Saturday, 26 March 2016

Fleurus, 1622

After the success of Edgehill, I wanted to give the Neil Thomas Pike and Shot rules another go in a different period, this time the Thirty Years War. Although I am fairly up on Gustavus Adolphus and the Swedes, the workings of the earlier Imperial and Protestant armies have always been a bit of mystery to me, so this was always going to be a bit of an experiment.

I wanted to do something from the early period before everyone had discovered the primacy of firepower so I dug around a bit on wikipedia and came with the Battle of Fleurus in 1622. An army of Protestant mercenaries (which included the Bishop of Halberstadt) in the hire of the Dutch and en route to raise the Spanish siege of Bergen-op-Zoom. The battle was fought near Fleurus, and also quite near to Quatre Bras and Ligny, so an exciting part of the world.

Eager defenders of the faith rolled up, John and Jerry took the wicked Spanish and Tim G took the wicked Protestants. As usual played with my 2mm stuff on a few hastily assembled carpet tiles. This was the first outing for my big pike blocks and Tercio stands some of which are dimly visible in the photos. (Many thanks to Tim for the photos, the SD card in my phone died and I lost all mine).

General layout of the battlefield. Protestants nearest the camera. Cordobas Spanish deployed with their flanks resting on the woods. I had to juggle the armies a bit to fit in with the historical strengths. The eight ad-hoc disorganised Protestant infantry battalions became two huge levy infantry regiments, whilst their excellent cavalry became three good quality horse units, one of which was led by the Bishop. The Spanish were a real dogs dinner and ended up with two elements of poor horse and three huge Esquadrons, one of which (incorporating the veteran Tercio of Naples) was rated as elite.

After a prolonged cannonade the Protestants moved forward and engaged in a musketry duel. This bit was quite good fun as the big infantry units packed a lot of firepower and very soon hits were flying all over the place. Sadly the Protestant cavalry discovered quite quickly that the big regiments were extremely dangerous to horsemen.

Eventually it came to push of pike and things went a bit pear shaped. A feature of the Neil Thomas rules in all periods is that units which are 'better' in close combat than their opponents get multiple dice per base, and as all the bases fight, regardless of unit depth, any advantages are compounded. The veteran Spaniards were considerably 'better' than their opponents, and ended up throwing 24 dice per regiment vs 12 for the poor old Protestants, which felt a  bit clumsy. The same thing happens in the Ancients set when Romans are fighting barbarians, it just feels a bit overpowered, particularly as the rules are aimed at armies of equal size It became fairly obvious at this point that the Protestants were going to get massacred, so we called it a day.

The problem is probably fixable. I could vary the forces sizes (historically the Protestants outnumbered the Spanish almost 2:1 but still lost!) and also have a look at how mixed units and combat advantages translate into close combat dice, possibly varying the to-hit rolls instead, but I don't want to break the basic system.

Along with thinking about rules modifications, I also had a look around at some other rules, particularly 'Marston Less' and the English Civil War Command and Colours variant, both of which would be easy to adapt to the Thirty Years War.. So, we'll head back to the killing fields of central Europe at some point, but I need to do a bit more tinkering around first.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Night Withdrawal

As a gentle game requiring little thought before Triples, and put on another scenario from my ongoing Memoir 44 Normandy campaign, this time a follow up battle during the 'Operation Charnwood' mini-campaign.

The previoua battle had featured a massive RAF bombing attack  followed up by a frontal assault on Caen which left the Canadians with a very bloody nose at the hands of 12th SS Panzer Division. IN thia follow up engagement, the Germans have decided that enough is enough and are planning on falling back over the Orne as night falls. After their bloody repulse earlier in the day, the Canadians are pushing cautiously into Caen, and a complication for both sides is that night is approaching, after which point the battlefield will be plunged into darkness!

Graham and Tim C took the plucky Canadians, and in a role reversal largely based on where they happened to sit down, Jerry and John took the wicked Germans. Both sides were relatively fortunate in their pre-battle attrition rolls and managed to scatter some damage across their opponents, and the Canadians had the added bonus of some extra armoured reserves which beefed one of their tank units up to 'elite' status. Very scary!

As ever, played with 15mm stuff on my Hexon terrain and using my lightly modified 'Memoir 45' variant.

The battlefield from west, Canadians to the left, Germans to the right, and dimly visible on the far right, the vital Orne bridge. Various built up areas of Caen in between.

The Allies did a pretty good job of keeping their infantry and tanks together this time, but the Germans managed to get some of their units dug in. Here an assault goes in against some Germans dug in the open in the centre (they'd earlier been pushed out of the houses).

Over on the left the Shermans were closely supported by infantry. The mighty elite tank battalion being indicated by the big red badge. In this photo the Luftwaffe has made a surprising and very unwelcome appearance. Luckily for the Allies, the crew of the elderly Stuka were equally surprised to be in the air and only managed to inflict a single hit on the very juicy target array before them.

The Allies finally managed to push through in the centre, while the left pushed up having destroyed the German armoured counterattack. By now it was fairly honours even loss wise, but suddenly there seemed to be very few Germans around and as it was night time, all combat was being resolved by close assault. Very nasty!

With both sides one flag away from victory, the Germans launched an infantry counterattack which was repulsed, and over on the left the Allies went for broke with two tank battalions attacking the Germans in the woods and infantry tackling the dug in anti-tank guns. Sadly the tank attack went badly wrong, both tanks failed to inflict lethal damage on the infantry, and in their riposte the infantry managed to score two hits on the already damaged tank unit, finishing it off and winning the game.

As ever with Memoir 45, a detailed military simulation? probably not. But a fun game? yes. I thought this went very well, with both sides putting a considerable amount of thought into their moves and actions, and dare I say it, actually having some sort of plan. The fact it went down to the wire was a testament to both sides  tenacity.

One variation I tried this time was issuing extra command cards in the intial hand (six instead of four)

Friday, 11 March 2016

Cursus Honorum

With Triples rapidly looming, it was time for a run through of this years WD Display Team (north) participation game. We'd playtested this a couple of times before but this was the first outing of the final version with a full complement of players.

Cursus Honorum is a game covering political careers in Republican Rome. John covered a similar theme in a more RPG type approach at COW, but this aims to present the same core historical challenges in more of a public participation type game.

A bunch of very untrustworthy looking future Senators assembled.

Senator Black (well, I hadn't made Senator quite yet). Game control card to track wealth, authority, dignity and rank.

John had fashioned this rather magnificent wreath, very fitting in his role as 'the gods of Rome'.

The politicians vie for position. Our first Consul, a Praetor and a couple of Aediles in view with a lonely Quaestor in the distance. That dodgy looking chap in red sneaking up the inside is one J. Caesar . I am sure he'll come to nothing.

The run through went well and we managed a full game with six players in 35 minutes, which was pretty much what we'd been aiming for. Sadly Aedile Black never made it to be Consul and retired to his estate, but Consul Yellow walked away with wealth and honours heaped upon him and that nasty Caeser turned up and spoiled the party.

The game will be run in public for the first time at Triples on the 19th and 20th of March at the Institute of Sport in Sheffield, and I hope all my loyal readers can come along and enjoy it in person.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mystic River

For many years I have used odd bits of felt, masking tape etc  to represent many terrain features but I came to realise that the bits of terrain I had actually made or bought (hills, walls, bridges, trees, buildings) both lasted forever and got used endlessly.  I therefore decided to tackle my river deficit, in particular in the context of my Hexon terrain.

I've already got some large 1' and 2' river sections I made out of MDF years ago, and they have featured in a number of games, but I wanted something a bit more subtle to use as streams or small rivers both on gridded and ungridded tables.


This is what I ended up with, a selection of curvy stream sections. The curves correspond with the Hexon hex edges but would obviously do as meandering watercourses in other settings. Keen eyed readers will notice that the water bits are reflective, but what is less apparent is that although they look very blue, they are also transparent, so will reflect the colour of the underlying terrain (green, brown etc).

They started life as one of these, a clear plastic box a roller blind came in. I made templates up from paper and then used them to cut the river sections out with scissors. The plastic is thin but quite rigid, so sections can be overlapped or underlayed to produce continuous river pieces.
 The edges are just thin lines of static grass stuck on with PVA. Again there is some slight transparency so the underlying terrain colour shows through.

 The blue hint comes from a thin wash of aubergine blue/green on the base. I first saw green river sections at COW many years ago, and it is much better reflection of weedy/deep water than pure blue. The paint also adds a bit of roughness to the bottom which stops it sliding around. The overall effect is that you get the base terrain colour shaded a greeny blue coming through as the water colour.

I was very pleased with how these turned out, so rarely a game goes by when they don't get used. My main regret is that I haven't got the mix of different lengths quite right. The 1' sections are fine for a normal table, but for more intricate hex sets, I need more of the shorter sections, so I may end up cutting some of the longer ones up.