Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Hard Day on the Fosse Way.

Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold.

A English Civil War game using the Baroque supplement for Basic Impetus.

This was a historical refight of one of the closing battles of the Civil Wars with a motley crew of poor quality Royalist garrison troops defending a ridge against Parliaments New Model.

I was for the King and had a good position, occupying a long ridge that ran the width of the battle field. That was the extent of the good news. Other than three units of reasonable galloping horse my foot was pretty poor and I was up against the best that Mr Cromwell and his friends had to offer.

All I had to do though was hang on for 2 hours or so, hold the ridge and stop my army from routing. (Historically the Royalist stood for a whole half-an-hour before fleeing).

Opposite me was a mixture of good quality foot and trotting horse and units of Dragoons. Each side was also given a single artillery battery but we agreed that these would have a single dice shot (needing “6” in order to cause casualties.

We also reduced the musket range down to half the distance of those stated in the Basic Rules.

One draw back was that I had to deploy as per the historical account which meant I had a pretty thin line with cavalry on the wings and my better troops scattered along the line amongst the poorer garrison troops. Ideally I would have liked to concentrate my better troops or at least deploy some as a reserve behind the ridge.

To begin with I was doing very little. I had superior cavalry on the right so advanced these off the hill to threaten Micks left and give his Centre something to think about. Micks centre was very strong with three crack regiments of foot.

On the right I had some more galloping horse and a single unit of dragoons. I was outnumbered here but wanted to try and mess the lines up a bit to make it difficult for Mick to re-deploy and turn in to my flank if/when he got past this wing.

Mick had clearly decided to start with an assault on the left of my line. He advanced his trotting horse and dragoons and they were soon exchanging fire with my own dragoons. The first of many dreadful saving throws resulted in my dragoons being swept aside. I responded with a charge down the hill in to Mick’s advancing cavalry. The swept through one unit of trotting horse before following up in to a second and being shot to pieces my the trotters horse pistols.

Straight away my left was looking problematic.

On the right my cavalry sat staring at a regiment of foot supported by a cavalry regiment but there was no need to advance on to them. The longer the enemy stayed put the better my chances of a win.

In the centre the Parliamentarian crack units advanced on my garrison troops with grim inevitability.

I had one good unit of Foot and a weakened unit of Cavalry remaining on the left but they were massively outnumbered. I opted to withdraw these off the ridge but not too far. This would keep them out of harms way in the short term while being too much of a threat to allow Micks right to turn in to my centre (a refused flank if you like).

The musketry began in earnest in the centre now and the grim reality of the situation became apparent. After some more disastrous saving throws I immediately lost a regiment of foot and two others were significantly weakened. As a result I had a single dice for each of my remaining three units while Mick was rolling on 4 dice per each of his regiments. At this point there was no point in Mick closing with me as it was quite obvious it was only a matter of time before he could shoot me off the hill with minimum risk to his own forces.

I was nervously looking at my watch now, counting the minutes before the game ended. I was tempted to spend precious minutes rule hunting during my turn but this was not the Cavalier thing to do.

I still had a fresh infantry unit and two units of fresh cavalry on the right. I stripped one of the cavalry regiments to bolster the centre and but the writing was already on the wall.

Micks Dragoons and Cavalry pressed forward in to my refused left flank and in quick succession knocked out a further infantry unit and the weakened cavalry unit. This took my army past the break point and my army routed.

A decisive victory for Parliament with Mick losing only 2 units to my 5. However I can be quietly please that at least I lasted longer than the royalist on the day!

Given all I had to do was hold on I think I should have done more to actually slow the advance of Mick’s troops. My choices were limited by the deployment but still though I never had a shot at beating the New Model, I think I could have held them just for a bit long. The game ended after 1 ½ hours of the 2 hours allotted. Just half-an-hour longer…….

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Not How Many but Where.

My first foray in to Hail Caesar this week.

A few of us were involved as there was quite a bit of interest in how it would play. Lon has brought enough toys for two armies (though some were still sporting their black undercoat) so it would be Spartans and their Allies versus the Athenians in a straight up slogging match.

The Hail Caesar rules are really easy to pick up if you have ever played Warmaster, or any of the Warhammer derivatives. Shooting and combat revolve around a “Hit”, “Wound”, “Save” dynamic, namely three rolls to determine how many casualties a unit takes. Each of these rolls may be modified by tactical factors and special rules. This makes it easy to get used to, easy to remember and easy to play.

Movement and Orders is exactly the same as Black Powder with “Brigade” commanders giving orders to their Brigades or Units and then rolling to see if the orders are successfully interpreted/implemented.

What is good about this game is the distance the two opponents can cover quickly with good command rolls. In a game such as this where there is little sweeping manoeuvre and much more rumbling forwards while trash talking the enemy.

I had deployed with my strongest Spartan Hoplite unit to the centre with a screen of Helots to their front and a supporting Lacedaemian Hoplite behind them. On the left was another two units of Lacedaemian Hoplites again screened by some small units of skirmishing Helots.

The Athenians lined up with two Hoplite phalanxes facing my Spartans with some cavalry, skirmishers and a final Hoplite Unit facing my left. I was out flanked slightly on both sides but felt the "Shock and Awe" would win the day with a death or bust charge right up the centre.

Between the two armies was a sunken road which may cause disruption to the whomever crossed it.

Things got of to a good start and my Spartan Juggernaut hunkered down and headed straight for the heart of the Athenian line. On my left Chris sent his horse galloping forward forcing a unit of my Lacedaemians to form a defensive formation to avoid being charged in the flank.

The Skirmishers on both side exchanged stones from their slings but with little effect other than to push them back behind their heavier brothers.

Finally as I approached the sunken road I gave my Spartans a Charge order to try and get to grips with the Athenians as soon as possible. I trotted up to the road to low and behold find a unit of Elite Athenian Hoplites waiting for me in the dead ground. I bundled in to them and amidst much grunting and swearing and the odd somewhat homophobic jape, the real tussle began.

I had lost my charge bonus but I was still a superior unit to the Athenians. I chose not to lock shields (where I would lose on attacking dice but gain on saving throws) and went all in. Initially the Athenian who had locked shields held their ground.

Unfortunately what this meant was that the Athenian helots could fire over the heads of my Spartans (who were below them in the sunken road) at my supporting unit with impunity.

However this only lasted a round or two before the Spartans burst through the best that Athens had to offer and followed up in to a supporting Athenian phalanx. They were somewhat weaker at this stage and things would not prove so easy. On the Spartan right, an overlapping unit of Athenian Hoplites marched past then and charged my supporting Lacedaemians.

One of Chris’ Hoplite units charged my only non-engaged Lacedaemian unit and battle was joined in earnest as all my troops were now engaged.

The slugfest commenced with units all along the line trading tit-for-tat blows with the momentum swinging one way and then the other as the Gods played their games with us.

In the end I think it was a somewhat pyrrhic victory for Sparta, they had caused the greatest damage and “looked” the stronger but they did not hold the field.

I enjoyed the Hail Caesar rules but have to say that I do not see what there is to attract the player that already has Warmaster (though perhaps slightly faster play).

Monday, 8 August 2011

Somewhere in northwest India……..

I have been a bit lax of late with games and subsequent games reports recently.  As such Bob was kind enough to write a rather excellent report  following a game at the club between him and Mick last week.

A fictional conflict using historical opponents, later Skythians with a combination of light horse archers and cataphracts coming to blows with a contemporary Indian force featuring lots of infantry longbows supported by light javelin armed foot, a couple of elephant units, a chariot force and some pretty dreadful cavalry.
We actually messed up both the terrain and deployment rules within Impetus but we carried on regardless. As might be expected the more mobile Skythians cavalry advantage forced the Indians to deploy first on to a pretty featureless plain. I was commander of the Skythians and Mick the Indians. He lined his eight archer units across the battlefield with a light infantry unit at each end. Two Cavalry units formed up slightly rearward at each end to prevent envelopment and his elephants and chariot in the rear. My side split into unequal lumps (lumps because they have a poor command structure so need to stay up close and personal with their generals), four light horse with four cataphract units in support on my left, three light horse with a single cataphract unit and further light horse to their rear on my right.

The Skythians rolled forward a little, the Indians advanced enough to get in long range bowshot range. The Indian longbow isn’t in the same class as the English medieval type and his shooting reflected this, as did mine when I rode units forward to reply. Not a hit (sixes or double fives) was recorded from the first 11 dice rolled! However with units relatively weak in strength (VBU) once hits started to occur units could quickly crumble.
First blood to the Skythians, on the right the light javelin armed foot decided to scarper after a couple of hits. Mick replied on his left where he shot down a horse archer unit that got too close and too cocky (it could have evaded out of range but I didn’t take the option).
Mick lost a longbow unit on his left and rode his general’s elephant unit into the resulting gap to fill it and bring the various missile weapons an elephant unit has to bear on the Skythians threatening his weakening infantry line. A bold, but ultimately doomed move as it turned out. The Skythian cataphracts on this side of the battlefield were further wide than the enemy elephant general and forced the Indian cavalry to fight them or be shot to pieces by horse archery. Indian cavalry are the only thing that doesn’t shoot in their army.

 Unfortunately they don’t fight very well, in pretty short order both such units were gone and the cataphracts were beyond the Indian flank. They’d taken a casualty though and attracted the interest of the second elephant; this spent the rest of the game trying to get at them. Mick’s elephant mounted General was now his left flank guard and the Skythian horse archers fancied elephant burgers for tea. Their constant sniping sapped its strength pretty rapidly.

On the left the Skythian shooting weakened the longbow units they faced. The cataphracts behind rolled forward to try and triple move into them. It didn’t work and instead stalled directly in front of them in a disorderly fashion. The longbows stepped forward to minimal range and rolled fistfuls of dice. Hits were recorded but no units lost as cataphracts are tough units to kill off quickly. On their next activation they girded their loins, dressed their ranks and rumbled into the archers, killing three units of them and then riding through the line to be faced by an Indian Prince in a chariot.

The Skythians had done a lot of damage but it was spread across two commands. The Indians had taken out only one enemy unit but had weakened several, including both Skythian General’s units. Both sides thought they could end things in their favour in one last turn….
Mick successfully activated both his commands before either Skythian. His dice failed him in pretty much every other way. He couldn’t clear disorder with the elephant trying to run down my right flank General so no melee and ineffective shooting saved him. On the other side of the field multiple longbow shots failed to finish off the other Skythian commander and the chariot didn’t land a hit on the cataphracts facing it.

The game was won when a veritable swarm of horse archers surrounded and took turns to pepper the Indian General astride his elephant. Finishing him off took his command to 50% losses and so they fled, which in turn took the whole Indian army to 50% and so they gave up and went home.
An excellent game (well I would say that, they were all my toys and I won!) which went down to the wire.
Skythian tribesmen have now acquired some nice new territories in northwest India; just a few Greek cities will need subduing before they can really settle down for a “Kush(an)y” lifestyle….just like what really happened.

Friday, 5 August 2011

“ Conscience is but a word that cowards use, devised at first to keep the strong in awe”

What with people being on holiday and my Wife upping her socialising (leaving me literally holding the baby) it has been a few weeks since I’ve been able to get to the club and organise a game.

Bob has been putting the finishing touches to a War of the Roses Campaign which I think will begin in earnest next week. This week though as it had been a while we opted for a “warm up” game of Impetus using Rob (B)’s 6mm Wars of the Roses miniatures.

I have a soft spot for the Richard III so I donned my Planta genista and prepared to take on the pretender and his mercenaries.

I had 4 units of Retinue Bow, the same of Retinue Billmen, some Swiss Mercenary pike, my King and the Retinue of impetuous heavy cavalry and two units of dismounted men-at-arms. Bob and Rob be were the house of Lancaster and they had slightly more units but lacked the dismounted men-at-arms.

I deployed with dismounted men-at-arms in the centre, flanked by 2 units of bowmen who in turn had the billmen behind them. The rules for the period allow units of heavy foot to interpenetrate the bowmen in front so this is a useful deployment for softening up the enemy before charging home. My mercenary pike were formed in to a large unit on the far right and my Nobles started the game on “opportunity” behind the line. As the noble Cavalry were impetuous I placed them on opportunity as this would prevent them having to compulsory move once the enemy came within 30cm.

Bob and Rob split their army in to two commands separated by a stand of trees to their front. Rob (B) had mercenary crossbow and retinue archers supported by a large unit of Irish warband and a unit of light horse. Bob had 2 units of bowmen and 2 units of billmen deployed the same as mine with his commanders retinue of impetuous heavy cavalry immediately behind.

Because of the stand of trees separating the two commands I realised that I had an opportunity to try and pin one command and hold on while focusing my strength and destroying the other. The question was which one.

I moved forward slightly to narrow the gap between me and the stand of trees, this would prevent Bob and Rob (B) from joining up once past. I then pushed my dismounted men-at-arms forward in front of my line. My logic here was if the enemy wanted to take on the men-at-arms they would be exposed to flanking fire from the bowmen. If they attacked the bow/bill units then risked being charged in the flank by the men-at-arms.

Rob (B) opted to try and take on my men-at-arms and moved his Irish Warband across to engage them. This meant however that they had to move across the front of 2 of my bow units and in doing so they sustained heavy casualties. He finally got in to contact but was so weakened that he bounced off my men-at-arms, who promptly counter charged and wiped them out. A good start for me thanks to some lucky dice rolling.

At the same time Rob (B) has sent his light horse round the back of my line and attacked one of my Billmen units from the rear. Again I managed to survive and Rob (B)’s disastrous saving throw meant that he also lost this unit. However the move had been enough for me to activate my Nobles and bring them over to my right as to deal with the threat.

As things stood at this point I had a good position. I had a strong line and had pushed a wedge between the two wings of the enemy all I needed to do now was decide what part of the enemy line I should look to destroy and what side to keep pinned. I decided that I would go for enemy on my left as I was not sure the numbers on the right were sufficient for a game win.

I swept aside the enemy bow and the billmen were now vulnerable from attack from their front and from each side by my mercenary pike and dismounted men-at-arms. Unfortunately I was then to a somewhat cheesy but legal manoeuvre by Bob. My mercenaries had come within 30cm of his mounted nobles who were impetuous. This meant they had to advance. They could not penetrate the friendly billmen to their front so the bill men had to be placed behind the nobles, out of range of all my foot who now would have to deal with fresh heavy cavalry rather than disordered heavy foot.

The enemy heavy cavalry made short work of my mercenary pike (who had already been weakened by enemy bow fire) then went through my bowmen but found harder work trying to see off the bill men behind. Meanwhile my nobles had done an about turn and were galloping to the rescue. On my right the two wings traded bowfire from a reasonably safe distance.

Unfortunately again we ran out of time before completing a game. We had not seen each other for a few weeks and this combined with Rob (B) producing box of fresh Krispy Kreme donuts meant that there had been a lot of gossiping and not enough dice rolling (of which I was no doubt the main culprit). I am fairly confident that Bob’s position was starting to look problematic and a few more turns may have led to a win for the House of York.

Hopefully we will press on with the Wars of the Roses Campaign from next week so lets hope this time York can not only win the battles but also win and keep hold of the crown!