Saturday, 24 July 2021

Battle of St Albans 1455 - 'Never Mind the Billhooks'

Following the disastrous defeat at the battle of Castillon, Henry VI of England suffered a mental breakdown. The Dukes of York & Somerset vied to rule "on behalf of" the king and York got the support he needed to take power. Quick sticks he imprisoned Somerset.

Unfortunately for York, Henry VI recovered his wits enough to continue his reign and he released Somerset and convened a Great Council to meet at Leicester. York was no fool and could see the writing on the wall (charges and a quick trip to the headsman) and so he raised a force to block the King & Somerset, on the road from London to Leicester.

Deployment on Yorkist right

The King beat York to St Albans and occupied the town with about 2000 men. The Yorkist army of over 4000 arrived outside St Albans and demanded Somerset be handed over. The King refused and the stage was set for the first battle of the Wars of the Roses.

Our refight was played in 28mm, to "Never Mind the Billhooks", using a variety of figures ranging from Perry's to Foundry and plenty in between.

For the Lancastrians, there was Chris as king, Jason as Clifford and Steve M as Buckingham.

The Yorkists were led by Chas as Richard Duke of York, Andy as the Earl of Salisbury and myself as Warwick the kingmaker. The OBs and set up were borrowed from the excellent work done at:

The battle started with the Lancastrians surprised, as the Yorkists abandoned the parley and moved on the town in battle order.

House of Lancaster stands firm

Warwick's men approached directly on two roads, with part of York's forces taking the third road into town, whilst the rest of his men swung right to outflank the defences. Meanwhile Salisbury's force went wide of the town on the left.

The Lancastrians reacted to the threat. The king was in the central town square, with Northumberland there to keep an eye on him and use his forces to defend the roads into town. Buckingham moved to defend the left of the line and Clifford took the right.

House of York attacks

My men under Warwick now came under bow fire from the prepared defences blocking the roads into St Albans and one unit of bill fell back "daunted". The rest of my force deployed skirmishers and archers and exchanged arrows, with only Warwick's men-at-arms having the armour to press on.

On our right, Chas got into some fighting near the church, but was forced back, whilst the bulk of his men continued to turn the flank.

Andy's force on our left, met with Jason's men, who had struck out of town to line the hedges. A lively battle ensued. 

Warwick breaks into the town

In the centre I tried to storm the barricades, but was getting the worst of it and all but my men-at-arms fell back.

Chas's flanking force on our right, was getting on better against Steve, but could not force him from the hedges.

Andy was still getting all medieval with Jason, but Jason's men held firm.

Yorkist left breaks through

Suddenly Warwick's men-at-arms broke the bill facing them and were into the town, followed by my and Chas's skirmishers, who made mischief from the buildings.

Seeing their men break, another unit of bill ran from the Lancastrian centre and the king's men-at-arms were forced to take their place in line facing Warwick.

Warwick's men-at-arms were not exactly fresh, so I played the "concealed ditch" card, which gave them a defensive ditch to their front, should they be charged.

Things then suddenly collapsed on the King's side. Andy broke through on their right and Northumberland's men in the centre broke and ran.

Yorkists are pushed back

At this point the Lancastrians threw in the towel and Warwick took the king under his and the white rose of York's protection.

A good game, but I have to say I found some parts of the rules confusing. I could have sworn we were losing and suddenly the opposition morale collapsed and they ran for the hills. Maybe I did not know what was going on ! Not an uncommon occurrence for a medieval commander I guess.

Nice to see so many pretty figures on the table. I was particularly impressed with Jason's "Contrast" painted Perry figures in the centre. So impressed, that I invested in some contrast paints the next day. Anything that speeds up my painting has to be good.

As always, many thanks to all who made it a fun game.


Saturday, 17 July 2021

Angers 469 AD -Late Romans, Saxons and Huns using Lion Rampant

It is 469 AD and the Saxons are approaching the town of Angers in Gaul. They are supported by some Hun mercenaries. Sending their light horse and foot to scout the area ahead, they make contact with a Roman patrol. Messages on both sides are relayed to the respective Warlords announcing contact with the enemy. The setting is a largely open one with a central hill and woods to the east and west.

The Saxon light foot makes a beeline for the hill and secures it. Their warlord and two units of heavy foot approach the hill to add support. On the Saxon right flank Roman cavalry and Cataphracts charge two units of Hun cavalry who pour arrows onto them as they approach causing significant casualties. The Romans turn tail and run for cover. As the Romans retreat, the now confident Huns send one of the units to pursue while the other rides around the western woods to support the Saxon centre.

In the centre, things are really 'hotting up'. Roman skirmishers in the Eastern woods fire on the Saxon light foot on the hill causing casualties, but with the Saxon warlord close by, their courage is undaunted and they remain on the hill. On the Roman right flank a unit of their heavy cavalry has sent a unit of Hun horse reeling and with nothing in their path, the Roman cavalry charge the Saxon light foot holding the hill causing them also to flee.

In the centre the two warlords with their retinue face each other. The Hun cavalry tries to support the Saxon foot, but they are repelled by the Roman light horse who fire deadly volumes of arrows into them. The Roman cavalry on the left flank realising they now face just one unit of Huns attack and drive the Huns from the field.

The fighting in the centre has become a war of attrition with both warlord units at half strength. It is at this point that the Roman missile fire starts to take a lethal toll. As the Saxons attack a Roman shield wall they are hit by arrows and javelins. The Saxon warlord, being the only remaining survivor of his unit, decides to retreat towards the woods on the western edge. At this point, realising the day is lost, what remains of the Saxon force quits the field.

The battle of Angers did actually take place and the Saxons were beaten by a Roman force supported by their Frank allies. This game represents a skirmish leading up to that battle.


Monday, 12 July 2021

The Leeward Line - Kiss Me Hardy

HMS Royal Sovereign bears down on the Combined Fleet at Trafalgar 1805 - Stuart Bolton

My first game back at the Devon Wargames Group after sixteen months away due to the pandemic lockdown restrictions was eagerly looked forward to, as much for the chance to catch up with friends and the banter and fun that is the hobby of wargaming as the game itself, a chance to warm up my planned game for Clotted Lard in September, the Warlord Games scenario 'The Leeward Line' played using Kiss Me Hardy from the Lardies.

Trafalgar Leeward Line.pdf

I last played this scenario solo previously using War by Sail and decided it would make for a good game using Kiss Me Hardy at this year's Clotted Lard meeting together with my collection of 1:700th Warlord model ships, but was keen to run a play test to gauge how many moves of play could be realistically achieved in the three and a half hour slot I have to run it at the show. 

Too Fat Lardies - Kiss me Hardy

In summary the scenario sets up the initial British attack at the Battle of Trafalgar when Vice Admiral Collingwood led his Lee Column of ships in the attack against Spanish Admiral Alava's rear squadron and some of the ships from the Squadron of Observation under French Rear-Admiral Magon.

The map below shows the section of the battle to be recreated.

Along with the basic set up of the models, I also needed to produce some ship record sheets for Kiss Me Hardy that would enable me to see how easy it was for the players to get used to using them for recording ship damage through the game as well as finding the relevant information needed to play during it and the game duly showed me some changes I intend to make based on the feedback I got.

As well as confirming how many moves of play could be completed in the time allowed, together with the usefulness or not of the various player aids, I was keen to see how best to replicate the British approach phase as their ships run the gauntlet of the Combined Fleet attempting to shoot at their rigging and masts as they close on their line and how much time is left to fight the melee battle that will decide the level of victory.

The British attack in echelon, braving the fire from the Combined Fleet as they close on their line

As you will see Colin who ran the British sent his ships into the attack in echelon aiming to penetrate the line between each of the Franco-Spanish ships with the Nelsonian tactic of making a raking pass before luffing up alongside an enemy into wind to commence a close range artillery duel with the intent to cause a quick strike.

The Royal Sovereign (right) took heavy fire from the Santa Anna (left), losing her foremast in the exchange of fire and leaving Admiral Collingwood with a close shave to.

Bob and Steve commanding the Allies were equally intent on supporting each of their ships as best they could and looking to give as good as they got in the approach phase and the following melee, hoping to get the opportunity of fouling a British opponent and potentially boarding.

Turn three and the British prepare to break the Allied line

The game also has three admirals present in the form of Collingwood, Alava and Magon and a rule addition introduced by Nick Skinner in his Trafalgar game sees these leaders having to test to see if they are a notable casualty should their flagship suffer 'High Officer Casualties' as a special hit; and indeed Collingwood came close to being killed in the early rounds of the battle, when on turn three the foremast of the Royal Sovereign was toppled by fire from the Santa Anna and the British Admiral was one away on a D6 from being a fatality.

Other than that the three rounds of fire on the approach caused the inevitable slight to moderate damage to British rigging as the the melee developed along the line with the British ships administering close to short range broadsides and rakes as they passed, making the most of their first fire bonuses.

HMS Mars, having held her fire on the approach, salutes the Pluton (left) and the Algeciras (right) as she passes.

By turn four the British were eagerly hoping for the magic combination of having their firing chit out first with the option that gave to hold fire and to claim first fire over the opposition should their chit subsequently appear, along with the allies moving first so that they would have the luxury of lining up that perfect pass to deliver a close in stern or bow rake, knowing the enemy could do nothing but suck it up.

The Mars, seen above was one of those able to take advantage of such an opportunity and together with her consorts was able to deliver some hammering blows to the rear most Franco-Spanish ships that started to see their return fire slacken as the damage took effect.

The melee battle well and truly under way

However the British knew they had been in a fight with the Royal Sovereign thankful that her first-rate status gave her an unenviable ability to withstand the return fire she took as she closed on the allied line, although unable to deliver a punishing broadside to either Santa Anna or Indomptable and thus settling for joining in with Belleisle to deliver fire into the bow of Fougueux as her consort attacked her stern.

Turn five saw the British start to take control of the game with the five most rearward allied ships taking damage that was causing morale checks to creep ever closer to potential striking, particularly among the Spanish with Bahama and Monarca not only suffering morale deductions but much reduced gunnery for their return fire.

That however did not stop Steve sniping at the British with just a couple of gunnery D6 and not only hitting with both dice but getting the necessary 1 or 2 on a D10 to cause a critical hit check to boot.

We called the game at turn six with the allies teetering on failing their squadron morale check, a rule addition of my own to KMH to offer a potential cut off to this and other scenarios when one side or the other is clearly looking to break contact thus awarding the game to the other side.

I thought I would try and capture the feel of this first game back at the club and the happy babble of games going on in the background of our own with a video summary of our game. Unfortunately for some unknown reason I could not get YouTube to upload much of my footage but have included a short clip of the opening phases of our game to show what a game using 1:700th models looks like using Kiss Me Hardy which is scaled at very close to that of the models, 1:900th in fact or one inch to twenty yards as opposed to twenty five yards.

Thank you to Colin, Bob and Steve for a great return to club gaming that I and many others have really missed over the last sixteen months and a pint or two in the pub afterwards mixed with a bit of chat and banter put a fine top on the day.

Here's looking forward to Clotted Lard.