Friday 6 October 2017

Pikeman's Lament tester

At one time 'The Strategists' shared a fascination for the English Civil War and many a pleasant hour was spent pitting 15mm Freikorps Round-heads against Royalists. The rules in vogue at the time were Forlorn Hope. They fitted the bill but as I recall quite a bit of time was spent adding and subtracting factors and such like and many a game ended in an inconclusive draw. As the clock got closer to midnight, thoughts of work and an early start put an end to further game-play.

With the emphasis on quick-play rules these days Dragons Rampant and its numerous derivatives has gained favour with us for Dark Ages, Medieval / Samurai and now ECW with the Pike and Shot version,  Pikeman's Lament. 
Recently I had the good fortune to purchase a superbly painted and based Royalist ECW 28mm Army at an annual bring and buy. Obviously this rekindled my interest in ECW.
Our first game went surprisingly well considering we had 6 players involved. Fortunately the rules do not differ significantly from the other versions other than unit stats and points values and a number of period flavour special abilities such as the Caracole for trotters and Skirmish /Evade for dragoons.
Detractors from this 'one rule system suits all style of gaming' say that it does not truly represent the specific characteristics and flavour of any period. No doubt there's some truth to that but when you only have 2-3 hours of an evening to assemble the layout array the troops and fight to a conclusion we have found simple does the trick for club nights. Also the rules are easier to remember so you don't have to reinvent the wheel each time.

The game was a simple "line up two relatively even forces against each other in an encounter battle and see how it plays out" type of thing. Purists shield your eyes as you will no doubt spot numerous Royalist flags merrily waving in the breeze on the side of the Parliamentarians.

Royalist lineup

The Parliamentarians arrayed for battle.

The game started auspiciously for the Parliamentarians as their field gun tore a gash through the Royalist foot on their first shot. Much back slapping amongst the gunners...probably just happy the bloody thing didn't blow up in their faces.

Break out the rum boys! Bang on first shot.

The Parliamentarians arrayed themselves in the customary formation of cavalry on each flank and foot in the Centre. The Royalists, having somewhat less cavalry, dispensed entirely with cavalry on their right flank. Instead they chose to array all their cavalry on their left, clearly planning to smash through the enemies cavalry and break through on the centre from the flank whilst holding off the Parliamentarian cavalry with firepower and their sharp pointy pikes on their Right.

Royalist field piece.

The Parliamentarian Left flank cavalry advanced to within pistol range of the Royalist and and successfully activated a caracole attack with the intention of breaking the enemies resolve and forcing them to give ground which would allow a follow up attack while the enemy had their backs to them. Unfortunately for the cavalry the infantry steadfastly held their ground despite murderous point blank fire from the horsemen and some choice anglo saxon cursing. A well aimed return volley sent the cavalry trotting back out of range to regroup in disorder and humiliation. Not a memorable first night appearance for my new troops.

Royalist troops blast away at Parliamentarian cavalry

Sadly for the Parliamentarians their gunners seemed to have been overcome with the success of their first round and decided to break out the rum thus all further shots flew wildly over the heads or fell short of the enemy for the rest of the game. The cooler heads of the Royalist gunners however prevailed and they repeatedly chipped away at the enemies neatly arrayed ranks of foot.

The Royalists cavalry assault on their Left flank was met head on by the Roundhead cavalry who not only held their own but pushed the Royalists back. Several repeat attempts by the Cavaliers met the same fate and as the day wore on it was clear they were a spent force.

In the centre both sides were within musketry range but the superior marksmanship of the Royalist musketeers and the ever increasing casualties from artillery had seriously affected the morale of the Parliamentarians and it was becoming impossible to activate them or rally them. It was clear a collapse in the centre was imminent.

The Parliamentarian cavalry on the their left failed to get back in the fight and repeatedly refused their activation rolls which left the Royalist foot free to move to the Centre to assist their comrades to seal the Parliamentarian's fate.

Royalist Command

Parliamentarian Commander pondering what went wrong?

Cavalry at the trot.
All in all we felt the rules meet our requirements admirably which are:
Quick-play and bloody with no faffing about.
Played to a conclusion in under 3 hours.
Easily digested and remembered.
Minimal book-keeping and referencing factor sheets (Continual adding and subtracting)
Fun, fun, fun!

Sunday 16 April 2017

Easter Bolt Action

Wargaming has taken a bit of a back seat for a while due to work commitments and some great motorcycling weather but with a wet afternoon looming what better way to while away an afternoon than a fast and furious game of Bolt Action with a mate. Some hasty assembly work and a quick spraycoat by Dave ensured that the Allies could add some armour in the form of a Sherman tank to their force.

The game was a simple encounter between mixed armour and infantry elements of US and German forces somewhere in France.

Once objective markers had been placed on either side we began deployment.

Taking the part of the Americans I made a bold dash forward with my half track to cover the crossroad. Two companies of infantry skirted the forest on the left flank heading for the objectives whilst another headed for the ruined building overlooking the crossroad and the remainder of the infantry and my sherman took a wait and watch approach on my right flank.

It wasnt long before the Germans showed their teeth. Their scout car advanced up the road to challenge my half track but fortunately he only managed to inflict a pin on it. On the German left a Panzer IV poked its nose out of the woods and drew a bead on my stationary Sherman. An incredibly lucky shot tore through the turret completely blowing it off its mounting and effectively putting paid to my armour support on that flank....great.

Dave's Germans took a more cautious approach preferring to defend their objectives whilst pushing forward on their left to seek out my objectives.

By turn 4 Dave still hadn't suceed in dealing to my half track and the half track's HMG was having little effect on his scout cars armour, however my bazooka team made a courageous break from cover to loose off a shot from round the corner of a building at his scout car. Kaboom!... a direct hit.
There's a lesson here...bazookas are lethal. Thay have a handy range combined with massive armour penetration and have the advantage of stealth. I will be adding another team to my force in future.

Meanwhile, on my left flank my one of my companies had made it to the cover of the stone wall facing the copse with one of the objectives whilst the other unit, who were furiously sprinting across the open field wer the target of a lethal fusilade from the forest directly in front of them. The germans inflicted 3 casualties forcing me to go to ground.
Some good news though was that my mortar had zeroed in on the germans in the other copse and landed a round directly on them taking out two of them. This unsettled my opponent somewhat as this would make defence of his objective untenable at this rate.

The Germans, realising that my right flank was weak decided to throw caution to the wind and make a thrust to capture my lightly defended objective. It fell to a company of GI's entrenched behind a stone wall to hold them up. With the combined firepower of the Panzers machine guns and his wickedly effective infantry MMG's the GI's days were numbered.

My only hope of success was to push on with my assaults on his objectives on the Left.
I had three companies in position notwithstanding the fact that the one in the open field was pretty stuffed, despite exhortations and desperate attempts by my 1st Lieutenant to rally them! It was turn 6 and I had to act fast so I threw my relatively fresh company who had advanced to the edge of the copse into a close assault with the fanatical nazis tenaciously defending their objective marker. A furious melee erupted but sadly the GI's were no match for the Germans and despite what I hoped were overwhelming numbers they were wiped out by those nasty men in their pea pattern camo smocks. With no hope of me seizing an objective and Dave with his hands practically on an objective it was clearly a German victory. Well fought Dave and looking forward with anticipation to the next encounter.

I must say that Bolt Action V2 has really rekindled my enjoyment of WW2 skirmish level gaming. It's perfect for those midweek games where time is critical because the forces are small, setup is quick and game length rarely exceeds 3 hours.

Oh well must fly... I have to send off an urgent order for more bazookas ;-)

Sunday 16 October 2016

First Bolt Action Version 2 game

Having just finished some American Paras and US infantry it seemed a perfect opportunity to try them out against Dave's Late war Germans. A quick read of the new Bolt Action 2 rules and we were straight into it with numerous references to the rules to nut out the finer points. As usual with any first time trial of a new set of rules we failed to reach a conclusion and only got through four moves but even at this early stage it was becoming apparent that the Americas were heading for a hiding thanks to a reckless move with their Stuart which paid the price for getting too close to a panzerfaust and a succession of rubbish dice rolls. The Germans moved rapidly into the village to take up a strong defensive position with good fields of fire whilst the Americans struggled to make headway through the hedgerows. As soon as they emerged fom cover they were cut down by accurate enemy fire.The American Forward Observer repeatedly failed to zero the artllery in on target which didnt help matters.
Although we ran out of time we did get a good handle on the new rules and were particularly impressed with the new command rule "you men snap to attention" which allows your HQ command officer to draw up to  four additional command dice depending on rank when his dice is drawn. My first Lieutenant was allowed 2 dice and a command radius of 6" whilst a Major would be allowed 4 dice and a command radius of 12 inches.

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Sharp Practice up the Khyber

For our second game of Sharp Practice we chose the North West Frontier. We have gamed this using a Colonial adaptation of Bolt Action and also Black Powder but we thought Sharp Practice would lend itself well to the size forces we have at our disposal. The forces were calculated using the Army List kindly made available on the Blog, rabbitsinmybasement.

The scenario was an attack defender game with the British launching a punitive raid on the naughty Tribesmen of the Nobugagozeer Valley in retaliation for stealing the Regimental goat and comitting unspeakable atrocities on said beast of which I am loathe to speak of in polite company.

The Brits, led by Major Cedric Raxworthy, comprised a mixed force of Brit regulars, Highlanders and Native infantry with a mountain gun for good measure.

The natives were the usual mixed bag of deadly jezail-armed sharp shooters and spear chuckers with big choppers under the command of the old sheep shagger himself Ahmed el Khazi.

Once again we ran out of time due to still checking the core rules for clarifications when we encountered a situation we had not yet encountered and the fact that we were introducing a new player to the rules. We are confident we have a firm grasp on the rules after this game so we intend to refight this to a conclusion next week.

Despite this we still managed to play around 6 changes of deck or 'Chapters' and had a rousing good time...more so for the Brits as their rapid and disciplined fire made mincemeat of the brazen tribesmen who inexpicably decide to go on the offensive rather than taking advantage of the excellent terrain and exposed themselves, if you'll pardon the expression.

As in our last we game we quickly learned that successful application of your leaders and command cards can be utterly devastating to your opponent if you get it right.
In one memorable instance the British Native infantry unleashed a controlled and crashing volley on a formation of tribesmen at close range and followed up with a round of cannister from the mountain gun inflicting 4 kills and no less than 12 shock.

Next time we play this I am going to have a go with the natives but I intend to keep some troops aside near the deployment point to launch an Ambuscade and will adopt a strictly defensive stance hoping to eat away at the attacker with deadly fire from cover to such an extent that he will be played out by the time he makes it to the village as happened in the last two NW games weve played. Another good option for the defender would be fire from cover them melt back towards another section of cover and repeat the process.

Now the obligatory pics:

Saturday 20 August 2016

Sharp Practice ACW, Old School style.

I imagine you could count the number of wargamers who game in 54mm scale on well,..several hands actually, but really, I'm sure the numbers are small compared to their diminutive 28mm practitioners. It does require a somewhat larger table and a lot more paint.  I have to say however the pleasure derived from playing with these giants is enormous. I assume it's something to do with nostalgia and diminishing eyesight but I've really taken a liking to these chaps. There's something quaint and charming about a line of steadfast 54mm warriors  marching down a road or defending a stone wall much the same as H.G Well's famous Little Wars lead forefathers did. Crikey!!.. gone a bit sentimental and soppy there..whoa! give yourself a good slap and get to the bloody point.

What I really want to share is my first ACW game of Sharp Practice V:2 in 54mm scale

As it was our first game both I and my opponent Dave had a bit of a learning curve coping with the interpretation of the rules, in particular the activation and command aspects. The basic stuff like movement, firing and fisticuffs is really very simple and quickly becomes intuitive. I feel that a couple more games will see us up to speed. Certainly the demo clips put out by the Lardies and viewable on Youtube are excellent to get you started. This is my first foray into card based movement and command mechanisms but I am pleasantly surprised how well they works. There a lot of subtle nuances and clever stuff imbedded in these rules that become apparent as the game progresses. I think these rules admirably fill the gap between small scale hardcore skirmish games with a handful of figures and full scale battles with a cast of several hundreds. An average force is around 50 figures plus a few characters and maybe a gun as an optional addition.

I wont inflict a blow by blow account of every dice roll and morale test of the game but will instead share some of the highlights and jolly it along with a narrative which bears just the merest resemblance to what actually happened.


The table looking North:

The battlefield is a relatively flat lanscape interspersed with forests, swampy marshland, fields, stone walls a crossroads and intersected East to West by Hickory Creek, currently at a low ebb due to glorious Summer weather.

We played the encounter scenario with the Union force under Colonel Kinleith (Me) arriving on the Western side and the Rebs under the venerable Colonel Ambose T Scrivener (Dave) arriving from the East.
I tried to make the terrain as even as possible with equal amounts of broken ground, forest, swamp, walls and fences etc. Note the home made garden twig trees bordering the swamp to the East. Cheap and cheerful and made in less than two hours.

Pre Battle Narrative
The story goes that a Union Vanguard is forging ahead to secure a clear passage for the main Army and to make contact with enemy forces. Funnily enough the Rebel commander has the same idea. The scene is set for a punch up.

The forces are not completely by the book and frankly the writers encourage you to mix it up a bit anyway so don't get too hung up on points and other such nonsense. The Lardies prerequisite with these rules is to have fun and encourage a story line which appeals to me a lot. Also we wanted to keep things fairly straight forward till we have a good grasp of the rules. Morale was diced for giving the Union the edge on 10 and the Rebs a rating of 9

Union forces
C in C Colonel Thomas Kinleith
10th Maine: 3 x groups 7 men, 1 x leader &1 x subordinate leader attached.
5th Ohio Coloured Volunteers: 2 x groups x 8 men, 1 x Leader
12th Wisconsin: 8 x skirmishers, 1 x Leader
6th Ohio Artillery: 1 x medium smoothbore field piece.

C in C Colonel Ambrose.T.Scrivener
16th Georgia: 3 x 7 men, 1 x Leader
4th Indiana: 2 x 8 men, 1 x Leader
3rd Carolina Cavalry 7 x men, 1 x Leader
20th Alabama Artillery: 1 x Medium smoothbore field piece.

Deployment points were decided by dice rolls and unfortunately the Confederate deployment point was very close to a wood which somewhat hindered deployment. The Union fared better with mostly open country and a lovely smooth road to march straight up the middle. Thankfully it wasn't the swamp to their Right Flank. The game allows you to opt for multiple deployment points and I think I would go for this approach next game.

The Georgians lost no time in advancing to the edge of the wood whilst the Indianans moved round to their right to take up position behind the stone wall to secure a solid defensive position on the flank. Their gun and cavalry struggled forward at a less than hasty pace due to the broken terrain and less than helpful movement dice.

The Union shook out in good order with the Ohians advancing in column up the road, the Maine men moving in open columns up the centre. The Maine leader opted to split off a group from the formation under the command of Lt Robards to secure the stone wall by the crossroads to their front and cover the advance.  The artillery galloped forward to get into action asap to support the advance. The Wisconsins spread out in open skirmish order on the left flank.

The Ohians soon came under fire from the Rebels in the treeline to their front taking a number of early casualties and suffering 6 shock points. Fortunately Capt Lewis managed to rally off some shock and with the aid of command cards and got them into position behind a stone wall and formed up ready to return a steady fire.

The Rebs then directed their well aimed volleys towards the large mass of Col Robards Maine troops shredding the packed ranks with deadly fire. The Maine boys took 5 casualties and 7 points of shock, These were spread between the formation and fortunately their morale held but things couldn't continue like this for long.

The Rebs go Wild!
It was at this point that a random action occured due to three conseqeutive command cards being drawn. It fell to the Confederate commander to make a throw on the random event chart. The Rebs clearly had their dander up after witnessing the devastation they had inflicted on the Yankees and the Georgians surged out of the woods a double move whooping and hollering the fearsome Rebel Yell in an uncontrollable charge towards the Maine men.

One I prepared earlier

Not ideal as it turned out as this allowed the Ohians behind the wall and the group of Maine troops by the crossroads to unleash crashing volleys which stopped the Georgians in their tracks killing 4 men and inflicting 7 shock. Wisely their Colonel withdrew them to the cover of the woods to regroup.

By now the Union artillery had unlimbered, loaded and and drew a bead on the still deploying Confedearate artillery. Their first round was bang on and two Reb gunners were cut down.

The unfortunate Alabama artllerists.

Trusty Britain's Napoleon smoothbore still going strong.

Thanks to continuing rubbish movement rolls the Carolinan Cavalry dithered about finally emerging from the wood and setting off at the canter towards the crossroadswith the intention of cutting down the isolated Maine group behind the stone wall and hopefully push on to take out that damned gun.

Both sides seemed content at this point to settle down to trading volleys but the Union had a decided advantage thanks to having the bulk of their troops formed up behind stone walls and a good run of command cards which allowed them to rally off shock points and maximise their firing. The Wisconsins in particular did deadly work ably assisted by their colloured comrades.

The reluctant Carolina Cavalry

Yet another telling round from the Union artillery put paid to the unfortunate Alabama Artillerists killing all the gunners. We were both thoroughly enjoying ourselves but time had whizzed by and we decided to call it quits. It was decided that due to the Unions strong position they had scored a minor victory however if they were to secure their objectives this would involve some costly advances across open ground in the teeth of an enemy well dug in and still in pretty good shape.

In conclusion both Dave and I rate the rules highly. They deliver a fun and challenging game with plenty of excitement and some forward planning with your deployment and allocation of command cards can really have a big impact on your performance. You really feel like you're down there on the field with your troops issueing orders and facing the fog of batttle and whiff of powder. Bear in mind we are a long way off being fully up to speed as there is mountains of additional stuff that we can bring into the games such as characters and unit characteristics.  I dont think die-hard 'proper' wargamers will appreciate the loss of control caused by random events and the narrative role-play style of the game does not appeal to all tastes as a bit of imagination is required. Hey, war isnt scripted and there are numerous examples of unexpected events completely changing the course of a battle.... there's always chess I suppose.