Sunday, 26 March 2017

Dragon Rampant

With a replacement game required for the March Club meeting, Jason kindly stepped forward and offered to put on a few games using Ospreys Fantasy rules, Dragon Rampant. I was the first to put my hand up to play as I didn't want to miss out on this rare opportunity to play Fantasy again plus it was a great chance to have a look at a set of rules that I had heard good things about, mainly from other club members saying how much they enjoyed the original set, Lion Rampant, which this set is a spin off from. Now I can just about remember the olden times when Warhammer was played by ordinary people and not only by those who had won the Euro Millions Lottery, so I hoped that this new set would allow me to get my Skeletons out of the cupboard a bit more often.

We played two games, Monsters v Humans and Undead v Dwarves.

In the first game I had a Dragon, an Earth Elemental, Bob the Unicorn and three Werewolves facing off against three units of assorted Light and Heavy Infantry, a unit of cavalry and some archers.

Knowing absolutely nothing, I went into the game with two bits of advice passed on from Lion Rampant players, some troops fight much better when they are defending rather than when attacking and visa versa and secondly that archers were potentially very dangerous. That’s it; with no idea at all on the rules I was going to have to rely heavily on my incredible intelligence to pick things up fast.

Fortunately the rules are very easy to get your head around ; every turn you can activate each of
your units individually and you then pick one of the various actions that it can do, like move, attack, shoot etc. and to do this action you then throw two dice and achieve a certain target number, so my Dragon needed a 6+ to move, 5+ to attack etc., if you fail then that’s it for everyone else for that turn so it’s a good idea to make sure you do the important stuff first.

In melee both sides fight as either an attacker or a defender depending on whose turn it is, so using my Dragon again, it hits on 3+ when attacking but it is a useless defender as when my opponent attacks me in their turn it needs to throw 6’s to hit ! Spearmen and others defend better than they attack so this can effect your actions. Everyone who is above half strength will throw twelve dice per fight, if below half strength then you only get to throw six dice so it’s quick and bloody. Your units armour rating determines the number of hits that are required before you have to remove a figure, so if your amour rating is 3 then you will lose a figure for every three hits (Single figure monsters require some method of recording hits). In general you will have either six or twelve ‘lives ‘per unit.

Units have a morale score which is called Courage, my Dragons Courage was 3+ which is pretty good and when required I would need to equal this with two dice minus any ongoing hits, score under this figure and you will have to retreat battered needing to take a rally action in future turns, get to zero and you are routed off. Easily done when the highest I ever threw for it was 4.

So in this first game we learned all this as we went along and so made countless wrong decisions, for example my Dragon allowed itself to be charged by the cavalry resulting in it taking a lot of hits and doing very little in return , it then repeatedly failed its morale until I was forced to threw it across the room (don’t you mean removed from the game: Ed. ), I attacked with troops when I should have sat back and instead waited for them to be attacked and I hid a lot from his archers until I realised Andy couldn't throw his required shooting activation score if he had all day to do it.

This first game ended up with just three figures on the table, Bob the Unicorn fighting the last two
cavalry figures and with them both being at half strength and neither apparently ever going to fail a morale throw again it was a struggle to inflict enough hits until I then rolled six hits. Hooray!
Bob saves the day and was the only figure left on the table.

Game Two was therefore going to be better as now we all knew what we were doing, I played as Dwarves and proceeded to got thoroughly stuffed, very quickly, however I did go down fighting, I put my last remaining unit into Wall of Spears/Shield or whatever its called which gave me a plus on my armour rating and then refused to move as there are no flank or rear attacks to worry about in this game .The unit defended on 4+ and only attacked at 5+ so I wasn't going anywhere. With odds of four to one they managed to beat off two skeleton units but I was eventually worn down by some difficult to kill Wight’s and with the hits piling up, my Courage at last failed me and they routed off. Total figures on the board at the end of Game Two: Three.

Having only played two games starting from zero knowledge we probably did a few things slightly
wrong whenever Jason wasn't looking or paying proper attention but that is about all you normally get for a new set of rules to see if they grab you or not.

What do I think of the Rules?

They are fun and give a quick game and I will be very happy to play them again but they are not what I am looking for in a wargame.

What do I mean? well I have spent the last four days trying to think of the right way to explain my point but then I gave up as I have far better things to do, perhaps they are just too quick and maybe everything was too simplified but it’s not easy so I am going back to what I just wrote, I played an enjoyable game but to me it wasn't a wargame.

Now before you leap to their defence I would like to make two points first.
1. I don’t care what you think, damn peasants! Who do you think you are?
2. I can see the postman walking towards my house with my new set of Dragon Rampant (£7.84 from Wordery).

I think I might enjoy getting the old Warhammer stuff out again after all these years and foresee having many a fun game with friends along with, no doubt, copious bottles of discussion juice.


Now having the rules and read them through twice, there is also a section on spell casters and various spells that add a bit more depth and I look forward to trying them out but it still doesn't change my initial conclusion.

I wonder what effect twenty odd more pages would have had.

This has been a Mr Steve production, in association with 21st Century JJ

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Punic Wars Warm Up

It's that time of year when the Summer Theme Game starts to go through a warm up process where collections get brought together, rules get tested and often adapted and scenarios get formulated.

Last year we were focused on Colonial South Africa and practising our 'Zulu' best remembered lines reported on JJ's Wargames


This year we see the club do a total volte-face as we head off to the Mediterranean and Republican Rome's struggle with Carthage in the Punic Wars.

These warm up games have become a traditional feature of the club throughout the year as we tend to get together for a 'big game' in the summer and at Xmas and they have proved invaluable in the past for finding out what will and won't work when a large group of us play with lots of figures on the table.

As normal with a game of Hail Caesar you eventually reach a point where you either "make it up or look it up", as we like to say in the club, and as you can see below the Devon Wargames Group is blessed with a very seasoned, experienced, group of rules analysts, rather like the Supreme Court, ready to give their combined judgement that will be written up latter and added to the DWG book of case law that will guide future judgement calls.

There are still figures to be added to our combined output for the upcoming game including me taking some time out from Napoleonic production line work to put together my puny, but I like to think vital, contribution of eight Numidian light cavalry, which will do double duty with my Dacian Wars collection later on.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Battle of Barrosa 1811 - Over the Hills

A rather fanciful depiction of the Battle of Barrosa by Baron Lejeune, with the British depicted in their much later Belgic Shakos, but the view beyond of the coast and the island city of Cadiz in the background really captures the location for the battle

It was way back in March 2015 that we first played Barrosa, a fascinating battle that saw General Sir Thomas Graham avert a potential disaster as the French under Marshal Victor attempted to attack an Anglo Spanish relief force marching to break the siege of Cadiz, in the flank and rear.

This time we were playing the scenario using Over the Hills (OTH) which we featured in the Vimeiro game back in January this year.

Photo-map to illustrate the positions at start

So to set the scene and refresh the memory for those who know something about the Battle of Barrosa and those that are having a great, never to be repeated, moment of discovering a new battle that fires up the imagination, I shall recap the history and set the scene for the Battle of Barrosa or Chiclana as the Spanish may refer to it.

Following the disastrous Battle of Ocana near Madrid on the 19th November 1809, the only Spanish army capable of defending Andalusia and southern Spain was now destroyed and in the winter campaign that followed French Imperial forces flooded through the passes of the Sierra Morena under Marshal Soult forcing the Supreme Junta to decamp from Seville and head for the last remaining defensible city, Cadiz. Fortunately for Spain and the allied cause the Duke of Albuquerque on his own initiative lead the last remaining Spanish troops in the area to the city beating the arrival of the French by just two days, arriving on the 3rd February 1810.


Cadiz went into a state of siege as the Spanish were later joined by British and Portuguese troops to help bolster the garrison and the Royal Navy ensured supplies to the city and secured it against any water-borne attempts to storm it.

Over the next year with allied reinforcements and draw-downs on the French besiegers an opportunity presented itself for the garrison to attempt to relieve the siege by arranging for a landing force to be transported out of the city to land along the coast at Tarifa behind the French allowing them to come up on their rear.

The Anglo Spanish force was commanded by Spanish General Manuel Lapena and General Sir Thomas Graham was subordinate commanding the Anglo-Portuguese rear-guard division.

Marshal Victor became aware of the allied approach and set a trap by blocking the road into Cadiz and his lines of circumvallation, whilst having two divisions inland ready to fall upon the rear of the allied column as it made its way along the coast road.

The battle started when Graham became aware of the French movement to his rear and turned about to offer battle before the French could press him back into the sea and roll up the remaining Spanish forces from the rear.

The two order of battles show how different but well matched the two sides are with just six Fatigue Score points favouring the Anglo Spanish force.

In OTH the quality, training and size of the units are measured by a given Fatigue Score (FS) rating with a bulk standard French or British battalion of about 600 men scoring a 7 or 8 FS. The FS is the number that needs to be rolled equal to or less than to rally, shoot and fight the battalion, squadron or battery using a d10 and the total FS for any given formation (brigade, division, corps and army) is halved to give a break point total for that force.

As fatigue is accrued, from moving and combat, through the game it is tallied with the use of dice against the unit affected and its parent formation. Unit FS can be rallied off to keep the unit fighting, but formation FS cannot and when it is used up the formation is deemed out of action and its surviving units will automatically withdraw from the battle.

The photo map at the top of the post shows where the respective formations were set up as the two forces were close to engaging, with Victor's 1st Division atop Barrosa Hill and his 2nd Division preparing to sweep down to the coast road just as Graham's Anglo Portuguese emerged from the tree-line ready to attack them.

On the coastal road and Anglo-Spanish force of infantry and cavalry under Wittingham and Cruz Murgeon faced off against Dermancourt's mixed brigade of Light Infantry and Dragoons.

I chose to keep the British 67th Foot as a complete battalion in its parent brigade but a strictly historical set up might have the battalion split into two parts with each British brigade reflecting the confusion caused as Graham rapidly turn his force around to respond the the French threat.

This was a trial scenario that I am working on for OTH and so I was using some loose (unwritten but explained) guidance for the players, re terrain and objectives.

I played the woods as open, causing fatigue to formed troops moving through it, which on reflection I would not and we adjusted the game partway in to free up the British troops moving through it to get at the French in the open. This feature was not disruptive enough to stop Graham's men deploying through and from it with the 87th Foot charging into the 8th Ligne and taking the first Eagle captured by British troops in the Peninsular War.

As far as objectives are concerned, I am not convinced that this scenario benefits from terrain specific objectives as clearly both sides were looking to close with the enemy and destroy them, irrespective of terrain, as both sides knew that if the Allies did not stop and break the French, they were going for an early bath in the Mediterranean, best case option.

That said in the actual engagement the French on Barrosa Hill seemed quite content to let the Anglo-Portuguese come to them up hill in the face of their whithering fire so I decided to not use order changes in this game and let the players choose their ground with the intent to watch and learn with some ideas I have in mind for orders in the written up scenario.

Battle lines drawn with the French (right of picture) occupying Barrosa Hill

So with things all set up and both sides intent on taking it to the enemy the British were deemed Side A and began to move their troops forward towards the French who as I suspected were quite content to allow them to suffer the delights of skirmish and artillery fire played on them as they did so.

I needed a suitable look out tower for Barrosa Hill so my Hovels windmill got an outing to club

With Colours flying and the drums and pipes jauntily playing 'A British Grenadier' heard floating over the noise of French cannon, the British lines closed up each time a soldier fell and grimly pressed on to the awaiting French line.

British Guards preceded by Lieutenant Colonel John Browne's Flank Battalion in open order 

Wheatley's brigade were the first to open fire on Leval's French line as they emerged from the tree line on the British left flank and Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Barnard's mighty flank battalion, nearly a thousand men strong, opened fire moving out in open order with their four companies of 95th Rifles bowling over French officers and NCO's as they moved.

Meanwhile the Royal Artillery nine-pounder batteries quickly deployed from the woodland trail to add their round-shot to the skirmish fire.

General de Division Leval's 2nd French Division receive British artillery and skirmish fire as they emerge from the tree-line beyond. The first blue mini-dice fatigue markers start to blossom behind French battalions.

It was not long in coming when the weaker artillery response from the spread out French artillery started to answer the British fire but the casualties were negligible in the early part of the advance.

The two British Guards battalions are preceded by Brownes Flank battalion and three companies of 95th Rifles

Colonel Barnard quickly got his men formed from their open order approach, and keen to take advantage of the accurate skirmishing from his riflemen and the Britishh round-shot plying the French line, waved his hat as he encouraged his men who, giving three cheers, lowered their bayonets and charged the 2/54me Ligne.

The French battalion already disordered by the fire received turned tail almost immediately and G de D Leval had to ride into the ranks of his soldiers to steady their nerve as Barnard's men charged forward.

Ruffin's artillery opens fire on the British troops advancing on Barrosa Hill 

When Barnard looked rearwards for support from the three British battalions supposedly coming on behind, he was shocked to see that they were still shaking themselves out into line from the trees equally disordered by French fire as they did so.

Meanwhile the Guards and their skirmish line had pressed on to the lower slopes of Barrosa Hill and the rifles of the 95th together with Colonel Browne's flank companies began to methodically drive in the French skirmishers picking off men and French FS as they did so.

The 95th Rifles open their account in the skirmish battle as the two lines close

The two lines were now closing rapidly and the first close combats were fast approaching as both sides attempted to get in first to take advantage of unit FS before it could be rallied off.

British 9lbrs pour on the shot and shell so efficiently one battery runs out of ammunition and has to send off for more.
This as Wheatley struggles to deal with the disorder brought to his line from accurate French return fire

The French on Barrosa Hill tried to grab the initiative back from Dilkes' Guards by sending in one of their composite grenadier battalions in column, taking advantage of their uphill position.

The 1st Foot Guards silently came to the halt as the cheering grenadiers crested the hill and closed on them. The order to present was given and six hundred Brown Bess muskets were levelled at the enemy. The fire when it came was devastating and with a cheer the Guards drove forward pushing the French back from whence they came.

The British approach on Barrosa Hill drives in the French skirmish screen

Meanwhile the point of decision was fast approaching on the French right flank as the fight had stalemated into a 'who can pound the longest' affair with the French artillery and 2/54me Ligne driven from the field, but with both sides teetering on the edge of force morale failure and with just one possible chance of close combat that would see one or both sides depart from the field of battle.

Wheatley's brigade threaten a breakthrough as the 2/54me Ligne disintegrates in the face of Barnard's Flank Battalion charge, leaving the centre of the French line threatened as the 2/8me Ligne step up to fill the gap and as FS markers record the reaction to the French battalion's demise, four FS against the 1/54me closest to camera. Note G de D Leval in the centre steadying the men.

General Wheatley decided to throw the dice on one last desperate gamble to break his opposite number's will to resist and the 2/87th came forward to support Colonel Barnard's flankers as together they charged the French line.

'Not good, not good!!' The 2/54me break to the rear leaving the French division with just 5 FS from an original 25 FS at start of play

Would the French line stand this time? The fighting was fierce across the front as the 2/87th won their tussle with the French grenadiers and drove them back to their start line on the road, but taking yet more fatigue hits for their trouble.

Meanwhile Barnard's men crossed bayonets with the 2/8me Ligne and losing the combat in the last of three rounds were forced to fall back leaving both the British and French formations on 1 FS each, but the British battalion was forced directly back which meant clipping one of the support battalions behind adding a further 2 FS from the corresponding disorder caused by the interpenetration and Wheatley's battle was over leaving the consolation that so was Leval's, holding the field but with 1FS remaining unable to do very much with it.

The battle in its closing stages - Laval and Wheatley  (left of picture) have fought each other to a standstill with both teetering on FS collapse - Dilke's British Guards have charged up Barrosa Hill shrugging of hits and destroying the 1/96me Ligne breaking to the rear (centre top)

With battle well and truly joined along the front the Anglo Spanish brigades of Wittingham and Cruz Mugeon decided to lend a little support, seeing the KGL 2nd Hussars launch a surprise charge onto the corner of Barrosa Hill catching a column of the 2/24me Ligne in the flank before it could react, however the French column held its nerve and though badly shaken managed to drive off the German hussars in the third round of combat.

To support their efforts the Spanish dragoons gamely trotted forward to detain their French opposites getting the worst of the affair but drawing the French dragoons away from their brigade comrades the 2/9 Legere who were equally surprised by the German hussars charging forward to take on their line.

This time the German cavalry drove the French infantry back but was unable to break them just as their Spanish comrades disintegrated in the face of another attack by the French 1st Dragoons forcing Cruz Mugeon's Spanish infantry into square.

The cavalry battle on the coast in full sway as the KGL Hussars charge into a line of the 2/9me Legere (bottom right) and the Spanish infantry form square at the 1st French Dragoons break their Spanish opposites, seen fleeing to the rear (bottom left)

The Battle on Barrosa Hill was the crescendo of our afternoon as both guards battalions seemingly sensing the struggle the other allied brigades were having to grab the ascendancy took the battle by the scruff of the neck as they charged into Ruffin's line atop the hill, breaking the 1/96me Ligne in a vain attempt to stop the 2nd/3rd Composite Guards battalion; and with the 1st Guards equally aware of bragging rights among the Household troops once back in the changing room, smashed into the French 1st Provisional Grenadiers and the 1/24me Ligne driving both battalions back over the ridge in three rounds of combat, leaving the French division badly battered.

The Guards Brigade become an irresistible force as Ruffin's division reels in the face of their attack

We called the game there with one British brigade quit the field, one Spanish dragoon regiment dispersed,  one French brigade teetering on 1 FS force morale and the British Guards atop Barrosa hill with two French infantry battalions and half a battery of guns dispersed.

Both armies had fought each other to a standstill and given us a great afternoons entertainment. The rules, yet again, stood up very well in this, just our second full on game.

We came away with lots of ideas about house rules and other adaptations we can make, but the game stood out for the fun it generated with some very hard fought combats swinging the game in different directions throughout the afternoon. Great Fun.

Wheatley's Brigade forced to withdraw as their morale breaks leaving just one point of FS to Leval's tired men (note the larger blue die in the background recording remaining FS)

Thank you to Steve, Steve L, Si and Ian for playing the game with a great spirit and really going for the win. Much fun had by all.

Anyone interested in researching this battle would be well advised getting a copy of
'The Battle of Barrosa 1811, Forgotten Battle of the Peninsular War' by John Grehan and Martin Mace, published by Pen & Sword.

A really good read with lots of information about the battle, the units and commanders.