Sunday, 23 November 2014

Metaurus Set Up

So after a few days re-reading the sources (such as they are) and pushing some plastic about I've come up with this:

The terrain gave me a short pause for thought. Livy says Hasdrubal was trying to build a camp overlooking the river. That could imply a river in front of him, facing the Roman advance. However as there's nothing said about the Romans crossing a river, I put it behind the Carthaginian line. I didn't run it all the way along to give more space for the cavalry action (BTW That's my Bellona River, most of which I've had for over 40 years)

Furthest from the camera is the position defended by the Gauls. This is described as a wooded ridge or similar, in front of their position. I went for a hill with woods on it, and put the Gauls in it as that'll even things up against the legionnaries facing them. I put some random hills near the camera just to break the table up a bit more.

The numbers of troops have bothered me the most, so in the end I divided the table into three and looked at the various match ups to get a bit of balance.

On the Roman right :
Consul Nero
1 x Auxilia, Light Armour, Average (I think his light troops need to be a bit tougher than the usual Velites).
4 x Heavy Infantry, Medium Armour, Average
1 x Triarii, Medium Armour, Veterans

4 x Warband, Light Armour, Levy

In the Middle:
Propraetor Porcius
3 x Light Infantry, Light Armour, Average
8 x Heavy Infantry, Medium Armour, Average
3 x Triarii, Medium Armour, Veterans

2 x Elephants
1 x Light Infantry, Light Armour, slingers, Average
1 x Light Infantry, Light Armour, javelins, Average
6 x Heavy infantry, Medium Armour, Veteran

The Carthaginians are drawn up fairly deep as that's what Livy says. I've made them Veteran to give them a bit more staying power against the masses of Roman foot

On the Roman left:
Consul Salinator
4 x Heavy Cavalry, Medium Armour, Average

"Gisgo" (we have no named number 2 for Hasdrubal, so I've made one up)
2 x Heavy Cavalry, Medium Armour, Average
1 x Light Cavalry (Numidians), Light Armour, Average

To win the Carthaginians have to kill 16 Roman units (leaving 8 on the table), the Romans have to kill 11 (leaving 6 on the table).

We'll be using my revised elephant rules, but with a berserk move with every base that is killed and the standard commander dice re-roll once per turn.

 So, that's what I think. I have a special rule for Nero in my head as well, but I'm not putting it on this blog as some of the players read it.

Just have to wait until Wednesday now.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Musing on Metaurus

We're setting up to do another all day gaming session, so I'm hunting round for an AMW re-fight to put on. In the past I've relied heavily on Phil Sabin's "Lost Battles" as it usually contains all the data I need.

Having worked on Cannae quite a bit recently I felt it only fair to find a Roman win in the Second Punic Wars and do that. Metaurus seemed like an excellent choice. I've been fascinated by the battle ever since I was bought a "Great Land Battles" book whilst on holiday in the 1970s. It was the only battle in the book I hadn't heard about.

Cannae is a battle that has been analysed endlessly, its lessons apparently learned and carried down through the ages. Ultimately it was completely fruitless. It led nowhere. At the very best it allowed Hannibal to stay in the field. It did not bring down Rome. I'm reminded of Manchester's statement in the English Civil War ""If we beat the King ninety and nine times yet he is king still, and so will his posterity be after him; but if the King beat us once, we shall be all hanged, and our posterity be made slaves". You might as well read "King" as "Romans". If Hannibal loses once he's hanged.

You might therefore argue that Cannae is a massive irrelevance in the overall course of the war.

Unlike Metaurus.

Metaurus is a decisive battle. From this point on Hannibal has no chance of winning the campaign. No major reinforcements will join him. It may take another three or four years, but the Romans know that from this point on they're winning in Italy.

Alas the sources for Metaurus aren't great. We have a fragmentary account from Polybius and a few lines in Appian. The main detail comes from Livy, at which point generally you know you are in trouble. Livy does tend to make things up to suit his narrative.

Metaurus doesn't make it into "Lost Battles", although there is a scenario in "Strategos", giving army lists and a table layout. Unlike "Lost Battles" you don't have actual force numbers, nor do you have deployments. Looking at what Phil Sabin has put in "Strategos" I'm not entirely sure where he gets some of the stuff from, especially the battlefield layout. Rich Berg has also done a board game of the battle, and I don't get his terrain layout either. Both have a river or stream running across the front of the Roman position. I don't know if this is an example of history not repeating itself, but historians repeating one another.

The force numbers are all over the shop as well, with more Carthaginians dying than present at the battle according to the sources. The Wikipedia entry on the troop deployment discusses the "evidence" before concluding against the run of argument that: "Therefore, it is certain that Carthaginians were significantly outnumbered". Outnumbered I think is proven, but significantly less so. It is similarly all over the place about cavalry. It says the Carthaginians had c5,000, but that they lacked cavalry, of which the Romans had substantially more. Based on what we know of the Roman forces - 8 legions + 6,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry with Consul Nero - the Romans probably had less than 4,000. As the saying goes "Go figure".

The other issue with the battle is Consul Nero's ability to redeploy substantial numbers of infantry from the extreme right of the line to the extreme left whilst the battle was raging. May need a special rule there.

All in all it's still a battle I want to do, but I'm a little behind where I'd like to be at this stage of the planning. I'm in danger of falling back on "inherent military probability". Oh dear.

I also seem to be a little short in the required numbers of legionnaries.

Ho hum.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Getting Roundway to it

Another game in the occasional series of refights of English Civil War battles using "Victory Without Squares".

This week Phil & I had a go at Roundway Down (aka "Runaway Down") where William Waller's reputation was shredded and Hasilrige's Lobsters fought their last battle.

It is also the battle that created Lord Wilmot's reputation as a dashing cavalry commander and the epitome of the devil may care Cavalier.

Following the inconclusive Battle of Lansdown Wilmot chased Waller's men down again on Roundway Down. The location of the battle isn't known exactly but generally it can be concluded that it was fought on open ground that gave neither side an advantage.

My information for this battle is taken from Richard Brooks' "Battlefields of Britain and Ireland" and the scenario published in "Battle for Wargamers" in the late 70's by Stuart Asquith. Generally I favour Brooks over Asquith for details where they are not compatible. (NB It is not clear whether Wilmot was on the left or the right of the Royalist attack. As most troop positions are based on his actions/location - eg he fights Hasilrige first - deployments in recreations of this battle can be mirror images of each other).

I put Waller's army on a slight ridge to break the table up more than anything. Wilmot's army is approaching at an angle. This is the only way I can see that Waller's guns could have been masked by his cavalry, as reported in the accounts of the action.

Phil was playing Waller, and unlike his predecessor took a more aggressive approach and decided to take the battle to the Royalists.

Things generally went Phil's way. His artillery succeeded in disrupting my right hand cavalry, halting them in their tracks (Disorganised cavalry may not charge). On my left, Hasilrige stood off and gave me a pistol volley, inflicting sufficient damage to even up the conflict, and driving me off, although at some cost to themselves. My inability to pin them in position meant my flanking manoeuvre didn't quite come off.

Phil is rushing his infantry across to shore up Hasilrige's wing. At the bottom Waller's horse close up and discharge their pistols.

The Lobsters bounce off another cavalry charge, but Sir Arthur is unhorsed and retires from the battle

Lord Byron on my right is having the worst of it from Waller's horse and is being steadily driven back.

Another round of combat sees both Byron and Waller severely injured and unable to carry on.

At last Wilmot breaks the Lobsters and their supports and drives them towards the rear of the battle field. His men are in poor shape however.

Outpaced by the fleeing horse Wilmot's men are exposed to a volley from the infantry and break and flee.

Another volley rakes Price Maurice's troop, and he is also injured.

At last Hopton's foot arrive, but it looks like it might be too late.

More volleys from the infantry break Maurice's horse, who also decide to retire.

Byron's horse are then bested by Waller's cavalry, and decide to leave the table too.

The Royalist foot deploy and halt Waller's advance.

On the Parliamentarian right Hasilrige's men have reformed and rejoin the action, to be confronted by Maurice's rallied troops.

Hasilrige & Maurice fight an inconclusive round of combat, but it is clear by this point that the day has gone to the forces of Parliament.

As we had enough time we reset the forces and replayed the game using Advanced Armati, with Phil's ECW amendments. It was closer, but still not a victory for the Royalists.

There is a lesson in both of the refights. It isn't necessarily clear in the battle report, but the odds are stacked in favour of the Royalist cavalry. They have a better than 50% chance of breaking the Parliamentarian horse within a move or two, and a very slim chance of being driven off. The game as I envisaged it would feature a hasty cavalry action then a protracted infantry retirement fight as Waller tries to extract his foot from the shambles.

As it was I never got traction. Excellent shooting by the artillery and also a remarkably effective display of the parliamentarian cavalry tactics (ie taking the charge at the halt and discharging pistols/carbines) blunted Wilmot's hell for leather charges. Once they had failed he had nothing up his sleeve. The infantry were off the field and he had nowhere to fall back on and reform. It shows what a desperate action this was. It is described as brilliant and it was one of the most decisive victories of the war. In addition to the total destruction of the Parliamentarian horse, the infantry finally disintegrate as well.

However it clearly hangs on a knife edge. There's no battlefield tactical sophistication here. Wilmot just gallops up and charges pell-mell into the Parliamentarian Horse. If things go well for him, he's a genius, if they don't he's an idiot. The historical battle seems to prove the validity of the Royalist hard charging tactics at a troop level. If this is to be re-fought, I might need to alter the odds even more.

Monday, 17 November 2014

BA-10s in the Spanish Civil War

Memory is a funny thing. One of the striking events of the Spanish Civil War that stuck in my memory was when the Republicans engaged a large group of Panzers with the BA-10 armoured car. The BA-10 had a 45mm cannon, and the Panzer 1s only HMGs. The German tanks were equipped with armoured piercing bullets effective at up to 200 metres. The Republicans stood off at longer range and drove the Panzers off, destroying large numbers.

Since reading about this action it was obvious I had to add some BA-10s to my force mix. Consequently I was delighted to pick up a pair of the Zvezda models at Derby from the Plastic Soldier Company at a very reasonable price. I already have some Zvezda BT-5s, and I must say I'm a fan of the company, the way their kits are produced, the quality and the pricing.

The kits are supposedly push together, but I can tell you these armoured cars are a real pig to build. They are tremendously fiddly, with a multi-part suspension structure, and two of the smallest little headlight pieces you can imagine. One of these shot off down the back of the desk during construction, and I couldn't find it anywhere. In the end I replaced all of the headlights with some sprue as that'll be more robust. One of the turrets also got stuck on its spigot during assembly and wouldn't go on properly or come off. A bit of knife work was required to get that sorted.

Still, they came out okay in the end, by my standards.

Now here's the funny thing. When I went to get the books out to check up on the paint scheme and markings I discovered that I was wrong. The BA-10 wasn't used in Spain. It was produced in 1938, and would have been too late to ship. The Republicans had access to the BA-3 and BA-6. Both of these had very similar body shapes, but mounted different looking turrets. The BA-6, in particular, mounted a T-26 turret. That looks really different.

Dammit. And I was so sure as well. Still, they'll pass for BA-3s if no one knows what they're looking at.

As I said, memory is a funny thing.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Some sons of the desert

You may recall a while back - August, I think it was -  that a blog reader got in touch and offered me some boxes of figures he had no use for.

The figures concerned were one box each from the Hat "El Cid" range. It had been my intention to buy these eventually and build a Murabit/Almoravid army following a holiday in Morocco several years ago. This gift shifted the project up the priority list a bit.

Since then I've been trying to finish off some previous projects. These were the Neo-Assyrians and Medes and the Taiping Chinese, the latter for which I've been waiting for a few years.

Any how, the Neo-Assyrians/Medes are now nearly done. there's possibly half a dozen units left, max, and I don't actually need them really. It's just I don't like leaving unpainted figures about as I know once I move on it's unlikely I'll go back to them. I'm also in the position of probably starting work again soon. This is going to cut seriously into my painting time, so prioritising things is really important just now.

Over the last few months I've been able to assemble some proper research materials for the "El Cid" armies, - Spanish, Murabit & Andalusian - so I'm in a position to paint a test unit. So I have.

Every one does a unit of the Black Guards, & I'm no exception, so here are mine:

Here's all my brave fellows all together. The shields historically had lines from the Koran on them. I tried to paint arabic characters and failed dismally, but they look okay from a distance, and I'm also spared from being the subject of a fatwa for despoiling the Holy Koran.

One group of bamboo spear wielding warriors.

Another group of bamboo wielding warriors.

The second rank of bamboo javelin throwing chaps and sword bearing colleagues.


One last note. The bases are done with PVA and sand. The sand came from the Sahara Desert.

Nice touch, I thought.

Thanks, Jim.

Monday, 10 November 2014

A Quick Guide to the Downloads

Up on the top right of the blog there are some links to a few downloads. These have been added over the years (years? I've been doing this for over 5 years now) mostly in response to requests or because I'm quite pleased with the output.

As they are fairly haphazard in nature I thought it might be helpful just to recap what's there.

Battle of Toski Briefing Pack
This was prepared to re-fight a major action between the Egyptian Army and Mahdists using Howard Whitehouse's superb "Science v Pluck" rules. It is one of the frustrations of SvP that to make it work well you really need to spend time on the scenario & briefings. It is a constant source of frustration that there aren't really many available out there, so this is me trying to encourage others to do the same. The pack has forces, player briefings, maps and so on. Our re-fight is covered in these two blogs Toski - Part 1 and Toski - Part 2

Flodden Field Briefing Pack
In order to mark the 500th anniversary of Flodden Field in 2013 we did a large re-fight using Armati.
This pack has orders of battle, troop factors and rule modifications. The order of battle is pretty solid, and is based on the best research available IMHO. Ironically producing this pack got me caught in a TMP flame war and garnered me a whole heap of stifles. The set up of the game is discussed here: Flodden Preview and the actual battle described here: Flodden game.

If You Tolerate This
These are my Divisional Level SCW rules, which are played on offset squares or hexagons and intended for 15mm figures. They were written in late 2011/early 2012, so there are lots of blogs about the development. The last big game we played with them is described here: IYTT Part 1 and IYTT Part 2.

Red Army, White Guards
These are really quite a few years old. They're a square based RCW game set at Divisional Level, again using 15mm figures. They are based on Richard Brooks' "Picklehaube and Pantalons Rouge" WW1 rules. They use a playing card activation sequence. They were well received at CoW, and I even ran a really big game in my garage (pre Shedquarters) with Richard B present. All of this pre-dates the blog, so there are no handy entries to look at. Nice pictures in the rule booklet tho'.

Redcoats and the Sudan
These enable you to fight most battles of the British and Egyptian campaigns in the Sudan (and in Egypt to) with the exception of the really big ones like Khartoum/Omdurman. They use squares and are playing card activated. They owe a big debt to Richard Brooks and Bob Cordery. We played them a lot several years ago (pre-blog) but I revived them recently, and found them fun: Squares in the Sudan. They are great for solo play.

Return to the River Don
These are intended for RCW games just below divisional level, say with a couple of regiments a side. They have quite an intricate move/command sequence and a rather good mutiny mechanism. The armour rules are pretty unique as well. These are well documented in their development and can be tracked through the Return to the River Don label.

Send Not To Know
These are for a sub Divisional level SCW game, and were developed before IYTT, but their progress is charted on the blog. They use quite large units by my standards for modern warfare, - 9 bases to a battalion of 15mm figures. They have a unique playing card sequence activation mechanism, and the close assault rules are pretty good too. The label Send Not To Know has most of the games and development.

Taiping Era
These are for Chinese warfare in the 1860s (2nd "Opium" War, and the Taiping Rebellion) and cover both Chinese v Chinese and Europeans v Chinese. They use squares, again, but the USP for these is that pretty much the entire game is driven off one mechanism, - the EDNA. The system has a few issues, but I'm quite proud of the unity of the whole mechanism and structure. I think it does the asymmetrical nature of the warfare quite well. Again these were developed entirely whilst the blog was running, so their development is well documented. The last play test covers most things: Taiping Era playtest. There are some other posts with the label China that cover a whole load of things including the development of the rules. Pictures and game descriptions are scarce as unusually for me I wrote the rules before the figures were done, and they were developed using Sudan British & Mahdist figures in the test games.

Victory Without Squares
These are for 15mm ECW games, with units of 6 bases (infantry) and three (cavalry). They are based on Richard Brooks "Victory Without Quarter" which are square based and use playing card activation. I took out both those elements, hence "Victory Without Squares". They have enabled us to refight a number of ECW battles in an evening:NantwichAdwalton MoorCheritonEdgehillLansdown,

Later in the year I may add the Sumerian Rules "To Ur is Human", after they have been properly dealt with in Nugget.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Taiping Progress

Got round to painting up some more of my Taipings. These include the classic jingal and some Miao Rebels.

As with the other figures these are from Irregular. The jingal comes with one purpose built crewman (unlike the other jingals in the Irregular range, who just get standard gun crew) and a generic officer type figure.

The gunner is nicely posed, and painted up well. The officer I'm getting quite used to now, so making him look unique is becoming an issue! I'm persisting with the dots/flower design to represent patterned silks, and generally using contrasting colours to make the clothing look decorated.

The gunners have a painted on chest patch as the figures come without one.

The Miao rebels are straight from the Ian Heath book. As I got ready made armies my figures are pretty random and aren't entirely compatible with each other, I think, but it is difficult to tell. I'm not sure about mixing the hair feather spikes and the big turbans.Whatever, they look good and painted up well. There are some odd Taipings mixed in with them to make up the numbers in the regiments. And that officer figure again.

BTW, I photographed these standing on the back of the Ian Heath book. Makes a nice base board.

So I'm making decent progress, although I'm alternating with the last of my Median infantry and the remains of the Assyrians in an attempt to paint three armies at once.

Looking back at the pictures I'm often surprised at how much difference it makes using my SLR to take the pictures. It has fewer megapixels than both the compact and the phone, but even the basic 50mm lens produces such a nicer picture.