Sunday, 15 July 2018

To The Strongest - Saxons vs Romano-British

One of three games played at the club this weekend was using a new set of rules to the Devon Wargames Group, 'To the Strongest' (TTS) by Mr Simon Miller, which has now moved more recently to cover the English Civil War, 'For King And Parliament'.

This was first opportunity to have a go at playing these and I am always up for playing new sets of rules to better understand what they have to offer in terms of systems of play and the games they create.

As you can see from our table set up, the position of units, terrain and indeed working out movement is governed by a gridded board or mat in any format you choose, provided the squares are obvious to the players.

The two armies are set up as per the guidelines in the rules , with the extreme flank columns left clear of units and with the Romano Brits (above left) fielding small infantry units and plenty of cavalry with a camp (wagon model) in the rear. Likewise the Saxons are similarly arrayed but with larger deeper infantry formations and much less cavalry.

The difference in the opposing infantry meant only one large Saxon unit (three figures deep) could occupy a square but their size allowed them to absorb three disruptions or hits before being dispersed, whereas the Romano Brits (two figures deep) could put more than one unit in per square but could only sustain two hits per unit.

The armies were organised around three divisions each with generals for each division commanding a unit indicated by a rather large banner, whilst veteran units carried a smaller banner and bulk standard types having no banner.

Although dice are visible we were using them to mark the number of javelins available to our skirmish units as TTS uses a double deck of playing cards per side, with, in our game, the picture cards removed, to generate activation and combat scores with Aces low representing a one through to ten double deck.

The basic premise is that units are activated by the player announcing what he proposes to do and checking to see if that proposal is an easy or difficult manoeuvre. The difficulty rating sets the bar in terms of the score on the card turned required to allow the chosen unit to carry out its planned activation, subject to any other factors that might raise or lower the difficulty.

Thus a simple advance in open terrain by a fresh unit requires the player to turn any card higher than an Ace to proceed. That unit then may continue to a second activation but now not only having to assess the level of difficulty but to turn another card with a higher score than the first.

Thus if your first card turned is an 8 or 9, you get that pleasure buzz knowing you can complete your move but that heart-sink realisation that you are probably going to struggle to do another in that turn.

As with movement, combat is similarly governed by players turning of opposing cards to decide hits versus saves with scores required based on unit type its weapons or armour etc.

Thus where dice would normally be the chance factor resolution the game mechanism is to use card scores.

Similarly where tape measures and 45 degree angle assessments would normally govern movement and facings here the grid pattern removes all that calculation and measuring by allowing units to move forwards backwards diagonally and decide whether they are facing in a particular direction and their position one to another.

The beauty of this system is that very large battles with numerous units on the table and the potential for multiple movements and combat calculations are noticeably speeded up and as units become drawn into a combat and pulled forward by decisions to engage opposing units, the flanks begin to open up and, if as in this case, one army is particularly strong in cavalry, so do the rear areas.

Attacks on the rear or flanks of units are, as you would expect, particularly punishing and multiple such attacks from both flanks and rear, even more so.

Our game saw the two lines gradually come together and for some while hung in the balance as the two started to batter each others opposing infantry with hits.

This battering then poses the decision points in the game as to whether to rally off hits or take the chance of carrying on regardless in the attempt to inflict them instead.

Meanwhile the faster moving cavalry units can look to evade and break off to seek out the vulnerable areas in the opposing line already heavily engaged to their front.

As units are removed from the table, the effect is to remove points from the army morale score, recorded by the removal of a number of coins from a total indicating that particular forces morale.

Once all the coins are gone so is your army! I know because I was in that army and with Romano British cavalry in and around the Saxon flanks and at one stage attacking the camp things very quickly moved from 'that doesn't look good' to 'rally the Hearthguard, I think it's time to leave'.

What strikes me about TTS is that large games can be played to a conclusion and that multiple games are playable in one session, which is great for a club.

The rules will also work very well with large numbers of players given that the game sequence becomes very quickly picked up and turns of play start to happen very quickly once players have determined what and in what order they intend to do, again great for club games.

The other added attraction for getting into TTS is that everything needed to play, bar the painted armies, is available on Simon's web page including, gridded mats, army morale coin markers through to Simon's prepared irregular edged bases for your units (something I really like) not to mention free army lists.

I had a great afternoon getting yet another whipping from Jason playing a dark ages themed game. Fortuna is being particularly offish at the moment, probably time for a sacrifice!

Thanks to Jason for pulling our game together with his lovely figure collection and also to Nathan, Chris, Jack and Charlie for a very fun game.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Escape from Warmington on Sea - Chain of Command

Scratch built E-boat makes its Dad's Army debut

Yesterday was an unusual club day at the DWG as the club contended with its usual annual problem of looking to support our local wargaming show, Legionary 2018, which tends to fall on the same Saturday as our monthly club meeting.

Thus half the club members were at Legionary and there is a brief report on the show at JJ's Wargames for those interested in what we were up to there plus some other games that caught the eye.

Legionary 2018 - JJ's Wargames

Other members of the club were at our usual gathering to get some final play-testing done on a Dad's Army game planned for next month up at Chez Chas in North Devon.

German naval assault teams close up on the beach wire as small arms fire echos through Warmington

These warm up games are important to work out what's needed to make the bigger game planned work and Chas and the chaps have found this an effective part of the planning process with other games we have played over past years.

Wartime Britain and its blown up piers

Yesterday's mini scenario had a downed Falschirmjager team desperate to get their commander clear of Warmington with a set of secret plans and drawings facing a sharp battle from the defences as they attempted to get to the beach and waiting Kriegsmarine support.

The disabled Glider marks the start point for the downed FJ unit

As these games are played additional units get to appear on table and yesterday was the first appearance of Clive's scratch built E-Boat seen at the top of the post plus some additional buildings based on the online map of the fictional Warmington on Sea.

With the church bell ringing Home Guard units start to assemble at their muster points

The FJ team cautiously make their way towards the beach

In addition the chaps were testing out specific weapons that were deployed by the British Home Guard defences including beach placed explosive drums acting as improvised mines together with the dreaded Blacker Bombard seen in the pictures below.

Rumors of fifth columnists and German commandos put everyone on their guard

The Blacker bombard is deployed to cover the beach front

As mentioned the buildings detailed in the map of Warmington have also been scratch built and will add to the feel of the final game next month.

As the FJ get closer to the beach they come under heavy Lewis gun fire

The game ended after some vicious close in hand to hand fighting and a lot of covering fire from the E-boat close inshore that saw our FJ officer make it to the beach and the naval team waiting their amid a hail of Lewis gun and Enfield rifle fire, leaving the rest of his squad to await capture by the British troops.

The German navy do their best to provide covering fire

Sunday, 29 April 2018

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Quebec 1759 - Black Powder

Having played a number of skirmish games using my French Indian War (FIW) collection, I wanted to find a set of rules that could handle more of a ‘ field battle’. I also needed to find a battle or scenario to experiment with.

Actual ‘battles’, using formed, regular troops in the FIW are quite limited. Quebec, or the ‘Plains of
Abraham’ was the obvious one but using the historic scenario & set up would not make it much of a

Then, while browsing the Warlords games website, I came across a scenario from the author of the
Black Powder (BP) supplement ‘The Last Argument of Kings’ (Pete Brown) for Quebec

I looked at our usual skirmish sets, ‘Sharp Practice’, ‘Muskets & Tomahawks’ & ‘Donnybrook’, but
didn’t feel that they’d really fit what I was after. ‘Maurice’ was another option, but the FIW didn’t
lend itself to that type of game (in my opinion!)

So, being that the scenario was written for BP, BP it was! There are a few options in the scenario;
more French troops are released from the City, reinforcements (which did arrive at the end of the
actual battle) are available immediately or turn up early, or the one I went with; dice to see which
British troops are deployed, which simulates either the French reacting quicker, or the British taking
their time to get up from the landing point. In addition, the French don’t know how many troops are
in position until they crest the ‘Buttes a Neveu’.


If you are familiar with BP, you will know that each troop type is allocated factors for firing, hand to
hand, stamina, morale etc. There are provided in the scenario, but I tweaked them slightly for the
game, with my ‘take’ on things. I also had to use what forces I had available, so again they did differ
slightly from the scenario. I gave each force one gun, that’s all I’ve got! And allowed them to allocate
that to any brigade. Just to note, the author of the scenario uses rangers on the British side and
Indians on the French, I can find no reference to either on my research, but stand to be corrected!

The battlefield, played on a 6x4, is pretty simple; Buttes at the Quebec end, with scrub on either
flank and Sillery wood behind the British, with a couple of roads. I did tell the players that French
reinforcement’s may turn up on the left, as you look towards the Buttes, but in the end I held them
off table.

On the day, Ian took the British and Steve L the French. Ian rolled 2 D6 to see how many British battalions would be deployed and rolled a 4. Not brilliant, but that did nicely equate to one brigade, to which Ian allocated the gun. Ian told me where he wanted to deploy them, but they wouldn’t be on the table until the French crested the Buttes. The other two British brigades would arrive in march column along the right hand road.

Steve deployed his three brigades on the table edge, but then only the centre one moved forward, but
far enough to view the deployed British. Next turn the British columns decided they didn’t feel like
getting into battle straight away, so a bit of a stalemate occurred, although they British gun did
cause a casualty on one of the French regulars.

Steve managed to get all his brigades moving and the British came up from the beaches, deploying
behind the right hand brigade, to form a line running across the battlefield.

Both forces closed to musket range on the British right, while the artillery caused the odd casualty.
The French initially got the worst of the exchange but manage to rally off hits before they became

On the British left, a Canadian militia battalion closed in on a British line btn for ‘hand to hand’,
Although the militia broke as expected, the British were also pushed back, which was the story of
Ian’s day pretty much!

Across the field now casualties started to mount, the British in particular finding they were having to
miss firing opportunities to rally off ‘shaken’ markers, by attaching brigade commanders. Of course, there is always a risk, and so it was that General Townsend on the British right flank went down, to be replaced by a lesser officer.

On the far right of the British line, the Scots light infantry charged a French marine battalion, the French lost and retreated, but the Scots, also shaken, failed their break test with a ‘3’!

In the centre, the Scots line battalion and the 60th ft also closed to contact. Again, although the French were pushed back, the British were ‘shaken’ and managed to roll 2 ‘3’s again on their break tests!

At this stage, although starting with a numerical advantage, the British were down four battalions broken to two French, and a lot of the British battalions were not in a good state! We called in a day, victory to the French and history is reversed!

Thanks to Ian & Steve L for a good game, played in a gentlemanly manner and Bob, another club
member, for allowing me to use his British Grenadiers, Light Infantry and some French. I may not
have played all the rules exactly to the letter, and probably forgot a few, but I certainly enjoyed
running it.

Terrain mat is by ‘Tiny Wargames’. My figures are a mixture of 1st Corps, Galloping Major, Warlord,
North Star and Redoubt. Not all compatible in size close-up, but work in their own units.

If, like me you thought the FIW was ‘done and dusted’ after the Plains of Abraham, then think again!
The following year the French came back to try and retake Quebec and what is known as the ‘Battle
of St Foy’, where the attacker/defender roles are reversed, took place. That’s on my list to put on as
a game, but if you want to know more, look at the Osprey ‘Combat’ series, ‘North America 1755-63,
British Redcoat verses French Fusilier’.

Steve M

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Siege of Lille 4th September 1708 - Beneath the Lilly Banners v3

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough - Adriaen van der Werff
Chas took us to back to his days in Louis XIV army and the siege of Lille.

Eugene had completed lines of circumvallation round Lille and had been investing the city with a force of 53 battalions of infantry, 90 squadrons of cavalry and over 100 artillery pieces.

Marlborough meanwhile, commanded a force of 69 battalions, 140 squadrons and a few batteries of
artillery, some miles away, blocking any French relief force approaching from the south.

On the 29th of August, two French armies joined at Grammont and marched on Marlborough's
position. On the afternoon of the 4th of September this force came within sight of Marlborough's lines.

The French were not all in position, but still outnumbered the duke by more than two to one.
Both Berwick & Vandome judged it too late in the day to attack and resolved to give battle the
following day, when all their force had arrived.

That night Eugene responded to an urgent request for assistance and twenty-six battalions of infantry and seventy-two squadrons of cavalry arrived from Lille. A further seven battalions of infantry arrived from a position on the Brussels road.

Now the French 125 battalions and 243 squadrons faced 102 battalions and 232 squadrons on the
Allied side. Despite much posturing for nearly two weeks, the French decided little could be achieved
and withdrew, leaving Lille to fall.

Our "what if" battle assumed the French arrived earlier on the 4th September and attacked, with an
urgent request being sent to Eugene at first sight of the enemy.

Chas and Si played the dastardly French (I can't say Si's heart was in it) and myself and Nick took the

Our forward line was anchored on two hamlets and a fortified village, which were garrisoned by infantry.

The main Allied body deployed from the table edge and moved to cover the gaps round the built up

Both side's artillery were soon firing and the Allied infantry in the houses were soon glad of the hard
cover. With few Allied guns available to reply, the casualty count was in favour of the French.

French infantry now joined in with musket fire and a Dutch Guard battalion was starting to suffer.
With everyone but Chas agreeing that cavalry couldn't hope to take on fresh infantry, Chas decided to
throw the manual out of the window and charge the British infantry under Nick with cavalry. Slowly
but surely a full cavalry brigade was fed into the meat grinder, blown away by squadron and
consigned to the casualty roster. It looked like everyone else was right.

Undaunted, Chas charged one of the hamlets, bounced, charged again, routed and moved up a fresh
battalion. Rinse and repeat. You get the idea.

Meanwhile, with Eugene's newly arrived battalions moving up, the Dutch Guard battalion was given a Form" order, put into column of march and looked to get the hell out of Dodge. At this point I saw Si had turned over a "Form" order for the mounted dragoons facing my Dutch Guard. I thought, "He's a bloody mind reader. He is going to form a column to avoid the rough terrain and charge me in the
rear. " Seconds later I realised I had over-thought the situation and breathed a sigh of relief as the
dragoons dismounted to fire on me.

I pulled my cavalry off table, to let Eugene's infantry through.

Now the French charged the large village in the centre, got blown away, went back to shooting and
decided this wasn't much fun either.

With Eugene's men moving into the built up areas, the French conceded and withdrew.

Looks like Vandome and Berwick knew what they were about all those years ago.

Many thanks to Si and Nick for playing in a style that befits gentlemen and to Chas for putting it all

As a first try of version 3 of "Beneath the Lily Banners", things went well, but then I have always liked those rules in their previous incarnations too.

Nice to see all the toys on the table.