Sunday 13 September 2015

Honours of War - the '45 Rebellion

As planned Dave and I had a go at using Honours of War for the '45 Jabobite Rebellion earlier this week. We decided to run the mini-campaign from the Black Powder supplement 'The Last Argument of Kings'. Now I know very little about this period other than the 'Battle of Culloden' and most of that from a film we saw at school, shot in a reportage style with an American reporter IIRC. So this would be yet another new perioed for me to game this year.

Troop Types
From our discussions the existing troop types would all work nicely, with the exception of the Highlanders (see below). For this kick-off game we broadly had:
  • The Jacobites with Standard troops but Dithering commanders.
  • The Hanoverians with Inferior troops but Dependable commanders.
This seemed to about right for the start of the '45, but there were a few units and commanders that differed from the above.

For the Clansmen we were guided by some thoughts from Keith Flint, the author, at the start, but tweaked a few things as the game progressed. In the end we came up with the following:
  • Move as Light Infantry.
  • Massed Formation. In essence they form a Double Line to represent the mass of kilted mayhem. +1 to hit as per the additional artillery modifier for 2 deep cavalry line.
  • Shoot as Inferior Line.
  • After their first volley, they must charge into combat if at all possible. This represents their tactic of massed volley followed by a charge.
  • In close combat they roll on as Standard infantry.
  • Point of Honour. The Highlanders on the far right flank count as Superior infantry in the charge to represent the best clan taking the postion of honour.

The Game - A Sort of Prestonpans
Both sides started off the table. The Jacobites simply had to exit the table as quickly as possible, but without suffering more than 50% casualties. Anymore and the Rebellion might be over before it really started. For the Hanoverians they had to delay the Jacobites for as long as possible and inflict as many casualties as they could, to allow the the garrison of Edinburgh Castle to prepare themselves for the Rising of the Clans.

As we were sort of playtesting this period, I didn't make any notes and only took a few pics. So some notes to the pics will hopefully give an idea of how the game played.

The Jacobites took some time to get their troops moving, largely down to the poor quality of the commanders. They put their cavalry and the French on the right to try and move round the Hanoverian flank, relying upon the Lowland Scots and the Highlanders to tie down the Hanoverian centre. The Hanoverians for their parts amanged to manouevre quickly into position, with the flanks anchored by the woods and the hill, with a small reserve. Their Dragoons deployed on their left flank to try and counter the movement of the Jacobites cavalry. 

The Hanoverian cannon deployed at the end of either line to try and gain maximum fields of fire. The Line await the mass of Jacobite troops that are advancing towards them.
The Hanoverians gained the advantage of firing first, seeing the demise of the Jacobite centre, which kept running after receiving a 'whiff of grapeshot'. Despite this the Jacobites still presented a formidable threat to the Hanoverian Line, that had to move to meet the attack going in against their right wing on the hill. After some fierce fighting, the Jacobites took control of the hill, but at the cost of losing too many troops, leaving them too weak to push onto Edinburgh. On the Hanoverian right flank, the cavalry fought each other to a standstill, whilst the French arrived too late to alter the outcome of the battle.
The Hanoverian commanders look on as their troops are posied for victory, albeit it a somewhat Pyrrhic one.
Post Game Thoughts
Well in the end quite a close run thing and the Hanoverians suprisingly survived the massed ranks of the Jacobite Clans attacks. We were both pleased with how the game went and the rules worked really well for the '45. As mentioned above, we tweaked the rules for the Highlanders as we went along, but not to the point that they affected the outcome of the game. So a few thoughts as always:
  • The poor quality of the Jacobite commanders told in the end. It took some time for them to really get going, allowing the Hanoverians to defeat them in detail. Some poor die rolling by Dave didn't help in the Rally phase, where a series of 1's saw the Jacobite centre continue to retreat off the table after receiving one Turn of grapeshot and volley fire. We blamed this on Dave using a Hanoverian commander to control his centre. Obviously they had no faith in him or simply could not understand his accent!
  • In contrast the Hanoverians, despite having Inferior troops, were able to have the upper hand for most of the battle. This was especially true of the Firing phase, as they got a +1 to their die roll. 
  • This period is certainly very colourful, with the ability to make the Jacobites a very distinctve looking army. Add in pikes, Lochaber axes, swords and targes and you have a great looking army (Just don't expect me to paint them in tartan).
  • For those that are interested, Pendraken do a nice range of Jacobites, with the Hanoverians simply coming from their Marlburian or SYW ranges.

So the next game will be in a few weeks time, with the Hanoverians most likely trying to capitalise on their victory. In the mean time I plan to try and get a solo game in set in the AWI, but again using the 'Honours of War' rules. These will be with my Kreigspiel blocks as my figures are still a 'work in progress', which is sadly true of most of my projects. I will use the Black Powder 'Rebellion!' supplement as my guide.

Thursday 3 September 2015

Sie werden nicht durchkommen! (They shall not pass!)

Having played plenty of games of 'Honours of War' of late, with Prussians vs Austrians, it was time for a change. So in a moment of madness, I decided that I wanted to give the Reichsarmee a run out. Why? Well for no other reason than I like a challenge and an army that has a contingent that consisted of "the Abbess of Gutenzell's single horseman" has to be cool. At least that's my view!

When looking for a suitable scenario I dug out my copy of 'Programmed Wargames Scenarios' by CS Grant. I bought this a few years ago and have been meaning to give it a go ever since. A quick re-read and this book would certainly provide a nice challenge for both Dave and I. In short I would know the terrain that I would be fighting over (as the defender) but not the type nor quantity of troops that I would be facing. Dave was in a similar position but only had a broad idea of the terrain. 

Scenario Details
The Prussians have been victorious in a previous battle and the Reichsarmee has been tasked with fighting a delaying action, to allow the Austrian forces time to re-group. They have chosen a hilly area where a pass runs between the hills with the main road running through it. The Prussians advancing in Line-of-March cannot afford to be delayed by the Reichsarmee and so must brush them aside as quickly as possible, but without incuring too many losses to render them hors de combat.

Reichsarmee Forces
1 x General (Dithering)
3 x Brigade Commanders (Dithering)
6 x Line Infantry
1 x Dragoons
1 x Hussars
2 x Medium Guns

(Note that all Reichesarmee troops for this scenario are classed as Inferior)

Prussian Forces
1 x General (Dependable)
3 x Brigade Commanders (2 x Dashing, 1 x Dependable)
6 x Line Infantry
2 x Light Infantry (Independent units)
2 x Cuirassiers (Superior units)
1 x Hussars (Independent unit)
2 x Medium Guns

Table Layout
The layout was 3' x 2' and was generated by random die rolling on the table chart in the book. The Reichsarmee deployment zone broadly covered both hills, through the village to the wood at the top of the table. The Prussians would enter via the road in the bottom left hand corner.

The Reichsarmee already deployed, with the Prussians formed up 'off board'. Astute readers will note some 6mm PzIIIs and PzIVs already on the table, part of the Prussian PsyOps to upset the already delicate Reichsarmee.

Turn 1
The Prussian vanguard of Light Infantry quickly moved onto the table, deploying towards the wood. The flank guards of the cavalry, seeing the Reichsarmee on the hill, move en masse to their left flank to allow space for the main body of troops to deploy. The Reichsarmee chose not to move and just to sit and wait to see how the Prussian main body deployed. The medium gun in the village shot at the head of the Prussian column, causing one hit.

The Prussian column of march clearly in view as the Reichsarmee waits somewhat nervously to see how things develop...

Turn 2
The Prussians continued to advance, with the Light Infantry moving through the wood and their cavalry swinging round further to their left flank, to potentially threaten the Reichsarmee Dragoons and Hussars on the hill. The main body deployed to the right flank to be in a position to make a co-ordinated attack on the Reichsarmee left flank on the hill.

The Reichsarmee wait patiently as the Prussians shake out from their Line-of-March.
Turn 3
The Prussians, fully aware of the need for speed, advanced very quickly (an Inspiring command roll) towards the foot of the hill and the Reichsarmee left flank. Not to be outdone the cavalry carried on to manouevre towards the Reichsarmee cavalry, joined by the Light Infantry to possibly support the attack or to threaten the village. The only slight blot on their copy book was the rest of the main body that failed their command roll, meaning they could not advance towards the enemy. In response the Reichsarmee moved a Brigade up the hill as best they could, to strengthen their left flank. The artillery and infantry exchanged fire, but to little effect due to distance and movement modifiers.

The Prussians threaten both wings of the Reichsarmee, but the centre in the village is safe for the present.
The Prussians deployed ready to attack up the hill.

Turn 4
Things start to look very bad for the Reichsarmee as the Prussian right flank advances up the hill and in the ensuing firefight sees the demise of the Reichsarmee medium gun. In response the Reichsarmee moves a Line Infantry Brigade into a better position to give support. Both sides give fire and casualties start to mount. Despite another poor command roll for the Prussian centre, the presence of their General allows them to advance, albeit slowly along the road. On the left flank the cavalry are almost ready to charge home. 

The Reichsarmee is coming under a lot of pressure across its front.
The Prussian attack goes in.
Turn 5
At a crucial point in the game, the Reichsarmee actually won the movement intiative! However in a cruel twist (surely the Gods had abandoned them) the Brigade commander rolled a Feeble command roll, meaning that they had to retreat from their advantageous postion in front of the Prussians. The Prussians, who rolled an Inspiring command roll, were able to advance but without having to charge the enemy, who were just too far away. If the Reichsarmee had been able to stand their ground, then the Prussians would have had to charge in and suffered closing fire in the process. Given many of them were on 2 hits already, it might not have been too pretty for them, but we will never know. In the end the firefight unsuprisingly went the way of the Prussians, who caused the Reichsarmee to fall back off the hill in complete disorder, losing 1 Line infantry unit in the process. In a pyrrhic victory, the Reichsarmee medium gun caused a Prussian unit to fall back in disorder after having given it a whiff of grapeshot in its flank at almost point blank range.

As the pressure mounted on the Riechsarmee left flank, over on the right the Prussian cavalry charged in, easily seeing off the Reichsarmee Dragoons. With only Hussars to stop them the way was almost clear for the cavalry.

The Reichsarmee under pressure from all sides, with plenty of Prussian troops still in reserve.
As losses mount, surely it is only a matter of time before the Prussians can break through as the Reichsarmee are close to becoming hors de combat.

Turn 6
After the last turn, it was only a matter of time before the Prussians broke through. On the left flank, the Prussian Cuirassiers brushed aside the Reichsarmee Hussars, leaving this flank wide open. On the right flank a Prussian Brigade exited the table with ease, whilst in the centre the Light Infantry pushed into the village unapposed and destroyed a Reichsarmee Light infantry unit.

The end is nigh as the Reichsarmee losses mount whilst the Prussians are able to exit the table unapposed.
Attacked on all sides the Reichsarmee simply crumbles in the face of such concerted and effective force.

End of the Game
At the end of the Turn 6 the Reichsarmee had reached its breakpoint, as well as simply being unable to stop the Prussians streaming off the table. Despite a determined effort, they were simply unable to cope with the quality and speed of the Prussian troops and so surrendered rather than take any more losses.

Post Game Thoughts
Well another cracking game of 'Honours of War'. I must say I really, really love these rules. The scenario worked very well and despite it seeming to be so one sided, was great fun to play. So as always a few thoughts:
  • I'm glad I gave the 'Programmed Wargames Scenarios' a run out. They really do make for a different game, even when played with two players. Dave enjoyed the scenario and found it offered a nice challenge. These will definitely get used more often, for solo and multi-player games.
  • The 3' x 2' table worked well in the end. At the start I thought it might be too small, as did Dave. But using the 10mm shooting and movement table it played out just the same as a 6' x 4' table, with plenty of room for manouevre.
  • We both like the unit frontage of 8cm, as it allows a good size game to be played on a 4' x 4' table or smaller. In fact I might rebase my AWI forces to this frontage. Play on a 6' x 4' table and you can create some of the larger battles of the period with relative ease, which is a big bonus for those without large dedicated games rooms.
  • The Reichsarmee are pretty poor, but I really enjoyed playing them. It didn't help my cause by the fact that I rolled 'Dithering' for all of my commanders, coupled with nearly all of the Prussains being 'Dashing'. However as can be seen in Turn 5, if they had just been able to hold their ground, they might have been in a postion to hold out long enough for a win, or at least an honourable draw. I would recommend anyone giving them a go, simply to have fun and for a different challenge.
  • 'Having 'Dashing' commanders is a double edged sword. Roll too well and in the wrong position and then they have to charge the enemy, like it or not!
  • Close combat can be rather bloody and over very quickly, as seen by the cavalry clash on the left flank. As with all things, timing and positioning are crucial in this. 
  • Talking post game Dave and I both feel that these rules would work perfectly well for the American War of Independence. The troops types are all covered, the battles are broadly Linear Warfare still, despite the restrictions of the terrain in the Americas at this time. I for one will certainly be giving these a go for this conflict.

So what next? Well both decided to try these rules with the Jacobite Rebellion next week. We need to sort a few things out, such as how to handle the Highland Clansmen, but nothing that shouldn't be too difficult. Famous last words.....