Wednesday 28 May 2008

Change of allegiance. Flags and Banners.

Although I have posted the following information before, on another site [pike and plunder], I feel it needs repeating here. I do not actually know if the idea was mine or copied, but regardless, I think my solution is one of my better ideas.

One great thing, especially for wargamers, about most war game figures for The Great Italian Wars, is that they can fight for any side. They did not wear uniforms as such. Consequently, the only thing that distinguished which side they were on was their flags.

When I started collecting units for the wars one of my first, and better, decisions was to make flags interchangeable. All of my standard bearers only have a bare piano wire (0.047 gauge) pole. All of the flags, in my case home made, are wrapped around a piece of aluminium tubing (3/32 gauge) with a white metal ‘spear point’ stuck in the top. I made dozens of these. Now, when I need to field an army for the Venetians, Papal State, France or Spain etc. all I need to do is add the appropriate flags. With 1000 figures (infantry, cavalry and artillery) I can field forces for any of the above armies to re-fight almost every historical battle, or to fight in my four sided campaign (see Pike and Plunder link in 'places to go'), all with the appropriate flags.

'Italianising' miniatures.

When one looks at pictures and paintings of soldiers from the Great Italian Wars, lots of them, especially the Italians influenced by Venetian fashion, have ‘turbans’ wrapped around their helmets. How many Italians were influenced by Venetian fashion I do not know - but they do look the part. Very few such war game figures exist. I have found that ‘Italianising’ commercially available figures in this 'fashion' is quite easy.

The tools and materials required are: Modelling putty (Greenstuff or Miliput), a craft knife or scalpel (I prefer the latter), super glue and a piece of glass or a flat shiny tile. (All the figures converted were Front Rank Wars of the Roses figures).

STEP ONE: Roll out a thin length of putty (1.5mm ish). Fold it in half and twist.

STEP TWO: Wrap this around the figure’s helmet as many times as looks appropriate and cut off the excess. If you want a hanging ‘tail’, use the excess for it, flattening it out with the scalpel blade to look like ‘floppy’ cloth.

STEP THREE: If you want to go further. Roll a very small ball of putty. This is the brooch that holds the turban in place. Put it in the appropriate place and press it on with the flat of the scalpel blade.

STEP FOUR: Once cured, dribble a small amount of superglue into the ‘groove between helmet and turban to secure it all permanently. Once dry, you can paint as normal.

There are various types of turban, but this is the easiest to make.

The figure above was converted using a single piece of putty, rolled around the helmet once. The 'folds' were added with the back of a scalpel blade then 'rounded' by rolling a large pin into them to take off the edges. Although you can hold the pin between your fingers, fixing the pin into the handle of a craft knife first is easier to control.

Thursday 22 May 2008

Ravenna. The Wargame part one.

The French, now deployed before the entrenchments of the Spanish Viceroy and his Papal allies, looked in vain for the infantry of whom thousands had been reported. Only the massed ranks of cavalry and the occasional officer dashing on some important business could be seen. Indeed, the Spanish and Italian were there; but they had been ordered, by Pedro Navarro, to lie down to avoid the shot from the French artillery which was already firing ranging shots into the entrenched camp. Here they lay, drinking some wine, eating some cheese and catching some Italian rays, before the torment of battle that would surely come all too soon for many.

The battle, as expected, was opened by the French. As the Picard pikemen and Landsknechts shuffled forward, the light cavalry under Caraciolo advanced to skirmish with their counterparts. The Skirmish was brief and bloody. Amongst the hail of quarrel and shot, charge was followed by pursuit followed by counter-charge, until finally the Spanish had gained the upper hand. The French light cavalry were dispersed and the Spanish held that part of the field. Caraciolo was slain; his horse fell and he was overwhelmed by Genitors.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field the French guns were beginning to tell on the Collona’s cavalry. They fell back under its withering fire. This signalled a general advance by the Landsknechts and French infantry supported by the cavalry of Palice. As they advanced the Italian mercenaries under Bozzollo turned somewhat to their flank to prevent the Spanish light horse exploiting their hard won gain. They were supported in this by the cavalry under Gaston de Foix (pronounced Fwa – and you don’t get more French than that!)

In the Spanish camp the shouts of the officers could be heard above the tumult outside. The Spanish infantry stood up to receive their assailants. The first clash at the entrenchments came at its corner. Here the Landsknechts, supported by a unit of Picard pike tried to dislodge the Colunella defending it. The Colunella crashed out volley after volley into the oncoming Germans who fell dead, rank after rank, into the ditch - but they still came on. Clambering up the embankment before them, they were counter-charged by the Colunella. This was too much. With their gallant commander Jacob Empser skewered by a Spanish sword and buckler man, and having suffered horrendous casualties, the Landsknechts broke and fled towards the rear. Their supporting Frenchmen did not wait around long to reap the consequences. Throwing down their weapons they scattered. Seneschal, whilst trying to prevent their flight, was murderously killed by his own countrymen.

On the Cesena road, the French were faring better. Here Palice’s cavalry pushed back the Papal men-at-arms and now had a foot hold within the Spanish camp. But it was Gaston de Foix who now showed his worth. Seeing his Landsknechts run, he left his own command and galloped at breakneck speed to rally them. Jumping from his horse, and holding his purse aloft, he stopped their retreat at the Cervia road. D’Algre had arrived with the rearguard – all was not lost.

To be continued……..

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Ravenna 1512

Louis XII of France placed his army of Italy under the command of Gaston de Foix. This very young but capable commander drove away the Spanish and Papal forces besieging Bologna, and then turned on the Venetians, inflicting a severe defeat upon them, and then successfully stormed Brescia.

Whilst Gaston de Foix was occupied against the Venetians, Ramon de Cordona the Spanish Viceroy of Naples and his Papal allies reoccupied much of Romagna. Gaston, realising that he could not pursue a campaign in two places at once, decided to force the allies into a decisive open battle, defeat them, and free himself to pursue any course of strategy he wished. To force Ramon’s hand Gaston marched on the most important city held by the allies, Ravenna. He set up his camp and sighted his artillery on the left bank of the River Ronco.

Ramon determined that Ravenna was in serious danger and marched to relieve the siege by threatening Gaston’s lines of communication without risking an open battle. But the celebrated engineer Pedro Navarro showed Ramon a position on the right bank of the Ronco, within two miles of the city, which given time to throw up a ditch and earthwork, he guaranteed impregnable.

Whilst the Spanish spent the night digging the French spent the night constructing a bridge of boats over the Ronco. Everyone knew that a fight would take place next day and the respective commanders issued formal defiances by trumpet.

To win the battle you must destroy or rout 8 units of the enemy (artillery sections and skirmish units count as half units) within 10 turns. Anything else will be considered a loss.

Your morale deck draw, not including 5 cards of morale chips only, has yielded the following.

D’Algre's rear guard
From the second appearance of your Stratagem Card you may bring up D’Algre's force via the bridge of boats. If the reserves are called you must destroy an extra unit of the enemy to win. These troops are from the (off table) rear guard that Gaston ordered to prevent a sally from the city. DO NOT DEPLOY THE ARTILLERY SECTION.

Hidden battery
Providing D’Algres is present, you may put a section of light artillery anywhere on the left bank of the river. This represents D’Alegres’ moving some artillery to fire into the flank of the allied cavalry.

Extra artillery reload card
An extra artillery reload card should be added to the French sequence deck.

To win the battle you must defend your earthworks in anyway you see fit until the end of move 10 and lose less than 8 units (artillery and skirmish units count as half a unit each) doing so.

Your morale deck draw, not including 5 cards of morale chips only, has yielded the following.

Hidden obstacles
Two of your Spanish infantry units have 20 or so small man handled carts equipped with heavy arquebus and various fixed spears and blades. These carts give the units a superior position frontally in melee and fire until the unit is pushed back in melee, when the carts are deemed destroyed. These carts, designed by Pedro Navarro, had two functions, firstly to break up infantry or cavalry formations, and secondly to provide a platform for heavy infantry firearms previously incapable of being deployed in a field battle.

Dead ground
At the outset of the game, you may declare that any/ all of your infantry is prone. Whilst prone troops count an extra down 2 cover bonus Vs artillery fire coming from the your side of the Ronco. Infantry may be ordered to stand on a Leadership card or for one opportunity pip. This represents Navarro’s orders for the infantry to lie down in the low ground to prevent artillery casualties before the French assault.

Extra opportunity chip: You have five opportunity chips rather than four.

HOUSE RULES: Spanish colunellas
This is a new formation. It comprises 8 stands. Four front row stands of arquebus backed by two stands of sword and buckler men and two stands of pike (the latter placed centrally). The formation counts as a battle-mass for morale, melee and target. It counts as a line for movement and fire. It may take one free stand of losses as per a pike blocks. They count three hits per stand.

1 - 2
Gaston de Foix. Two units of French Gendarmes [elite].
3 - 4, 9 - 10
Marshal de la Palice. Two units of Italian mercenary Gendarmes. Two units of heavy artillery.
5 - 8
Gascon crossbowmen. Four units of French militia crossbowmen [skirmish].
Jacob Empser's Landsknechts [twelve stands].
12 - 13
Seigneur de Morlat. Two units of Picard militia pike.
14 -16
Federigo de Bozzolo. One unit of Italian pike [six stands]. Two units of Italian shot [skirmish].
17 - 18, 19 - 20
Caraciolo. Two units of mounted crossbowmen [skirmish]. Two units of Stradiots [skirmish].
Ferrara's guns. One unit of heavy guns.
23 - 27
Yves d'Algre. One unit of mercenary Gendarmes. One unit of Italian pike [six stands]. Two units of Italian crossbowmen [skirmish]. One section of light guns.

1 - 2
Ramon de Cardona. Two units of Papal Gendarmes [one household, one mercenary].
3 - 4
Fabrizio Colonna. Two units of Papal mercenary Gendarmes.
Carvajal. One unit of Spanish Gendarmes [household].
6 - 7, 8 - 9
Marquis de Pescara. Two units of Papal mounted arquebus [skirmish]. Two units of Spanish Genitors.
10 - 11, 12 - 15
Pedro Navarro. Two units of light guns. Four Spanish colunnelas.
16 - 18
Papal infantry. One unit of Papal pike [six stands]. Two units of Papal provisionati crossbowmen.
Ravenna will be fought tonight using Piquet and the Band of Brothers 2 supplement. The Battle Report will follow ASAP.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

Xyston Heptereme to Decares conversion.

I have been collecting Xyston 1:600 ancient galleys for some time; mainly from ebay. The largest ship they produce is a heptereme. But this vessel, although large, isn't quite large enough to represent the largest vessels in a battle fleet such as those used by Antony at Actium.

This, being one of my ongoing projects, led me to cut up and convert a heptereme into a decares. Although not perfect, the vessel does stand out from the rest.

The Xyston Heptereme

The conversion to a Decares.

Side by side.

To make this conversion is easy, even if I say so myself. Outside drying times between stages the whole process only takes an hour or so.

STAGE ONE: Put the main hull vertically in a vice and cut down the middle using a hacksaw (a junior hacksaw will do if you have not got a bigger one).

STAGE TWO: Glue a piece of balsa wood sheet, 4mm thick, sandwiched between both halves.

STAGE THREE: Cut 2 pieces of 5mm balsa sheet wide enough to cover both ends of the new hull shape. Stick these to the hull ends.

STAGE FOUR: Stick the stern and bow sections of the casting to the new main hull.

STAGE FIVE: Using a scalpel, files, etc. trim the balsa connecting the main hull an bow / stern sections so that they match up. This is the hardest job but is still quite easy.

STAGE SIX: Add a 1mm sheet of balsa wood to the bottom of the hull. Trim, as described in stage five above.

STAGE SEVEN Soak all the balsa wood additions with super glue, (I use the cheapo stuff for this) and once dry, sand down with fine emery paper.

STAGE EIGHT: Assemble the rest of the model (oar sections, rudders, etc.) and paint as normal.

This is an easy conversion providing that the tools and materials are available. You could substitute the wood with modelling putty, but this, quite frankly, is more trouble than it is worth (soaking with super glue makes the balsa very rigid and it is 'even & flat' to begin with).

Friday 9 May 2008

Chotusitz. The Battle Report.

The battle opened with a Prussian cavalry advance. The Austrian cavalry responded with an advance of their own. The Austrian infantry also advanced but exposed their right flank in doing so. The Prussian Hussars, following up in the wake of their heavier friends, immediately exploited this by wheeling and charging onto it, with devastating results for the first Austrian infantry unit which could make no adequate response. They were ridden down and destroyed. Fortunately, the next infantry unit in the line fared better; it managed to hold the Hussars and drove them off with several well timed volleys of musketry.

The first clash between the cavalry was inconclusive, both sides inflicting and receiving losses. The cavalry, progressively becoming less numerous and more tired by the hour, hacked away at each other until the end of the battle. As historically happened they cancelled each other out.

Meanwhile, in the centre, the Austrian Infantry continued their advance on Chotusitz. A brief fire fight ensued with the outnumbered Prussian defenders. The Prussians were forced back whilst their supporting artillery, possibly badly sited or low on ammunition (Rolled D8 attack dice), banged away to no effect. The Austrians, seizing their chance, took possession of the village.

At long last Frederick’s infantry was activated (two advance cards were added to the Prussian deck. Until both had been turned Frederick’s infantry, command D, could not move). They now advanced with √©lan (rolling up 3 segment moves on the following 2 move cards) confronting the Austrian infantry and engaging with them in a fierce fire fight.

After forming a stable line the Prussians assaulted the village. Their first rush was checked so they withdrew, reorganised and attacked afresh. This time they threw the Austrians out of two village sections, occupied them and awaited the counter attack.

Both sides were now exhausted (morale chips swinging at zero for both sides). It was the Austrians who cracked first, failing their major morale check by more than 4 they withdrew from the field. Prince Charles called for his coach. The Battle of Chotusitz was over. A Prussian victory – just.

Figures: Old Glory and Wargames Foundry.
Painted by Olicanalad. Olicana Painting Services.

Friday 2 May 2008

A War of Austrian Succession Scenario. The Battle of Chotusitz

The Prussian army under Frederick the Great spent the winter of 1741/42 in Moravia; plundering it into a wilderness. Suffering constant harassment by Moravian guerrillas and Austrian regular light troops, Frederick was eventually forced to evacuate into Bohemia, and move to support his French and Bavarian allies operating around Prague.

Meanwhile, the Austrians stripped their Bohemian garrisons to form an army with which to resolutely attack and destroy the Prussians. Unfortunately the Austrians chose the politically favoured Prince Charles of Lorraine to command the army; an appointment that would hinder that ambition.

With the Austrians marching behind him, Frederic decided to concentrate a Chudrum 70 miles east of Prague. Here he mistakenly assumed that the Austrians would not seek a battle and instead march to relieve Prague. To prevent this, he decided to take one third of his army and block the main road to Prague. He ordered his second in command Crown Prince Leopold to follow with the bulk of the army next day.

Frederick had played into the Austrian's hands. Prince Charles now found himself between two outnumbered Prussian forces with the opportunity to defeat them in detail. For one crucial day the Prince hesitated. This gave Leopold time to hasten towards Frederick, who realising his mistake, about turned and marched back in frantic effort to reunite his army.

The Prussians managed to concentrate at Chotusitz just as the Austrians came into sight. Prince Charles had missed his chance, but he pressed his attack regardless.

The deployment map shows the battle as set up for my own 25mm figures on a 10’ x 6’ table where a typical 4 stand unit has a frontage of 16cm.

Each unit represents approximately 2 cavalry regiments or 4 infantry battalions. Consequently the troop ratios are slightly out, especially with regards to the cavalry formations of either side.

Although most troops have been positioned as they were at dawn, some flexibility has been used to help the scenario flow more easily. This is especially true of the main Prussian infantry command (Command D) which if deployed historically would still be in the process of taking up its formation. To balance this it is deployed somewhat further back.


Command A: 3 units. A Dragoon, B Cuirassier, C Hussar. (Representing: 3 Cuirassier and 2 Dragoon regiments and 1 large regiment of Hussars.)

Command B: 3 units. D, E Line infantry, F Heavy artillery. (Representing: Leopold’s 9 Line infantry battalions and a battery of guns.)

Command C: 3 units. G, H Cuirassier, I Dragoons. (Representing: Buddenbrock’s 4 Cuirassier and 2 Dragoon regiments.)

Command D: 7 units. K, L, N, O, P Line infantry, J, M Grenadier. (Representing: Frederick’s 5 Grenadier and 18 Line infantry battalions.)

Command A: 3 units. 1 Grenzer, 2 Cuirassier, 3 Dragoon. (Representing: 2 Cuirassier and 2 Dragoon regiments plus Grenzer.

Command B: 8 units. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Line infantry, 16 Howitzers (Representing: 13 infantry regiments and artillery.)

Command C: 5 units. 11 Hussar, 12, 15 Cuirassier, 13 Grenzer, 14 Dragoon. (Representing: 1 hussar, 3 dragoon and 4 Cuirassier regiments plus Grenzer.)

Although Duffy’s map shows contours, having viewed the ground I can assure all that, this battlefield is dead flat. It is so flat that they built a military air base on it. Only at the Brslenka Stream does the ground slope downwards to any degree which is probably why this area was quite boggy. Cirkwitz Pond is much smaller today than then, but it is still an impassable lake surrounded by trees.

During the battle the village of Chotusitz was fired, possibly by Austrian Grenz troops or howitzer fire. The resultant smoke caused all kinds of problems. To simulate this each player has a Special Event card in his deck. When the card is turned the player has the option to make a fire test on one village section. The test is made by rolling one die and on any odd result the section catches fire. Any occupants of a fired section must immediately evacuate it. Fired village sections produce smoke that drifts 12” inches down wind. Any troops in this smoke are ‘out of command’.

The battle opened with the Prussian cavalry attacking the Austrian cavalry on both wings. On the left they eventually routed their Austrian counterparts but galloped off in pursuit. On the right initial success turned to rout when the reserve lines of Austrian cavalry counter attacked. By 09.30 the cavalry action had ended.

Meanwhile, the Austrian and Prussian infantry had become engaged around Chotusitz. Initially the Austrians were successful. Chotusitz caught fire, and the Prussian infantry under Leopold was forced to withdraw shaken and disorganised. The fire then came to the aid of the Prussians. The Austrian infantry became lost and confused in the smoke.

The bulk of the Prussian infantry under Frederick's personal command had hither to remained unengaged. Frederic now ordered them to advance and wheel onto the exposed flank of the Austrian line. Prince Charles, belatedly realising that his chance had been lost, ordered his army to withdraw.

The battle will be fought on Wednesday 6th May 2008. A battle report will follow.

Thursday 1 May 2008

Drepana Re-fought.

Before the outset, victory conditions for both sides were decided. For the Carthaginian player to win he had to perform at least as well as his fleet did historically by sinking or capturing 11 Roman ships. For the Romans the player was given two choices. Firstly to be equipped with corvus (historically unlikely but not impossible) and take 8 Carthaginian ships and escape with 6 of their own, or, be without corvus and take 6 ships and escape with 6 ships of their own. The Romans decided to go in with corvus. Anything else would be a draw, and this would probably be the most likely outcome.
At the start the gods were with the Carthaginians. The leading Roman ships entered the bay whilst the rest of their fleet struggled along as best it could behind. Cut off from their supports the fresh crews on the Carthaginian ships first surrounded then rammed them from every angle. Believing their fate of these leading Roman ships to be sealed (two were sunk and the others sinking) most of the Carthaginian vessels in the bay proceeded towards the rest of the Roman fleet. However, two Carthaginian vessels, were so elated by their initial success that they proceeded back into the harbour to receive the laurels of the populace for their victory (both rolled a 1 on d10 seamanship rolls).

Outside the bay the Carthaginians under Adherbal drew up for their attack on the disorganised Romans. But the Romans, showing seamanship beyond anything that could be expected of their crews, managed to form a reasonably solid line by retreating some ships and advancing others with a speed that astounded the Carthaginians. Meanwhile in the bay, the two remaining Roman ships, now only held afloat by them grappling onto two of their attackers launched their marines. In two swift boarding actions the Carthaginian vessels were taken. The Roman ships managed to plug their holes, and with their prizes limped out to sea and safety whilst the major action unfolded further down the coast.

Here the Roman line, though well formed, was somewhat outflanked by vessels approaching down the coast from the bay whilst Adherbal and his squadron pinned the Roman line in place. It was the flanking vessels which opened the action. Initially their success was brilliant, sinking Roman ships with ease. Then things began to unravel. For some reason the Carthaginians could not ram cleanly and became locked with their adversaries who threw more ships into the fray. It now came down to marines and corvus.

Everywhere, except on the Romans left flank, the Roman soldiers proved their worth. In many cases the Carthaginians put up pityful resistance, surrendering at the first drop of corvus and immediate rush of the Romans. On the left flank, however the Carthaginian mercenaries were made of sterner stuff. Against the odds they managed to take two Roman ships, including that of Claudius who, after a long and furious fight, joined his chickens in an early bath. The Carthaginian success was shortlived. The victorious Roman ships soon reinforced that position and settled the battle outright.

Result:Roman Victory.Roman Losses: 7 ships sunk 1 captured.Carthaginian losses: 8 ships captured 2 sunk.