Monday, 19 December 2011


It was the final meeting of the Tyneside club on Saturday, and as is now tradition we put on a big participation game for as many club members as wanted to play. This year we went for a refight of Waterloo in 6mm using Grande Armee.

Michael and Dave supplied the French, with Dave being Napoleon and Michael Ney. Stu provided the Prussians but graciously allowed Paddy to be Blucher. And as I supplied the Anglo-Dutch army I had the distinction of playing Wellington. In total twelve players took part in the game making it a good collective festive bash.

I won't go through the history of the battle as there are plenty of sources out there who will do the battle a much greater service than I ever could so will instead reflect on the game itself.

Let's start with the most important thing, the game was a cracking good laugh - helped no doubt by the generous amounts of port being consumed. Thankfully the Prussians arrived early so there were plenty of commands for everyone to get involved and thanks to some superb dice throwing by Kieran as Picton the British line withheld the first French assaults to make a good game of it.

In short, the early arrival of the Prussians meant the French moved the Cavalry Corps across to meet this threat reducing the pressure on the British line which although buckling under the force of the Old Guard managed to hold with the commitment of the British reserves.

When fighting it next time I'd shrink the table slightly. We used the map from the scenario in the Grande Armee rulebook which works to 12" squares but forgot to adjust it for the small 6cm bases we use. The result was that the British had to spread out further to cover the same distance and both La Haye Sainte and Hougoumount were to far from the line. It also meant the Prussians had further to march when entering the field to reach the battle.

This game has re-enthused me for Grande Armee. It really showed what the system can do, allowing full Corps to be engaged, withdrawn, rallied, and reengaged within the time available. Sadly I got too caught up in the battle to remember to take photos as it progressed but thankfully Andy was one of the twelve and better photos can be found on his blog.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Imperial Ambitions

I have three weeks over Christmas and plan to spend a lot of the time painted a 28mm Early Imperial Roman Army for the Impetus Tournament circuit next year - that is when I can escape family commitments. For inspiration I have just finished reading Anthony Everitt's biography of Augustus and I'm moving onto Frank McLynn's bio of Marcus Aurelius.

I decided on the army following a few games of Hail Caesar (HC). I didn't want to replicate the Marian Roman army I have in 15mm in another scale, and the rules for line relief in Republican Roman armies in Impetus put me off that option. Thankfully these rules have been improved in Extra Impetus 4 but I have already invested in Imperial Recruits.

You will have noticed that I plan to use the army in two different rule sets. While Impetus will remain my primary ancient ruleset I have enjoyed the alternative of HC and hope to find time for both. The problem this brings is basing. HC, and other rulesets, require some individual basing of figures where Impetus relies on unit bases. I have therefore went with basing units for HC and creating unit stands to place them on for Impetus.

The army composition is still to be finalised. I am split between taking more infantry or more cavalry. There is a requirement to have at least four units of Legionaries/Auxiliaries and I also want at least two units of medium cavalry and one light. The decision is between an additional two units of Legionaries/Auxiliaries or an additional two cavalry units.

In the long run I plan to paint up enough figures to deploy either army but I need to make a decision for preparing the army for the York tournament on 5th February. At present I think I will stick with the tradition of the Roman army at the time being an infantry army and go with the extra Legionaries/Auxiliaries.

For the Legionaries/Auxiliaries I am splitting the units 50:50 between heavy (FP) Legionaries and light (FL) Auxiliaries. This split gives the option of deploying in two battle lines and allowing as FP and FL can interpenetrate.

All of the figures are Warlord Games. I have found their plastics a lot easier to assemble than Wargames Factory but their metal miniatures tend to need a lot of tidying up. The models to look great with the main frustration being that the Legionnaires are clearly smaller than the Auxiliaries.

So far I have painted one unit of Legionaries and one of Auxiliaries. For the Legionaries I am basing six figures on a 6cm x 4cm base. Two bases together will form on Impetus unit and three a unit for HC. Having three bases for HC will allow the unit to change between column, line and wedge formations easily. The Auxiliaries are based individually with seven  being magnetised to a 12cm x 6cm base for Impetus. The single basing allows them to be deployed either formed or in various degrees of skirmish for HC.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Getting Back on Track

It's been months since my last post. Other aspects of life came to dominate including relocating back to Newcastle and completing the final project of an economics course. Thankfully my wargaming did not come to a standstill but I have lost the focus I had at the beginning of the year. 

I plan to do some more in-depth posts over the coming weeks but thought a nice short one would get me back into the swing of it.

Possible new projects
Over the past few months I have seen/played a number of new rulesets for different periods some may become projects for the new year. In summary:
  • Force-on-Force - played a Vietnam game after watching several others. Though not my period I do like the mission approach to the game and may get myself some forces. Forces are small and easy to paint but you do need a lot of terrain which could be expensive as I'm no modeller.
  • Le Feu Sacre - the lads in Newcastle have starting using this for 15mm Corps sized Napoleonic games. It looks interesting but need to read the rules and play a few games before I seriously consider rebasing by figures again.
  • Might and Reason - lads in Sheffield have put together a few 10mm Seven Years War armies for another Sam Mustafa ruleset. I originally turned this down with having too much else on but it looked good and I have game booked in for two weeks time. Looks like this will be a popular period in the next years following the release of Argument of Kings and upcoming release of Maurice.
Immediate Projects
I have three weeks off at Christmas and plan to complete a 300 point 28mm Imperial Roman Impetus Army for the tournament circuit next year. We are focussing on the ancient period following the release of Extra Impetus 4 last month and the luck I had with my Normans at the beginning of the year ran out at Derby where they were beaten in all three games. They will have their final outing for the year at Smoggycon next weekend.

I also need to do some bits and pieces on my 15mm Napoleonics for a large game of Lasalle between Christmas and New Year.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Washington's Wars

Last night I played my first game of Washington's Wars by GMT Games. I spotted this a few months ago and decided to pick up a copy to potentially use for AWI campaigns once (if?) I get my army painted up. Fi kindly indulged me by agreeing to play the Americans.
The game mechanics are based closely on those of Hannibal which is an excellent game and seemed to be used in a number of GMT games. The Board takes the form of a point-to-point map covering the original 13 colonies and Canada. Each turn corresponds to a campaign year during which each player is dealt 7 strategy cards which they play to either control their armies, influence the political situation, or initiate historic events. The skill of the game is to strike the right balance at the right time between military and political concerns.
We managed to change the course of history with the British holding onto America by 1882. The British launched a southern campaign straight away gaining a strong base of support in the South that they never lost. And, despite some successful campaign in Canada by Washington, including the capture of Montreal, the Americas were never able to chase the British out of the North East and eventually the British moved in to secure the central states.

It was an enjoyable game for our first run through. The main thing I wanted to discover was how the rules taken from one period, the Punic Wars, would feel in another and found they worked well. There are a number of changes to the rules that give players different challenges to deal with. These cover elements the placement of political counters to the system for reenforcements. The biggest change however is battle resolution which is through an adjusted dice throw rather than the card system in Hannibal.
While for Wargames I like a different set of rule mechanics for each period I am more willing to consider the same mechanics at a strategic level. While battlefield tactics have changed between periods through changes in weapons, population, theatres and cultures, strategically the challenges remain the same. You need to get armies in the field, maintain them, and use them and other means to influence the political situation to bring victory.

I found that the changes to the rules give the game a different feel and represent the historic challenges each side faced based on my current understanding of the war. However, it does feel heavy stacked in favour of the British player as they have a good advantage in combat (as they did historically) but this makes it difficult for the Americans to bring the French into the war as they need nine victories baring other events.

I look forward to taking on the challenge of being the Americans the next time we play the game.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hail Caesar

Over the past month at the Sheffield club we have been play testing with Hail Caesar. While not unhappy with Impetus I have started to find it limited when trying to refight scenarios and the flexible nature of Hail Caesar appealed to me. I did plan to write a series of postings reflecting on the different game elements but I’m really busy at the moment and know I won’t get round to it.

We have fought three battle. Two medieval including a refight of Tewkesbury and one ancient, which was a refight of the Battle of Bibracte. I forgot to take photos of the first two but scattered throughout are photos of Bibracte.

Hail Caesar is an ancient version of Black Powder. The one game of Black Powder I played put was enough to put me off it so I didn’t have high expectation for Hail Caesar.

I didn’t like the command/movement system in Black Powder. The idea of having to tell my opponent my orders before I know whether they have been carried out didn’t sit well. If the orders fail then they know my intentions and can react to them. While the same command system is in operation on Hail Caesar, I don't have as big an issue with it as the orders are generally a direction of travel for the troops as formations are more set in ancient battles. In the horse and musket period the formation of the troops determines their firepower and I didn’t like telling my opponent where I planned to line up.

The movement system is interlinked with the command system and is the most flexible of any set of rules I have played. Basically you say where you want your troops to go and then throw against their commanders rating and depending on how low you throw they will either not move or move up to three times. There is no measuring for wheels or about faces you simple reposition the troops. This makes the movement very dynamic but does leave it open to exploitation.

Rick Priestley declares up front that this is a set of rules that he plays with like-minded individuals based on their interpretation of history. The rules are able to be loose because they all know each other and tend to play with an umpire so disagreements are easy to resolve. This makes the rules impractical for tournaments and I fear for most wargamers who vary opponents regularly, without a shared understanding (right or wrong) of how ancient battles were actually fought, there will be disagreement.

The combat system is alright. There are a lot of dice and a range of factors to build in. Basically each side throws to work out the number of hits, then each side makes saving throws, the side that inflicts the most hits wins. A friend of mine once made the only favourable argument I have found convincing for WAB: "it tries to represent the different weapons and fighting styles of the different troops." This is also true of Hail Caesar. In comparison to rules like Impetus where as many of the units fighting characteristics are forced into a single value, its VBU, Hail Caesar allows are much greater diversity. This is something I like in principle but where Impetus represents different factors by the number of dice thrown, Hail Caesar modifies the score needed to hit. This gives the modifiers a greater impact on the outcome which, while the historical accuracy can be debated, players moving from one set of rules to another may find difficult to swallow.

The flexibility of Hail Caesar does make it easier to write and play historical refights. Playing scenarios normally requires some deviation from the written rules and the principle of adaptation runs throughout Hail Caesar. However, the first army list book is due out next month and I fear that once that is released it will restrict appetite for historical refights as players will be able to see which side has a points advantage.

Overall, I prefer the command and movement system to Impetus, I am on the fence about the combat system but lean slightly in favour of Impetus. I like the flexible nature of the rules but feel that this will be lost once the army lists are released.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Tea anyone? Starting The American War of Independence

When I first started playing Lasalle nearly a year ago I wasn't swept off my feet. Having fallen instantly in love with Grande Armee (GA) I found Lasalle a little tame and lacking an element of fun. Since then I have been turned around on Lasalle but at the time I decided to go looking for another horse and musket period to fulfil a desire to fight smaller actions than GA.

Since first playing Columbia Games War of 1812 many years ago I have maintained an interest in this minor war during the Napoleonic period but decided against it as I would be limited to Lasalle basing if I used by existing British. Sticking with the theme of North American I decided to move back in history and settled on the American War of Independence (AWI) knowing that several players from the North Tyneside club already play the period.

As always when I start a new period the first thing was to get a good overview of the history. My holiday reading therefore became Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause. This was an excellent read, striking a good balance between political, social and military history. Starting at the end of the French Indian Wars and running through the wars until the signing of the American constitution.

Choosing a set of rules for the period was easy. I had a copy of British Grenadier (BG) lying around from God knows where and within a few chapters I had decided to go with this. BG has received good reviews wherever I come across it and I am looking forward to playing a game with a written orders element to it as it has been while since I used one. I also love the scenarios books which provide order of battle for most (if not all) of the engagements. Recently I have been finding the limitations of pick up battles very repetitive and scenarios are the obvious cure.

Mentioning my interest in the period at the Sheffield club raised the interest of a few members who are willing to do up armies. Within a week Paul had already painted an American battalion so I agreed to make a start on the British.

Having enjoyed painted Peter Pigs Wars of the Roses range I was going to use their AWI range but saw the Blue Moon figures at the Triples show and they looked so good I couldn't resist. The figures are large, 18mm, and I don't think my painting can do them justice. The photos throughout this blog show my efforts over the past month to paint the 33rd regiment.

I have decided to mainly use the 1768 warrant uniforms. Although they were not the practical uniforms most British wore during the wars, they are distinctive for the period and can easily be used for French Indian Wars and other conflicts during the period.

They did take me longer to paint than I hoped and I may try both Peter Pig's and Essex's ranges to see if I can turn them out faster. Either way I doubt I'll be in a position to have a game until nearer the end of the year so maintaining motivation will be a challenge.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Mid-Year Review

The past month I've been distracted with work, study, and my hard drive packing in, so I haven't managed much gaming. The next few weeks are looking better so hopefully I'll get back into the swing of it. As we approach the mid-point of the year the pause has given me time to think about the projects I'll be working on for the rest of the year, including some new ones! But first a recap on progress to date: the labels down the side will bring up any relevant posts.

Normans - In January I painted a 300pts Impetus 28mm Norman Army for use at the York competition in February. Following success in that competition and the following week down Didcot I had planned to do another 28mm army for the competition at Derby in October but give up on this as the Normans have remained in the box under the bed as I mainly play 15mm.

Wars of the Roses - By mid April I had painted the Lancastrian forces at Towton for a demonstration at the 550th anniversary festival. This proved to be such a success that the Battlefield Society asked us to attend an event last weekend to run the demonstration again and to look at future events perhaps covering other battles. The army currently stands at nearly 400pts for Impetus and I have bought the additional figures to take it up to 500pts which I hope to complete before the end of the year. I was supposed to run a campaign at the club but have yet to get this off the ground. This is still a hope for this year but will depend on other projects.

Lasalle - By the end of April I had completed a French Empire core plus Dragoons support which I took to Trev's tournament. Since then I have purchased another four battalions worth of painted French Infantry and continued to rebase my British. The plan is to continue to build these forces this year with the aim of running a Peninsular campaign next year. A possible 1812 campaign means that adding options to the French may take precedence over finishing the British. There is also the option of starting to build a Spanish Force.

Ancients - I have made no progress on my ancient Impetus armies this year beyond playing half a dozen games. This is a real disappointment being my favourite period, and unfortunately I doubt I'll be picking it up again this year.

Over the past few months I have began two new projects which will take priority for the rest of the year.

American War of Independence and the Great Italian Wars (1494-1529)

Both are in their infancy and I'll expand on them in future posts.

This is the first time I have tried a more project-based approach to wargaming. The results are impressive, my painting rate is quicker than it has ever been, I have completely painted two Impetus armies and have constructed two Napoleonic armies through a combination of painting myself and purchasing painted figures.

While having clear aims has helped, I think the main driver has been external deadlines imposed by tournaments and demonstrations. In the weeks running up to these events I have been able to drive myself to paint up to rates of nearly 30 figures in a day to a good standard. These intense bursts do take it out of me, and I tend to flatline for a few weeks following the event.

Anyway, I'am looking forward to the coming six months with the following priorities.

1) 15mm British American War of Independence army
2) Make by Wars of the Roses army up to 500pts
3) Start an army for the Italian Wars
4) Finish my British Lasalle army

Brushes at the ready!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Loving Lasalle

On the 23rd April I was at Maelstrom Games in Mansfield for my first Lasalle tournament. I was a bit apprehensive about the tournament. My experiences of Lasalle had been mixed and I had yet to be convinced by the rules. I viewed the tournament as a chance to meet more players, test the rules against a wider variety of armies, and most importantly, a deadline to get my French Army finished.

Thankfully is was a bank holiday the day before the tournament so I was able to paint the last two regiments of Dragoons and the artillery crew (30 figures in a day, a personal best) as well as finish some of the bases. My army was a standard French Empire period infantry division with a Dragoon reserve.

Maelstrom is a cracking venue for this kind of event. It was my first visit and the size of the place came as a surprise. The photo shows just one hall, there is another slightly smaller one at the end of this one on the left. Downstairs is a bar and also the shop.

The tournament took the form of three matches, I am not sure how the draw was worked out, but each match was allocated to a table with preset terrain. We then followed the standard conventions in the rules to decided attacker/defender and choice of sides. The games had to be completed in around two hours or they counted as a draw. This resulted in a lot of draws but provided an emphasis to attack. There was some debate over whether two rounds with more time to complete the games would be better but my view is that it was nice to play three different armies against three different people.

I am not going to go through each battle in detail, merely pick out some interesting lesson about the rules and tactics.

My main problem with Lasalle has been getting into it. The problem has been the army lists just aren't very good, they aren't historic and aren't balanced. Sam Mustafa states that this in the book but it does mean that players tend to pick the same armies has they have particular strengths.

For example, if you play as Russians, and you plan to defend, your core choice for a standard infantry division gives you 6 line battalions, a light battery and a position battery, whether with either a Grenadier or Guard division you get 6 grenadier/guard battalions and two position batteries. You get the same number of infantry but they're better, and you get the same number of guns but they're better. No brainer!

There were 8 players in the tournament: three had Russian Grenadier armies, two Austrian Avant-Garde,  one Bavarian, one Saxon, and my French. The balance of section clearly shows what players believe are the best armies.

This is an easy fix, you accept the limitations of the army lists when it comes to tournaments and pick up games, and work out orders of battles for historic scenarios.

My first game was against JP's Avant-Garde Austrians (in my view the best army in the book). The advantage the Austrians have is that nearly all their units are large units which are disproportionately hard in the rules. I have previously written about the problem that the odds are against a small unit, even with better skirmish, stoping an advancing large unit. But in this game we came across another distortion with large units which could lead to unhistoric play.

The Austrians had been attacking hard and had the French on the back foot. The Dragoons had arrived and were starting to halt the attack. Having driven away the Austrian cavalry they turned their attention to the Austrian infantry. One regiment charged a Austrian battalion in attack column. The normal reaction for infantry charged by cavalry is to form square, however we realised the following.

The Dragoon regiment has four bases and in the combat will get two dice per base minus any disruptions. The Dragoons had taken one disruption defeating the Austrian cavalry and therefore they combat dice before any Austrian reaction would be 7 dice. The Austrians have the choice of forming square or firing on the Dragoons to cause further disruptions. Normally forming square is the best option as cavalry half their dice against infantry in square, whereas another infantry formation halves its dice against cavalry.

So, without forming square a fresh large infantry unit is on 6 dice against cavalry. The Austrians fire on with three dice as the cavalry comes in needing two 4+'s to cause another disruption. This puts the cavalry on six dice also and as the infantry are the defenders it means they have the slight advantage of winning the combat. While it is true they would have a much better chance if they formed square they it is still in their favour if they don't. The advantage they have is that they don't have to come out of square and can therefore continue into the French infantry in the Austrian turn. The cavalry, having taken a disruption from the fire, and another from losing the combat are on three disruptions and are therefore prevented from going back into the Austrians next turn.

While the problem with large unit is a major concern for the rules, the tournament did hightlight a number of subtleties in the rules I had not previously noticed. Mainly, that a better skirmish ratings do make a difference, and that the variation in commanders ratings does give the French an advantage.

Until recently, all the games of Lasalle I have played or seen had involved British vs French, who generally have the same skirmish ability, or against Austrians whose large units more than make up for their poorer skirmish rating. Playing the French against Russians and Bavarians began to show how the better skirmish rating comes into affect. The extra dice for shooting means that you can inflict additional disruptions before the charge, especially if you get out in line. This evened up the combats against Russian Grenadiers and gave an advantage against the Bavarians.

The pick-up games for Lasalle have a system for randomly generating the sub-commanders abilities. Armies which had better commanders have a better chance of rolling good command ratings. These can mean that there is a better chance of your reserve arriving sooner, your units reacting the way you want, and possibly a combat advantage. 

The French are most likely to get the best commanders and it made a difference in two of the games I played. Particularly against the Bavarians, the Dragoon commander had a +1 vigour and therefore not only did the Dragoons arrive earlier than normal, but I was able to react to his cavalry charge by forming lines with the Dragoons giving them an advantage in the combat.

These minor variations between the nations add a lot of flavour to the game and encourage me to look at what some of the other variations would mean. In particular the Spanish, who have a lot of amateur and shaky troops.

Following the tournament I am now sold on Lasalle. While there are rules that I think should change - mainly large units should count as 5 bases instead of 6 - I am not a fan of house rules as they make playing a wide range of opponents more difficult. For individual scenarios I would make changes. No rule set is perfect and I think for overall playability and completing a game in a reasonable amount of time Lasalle is a winner.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Roundabout Towton

On Sunday I went for a walk around the battlefield of Towton. You can get maps of the battlefield from the Battlefield Trust. The plateau the battle took place on is now cultivated private farmland so you cannot gain access. You can however follow the roads around the plateau, the modern roads follow the same path as the medieval roads.

Having parked at the Crooked Billet to the South West of the battlefield I followed the B1217 north. This would have been the journey taken by the Yorkist soldiers who camped in the area around the Crooked Billet on the morning of the battle, 29 March 1461. The first thing you notice when looking in the direction of the battlefield is how quickly the land rises, you can see only a few hundred metres.

As the road rises you come out to where the west end of the Yorkist line would have been. In the east, about 1,000 metres away, you can see the Hawthorn Tree that marks where the east end of the Yorkist line would have been. The tree acts as a reference point as you walk around the plateau. The point at which the photo was taking is where a lot of the initial fighting took place as the Lancastrian right advanced and the 200 spears ambush came out of Castle Hill Woods.

Continuing north you feel and see the dip in the ground that runs between the two armies starting positions. Unfortunately I was unable to capture this in a photograph. You arrive at cross marking the battlefield which is situated just behind the initial position of the Lancastrian right flank.

At the cross there is a path that allows you to walk a hundred metres towards the Cock River. Here you see the steep slopes down which the fleeing Lancastrians struggled, many meeting their deaths in the slippery conditions.

Looking back south you can how the plateau of the initial Yorkist position extends to the west right up to Castle Hill Wood where the ground suddenly drops off down to the river. Though there are no contemporary accounts of an ambush the wood looks like a good position for one. It also explain why the Lancastrians did not deploy on the south end of the plateau. The south end looks a much better position than the north end, however by deploying at the north end the Lancastrians make the Yorkists advance on them exposing their flank to the wood.

Walking back to the Cross you follow the B1217 north into Towton. At the far side of Towton there is a track known of the London Road which runs for half a mile to the Cock River. This is the site of the supposed Bridge of Bodies, where the dead piled high enough that you could use them to cross the river. Today a small wooden bridge marks the spot.

Walking back into Towton, you follow the A162 south down the east side of the plateau. There is not much to see down this end of the battlefield. The marsh that marked the eastern end of the battle is now a golf course. What is interesting is that you ground rises so steeply that you lose sight of the Hawthorn Tree. It is only a few metres back from the east of the plateau but you cannot see it from the road.

Once south of the plateau you can turn east towards Saxton. This road gives an excellent view of how the Yorkists would have seen the plateau as they advanced.

In the centre of Saxton is the church with the tomb of Lord Dacre standing outside. I need to learn more about Lord Dacre, all I can tell you is that he fought for the Lancastrians and apparently died from a crossbow bolt through the neck having removed his helmet.

Following the road west out of Saxton you reach the B1217 again and the Crooked Billet can be seen slight south down the road.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Preparing for Towton

After all the effort in January to get my Normans ready February was a bit slow but it's time to get back into gear as I have two projects to finish by mid-April. Trev is organising a Lasalle battles day on the 23rd April so I need to complete my French army by then and hopefully get some practice games in. The army needs the artillery finished off and a brigade of Dragoons but more about that in another post.

Before that JP and I are putting on a demonstration game of the battle of Towton at a festival on 17th April. I need to complete a Lancastrian army of 400pts in 15mm and the rest of this post will outline that army.

The army is divided into three battles, the Duke of Somerset's, the Duke of Exeter's, and the Earl of Northumberland's. Each battle consists of two units of archers with two large units, one of men-at-arms supported by billmen, and one solely of billmen. In addition to this there is a large unit of Scottish pikemen and unit of light cavalry.

All told, 21 stands holding 190 figures. The figures are all Peter Pig and they are excellent figures. I have the last of them on order and hope to pick them up this weekend.

I managed to make a start on the Duke of Somerset's battle completing the archers, men-at-arms and one stand of billmen. I always find it initially difficult when I move between painting scales. Going from 28mm to 15mm I have to stop myself doing unnecessary detail and additional shades.

While historically each battle was made up of the retinues of a number of nobles, for the demonstration I want the three different battles to be clearly distinguishable so all retinue soldiers will have the livery of the commander, for the Duke of Somerset its white and blue.

Anyway another busy month of painting ahead during which we need to find time to write up the scenario and short history as a handout for the demo.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Historical Battles Day

Last weekend I was at Didcot near Oxford for a historical battles day using Impetus. A big thanks goes to Bevan for arranging everything, and to all the lads who took part and made it such an enjoyable day.

Bevan came up with a system where we all drew a slip at the beginning of the day that told us the order of the battles we would fight and which side we were. I'm still not 100% sure how it worked out but it ensured that we all faced three different opponents.

My first game was a refight of Hastings commanding the Saxons against Simon commanding the Normans. Saxons deployed first across the top of the hill. The Huscarls were in the centre with the Select Fyrd long spear protecting the flanks and a couple of skirmish units out front. The Normans deployed some Knights to their left and some in the centre with half the infantry between and half on the right.

The Normans advanced the infantry first to try to disrupt the Saxon Shieldwall with archer fire. The Saxon skirmishers moved to counter and were able to win the missile duel. In Impetus skirmishers are more effective than low quality (VBU 3 or less) missile troops as the minus two for firing at skirmishers cancels out the higher VBU.

The Norman Knights then charged forward but the Saxon Shieldwall continued to hold. The impetuous nature of the knights means that even when they lose a combat there is little a general can do as they become disordered in front of the enemy and therefore continue to charge in unit their are expended. With the Norman knights expended and the Saxons began to move down of the hill to chase of the remaining Norman infantry.

Historically, the Normans won at Hastings when part of the Saxon line pursued some fleeing Bretons down the hill opening up the Shieldwall. In Impetus, only a small number of units are forced to pursue, Saxons not included, so this tactic cannot be used. Other refights on the day did see the Saxons break, key to which was the loss of Harold.

The next game was Cannae and took the role of Hannibal versus Edward in command of the Romans. In order to represent the battle two of the four Roman Legions were raw Legions and all of the Carthaginian forces were up graded. The Romans had to deploy first, and chose to place the two raw Legions on their left, the standard Legions on the right with Triarii placed on either side of the line to protect the flanks.

Even with the upgrades the Carthaginian troops, luck aside, would not stand up to a head-on fight with the Legions and therefore needed to get around the flanks. All the cavalry was deployed on the right opposite the raw Legions along with a unit of veteran spearmen. Two units of Gauls were deployed on the left flank with Spanish light infantry and skirmishers across the centre.

The Romans held their position while the Carthaginians advanced. The Carthaginian centre halted just within missile range and engaged the Roman Velites while the Carthaginians pressed both flanks. Despite stubborn resistance the Roman flanks began to give way with the raw Legions pinned without room to maneuver. With both flanks turned the Roman Legions on their right launched a final charge forward but were held by the Spanish light infantry. The Numidian cavalry had now got around the back of the Legions and the encirclement was complete.

This is the first time I have used an army that has been upgraded across the board and it did mean that the Romans were outclassed in almost all areas of the field giving a historic feel to the battle. The standard problem with the Republican Roman army was noted in all the battles fought during the day. That exchanging lines is too difficult so the Romans have difficulty utilising their extra numbers. 

The final battle of the day was Towton, John commanding the Lancastrians while I commanded the Yorkist. True to history the scenario had the wind blowing in the Lancastrians faces giving the Yorkist a range advantage for their archers. The armies deployed with the three battles side-by-side in a line.

Initially both armies advanced to get within effective archery range. The Yorkist pushed forward on their left resulting in the Lancastrian right checking its advance to prevent it being outflanked. The arrival of the Duke of Norfolk's small force on the Yorkist right prevented the Lancastrians from advancing on the other flank also.

This left the Lancastrian centre ahead of the rest of the line allowing the Yorkist to concentrate their fire on it which, along with the additional range from the weather, resulted in the Yorkist winning the archery duel. A final charge by Lord Fauconberg on the Yorkist left but the Lancastrian battle opposite to flight followed by the rest of the army.

This was the first time I have used a medieval army and the potency of the longbow was evident. As the next thing on my painting table will be a Wars of the Roses army this was a useful opportunity to consider how it can be effectively used. The key challenge will be getting the enemy to advance against the archers.

This was a great day and a great format. One that I hope we can use again.