Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Friday 8 January 2016

Peninsular War Campaign Battle 17: The Battle of Caspe

The Battle of Caspe, early February 1809

General Situation: Palacio is attempting to get to the coast after his defeat at Belchite. but General Junot has been relentless in his pursuit.  Not wishing to risk his horseflesh, Junot has left his cavalry and artillery behind, only to be called on in need, whilst he reduces his logistical problems by using only his infantry.  Palacio, never the most dynamic of leaders, has been caught to the south of Caspe.  He must delay Junot and give himself a chance to break off.  Junot, by contrast, is hoping to entirely destroy the remnants of the Army of Catalonia.  Kellermann's cavalry and the Corps' artillery have sent word they are marching to the sound of the guns...

Order of Battle:

Spanish Forces:

Army of Catalonia (PALACIO): 
Caldagues' Division: 3000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Jacome's Division: 2000 Infantry, 6 Guns 

Total: 5000 Infantry, 12 Guns

Imperial Forces:

VIII Corps (JUNOT): 
Delaborde's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns
Travot's Division: 6000 Infantry, 6 Guns 

Total: 12000 Infantry, 12 Guns

The Deployment:

French in the foreground, Spanish to the back.  Jacome's Division is on the right (Spanish left), Caldagues' Division to the left, centre and rear.  For the French, Travot's Division is to the left, Duhesme's Division is to the right.

View from behind the French left (Travot) towards the hill on the Spanish left

A closer view of the centre: the French numerical superiority is obvious

Duhesme's Division on the right is ready to assault Jacome's Division

And Travot's Division, ready on the right.  Two Irish battalions face them on the left, other Spanish infantry gather around a small farm ready to resist the French.
 The Battle:

As Delaborde's troops move forward, the Spanish withdraw and reform in strsngth on the hill

Travot's troops move slowly forward through the rough fields

The numerical overmantch is greatest on the French left: 8 against 1.  Can the Spanish Irishmen resist??

Duhesme prepares to bludgeon his way through; his artillerymen's aim is true, causing severe casualties to the Spanish infantry

Same position, but you can just see the second red 'shaken' marker through the Spanish ranks indicating the cannonballs striking into the Spanish rearmost battalion

The French take the hill and push the Spanish into the valley below, but at some cost: the veteran French light battalion was devastated and broke as the Spanish infantry delivered a volley worthy of the British guards.  Luckily the second French light battalion was able to carry the summit and the Spanish withdrew to conform....

A mainly artillery duel in the centre, with the Spanish gunners being driven back to avoid the French fire; the supporting Spanish infantry move back slightly too, as Travot prepares to assault.  However, Travot's assault was thrown back with heavy loss, the heaviest loss being Travot himself, grievously injured by Spanish cannister fire.

Delaborde then begins phase two of his assault.  Carried out more neatly than the first assault, the Spanish infantry suffer severely and are wavering...

And collapse! Trapped against the river, two Spanish battalions surrender!  The remainder rout or withdraw to avoid the French, who have suffered some casualties in their turn.

The Spanish left flees the field!

A couple of pictures went awry but on the right (red markers) you can see where the French flank attack went in to break the Spanish brigade in the centre.  The Irish on the left have managed to hold off their French opponents by a judicious mixture of fire and withdrawal

A better shot of the outcome of the French attack in the centre.  The Spanish can clearly be seen in full retreat!
 Results: As predicted perhaps, the Spanish were soundly defeated although Kellermann's dragoons never did reach the battlefield in time: their presence in the pursuit might have resulted in the surrender of the entire Army of Catalonia.  A mixture of good luck and hard fighting staved off total disaster, however.  The Spanish did lose c.2200, 1000 of whom were unwounded prisoners.  The French lost around 450 casualties, including General de Division Travot.

Game Notes: A more interesting game than it threatened to be on set-up.  I had been on the verge of just letting the Tomb for an Empire rules handle it automatically but decided that I might as well play it out, just to get back into the swing of the campaign and using the rules.  It played quite quickly on a 4'x3' table, lasting 15 or so moves (c.75 minutes of "real-life").  I am beginning to wonder if the rules for attacking which give +2 to veterans and -2 to raw are perhaps a tad too strong and +1 would be a more appropriate modifier. 
In fact, although I like the Polemos rules a lot, perhaps it is time I reviewed the whole thing to see if there are a few minor tweaks I can make to closer reflect my own views of how Napoleonic warfare "worked".  After all, for this campaign, I have no-one to please or convince but myself...

Friday 1 January 2016

Polemos ECW - Battle of Stow-On-The-Wold, 21st March 1646

This battle of Stow-on-the-Wold was the last major conflict of the First Civil War, when the last Royalist Army was defeated by Parliament.   Veteran wargamer Stuart Asquith created a scenario based on the battle for Battlegames magazine issue 006.  I have followed the scenario, only converting the troops into Polemos ECW terms, which is the ruleset I currently use for the period.  So:

The Royalists:
1st Brigade (Lucas): 2 bases Trained Horse (S-Swedish), 2 bases Raw Horse (S)
2nd Brigade (Vaughan): 2 bases Trained Horse (S), 2 bases Raw Horse (S)
3rd Brigade: 2 bases Trained Foot (Shot Heavy), 1 base Raw Foot (Shot Heavy)
4th Brigade: 2 bases Raw Foot (Shot Heavy)

The Parliamentarians:
 1st Brigade (Morgan): 2 bases Veteran Horse (D-Dutch), 2 bases Trained Horse (D)
2nd Brigade (Brereton): 3 bases Veteran Horse (D), 2 bases Trained Horse (D), 1 base Trained Dragoons
3rd Brigade (Birch): 1 base Veteran Foot (Shot Heavy), 2 bases Trained Foot (Shot Heavy)

Notes: 1 infantry base = c.500, 1 cavalry base = c.125, 1 dragoon base = c.250

The Terrain & Set-Up:

The initial set-up: the Royalist Army at the top in a traditional deployment: cavalry on the left (Lucas), cavalry on the right (Vaughan), the commander Astley in the centre with the infantry.  Parliament's Army is at the bottom, with from left to right, Morgan, Birch and Brereton's brigades.  The battlefield is an open slope, with the Royalists uphill.

View from behind Morgan's trooper on the Parliamentary left

View of the right from behind Brereton's command

The Royalist infantry: five battalia strong

From behind the Parliamentary infantry, looking up the slope towards their Royalist counterparts
The Initial Moves:

The roundheads advance on both flanks with their horse, hoping to defeat their opposite numbers then envelop the Royalist infantry; the Royalist infantry advance, hoping to get to grips with their opposite numbers too.
 The Right Wing:

The Royalist cavalry attempted to overthrow the Parliamentarians in a charge rather than await the onslaught.  They were singularly unsuccessful, being driven back up the slope in disorder.

The roundhead cavalry then pushed forward to exploit their advantage, and the Royalists recoil.

Most of the Royalist cavalry flee or surrender after a short, sharp melee and the Royalist commander, Astley, is captured at this point.  Only one squadron (centre) hasn't routed yet, but it can only be a matter of time...

Same position, slightly different angle

The last Royalist cavalry is being pushed back, being overmatched in quality and quantity by their opponents.  The dragoons in the foreground are turning to support the flank of the Parliamentary infantry (out of shot to the left)

The position just before the destruction of the last Royalist cavalry on this wing
 The Left Wing:

Not as many pictures were useable from those taken of this flank unfortunately.  However, this is the position after the first clashes: one Royalist squadron is fleeing towards the woods (top right) but some raw Horse supporting them have pushed back the Parliamentary cavalry down the slope (centre-left with red shaken marker); the Royalist cavalry on the right is holding but under pressure (see the shaken marker to the right)

The Royalist cavalry in rout, except for the single base remaining.  Its veteran opponents have been routed and are fleeing back down the slope! (centre-left)

They too were eventually driven off however, and the victorious Parliamentary cavalry is now wheeling right towards the flanks of the Royalist infantry...
 Coup de Grace!

Just ss the final Royalist cavalry was being put to flight or to the sword, the Royalist infantry get to grips with the roundheads.  Hamstrung by the Royalist Army morale beginning to collapse (understandably), the Royalist infantry would not charge home.  They did however deliver a volley that would not have disgraced redcoats 150 years later!  The Parliamentary infantry waver...but in the background one can see the Royalist second line fleeing from the wheeling Parliamentary cavalry...

Unortunately the Royalist foot cannot be persuaded to advance and break the Parliamentary centre and the inevitable happened: the Roundhead cavalry surrounded the Royalist infantry and destroyed them....
 Game Notes: Another small, short game played as a training game for me before I try bigger battles with these rules in this period.  It was played on a 3'x2' table and took 12 turns altogether (just shy of 60 minutes playing time).  It was a decisive victory for the Parliamentarians which followed a broadly historical course.  The superior experience of the roundheads proved too much for their inexperienced opponents who had moments of success but lost too heavily in the initial exchanges to really recover.  Losing the Royalist commander in the middle of the battle didn't help too much here either.
I played the game solo using a variant of the solitaire tempo bidding process I have previously described. The Polemos ECW rules were used and gave an exciting game, although the morale rules felt a little quirky - more on this when I review the rules more fully.  Everything felt believable though with the right mixture of choice and chance.  The scenario was good too.  One could play this using the Baccus 6mm ECW boxed set without any additional troops I think (except replacing the Dragoons with another base of Trained Horse, perhaps) so it would be good for a newcomer to the period or rules.  The terrain is very simple though: a plain field with a few decorative trees, some very small woods at two of the corners and a road!  Well within the reaches of an hour's DIY and some cheap commercial tree models.

I am a fan of Phil Barker's rules but I have never played DBR: my troops are based to the Polemos standard so I would need to make extensive changes to use DBR without rebasing.  Does anyone have any opinion on the relative merits of DBR and Polemos ECW?

A Review of 2015

Firstly, a Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that your 2015 was good and that your 2016 will be even better!!  My own year was generally okay, with a couple of highlights, but with rather more lows with several deaths in the family, not least my beloved cat, Merlin.

My gaming activities were severely truncated this year by an unexpected and intense overseas work commitment over the summer and autumn.  However, I was generally very happy with the games that I did get played this year.  Highlights for me were the refights of Waterloo, Ligny and Quatre Bras and the recent Op Martlet WW2 mini-campaign as well as replaying all the Heroquest quests with my two eldest children!  I enjoyed other games too.  I have played some good games of DBA 3.0 which on balance I prefer to Neil Thomas' rulesets.  I think this is because of a realism issue: on balance I prefer the 'shock' model in DBA to the 'attritional' model in Neil Thomas' games.  I have managed to get a couple of X-Wing games in also.

My miniatures collection is almost finished, in the sense that the lead/plastic pile is almost down to nothing.  I got it down to:

6 units of Baccus 6mm ECW infantry to base
A pack of Perry Miniatures' Wars of the Roses Light Cavalry (I'm awaiting a late Christmas present of female heads from the Dice Bag Lady as I want to convert a couple of them for RPG/fantasy skirmish purposes.
A few Irregular Miniatures' boats

However, I have taken advantage of a sale in the local Boyes store to pick up a few 15mm Plastic Soldier Company British and Germans.  I already have some 15mm WW2 - perhaps a reinforced platoon of British and Germans, with a couple of vehicles and I'll use these figures to expand this collection a little.  I don't have any 15mm terrain though and that is one of the problems about going into this, committing myself to making or buying lots of new terrain.

I had a quick look at last year's review: I didn't do too badly, considering!

1.  Napoleonic Neapolitan Infantry plus some other Napoleonic bits and pieces were finished; a little bit of campaign progress was made.
2.  No progress was made on the Caesar campaign.
3.  I'm still holding onto the 15mm WW2 (and I have a bit more, now).  It will come in handy if I'm ever in a position to be a club member I suppose, as they should work for Flames of War, Chain of Command and Bolt Action.
4.  A little more thinning out of surplus rules and books happened and a little more may happen this year too.
5.  Great progress was made on WW2 gaming this year.  I really feel that I have "solved" the problem of adequate WW2 rules and solitaire mechanisms and I am looking forward to playing more in future.
6.  I did a little tidying on my Wars of the Roses forces but some units could use still a little more TLC.
7.  I bought some ECW Dragoons this year to make my armies more viable for the many smaller ECW actions.  I am still waiting for the Baccus ECW re-sculpt before I expand the armies to a size suitable for Marston Moor and so on.
8.  I'm still waiting for the Baccus Napoleonic Prussian re-sculpts.  These may not happen until 2016, so I'm having a re-think about whether to continue deferring.
9.  Still waiting to decide whether or not to do moderns, and if so, which variety.
10.  I am in a state of "finished" (more or less!) at Christmas 2015 and I feel quietly satsified about that.  I do intend to do some painting of new stuff but I am looking to be "finished" again by the end of September 2016.

And for 2016...

I know that you never "need" more miniatures but there are only a few things out there that I definitely want:

More Baccus ECW figures when they release their new range
A 6mm Napoleonic Prussian army.  Ideally Baccus would re-sculpt its range to a standard equal to its newer ranges but if not, perhaps I shall use Adler for this army.

I also want to expand my collection of 6mm terrain, partly by making them myself and partly  by buying some new pieces: there are some really nice 6mm buildings out there.  I would quite like to be able to make my wargame "France" different from wargame "Spain", "Germany" and "Russia".

Everything else is a "maybe" and includes Late Romans (and appropriate enemies), War of the Spanish Succession, WW1 and Moderns.  If I do them, it will probably in 6mm, with the possible exception of the latter (in 15mm).  However, since I can proxy all of these with Late Republican Romans, Napoleonics and WW2 respectively, I may baulk, in the end.  We shall see!  I will buy some more figures suitable for Heroquest and perhaps fantasy skirmish games.

And really, for me, the miniatures are mainly a means to an end: the games.  So how do I see the next year going gaming-wise?

1.  Continue my Peninsular War campaign, with the provisional target of getting to the end of 1810.

2.  Completing the Scottish Corridor mini-campaign.

3.  Begin a Wars of the Roses campaign.  The 'engine' will either be Kingmaker or one from a magazine article.  I am pretty sure there was one in an old issue of Miniature Wargames that might be suitable.  I'll use DBA 3.0 for the battles.  I have quite large WotR armies already, I shouldn't need any more.

4.  Begin a Gallic Wars campaign.  I need to buy a suitable boardgame to use as an engine for this one (I have most of the figures I shall need, I think) and again, using Polemos SPQR for the battles.

5.  Refight some ECW battles to get "in training" for re-fighting the whole ECW as a campaign in the future.  This will probably be using the Polemos ECW rules.  I will require some more troops and terrain for this project, as soon as Baccus gets around to re-sculpting its range.

6.  Finish the Heroquest revival I have been playing with the bairns.  After this I don't know...maybe try them on Frostgrave?  Advanced Heroquest?  Songs of Blades & Heroes?  Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay?  MERP?  I'm really not sure...But something! I need to work out what I already have in the way of warband-ready troops: quite a few, IIRC. Plus I have some old notes for various WFRP adventures and campaigns, I keep on meaning to put them out there on the internet in some form.

7.  And never forget to do "general gaming": see an interesting scenario on the web or in an old magazine, give it a go!

The Shopping List
6mm ECW Baccus additions (calculate these when the range is released sometime during 2016)
6mm Napoleonic Prussian army (if I decide to go for this)
Gallic Wars/Invasion of Britain boardgame (research and buy)
6mm buildings suitable for Germany and Normandy (research and buy)
28mm fantasy figures and suitable rules (research and buy; maybe eBay will be helpful here)
6mm WW2 some odds and ends to build on my current armies
More back of issues of Miniature Wargames and WSS.  I'd buy other magazines too, if they became available in pdf format.

So I need to sit down with pencil, paper and have a proper browse before I click!

Best of luck to you and yours in 2016.