Saturday 26 November 2016

The Raid - A scenario for any period, originally designed by C S Grant

I have recently returned from another meeting of the League of Gentlemen Wargamers in Scotland. This meeting's games were themed on the French retreat from Moscow in 1812. The weekend's games comprised a series of one on one scenarios on Saturday, where each player played three of the six games on offer, followed by a big multi-player game on the Sunday.

Sunday's LOGW game. This scenario involved getting pontoons and bridging equipment to the river and building a bridge over which Napoleon could escape to safety. Napoleon started at the far end of the table. Between there and the river, various French and Russian forces battled for control of the route Napoleon and the bridging equipment would pass. Napoleon escaped and the French achieved a worthy victory. I (one of the six Russians) got trounced.

Napoleon (foreground), in his sledge, at the start of the game, about to go like a bat out of hell for the river over 20 feet up table.
The scenario that follows, even though I got trounced playing it, really took my fancy. It was originally devised by C. S. Grant, appearing as a Table-top Teaser Special and in an early edition of Battlegames. It was tailored for 1812 by Charlie Grant (pictured above, on the right), who devised all the games for the weekend. The rules used, BTW, were written by Kev Calder (pictured above, in the centre).

My version of the scenario is posted here by the kind permission of both of the Grants. I have tweaked the scenario for the SYW, adding one or two ideas of my own. The scenario is a raid into enemy territory. This version of the scenario was written for use with my amended Piquet rules.

The Raid

The Russians have decided to winter in the current area of operations but have insufficient supplies to do so. Consequently, they are undertaking raids in order to stock their magazines. 

Russian Force:

Aim: Steal supplies from settlements (numbered 1 - 6 on the map) west of the wide river, burn what cannot be carried away and escape off the western table edge before the Prussians can stop you.

Forces: One command group comprising:
1 Leader ranked as Skilled
1 unit of Dragoons (Ready)
2 units of Don Cossacks (Ready)
1 unit of Grenadiers (Eager)
3 units of Line Infantry (1 Eager, 2 Ready)
1 battery of light howitzers (Eager)
3 Wagons.

Initial Deployment: All troops enter the area of operations marching in column of route using one (not both) of the western roads marked with a red arrow.

Capturing supplies: Each settlement has three points of supplies. Each wagon can carry three points of supplies. Each cavalry unit can carry one point of supplies. Any type of unit can load supplies. To load supplies a unit must enter the settlement, have a wagon adjacent or be cavalry loading their mounts, and declare their intention to loot on Officer Check. It takes one activation, on a Pillage and Loot card (x3 in sequence deck), to load one point of supplies onto a wagon or onto cavalry mounts. Each point of supplies successfully escaping via the western table edge earns one victory point. 

Burning Settlements: A unit must be in a settlement and declare its intention to commence burning on Officer CheckIt takes three activations on Pillage and Loot cards to completely fire a settlement. Each burning activation on Pillage and Loot cards earns one victory point. A settlement cannot be looted and burnt at the same time, or be looted after burning has commenced. 

Note: Whilst looting and burning, units count as disordered and they cannot shoot or initiate a melee. If attacked, looters and burners can be automatically rallied into fighting trim on Officer Check cards. Likewise, troops can be ordered to recommence looting and burning on Officer Check cards.

Note: Cavalry loaded with supplies deduct 4" from their move rate.

Note: Wagons are captured or destroyed immediately they have a melee initiated against them on a Melee Resolution card. They cannot be destroyed by small arms fire but can be destroyed by artillery fire - they count as a single '3 hit stand'. Wagons move on Artillery Move cards at a rate of 12", adding 25% if moving on a road, but deducting 2" per point of supplies being transported.

Note: We play movement into and out of buildings on Move in Difficult Terrain cards rather than on Deploy cards (because there tends to be only one Deploy card in the sequence decks for SYW armies).

Prussian Force:

Aim: Prevent the Russians stealing supplies and denuding the territory under your protection. 

Sentry Force: One command group comprising:
1 Leader ranked as Average
1 unit of Dragoons (Ready)
2 units of Line Infantry (Ready)
1 battery of field artillery (Ready)

Initial Deployment: Two of the sentry units are billeted in the town east of the wide river (buildings marked 'G'). One unit (infantry or cavalry) is on patrol outside a random (Roll D6) settlement west of the wide river, marching in column of route. The artillery is deployed in a redoubt sited to defend the bridges and ford on the wide river; the redoubt allows a 360 degree arc of fire but because the guns are primarily sited to defend the bridges and the ford fire at other targets will be at Down 1; fire Vs targets on the bridges or ford is Up 1; the guns cannot be moved.

Sentries have alerted you to the presence of the enemy and you have called for reinforcements. 

Reserve Force (off table): One command group comprising:
1 Leader ranked as Skilled
1 unit of Dragoons (Eager)
2 units of Line Infantry (Ready)
1 unit of Grenadiers (Ready)

Initial Depolyment: The Reserve Force begins the game off table and is marching as fast as it can towards the area of operations. It will not arrive before turn 4. From turn 4, whenever the Special 'A' card (x2 in sequence deck) is turned. test for arrival by rolling D8 Vs D8. If the test is successful the Reserve force will begin to arrive in column of route on the next Infantry Move in the Open card. The force will arrive using one of the road exits marked with a blue arrow. If the test was successful on an even roll, the force arrives at the town; if odd, the force arrives using the northern route.

Victory Conditions: For the Russians to win they must successfully steal or burn 22 points worth of property. Any other result is a Prussian win.

Terrain Notes:

  • High ground is type I terrain, stop at contact full rate thereafter, and blocks LOS. 
  • The wide river is passable only at the bridges and the ford. Artillery can only cross at the bridges. 
  • The narrow river is passable with difficulty (Type IV terrain, requiring a standard difficulty check) to infantry and cavalry. Wagons and artillery can only cross it at the bridges. 
  • Buildings are type III terrain and they block LOS. 
  • Woods are type III terrain and they block LOS. 
  • Roads add 25% to movement rate for troops in column of route.
  • Fields are scenic only. 

Army Characterisation Deck Draw: Each side will draw 3 cards from the ACD. Any Stratagem cards involving reinforcements, ambushes and flank marches should be ignored. Each side should have a minimum of ten morale points.

Friday 25 November 2016

TTS Trebbia (2nd game)

Well, I must admit, the changes that Simon has made with regards the Polybian Romans work a treat. 

In our latest game the Romans, even though fatigued (everything was difficult for activation), performed well.
The new rules definitely give an edge to the Roman player, so those wishing to do the earlier stuff might well wish to downgrade most of the Roman troops.
The result of this battle was a draw. The Romans succeeded in breaking through the centre before succumbing to a general army paralysis.

I think Graham knew a draw was on the cards quite early on because most of his attention seemed to be taken up with nocturnal central heating arrangements. Usually, he divides his attention in an attempt to score in all of his matches.
As said, the Romans did succeed in breaking through with their centre and, much against the odds, their cavalry held out on the flanks long enough to enable it.
I must tell you that I now have a particular fondness for TTS when it comes to the Punic Wars. 

I think the rules have the balance pretty much spot on. 

I'm still of a mind to allow the auto-change of principes and hastati on a disorder result, and I think that the 6/5 save should be downgraded in most circumstances for the bulk of Roman / Allied infantry for the pre-Scipio Punic Wars but, on the whole, the new rules are much better than the old ones.

At all points, this game was a good one. Penalising the Romans with the automatic difficulty to activate was a good way to represent Roman fatigue in the battle - it worked brilliantly. Sometimes you can try to be too clever, as in my previous attempt at this battle using TSS, when a very simple 'historical modifier' can be applied using just the basic rule mechanics.

Next week there is no game here, as I'm playing a WW1 game at Graham's, so I'm going to go quiet for a week. However, last weekend, I was at a League of Gentlemen Wargamers bash in Scotland and came away enthused. You can't beat a scenario devised by Charles S Grant and I came home with a beauty. If I can get permission from the 'Old Man' (I can hear him cursing - "If any of you sons of bitches calls me grandpa, I'll kill you." ) I will have a real treat for you with the next scenario game here. If he gives permission (and I think he might - "What are you a fucking weatherman now?"), you'll see it Olicana-ised for the Seven Years War here soon.

Here's hoping, because it's a proper, proper  belter.

EDIT: The game I played was a wonderfully designed scenario for the retreat from Moscow 1812 by Charlie Grant - that would be CSG Jnr (the 2nd, possibly 3rd, 4th, 5th) - who lifted it from grandpa. 

Heads down, incoming!

Monday 14 November 2016

Trebbia using To The Strongest

The Romans advance and are met by the Carthaginians mid table

Last week we fought the battle of Trebbia using the set up described in the last post. The battle worked very well and gave a largely historical outcome but, and there is a big but, it wasn't much fun for the Roman player - I had hamstrung them to such an extent that a historic massacre was inevitable.

The battle begins, the Romans can't hit a barn door and the Carthaginians can't save the few that do.

One thing that did work much better than in previous games, is the way Roman maniples work. The new rules for Polybian Romans gave them much better staying power. I'm still not sure if its enough though. I wonder if the hastati and principes should change places automatically on a disorder result - the Romans seemed very adept at this - and just have a standard activation to rally. A few more games should tell (and I suppose it depends how pro-Republican Roman you are!). 

The Roman cavalry is vastly outnumbered and stands little chance

When I came to look at the set up in post mortem, I discovered a few things that I had set up in error. I had looked at the map, set up the figures in accordance with it, and as it looked right I decided quite arbitrarily that it would do. It was a very quickly set up game by someone not all that familiar with devising TTS scenarios.

At the first clash the hastati lead. They manage to change around with the principes a few times in the game.

I have gone back to the scenario and this time set it up using a little more mathematics. In doing so the numbers of troops has been altered, especially for the Carthaginians.

The Roman cavalry is all but finished and the Romans are soon to be surrounded, then Mago turns up in the Roman rear.

We will refight the wargame again this Wednesday. 

This time I think the Romans should fair better. I have penalised them in only two ways. The infantry and cavalry count all activations as difficult due to either fatigue (the cavalry had chased the lighter more agile Numudians around all morning) or cold and hunger (the infantry had not eaten and they had just crossed, a chest deep, freezing cold river). I have also downrated the Allied infantry to raw. In reality, the spread of training would be less ascribed to a specific element of the army but, as the centre did better on the day, this seems the easiest way to do it.

TREBBIA: A scenario for TTS

According to my Osprey, the Roman army comprised 36,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry. The Carthaginian army comprised 29,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry.

On the table I have 576 Roman and 520 Carthaginian infantry - which comes to an infantry figure scale of 1:55 for both. I have 64 Roman cavalry and 160 Carthaginian cavalry - which comes to a figure scale of 1:62.5 for both. Given the fact that the game does not count heads, the figure scales are close enough for me.

Using TSS 'hit points' (1 for lights, 2 for standard size, and 3 for large) the scales are, for infantry and cavalry, Romans 1:1028 and 1:500 ; Carthaginians 1:1115 and 1:500. This is probably where, in game terms, the figures are more important and again they are close enough for me. Cavalry points, being twice the value of infantry looks right in game terms but, for the life of me, outside of typical wargame convention, I don't know why that's so.

The order of battle below details the scenario notes. Otherwise, definitions are taken directly off the Army List sheet. I will not repeat the history of the battle which can be easily found elsewhere.

Roman (my TTS wargame) Order of Battle

Sempronius: Senoir commander. 4 Heroes to assign. No spare ammunition chits.

Left wing: 2 units of Latini cavalry. All activations are 'difficult' due to due to fatigue.

Centre left:  Consular Army infantry: 4 units of Velites, 4 units of Hastati, 4 units of Principes, 4 units of Triarii. Half are Roman half are Allied: The two triple acies in the centre are Roman, the two outer acies are Allied. The Allied infantry have been downgraded to raw. Both Romans and Allies count all activations as 'difficult' due to cold and hunger.

Centre right:  Consular Army infantry: 4 units of Velites, 4 units of Hastati, 4 units of Principes, 4 units of Triarii. Half are Roman half are Allied: The two triple acies in the centre are Roman, the two outer acies are Allied.Allied infantry have been downgraded to raw. Both Romans and Allies count all activations as 'difficult' due to cold and hunger.

Right Wing: 1 unit of Roman cavalry, 1 unit of Extraordinarii cavalry and 1 large unit of Gauls. Commander is Heroic (because Scipio, later Africanus, was here). All activations are 'difficult' due to due to cold and hunger or fatigue.

Note: I have place the Extraordinarii on the right wing. I have done this because although it is often stated that, as a rule, Roman cavalry was on the right and the Allied cavalry was on the left, I cannot find any examples where Rome's enemies matched / countered this deployment by weighting their right. Surely, if Rome habitually put three quarters of its cavalry on their left wing it would have caused pause for thought? 

When reading about Polybian Romans I came across two pieces of information that, put together, might equalise the deployment - 50% of the cavalry on each wing. Firstly, one third of the allied cavalry formed the Extraordinarii. Secondly, when states allied themselves to Rome they attracted lots of Roman immigrants who wished to increase their social standing by taking up positions that would be thought above them in Rome proper. In essence, they rose a civil rank or two, as a reward, for going to 'the provinces'; in return the allies gained Rome's trust, approval and kind regards. 

If you put these facts together, you might find a large proportion of the Extraordinarii were actually of Roman descent - nouveau 'Roman equites'? It's funny that one third of the cavalry would equalise the wings and that such a force actually existed and might be quite 'Roman' in composition. 

This is all a guess on my part, but such an unequal deployment, as a doctrine, doesn't make sense and I can't find any supporting evidence in my sources other than the statement that Roman equites were on the right - but, were they alone there?

Carthaginian (my TTS wargame) Order of Battle

Hannibal: Senior, Heroic, Brilliant commander. 6 Heroes to assign. No spare ammunition chits.

Left Wing: 1 unit of veteran Spanish cavalry, 1 unit of Spanish light cavalry, 2 units of Gallic cavalry, 2 units of Numidian light cavalry (one extra ammunition chit). Commander attached to Spanish cavalry.

Infantry Left: 1 unit of veteran African Spearmen, 1 unit of veteran Spanish Scutarii, 1 unit of escorted elephants, 1 unit of veteran Balearic slingers, 1 unit of Spanish Catratii, 1 unit of African javelinmen.

Infantry Centre: 1 large unit of Gallic warband, 2 units of Gallic Warband. Commander attached to large unit. Although two of the units are not deep (to give width of deployment) they still count difficult activations doubly difficult.

Infantry Right: Infantry left: 1 unit of veteran African Spearmen, 1 unit of veteran Spanish Scutarii, 1 unit of escorted elephants, 1 unit of veteran Balearic slingers, 1 unit of Spanish Catratii, 2 units of African javelinmen.

Right Wing: 1 unit of veteran Spanish cavalry, 1 unit of Spanish light cavalry, 2 units of Gallic cavalry, 2 units of Numidian light cavalry (one extra ammunition chit). Commander attached to Spanish cavalry.

Mago: 1 unit of veteran Spanish Scutarii, 1 unit of veteran Numidian light cavalry, 1 unit of veteran Carthaginian cavalry. Heroic commander. May arrive on the Roman baseline, anytime from the start of move four.

Note: I have chosen to give the flanking Numidian cavalry three ammunition chits each as 'almost veteran'. I think this works better than giving them all veteran status saving on 6s. 

Tuesday 8 November 2016

The Battle of Trebbia 218 BC using To The Strongest [Edit]

Following an email from Simon Miller, pointing out that there is a new army list for Polybian Romans, I have edited this post with new photos and a slightly different set up. I have also added a few scenario notes, making this short post a little fuller.

I have been pondering marking my main table cloth with squares for To the Strongest rules for some considerable time. I have also been pondering what size of squares I would use, considering my unit footprints, because my unit footprints wouldn't allow the full eight squares cross table that the rules recommend. However, after a brief exchange of emails with Simon (author of TTS) he confided that seven squares across would be perfectly fine for all but battles involving two cavalry armies. Indeed, he admitted that many early stage play test battles were successfully fought on tables only six squares across - that swung it and I went for seven 25cm (10 inch) squares across table. My infantry unit footprints are based on four 6 cm stands, so when lined up, units will form an almost contiguous front.

I have marked the squares at the intersections (corners) with dots in dark green acrylic ink. They are easily visible, they are 2 mm - 3 mm diameter, but only when you are looking for them - for some reason the eye doesn't pick them up when scanning the armies. The dots, in the pictures below, are not the bits of 'scrub'.

The Ilkley Lads have played a lot of To The Strongest in Graham's wargame room, so we are now very familiar with the rules. They are incredibly fast play, so a I'm fairly confident that a battle this size can be easily fought out in an evening (2-3 hours). There are quite a few figures, but not that many units - both units are deployed in the confines of a thirteen squares wide by two squares deep deployment zones, separated by two squares. 

It is interesting to note that if the table was eight squares across the Romans would be deployed one square further forward and the back row would feature the Trebbia river.

We will play a couple of special scenario rules, effecting the Romans, to give this battle a little more historic feel . This will make winning the battle difficult for the Romans so the game victory condition is for them to break through the Carthaginian line, and get off the Carthaginian table edge, with more than eight units of heavy infantry. 

The set up from behind the Roman right.

I have used the Osprey book The Roman Army of the Punic Wars 264 - 146 BC by Nic Fields for the basic orbats and deployments. The battle was fought on a treeless plain, so it's pretty easy to set up.

The Roman Army deployed as though it has made one move towards the Carthaginians - historically they attacked, and this deployment creates a clear row of squares behind the Roman army. The Carthaginians will get the first move in the game proper.
The Carthaginian horde.

Trebbia has elephants! Trebbia is the only 2nd Punic War pitched battle in Italy where elephants were present. All but one of the elephants Hannibal brought over the Alps died  in the days following the battle - they died of the cold. He was resupplied with a few elephants at some point - they were used at Capua - but for something so famous, they were very little used (in Italy).
Trebbia was fought on a treeless plain. Nevertheless Hannibal found a steeply banked watercourse, overgrown with brambles, somewhat behind the Roman lines in which to hide an ambush party. It consisted of his best Spanish and Numidian troops (veteran status). It was led by his brother Mago, who later timed his attack into the Roman rear to perfection. Consequently, from turn 3 Mago and his troops can arrive anywhere on the Roman baseline, drawing an activation chip to do so - note they will arrive on an Ace but the activation will immediately end.

Hannibal rides before his battleline - he will be Heroic and Brilliant. Spanish and Gauls in deep units - these are 72-ish figures strong.

I will do a brief report on the game later in the week.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Fiasco: Leeds Wargames Show 2016

Last Sunday we went to Leeds to do a demo game of Chotusitz 1742.

The show was excellent. Fiasco had a real buzz about it this year and I enjoyed it very much. If you dropped by to say hello, thanks. It is always good to meet people (old and new) face to face.

The Leeds club members were very welcoming and helpful, thank you. I still have my gripe over having to pay for parking but, hopefully if the number of punters and gate takings goes up, perhaps this is something the club might be willing to consider contributing to again in the future. I bit my tongue (again) on Sunday. 

I've heard a few complaints about the lighting at the show but it was fine where we were - much better than some venues I've put games on at - and there are definite shadows in the photos below. The black 'star lit' walls were slightly unusual and this might have made things feel darker at the edges of the hall but, I wonder if the effect of this was physical or psychological.

This set up of the battle worked extremely well and I will use it again here at home at some point. 


Same time next year? Quite possibly.

Pike and Shot battle report - Italian Wars

A couple of weeks ago we played a second game of Pike and Shot. It could only be a one night affair because we knew that the table was needed to organise the demo game for Fiasco in Leeds on the 30th of October (see previous post). This wasn't a problem because the game had been set up to go through the rules (Pike and Shot published by Warlord), as a learning exercise, and to try out one or two ideas.

Firstly, colunellas.

There were four colunellas in action. These were classed as Reliable units of shot with Pike Company and Swordsmen

They are not pike blocks, something I failed to make clear in the set up post. Consequently, they cannot automatically turn to face or use Hedgehog.

The colunellas went forward against some very tardy French (the French failed to activate, at all, on every turn, except the last).
The colunellas loosed off several effective volleys then charged. 

Even a charge by a unit of Gendarmes, into a flank, failed to stop the onslaught, though this was down to some appalling dice rolling on my part - I rolled a bucket of dice Vs a handful and lost, being repulsed in the Break Test.
Crossbowmen are rubbish in melee. Gascon Crossbowmen are double rubbish. They fell back everywhere.

Not being able to deliver closing fire is a real disadvantage. I'm still not sure why this should be the rule - crossbows and arquebus having similar rates of fire, fire at level trajectories at close range, etc. I'm not saying that from a game point of view I don't like it, I do, but I don't get the 'why'.
As the game wound up, the French pike charged and, even though the French pike were not the best quality, they were rolling equal dice to colunelas, though they had to win well to offset the swordsmen. 

I have a mind to make the colunella sword and buckler element Swordsmen +1 rather than Swordsmen D3. Otherwise, even though my colunella were not fully play tested, it was obvious that they were not super units. In fact, they are pretty average in many ways and especially vulnerable to flank attacks. I think they will work very well; I think they will need defences to hold against good quality pike blocks and determined heavy cavalry.

 On the other wing, a ding dong of a battle between heavy cavalry soon developed between Large French and Regular Venetian units. The latter were supported by Stradiots.
The cavalry battle went back and forth in a similar manner to the first game. I liked this charge, counter-charge, retire aspect of the rules very much. It felt like a cavalry battle, and all the time the cavalry were getting weaker (in stamina) and weaker.

The Stradiots proved to be very effective. Using Fire and Evade, the French cavalry proved unable to bring them to hand strokes.
In the end, both cavalry were fairly weak and the infantry felt able to take to the open field to decide the issue with a whiff of sulphur. Where the enemy have Stradiots (or similar) a unit or two with arquebus would probably be the best solution.
The centre was a simple match up between Swiss and Landsknecht pike. The rules handle this quite well but I still hanker after big units. 

At the Leeds show I talked about this to a couple of people, and the possibility of having Huge units. Both have far more experience with the rule system than I do, and both thought the rules are elastic enough for them to work, At some point I'll try it: BTW, at present I have 36 figs in a Standard unit and 54 in a Large unit, I'll be looking at 72 figures in a Huge unit which is at least getting towards being right.

I think I will introduce a 'general' Bad War rule for Swiss and Landsknechts when fighting each other. However, having read the rule I'm not sure that it is the rule I'm looking for. I don't think the definition of bad war should be to make units more deadly. My view would be that it makes them more tenacious and less likely to give up a fight. I'm not able to say for sure, as I don't know the rules well enough, but I wonder if a bonus (+2 ?) to the Break Test result of the loser might not be a better way simulate what the history tells us about the stubborn professional nature of Landsknechts and Swiss when they met at push of pike.  

That will be the last game of Pike and Shot until the players have all read the rules. Graham has them at the moment, Peter will get them next. I like the rules enough to know I'll want to play them again.