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.

Monday 22 January 2018

Battle of Castillon 1453: A DBA Refight

From a Terry Wise scenario back in Miniature Wargames 002:

The Battle of Castillon 1453 was a pivotal battle in the history of Western Europe, by which France conquered the last major English territories within its current boundaries.  Myself, I don't think it was a truly defining moment, in that even if the English had won, all the long-term currents were running against the Anglo-Gascons and eventually the French King must have triumphed.  Anyway, none of this diminishes the interest of the battle.

The order of battle in the scenario is a bit rough, basically being:

3000 Anglo-Gascons (mixture of men-at-arms on foot and longbowmen)
4000 French (mixture of men-at-arms, spearmen, crossbowmen, handgunners, archers and artillery), plus 1000 Breton cavalry.

It was a little tricky to bash all of this into a DBA format - the DBA army lists don't really match.  What I came up with was:


3 x Blades (inc. 1 with General)
6 x Longbowmen

(2 x Blades and 4 x Longbowmen were to come on as reinforcement; a D6 roll from the 3rd turn onwards, with a 4-6 indicating their arrival)


3 x Psiloi (Handgunners)
3 x Blades (dismounted men-at-arms & others)
1 x 7Hd Horde (commoners)
3 x Crossbowmen
1 x Artillery

3 x Cavalry (Bretons)

The Bretons roll each turn from Turn 10 onwards, with a 6 needed to arrive.

I used the PIP roll to also determine the arrival of reinforcements. The fortified camp seems to have been a formidable obstacle, so I rated it as a fort.  The river is counted as a stream.

The besieged town of Castillon is bottom-left; the siegeworks can be seen on both banks of the river; an abbey is occupied by French troops but is the initial objective of the Anglo-Gascons (top-left); the main French camp is top-right.

A closer view of the initial set-up; Sir John Talbot's advance guard is about to attack the abbey (top-left); Castillon is at the bottom-left.

The French Army, deployed in its siege camp

Another view

A closer view of some of the crossbowmen

....and the artillery, supported by handgunners and halberdiers

One last shot...

The Anglo-Gascons prepare to assault the abbey (okay, a church!)

One of the siege works (just for show)

The Anglo-Gascons prepare their assault and then execute it

The defending Frenchmen run for it (I was a bit confused for a moment about whether they should have been destroyed or not.  After a little thought I decided they should have been, and removed the base).

John Talbot continues his forward movement with the advanced guard

However, he splits the main body, directing half of it to march around to the rear of the French position.

The French move some troops across the river to meet this threat, hoping to be reinforced by the Breton cavalry upon their arrival.

Sir John Talbot reaches the French fortified camp

And begins to wheel his troops around to face the French, ignoring the ineffective artillery fire.  He detaches an element of longbowmen to discourage the French from making a casual shallow flanking attack.

The flanking Anglo-Gascons deploy (right)

The initially outnumbered French join battle with the Anglo-Gascon flanking force; the English yeoman prove stronger at close quarters than the French handgunners, but the French men-at-arms push back their Anglo-Gascon opposite numbers

Sir John Talbot leads an assault on the French guns, but is swiftly driven back

The hand-to-hand struggle continues on the far side of the river...

Whilst Sir John rallies his men and launches another assault!

And this time is crowned with success! The French guns are taken and the gunners driven off

The French men-at-arms continue to get the better of their opposition, despite being outflanked with superior numbers!

Successfully holding up the Anglo-Gascons until the French commoners and the Breton cavalry arrive!

The French men-at-arms quickly counter-attack Sir John's dismounted knights, to try and contain the breakthrough; the French voulgiers leave the encampment and try to outflank the knights - Sir John's longbowmen move around to block them.

The French Peasants put the English yeoman bowmen to the sword.  And knife and bill and spear, supported by the Breton cavalry.  Even more surprisingly, the handgunners on the other side have finished off the other longbowmen too!

The Anglo-Gascon men-at-arms fight on in the centre, against masses of Frenchmen...

Again the French men-at-arms seem to get the better of their Anglo-Gascon opponents at the edge of the camp

The Anglo-Gascon reinforcements arrive and try to turn the tables on the French voulgiers

The Anglo-Gascons are now surrendered...

The Anglo-Gascon men-at-arms go under the weight of their opponents...

Sir John and his men are forced back out of the encampment, although they are still fighting...

The fighting outside the French camp continues, but the Anglo-Gascon morale has collapsed after the defeat and destruction of their flanking force.
Game Notes:
Another very enjoyable DBA game, although the Anglo-Gascons got a not unexpected hiding - very similar to the original battle!  I suppose that they did get marginally closer to winning in this game...
Dividing the French does still feel like a better strategy than trying to amass a local superiority against the fortified camp, since one bit of reasonable luck might change the game.  But the French deployed competently and fought (i.e. rolled) well and it just didn't happen for the Anglo-Gascons.

That aside, although I certainly don't think that DBA does the worst job of reflecting warfare c1450-1500, I have my doubts about every ruleset I have ever used for this period.  Unfortunately the proposed Polemos set of Wars of the Roses' rules looks to be in suspended animation, if not entirely dead in the water.  The element system of DBA, and the unit system of Neil Thomas', makes me feel a bit like I am manoeuvring battalions of foot, rather than the contingents of late C15 troops.  I think it should be a battle of limited manoeuvre, but with great emphasis on timing.  But which rulesets reflect this?  Any suggestions gratefully received!  And even more than rules suggestions, I think that I lack a fundamental understanding of this type of warfare.  My basic thought is that missile troops, men-at-arms and commoners with polearms could be  massed together, or intermingled with each other, maybe with a very rough "passage of lines" with missile troops at the front and then moving back to let the melee troops through; or with archers to the back doing overhead firing.  How much tactical finesse is possible, I doubt.  I may pose a question on the forums about the changes in medieval warfare and how focused a set of rules should be in this period.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings a mixture of Leven and Timecast (I think).

Monday 8 January 2018

Polemos General de Division Refight: The Battle of Maida

The Battle of Maida has always seemed to be a popular scenario amongst wargamers since it features a British division against a French division in an independent action, without any great complexities of terrain.  I noticed a workable scenario whilst perusing a copy of Wargames Illustrated 186 and decided it was time I gave it my first go (assuming my memory isn't playing me false and it turns out I have played it before - I wouldn't rule this out!)

Using the typical Polemos practice, the individual units aren't focused upon but rather the army as a whole.  This gives forces of:


C-in-C: Stuart (Capable)*

1st Brigade (Kempt): 2 bases of Trained/Elite Infantry SK2, 1 base of Trained 6lb Foot Arty
2nd Brigade (Cole): 1 base of Trained/Elite Infantry SK1, 2 bases of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 base of Trained 6lb Ft Arty
3rd Brigade (Acland): 3 bases of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 base of Trained 6lb Ft Arty
4th Brigade (Oswald): 2 bases of Trained Infantry SK1
20th Foot: 1 base of Trained Infantry SK1 (under Stuart's direct command)

I set up the 20th Foot on the extreme bottom-left of the table and ruled it could only move after the first combat (other than artillery bombardment) had taken place.

* Some books I have read suggested that Stuart was ineffectual and the battle won despite him, rather than because of him.  The magazine scenario is more sympathetic, hence his rating as Capable.

One could designate any or all of the elite units as veterans too, although I tend to think the evidence doesn't really support it.


C-in-C: Reynier (Capable)

1st Brigade (Compere): 2 bases Trained Infantry SK2, 2 bases Trained Infantry SK1
2nd Brigade (Peyri): 1 base Trained Infantry SK1, 2 bases Raw Infantry SK1
9th Chasseurs a Cheval: 2 bases Trained Light Cavalry, 1 base Trained 4lb Horse Arty
3rd Brigade (Digonnet): 3 bases Trained Infantry SK2

The 23rd Light had fought at Caldiero.  I am not sure of its performance that day, but if the player(s) prefer, one could designate 1-3 bases in the 3rd Brigade as Veteran.  Some of the 1st Swiss had been assigned to naval duties and fought at Trafalgar, but I find it hard to believe that theur experiecnes that day would contribute very much to "veteran" status.

The scrub on each flank is counted as defence value 1; the watercourse is a stream.

 The Set-Up:

The set-up: French top, from right-to-left: Compere, Peyri, 9th Chasseurs, Digonnet; British from right-to-left: Kempt, Cole, Acland, with Oswald in reserve

Another view, French left, British right

A closer view of the French: Compere on the right, with the 1st Light leading; Peyri on the left, with the Swiss in front of Reynier and the Polish-Italians in column

And the remaining French: the 9th Chasseurs (right) with the horse artillery attached and Digonnet's Brigade (left), consisting of the 23rd Light

And some of the Brits: Cole's Brigade is central, with the Grenadiers and 4 guns in front of Gen Stuart; Acland's Bde is right, Oswald's Bde, led by the Swiss Regt de Watteville is in reserve (top).
The Battle:
Both sides advance in more-or-less echelon; the French 1st Light Infantry is about to meet the British light infantry (top-right)...

A closer view of the advancing French light infantry

And another one (I was experimenting with close-ups)

And the same thing, but from behind the opposing British light infantrymen

The sides close; Reynier decides to bring up his second brigade in support before initiating his attack

The remaining French are still in echelon

More shots of the British light infantry facing their French counterparts, with Gen Stuart and some artillerymen looking on

Same again (more photo experimentation, apologies)

Last one! (I was working out the balance between focusing on the British in the foreground and the French in the background)

The eagle-eyed may be able to spot the red of the 1e Swiss (centre) and the white-and-green of the Italians (left)

Reynier decides on a more cunning plan than just a straight attack; he sends the 1st Light Infantry into the scrub on the flank to extend the British line... can be seen by the wider shot; also note that Reynier has transferred himself to join the 9e Chasseurs on the other flank (left)

Acland's Bde faces the French cavalry

The French light infantry attack through the scrub: the British light infantry become slightly shaken at the approach of the French, but hold their fire until the last moment...

The French push on to mere metres from the British light infantry...

The French cannot push forward their attack through the hail of fire and retire in disorder

Reynier in person has led the 9th Chasseurs in a glorious charge and has captured 4 British guns!  The British reserves face him...

The other squadrons of the 9th Chasseurs have been routed by the supporting British infantry, but Reynier determines to lead his horseman and supporting gunners onwards...

Another successful charge routs one of the British battalions and leaves the other shaken!

A wider shot of the same

However Stuart launches an attack all across his right...

The French 1st Light Infantry return their compliments to the British lights and send them scurrying back in disorder; however elsewhere things did not go as well...

A very neat bayonet charge routs a French line regiment and the Swiss battalion!

The Polish-Italian troops hold on but are in some disorder (top-left), otherwise the French left wing is in rout

The French Cavalry charge the shaken British infantry reserve (which subsequently routed)

Unfortunately the loss of two French brigades and a poor morale roll (high is bad in Polemos for morale) sees French army morale collapse

The other French units collapse as the rout widens

And the victorious 1st Light must retreat as the rest of the French run
Game Notes:
A very enjoyable game - Polemos as DBA, almost.  This is the lowest level where Polemos will work as designed, it can be (and I  have) played with even fewer units, but that requires some morale re-jigging or living with the fact that three shaken battalions can, under the right circumstances, lead to the collapse of the army. But 12-13 bases a side is perfect for a small game, and this is a scenario that can easily be played with a starter army on each side, with a few bits of terrain on a small table.
Maida is rightly a favourite scenario amongst Napoleonic wargamers, since there is a pleasing variety of troops and lots of tactical options.  Polemos handled it nicely.  The French were slightly unlucky to lose the first clash in the woods, but this was rather balanced out by having a little luck in the cavalry charge.  What really made the difference here was artillery: the use of horse artillery was instrumental in the French achieving their breakthrough but the British use of artillery on the centre-right helped their infantry achieve the decisive victory in the bayonet charge.  The other problem with the French battle was that the last French brigade didn't manage to get into action at all - it may be worth re-fighting the action in a more deliberate manner.

And for the superstitious gamers' amongst us, three battalions (two French, one British) fell to "first battle syndrome"...

Figures by Baccus 6mm.