture.

Since the table was laid out and I wanted to give the 16th C lads some exercise as well as take another poke at the rules, I decided to deploy the smaller, English, force holding the gap and have the Franco-Scots  attack. For my Rough Wooing games, I usually deploy 3 stands (companies) for each Grant scenario unit apart from artillery. The English had a small Advance Guard of 3 companies of  Northern Spears (light horse lancers) and 2 Battles each of mixed Bills and Bows plus 2 guns. The Scots fielded 6 companies of pike and 3 of shot as well as 3 companies of Border Horse. The French came to the field with 3 stands of Gensdarmes, 3 other lancers and 3 mounted arquebusiers as well as 9 companies of Landsknecht pike with 3 shot and 2 guns. A quick series of die rolls indicated that the infantry were all coming on the left hand or Western road while all of the cavalry were arriving on the Southern road. (directions for pick up games are always based roughly on the actual orientation of the table to the sun).

Turn 3. The cavalry are playing not so nicely with each other while the German professionals deploy under the mouths of the English cannon. The little green dice mark hits.

Everything started well enough, I rolled up personalities and aided by a throw of the dice, decided that the Rash Lord D'acre would ride forward with the English light horse to harass the enemy. The equally rash Scots took it upon themselves (control check) to charge uphill into their counterparts but Lord Home was wounded and his lancers driven back. It took a bit of scuffling but eventually the English were driven off.  While that was going, the German Captain sent his arquebusiers through the wood to screen his flank and assessed the situation. As the head of the column emerged from congested streets of Brooklyn, it came under fire from the English artillery on the hills. English archers and cavalry could be seen hovering not too far off. It seemed best to deploy his pikemen. This began on turn 3. By turn 9 I was pretty frustrated and questioning what the problem was but the deployment was finally complete so I carried on and left the analysis until later. It was about this point that I realized that I hadn't set a time limit.The English were plumping for 12 turns, the French were crying foul and asking for 24. I settled on 18 hours as a full day and rolled a die to see how many turns had passed before the attackers arrived on table. The answer was 5 so I ruled that turn 13 would be the last full turn of light and they would be Roaming in the Gloaming by turn 14 and in the pitch black of night by turn 15. That didn't leave a lot of time so the Germans were edged forward towards the eastern ridge, the cavalry brought up on their right and the Scots directed to take the  Western ridge.

 Enow Dawdling! Gae' on wi' it!

The Scots deployed in the wink of an eye and rushed, well, trundled, well, crept,  forward while the Germans marched steadily forward. As the French Horse chased the English skirmishers back into the woods, the Germans crashed into the bills and drove them back. They looked a little ragged afterwards though, in large part because of the hammering they had taken standing turn after turn under gun fire and then facing showers of arrows. With the Scots not quite up yet, the situation was starting to look eerily reminiscent of the ACW game but what were the odds that the English Bills would come down from the hill despite being beyond command radius and cross the gap before either the French cavalry or the Scots could intervene? It would require a bit of luck on the command rolls and 2 prodigious movement rolls.

 Off screen, a control check for the out of command range Scots has decided that they should stop to watch The Auld Alliance at work. Something that apparently happened with distressing frequency in real life if French reports are to be believed. 

Apparently the odds were pretty good because they managed it. Then they managed some impressive combat rolls and pushed the Germans back in a bit of a muddle. In the end it was up to the Gensdarmes to save the Landsknechts and push the English back. The French dice were almost as impressive as the English had been but in the exact opposite way and by the time they rallied back, the gathering dusk made possession of the gap a moot point. Well, it wasn't a  Scots defeat at least, I mean they never got into it apart from the odd  arquebus shot, did they?.

So what was the problem with deploying the Landsknechts? My first instinct was to blame the rules, I vaguely recalled a similar situation a few years ago. Actually, on some further thought, it was the same situation just with Scottish pikes instead of German ones! It had been in an early rendition of the scenario 4 or 5 years ago with the same armies. oops fool me twice......

In game terms, what went wrong? When the head of the German column emerged from the town, the French commander had 3 choices: order the pikes to move forward until they had room to deploy and hope not to be caught before they could deploy, have them fall back beyond the town, deploy in safety and then march around the town or try and deploy as they emerged from the town. The need for speed was stressed in the scenario instructions and the march column was under artillery fire and threatened by advancing archers ahead and an uncertain cavalry confrontation to the right. Without calculating the odds I began to deploy. Here's the tricky bit. Deploying foot is a 1d6" move. Given the size of the bases (60mm), a score of 5 or 6 would allow me to move the pikes forward 1 stand depth forward and simultaneously expand to 3 wide at the head of the column. If I rolled the same again, the deployment would be complete. You've probably spotted the flaw in the plan by now. I didn't roll any 5's or 6's, I did roll a couple of 1's and 2's. The back of the column had to shuffle forward, 1 stands' depth per turn until they were clear of the town and could move sideways into position.

Looked at from a "what's really going on" POV, here are the Germans, order to form their pike block. The column is wedged into the windy streets of this little Scottish town. As the troops move forward, the enemy canon balls are smashing into the ranks as they form. Enemy archers can be seen ahead and enemy cavalry are off to one flank.

What would Montluc have done? Probably kept the arquebusiers where they were supposed to be, screening the column, then advanced far enough to clear the town, detaching a company of corselets (pikemen that is) if necessary, to  hold off the enemy if they pressed and giving the main body time to form.  
If I had done that the deployment would probably have only taken 2 turn to complete, 3 if the dice were bad.

So what to do next? I shuffled a few units on, off and across the table and let the Scots try their luck at holding the gap against the English and their German mercenaries. But that's tomorrow's post.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Man-At-Arms for All Seasons

Opposing Border Horse. Homecast from a Meisterzinn conversion on largely Zinnbrigade horses.

The Early 16th Century is one of those periods that is on my Short List if I ever had to choose just 1 wargame period. It has all the attractions of what Morschauser called the Shock period, pikemen, archers, 1/2 naked barbarians with big swords, axes shields and  javelins (yes those would be my ancestors on my father's side) as well as the classic Knight in Shining Armour. But it also has the muskets or arqubuses and cannon and the professional soldiers of the Horse and Musket period. It can also give some of the Classic East meets West,  exploring the unknown, and technology meets tradition of Colonial gaming when Turks and Cossacks are thrown into the mix, not to mention Aztecs and Cannibals as Europeans cross the Oceans to the Americas and Africa.

Its also a period that I have rather neglected for the the last 2 years. In part, that is because rather than seek out just one period, I have been tackling aspects of all those other periods, which makes it a bit redundant.    

Bills, Bows and Cannon. The English guard the gap. A mix of converted homecast figures and my own original homecasts with 1 lone Irregular. The English gunner in red is actually a Prince August semi-flat 18thC gunner with one of my fully round heads. The head seems to make a big difference to how these fit in.

This is the third 16thC Scottish wargame army I have built. The first one, from my college days,  was based around a Heritage (supposed) fantasy range taken directly pose and all from Almark's book on Flodden. Then during the 80's, a friend, (you KNOW who you are), knowing I had 25mm Scots,  started on Henry VIII's army in 15mm. Now, its hard for a Scot to see an English army left without opposition so I raised a 15mm army based on Pinkie. How I then found myself sculpting 40mm 16thC Scottish and English troops while this century was just getting its legs, is another tale. Old habits possibly. By rights, I should have been by sculpting 16thC Turks to face Rob's Imperials. However, the 1547 Haddington campaign was the first step and now I have small English and Franco-Scots armies.

Having only a smallish Scottish force and only slightly more English, while both Rob and I can now field Landsknechts and Gensdarmes,  the next logical step was Henry VIII in France.  For some reason, since deciding on that course 5 !! ??? years ago, I have produced a grand total of 2 painted Gensdarmes and 2 1/2 painted ones, 8 Landsknechts, and 3 sword & bucklermen. I think more games are called for, nothing like playing a game to inspire painting. I'm hoping that our combined forces will take the field at Huzzah in May.

Seemed a shame to tale down the table after only 1 game.....


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Defence of Belmont Gap

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised by a call from my friend George who was checking to see if I would be home if he swung by to help clean out some of my 54mm lead and plastic pile. Its no easy feat for a gamer to enter my lair and escape without a game, especially since he lives an hour away, giving me time to set up the table. I went for an old favorite that I haven't played in a while, Holding Action from Scenarios for Wargamers.  Knowing George's time was limited, I went for Hearts of Tin. George does 20mm as well as 54's and has shouldered a rifled musket as an ACW reenacter so I rolled out my ACW 'boys' for their first ever non-solo outing.

Turn 2, Ginr'l George's artillery blasts the  heads of the Yankee columns.

 I knew I didn't have enough troops for an accurate translation of the scenario so I just put everything I had on the table. The Rebs had 2 brigades each of 3 Regiments, 3 batteries of foot artillery, a stand of sharpshooters and a small cavalry brigade with a horse artillery battery and 2 stands of cavalry. I fielded the Yankees as 3 brigades, 1 with 3 regiments and 1 battery, 1 with 4 regiments and 1 battery and 1 with 3 regiments and 2 batteries. I also had an independent cavalry regiment. The dice indicated that 1 brigade was entering from the west while the rest came on from the south. All brigades had to move up the road for 1 turn before deploying. My mission was to seize the gap and be in position to exit the table with a reasonable force by 3 o'clock.

Not being the wall flower type, George sent his cavalry and horse artillery forward to mess me up a bit while his main batteries opened on my infantry "with effect". (Thank goodness I had cut the artillery back to 1 die per battery after the game with Les!)  It took me a little while to shake my boys out into something like a battle line but my artillery managed to silence his horse guns before taking the rest of the day off. (at least they might as well have). My first brigade was in pretty sad shape by the time it got within rifle range of the ridge so I sent my cavalry wide in hopes of scaring George's guns off the hill or at least distracting them.

George doesn't scare easily and I had 2nd move, so I moved the cavalry up past his left hand brigade on to the flank of the guns, If  he won the initiative he was probably going to empty a lot of saddles with rifle fire while he pulled back his guns but I won it and rode the batteries down. Unfortunately, his cavalry which had mounted and pulled back when their battery was silenced, came whooping over the hill and scattered my brave troopers. A regiment of cavalry for 3 batteries,  I was happy enough with the trade.I pulled back my 1st brigade  to maintain it in being and moved up my 2nd & 3rd Brigades for an assault on the hill.

Mid game, The Federal lines are still looking a bit piecemeal but the line is slowly coming together. The rump of the 1st brigade ahead on the right, 2nd brigade beyond the woods on the left, the 4 regiments of the 3rd brigade still forming on the right. My cavalry is off screen to the left.

Ignoring his right, I converged both brigades on the hill where the massed batteries had been. There was some hard fighting and heavy casualties but eventually the Reb 1st Brigade broke and ran. 2 stands of dismounted cavalry were all that stood between me and the road exit. Unfortunately for me, that was because George's 2nd brigade wasn't hustling over to block the gap, it was counter attacking forward into my flank.

It wasn't a sweep, my 3rd brigade was battered and driven back but was still on the field, however, it was well after 3, George still held the gap and I didn't have enough troops left to win even if he had turned around and marched off. It was a fun game though.    

Friday, December 9, 2011

Running another Marathon

Once again, the armies of Athens and Achaemenid Persia face off.

For those who don't follow my Gathering of Hosts blog, I have tried a couple of games of Basic Impetus and have been favorably impressed. My friend Ron and I have tried the Full Impetus and have decided that we prefer the less intense Basic Impetus. We have however borrowed a few things from the full game and he has adapted it to a Hex grid. When checking out a set of rules, there are two tests I like to subject them to. The 1st is to try them on favoured Table Top Teasers, the 2nd is to play a game based on an historical battle. Basic Impetus has passed the 1st test with flying colours, it was time for the 2nd. The first game I reported on when I started this blog was a refight of the Battle of Marathon. A simple, straight forward game that would be easy to adapt and run again.

Part of our adaptation of the game to hexes was to adopt an 8cm unit frontage to fit Ron's Hexon terrain. My own hexes are a little bit cruder, but they work and are compatible. I have only based a few sample units on the 8cm bases but since whatever is in a hex constitutes a unit, it was easy enough to fudge the order of battle. I used the Beta army lists from the Impetus website with Harry Pearson's order of battle from Battlegames magazine with a few minor tweaks for the Persians. Interestingly, while the WHAB version had the Persian army out-pointing the Greeks by 2:1 or more (iir), using the Impetus lists, the Persians had a very small advantage. Because I had insufficient hoplites compared to the OB 2 years ago and had had to cut the units back to 12 figures, the Greek army was about the same size this time but I  used substantially fewer Persian figures. To be honest, I didn't miss the extras. To fit my test grid, I had to turn the game sideways on my table (the grid was drawn before I cut the table down). Luckily the new armies fit perfectly. I only needed 1/2 the table though.

To represent the Greek's famous charge at the run, I allowed them a 1 time only charge bonus of a full d6 instead of the usual 1/2 die for infantry.

So, how did the game go?

Those nice orderly lines break up as the fight rages.

I started the Greeks just outside long bow range. They advanced rapidly but took a shower of arrows which disrupted the Greek line enough that instead of being able to make a single group move into contact, individual parts of the phalanx hit piecemeal. Early on, the dice favoured the Persians heavily but it wasn't enough to stop the deep phalanx on the right from smashing the Persian left flank wide open.

On the Greek left, the phalanx came up first against the Phyrgians who had withstood Ron's cataphracts earlier in the week, then the Skythian archers who had given the Greeks such a hard time two years ago. Both of these units lived up to their reps. It wasn't enough to stop the Greeks all together but it was enough to slow them down and seriously hurt a couple of units.  

In the center, one unit of Immortals was broken but the line first held and then repulsed the Athenians, routing one unit. As the Persians pushed forward, the Greek center bent, but the Athenians held on tenaciously. At last the weight of the attack on the flanks told and as the Greek wings wheeled inwards, the Persians broke.

The end of the game. Units are labelled P for Persian or A for Athenian.

Historically, this run through came closest of my 3 games of Marathon to matching historical accounts. Something that hadn't struck me before was it was the only set of rules of the 3 that allowed the Greeks to be forced back without being broken. It was also the only set which allowed for an army to break thus ending the game before the cavalry could intervene.

Game wise, it was short but faced paced with frequent moments of tension  of the enjoyable white knuckle variety. I meant to play the game tomorrow but I kept sneaking away from chores to play another turn. Looking purely at units lost, the game seemed like a lopside win for the Greeks with the Athenians having only lost 1 unit vs 8 Persian units but looking closer, the Greeks had  5 units that were teetering on the edge of rout. The  game had been up for grabs right down to the last melee.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hearts of Ten (mm)

The Highwater mark of the Battle. On Turn 2 my cavalry arrives and seizes the Central Hill.

On Saturday I accepted an invitation to give the latest rendition of Hearts of Tin an outing with Lentulus's 10mm mid-18thC armies.  I won't bore every one with minor details of how the battle went like what happened to my cavalry in between the picture above and the one below. Amazing though how 10mm cavalry look so much farther away than they really are? Who knew that if I went first and wheeled to face the unseen brigade on my left, but had 1 unit refuse orders, and his cavalry then advanced a full move, that  they would be within charge reach and if they won the initiative on the next turn that they could charge my flank before I could finish my careless fancy maneuver? Who wrote these rules anyway? 

Lentulus has posted  a battle report and more pictures  here.
Mind you, there was still hope at this point in time. It takes more than 1 blunder and a few unlucky/luckily rolls to lose a game of Hearts of Tin.

I was pleased once again with how the rules played. (actually these were quite close to what we used last time, only my own troops having been subjected to the intervening wilderness wanderings,) I did find one or two more unwritten or improperly written rules and 1 or 2 minor tweaks suggested themselves during play (for example, as I suspected during my last ACW outing, allowing the artillery 2 dice instead of 1 has made them too powerful). These have now been incorporated and  Google Docs   has been updated as per the link to the left.

But, I was up to the task. Two more blunders, more smart maneuvering by my foe  and some very average dice later.....       
Another fine army destroyed..  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Battle of Snoughbound Ridge

24 Nov 1861

Word has been received of yet another clash between Federal and Rebel forces along the line of the Paynted River. Catching the Rebels by surprise, the First Division of the Army of the Kennetcook made an over night march and threw a pontoon bridge across the river. As the 2nd Brigade crossed over, Rebel cavalry could be seen topping the low ridge ahead. As they hastened  to deploy, a puff of smoke and loud report announced the presence of horse artillery.

Despite casualties from sharpshooters as well as the battery, the blue clad veterans maneuvered steadily while their own guns returned fire just as grey clad infantry began to appear, Initially ahead of the 2nd Brigade and then to its left. General Williams grasped the situation in a flash and messengers galloped off. Moments later the blue line began to shift to the left as the First Brigade moved up to take over their positions and form a reserve. With a ringing cheer the long blue line swept forward, pausing only to unleash a tremendous volley. It was like a pair of boxcars rolling up the hill and the Grey clad infantry wavered and fell back.
Following up on their success, the 2nd Brigade surged up the hill, three regiments attacking with two more in reserve. Smashing into a thin line of dismounted cavalry, the 2nd Illinois sent them running but the Second Carolina wheeled forward, enfilading the brigade's left. After a prolonged struggle the battered Blue regiments fell back.

  The Rebel line on the hill was looked thin and ragged by now and without a pause, the reserves pressed forward and opened a hot fire.  The Rebs began to waver as the 1st Brigade came forward at a run, extending the line and opening fire. Eventually the battered rebels could take no more and retreated off the field.    

On the right, the concentrated fire of 4 Federal batteries silenced one Rebel battery after another. At last General Rosser seemed to wake up and the 1st Georgia and 1st Carolina  began a hesitant counter attack on the Federal Second Brigade.  As the musket fire rippled up and down the lines, the 11th Indiana Cavalry slipped almost unnoticed around the Rebel flank. At the last minute, General Rosser galloped across, ordered the reserve battery to be change front to the rear while he personally led the sharpshooters to help defend  the guns. It was too little, too late. The bugles rang out, the swords went up and with a cheer, the Hosier cavalry  charged up the hill, scattering the sharpshooters, cutting down Rosser and crashing through the battery into the rear of the 2nd Georgia. The shock collapsed the rebel line and sent the survivors fleeing into the woods.  

It seems that an aide helped General Rosser to evade the Federal cavalry and it is certain that this resilient officer shall fight again, but not today.


It took me most of the morning to clear the snow today so the game was a welcome diversion despite a few achy muscles. Once again the rules were Hearts of Tin. I meant to lean  a bit towards the Rebs but  today it went all the Yankee way. The Reb army started off ok but after a  lapse in judgement which left a  gap in the defence of the sunken road on the right hand hill was followed up by a shockingly effect Yankee volley ( 5 dice, 4x6's!), the army seemed dazed, like a deer in the headlights. The first brigade and 3 guns sat quietly under a barrage by 4 batteries and watched a masking force of 2 regiments while the other 8 Yankee regiments assaulted the 2nd Brigade on the right hand hill. It wasn't until the cavalry and 2nd Brigade were shaken  that it occurred to me to make use of the 1st. The Yankee 2nd Brigade had suffered heavily in their repulsed assault and there was some hope that a counter attack would shake them.  But really, it was over. The Yankee artillery was just too well handled and maybe a little bit lucky while the Reb artillery was just the opposite. The 2nd brigade battery never even got off a shot.  The spectacularly effective cavalry charge that ended the game was just the icing on the cake.

Rules wise, the tweaks all worked but I realized afterwards when I double checked a few things, that I had been playing with some unwritten rules and some others where what was written didn't accurately  reflect what I had meant, and a few others where I found myself playing an older version. I have added the minor bits that were missing or misleading and rather than trying to retrain myself, I have adjusted some bits (esp melee result) to reflect what I actually do.

For anyone curious about the designations, I merely coupled the arbitrary, sequential ID number on the back of the stands with a State name, based on what the uniform made me thing of. No representation of any real regiment is intended.

That's probably it for the ACW until I get some more Rebs painted up but who knows?.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bring up the guns

The view at noon. Bugler! Sound retreat! Back to the Games Room men!

For once the forecast was spot on. Just the sort of  day for some quality time with my toys. The temptation to run another game was almost overwhelming but the lack of Rebs in general and Reb artillery and Brigadiers in particular couldn't be ignored. A fairly thorough search turned up a few bits and bobs that could be pressed into service until some proper ordinance makes it though the blockade. this  included, a metal Napoleonic gun that I commandeered from its Les Higgins  RHA crew (poor lads they waited for 30m years to be painted and now their gun has been taken!), some spare barrels and a WWI gun, surplus to requirements that, with a bit of trimming, provided a not quite right carriage.   Annoyingly, all but 2 of my old Airfix gunners are still AWOL so I dug out various infantry and pioneers and started trimming off muskets and adding implements and lanyards. 

The new Reb batteries, with their improvised guns, defending a copy of Vol 1 of Battles and Leaders. I used to have a 1 volume condensed version but it is no match for the full thing. Getting the remaining volumes is on my list of ways to spend money.

While I was waiting for an undercoat to dry, I turned my attention back to organization and scenarios. It didn't take long contemplating the F&F Great Western Battles scenarios and my table, and how many 100's more troops I would need to paint, as well as remembering how long, tedious and inconclusive the several that I had tried back in our 15mm F&F days had been, for me to remember that I didn't really want to go there, especially since this is supposed to be a minor sideshow. Next time I refight Shilo or Corinth or the like, it'll be either a V&B type game with 1 stand brigades or else a Grant style fudge. About double my current armies are about the most I want to think about painting and harbouring. Since the various options I had been considering all seem to have value, I decided the way the 3 stand regiments that they are currently organized into are as good as any. I'll just have to print off a whole stack of flags and convert a few more colour bearers. Several of the regiments are easily identifiable at the moment, for example there is only 1 on each side that is standing at attention with arms shouldered, but to make life easier when laying out and  picking up, (not to mention removing a casualty from the middle of a brigade line), I assigned the regiments to brigades and proceeded to paint a Roman numeral on the back of each stand as a regimental identifier. Red for the first brigade, white for the 2nd. the rest will follow. Selection of State and number will also follow and be marked underneath. 

Brigadier Steele, originally a conversion forming part of a unit of volunteer Scouts for a Riel Rebellion game that never materialized, with a new hat to replace the one he lost, a new base for his horse, and a lick of new paint here and there, cheers on the Horse Artillery while a sharpshooter pulls a bead on the camera man.

After a delightful afternoon of converting, fixing, painting and basing, I was ready to lay out a game. The artillery was evened up but the Yankee infantry still outnumbered the Rebs 5:3.  I decided on an attack against a hasty defence. I'd had enough of Sawmill Village for now, so I cleared it off, and rearranged things a bit.  

Sometime late in 1861, the Yanks, under General Williams,with 10 regiments, 4 guns and a regiment of cavalry have thrown yet another pontoon bridge over the Paynted River. The Confederates under General Rosser have been alerted and are rushing to the spot with 6 regiments of infantry, a company of sharpshooters, 4 guns and a small regiment of cavalry.  The cavalry, horse artillery and sharpshooters arrive on table on Turn 1. The 1st Brigade on turn 2 and the 3rd Brigade on turn 3. the Federals start with the bridge in place and their columns ready to cross. Their aim is to control the ridge overlooking the bridge.

Why don't things ever go smooth? Just when the river crossing seemed to be going according to plan, Reb cavalry appears on the ridge. 

After 15 hours, the snow seems to be slowly ending as the temperatures warm up but I don't think I'm going very far tomorrow so the Battle of Snoughbound Ridge will resume. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The weather forecast is calling for 15-25 cm of unseasonable snow  on Wednesday so I postponed my trip and spent the day getting the yard ready and stacking more firewood into the shed.

Well, not ALL the day, I didn't have time for  a game but I broke out Vol 1 of Battles and Leaders and looked at a couple of Orders of Battle, contemplated elastic ground scales and scenarios then did some experimental maneuvering of various regiment and brigade sizes and configurations.  Apart from Gettysburg, I'm more interested in the early years of the war, 1861 & 62 when many of the armies were smaller and it was all new. It seems that if gaming 1861 at least, a  500 man regiment is not unreasonable in either army. Depending on where you peg the ground scale, each of my stands can reasonably be anywhere from 120 to 200 men so 3 stands is reasonable but 2 or  4 would also work.  A total of 15,000 troops or 30 "standard"  regiments would cover a number of battles but they need anywhere up to about 10 miles of frontage as opposed to the 1 or 2 miles that I can squeeze onto my table unless I measure in centimeters in which case each stand becomes a regiment and the whole thing will look out of scale anyway. So, no firm conclusion yet but  I'm leaning towards 4 stand regiments as units without dismissing the 3 stand ones yet.  For teasers, I'll field 2 regiments per scenario "unit'" (once I have enough troops) and for historical battles, I'll calculate how many stands per brigade and use that to decide how many regiments to field rather than adjusting the regiments even though that will lead to some units being the "3rd & 5th Texas" or what have you.
I also took some time tonight to play out some Brigade firefights and some charges. it didn't take long to notice the ripple effect of taking of stands as originally intended. Losses went from severe to unsupportable. The double dice in melee was a relatively recent introduction so I went back closer to Morschauser's original values.  So, for infantry with rifles for example, instead of 1 die over 4,5,6 when shooting and 2 dice for 4,5,6 in "melee" (up to 3" apart so we aren't talking fisticuffs). it is back to 1 die per stand 4,5,6 to hit in melee and 5,6 to hit when shooting, 6 if using muskets.  Those are the values I originally used for Morschauser meets MacDuff and after a number of 1 on 1 brigade scuffles, they seem to still work. i also went to check the details on the Hold Fire rule and couldn't find it so that has been added. A necessary rule if fire and movement is allowed so, another ripple.
Having noticed that I need more guns, I also spent time looking at the Musket Miniatures 23mm ACW range again. Pity they don't take Paypal. If you have coin for  a bulk deal, the artillery actually works out cheaper for actual model guns than buying boxes of plastic. At least if you leave off limbers but even these are reasonable. They also have command figures.

Monday, November 21, 2011

If at first you don't succeed, or "Git around behint 'em".

General Williams and Brigadier Taleri peer through the morning mist at the Rebel lines

Well there I was, I wanted to try an 1840 MacDuff game on my flat hills but I also wanted to play a bigger ACW game despite not having any more Rebs painted up. A completely different scenario would mean clearing the table but what if the Yanks who had just been seen off, came back with friends? What if they threw a pontoon bridge BEHIND the Rebels?
As quick as thought the Rebs fell back towards their entry point and dug in along the hills with the right flank refused. The Butternut Brigade on the left, Virginians on the right. Each of 3 regiments and a battery deployed with 1 regiment in reserve. Two stray stands of cavalry formed an army reserve. All under General Rosser.
General Rosser (on Ol' Whitey) and Brigadier Porter watch the Federal army deploy.

The Yanks, having also refilled  their ranks, sent the 1st and 2nd Brigades back up the way they had come, each with 3 regiments and a battery, the plan being to advance in column of Brigade and attack the Rebel right. The newly arrived 3rd brigade with 4 regiments and a battery crossed over the new pontoon bridge facing the Rebel left with orders to "amuse" them and then, once the main assault went in, to attack the enemy left. 

Colonel French filling in as Brigadier for 3rd Brigade. The lads in front were painted back c 1982, the ones on the bridge  are part of the new additions from that same lot.
Things went more or less as planned for Billy Yank. After a bit of softening up with artillery and rifle fire, the 1st Brigade charged in led by Brigadier Dryver.  OK so maybe the charge didn't quite go as planned. However, Reb losses were heavy and they didn't have many men to spare.

The shocking aftermath of the first charge on the entrenchments. The Rebs threw 10 dice for 4,5 or 6 and scored 10 hits! Then the Brigadier went down! The remnants of the 1st Brigade may be seen on the hill behind the 2nd Brigade.  

On the Yankee right, the 3rd Brigade was a bit more cautious, and traded fire with the Rebs for a few more turns, opening up some gaps. When they finally charged in, they seized the front line, only to be thrown back by a counter attack.

 The 3rd Brigade prepares to charge.
Bringing their 2nd line forward, the 3rd Brigade charged in again and were bloodily repulsed, routing back towards the bridge. Hurriedly, the remnants of the Butternut brigade rushed to support the Virginians who had fallen back to rally while the cavalry held the line. Every one expected the cavalry to hold for a while but they were barely in place when a storm of shot, shell and rifle fire blew them away. The 2nd Brigade surged forward over the lines and in a fierce firefight broke the Virginians just as the Butternuts hurried up.  The issue hung in the balance. Could the battered Butternut counter attack throw back the last Yankee Brigade?

    A brief pause as the Rebs desperately struggle to form a  line. The very hasty nature of the entrenchments is clearly shown here. A redoubt and sunken road from my old 15mm ACW setup and a toy sandbag emplacement.

Nope. The dismounted cavalry stormed up the hill and took the battery and while the Union line appeared to be wavering, they seized the initiative and kept up a hot fire, mowing down the Butternuts and driving them from the field.  
So there we have it. 18 stands of Reb infantry with 2 stands of cavalry and 2 guns defending against 30 stands of Yanks with 3 cavalry and 4 guns and it came down to the wire. If the Yanks  hadn't won a shift in initiative and then fired their most devastating volley of the day, the game might well have tipped in the Reb favour. A Pyrrhic Victory either way.  I've no idea how many turns I played,probably between 12 and 16 but the game took a little under an hour. For a pitched battle, I should be able to squeeze 3 times the number of stands on and get a solid day's battle from it.

I should also be able to do some smaller historical battles or sections of larger ones,  I need to reconsider my organization though which is standard 3 stand regiments as Units with 3 to 6 regiments forming brigades  as Commands. At this rate the game just fought was 2 divisions facing off and allowing up to a corps aside if I paint enough to crowd the table. 

Some calculation on ground scale tells me that my stands have the right frontage for about 200 men so 3 stands is a very strong regiment and anyway, I don't really want 1 man in 12 to carry a flag or have to figure out to tell 30 regiments apart.I'm even more dismayed at having an anonymous collection of stands that get parceled out into temporary regiments. 

I may be better off organizing to use Brigades as Units with these grouped into Divisions and the whole forming a Corps. 200 men per stand is the same as the alternate Fire & Fury scale with typical brigades being 6 to 8 stands, occasionally larger. This would mean that I could use F&F set ups from the Great Western Battles book, the Gettysburg scenarios from the rule book and Bull Run from the Courier. Or, well, I could if I still had a 6'x8' table... Parts of battles then! or maybe I should think about that temporary 5'x7' extension for my table.

Rules wise, I was pretty happy. Apart from some editing errors, there were 2 small tweaks, 1 to the wording for Shaken Commands, the other to the options for how hits get translated to stand removal.  

The idea was that since "hits" are as much or more about loss of cohesion as actual casualties then it would make sense to mark one hit on every stand and then start taking them off. The unit would still be able to take the same number of hits. That was the theory. Apart from the hassle of  marking more hits, the idea had also been that brigades would gradually get weaker as they lost stands but with distributing hits,  the brigade could sometimes take 50% hits without losing any combat power. Then it would disintegrate rapidly as each  additional hit removed a stand. It also meant that defensive fire against a charge was less effective since they often wouldn't reduce the attacker's combat power.  So I have gone back to the original idea that a stand comes off for every 2 hits. One could always substitute casualty stands as space holders, could. 

I'm off to Fredericton for a few days to visit family. This means several days away from gaming and about 10 hours of highway time to ponder gaming, so who knows what I'll do next. More ACW? An 1840's MacDuff game or maybe back to Ancients?