Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Blowing the Dust Off

Or, Huguenots, Catholics and Neil Thomas.

When Phil & I had our AMW bust up with Belisarius and Totila Phil brought with him Neil Thomas’ original book, - “Introduction to Wargaming” which has variants for a number of periods, including Pike & Shot.

In a lull I quickly copied out the rules and army lists I was interested in and set up a game for Monday.
One of the first really grown-up armies I put together was French Huguenot. I started it at University, together with a bloke called Chris Chick, who was going to do the Catholics. He never made any progress, whilst I got well stuck in. Over time I ended up assembling their opponents as well, but this army is a traditional 1980’s army. It’s in 25mm and it is made up of many manufacturers*. What’s more large proportions of the figures are all individual, with arm movements, head adjustments and general playing around. They don’t see much use these days, - like all armies of this type they’re large and bulky, and now, of course, they’re all 3mm too short.
Consequently it was a pleasure to blow the dust off the boxes on Sunday afternoon and set the figures out on the table. They have a satisfying clunk to them when you put them out, but they also remind me of the massive amount of time invested in painting the armies in the first place, and their sheer bulk. I love these armies a lot but I can’t see that I’d ever assemble them now if I didn’t have them already.
The Huguenots mustered a slightly brittle looking army:
1 x Millers
2 x Reiters
1 x Landsknects (mixed pike/shot)
3 x Huguenot foot (all shot)
1 x Cannon

The Catholics had all the shiny elements associated with their forces

1 x Gendarmes
1 x “Archers” (ie low quality Gendarmes)
1 x Reiters
2 x French foot (mixed pike/shot)
2 x Swiss foot (mixed pike/shot)
1 x Cannon

The special army rules for this period are restricted. As far as I can see the Swiss lose their “never fail morale checks” special power, which is a shame for them as it is an unwritten rule that all elite units requiring a anything but a 1 or 2 to pass a test will fail it, whilst any levy unit that must roll a six will duly do so.

My opponent claimed to know nothing of the period, although being aware of the ECW. He chose the Huguenots, and in order to help him out I deployed first.

One of the main differences between the two periods is that ECW armies deploy cavalry on the wings, and FWOR armies deploy cavalry in the middle.

Gendarmes and Lancers ready to go
I duly adopted this set up, with my cavalry on my right centre, and the Swiss on the left centre. One unit of French infantry I tucked into a wall enclosure, the other was hidden behind the Swiss.

Richard contemplates the rules, - not that
he needed them
Richard lined himself up with his cavalry split and the hill occupied by his pike-less foot, except for one unit which he hid in an enclosure.

Confident of his set up he then sat there and let me come at him.

Not wishing to sit around all evening I accepted the challenge and bravely marched across the table towards him, confident in the justice of our cause and also the fact we'd got Swiss and Gendarmes.

This may have been a mistake, as it meant I walked into artillery fire, whereas the Huguenots skulked safely out of range of my own guns.

Lumps started to fly off my advancing cavalry, but I refused to be daunted as I bore down upon his left wing, confident that I had achieved local cavalry superiority, and completely
unconcerned by the three casualty rings I was now carrying.

What could possibly go wrong?

After enduring a couple of pistol volleys and a couple of hard fought rounds where I had the tactical advantage the situation looked like this.

I had discovered by this point that the morale rules were not my friend.

Things would obviously go better on my left, as who could survive the might of the Swiss? (Plus on the right I had a spare unit of reiters who would be able to pile in and save the day, still enabling me to turn the flank.)

I was sufficiently bullish even to move up my otherwise poorly regarded French foot. My confidence was raised by the complete indecision showed by the opposing Huguenot reiters.

Alas on the right things did not go well. This is another unit of reiters being taken to pieces by their Huguenot equivalents, and my Gendarmes are completely failing to realise any advantage from the extra dice they roll and their heavier armour. (The base turned to its side means a morale roll is still to be taken. They failed that as well).

By this time my Swiss had discovered how powerful firearms are in this period, especially in the hands of my opponents. With no saving rolls and not being able to fire and move marching towards a unit consisting entirely of musketeers can be a bit fraught. It isn't helped when you get out-rolled in the melee. All my careful calculations as to how quickly I could break a unit before turning on their colleagues came to naught.

My only hope seemed to be the much maligned French foot, who marched into a hailstorm of musketry. They held their own in the melee and were starting to turn a profit on the engagement when the Swiss collapsed, enabling those reiters to come in on their flank.

Thus it was all over, and I lost 6-0.

Tactically I made a complete mess of the game, - massed musketry was much more effective than I expected. I was also out-rolled, especially in the cavalry melee. I lost two reiter units fighting an evenly matched opponent who came out of two heavy melees with barely a scratch on him.

My elite units (you know who you are, gentlemen of the Cantons) fulfilled their destiny and melted away in a series of dreadful morale rolls. The gendarmes hung in there, but were finally bested by by the Millers and Henri de Navarre.

Despite my thumping loss to a complete novice I enjoyed the game enormously. It was such fun to get out these old friends and command them in action (I've not used them much for years, and I've normally ended up umpiring with them)

Next week they'll be back, with some English and Spanish allies, I think.

* I think I have:
Ral Partha
Citadel Histotic
Plus at least two other manufacturers in the reiters I can't recall, and another one in the gendarmes I think.

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