Lobositz Refought

Frederick, Seydlitz & Zeiten

Despite the much much fawning over the greatness of Frederick The Great this is one of those battles where the greatness is not so evident.

Lots of generals!

In brief, the campaigning season of 1756 kicked off with Frederick crossing into Saxony with the intention of knocking said state out of the alliance of states ranged against him. At the same time an Austrian army under Field Marshal von Browne was marching through Bohemia with the intent of keeping the Saxons on side. On October 1st the Prussian advance guard caught sight of what they thought was the Austrian rear guard deployed around the town of Lobositz and the Prussian main army hurried forward.

Early deployment

In fact the Austrian rear guard was the main army which von Browne had deployed in and around the town making good use of the terrain which created a funnel through which the Prussians must advance. On the Austrian right the slopes of the Lobosch Hill were defended by a strong force of Croats and regular musketeers under Lacy, the centre comprised the town, defended by more musketeers and a sunken road in which were hidden a line of more Croats and Grenadiers supported by cavalry, the left was the main army hidden behind the marshy stream known as the Morellen Bach; out in front on the valley floor was a brigade of cavalry screening the Austrian deployments from the Prussians. As best we can tell from the sources, von Browne’s plan was to fight a holding action that would give him time to march the main army across the River Elbe behind Lobositz and join up with the Saxons.

The Prussian plan, such as it was, seems to have been to arrogantly power on forward and drive the Austrians from the town!

Croats

The battle, in brief, consisted of an early morning artillery duel which inflicted some serious losses on the static Prussian infantry and some losses on the Austrian cavalry manoeuvring on the plain. Battle proper started with the Prussian left wing infantry under Bevern ascending the Lobosch and engaging in what turned out to be a day long musketry duel with Lacy which finally turned in favour of the Prussians. On the valley floor Kyau’s cavalry brigade, which included the Garde du Corps and the Gendarmes, galloped confidently forward and got their arses handed to them by the hidden guns and muskets. The remnants joined the main cavalry body and the whole lot then attacked without orders! half of them got into the sunken road but where seen off by a counter attack by Austrian cuirassiers and the other half ended up stuck in the Morellen Bach where they were easily shot down. After the cavalry debacle Frederick left the battle (again!) leaving Ferdinand of Brunswick to direct the main infantry attack which eventually convinced the Austrians to relinquish the now burning town in the late afternoon. Frederick claimed victory by dint of the fact that he was master of the field (even though he personally wasn’t there!) although von Browne had in fact achieved his aim, the main army marched successfully behind Lobositz and across the Elbe. Losses were about even.

Bevern’s infantry foreground, main cavalry body behind

For our refight we mainly relied on Christopher Duffy’s ‘Frederick The Great. A Military Life.’ plus a couple of articles of refights from ‘Battle’ (Charles Grant on matters military) and ‘Practical Wargamer’ (Paul Stevenson’s ‘A Bohemian Rhapsody In Fifteen’). Using Duffy’s map we had enough battalions and regiments to match the numbers although not necessarily the specific units – we didn’t have the Garde du Corps or Gendarmes for example and we reckoned that as long as we had enough Austrian units to line the Morellen Bach that would be enough as most of the main Austrian body took no part in the battle. Regarding the terrain we had a large ridge section that stood in for the Lobosch rather well, the marshy stream was no problem nor was the town itself and the nearby villages of Wellhotta and Sullowitz; the sunken road we created using our TYW siege line pieces.

Prussian cuirassiers

Recreating the ad hoc affair of the battle was more of a challenge and after some thought we opted for everything to be deployed as was and put narrative proscriptions on the players, so, Kyau’s cavalry had to attack straight forward, Bevern had to attack up the Lobosch, the Prussian main body couldn’t advance until Kyau’s cavalry retreated or broke, and all the Austrian commands had to hold unless a personal message was received from von Browne. this asked a lot of the players but actually worked rather well. We also overrode the rules regarding artillery arcs and firing overhead for the Austrian guns so that the effect of the opening cannonade could be felt.

Bevern’s command

Playing the game was a long one (but we had all day ๐Ÿ˜€) and at the end we were tired but pleased.

Bevern

In the opening turns, Bevern slogged his way up the Lobosch while the artillery duel took place – in typical wargamers fashion both sides ignored counter battery and tried instead to wear down opposition units; the Austrian guns were better at this ๐Ÿ˜.

The opening cavalry clash

The first real action took place on the valley floor where the Prussian cavalry did better, at first, than their historical counter parts, seeing off a dragoon regiment in the first clash of swords and then having a series of swirling melees, retreats and reforming with the Austrian hussars who proved remarkably resilient – helped no doubt by the support fire of the entrenched Croats.

Austrian cuirassiers

Despite overrunning the Austrian battery the Prussian cavalry were eventually seen off with serious losses – all three were at 50% by the end of the action when the Austrian cuirassiers joined the fight, but this was the signal for the main Prussian body to advance.

Bevern v Lacy

Over on the Lobosch it had taken Bevern some time to get there but when he did we had some spectacular musketry which rolled on for several turns and was really quite tense!

Fighting for the Lobosch

The wargames version of the Bevern/Lacy fight however went somewhat differently to the history; Bevern consistently outshot Lacy and punched several holes in his line which he was able to exploit by advancing into and turning onto the flanks of now exposed battalions. Eventually Lacy’s brigade gave up the fight and retreated for the Elbe.

Lacy’s command starts to falter

The retreat of Lacy now exposed Lobositz itself and Bevern was ultimately able to drive some of the defenders out. Well done Bevern.

Don’t they look gorgeous!

Back on the valley floor the Prussian juggernaut ground forward and this time the infantry line led the way and the cavalry followed filing out from its regimental column into line of battle behind the steady infantry.

Steady

This solid wide line, supported by cavalry, meant that the reserve Austrian cavalry and the remnants of the first line had no means of turning the Prussians and so came front on and in a swift volley all along the line were sent packing in a distinct change to the history.

“message from the field marshal sire”

Having seen how things were likely to play out the Austrian player had sent a message to the brigade behind the Morellen Bach to advance but it was going to be too late, the going was slow and by the time the brigade started out the cavalry had already been shot up.

“all is lost”

A crucial point was now reached. Lacy was in retreat and the Lobositz defenders were starting to be winkled out of the town – although no fires were started despite the best efforts of the Prussian howitzers! The Austrian cavalry were done and although the Croats were very comfortable behind the sunken road they weren’t going to trade shots very evenly with the Prussian foot and committing the Austrians from behind the Morellen Bach wasn’t going to have much of an effect.

Goodbye Lobositz

So, we took stock of where we were. The key factor was that elements of Bevern’s command were now behind Lobositz so, from an historical standpoint, could dispute the crossing of the Elbe. Measuring up how long it would take the Austrian main body brigade to get across the marsh compared to the Prussian line getting into range of the Croats it was clear the Prussians were going to be shooting up (๐Ÿ™„) the Croats before the Austrians could mount a saving attack, even if they could fight their way through the main body of Prussian cavalry.

On to the Elbe!

It was over for the Austrians, von Browne would have to retreat rather than cross the Elbe and join the Saxons – historical note, the perfidious Saxon elites took the money and capitulated to the Prussians anyway ๐Ÿ˜ฎ.

Prussian line

So, a more decisive Prussian victory than history (and Frederick didn’t leave the field ๐Ÿ˜€) and a very enjoyable game. The rules played well and although it was long we enjoyed ourselves all day and that I guess is what it’s all about ๐Ÿ˜Š

Hussars

See you next time. Until then, enjoy your gaming.

May 2022 Update

Partizan

A busy month, we got 7 games in and attended Partizan so pretty pleased with ourselves ๐Ÿ˜€

Indochina

First up was two games set in Indochina; the first was using the new Mourir Pour L’Indochine rules, which didn’t prove to be too successful (see previous blog) and the second using adaptations of our own WWII rules. It was a shame the commercial rules didn’t work for us as it would have saved a whole lot of work but on the upside it has spurred me on to write a ‘proper’ set rather than notes tucked into various pages of the WWII rules ๐Ÿ˜‚

Silver Shields

Next we had another playthrough of our, in progress, ancients rules for the Successors project; the game was an enjoyable clash between a Eumenid army and an Antigonid featuring rampaging elephants, dying elephants and pushes of pike and the rules are playing well, which is pleasing.

Carlist lancers

Mid way through the month we had a dry run of our Carlist game for Partizan which made us rethink a couple of our assumptions about the game; the biggest assumption of course was that we’d have time to play the game through on the day ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ

Panzerschreck damage

Post Partizan we ‘relaxed’ into a WWII skirmish, Americans in France advancing on an ‘undefended’ bridge by a small hamlet. Needless to say the hamlet was defended (1 squad plus an augmented HQ squad) and the platoon of GI’s (3 squads + HQ + weapons) struggled to make progress.

Motorised column

In fact the game was a classic example of not concentrating and could have been used as a training video ๐Ÿ˜ƒ The American player roared up the road with his column not taking any time to reconnoitre the bocage or probe the hamlet buildings their side of the bridge. Result? A Panzerschreck took out the lead half track and it remained a burning wreck for the rest of the game, effectively blocking the road; the squad inside it rendered useless – by game end half had succumbed to their wounds and the other half were grateful for the fall of night.

HQ squad deploys

After that wake up call the rest of the platoon got their other vehicles off the road where they could and debussed trying to get around both flanks of the hamlet. The Panzerschreck team were disposed of (a bit late!) and the American player skilfully used the command Dodge as mobile cover for the HQ squad while the 2nd half track used it’s .50 cal to give support fire for its squad.

“Let’s go!”

However, the Germans had utilised their meagre resources well; a machine gun team hidden in a wrecked Sd.Kfz. 251 cut down a number of the HQ squad until it was itself silenced and a Panzerfaust brewed up the Dodge. An emplaced heavy machine swept the main road and forced the GI’s off into a mine field – where none of the mines exploded!๐Ÿ˜ž and a sniper took down the .50 cal gunner.

“where did that grenade come from?”

By nightfall the GI’s were up to the hamlet buildings but the defenders were still securely in place so we judged the Americans would fall back and call for armour support. We did have a vague plan to play out that scenario but reckoned a game with a Sherman pounding various buildings wouldn’t be much fun.

“who wants to stick their head out first?”

The upside to the game was that we got to use the two new Grand Manner resins we bought and painted up.

All is quiet

Our next foray was a French Indian Wars adventure which we haven’t done for well over a year. This particular game was a raid by a couple of bands of Indian tribesmen on a settlement just as the local trader turns up and a trio of frontiersmen (and their dog) stop by to exchange news.

Trader John

The Indian bands did a good job of getting close to the settlement but good old Blue, the faithful hound, sniffs a change in the wind and alerts his masters – lots of barking (actually a random die roll set against distance). Now we had a game ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

splashing across the stream

The first casualty was poor old Blue with an arrow in the throat ๐Ÿ˜ข and then the action kicked off. The Indians took some early losses to fire from the frontiersmen as the settlers scattered for their cabins but three frontiersmen against around eight braves was a tall order.

first casualty

The fight then became increasingly desperate; Trader John was dropped by the cooking fire and was quickly followed by Ma & Pa Adams as the Indians moved into the settlement, hatchets ready.

death in the wilderness

A couple of more losses to the settlers saw them fail their morale and lock themselves away in their cabins saving the last musket ball for themselves. The frontiersmen got stuck in with musket butts and hatchets and gave a good account of themselves but it was going to be a close run thing.

up close and personal

With the death of their leader one of the Indian bands broke for the trees but the frontiersmen were now down to two and the other Indian band was unhurt so with a heavy heart they faded away, the cries of the victorious Indians ringing in their ears and over that the single musket shots telling them the fate of the remaining settlers ๐Ÿ˜ง

M113’s

Our final game of the month was a 6mm Arab Israeli game. One of our occasional players blew the dust off his long buried away collection and bought it over to trial the recently released Cold War Commander V2 which I picked up at Partizan. We have no plan to do 6mm or Arab Israeli but we have been toying with the idea of doing the 80’s Iran Iraq war in 10mm, hence the buying of the rules.

Centurions

We played a very basic game to get a handle on the rules and that worked well with no problems being experienced. I did learn that Centurions completely out class T54’s!

Iranian Chieftain & Iraqi T72

With all this gaming going on did any project work get done? Well yes. The main distraction was the proposed 10mm Iran Iraq project; a lot of reading of the Helion books and the Cold War Commander rules, then some actual models purchased from Red3 and painted up – my first go at this scale. Once we’ve made a bit of progress I’ll do a separate blog post on it.

Timurids

In other news, another unit of Timurids were completed along with some civilian additions to the western gunfight and the stagecoach was finished. Some more vehicles for the Syrian moderns adventure were also finished off.

Generally a pretty successful month, let’s hope June is as productive ๐Ÿ˜

Carlists Go To Partizan

So, Partizan May 2022 dawned and what fun it was! Not the first Partizan post Covid but normality could certainly be said to have been restored ๐Ÿ™‚

We took along our re-fight of Arquijas, fought on December 12th 1834, in which the government tried to force a river crossing using a single bridge whilst sending a flanking force on a long journey into the rear of the enemy.

In short, the main force battered itself to a standstill trying to cross the bridge as did a parallel force which had found a ford just down from the bridge and eventually called off the attack. The flanking force duly arrived, fought its way through a detachment sent to delay them and then found that it was facing the whole Carlist army! Naturally, withdrawal was seen as the most appropriate action ๐Ÿ™„

But before narrating our re-fight, what of the show? Well the first thing I noted was the sheer volume of people, it was packed! and remained busy virtually all day which was very different to October ’21 when numbers tailed off significantly not long after lunch.

The upside of all these people was that we got to see and speak to a whole load of people we hadn’t seen for a very long time, in a couple of cases, years. The wargaming glitterati were out in force, I saw Henry Hyde and Big Lee taking photo’s of the game at various points but never got the chance to chat, although did manage to get in two very long chats with Alec Brown and Phil Olley at separate times, made all the more enjoyable for not having seen them for so long.

The downside of the numbers was that we spent a lot more time talking than we did playing! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ Not that this was a bad thing; we chatted with people we didn’t know about the period and gaming it, we met up with a number of our Twitter followers which is always great – excellent chat with Charlies aka Fred Worthingham, and we got to see gamers we’ve played with over the years but hadn’t see for a long time which was really nice. At the end of it all though we were both knackered and had a serious conversation on the way home about how much longer we could continue; two is a lonely number and Covid has taken its toll on the group.

Games and trade wise we really didn’t get to see much, glued to the game as we were. In terms of games there were some cracking efforts on display and those that caught my eye in my one quick tour of the venue were, the Cold War Commander game (mainly because I’ve just bought the rules for a proposed Iran Iraq project), the Grimsby ACW game complete with ironclads, the League of Augsburg naval game, the Midguard dark age game, the Ian Smith tribute game with the huge galleons, the Derby guys early C18th game with Ottomans – a bit unusual, and then my memory turned to mush ๐Ÿ˜†

In terms of trade there was enough range to cater for most tastes, it’s never going to be Salute and doesn’t try to be, if I’d had time I’m sure I would have spent up but my haul was very measly indeed.

But what about the game, absolutely nobody asked ๐Ÿ˜ƒ Well we stuck to the historical prototype with me moaning about how I didn’t see why my flanking force had to march all the way down the table and then round the back of the table (figuratively) to get back on the table ๐Ÿ˜ However, history was very much reversed; the government forces fought their way across the bridge and the ford making far more inroads that their historical ancestors and then in the final hour (when we were knackered) the flanking force arrived on the hills and advanced down sweeping all before it – clearly my genius command skills at work ๐Ÿค”

As with any event, successful or otherwise, there will always be some niggles and this Partizan was no exception. The biggest issue is the catering, come lunchtime the queue was horrendous and I confess to simply giving up, even getting a coffee was a drama; the outlet just can’t cope, maybe a couple of vans outside might relieve the stress? On the subject of coffee, allegedly the traders and gamers get a pack containing coffee vouchers, the free figure and raffle entries; well not us and not the last one either, now I’m pretty sure they were allocated so that leads to a rather uncomfortable conclusion…..

A final point, why can Hammerhead drum up enough trade to fill the second hall but Partizan can’t? It’s perplexing.

Overall though a great day and we look forward to October!

Mourir Pour L’Indochine

Ready for action

Wargaming French Indochina has always been a bit of a goal of mine ever since reading Bernard Fall’s ‘Hell In A Very Small Place’ back in the 80’s. Fast forward to more recent times and the release of the Red Star Miniatures period specific range, which soon became the Empress Miniatures range, and messing about with conversions of US marines became a thing of the past. A pretty sizeable force of several platoons was assembled over time and we have happily gamed the period using amendments to our WWII rules ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ but the idea that someone might publish a period specific set was always tantalizing. So having got hold of a pdf of Shawn Taylor’s ‘Mourir Pour L’Indochine’ courtesy of our good friend Gareth Lane and had it printed we thought we’d give it a go.

All’s quiet

Rather than go through each and every section of the 120 pages – yes you read that right ๐Ÿ˜ฎ we’ve opted to discuss the rules based on our play through of the first introductory scenario. Now, before we go any further, we need to be clear that our experience is based on playing the ISK level game, which covers forces from the single squad level up to a couple of platoons where one individually based figure represents one man; the rules also cover company level games, SK+, where the single figure represents a fire team of 3 men. So, our scenario featured a Viet Minh Local Force team tasked with blowing a bridge near a hamlet on the south end of the board before the approaching Foreign Legion patrol spotted and stopped them; the team comprised a command element, a 3 man demolition team, a sniper and a 4 man rifle team, the demo team could deploy in the hamlet near the bridge or some (far away) hills – why? the rest, anywhere they liked. The Foreign Legion force was a weak platoon comprising, a HQ element of Lieutenant & Sergeant and two rifle squads of, a sergeant, two 3 man rifle teams and an Automatic Rifle team of 2 men led by a Corporal; the French entered from the north of the board on the road that led to the bridge with the HQ & 1 squad on the road and the other squad in the grass on one side of the road or other. All the separate elements are referred to as Fire Teams (FT) in the rules.

Foreign Legion

The sequence of play is, I Go, You Go, and the first to go is usually decided by the scenario with the aggressor going first, although the Viet Minh player has the option of passing on going first – there is a confusion of words here regarding who goes first, on page 26 it says “Often it will be the player on the Offensive” but on page 28 it says “The Viet Minh, unless ……….., will always have the choice of going first or passing the first side sequence to the French” We went with the French going first as they were moving forward. Whoever’s go it is then chooses a unit to activate – a unit is a squad and that squad will contain it’s various sub elements, and there is the familiar choice of things that can be done, move, shoot, rally, ambush, assault, etc, most of which can only be done once. The opposing player then chooses a squad, and so on until all units have been activated – it is important to note here that a unit can also be the HQ element of 2 men, or the lone sniper or the squad sergeant, which did feel a bit odd.

More Legion

Before we get to movement it is worth saying there is a whole command & control facet to the rules that the author makes a great play about, wherein different levels of command have a specific span of control of units and that this is critical to fire control and rallying – in our experience it made absolutely no difference and wasn’t even anything as simple as ‘troops out of span cannot move or fire’, it was literally four pages of nothing.

Welcome to the jungle

There are 3 types of movement, Route March (the fastest), Tactical March and Fire & Movement (most battle effective) and each type has a specific way of deploying the figures, so in Route March “the members of a FT must be in base to base contact and each FT can be no more than 2″ from the next closest FT”, in Tactical March “the members of a FT must be 1/2″ to 1″apart and each FT can be no closer than 2″ from the next closest FT”, in Fire & Movement “the members of a FT must be in base to base contact and each FT can be no more than 2″ from the next closest FT”, Hold on! Isn’t Route and Fire & Move the same? We presumed this was a typo and so played with the figures spread out a bit. The key element to this is that the March variants carry penalties for shooting but you can whizz along the table with bonuses if Veteran, although Elites don’t get a bonus ๐Ÿค” Nice idea but a bit long winded, there are also several caveats about whether a march is forced or whether a unit is unreliable or rolling for a random +/- on the movement rate which don’t add much of value really. The key distraction as players was ‘why have I got all these nice individually based figures (as required by the rules and what you would expect in a skirmish/small action game) when they spend most of their time bunched up and where there is separation it’s really something of nothing?’ Much easier to plonk the fire teams in movement trays, plenty of them about – I hate movement trays for skirmishing.

Viet Minh demo team head for the bridge

Shooting is always a fun part of any wargame and we managed to get a reasonable amount of this in, the VM sniper had a pot, one of the Legion squads sent him scampering for cover, the VM fire team and the other Legion squad mixed it up and we even had an Assault, but more of that later ๐Ÿ˜ฒ The basic concept of the shooting revolves around the FT which is arbitrarily set at 3 figures armed the same – I would dispute the historical evidence for this but as a mechanic it’s fine, but once again, ‘why am I deploying individual figures when all I need is a multi base of 3?’ So, a FT is worth 1 x D10, it ‘sights’ the target – basically visibility is pretty much the whole table unless something big is in the way or you are in the various versions of grass/jungle where sightlines are reduced – I liked this but it took us ages to find, shooting is on page 32 and the terrain modifiers on page 55 ๐Ÿ˜ค Anyway, the D10 is rolled and modified according to what the shooter is doing and what the target is doing plus any terrain modifications and basically a 7+ is needed to get some kind of result although a natural 10 is a kill.

Shooting

The effect of a hit is to give ‘Resilience Points’ to the squad, to find the meaning of these RP’s you have to chase down page 48 but once you have RP’s then, depending on experience level, you halt, find cover, go to ground, become pinned, flee, surrender. Based on this you can see that fire teams aren’t that effective especially given the random spread of a D10 and that roll takes no account of the shooters experience, so a Veteran FT shoots the same as a Green one it’s just that a Green squad like RP’s less than a Veteran. When it comes to the AR team they roll 4 x D10 and an LMG team rolls 6 x D10, which in both cases is a massive disparity – I genuinely don’t believe a BAR is 4 times as effective as a 3 man rifle team armed with SLR’s, but anyway the random nature of the roll means the BAR can miss completely – we did!

Just a couple of more things on shooting. The ranges are whopping – 60″ for a rifle team, so given this is a skirmish game on something like 4’x4′ or 5’x5′ it’s kind of pointless, just regulate things like smg’s and similar. When a unit is fired at it can immediately return fire if the shots were from a previously unknown target which is kind of fun and it seemed to us that if they hadn’t been activated yet then they could fire again in their turn (we think?). The accumulated RP’s give an enforced result, like seek cover, but it wasn’t clear whether that was immediate, after it had done any return fire or in it’s next activation; we opted for immediately after any return fire and that seemed to work given that not every fire fight elicited return fire.

The only two things left to discuss that we experienced are, Rallying and Assault. The Assault action is meant to replicate those desperate charges you read about from Dien Binh Phu where a small group of legionnaires clear a trench with smg’s & grenades or VM cadres hurl themselves against the wire. As a mechanism it works quite well; you have to be fairly close to start with then move up to throw grenades (if you have them), take fire from the defenders and then get stuck in – the RP’s from grenades and defenders fire are rolled up in the final result and hoorah each figure rolls a dice, highest counts. The overall effect is quite bloody and someone loses, this was innovative and a good representation of the historical evidence. An interesting result of the VM losing an Assault was that they could fade back into the jungle and rally at some pre determined point after x turns, another good representation. There doesn’t seem to be a use for grenades anywhere else in the rules which seems a bit remiss but maybe we missed that.

Bridge blown in a win for the Viet Minh

The rallying aspect of the rules is the getting rid of the RP’s which can be done by in two ways. The unit can ‘self rally’ where it simply discards x number of RP’s depending on it’s experience providing it hasn’t taken anymore that turn and didn’t move and it can also Rally as an action which is where the command span comes into affect and a D6 rolled worth of RP’s is removed. All very simple and nothing to complain about.

Demo team congratulates itself

So what of the scenario? Well, there was no way the French were going to stop the bridge getting blown, the demo team start pretty close to the bridge and once the charge was planted all they had to do was move away and bang! there was no mechanism for dicing to see if it exploded and nothing in the various sections on mines and booby traps in the main rules, but it served its purpose.

The rules do come with a QRS but it runs to 5 sheets so not very user friendly and suffers from trying to pack too much in, there is nothing wrong with saying “for napalm accuracy see page….” also a couple of tables were at variance with the main rules.

But what of the rules themselves? Now I really, really wanted to like these but when I asked Dave what he thought, his response was “I was so bored”, which is not good. We have play tested a fair number of rules over the years, including my own, and I don’t think I’ve ever had that response before. For me, the kinetic energy you expect from a set of skirmish/small unit action rules was sadly missing, even allowing for the unfamiliarity of a new set. They are certainly exhaustive and maybe that is part of the problem, there is just too much going on, too many things to look up and too may things to do for no appreciable gain, I certainly couldn’t envisage a game of a more than a platoon a side and certainly wouldn’t want to run a multi player game with them. Yes there are definitely some innovative ideas in there and probably some we missed because we didn’t call up air support or artillery

As is de rigor these days the rules contain TO&E’s for the various combatants but I did think these were a bit selective, so yes we have French Infantry Platoon organisation who let’s face it weren’t in too many actions but no Foreign Legion, no Foreign Legion Paratroopers, No Vietnamese Paratroopers, No Colonial Paratroopers, no Moroccans, no Algerians, no Senegalese, I can only assume you are meant to use the standard infantry platoon organisation or paratrooper organisation and assign a morale level you think appropriate. The scenarios are pretty much a standard requirement these days as well and yes they are there, personally I’d rather do an historical set up or my own version based on the general nature of events.

Overall, a bit of a disappointment, which is a shame, Shawn Taylor has clearly put a lot of work in and I know from my own experience what a ball ache that can be but the rules just didn’t do it for us so for now we will continue as we are with maybe a couple of ‘borrowed’ ideas ๐Ÿ˜

April 2022 Roundup

Tamerlane.

A bit of a disappointing month gaming wise and in terms of projects done – I blame the distraction of helping decorate my sons new flat and Dave being a bit shook up after a car accident (all good now).

Our first game was the continuation and wrap up of our epic Carlist game; the scenario worked, the rules played well, and we got two afternoons out of it so less frequent packing away ๐Ÿ˜€. It also whetted our appetite for Partizan in May where we’ll be doing a Carlist refight.
Hoochville

Next up was an away game of Vietnam using the BOHICA rules; dear oh dear what a disappointment ๐Ÿ˜’, the rules were really rather bad, confused incoherent and definitely nothing to do with Vietnam. The day was fine, seeing guys we haven’t seen for a month, beer, food and a laugh, so not a complete write off.

“hey you in the jail”

Next home game was another gunfight game where we had another episode from our Dardenell County campaign and made a final decision on the rules we’ll use. After years away from the ‘western gunfight’ genre it’s been really nice to back into it and fun has been had painting figures and collecting buildings. What we need now is general clutter, wagons, civilians, horses, all the accoutrements of your average film set ๐Ÿ˜ƒ.

spear won land

Final game of the month was one from our, oh so slow, Successors project ๐Ÿคจ. Still bereft of pikes we put together an Achaean League v Middle Imperial Seleucid (pretty sure the Seleucids didn’t refer to themselves as that ๐Ÿคฃ), mainly because the hoplites we do have could make up the bulk of the League while the many Xystophoroi cavalry we have plus the freshly painted Galatians could justifiably bulk out a Seleucid army.

who doesn’t love an elephant?

The game played well and the rules seem to be giving us what we want in terms of a reasonable representation of warfare of the period and understandable mechanisms. No major ‘oh my god!’ moments but a bit of tidying round the edges still needs to be done; the acid test will be when we have sufficient numbers of pikes done and can go classical pike v pike.

In terms of getting things done it’s all been a bit miserable; there are some more Timurids in progress but the only things that got done were a stage coach and building for the gunfight game – need to give myself a good talking to!

the irony of building a half finished building

That’s it I’m afraid, enjoy your gaming.

March 2022 Roundup

Well March didn’t start off too well as we were forced to cancel our attendance at Hammerhead due to my date for investigative surgery being scheduled for the Friday before the show and Dave wasn’t up to running a participation game on his lonesome. A shame but given the pressure the NHS is under currently I didn’t feel like messing them about just because of toy soldiers ๐Ÿ™‚

From a gaming perspective, we managed to get quite a few in, starting the month of with an Italian theatre War of the Austrian Succession game featuring a GalloSpan army taking on Austro Piedmontese. A hard fought game resulted in an Austro Piedmontese victory due in part to an outstanding performance by the Austrian cavalry.

Next up was a dark age game using our Arthurian rules tweaked ever so slightly to accommodate a Late Roman v Goths encounter. It was the first outing for the Goths and was quite a bloody affair resulting in the death of two of the Goth leaders and a narrow victory for the Romans.

We played two separate western gunfight games during the month as part of our rejuvenated interest in the period, trialling two more sets of rules and kicking off a loose campaign to knit games together.

Probably our best game was a refight of St Denys, the second in our project to refight all the battles of the French Wars of Religion. This is historically a very lop sided battle which the Huguenots simply should not win but did and so it was in our refight even down to killing the right commander!

Our final game was a Carlist War battle done in the style of a ‘table top teaser’ scenario whereby a retreating government column has to get from one end of the table to the other while random Carlist brigades are generated to either side of them. At the time of going to press the government has seen off three Carlist brigades but another two bar their way – to be finished in April ๐Ÿ˜€

Projects wise a couple of small gunfight buildings were completed, some modern vehicles for our Cartel and Syrian games were finished, a couple of Timurid bodyguard cavalry units were finished after lingering around for over a year, some random desert terrain items completed and a unit of Galatians was added to the Successors project.

In other news the 10mm Franco Prussian armies were sold off to a new (and probably more appreciative) owner and some of the money from that sale went toward the purchase of a 4Ground western town from a gaming acquaintance who was done with the period – now we really have got to get into it!

Till next time, happy gaming ๐Ÿ˜„

Montmorency Is Dead

Just a little while ago we refought the Battle of Dreux, 19th December 1562, (reported on LAF) and so feeling very pleased with ourselves thought we’d gently progress our way through all the well documented battle of the French Wars of Religion ๐Ÿ™‚

Next up, by sequence, is the Battle of Saint Denys, 10th November 1567, generally seen as a pointless battle to fight due to the disparity in numbers. Historically, the Huguenots, under the Prince of Conde, had thrown a loose cordon around Paris within which was the numerically superior Royalist forces under the Constable, Anne, Duc de Montmorency. Rather inconveniently for the Huguenots Montmorency decided to give battle and so marched out of Paris to confront Conde near the town of Saint Denys. All military reason said that Conde should have fallen back on other nearby forces but arrogantly decided to stay and fight, pitting around 3.000 men, evenly split between cavalry and infantry, against some 16,000 men of which about 3,000 were cavalry.

The Huguenots formed up inside a vee comprised of Saint Denys at the base and the villages of Saint Ouen and Aubervilliers at the end of the vee on either side. A body of pikemen and shot guarded Saint Denys to act as a secure rear-guard, two bodies of shot were dug in around the villages and the Huguenot cavalry formed into three bodies under their senior leaders, Conde, the Admiral Coligny & the Seigneur de Genlis, once battle commenced no one was acting as overall commander. Facing them, the Royalists formed a double line across the mouth of the vee with eight bodies of gendarmes interspersed by several bodies of foot – a sizeable body of Swiss with artillery deployed in front of them, an unruly body of Parisian militia and two bodies regular foot (legions). Montmorency himself, like his Huguenot counterparts, gave up his role of commander and led the centre body of gendarmes while his son led an adjacent body. With these kind of numbers you can see why the battle is not seen as worth the effort of a re-fight ๐Ÿ˜€

The battle was fairly short and sharp and went contrary to what you might expect. The battle commenced with some long range artillery fire on Genlis which caused some upset and then the flanking gendarmes advanced in an attempt to turn the Huguenot position, unaware of the entrenched arquebusiers whose fire stunned and disorganised the gendarmes who were then charged by Coligny & Genlis and sent flying back into the main line. The Paris militia immediately gave way and Conde launched his cavalry against Montmorency who was killed in the fighting and the Royalist line was wavering but was stabilised by Francois Montmorency (the son) charging his cavalry in and rescuing the body of his father. In the general melee that followed Conde was unhorsed and briefly captured but was freed and rallied his cavalry back on Saint Denys soon to be joined by Coligny and Genlis who had been unable to make any impression on the Royalist infantry. And that was basically it, the leaderless Royalists declined to continue the battle and drifted back into Paris and the Huguenots got a dose of common sense and gave up the blockade.

How then could we recreate it? The terrain is pretty simple, so we set out the three bodies of Huguenot horse on a plain table with a village unit behind them and then created the vee around them with two village units and the entrenched shot. The Royalist forces were then forced to conform to the table, we had six units of gendarmes, a unit of foot masquerading as the militia, two more units of foot, a Swiss unit and a battery of guns. The table was pre set to conform to the actual dispositions (as best we could) prior to the players arriving and the ends of the villages were sealed off with woods to prevent any unhistorical flank marches. The Huguenots had two commanders present, Conde & Coligny, who historically exercised joint control in this early phase of the wars and the Royalists had Montmorency. Our rules use the military skill of the commanders (arbitrarily chosen based on historical performance) to move bodies of troops, so 2 skill points = 2 units etc, and in this re-fight Coligny & Conde had enough points between them to activate each unit, Montmorency however had nowhere near enough points, which we though would represent the piecemeal attack of the Royalists. Each player commander was given the option to assign their commanders to units as per the historical prototype and pleasingly both sides did so, knowing full well the risks ๐Ÿ™„

How did it go? Well the Royalist commander played a cagey game using his points to move bits of the army at a time to try and get a more co-ordinated attack in while the artillery pounded away at Genlis (very historical ๐Ÿ™‚); on the flanks he used his infantry to advance on the villages (we didn’t hide the arquebusiers) which took quite some time but of course the cavalry did have to move if any progress was going to be made. The Huguenots stood still so quite a few turns were just the Royalists moving and the artillery firing.

As the Royalists eased their way forward Francois Montmorency’s cavalry took the first lots of harquebus fire but morale held (naturally ๐Ÿ˜‰) and the colonel wasn’t hit – each unit has a nominated colonel with a skill rating that helps in any testing but can be a casualty based on the number of casualties received. The Royalist artillery fire was particularly accurate on this day and after a few turns of casualties Genlis moved his cavalry into the shadow of Aubervilliers to avoid further losses which caused the Huguenots to advance their rear-guard pike into the space who also fell back due to the artillery – it was temporary, they soon resumed their spirit.

With the Royalists now getting closer Coligny & Conde manoeuvred to try and get into a good position to take on the most forward gendarmes of Montmorency (junior) and Cosse – turns are alternate where players dice for initiative, so there is a certain amount of risk in gambling you will get the next initiative for things like charging home. The Huguenot arquebusiers were now starting to rack up some losses on Montmorency & Cosse which favoured Coligny & Conde going in and when the arquebusiers in Ouen were distracted by an attack by the Paris militia – performing far better than their historical counterparts even with reduced stats, Coligny decided now was his time.

The charge went in on Montmorency who received in good order and a fierce melee ensued….

However, today it was a Protestant god that was deciding the fate of men and Montmorency was killed ๐Ÿ˜ฅ which left his unit stunned and the exultant protestants broke through and by a quirk of fate hurtled through and into the unit of Montmorency senior…..

Boy where these protestants on a roll, in a single round of combat the stood gendarmes were smashed and Montmorency killed, pleasingly reflecting history although no son to recover the body because he was dead!

And in a moment that was it. Montmorency was the commander with the points so the Royalist army was completely paralysed and we had a pretty damm near repeat of history. Both sides gambled with their senior commanders being with units and for the Huguenots it paid off but for the Royalists not so.

It’s rare that a game ends so abruptly and as the organiser I was a bit concerned for the Royalist players reaction but he was completely fine with it, he’d tried for the tactical approach, which was slowly paying dividends, but in this period, whatever rules you use, it’s the cavalry that count and the men that lead them.

A good game, Jarnac next.

A Cowboy Conundrum

Many, many years ago I had the pleasure of getting to know the Skirmish Wargames Group and playing in their 54mm western gunfight and later mountain men games and they remain some of my fondest wargaming memories. In subsequent years the club I belonged to at that time got into the period and a campaign set around the fictional Dardenell County flourished for many years.

Like all good things, it came to an end and I sold off all my collection and haven’t really gamed the period for many years. Then, on a whim, I picked up some nicely painted gunfighters at Hammerhead (BC – Before Covid) and then acquired some buildings through my good friend Gareth Lane and the germ of a ‘side period’ was born.

Of course time has moved on and with it wargames rules styles, hence the title of this piece, should I dig out the old rules and try and remember how to play or embrace the ‘new world’?

Just a casual browse at a show or via Google and one can see there are a number of alternatives out there. Dead Man’s hand by Great Escape Games, Gunfighters Ball by Knuckleduster Miniatures, Fistful of Lead by Wiley Games, The Rules With No Name by Wargames Foundry, and Dracula’s America by Osprey to name but a few.

Through the agency of some local wargamers I’ve been able to play a number of games of Fistful of Lead and even done a re-write version for our own multi player cartel games. My kids bought me a copy of Dead Man’s Hand one birthday because I was waxing lyrical about what fun western gunfight games were and so Dave and I have been able to play several games of that.

In keeping with the modern trend, both sets utilise a deck of cards to activate figures which by default becomes quite a random affair; the deck in FoL is a standard deck, so easy and cheap to obtain, the deck in DMH is a custom deck available only from Great Escape Games, so not so cheap but it does have some cool special events on the cards. FoL uses D10 die, DMH uses D10 & D20 die.

The upside to both sets is that they are simple and easy to learn, which results in a fast play style of game – the first time Dave and I trialled DMH we got two games done and dusted in an evening. The mechanisms are straight forward so don’t require much thinking about and the random nature of drawing cards is very appealing to those who like the conceit of ‘friction’ in their games or to those who just want to ‘have a laugh’.

The downside is, that despite the very best of intentions, they don’t have any real western gunfight feel, not even a Hollywood one and as a game both are completely luck driven.

The lack of feel, for me at least, is the decision to just have generic weapons – pistol, rifle, shotgun, which means that the nuances of the period are lost; the difference between cap & ball revolvers and metal cartridge, the speed of reloading a Colt compared to a Smith & Wesson, why certain gunfighters preferred double action revolvers, the different ranges of carbines and rifles (repeaters and single shot). Also the wide variety of characters in the period, and, in fairness, in film, are reduced to a small selection of stereotypes all behaving in the same way which doesn’t do justice to some of the fantastic modern sculpts there are out there, you just end up with Team Blue v Team Red ๐Ÿ˜’.

The luck or random element is obviously apparent in any game, that’s why it’s a game, but when the random is the driving force and luck is the sole arbitrator the end result can tend to reduce the player to a spectator in his own game and negate any planning or playing skills he/she might have. In the several games I’ve played with both sets I’ve seen a guy with a shotgun miss the target at point blank range with both barrels (yes I’ve seen ‘Unforgiven’ but remember the first barrel hit), two gunfighters at close range both miss (remember, gunfighters, not random cowhands), characters move into and around buildings like they are ‘The Flash’ and so on.

Now I completely get why rule sets have developed in this way, players can get to grips with the mechanisms quickly, no period knowledge is required, the game cracks along, players have a laugh; and don’t get me wrong, I’ve had quite a laugh playing both sets (in a good way ๐Ÿ˜ƒ). But……..

Having acquired more figures and more buildings Dave and I recently asked ourselves the question, “is this it?” Not a good question for a wargamer to be asking himself ๐Ÿค”.

To try and move us forward I suggested to Dave we give the original Skirmish Wargames set a go, knowing full well a bit more effort would be required to play the game. The rules are late 70’s and reflect wargames rules thinking of the time; play is simultaneous based on each character having a written order for the next phase (by order I mean a couple of words – Draw, Walk, Turn & Draw), each character has a set of numeric abilities for pistol, rifle & hand to hand plus an overall experience (Professional, Average, Novice), shooting is based on a % roll against a calculated chance of success which gives a level of damage and everything else out of the ordinary has a % chance of success.

Given the extra effort required the game went remarkably well, we rattled through a lot of turns, a couple of characters were shot down, there was a panic when Dave ran out of ammo (shots are counted) and was messing about swapping guns, a character knocked himself out vaulting a fence and opening a window and crossing a room actually took time. It wasn’t perfect though, the movement was slow and the nuances of the shooting process meant that a lot of bullets were wasted but we still enjoyed the game.

So, we are still in a bit of a quandary. Do we go quick and dirty and to hell with the perceived ‘realism’ or do we go with a bit more detail and the ‘effort’ of doing stat cards so we know what each character is armed with and how good he is? With regards to detail, isn’t that what the hobby is all about? and I don’t have a problem with stat cards, I think it lends a level of player involvement to any game. I’m pretty sure the guys at Skirmish Wargames did an addendum that negated the orders aspect and streamlined the process a bit but dammed if I can find it ๐Ÿ˜’ keep looking I guess.

So that’s it. We’re going to give the Skirmish Wargames set another go and take a bit more care over the character stats – we randomly generated for the first game and it gave some very strange results which we thought skewed the game. Look out for our next attempt soon ๐Ÿ˜€

February 2022 Roundup

Well, we’ve managed to keep to a fairly regular schedule, managing to get 5 games in and complete some terrain items.

The month started with a multi player WWII skirmish set amongst our four foot square city scape, built for us quite a few years back by Dave Marshall of TM Terrain. Designed as a generic eastern Prussia/western Russia look, this game was set in the Caucasus a favourite theatre of operations for us.

The sides were a full platoon each of Soviets and Germans plus limited support, each side approached from the east and west of the town with different deployment options and variables on heavy support/transport.

The game split into the two halves of the board; on the main boulevard a bloody gunfight saw heavy casualties on both sides (mainly from deployed mmg’s & lmg’s) but by nightfall more real estate was in Soviet hands than Germans, in the suburbs both sides proceeded cautiously inflicting low level casualties and by nightfall neither had made significant progress.

Next up was another skirmish but this time just two of us trialling the Dead Mans Hand western gunfight rules. This was a project that had notionally started way back in 2020 when we got the buildings and a few figures but then sat dormant for the first year of Covid. A few more figures were added in 2021 and I got bought the rules as a birthday present so finally we got round to it!

Anyone who has gamed with me knows I’m not a huge fan of card driven games and excessive randomness which is exactly what the rules serve up but they are well produced and Dave and I recognised that for the occasional game we were going to need something fairly short, sharp and effective.

The plus side of being simple and effective was that we got through two games in the evening so that was a plus.

Next up was a ‘proper battle’ featuring Florentines and Venetians from our Italian wars collection and using our home grown rules.

It wasn’t our greatest outing, both sides were overly cautious and where they did get bold it was in isolated efforts. The challenge when using Italian states is the generally low morale of the troops and poor command ability of the generals and so the effort for the players is more demanding than commanding French or Spanish.

Ultimately it was a score draw but both sets of players enjoyed the game and swore to be a bit more aggressive next time!

The last game on home turf was another western gunfight, same rules, different terrain, less figures.

As a game this played better, maybe due to us knowing a bit more about the flow of the rules, maybe because we limited ourselves in terms of numbers, don’t know really.

Again we got through two games and for a knock about kind of game (what some would call “fun”) it was perfectly fine but the random element gives some really ridiculous results which did start to grate by the end of play. The upshot was that Dave and I are going to have a go with the rules we grew up on, the ‘Old West Skirmish Rules’, far more complex but certainly more realistic and have a another go with ‘Fistful of Lead’ which we gamed with a while back. Stay tuned ๐Ÿ˜

Final game of the month was an ‘away game’ with some long standing wargames buddies, near to us but not of us ๐Ÿ™‚.

The game was one of those glorious British colonial expeditions in the face of unruly Afghan depredations using a new set of rules ‘Beyond the Empire’ another set in the draw a card, roll a random dice to see if you do what you wanted to and then roll some more random dice to see if you are any good at shooting/fighting this turn.

Now we had great fun; the sun was out, the beer was flowing and much hilarity was had at each players expense but colonial warfare it most definitely wasn’t.

If the very luck driven, completely random course of events and frankly unbelievable combat outcomes are for you (and I know that for many players this is indeed what it’s all about) then these are as good a set as the many other of it’s type out there. For me, no thanks.

Earlier in the year I’d got myself a couple of the Grand manner buildings in their sale – couldn’t afford them full price ๐Ÿ˜‚ and so got them painted up. Although they are ‘Spanish’ I painted them in a more generic northern European style so we could use them for WWII skirmish.

Also got hold of a Blotz minaret to add to our individual middle east buildings.

That’s about it really. The Successors project trundles along, pikemen are being painted as we speak and Dave’s decision to do some Galatians has a unit nearly done – hopefully some photo’s in the March roundup, some vehicles to add to the modern middle east games are about to get started and more Carlists are underway.

So, until next time, be safe and get in as many games as you can ๐Ÿ˜

January 2022 Roundup

With the start of 2022 and our emergence from 2 years of grabbing a game when we could I thought I’d record each month’s activities for what looks like (fingers crossed) is going to be a more stable gaming year.

Gathering the group up to start gaming again at the beginning of the month was an emotional time and gave us cause to pause and reflect. We have been very fortunate, given our senior age span, not to have lost anyone permanently from this life as so many across the country have; that said we have slimmed down a bit, of the hard core group one of our number is still not comfortable about socialising so we have left it with him to choose his time, of the occasional players, none of them are coming back having essentially given the hobby up. That all said we did manage to get 4 games in and make some progress on some of the projects.

Our first game was a French Wars of Religion game, refighting the battle of Dreux.

Historically a Catholic victory we managed a reversal of history with a stunning Protestant victory that saw most of the Catholic army either dead or running away. It was good to start with a historical refight and we agreed we should try and do more, although that has not been the case so far ๐Ÿ˜.

Our next effort was a classic Prussian v Austrian Seven Years War bash with a considerable number of figures on the table – always good to see. Looking back we could easily have done one of the earlier historical battles but I got carried away with creating a challenging scenario for the game ๐Ÿ˜€.

The game was a points for objectives game, so high ground, bridges, villages. Some of the terrain units were already in Prussian/Austrian hands, a couple of which could be easily lost if players didn’t concentrate, the rest were there for the taking but most would involve fighting for them.

This was a hard fought game with several brigades being fought to exhaustion. The battle will be remembered however not for any great tactical insight but for the hilarity of the poor old Austrian cavalry commander receiving three sets of orders during the game that saw him canter from one part of the battlefield to another and not fight anyone ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚. In the end the Prussians just edged it on points.

Our third game was an eastern renaissance game featuring Ottomans invading southern Muscovy.

This was great fun, as both armies were principally cavalry, we had units attacking, retreating, returning and the air thick with arrows. Ultimately it was a narrow Ottoman victory and at the end of it we were knackered, lots of cavalry is fun but it can get to be a bit of a slog when trying to work out the stats for numerous units all shooting and fighting at the same time.

Last up was an inaugural game of our Successors project.

The project is still ongoing but I reckoned we had enough done to be able to put together a passable semblance of a Eumenid and an Antigonid army which indeed was the case.

The game played well and we were pleased with where we’ve got to with the rules; some tweaks still need to be made but overall a good run out of the figures and the rules.

As well as the games we’ve been slowly working through additions to the armies; some more Streltsy have been completed for the Muscovites – too late for the game though ๐Ÿ™, the Carlists have been expanded in preparation for Partizan, a whole load of gunfighters have been finished for the Wild West games we still haven’t played yet ๐Ÿ™„ and the Successor cavalry were finished in time for the game.

In terms of frequency of games we are well down on pre pandemic times, prior to the pandemic we were usually gaming twice a week, every week and occasionally squeezing in a third. Chatting the other day we recognised we’re never going to get back to that, the Covid years sapped our energy and drive and we are all two years older which for a couple of the guys is quite significant. So going forward we’re thinking once a week would be good, maybe the occasional second game, and seriously look at the joint collection and see if it can be slimmed down – but that’s probably a bit of a pipe dream ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ

Stay safe everyone and enjoy your gaming.