Friday, June 29, 2012

A Hunt for Fleeing Wolves: 1430ad

It was time for my next grand battle, and the subject matter was to be the Middle Ages; the question was how to make it something more than two straight lines advancing at one another, for after all, the major battles of the Hundred Years War had a certain - shall we say - predictability about them!

So I decided to scale things down and introduce some factors that were common to the period in the form of a scenario based on a Chevauchee or 'great raid'.

The sides were the French as defenders naturally enough, but rather than a straight English opponent, they were actually facing the Mercenary 'Free company' of one Richard Venables; a notorious English freebooter of the 1420-30's.  A man who came to France with a retinue of only a handful of men but came to lead a force of several thousand and ravaged parts of Normandy.   The scenario was that his army was marching back to the coast at full speed, and so must attempt to make it to the port of Saint Pierre where friendly ships were waiting off shore to rescue them from their pursuers.

The called for several special rules and a couple of ruses I will mention as they arose.  But firstly the deployments were distinct.  Whilst the Freebooters had a 3 foot by 2 foot box along the road to deploy in to; the French had five deployment zones to occupy with one each of their smaller divisions.  One at the village was fixed, but for the others they had some choice over who would be where.

After this I explained the Marching special rules to the English.  In Hail Caesar (my rules of choice for the period, with minor adjustments) when a command division fails a command roll no remaining elements in it may then move.  This is fine for a stand up battle.  But for one where the army is on the march it is impractical; why would they suddenly halt?  Therefore any unit with 12 inches of the road, and aligned to it's path could always take a single move that progressed forwards, following the route of the road.  It could do this either as an initiative move, or after orders had been issued, even if it itself had received an order unsuccessfully that turn.  Only units that received an order successfully (i.e. were told to do something other than march), and units who were presently more than 12 inches from the road were not allowed a March move.

Also the marching troops could ignore the requirement to conform to an enemy battleline within 12 inches, in favour of following the road.  But they did so with a certain risk, for if charged they would need to pass a command check to align to the attack (possible with supporting allies) else be hit in the flank or rear.

With all this covered the two sides went to their maps to draw up their deployments.  Then the initial dispositions were placed on the table.  The Freebooters had assumed they would be being pursued; in fact they were about to be ambushed.

Small contingents of French knights were either side of the army.  For this game I had specified the figure ratio as being one model representing five men  Therefore the Freebooters represented about two thousand men and the typical units were around 100 infantry or 40-60 cavalry.  The French lined up a few hundred men on their flanks but the dense mass of the Freebooters looked impregnable.

Richard Venables (what good fortune that their actual  commander for the day was also called Richard!) ordered his men to make haste for the coast, whilst the cavalry to his rear sought to hold the flank attacks.  In the end the Flemish troops in the Van made active headway, but the centre failed to respond and so marched but slowly along the road.

Neither did the French do too much to disrupt the Freebooters at this early a stage, but they of course knew they had more to come.  The Flemish advanced again on the next turn and came over the long ridge (across the width of the 12x6 foot table) to see that the terrain was in fact rather worse than they had realised.  

This was a Charlse Grant ploy of not putting terrain on the table until the players could actually see it.  Sure they knew the village was there, but the medieval maps and local intelligence they held had forgotten to point out it was surrounded by salt flats, unsuitable to formed bodies of men.  This would hamper any march!

Behind them the French seemed to have halted the rest of the Mercenary army, causing it to split to face both directions.  I hesitate to put words into their mouths but it seemed the Freebooters felt they could make short work of thedelaying forces which even without the Flemish they outnumbered more than two to one.

But in the distance the Flemish could now make out a mixed force of troops deploying from the village too.  some 700 men under the Mayor of the port, including reliable local troops but also with a levy of the local peasantry.  In their centre were some of the deadly, if unreliable, new cannone.

Further back a rash of confused engagements had broken out; with the Freebooters generally getting the upper hand, but being severely delayed in the process.  The French stood firm despite losing most of the mounted men early in the battle.  Foot troops were rallied and did what they could to contain the mainly English and Burgundian contingents.  The Flemings continueds forwards, effectively becoming a separate force.

And in doing so their position became more and more precarious.  Two further contingents of French troops again appears, neither was significant alone, but together with the troops to their front the Flemish who numbered perhaps 750 men were met by some 1400 mounted men and infantry.  Sensing weakness the commander of the french on the right rushed his men forward to threaten the Flemish pike.

At this point in the village, the cannone began to fire; but to little effect save on themselves:

(My rules for cannone are simple, 36 inch range and three dice; however if more of the dice come up as rolls of '1' than hits - so two '1's and a hit or any '1's and no hits) a cannone is destroyed.  The unit loses a dice of firepower, becomes disordered and must take a Break Test.)

A cannone exploded and the crew of the remaining gun hurriedly retired it to avoid risk of fire and spark sending it up too.  Much fear rippled through the French ranks but their Mayor showed there was little to fear by standing by his men.

Out before the marshes French brigans charged the pike, whilst Men at Arms moved to cut off the Flemish rear.

But the fight went disastrously for the French infantry; totally outclassed by the pikemen, both units fled in panic.  The whole command - small as it was and partly formed of skirmishers - was broken and began to retire from the Flemish.  The French Knights had to charge and try to save the day

But this resulted in another unit of cavalry being lost to the French and many of their remaining troops becoming mired in combat.  Meanwhile the Flemish Pike continued to roll up the flank, now reinforced by the mounted men from the port.

And what of the main body?  Well a mixture of caution and a determined defence by French infantry had seen the Freebooters advance little for several hours.  Losses were relatively light but they were not able to clear a path.  Two of their commanders, including Venables, had fallen in combat moreover; leaving their command system in a parlous state.  (As in Black Powder, I rule that when a commander is killed his replacement has one point less of command rating; the drop from 8 to 7 on the table is very telling!).

And now the light was fading too; it seemed unlikely the Freebooters wouldeven make the ridge by nightfall.

The battle was coming to a close for the day, but remained in two halves.  The Flemish had suffered some losses but had thrown back both flank attacks and fancied the odds of a march through the weakened centre of the French line.  The rest of the Freebooters had consolidated into an ordered battleline, but could not make safe passage over the hill.

But as night fell (or the game was declared ended by me!) and losses were accounted for it was found that the French had suffered the worst of it.  In particular their hot-headed knights had come up against stiff resistance and been thrown back with heavy losses on several occasions.  The Freebooters had several hundred casualties too, but suffered more for the lose of their leaders,  two dead and one seriously wounded.

Overall I called the day a narrow victory to the Freebooters, and speculated that the French were in no numbers to do more than retire to the port and attempt to hold the mercenaries from reaching their ships.  It seemed likely that if the Freebooters gave the impression of a serious attempt on the unfortified village, the resistance would melt away.

With three generals on either side, but most of those familiar with the rules to some extent, this was an easier game than some in the past to umpire.  I think the players appreciated the trick in the scenario, though the free company felt they had been set a heck of a task.

Incidentally the original inspiration for the scenario was the Battle of Beth Horon in 66ad, where a Roman Legion was harried to near destruction whilst on retreat to the coast, by a dispersed Jewish enemy.  I guess one could call this a disguised refight then.  More on those feisty Jews in a few days...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another AK47 Army on eBay

Steadily selling off the collection as it is just taking up space.  This lot are part of my enormous 'Lbotunese' army:

Still on eBay until Sunday here: Linky  £41 when I typed this.  Feel free to join a bidding frenzy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Les Deux Collines de Saint-Mathieu: June 1944

Myself and Mark had a game of Kampfgruppe Normandy at the weekend.  300 points per side in a escalating engagement (Page 92 of the rules).  Beforehand I set up as aesthetically pleasing a battlefield as I could with the club terrain:

The quiet village of Saint Mathieu had already been ravaged by artillery fire, and deserted by its' denizens.  But now it found itself at the centre of the conflict for Normandy.

German reconnaissance forces moved into the village as the guns fell silent and delays in the American advance gave them time to occupy the village.

However the eventual American attack was led by a Forward Artillery Observer and more threateningly, two Sherman Tanks.  Who made short work of the lead German armoured car.

The Americans followed this up with a motorised platoon supported by armoured air defence and company artillery elements.  A third Sherman arrived to join the advance into the village.

By comparison German Panzergrenadiers supported by a troop of Panzer IV's (AKA 'Tigers') approached the village through the densest of Bocage.

The Americans lost one tank to the Tigers, and the main attack diverted to the right of the village where the fields were more open.  But the Panzergrenadiers supported by a Stummel and Hanomag were already in position to meet them.

On the left of the village the Germans were pressing forward, thinking there was no resistance to their front (and hoping to roll up the FOO in the process).  However, a second American squadron of Sherman tanks burst through the hedgerow; amidst them!

And did absolutely nothing.  One can only presume they were disorientated by breaking through the cover.

Artillery support from Divisional 105mm's was pounding the Germans on the American right giving their pressured infantry enough time to partially deploy to the hedgerow and an orchard outside the village.  The Americans by this stage had lost four tanks.

 But one of the remaining tanks at least made a valiant effort to contain the German advance.  Managing to destroy a Panzer IV and a Stummel in a single engagement.

But the cautious advance of the Germans was slowly pushing the Americans back from the Village. Artillery fire was ridirected against the centre of the village in an attempt to close down or destroy German armour.

One tank was already burning from the last exchange with American Shermans.  But the other drove through the fire unscathed.  Further away a Hanomag was destroyed by the fire, most of the crew escaping to the gardens of the village.

The last throw of the dice for the Americans was to use the M16 half track in its' lethal anti-personnel role (48 dice laid in to a German squad as direct fire saw it swiftly removed).

 Alas, the last armoured asset of the Americans was in no way going to stem the tide, with the Germans still having access to a tank, a Stug III, a Stummel and its' own AA platform, any infantry deficit it may have had was inconsequential.

The Americans ( were forced to concede.  And retire hurriedly.

Myself and Mark had been trading morale checks for a number of turns and it was only with drawing a pair of fours at the end of the game that I came to defeat.  I turned out Mark was only one point off of defeat himself, and drawing a heroic action and air attack were the only reason he hadn't broken long before.  In the end a close battle, but one in which my armour performed desperately badly, whilst my infantry proved grimly determined.

We neglected to roll for spotting throughout the game, but as both sides failed to it probably equalled out.  I had wanted to play a 500 point game, but on reflection Mark was right to restrict us to 300, which took a good four hours to set up and play.  The extra units were a contributing factor to this, both of us had battlegroup commanders to ensure a reasonable number of commands per turn.

Interestingly Mark played a force devoid of any artillery support, which could have given me an advantage, but in the end I was unable to spot really juicy targets from the hill my observer deployed to and so the artillery I could call in was of limited effect.

Until the next time that is...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ville en Croute: 1446

Four of us got together at the weekend at the Nightowls for a mediaevals game, featuring my French against Richards English - well English aided and abetted by knights of Gondor and Riders of Rohan!

This was a fairly straight forward linear battle, using Hail Caesar, the only special rules for the game being that each side's Commander in Chief had the equivalent of the 'Follow Me' rule from Black Powder, and the Camps.  If either player had their camp occupied by the enemy, even if resisted by their own troops, it would count as an additional broken division.

The two sides, myself and Rich with the French and Richard and James the English, drew maps for deployment and then fielded our men.  I always enjoy using map deployment as you cannot tit-for-tat deploy into a chalk vs. chalk situation as you tend to get with other methods.  As it was both sides fielded their cavalry to their left which meant they were miles apart.

The French gained initiative but chose to see the English move first.  This they undertook in an unwilling fashion, their cavalry failing to move and only the centre advancing slowly.  The English right refused the flank intentionally.  The French then responded quickly and brought their cavalry over a low hill beside some open woodland.  Elements of the centre advanced slowly, but all missilery remained out of range:

Concerned by the press of the French cavalry, some of which looked already to threaten the English flank; their general ordered the Cavalry to turn and dash the field to engage them.  This they approached with what would turn out to be a signature reticence (moving but a single action per turn for the rest of the game, and not always towards the enemy even!).  The French commander, Rich, internally wiped his brow in relief as his flank became secured as the enemy knights retired; his junior commander, for my part, decided to strike whilst the moment was opportune.  I charged the flower of the French into the leading elements of English bowmen.

The English bows fought bravely, but were found wanting and destroyed, however the follow up charge of the French showed them to be a blown force, and the billmen of the second rank were able to throw the French temporarily back.

Elsewhere French cannon and crossbow fire caused a unit of Mercenary crossbowmen to lose heart and quit the English centre.  This emboldened the well led Burgundian allies of the French to advance their mass of pike towards the middle of the English line, whilst some deft reforming of the French knights saw them charge the English afresh; though to no better an outcome.  At this stage their mounted sergeants also began an attack on the extreme right of the English line.

At this stage the French cavalry as a whole was making no progress and had to retire.  I would fall to the French general to intervene and help to rally them.  But for now the Burgundian pike got stuck in to the tough-nuts of the English bows.  Notice in the rear of shot the breathless advance of the highly motivated English knights; the conclusion being they were recruited from the Cinque Ports and had little stomach for fighting their neighbours...

The last functional unit of French sergeants went in against the exhausted English bows covering the flank and managed to rout it, which did little to disguise its' valiant stand and the resolve of the English right.  Those units left were without a commander, killed in a previous engagement, but under the command of their C in C their resolve remained firm.  In the centre they exacted some revenge on the Burgundians, but the tide of French units coming in to support them was becoming overwhelming.

And to add insult, the first contact with the enemy, at range no less, made the 'Engl-ish' cavalry retire; for fear of damage to their shiny armour!

The grande melee in the centre swung heavily to the favour of the French, whilst their rallied cavalry reformed for a fresh advance to menace the English knights.  With all their bowmen beaten or captured, the English line was formed of a rump of billmen and men at arms, whilst the French could offer them crossbow bolts and fine swords aplenty to feast upon.  With two broken divisions and a dead general; the English admitted defeat, cursing their allies more than luck for the result.

I cant decide if it was luck, generalship or game balance that made the French victory seem routine?  Maybe a combination of all three.  Certainly afterwards, Rich wondered why the English made his life so much easier by retiring away from his open flank.  The English cavalry played no part in the battle whatsoever, not even distracting our fire, and so it was effectively three divisions versus two for the whole battle.  The French and Burgundian generals ran rings round the English, who should have excelled in combat, but rather failed to do so.

In the end I think the same battle with a unit less of Pike and no Sergeants would've been more even, but there is no accounting for plans that fall short of the battlefield they are employed on.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Udududu - A dah dah, dah dah...

More, and hopefully on my count - the last, Zulus.

The main warriors are part of the Udududu tribe as can be seen below; whilst the skirmishers are of the Ufalza tribe:

One might think troops who wear these few clothes might be easy to paint, but actually, I found them rather tiresome the second time around.  I won't be upscaling my 15mm Zulu's any time soon!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Sale Season Again...

Time once more to move the unwanted stuff on:

One of a number of 'AK47' 15mm armies I'll be doing on eBay in the next few weeks/months:

Frankly I'm wanting space for my Jewish revolt army, and am being tempted by a couple of other games.  Playing 'AK47 Republic', or any games based in modern Africa, is not and has not for several years registering as an area of interest.  So it's time to shift them on again.

Hopefully these will sell respectably, but I don't know how popular these models will be.  I can answer that in 10 days time I guess.

[Update: these have hit their reserve and will sell, which is a relief, but there's still a week of bidding to go, so hopefully they'll make a little bit more money!]

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tiber Anio: 437bc

This was a Hail Caesar refight of one of the last battles between Rome and Veii.  The Combined Etruscan forces of three cities came together between the two main rivers of Rome in an attempt to take the city.  The Romans, under the dictator Aemilius stood to face them.  Dictator at this time meant a commander elected to rule only during a time of war or deep crisis, and it was a point of honour to resolve the crisis and recind the title in the shortest time possible.  High ideals indeed, sadly a misguided political system in the long term.

Anyway, The Romans, on the left below, were formed of three divisions, with Mamercus Aemilius in command.

Cincinatus took the left wing with 4 Cohorts and three units of Leves, whilst Capitolinus and allied Latins took the centre.  Aulus Cossus, who historically won the honours of battle on this day, had nominative command of the cavalry on the Roman right.

The Etruscans were led by Toluminus in the centre with Veiian Hoplites, cavalry and psoiloi.  To their left and right were identical commands representing the cities of Falisci and Fidenae; of hoplites supported by peltasts.

The major feature of the battlefield was the River Anio, which was agreed was fordable along its' entire length so long as a unit could cross it in one move from its current position.  Moreover if a unit was stationed in contact with the bank, it would count as defending an uphill position.  With this in mind both forces made a  hasty advance on the river.

The Etruscans arrived first and were able to delay the Roman main line by sending light troops over the river.  Their harrassing fire did little to harm the Roman line, but it did force them to engage only to seize their own bank of the river.

This allowed enough time for Toluminus to bring up his hoplites to form a solid defence, whilst the Falisci peltasts beat the leves protecting the Roman left and threatened to turn the flank.

However on the Roman right Cossus had crossed with the Roman cavalry, whilst Toluminus - in personal command of his own horse - was blundering away from the fight.  The Romans began what they hoped would be the rolling up of the Fidenates, leaving the whole Etruscan line exposed.

And as the Roman cohorts had made it across the river in force, they naturally assumed this flank attack would be the 'coup d'grace'.  Two massed phalanxes met to turn the waters as red as the Veiian tunics,,,

But the Roman plan was frustrated.  They were held then beaten by a fresh unit of peltasts, and forced to retire.  Then the Fidenae phalanx supported by Toluminus' cavalry crashed into their flank and destroyed them.  In the centre, Roman cohorts crossed the river, but their allies were comprehensively beaten, and now the Etruscans held the flank positions.

It had been a good close battle, but the victory went to the Etruscans, who had only one broken division to the Romans two, the Romans had also lost a couple of the their generals.

For those interested, and club members were on the evening, these are both 20mm plastic armies; mainly made from Zvezda and Hat plastic figures.  Each army of 200 or so models would cost about £30-40 to purchase.

As to the rules, both sides counted their main infantry at this period as Hoplite influenced phalanx infantry with long spears.  This made the central battle a real grinding match.  as both sides counted a defeat of up to two as a draw.  In the end it came down to shaken units needing break tests in the event of a draw to decide the contest.