Sunday, 21 January 2018

1758 the Battle at Bickeringen

What is worse than playing Napoleonics for the umpteen‘s time? Play testing an alleged new-set-of-rules-to-be with an umpire that never was.  So we had an weekend game and we took our 28mm Seven years war stuff (I took my AWI Hessians, posing as SYW Hessians), and helped Angus to play test his new SYW-whats-its-called rules loosely base on GdB (or GdA??).

So we fought with 3 gun batteries, 10 Infantry battalions (plus skirmisher) each side. The Hessians (me and later Bart) had 4 Cavalry units while the French (Campbell and the Umpire and "Rule-editor" Angus) had the upper hand with 6 Cavalry units. They also had mysteriously Grenadiers while all mine were degraded to normal units, to even out my, from my opponents point of view, psychologically perceived Infantry advantage. Sometimes its nice to be feared.

The set up was box standard, the Horse at the sides and the brigades in the centre. The French opened with flankanking pincer attacks with their Horse, but failed due to a hideously weird charge roll. Then I decided to do a bold move and to turn my left Cavalry towards my right (oblique order you know, never mind). Nothing too weird, surely a good set of SYW rules could accommodate a Frederician move like this? It turns out that not. Even with rule adaptions ad hoc loci, my Light Dragoons seem to travel light years to get to the other side, while the French attack just "beamed" through a wooded hill. Scotty, this planet sucks!

More often than not, a charge would end up in disarray (disordered) and even one, for me crucial, charge was that good, fast, devilishly and at supersonic speed, that my degraded (and probably deranged) grenadiers were too shocked and upset to give even one single first volley! They probably forgot to load. Its funny with what people come up with, one time the distance might be too short to get ready to fire a volley, the other time its too short for the cavalry really to speed up, we will never know for sure ...

If you would ask my tin-lead miniature commander on the field, he would probably have said something along these lines: This was a shambolic performance of these two more or less completely drunk Reichs armies! So-called trained soldiers were more often than not too scared of oncoming attackers, that they didn‘t hit home and left even in disorder – a truly new re-definition of the good old linear warfare, were "men stood up against each other" in a psychological shoot down – who would broke first ... well, who would have guessed that it was mostly right at the start, hm?

Or more likely, the rules aren't up for what thy should be. I‘m not interested in more "friction" (for that I would recommend sex on a sandy beach!) And yes SYW needs more than Napoleonics, but also quick moves. Frederick invented the cavalry shock tactics, here it seemed the French did. While designing a game, one has not only be aware of history and game fun (two lines diametrical to each other), but also to be aware of what do I actually want to play? Its natural, although the higher echelons of the trade even manage to shorten that, that Fire and Melee due to the various boni will end up in matrix checking (lists licking, I call it). But when Movement and Command phases degrade into this, I become easily bored. You have to give those little (tin) soldiers some slack. Do you really want to micro manage all battalions? Isn't there a base line that we all can agree these soldiers have enough experience and drill to get it? At least the Prussians were famous for having it.

The initial set up
The outnumbering French cavalry (6 units)
The Hessian Left flank (2 of 4 Cavalry units) 
The French right flank attacks! 
My 1st artillery battery in disarray because of the skirmisher
The French Cavalry attack on the right flank ends up in disarray too
Some Irish in Louis pay try to attack  
The Hessian centre advance
Battle in mid-swing 
My left flank deteriorates
the centre gets hit but holds
the lines are exchanging fire, charges fail ... 
my Left on the retreat to stabilise 
in the centre still no movement
My skirmishers get the hits just like in the good old Napoleonic's 
The right flank gets finally my combined cavalry units!!
The French Grenadiers attack (or not) and the Cavalry rides down my line regiment before thy even know it  ... my left flank is no more due to one charge roll
My field guns enfilade the French on short range, but yet again miraculously Nothing devastating happens 
Slowly the French left flank is crumbling, but time is saving the French (yet again)
The French Heavy Hussars before my open flank
The French left (our right) flank crumbles finally ...

Friday, 19 January 2018

Some bloody tin can opening in Normandy shortly after 900AD

The realm has long fallen apart and descended into chaos. Raiders are threatening from all sides, the Saracens, the Magyars and the Vikings, are plundering and penetrating deep into the heart of the once proud civilisation. France is long in the state of perpetual unrest and civil war. The Vikings have festered in the "Normandy", a piece of coast now called after them. Some of them were given titles and land that they swore an oath of allegiance to the King and Emperor (who ever that might turn out to be...). Other "dukes" though are envious of their likes' power and status and no one else is more prone to feuds than the Normans of said region themselves.

Henri the Red is holding a large swath of land and is deemed a favourite of the King. Who has asked him to sent his best men to aid to decide the fight for the title of the Emperor. But that left Henri‘s power base too lightly defended.

So Rolund, also a Norman noble, with old family ties in Danemark wants to seize the opportunity to enlarge his fiefdom with a little help of his cousin Rolf and his Viking mercenary war bands.  Henri is only able to raise the rest of his retinue and calls for the levies of his lands ...

So we dabble again with a little help of Hail Caesar into the 28mm Dark Age again, Bart playing Rolund, the Norman ursurper and his Danish helper, Rolf, while I‘m defending King and Emperor with my Normans and a bunch (140) peasants/levies. Roland and Rolf were two armies and Rolf would after loosing two units (of 4) either just defend or totally leave the field. basically we both fielded our complete collections ... nice feeling ...

Bart first stayed in perfect line while I tried a pincer movement with my two flanks, in my soft centre I had my bishop with 140 peasants ... some arrows and some shield clattering later my Commander unleashed the Cavalry and a Norman metal clash was developing over the tiny river on my right flank. At the same my levies advanced bravely in the centre. They did‘t have armour or shields, so no morale save, so each of Bart‘s hits were actually casualties, ouch.

Then on the left, my Norman Infantry met the Viking Berserker supported Hirdmen in a fabulous "Shield wall" clash!!!! We decided that "Shield wall" was another useful rule just for all Vikings or Heavy infantry Normans. Movement would be halved, attacks against it would suffer -1 melee and ranged weapons, and it would give an extra +1 to morale saves and act as an extra support in the battle resolve. Still we suffered immense losses, but both walls would hold.

In fact even the "very bloody" cavalry exchange on the right flank (just one units with 5 casualties standing at each side), just led to an overall draw. I defeated 1 unit more than Bart and even after a very nasty blunder one of his Normans are nearly off board, we still agreed on a draw – my soft centre of peasant was just that and slowly melting away... a good buffer and as permeable as a giant amoeba, but not with long lasting standing power.

Ah, and Bart nearly lost his Rolund, he got wounded after his Norman Knights were skewered and floating down the river ...

And nearly a novum, ten minutes before ten, Bart wanted to "withdraw" with his last cavalry unit!!! Unheard of! So I persuaded him to attack, he lost, hey thats life!

The left flank of my Norman knights on foot

and my right flank with the heavy horse

The complete set up at start 
Bart right flank with the vicious Vikings! 
and the archery centre
And his right flank with his knights
First two milites clash!
Even one directly in the river!

Casualties are mounting, knights are flying off the horses! 
meanwhile the fluffy centre advance

The battle in mid-swing

My heavy infantry‘s first ever shield wall action!

Bart‘s counter attack on my centre
it suffers but it holds (somehow) 
The shield walls are pushing

With the Lord clearly in our favour 

or not ... in the distance more Vikings gather ...

Barts last Norman cavalry disappeared ...

Friday, 12 January 2018

Rendezvous with the Menapii sharp at 57BC a stone precisely next to the Ardennes

It was Ancients (28mm,  To the Strongest) and Angus and Campbell were representing the Flamic and Wallonian ancestors of that rough little patch we today call Belgium. While me and Peter were the Roman intruders, the willing henchmen of that obnoxious little man at the end of the Republican era called Ceasar, famous for torturing thousands of students of the classics in upcoming centuries with his apologetic propaganda material just to cross one little river ...

Angus had set up the forces quite traditionally in parallel lines and the two cavalry contingents opposing each other. The plan is always simple - avant! So Campbell, l as he was outnumbered, he tried to avoid my "tougher" Gallic Cavalry and charged directly into my light Numidian horsemen ... ouch.

Peter and Angus were up for a sluggish infantry havoc match, each hacking units (points) apart for the most time of the battle. What shall I say ... the Non-Romans were giving a tough fight, but still melted away more or less. It was first a near draw that then ended in a slight Roman strategical victory, as me and Peter were having exceptionally bad luck with drawing the right cards.

Unimaginable terror would have befallen the Menapii, if we would have had the right cards and probably the crosses would have been lining up a bit earlier ... hach, civilisation ... what a conversational topic that is. (No, we will abstain from any comparison between any other known historical empires, ... you have to have a "Caesar" first, and then at least an cordial or mutual agreement with a local "Pontifex Maximus" ... but that is another conversation ...)

While the rules are fun and rather simple, so were the strategic/tactical/operational requirements to handle these forces on the field. Who would risk an open battle with a much more sophisticated military power? Only clueless barbarians for sure. While I'm still waiting for ancients rules not based cinematographic entertainment and pondering how a Germanic units of the black painted Harii would look like... ;)

The Roman line and their Castra 
My flanking Horse Officer

the dirty Legion

The colourful Belgians

Throw your Pilum before the enemy throw himself at you! 
The Numidian are getting caught in a charge ...

The lines are closing in

the battle

some light horse survived ..

but them my "heavier" Gauls were attack in the flank ...

with the help of the rest of the African Light Cavalry

while in  the centre the slaughtering continued ...

ebb and flow ....

the barbaric lines are beginning to thin out

The Belgian Cavalry (already off picture)... slaughtered by my Numidians

The Romans press for the end game

The "Belgians"request more Trappist beer

The Belgian cavalry  lord pondering where his horses went ...

Peters flank ... a hack and slay

slowly the lines getting broken  ....

the last ditch attempt of some war bands to get to the Roman campus

... but been drawn away from the fight by a Cavalry flight ...

so near and yet so far ...

last war band without significance standing ...