Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Retreat from Grodno 1706: a Ga Pa scenario

The first game of 2017 involved an outing for the 40mm Prinz August figures.  I found a scenario on the Renaissance Discussion board on TMP, which had been devised by the Wyre Forest Group.  It is a fictional scenario in which the Russian garrison of Grodno has marched east towards its supports, just before the Swedes arrived to besiege the city. Closely pursued by a Swedish force, the Russian general, Ogilvy has taken up a strong defensive position to cover the withdrawal of his baggage train and heavy artillery.

Russian infantry on the ridge

The dragoons ready to advance
Ogilvy has taken up position on a low ridge flanked by two area of impassable terrain, forcing the Swedes into a frontal assault.  His force consists of 7 line battalions and 1 elite battalion supported by two light guns.  In reserve are three regiments of dragoons.  Advancing towards him are 4 battalions of Swedish infantry and four regiments of cavalry, supported by two light guns.  All the Swedish units are of better quality than the Russian (with the exception of the single elite Russian infantry battalion), and their commanders are more experienced.  However, the ridge does give an advantage to defenders in melee.

The Swedish infantry advance
The dice decreed that Steve would command the Swedes and as he won the initiative, he deployed and began to advance.  At first the Swedish infantry ignored the long range artillery fire from the ridge, but as the range shortened, losses rose and the leading elite battalion became disordered.  The leading Swedish cavalry unit also became disordered, but a supporting unit continued to advance and once within range charged the Smolensk regiment which was holding the left flank of the Russian line.  A totally ineffective volley failed to stop the horsemen and they crashed into the Russian ranks. After a brief resistance the infantry broke and fled towards the river, the door was open, could the Swedes exploit it?

The Swedish cavalry  take the ridge
Unfortunately for Steve, the Russians had done just enough to disorder the Swedish cavalry and their supporting units had failed to follow them forward.  The Swedish cavalry commander also failed to issue and order for them to reform, so they stayed stationary on the ridge, whilst the Russians struggled to plug the gap.

On the Russian right the front line of infantry were beginning to feel the effects of the Swedish artillery, but fortunately the Swedish infantry were too far away to drive home the advantage.

The Russian dragoons counterattack
As Russian commander, I had ordered the left hand unit of the second infantry line to refuse it's left flank to fire at any Swedish cavalry advancing from the ridge.  Unfortunately, being a 'green' unit attempting this manoeuvre had caused it to fall into disorder and it took the rest of the battle to successfully order it to recover.  However, the dragoons had managed to advance and were now in a position to attempt to drive back the Swedish cavalry.  After some hesitation they did charge and force the Swedes to fall back.  Buoyed by this success they advanced again and were successful a second time.

The high water mark of the Swedish advance
By this time the Swedish infantry had managed to force most of the Russian infantry off the ridge, but had taken heavy casualties from the Russian artillery.  With half his force hors de combat the Swedish  commander decided he had better withdraw and await reinforcements.  The Russians were content to repossess the ridge and bask in an unexpected victory.

The game had been closer than the end result suggested.  A crucial bout of poor dice for Steve robbed him of the chance of exploiting his early success.  Also he was not helped by the brittleness of the Swedish cavalry, which although powerful in attack was vulnerable as it had only one strength point. Also the restricted battlefield meant that there was little scope for the Swedes to avoid the artillery fire, which proved deadly at close range.  A few points to ponder before our next GNW game

Thursday, 29 December 2016


The interlude between Christmas and the New Year is traditionally a time for looking back over the previous year and assessing one's progress/success and lessons learnt.  In a wargaming context 2016 has been pretty good.  A high spot was my first visit to the Salute show in April, one thing I have been able to tick off the 'bucket list'.  There was also the Gentlemen Pensioners game hosted by Steve, which was great fun.

One of the spectacular games from Salute
One of my favourites, Medieval Russians
However, not all the shows were showing the same rude health as Salute.  Triples was, as I reported quiet on the Saturday and later in the year came the news that the 2017 show would not be taking place.  A sad turn events for a show which for a good number of years had been a firm fixture in my wargaming calendar.  Perhaps the organisers should have taken more notice of the way the York group have developed the Vapnartak show into the excellent event it now is.  One show which Steve and I attended for the first time made a very good impression, the WMMS show at Alumwell, we have made plans to visit again in 2017, with an earlier arrival time to enable us to park on the carpark!  One positive taken from all the shows Steve and I have attended  as part of the Lance and Longbow Society is the interest shown by visitors in how games are organised and the historical background.  Also, we always try and run participation games and almost without fail our 'victims' have played in the right spirit, taking the rough with the smooth

One of my less successful moments - the demise of my blue jackets!
The Nile steamers - always a problem; to both sides!
As far as gaming is concerned the major influence during the year have been the Pike and Shotte rules from Warlord Games.  Well over half our games have involved the rules, and we have tried out several 'amendments', not all of which have been successful.  The rules have proved themselves in all the periods they cover, from Italian Wars through to the Grand Alliance.  Below are scans of the supplementary playsheet that Steve and I use for our ECW games

The coming year we hope to develop our coverage of the Eastern Renaissance wars by painting up some Ottoman troops.  Our games involving the Poles, Cossacks, Tartars and Muscovites this year have been greatly helped by the Eastern renaissance supplement produced by Thaddeus Urban.  He is planning a revised version of this and details can be found on his blog .

ECW action
The Polish Hussars in action
Of course our other collections managed to get on the table this year.  Steve devised some intriguing scenarios for the Sudan collection and his AWI games are always close run affairs.  I was particularly glad to organise a few Shako scenarios and game with some of my 15mm chaps who are now nearing their thirtieth birthday.  Perhaps even older are the Prince August homecasts that Alasdair passed over to me.  They had a couple of outings and generated a good bit of interest.

We were less successful on the naval side.  We did get a few games in and tried out a couple of new rulesets, but the initial objective, re-fighting part of Jutland in the anniversary year eluded us. Perhaps we can manage it one year late.

Other 'failures' include the lack of progress on reducing the 'lead mountain'.  Painting has been very slow this year, due to many factors, but at least the 'mountain' hasn't grown by much, as I haven't bought any figures for six months.

In conclusion may I take this opportunity to thank all those who follow my blog and especially those who take the time to comment, your views are much appreciated. Please continue to let me know what you think of our efforts.  Thanks is also due to Steve, Will, John, Bob, Dave, Gary and the Gentlemen Pensioners for making the games during the year such fun.
All the best for 2017.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Action at El Ammoh; a Sudan scenario using Battles for Empire

For our last wargames meet of the year Steve organised a Sudan scenario.  The village of El Ammoh is a staging post along the lines of communication towards Khartoum and has a standing garrison of 4 units of Egyptian/Sudanese infantry and one of cavalry together with artillery support. There has been a history of unrest in the area and the village has been fortified to improve the defence.  Word has reached the British garrison at Aswan that more trouble is brewing and therefore whilst the main force is gathering a 'flying column' of two units of mounted infantry, one of lancers and attendant artillery has been dispatched.  Their task is to  assess the situation and if necessary  cover the withdrawal of the Egyptian force to a more secure location.  Command of this column has been given to newly-promoted Captain Firth-Newsome.

As the British near El Ammoh they can see that the garrison has manned the walls and clouds of dust can be seen in the distance.

The village of El Ammoh
Firth-Newsome went with one of his lancers to discuss the situation with the Egyptian commander of El Ammoh, Mohammed Bey.    The Egyptian was glad to see the Imperial reinforcements and suggested that the main Dervish attacks would be along the eastern and western faces of the village. Firth-Newsome offered to deploy his troops to flank any such attacks and this was agreed.  

The British begin to deploy
Once back with the column, Firth-Newsome orders Lieutenant Fairbrother to take the two mounted infantry units and the machine gun, to the west and deploy on a ridge of low hills from where he could  fire into the flank of any Dervish units attacking the town.  Firth-Newsome would cover the eastern approaches with the field gun and the unit of lancers.  The deployment took longer than expected and as Fairbrother neared the hills he saw large clouds of dust approaching from the west.  Quickly he deployed the South Essex into square, whilst the machine gun and the North Rutlands, being further back, deployed in line to lend support with rifle fire.  Out of the dust appeared two units of camel troops and three of cavalry.  Two cavalry and one camel units headed for the South Essex, whilst the second camel unit moved towards the North Rutlands.  Riding through the fire from the British square two mounted units charged home, leading to a desperate melee.  Meanwhile disciplined volleys from the North Rutlands plus fire from the machine gun, deterred the other camel unit from charging, at least for the moment.

The attack on the west wall of El-Ammoh
Back at El-Ammoh the Dervish infantry were closing in.  Even though the Egyptian defenders on the south wall poured volleys into the masses as they passed, the Dervish pressed on, swinging round to attack the east and west walls as Mohammed Bey had forseen.  There they were met by resolute defensive fire from the garrison.  On the western wall, the Sudanese unit, supported by a field gun stopped the first Dervish in its tracks and inflicted such casualties that it took no further part in the battle.  Undaunted the second wave of Dervishes swept forward.  Now the defensive fire slackened as the garrison on the south wall ran low on ammunition, as did the field gun.  Sensing victory the Dervishes crashed home though the stolid ranks of the Sudanese held them off and sent their assailants reeling back in disorder.  The gun crew were not so lucky.  Heavily out-numbered, they fought like demons and felled many opponents but in the end were overwhelmed.  Possibly stunned by the ferocity of the defence, the Dervishes did not follow up their success, giving Mohammed Bey just enough time to move up some reinforcements.

The South Essex under attack

On the east wall things had not gone well for the defence.  As the Dervishes closed the machine gun had jammed.  Quickly, Mohammed Bey had ordered the crew to pull the gun back to try and clear the jam away from the threat of attack.  The dismounted cavalry were to advance and hold the wall. They arrived in the nick of time and after a fierce struggle pushed back the attackers.  The Dervishes on the eastern attack had more to concern them than the fire from El-Ammoh.  Sweeping towards them were the British lancers.  They hit the first unit at a gallop and scattered them to the four winds. Sweeping on, they crashed into the flank of a second unit sending it reeling back in total disarray.   Blown and disordered the lancers paused to reform.  Their ranks had been thinned by casualties to both men and horses.  Looking about them they could see more Dervishes massing to attack.  Sensing the lancers' confusion, Firth-Newsome galloped over and ordered them to fall back with him to regroup.  The lancers only just made it, a few troopers on wounded horses fell victims to the pursuing Dervishes.

The lancers strike home
Over in the west, the South Essex's square was shrinking as the struggle the camels and cavalry continued.  Fairbrother was desperate to help them with the North Rutlands, but they were now trying to stop a fearsome charge by the camel troops facing them.  As the camel troops closed. Fairbrother ordered 'Rapid Fire' and the infantry responded with a will.  Gaps appeared in the enemy ranks has the bullets struck home.  As the camels crashed to the desert floor they impeded those behind them and the pace of the attack slowed.  This gave more time for the infantry to fire and cause yet more devastation.  All at once the remaining camel troops  turned and headed off to the west, the line had held.  Fairbrother was about to order the North Rutlands to advance when he saw that it was too late, the South Essex had been overwhelmed by the masses of mounted troops.  Even worse, to his right their were more enemy cavalry approaching.  His machine gun was firing for all it was worth but could not stop the mass of cavalry.  The North Rutlands turned to face this new threat, but they were again too late to aid their comrades as the enemy cavalry swept over the gun crew.  All that stood between the victorious enemy cavalry and the North gate of El-Ammoh were the North Rutlands.  Taking his station in the centre of the North Rutlands' ranks, Fairbrother drew his revolver and was preparing to order rapid fire when Firth-Newsome, with the remains of the lancers swept onto the scene and hit the enemy cavalry in the flank.  A short brutal melee ensued, but the Dervish cavalry broke and headed back into the desert.  Behind them they left a pitiful remnant of the lancers, barely enough to mount an escort for a general.  The gallant survivors made their way into El-Ammoh with the field gun, whilst Fairbrother took up position with the North Rutlands to cover the northern gate of the village.

The end of the South Essex

From the village Firth-Newsome and Mohammed Bey could see more Dervish infantry milling about. However, the sight of the heaps of their dead comrades around the walls of the village, gave them cause to pause and consider whether it might be better to await a better opportunity to seize the village.  As night fell, Firth-Newsome considered his options too.  Should he order a withdrawal, or hold on in anticipation of the main column arriving.  Indeed, how should he write up the events of this bloody day, could it be a victory with such a loss of life to the Imperial forces?

For this scenario Steve tried out a new system for randomising the arrival of the Dervish forces.  He compiled a deck of cards with half the cards representing units and half blanks.  He gave the deck to me to shuffle and then I dealt three cards to represent the first three chances for units to arrive.  Steve rolled dice to indicate where the units arrived.  The units indicated by the cards were actually groups of 5 infantry or 2 or 3 mounted troops.  Move two Steve received two more cards and in subsequent moves 1 card.  This worked rather well and we will probably use it again.

During the day my camera battery was playing up so Steve took a couple of over-view shots with his phone, which show the layout of the table

Monday, 12 December 2016

Somewhere on the Steppe: an Eastern Renaissance scenario for Pike and Shotte

This week the Muscovite and Cossack armies had an outing in a scenario based on a Cossack incursion into Muscovite territory.  The terrain was basic, just a plain with a small settlement on the Muscovite right.

For the Cossacks, the left wing cavalry was four units of Cossacks with a unit of horse archers as skirmishers.  In the centre were five units of infantry, two of registered cossack musketeers and three of moloisty, mixed spears and muskets, supported by two light guns.  On the right were the allied cavalry; two units of Polish pancerni and three of Tartars

The Muscovite left wing cavalry
On the Muscovite side were six units of noble levy cavalry, three on each wing, screened by horse archers.  In the centre were the two streltsy units, the soldatski unit and a unit of provincila musketeers.  The infantry were supported by a medium gun and a light gun.  In reserve were two units of Dvor cavalry and a reiter unit.  So this was a Muscovite army in transition, from an essentially medieval force into one modelled on the western model.

Muscovite infantry
Steve had command of the Muscovites and his levy cavalry moved forward in fine style.  They quickly caused my Cossack cavalry on the left  problems and although I managed to restore some semblance of order, the Muscovites had the upper hand.

In the centre both infantry bodies advanced, though the lines were not maintained as some units got ahead of others.

The Cossack foot ready to advance
I reckoned that my musketeers, supported by a light gun would be able to stop the streltsy.  How wrong I was.  The Muscovites charged through an ineffective closing volley from the musketeers and a close range shot from the gun.  In the melee they inflicted 5 casualties but only suffered one and in no time my musketeers were heading for the rear.  Sweeping on the streltsy then sent a moloisty unit packing and it was only the streltsy going 'shaken' which gave me a chance to recover.

The first infantry clash
Fortunately my right flank cavalry was doing better.  The Poles were better equipped to deal with the Muscovite cavalry and the Tartar archers managed to disrupt the Muscovite advance just enough to give me an edge in the melees

The rush for the exit

Success for the Pancerni
Once order had been restored in the centre the Cossack infantry advanced.  They outnumbered the Muscovite infantry and managed to make good  progress  The only unit showing any resistance was that of the border musketeers which avoided hand to hand conflict in favour of long range musketry.

By the end of the game each sides left wing was in trouble (that of the Cossacks being worse than their opponents); whilst fighting in the centre had stalled as units attempted to recover from the casualties they had received.  Steve and I agreed on a draw as the right result.

The high water mark of the Cossack advance
For our game we used 'standard' 24 figure units for the streltsy, soldatski and musketeers, whilst the moloisty were 'large' with 32 figures.  The levy cavalry were standard size (10 or 12 figures) but because of their lack of training operated in a two rank formation reducing them to 'small' size for melee.

The army list we used was an unofficial supplement called 'Edge of Empire' which can be found here, many thanks to Thaddeus for taking the time to produce it.

Russian levy cavalry

Sunday, 4 December 2016

RECON at Pudsey

This weekend saw the last wargames outing of the year to the Pudsey show.  Steve and I were putting on the Chesterfield game which had an outing at St Helens .  We only managed to persuade one member of the public to join in, but once again the rules proved themselves.  Even though he was new to the rules our 'guinea pig' soon picked them up and thoroughly enjoyed the game.

Ferrers and Wake enter the fray

The knights prepare to charge

Greystoke's men supported by archers
Of course there were other games on view.  The larger games were upstairs.  I was particularly taken by a splendid fantasy game.  It used the Dragon Rampant rules and a wide variety of troops

In a more 'traditional' style was a WWII beach landing.  Plenty of 'hardware' was on view and the Allies were having a tough time establishing a bridgehead.

As usual there were plenty of traders in the main hall covering a wide range of products.  However, there seemed to be fewer visitors than in previous years and certainly it quietened down after lunch. Overall, a successful day out.  Many thanks to Will and Bob for helping Steve and I with the game, also to Dave for 'refreshments'.

Monday, 28 November 2016

A Fictional ECW scenario for Pike and Shotte

We have been looking at the 'sweeping advance' rule in Pike and Shotte and Steve came up with some alternative mechanisms.  In place of the sweeping advance he proposed a pursuit move which would be different for the different categories of mounted troops (Caracole, Horse and Gallopers).  Caracole would be very unlikely to pursue, and Gallopers almost certain to, with Horse somewhere in between. There would also be a modifier for the rating of the brigade commander.  To try them out he devised a fictional ECW scenario in which two opposing forces meet.  The Royalists are slightly stronger in cavalry and have better commanders, the Parliamentarians have more foot and a higher proportion of musketeers.

The Royalist infantry
A roll of the dice allocated the Royalist command to me and I deployed with cavalry on the wings and infantry in the centre.  My intention was for the cavalry to advance, drive off their opponents and then threaten the flanks of the Parliamentary foot.  At this point my infantry would advance to complete our victory.  With Prince Rupert commanding the cavalry what could go wrong?

Steve also deployed conventionally with infantry in the centre and cavalry on the wings and so we started the first move.  It was at this point that Lady Luck decided that it was time she went on holiday (at least as far as the Royalist cause was concerned).  Rupert's men failed to move; on the opposite wing one unit surged forward, but the rest failed to follow suit.  In  the centre, the foot plodded up the hill with the artillery, before establishing themselves in position to await the Parliamentary foot.

The Parliamentary cavalry await their orders
Steve managed to get more of his cavalry moving, but his dragoons resolutely held their ground ignoring all orders to advance.  After a couple of moves the cavalry did come to blows but, refusing to adhere to the script my dashing troopers were constantly bettered by their opponents and when falling back disordered their supports.  In no time at all half my cavalry were disordered, with two more Shaken.  The only fresh units were trapped on the baseline behind their defeated comrades. Disaster was only averted by Steve's units also being shaken.

Parliamentary foot advance with a light gun in support

One of the many cavalry melees
It was not all doom and gloom, I did win two cavalry melees; but the victories proved to be poisoned chalice.  In the first, my victorious troopers charged off in pursuit of their defeated foes and ignoring all orders to pull up disappeared into the distance, probably to the nearest inn.  The other victorious unit did not pursue (it was shaken), was charged by a nearby enemy unit and utterly routed in the ensuing melee.  To complete the job, it then disordered a couple of units before leaving the table.

Astley's foot in position
 With my cavalry being below par, it was up to the foot to show a bit of resolve.  Astley had put them at the foot of the hill with the artillery able to fire over their heads.  When the parliamentary foot advanced into range the opening volleys were fired and were a little ragged to say the least.  Although I had two units firing at one opponent casualties were about even.

Another success for the parliamentary cavalry
 Thankfully, we ran out of time at this point, battle will recommence next week, so there is a chance things will even out.

How did the proposed amendments work?  Well, they seem to reflect the tendency for some cavalry to gallop off into the distance rather than stick to their orders and they do present a few more challenges for the Royalist cavalry commanders, trying to control their troops.  However it is early days yet, one outing is not enough to make a decision.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Battle of Lomitten, 5th June 1807; a Shako scenario

This week's scenario was set up to test out our proposed 'tweaks' to the Shako rules to cover actions around redoubts. (set out in the previous post ).  The action is one of several attacks by the Russians under Bennigsen aimed at eliminating French bridgeheads over the Passarge river, in the days prior to the decisive battle of Friedland.

Here is a sketch map of the table with the Russians attacking from the left.  They have two divisions,  (Rachmanov and Bikov), each of 6 battalions.  Another division (Baggowut) of 6 battalions will arrive in d average moves.  Dochtorov also has a cavalry division (Lvov) and two heavy batteries in a redoubt.  The Russian orders are to eliminate the bridgehead and take control of the bridge over the Passarge.

Ferey's position
The French forces are commanded by Carra St Cyr who has two small divisions (Ferey and Chassel) each of four battalions.  In reserve he has one regiment of Chasseurs a Cheval and his position is supported by a field gun in a redoubt across the river.  On a hill to the east of the village of Lomitten are two redoubts connected by a line of earthworks.  Carra St Cyr's orders are flexible, he is to hold his position unless attacked by overwhelming enemy forces; in which case he is to fall back across the river.

The Passarge can only be crossed by the bridge and as the French have held the position for some time.  This has enabled them to construct an abatis in front of the entrenchments and  also construct obstacles in the woods on the French left.

The Russian infantry advance
Seeing that his cavalry will be of little use in the initial phase of the battle, Dochtorov planned a straightforward attack against the entrenchments.  The heavy guns were to soften up the defences prior to the infantry's final charge. Ferey's field gun caused some disruption as the Russians moved forward, but not enough to slow the attack.  Chassel had held his troops within the woods until the Russians came abreast of his position, he then advanced and threatened their flank.  Bikov turned half his division to meet this new threat whilst the remainder plodded forward.  Rachmanov's men had by now reached the abatis and were suffering from musketry volleys and canister shot.  Undeterred, they gathered themselves and charged the emplacements.  The 1st battalion of the 54th Line had taken casualties from the Russian heavy guns and were unable to stop the avalanche of Russian infantry.  Fortunately, Ferey had placed his infantry reserve (2nd battalion 54th line ) in support and they were able to re-establish the French line.

The Russians cross the entrenchments
Dochtorov had directed Baggowut's division to help Bikov and their combined strength overwhelmed Chassel.  The attack was joined by Lvov's cavalry and they destroyed a French battalion before it could form square.

The Russian Hussars strike

Only two much depleted battalions made it back into the woods and they would be unable to stop any Russian flanking manoeuvre.  On the opposite flank  two attacks by the Alexopol regiment against the redoubt had been repulsed.  A flanking move by the 1st battalion 8th legere  was countered by the New Ingermanland regiment, but that unit now found itself the target for the French artillery on the west side of the Passarge.

With Baggowut moving through the woods, Bikov now prepared to join the general assault on the French entrenchments.  Ferey now had only two full strength battalions, the remaining three had taken significant casualties.  He felt he had done all he could and so ordered a withdrawal across the river, covered by the Chasseurs.

The scenario only took a couple of hours to play, so we re-ran it after lunch which resulted in a similar result, but with heavier losses to the Russians.  The high spot of the Russian attack was when the 1st battalion Lithuania regiment carried the left hand French redoubt.

Lithuania take the redoubt
Overall the redoubt rules worked well.  The skirmisher type fire had some effect and the all round fire meant that they could fire into the flank of any enemy unit which crossed the earthworks.  In addition they were hard to take, but could be reduced by gun fire and the garrison reduced by close range musket volleys.  Redoubts do not feature on many battlefields and so our rules for them are always going to be in the 'optional' category.  Two of the sources I used for the battle Peuchet and Petre both comment on the battered state of the defences due to the Russian bombardment.  We gave them a nominal 5 strength points which was reduced by 'hits'.  Perhaps an extra point could be deducted for each melee fought over the works?  Something to ponder at a later date perhaps.