Thursday 29 June 2017

Battle of the Garigliano 1503 - AAR

Last night we played the Garigliano 1503 scenario I set up last week using Pike and Shotte rules by Warlord Games. Graham was French, Peter was Spanish. 

The game was a good one but I felt it ended somewhat prematurely due to French shaken battalia. The victory conditions laid down by the scenario didn't come into play - more anon.

The Spanish duly attacked Castelforte and took it after a prolonged melee with its gallant defenders - a small unit of Swiss arqubusier. 

We are still forgetting to use supporting units in melee and this made the fight much harder than it should have been.

The scenario stamina point bonus (for capturing the villages) worked well. It gives the Spanish, outnumbered as they are, a fighting chance. Without it I think they would be toast.
On the Spanish left, the Italians attacked and smashed through the French palisade. However, losses were heavy and this attack stalled. 

Troops in buildings and behind fortifications are a tough nut to crack and, again, omitting to declare supporting units prolonged the fight here too.
In the centre, the French seemed to be getting their act together and a coordinated attack seemed imminent. 

However, a few fierce vollies from the Spanish colunelas, and some freaky melee results, soon had the Swiss reeling. They lost one pike block and had two more shaken and the battalia was broken. 

With the Italians on the hillsides finding it difficult to advance due to poor command die rolls the French were in a real pickle. 

The French battalia around Sujo (out of shot to the right) had also suffered heavily from repeated cavalry charges - it was broken too.

At the French bridge the Italians were completely stalled. 

The French artillery and pike managed to throw back the Italian pike and this gave time for the French to mass their cavalry in readiness to hold this sector of the field. 

Finally, due to repeated casualties from Italian arquebus and crossbow fire the French infantry at the bridge gave way. 

With three battalia broken, the French army was broken. Only the French cavalry and their Italian allies were intact and the French player decided to call it a day and hand victory to the Spanish. Unable to rally and everything saving on sixes only was too much for Graham to contemplate.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I thought the broken battalia rule didn't quite work for this scenario. Although I can see the point of not allowing an army to fight to the last man I thought battalia were broken too easily. This I think this is largely down to the inability of units to be rallied sufficiently from being shaken. But, the rule about the army being broken when half the battalia are broken is, I fear, where it really broke down and it all seemed just a little bit arbitrary.

We have already tinkered with the broken battalia rule a little by counting the break point at half the stamina in a battalia rather than half the units - e.g. The Swiss battalia in this scenario has six units: four Swiss pike blocks each with five points of stamina and two small units of shot each with two points of stamina for a total of 24 stamina points. The break point is therefore 12 stamina points. The Swiss commander sits on a stack of poker chips (red worth 10, blue 5, white 1 - you can see the poker chips in the photos above) and as units are lost or become shaken their stamina value is lost from his stack (stamina value is returned to the commanders stack if a shaken unit is rallied). This means, in this case, that if both shot units are lost the battalia will still need to lose two pike blocks before it is broken - four units rather than three. We think this works better than the 'half units break point' rule because it better reflects the value of units. 

I'm not exactly sure what to do about the broken battalia rule. Where the end of a game has to be called, so that people can pack up and go home, after establishing some kind of result in a limited time frame, I can understand why rules like this exist - indeed a rule like this is common to a lot of rule sets -  but where the game could be left set up, to be played to a conclusion at a later date, it can spoil the victory conditions laid down in a well crafted scenario (not necessarily this one). I think a more subtle approach is needed for longer scenario led games but, I damned if I know what such an approach would look like.

I do like Pike and Shotte, especially the combat system and I will persevere with the rules in the hope that a solution to the broken battalia rule comes to light.

Anyway, whilst I think about it, I've reset the table, though slightly differently, and I'll post the new set up and notes shortly. Next week Graham and I will do it all again.


Stuart said...

Impressive as always James. Whenever I'm low on inspiration I always look here. I've tried p&s myself but ignored the BB rule. Rules are there to be amended though and that's what gives the specific period feel as you have done.

Norm said...

Lovely looking table and game. I like the idea of the poker chits to give an instant assessment of the army stamina level.

Jim Clarke said...

I think the battalia break point by cumulative stamina as oppossed to a straight count of units is the better way to go.

David said...

Fine AAR and photos! Always a joy to see your games!

CplKelly said...

The game looks great as ever. All of the black powder games encourage you to swap and change the rules as you see fit. It might suit you to use the hail ceasar rules for broken brigades. It is that half the units have to be destroyed or all the units shaken or something like that.


I have a borrowed copy of HC but I've not read it yet - just checked the broken battalia rule though, and you are exactly right: half destroyed, or all shaken. That might be the ticket.

Gonsalvo said...

Great looking game and write up of my namesake's "Crowning Mercy": it will be interesting to see how a re-fight goes!

Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Stunning looking game!


Robert Herrick said...

As usual, quite a visual spectacle. Beautiful troops, beautiful terrain, and a good combination of the map with a photo of the gaming table.

Can't wait to see how it plays out.

Phil said...

Wonderful terrain and figures as always, what a beautiful period!