Friday, September 13, 2013

Hector Meets Featherstone at Simple's Pass

Near the end of the day, Hector watches intently as his forlorn hope charge by the Oberhilse 5th Infantry goes in against Faraway's 'A' Battery. Victory lies in the balance.

But, lets go back to the beginning.

Aficionados of Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers will probably recognize this scenario despite my addition of a few contours. This isn't the first time I have tackled this scenario on this blog but so far I would rate it as the most enjoyable rendition yet.   

The map and orders from Don Featherstone's Battle With Model Soldiers.

Red or Faraway took the Confederate role this time fielding 2 old battalions of Fusiliers, a squadron of Lancers and a foot artillery battery. Blue or Oberhilse fielded the new 5th Infantry and the even newer Hougal Zouave Volunteers, a squadron of Dragoons and a pack battery which would normally be light artillery but which was upgraded to field status for the day. All infantry units were 16 strong, cavalry 8 strong and batteries composed of a gun with 4 crew. All infantry had rifled muskets and were able to detach up to 1/2 their figures as skirmishers. I had spent a considerable amount of time last week proving to myself that it was not necessary to actually show the skirmishers on table but luckily I remembered that doing so violated my Intuitive test.  

Each side had 1 Commander acting as General. The extra crowd of officers on the Oberhilse side of the field was a party escorting their visitor Lord Marmaduke aka Lord Snooty. They were not, however, permitted to play an active role in the game. I commanded the Red army unfettered. Hector commanded the Blue side but of course made me move the troops as usual. 

In order to explain why the two parties were fighting over this stray bit of stone wall, I decided the wall marked the crest of a pass with a mountain on one side and a river on the other. Any attack on this front required the attacker to control the pass. I set out a contour to mark the crest but while it blocked line of sight it was too gentle to delay movement or confer a benefit in combat.

The situation at the end of turn 2.
Whoever wins the initiative will seize the wall on the next turn. 

The game began both sides rushing forward to the wall. All units were under command on the Red side with their cavalry being pulled back into a reserve position while Blue's cavalry, which was on a sweeping outflanking move, passed their first two Orders tests.  Once again, being a solo game, I forced the high roller to go first rather than choosing like I would if playing another human. Blue had won the first two rolls but Red won the third and reached the wall first. Blue reacted by shifting to his right and swinging around the flank, the intended wide sweep by the cavalry being somewhat tightened.  Both sides opened fire inflicting frightening casualties and causing a wave of panic (for me not the soldiers on the field but it was just a couple of good rolls and things evened out as the game continued. Phew!)

Turn 3 and the battlefield erupts in smoke and fire.

A few more turns of shooting like that would have wrecked Blue. An initial attempt to get the 5th Infantry to cease fire and pullback failed but eventually their officers got them under control and deploying a skirmish line, pulled the remnant back. Unfortunately this put them in the arc of fire of Red's artillery and with numbers hovering at the 50% mark they were soon pulled back even farther. 

The Zouaves backed by the Mountain battery were having the best of a firefight with Red's infantry but time was against them. Throwing in the cavalry was a risky move for Bue, if they won,  Red's position would be well and truly flanked and the game was in the balance but if they were repulsed the flank of the Zouaves would be wide open while they would still be engaged frontally. It would be pretty much game over.  Given that things looked so bleak if Blue's cavalry were to lose, it seemed to make sense to go all or nothing. The Dragoons were beyond command range and the Zouaves were involved in a firefight. In each case a roll of 3 or better was required to go but if either failed, it was no worse than not ordering them.
Time to do or die. Hector ordered the Zouaves and the Dragoons to charge.

Turn 5: The Charge of the Blue Dragoons and the Zouaves. To the dismay of his escorts, Lord Snooty has insisted on pushing forward for a better view of the action. 

The main body of the Zouaves bounded forward through their skirmish line. A ragged volley brought one down but they shrugged it off scattering the red infantry with the ferocity of their charge. To their right, there was a tremendous clash as the two cavalry units came together. For a minute it seemed that neither would prevail but Brevet Brigadier Kelinck galloped forward and inspiring the Dragoons, drove the Lancers off. Reds flank was wide open!  One more push and they would be over run and driven off.

Surrounded on three sides, Red hastily reforms.

Once again the game hung in the balance. If Blue could pursue speedily, they could stop Red from reforming. Taken in flank by Zouaves while engaged in a firefight the Brooklyn Fusiliers along the wall might not have time to reform while the Dragoons could over run the defeated Dover Fusiliers and hopefully over run the gun before Red's Lancers could reform, if indeed they rallied at all. 

Its almost never that easy. Red won the initiative and then passed all orders and rally tests with flying colours. Deploying a company of skirmishers to hold the wall and support the battery against the remnants  of the 5th Infantry, the rest of the Brooklyn's wheeled back to face the Zouaves while the  Dover's reformed in line with them. Brigadier Spye galloped back and by force of personality, held the Lancers on table. A line was formed, a shaky line but a line none the less.

The inexperienced Zouaves, disordered after the melee, stalled as they reformed around the colours but the veteran Dragoons didn't break stride, they galloped forward crashing into the Lancers while they were still rallying and unable to respond. The Lancers scattered and Brigadier Spye barely escaped capture himself.  Red was badly battered but still held the objective.

The Blue Dragoons are repulsed by fire.

At this point in the game, most units were either engaged in combat or beyond command radius and most turns there were failed order rolls, sometimes with dire results.  Several units were flirting with being below 1/2 strength, it couldn't go on much longer. 

The Blue Dragoons paused to reform (failed test) allowing the Dover's to form square and the battery to turn and face them. A charge into the mouth of the gun through flanking fire resulted  in a casualty and failed charge home test. The dragoons retired under a heavy fire from the artillery. Finally they shifted to the right, beyond the battery's arc of fire and there they sat.

On the other flank, however, the Brookyn's were now under a heavy fire from Zouave skirmishers and the mountain battery again. On the same turn the Dragoons were repulsed, they suffered 5 hits from 5 dice! General Spye rode over to steady them but was shot down himself. It was a fatal move. Left without orders, turn after turn the Battery commander was unable to decide whether to shift his guns to the left to shoot at the cavalry again, or return his guns to their original position and drive off the remnants of the 5th Infantry who had crept up behind the battery. This is the moment in the picture up top when Hector decided that personal leadership was called for. He sent the 5th Infantry forward just as the battery finally redeployed. 

A blast of canister tore through the 5th but they were more afraid of Hector than of artillery dice and passing the charge home test the colour bearer staggered forward into contact. He didn't get a die in melee but the gunners whiffed on their's making it a tied melee. The 5th was below strength though and so yet another morale test was taken and passed. The Brooklyn's were also below strength but also held. It couldn't last.  

Unable to pass up the opportunity, the Dragoons charged forward into the rear of the guns while the last few Brooklyns took to their heels. The Dover's, still in square, attempted to cover the retreat but were shattered by artillery fire and then cut down by Dragoons as they fled. 

Turn ??
A sad ending  for the Soldiers of the Queen on a day that started so well. 

So there we are, a delightful solo game, one of the best in ages. Work is well in hand to complete translating the quick rules notes into English. The last minute decision to try again with an orders test for units who fired or fought in melee instead of a ban on moving and firing finally worked just the way I had envisaged it when I tried it with Hearts of Tin two years ago. The different order system then in use didn't work with the idea but this did! I'm expecting the final edition to settle out at about 5 pages with about 12 rules and be ready by Monday.

The Queen's generals can obviously not leave the pass in Oberhilse hands so work is already at hand putting together a counter attack force but General Scott  has also ordered up reinforcements and General Turner had not anticipated the possibility of such a complete defeat.  In both armies the work of rallying broken units and recovering wounded men and stragglers is in hand.

Expectation is that the armies will clash again on Sunday.

Lord Snooty, pursued by his escort, rides over to examine the captured gun and congratulate his hosts while Private Wayne talks to the Ensign of the 5th to get the technical details.


  1. A simple but exciting game !, what more could you want !

  2. It's impressive that the dice know to add a "first volley" bonus without you having to detail it in the rules! Telepathic dice? - maybe that's an original Featherstone feature that we lost sight of over the years.

  3. Ross Mac,

    A great battle report ... and it sounds like you have a great 'new' set of rules as well!

    All the best,


    1. Almost wrecked them yesterday when I started "fixing" something. Luckily I caught myself before t was too late.

  4. I'm hopeless on rules and will not comment. However, may I say for the umpteenth time how much I enjoy your photography. Very evocative of a wargaming time and place.

    1. Thanks ator, I do miss having a real camera at my command. All cell snaps.

  5. Your BatRep reinforces the notion that you don't need a table full of figures to have an interesting game. Your several handfuls do quite nicely. Enjoyed the BatRep and your old School style. Looking forward to seeing your revised MacDuff to the Frontier.

  6. Hi Ross,
    Great battle report, and it seems like you've really got something with your latest rule revisions. Congrats.
    And as for General Hector, what can one say? Me 'at's off to the Duke.

    1. I knew I was in trouble when he showed up in person at the crisis.

  7. It is good to see one can have such a good game with so few model soldiers.Thank you for sharing it.
    I have played this scenario four times in the last month: two times with HofT (one with 40 mm ACW semisolids and another with 30 mm Spencer Smiths ACW) and another two with Black Powder and my 15 mm home made napoleonics model soldiers. All very enjoyable games.
    I am anxiously waiting this new set of rules, it would be very interesting to test this new set of rules over the same scenario, perhaps with my Spencer Smiths, just to make Don some sort of personal homenage.
    Regards, Cesar.

    1. That is an excellent idea Cesar. the Spencer Smiths would just the thing. Don seemed to be very fond of his.

  8. I always enjoy reading your reports . . . especially when I get to see Hector on the tabletop.

    -- Jeff

  9. A most enjoyable Sunday morning read, and great photos as usual. As for Hector .... what a Star he is!


  10. An impressive example of General Hector's generalship - his charismatic leadership and man-management: that aloof and confident demeanour; the trust he placed in his subordinates; the light and deft touch with which he conducted the action. I am lost in admiration.

    With just 40 figures and a gun apiece that was quite a brisk and exciting little action. Just the sort of thing that would open a campaign...

    1. Hector is a natural.

      It was a very comfortable game. I suspect the absence of extra 25 sq feet of table will be felt when reinforcements arrive.