Saturday, 31 May 2014

Battle of Ceresoles 1544 - the set up

So we were talking about the sort of games we want to play over the next month or so and we talked about a bit more FoG-R. We've played a couple or so games of "pick up" now, and it is time to try a refight.

I've been reading Oman again. The last battle of the Italian Wars he covers in depth is Ceresole in April 1544. This is the period we played in the last game, almost, although this is early Tercio period rather than the late Colunela.

My single source for the battle is Oman's account. As with a lot of descriptions of battles in this period it isn't exactly clear what is going on with what. Light horse may actually be quite heavy compared with later periods, and the proportion of shot to foot is never clear. Swiss & landsknecht still deploy in big pike blocks.

For numbers Oman gives the following:

French - Francis of Bourbon, lord of Enghien:

4,000 "Old Swiss"
4,000 French "old bands", - mainly Gascons
3,000 "Gruyeres" French pike
2,000 Italian foot

600 Light horse
800 Gendarmes (including archers)
100 Volunteers

20 guns

Imperialists - Alfonso, Marquis del Vasto

7,000 Armoured landsknechts
6,000 Italian foot
5,000  Spanish/German veterans

300  Light horse
200  Spanish/Italian Gengarmes
300 "Neapolitans"

Same number of guns as the French.

That's about all you get. There are references to arquebusiers but there are still a lot of pikemen about.

It was clear to me that some figures would have to sub for historical predeceasors (my later period Tudor English for example might get a look in). The rule book suggests a scale of 1 base to 100 to 250. I thought 250 for infantry and 100 for horse initially. I got the figures out and managed to make up the armies, but once I finished I realised that I had a lot of figures on the table and that we might not finish in an evening. I've therefore halved the numbers to give me the following commands (NB I'm well aware that these armies won't conform to the army lists, - go on, sue me).

Des Thermes - Light Horse
2 bases Cavalry, Armoured, Average, Light Lancers, Swordsmen

French foot
14 bases: 2 Arquebusiers, Medium Foot, Unarmoured, Average, 12 pike, Heavy Foot, Armoured, Average

Boutiere's Horse
2  bases Gendarmes, Fully Armoured, Superior, Heavy Lancers, Swordsmen

Swiss foot
8 bases: 2 Heavy weapon, Determined, Unarmoured, Superior, 6 Pike, Determined, Superior, Unarmoured.

D'Enghien's horse
4 bases, Fully Armoured, Superior, Heavy Lancers, Swordsmen
Gruyere Foot
6 bases: 2 Arquebusiers, Medium Foot, Unarmoured, Poor, 4 Pikes, Heavy Foot, Armoured, Poor.

4 bases, Medium Foot, Unarmoured, Poor, Arqurbusiers.
Dampierre's Horse
2 bases, Gendarmes, Heavily Armoured, Average, Light Lancers, Swordsmen

Florentine Horse
2 bases Cavalry, Armoured, Average, Light Lancers, Swordsmen
Salerni's Italian Foot
12 bases: 4 Arquebusiers, Medium Foot, Unarmoured, Average, 4 Pikes, Unarmoured, Heavy Foot, Average
Landsknechts 2 units each:
8 bases: 6 Pikes, Heavy Foot, Armoured, Average, 2 Heavy Weapons, Heavy Foot, Armoured, Average
Spanish horse
2 bases Fully Armoured, Poor, Light Lancers, Swordsmen
German/Spanish foot- Tercio
12 bases: 10 Pikes, Heavy Foot, Armoured, Average, 2 Arquebusiers, Medium Foot, unarmoured, Average
Lannoy's Horse
2 bases, Cavalry, Heavily Armoured, Average, Light Lancers, Swordsmen

Each side also gets a couple of medium guns.

The battle started with a long, inconclusive, period of skirmishing. Our game will start after that point.

I think the armies look better on the table than they do on the lists above. I'm not sure that I've got everything right, but the lists don't quite work for the description of the troops as I read them. That's not unusual for me, - I don't care much for most lists where I think I know what I'm talking about - but I also recognise that the sources are often open to variable interpretations in any event. List writing isn't easy anyway. I did some work on the Armati II lists, for example, and have no real desire to revisit the experience. It would be nice if my Henrician English list saw the light of day, however, as it didn't make the cut for the final version as they changed the end date for the rules.

Still, I digress. Must go and work on the terrain I need.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Battle of Nantwich - 1644

Another game in my attempt to refight most of the ECW, just not in the right order. This time I chose Nantwich, fought in January 1644 between the forces of Parliament lead by Sir Thomas Fairfax and John Lambert and those of the King, lead by Lord Byron.

Normally I rely on Richard Brooks' "Battlefields of Britain and Ireland" but on this occasion he was more interested in the bigger picture surrounding the overall siege of Nantwich by the Royalists than the main clash of arms. As the battle was fought in the middle of winter a flash-thaw of the River Weaver split Byron's army and trapped his cavalry on the other side of Nantwich. Fairfax blocked these with a small force of cavalry and infantry and then destroyed the Royalist infantry who were formed up near Acton church. Richard is very good on the manoeuvring, less so on the fighting.

Luckily for me I found a good wargaming description of the battle in an old magazine from 1978, written by Stuart Asquith, so I followed that instead.

The Parliamentarians were played by Chris W, and Phil ran the Royalists after I'd handled them for a couple of moves. The pictures this time are taken with my Canon SLR, using a 70-300mm zoom or a 50mm with a super-wide angle attachment.

First some pictures of the set up.

The Royalist artillery occupy Acton church yard.

The Royalist position. Five infantry regiments. One is in reserve as a guard against troops sallying out of Nantwich.

The forces of Parliament. Three cavalry and infantry units and one of dragoons. The dragoons are on the far left of the picture, facing off against the church.

Colonel Lambert takes command of the Parliamentarian left wing.

Colonel Gibbons takes command of the Royalist army as Byron has got himself stranded elsewhere.

The starting positions.

Thomas Fairfax gallops into position. The super wide angle lens attachment incorporates a macro lens.

Parliament starts with an aggressive move forward. The middle base is advanced to show the unit is moving. A card needs to be drawn to stop it (unless it bumps into the enemy or terrain).

The end of turn one. We've both advanced. Probably unwisely for me as the Royalists. I was intending to occupy the centre of the board and hold the hedge line in the centre. On reflection this was a mistake as it allowed the position to get flanked.

On Parliament's right the dragoons get up to the wall opposite the church yard and take some ineffective fire from the Royalist guns.

Elsewhere the Royalists get to the hedge line first, but that far end does look exposed.

Dismounted dragoons exchange fire with the artillery. Why Chris chose to do this rather than work them round the flank I do not know and he was unable to explain.

The accompanying Parliamentarian cavalry pin an advancing Royalist tercio with their pistol fire. Under the rules we are using Parliamentarian cavalry cannot charge home without volleying with their pistols first. In any event they can't charge formed foot head on.

On the other flank the remaining Parliamentarian horse has swung itself round to try to roll up the centre. Only downside is the need to gallop past a formed Royalist foot regiment, ready and willing to hit it with enfilading fire.

(There will now be a brief interlude whilst I run the melee system completely incorrectly and get some stupid outcomes. After doing this three times I realise what I've done and we reset the board and run through it again. Luckily we could all agree what the die rolls were.)

So, with the re-working the left hand Parliamentarian infantry unit had been driven off Unsteady (see white label behind them), but the central unit had gained the hedge line. The cavalry had taken a volley and dropped an organisation level.

The Parliamentary cavalry delivered a volley of pistol fire into the end Royalist foot regiment, making them unsteady. They then laid in with their swords and broke them.

The central Royalist infantry unit counter attacked and got back to the hedge line, However the Parliamentarian cavalry was now pouring through the gap, whilst the left hand infantry unit turned in on the central Royalist foot. By the church the other cavalry had been forced to retire, and the right hand Parliamentarian infantry unit took up the slack.

Reformed, the horse charged in again.....

Cannons roared......

Final attacks were thrown in...

And the Nantwich garrison arrived. By this point the Royalists were pretty much rallying on the church yard, as they did historically, so we called the game as over.

A win to Parliament, as historically. The forces were mostly balanced, but the manoeuvrability of the cavalry proved to be key. This enabled an envelopment whilst the infantry engaged in the centre.

The battle was significant as Fairfax's first big win in the open field, and Byron lost his job to be replaced by Prince Rupert. The aim of preventing more troops joining the King from Ireland was only partially achieved, but some lad called Monk and about 1,000 foot were captured and swapped sides.

A tough, head banging, game for both players. I think the rules held up well, but Phil thinks the d10 and the melee system used in the game gives too extreme results at times. Chris W, in his first game, quite liked them. Any how, decide for yourself. "Victory Without Squares" is available as a down load, top right.

Next week Ceresole with FoG-R.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Medes Nust

So, I got these Assyrians then realised I didn't really have any opponents for them. Realising that I could get double duty out of Medes as Early Persians (sort of) and that they fought the Assyrians the course was obvious. Buy a load of Early Persians.

Actually I really only needed the foot, as I have a pile of cavalry that'll pass muster, more or less.

The only early period plastic Persians that fit with my existing figures are those from Zvezda (I already have the cavalry and chariots).

The Zvezda figures seem to be out of production, but I picked up half a dozen boxes of the Italeri run, so job's a good 'un.

I've still got a few (er, I mean LOADS)  of my Assyrians to finish so they can double as Babylonians but I only need a couple of units to make up a basic AMW Median army. So that's what I've just finished.

I've done one unit of spears men and one of archers, each with a rank kneeling and standing. I can then mix and match to get combined units as well.

The figures are nicely sculpted, but the plastic doesn't take super glue as well as the Hat equivalent. They're also not as wargamer friendly. It is tough getting the standing spears men four to a standard 60mm base. Hopefully the other poses will be a bit better. The kneelers were okay.

I like the mix of kneeling spears and bows, as in this picture.

The archers look the business.

As you can see when you put the standing spears men in the front rank they look a little...higgledy-piggledy. Lesson there for the next batch.

Plus, easier to paint both figure and shield before you glue them together.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Sumer-ing in the Rain

My, my, it rained yesterday. Not just drizzle but full hammering down sheets of the stuff with thunder and lightening. It got so I could hardly hear Test Match Special as I was setting things up.

This week the Monday Night team met on Thursday, not Wednesday and Sumerians were back on the agenda.

As my current contract  is winding down I wasn't needed in the office, so I took the chance in the afternoon to help Phil out with some game design for another of his Battlefield Trust refights (Northampton this time). More on this at a later date, perhaps.

For the evening's entertainment we were joined by Chris W, and we had another go with "To Ur is Human".

Since we last played the rules I have sat down and taken a serious look at the odds of events happening and also the factors that I was using. The two main mechanisms in the game are the Fear Test and the Hand to Hand combat system. The intention is for the Fear Test to be the most important, - whether you intimidate your opponent or not has a major impact on the outcome of the eventual melee. In fact at the extreme end of the probability spectrum it doesn't happen at all as the recipient of the charge heads for the hills.

So I made sure that factors were not double counted, - being attacked in the flank appears in the Fear Test or the Hand to Hand rules, but not both, for example. However the two mechanisms are linked as the two sides' expectations of the outcome of hand to hand combat has an influence on the Fear Test taken before the impact takes place. Having done this I then plugged all the likely dice rolls and their percentage outcomes into a spreadsheet with the other factors and unit quality ratings to see what would happen. This enabled me to fine tune factors and outcomes so that extreme results can occur but are acceptable as extreme results.

The two armies I set up for the game had different strengths. Phil got the army with all the heavy shielded infantry. Chris got the one with all the missile troops. I think it is fair to say that it didn't really matter what Chris got, it all went badly for him from the beginning.

Chris hasn't spent as long on this particular rule-writing journey, so he isn't as in tune with what I'm trying to achieve as Phil might be. Even so, he started off aggressively in the first turn, pressing forwards with his battle carts.

Phil responded with a steady advance, and pushed his light troops forward to try to inflict a few hits before the inevitable clattering of carts into each other. This proved to be both successful and prudent.

What happened next sort of signalled the tone for the evening. When the carts revved up to run at each other, Chris' faltered and dropped from Fight to Flight (extreme die roll result). When they closed it happened again and soon some Elite Battle Carts were headed for home, pursued by their opposite numbers. The other pair successfully locked metaphorical horns, both lead by their generals. Before we knew it, Chris' unit had evaporated (the extra hits inflicted by the skirmishers turning out to be key). His general fled to find shelter in the middle of his line.

He rallied the first cart unit that was broken, only for it to be driven off the table in the next round of combat. Still, they lasted a move longer than looked likely.

Perceiving that the fruits of the battle might go to the brave Chris launched charges all along the centre with his foot. He needed to get on with it, as Phil's right wing carts looked to be flanking the end of his line. Alas not everyone charged, and one unit dropped a Fear Level.

The central fight was indecisive, but when Phil counter-charged the following turn where Chris had previously failed, Chris' unit broke.

Two turns later Phil had completed a double envelopment and Chris' army was broken.

The game had been pretty much one way traffic. Chris missed a few tricks (he didn't maximise his advantage in missiles), but mostly he was on the wrong end of a number of 1:6 opposed die rolls. Often he slipped a Fear Level by one point.

The game took about 90 minutes with no terrain. I think that I have finally cracked the rule structure and the relative values of the die rolling and the various factors. I've got the balance I want, and just have a couple of bits of clarification, then the game is ready for CoW.

A very satisfactory evening's work.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

French Leave and Spanish Practices

So, my second game of FoG-R featured again some much loved older figures and a date in Italy.

Richard and I faced off with the armies (I had the Spanish, Richard the French) and Chris A & Phil umpired. At this stage of the learning process having two sets of the rules and two people working out what is going on is a definite advantage.

Richard had the advantage of having played FoG (although that carries with it the risk that FoG-R works in different ways at crucial points). I resolved (despite reading the rule book over the last week) to rely on trying to use the troops historically and see what happens.

Richard swapped some of his units round. He's not that comfortable with the idea of putting his cavalry in the middle of the table, but the flanks are full of terrain, so that reduced his choices.

With an army stuffed with Gendarmes, Swiss and Landsknechts he headed off towards me, veering towards my right wing to try and flank me a bit. The French Italian Wars army from the basic rule book has a BIG punch.

The meant I had to push my mounted arquebusiers out even further to the right. It wasn't an enticing prospect but I reckoned I needed to tempt the Gendarmes into trying to play tag with some lighter horse to keep them occupied. Elsewhere in the middle I'm heavily out-gunned by pikes and Gendarmes. I've got some Landsknechts and some Spanish lancers, but this is the pre-Tercio army with three smallish Colunelas making up the rest of my infantry. With my units of arquebusiers as well what I'm aiming to do is draw his larger units forward and them hit them with two to three of mine.

On my left I have some arquebusiers and Genitors (okay, the figures are actually stradiots) trying to hunt down some Aventurier cross bows and argoulets.

My, those pikes and Gendarmes look scary.

On my right as you can see I'm already pulling the Gendarmes wide to delay their involvement in the battle. I've pushed my centre up, but it'll become more concave later on.

Having got the Gendarmes out on the flank, I'm able to give it a double volley of arquebus fire and disrupt the unit.

On my left Richard has evaded back away from my Genitors with his Argoulets. This enabled me to fight the battle on this wing on his side of the table. He was forced to support charge me or leave his artillery vulnerable to capture. Meanwhile my arquebusiers were gradually closing the range on the crossbow men.

The Gendarmes are finally forced to declare a charge on my mounted arquebusiers, who skip out of their way. However, I've made a mistake and the Swiss catch my Spanish foot. These should be looking to attack the flank whilst my Landsknechts hold them to the front. Whoops. Forgot determined foot are FAST.

In the centre it's going better. The French Gendarmes are heading towards my slightly lighter horse, with one flank covered by Landsknechts. The other flank is open to one of my Spanish foot units, who are wheeling to hit them in the flank when the opportunity arises.

This is the high watermark for my light cavalry on the left. I've disrupted the argoulets, and things are looking good. If I can break them it opens up the artillery to capture.

Yes, the French Gendarmes are right where I want them. A volley of arquebus fire, then I'm charging home.

The cross bow men are starting to take casualties as well out on the left.

So, with one base of French Gendarmes shot away, in we go. Looking good indeed.

Okay, so I fail a cohesion test and end up a bit disrupted, but I've got him in the vice now. Honest.

As I said, a mistake. My Colunela on the right is being ground away, and my landsknecht are failing to hit anything. Oh dear.

I'm forced to tackle the French landsknecht pike block in the middle head on with a Colunela of Spaniards, to keep them off my cavalry who are beating the Gendarmes. My hope is they can hold for a couple of moves until I can win the central melee and turn my spare units onto his flank. Not that Keils have flanks. Either that or die quickly so I can hit him with my artillery.

Then the Gendarmes collapse and with no rout path are slaughtered. Francis I is captured, and everything in the garden is suddenly rosy.

Then the landsknecht next to the Gendarmes fail the "friends routing" test, and break. Oh yes indeedy, it is going well.

Richard endeavours to pull it out of the fire by throwing his other unit of Gendarmes into my landsknechts on the right. The Spanish foot is badly weakened and fragmented.

Sure enough they break. We have to end the game there for lack of time. We've been playing about 3 1/2 hours, and we're still a bit slow. Richard's convinced he's lost, I'm a bit more sure it's in the balance with me having a slight advantage.

Another enjoyable evening. Good to get the old toys out once more. My landsknechts & Swiss, all bought at giveaway, clearance, prices once more proving what a sound investment they were over 30 years ago.

Still learning FoG-R. We had to stop to look a few things up. As Phil observed, most people pick an army and learn the rules applicable to that. I'm a bit off that yet.

What did surprise me is that luck can play an enormous part in the game. The dice can stand what look like obvious outcomes completely on their head. I've no doubt a good player will win out most times, but the sheer scale of what outrageous fortune could fall surprised me.

Chris & Phil brought along some army books for me to look at. Chris had the "Wars of Religion" one, which is the main reason I didn't buy FoG-R when it first came out. I sort of expected it to have the armies for the French Wars of Religion in it. It doesn't.

Those armies, of course, are in "Teach & Treachability" or whatever it is called. I have that to look through now to see what else I can make out of my figure boxes.

My, my, those English Elizabeth foot regiments are BIG.