Sunday, 23 April 2017

Conquistadors - Donnybrook Style

Chas in his 'Salad Days' - Actually a fine study of a Conquistador by Barbara Weber
Game Report: Vince
Pictures: JJ

On a huge table, Chas took us back to his salad days with the Columbian Indians in the 16th century. In those days, Chas had gone native and decided to fight with the locals against the conquistadors.

Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada was leading a powerful column in search of Eldorado. Naturally I took the Spanish part, the first time I heard mention of GOLD!

Leaving a body of halberdiers, arquebusiers and mounted lancers to guard our supply column, our assault force sneaked up on the native village. Well, they sneaked as best a load of Europeans, wearing metal armour, in a jungle, can. Not to worry; we had God on our side and had brought bibles for the locals.

It was not long before the natives were firing arrows at our mule train guard and the lancers rode out to chastise them with a devastating charge. It certainly devastated our lancers and the supporting war dogs eating one of their horses didn't help matters. The light horse remembered they had left the gas on and headed back to Cartegena, Spain. Luckily the arquebusiers shot down enough natives to cool their ardour. The halberdiers took cover in the trees, as arrows rained down on them. The artillery piece supporting the attack on the village turned around and mowed down two Indians and a halberdier. Nice shooting boys.

Meanwhile, back at the village, Indians were pouring out of the stockade in an unfriendly fashion. Arrows were flying and musket balls went the other way. The Gentlemen heavy horse charged the natives, cutting down many, before dying to a man. More gold for the rest of us.

The mercenary sword and buckler men proceeded to charge the natives and cut a swathe through them with their nice steel weapons. A desperate struggle developed between Quesada with his retinue and a lot of Indians led by Indian head honcho, who was a bit tasty. Working on the "kill the easy naked guys first", Quesada & Co. cut down most of the Indians, but his retinue fell in the process.

Things looked rough for Quesada, facing near naked ninja guy (who sported a gold posing pouch) and three Indians, on his lonesome. At this point the gentlemen sword and buckler men arrived. They saved the day and sliced & diced the ‘injuns’ and top poser.

With the mule train guard, despite losing the halberdiers, mopping up their attackers and more sword and buckler types entering the village, Chas called for his litter bearers and made good his escape.

A varied game, exploring a wide range of small infantry tactics (including the mules round and round the mulberry bush tactic).

Donnybrook Rules

We played to Donnybrook rules, which gave a fast-paced game, which either side could have won. To be fair, Chas was unlucky and victory went more to tempered steel, than Spanish tactical superiority.


Monday, 17 April 2017

Pickett's Charge - A View from the Front

Editor JJ Comment - Following on from the game report posted, Battle of Antietam/Sharpesburg - Pickett's Charge fellow DWG member Mr Steve L, not to be confused with "Mr Steve", sent me his thoughts about the rules and how they play and so for completeness and to add comment to what are a still relatively new set of rules to most of us they are posted here for your information.

As an aside to Simon's report I would like to add my 'two penneth worth' about the rules. This is based on first impressions.

I am not going to go into all the mechanics of the rules as then I would have to copy whole sections and that would infringe copyright laws. Buy your own copy.

These rules are all about Command and Control and Morale. You have ADC’s who job it is to take orders to brigade commanders. These are diced for to see if you get them and then to see if they get to give the order. Certain jobs require more than one ADC so allocation of them is critical. Allocate too many to one job and another can’t be done, so beware. All of this is done concurrently.

After the allocation of orders you then dice for initiative. The winner then becomes the “Phasing” player and the loser the “Non Phasing” player. Why? Because in this PC world, everybody is a winner remember!

The phasing player then does everything first.

Charges are declared and supports are allocated by the phasing player. Only cavalry can counter charge just like in a lot of rules. Both sides then dice, adjusted by the modifiers and then do what the results table says. Only on a draw does melee actually occur. Only once in our game did that happen. The non-phasing player now does his charges. Now I like a good melee so I may have a house rule so that + or – 1 also results in a melee I will have to think about that.
(Editor JJ Comment - I guess it rather depends what 'melee' means. Actual bayonet crossing and hand to hand fighting in the open was comparatively rare with one side usually breaking and running before it came to that. Perhaps that it what the author is attempting to model)

We are now into the movement phase. This is pretty obvious. There is a table of movement distances and in certain circumstances you will need to dice to make sure you can move and to see if you remain formed, change formation or going over certain ground for example. This is where I come to another possible house rule. I will look at moving normally until interdicted by enemy fire. This may be artillery or infantry depending on terrain.

Firing is nice and neat. Check the range then dice. Add/subtract the modifiers then reference the casualty tables.

Casualties from all combat are allocated to the target. You can record these using the forms provided or various stands in as Simon used. The number four is important and this number denotes when you move down in effectiveness. Just like in Fire & Fury (F&F). However in this game no stands are removed. For casualty read morale as it is assumed that people are not just dead or wounded but there are tired shocked soldiers as well. At a certain point, depending on the size of unit, the unit will disperse.

The action hots up in this month's game using Pickett's Charge

There is much more to these rules than I wish to write about at this point so you will need to try them yourselves.

The rules include a point system so you can build your own units and try and get a balance when playing attack/defence games. I actually checked the points for the game we played had it been in full and as per the rules and the Confederates actually had more points than the Unions by about a hundred.

After only one game I will say that I can compare them favourably with F&F. I will be playing them a few more times with different people and gathering their views. A lot of problems I find with new rules are that we often go into it with fixed views based upon other rule sets and we can be quite biased. In my opinion this is because we inherently don’t like change. At this point a strong 7/10.

I will post another report and more views as we play and introduce more of the optional rules.

My next game will be on mirrored terrain and with mirrored troops. I just want to make sure that the rules are not favouring one side or the other. The results should be based upon dicing ability only and better generalship not on rule bias.

After that it’s making sides based upon the points system so a lot of gaming still to be done. It’s a dirty old job but I will do this for the greater good of my fellow wargamers.

Steve L

Friday, 14 April 2017

Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg 1862, Bloody Lane - Pickett's Charge

The Irish Brigade attacks at the infamous 'Bloody Lane' by Mort Kunstler
Game Report: Si B
Pictures: JJ

This was our first attempt at Picket's Charge (PC) and as such, a couple of explanatory notes might be useful before recounting the action.

Pickett's Charge ACW Rules

An initial read of the rules and solo run through suggested that the game is designed for each player to command a roughly division sized force. We would have four players so this might require more troops than were immediately available. However, as a first attempt, the start point for this game was the intro scenario in the rule book.

This gave each player a Brigade each to control initially with more forces arriving as time went on. The idea was that players would become familiar with the rules before adding hordes of troops.

As ever though, the umpire couldn't resist tinkering. The original scenario was modified and eventually owed more to Scenario 4, 'Bloody Lane' from Brad Butkovich's 'Brave hearts trembled.' The maps in this series are the best I've come across and the orders of battle appear very well researched. This meant we played length ways down an 8 x 5 table.

Brave Hearts Trembled Regimental Wargame Scenarios For the-Battle of Antietam

Battle of Antietam

Map depicting the setting for the game around 'Bloody Lane'

The other change to help the game work for four players was to the historical deployment of the initial Union Brigades. Rather than deploy each Brigade in line across the the Divison front, the two lead brigades deployed alongside each other, either side of the road to the Clipp Farm, just off table to the North. More on that at the end.

We started playing at 1130, having taken about forty-five minutes to set up and explain the basics of the rules. The scenario started at 0900, slightly earlier (1 game turn) than the book suggests. However, the initial Union Brigades started closer to the table edge, effectively giving us a turn to learn the play sequence before making contact.

On the Union right, 2nd Bde, 3rd Div led by Col Morris immediately became hesitant, eyeing the deep scary cornfields in front of them nervously. In the centre Brigadier Weber’s 3rd Bde stepped off sharply towards the Bloody Lane.

As they crested the rise, they came under fire from two Confederate batteries deployed on the rising ground behind the Bloody Lane. This fire caused some casualties and some green regiments became unformed crossing the snake fences.

Meantime, an off table battery of 20lb Parrots engaged the right of the Rebel line in the sunken lane. Whilst being at extreme range, they did inflict a few casualties and caused some nuisance.

Around 0915, Morris Brigade finally moved into the cornfield, crested the rise and approached the sunken lane down the forward slope. In doing so, although invisible to the Rebs in the lane, Boyce's battery were able to see them. For now though, the battery continued to engage Weber in the centre.

Weber's Brigade made good progress towards the lane. As they came down the forward slope they were engaged by Anderson's Brigade in the lane. This fire over thirty minutes (2 turns) crippled the leading regiment, which dispersed. The brigade faltered in the open under sustained fire. Another thirty minutes and the brigade was effectively finished for the day.

At 0930, Kimball's first Brigade entered as the last brigade of the 3rd Division. This brigade followed up Weber's, however these regiments deployed in skirmish order. This made a significant difference to the casualties sustained, kept them in the fight and allowed them to start doing some damage to the Rebs. Concurrently the Division's only artillery battery deployed and opened fire on the Rebel batteries.

At about the same time, Morris's Brigade emerged from the cornfield right on top of Rodes' Brigade in the lane. Unfortunately, the Rebs were ready for them and one good volley sent the whole Brigade packing, back over the rise they'd just clambered over.

At this point, the Rebs appeared to be sitting pretty. Two Union brigades had both been repulsed with a third stuck in a losing fire-fight in front of the lane.

Help was at hand. First, Morris rallied his brigade in dead ground and began a second advance on the lane. At the same time, the lead brigades of the 1st Division began to arrive. First in was Meagher's Irish Brigade. This brigade followed up Kimball. Behind Meagher came Caldwell on the right behind Morris.

Perhaps more importantly, a dismounted cavalry squadron entered on the extreme left of the Union line, in a position to enfilade Anderson's Brigade in the lane. After fifteen minutes, they'd caused enough discomfit to prompt the right hand Rebel regiment to leave the lane and charge the cavalry. Deployed in skirmish order, the cavalry had to evade.

At the same time, the centre regiment of Anderson's Brigade charged Kimball's skirmishers to their front, partly to protect the flank of the those taking on the cavalry. These two charges on the right cleared away the skirmishers but then left the rebels exposed to the advancing regiments of the Irish Brigade.

At 1130, Colquitt's Brigade of Hill's Division could be seen moving up the road from Sharpsburg towards the sunken (Bloody) lane. The question was whether they could arrive in time to stabilise the Rebel line.

By 1200, after three hours of combat, two Union brigades were 'chewed up,' but now both lead Confederate brigades were feeling the pressure. Boyce's battery had been forced to withdraw by counter battery fire. Anderson's Brigade on the Rebel right was exposed and on the left, two Union brigades were poised to charge Rodes' Brigade.

At 1215, Morris made a second charge out of the cornfield on the right. Morris made good use of his supports. The same could not be said of Rodes, whose supports appear to have fired on their own troops. Rodes' Brigade was badly beaten, the lead regiment routed and the supports whipped. They retreated over the rise to the Piper Farm orchard. Morris took the ground and occupied the lane.

On the Union right, the remains of Kimball's Brigade along with Meagher's Irish, inflicted more casualties on the centre regiment of Anderson's Brigade, causing them to disperse. The whole brigade faltered.

At this point, approximately 1245, General D H Hill decided his Division had done what it could for the day. He had one uncommitted brigade, but the two lead brigades were in a bad way. The Bloody Lane was untenable so the decision was made to fall back to the area of the Piper Farm.

On the Union side, the 3rd Division wasn't in a state to do much more. The 1st Division was still reasonably intact and had time permitted, could have made a fair fight for the Piper Farm. However, Lee and Longstreet still had troops to feed in to the fight so the outcome was by no means certain.

The scenario played out to a historical outcome. We arrived at it by a slightly different route, partly because as umpire (I) allowed the Union commanders to use reinforcing brigades where they chose. Nevertheless, the Rebs inflicted serious losses on the leading Union Division as they did historically. On the Confederate right the decisive moment was probably Anderson charging out of the breastworks, leaving regiments exposed in the open.

On the Confederate left, Union right, it was Morris's ability to rally his brigade and make a second attack about the same time as Caldwell arrived.

The rules worked very well, for a first outing. None of the five of us had any major 'tooth sucking' moments. As the umpire, I could leave most of the gaming to the players within three turns, just needing to coordinate the two sides of the table.

Personally I really liked the way it all worked, the game had ups and downs for each side. In about five and a half hours we played sixteen turns and used nearly all the rules. Artillery fire, counter battery, musketry, skirmishers all came into play. I thought the charge and melee mechanics were particularly good, something which breaks a lot of rules in my opinion (which is worth exactly what you paid for it). With half a dozen charges, we only had one melee and one pursuit, both of which were decisive.

Perhaps the best part of the rules though, is the command system and the use of Staff Officers. Much simpler to use than almost any other attempt I can think of to create command friction but creates lots of decision points for the players.

Our experience should be seen in the light of a first attempt, with smaller troop numbers per player than perhaps intended by the author. Nevertheless I get the impression everyone walked away happy to give the rules another go. For my part, I think these are now my ACW rules of choice.

We made a couple of mistakes, entirely my fault as the umpire. First, we should have diced for Staff Officer availability before posting them. There were a couple of occasions when one of two officers failed to appear, thus wasting an extra officer. Second, we missed the need to spend a movement phase reforming unformed regiments. This probably had a greater effect in favour of the Union, whilst the Staff Officer mistake probably favoured the Rebs.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Tapae, 87 AD - Augustus to Aurelian

"A Dacian army raided the Roman province of Moesia during the winter of 86 AD. This attack proved the catalyst for a major Roman counteroffensive the next year that was personally led by the Emperor Domitianus. That summer a Roman expeditionary army commanded by Praetorian prefect Cornelius Fuscus crossed the Ister (Danube) River and entered Dacia, intent on reaching the enemy capital of Sarmizegetusa. The Dacians ambushed the Romans at a narrow mountain pass called Tapae (Iron Gate Pass), inflicting heavy casualties on the unsuspecting legions. The defeat resulted in the loss of arms and catapults, the destruction of a legion (the loss of a legionary standard) and the death of Fuscus.
Dio Cassius, Roman History, 67.6.5; 68.9.3; Eutropius, Abridgement of Roman History, 7.23.
From Roman Empire at War - Don Taylor.

So the April meeting saw us off with another (the third) game using Augustus to Aurelian rules by Phil Hendry, as we develop our experience with this rule set, with Mr Steve providing his 15mm collection of figures incorporating a few Marion Roman stand-ins and some ancient Britons reworked into some rather good Dacian look alikes.

Augustus to Aurelian

I (JJ) provided the terrain and my newly minted stat-cards and tokens to set the stage and run our game, which was taking the process on by allowing us to see how well the Dacians will perform with these rules.

Followers of my personal blog, 'JJ's Wargames', will know that I have started a collection of 28mm figures to model the Romano-Dacian wars and this was an opportunity to see how well the rules capture the essence of those campaigns.

JJ's Dacian Wars

So below you can see Fuscus' Roman column on the march through the Iron Gate Pass with the Dacians on either side ready to spring their ambush.

The forces fielded were roughly composed of;

Romans, 4 x Legionary & 4 x Auxiliary cohorts, 1 x Auxiliary Archer cohort, 2 x units of slingers, 1 x Auxiliary Ala cavalry, 1 x Auxiliary Light cavalry and 1 x Scorpio. Four Carpe Diem Counters.

Dacians with 12 x warband including 2 x Hardened warband, 1 x Falx warband, 3 x units of skirmishers, 2 x Sarmatian Cataphracts and 2 x Light cavalry. Two Carpe Diem counters.

Dacians, fouzands of em! I always think of this period of Roman Imperialism similar to 19th century Colonial Warfare

This was going to be a test for the Dacians as their army was split and thus the two warband divisions on the left of the picture above were outside command and control of the Dacian army commander and so were limited to working under their attack orders with little opportunity for those to change during the game and little opportunity for giving 'Carpe Diem' activations with the two counters held centrally by the Dacian commander.

For the Roman commander the issue would be the problem of sorting the column out into a fighting formation before the warbands closed in on the road from two directions with little opportunity to shake out into the classic duplex/triplex acies formation that would allow the cohorts to provide mutual support in depth. Not only that but the Roman divisions were on advance orders and new orders would need to be issued whilst reacting to the surprise attack.

The Roman line braces itself as the warbands charge down the slope

With Dacian warbands emerging from the tree-line either side of the narrow valley the leading Roman division of four cohorts coolly formed line to their left and advanced off the road to meet the Dacian division now fast approaching their line.

Behind them Fuscus personally brought up his second division to move up and behind his first along the road with his cavalry covering the front and rear of the column along with the artillery.

The rearward Roman division moves up to cover their comrades rear as Dacian warbands move in towards the road

The position was not ideal, he thought, and this was a large Dacian army but the Roman army had faced worst situations and still come out on top so with Fortuna's blessing there was no reason that this would yet be a good day.

The Sarmatian and Dacian cavalry division moves against the rear of the Roman column, taking hits from Scorpio fire.

The lead Dacian division seemed to cover the ground in no time and the front of the Roman column was drawn up in line ready to face off when with a roar three of the four warbands launched a fierce charge into the Roman line (Dacian warbands take an impetuosity test at the start of a new round if in charge range of the enemy normally requiring a 6 or less on 2d6 to maintain their control, and getting a plus one if they see one of their number charge forward).

The leading Roman cohorts reeled back towards the road in disorder as the ferocity of the charge hit their line.

Roman Scorpio crew calmly load their bolts as Sarmatian Cataphracts trot down the nearby slope
Meanwhile the second Roman division and the rear elements faced off the opposite side of the road as the Dacian commander was seen directing his elite division of cap-wearers and falxmen supported on their flank by Bastarnae Light cavalry and Sarmatian Cataphracts

Fierce fighting erupts as the lead Roman division struggles to hold the first Dacian attack
The fighting at the front of the column was not going in favour of Rome with the cohorts struggling to hold a line as the casualties mounted and the leading unit became shaken. Suddenly a shout went up as the lead cohort attempted to break away but was caught by the pursuing Dacian infantry scything down the Auxiliary infantry and causing the Roman light cavalry to break away as it evaded the oncoming rush.

Suddenly the lead Roman cohort is overrun and the Roman line looks vulnerable
If that were not bad enough the elite Dacian division struck the second Roman division with all but one of its warbands and with the falxmen leading the way hacking into the cohort to their front and causing four hits on their first attack.

As this assault caused the Roman line to reel yet again the leading division reached break point with, over half the cohorts shaken or destroyed, the formation reverting to 'Retire' orders forcing the units remaining to attempt to break contact which only encouraged the Dacian warbands to make further impetuous attacks as their battle rage grew.

One Dacian commander (Ian you are touched by the Devil) was unstoppable here rolling four d10 needing 5's or less to hit
With the front of the Roman column breaking up, the centre reeling under a ferocious charge by falxmen and cap wearers, the rear of the column was hit by Sarmatian Cataphracts, but started to give a good account of themselves as the Auxiliary Ala cavalry held their opposites as did the crews of the Scorpio's determined to defend their ground to the last.

Shaken (yellow and red) and Disordered (red) markers together with red mini dice showing hits flourish along the length of the Roman column
Fuscus knew the end was in sight as he dismounted and joined one of his centre legionary cohorts as they prepared to unleash a volley of pila at the onrushing Dacians.

His formations were a mess along the line of the road and the battle had broken up into huddles of resisters grimly hanging on as elements around them broke and tried to escape the carnage.

Cornelius Fuscus, like a true Roman General goes down fighting with his men as the falxes reap their gory harvest
As the second Roman division reached break point, the Sarmatians finally overcame the resistance of the Roman artillerymen and the Auxiliary cavalry who had put up an amazing resistance at the rear even as the remaining unused Dacian warband division closed in to seal the fate of Fuscus and his column.

Bitter fighting as the Sarmatians close with the rear of the column
As the battle came to an end with the Roman force destroyed to a man and with Fuscus joining them in their fate, the Dacian commander began the work of collecting up the weapons, armour and artillery that would be taken back to the capital as spoils of war, not to mention the Eagle found lying close by to the dead general and his staff at the centre of the Roman column.

Much fun with Augustus to Aurelian, I feel they really capture the essence of a particular period of Roman history and benefit from the focus they bring. Dacian warbands are quite different from their German cousins, who featured in the first two games, and the terrain and layout really influences how the armies fight.

If you are a Roman you want a straight up fight in your favoured Acies formation and ideally with open ground and protected flanks. You don't want to be marching through German forests or caught in an ambush in column on a valley road. Thus these rules reward the effort to create scenarios rather than just two battle lines going toe to toe which they will also facilitate just as well.

The draw chits that replaced the cards seen in the earlier games worked like a dream with no dropped card decks as they were being shuffled. The chits were simply gathered up at the end of a turn and returned to the 'bag of doom' as the Romans saw it.

I can't wait to get started putting the 28mm collection together and found myself yesterday visualising the look of it based on our game yesterday.

For more information about the game markers and chits used, just follow the link to JJ's seen above which covers off all the posts too date about Augustus to Aurelian and the Dacian Wars project.

Thanks to Mr Steve, Ian , Steve M, Nick and Charlie for a thoroughly fun day topped off with a pleasant beer or two enjoying the spot of great April weather we are having at the moment.