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, 18 February 2019

Miniature Wargaming 61: Return to Castle Grabstein (A Late Medieval Clash)

As part of my ongoing quest to revive old magazine scenarios. Miniature Wargames 61 contained an interesting fictitious scenario set in the late C15 conflict between the Swiss and the Burgundians

It features a Swiss army moving to the relief of the eponymous "Castle Grabstein", currently being besieged by the Burgundians.  The Swiss are advancing on two separate axes in order to confuse and divert the Burgundian defenders.  The Swiss are aiming to defeat the Burgundians; the Burgundians can win either by defeating the Swiss or by capturing the castle during the game.


I just used two standard 12-base armies from the relevant DBA lists, but trying to match reasonably closely the orders of battle in the scenario.  This left me with:

The Swiss:

6 bases of Pikemen (4Pk)
1 base of Halberdiers (4Bd)
2 bases of Crossbowmen and Handgunners (Ps)
3 bases of Knights (3Kn)

The Swiss could also choose a nominal extra base as the defenders of Castle Grabstein - they took an extra base of Halberdiers for this purpose. Castle Grabstein itself is considered a 'fort' in DBA.

The Burgundians:

3 bases of Pikemen (4Pk)
1 bases of Crossbowmen (4Cb)
2 bases of Longbowmen (4Lb)
1 base of Artillery (Art)
1 base of Light Horse (LH)
4 bases of Knights (3Kn)

The figures are in fact from my Wars of the Roses armies, but since many of those have slightly European-looking flags, they shouldn't be too far off.

The Set-Up:

The battle takes place in a natural bowl, as the edges are all wooded hills surrounding the castle in the central valley.  The Swiss approached from the Northwest (top-left) and the Southwest (bottom-left)

The Swiss secondary attack from the Southwest, with a Pike block, some Knights and some crossbow-armed skirmishers

The Swiss main body: two pike-blocks preceded by the halberdiers, the general with his knights, all flanked by some handgunners

A force of Burgundian longbowmen are stationed on the road to block any advance (left), whilst the knights are further towards the rear (centre and right)

The main body of Burgundian knights (centre-right), with the Light Horse as a rear guard (top-right); a unit of pikemen is in the foreground

Castle Grabstein and the Burgundian siege position, with guns and infantry defenders (longbowmen)

Crossbowmen (left) and Pikemen (centre) defend the other Burgundian flank
The Battle:
The battle starts with the Swiss knights and halberdiers trying to push down the road: they are met by Burgundian bowmen and knights

The Swiss halberdiers make short work of the Burgundian bowmen, but the knights are locked in an even contest - more Burgundian knights approach...

And restore the situation; temporarily at least

The Swiss try to bring their first pike-block (left) and their handgunners into play (top) to threaten both flanks

Battle is joined to the south too as a Swiss pike-block attempts to trample through the Burgundian crossbowmen; Burgundian knights ride past the castle (centre) to reinforce

The engagement in the North becomes more general as the Swiss get theur second pike-block into action (centre-left)

A wider shot of the position

The Burgundian knights, although losing a little ground, are still holding on against the Swiss pikemen and knights, despite the weakness of their right flank (top)

The Burgundian corssbowmen have all been killed or routed, but the Burgundian pikemen are still in the fight, going hand-to-hand against their Swiss opponents (bottom)

The Swiss and Burgundian Knights clash in the shadow of the Castle

The Burgundian Light Horse try and sweep away the Swiss handgunners (centre); whilst the remaining units are all stuck in the melee

Fighting is intense in the two separate melees to the southwest of the Castle.  The Burgundian knights have managed to get the beginnings of the upper-hand against their Swiss counterparts...

The melee to the North is beginning to go in the Switzers favour...

The Burgundians triumph in the South!  Have the Swiss knights and pikemen have been brought down...

But just at this moment, the Burgundians begin to collapse in the North...

The last Swiss knights are surrounded (centre) and are about to go down fighting

And...gone.  Only the group of Swiss pikemen (bottom) remain fighting on this sector of the field

However, this is not enough to give the Burgundians victory, since their knights, light horse and pikemen all go down to the north of the castle, and Burgundian morale collapses

The position at the end of the game: both sides have lost a flank, in effect, but the heavier Burgundian losses overall result in that army collapsing first
Game Notes: A nice, relatively simple scenario to get back into gaming after a short enforced break.  The advantage is with the Swiss, but it isn't such a big advantage as to make the conclusion foregone.  In some ways, the interesting choices are with the Burgundian commander, since he is able to somewhat decide upon his allocation of troops against the Swiss main body, the sceondary attack and against the castle.  Getting that right - and trying to avoid initial low-odds combats which give the Swiss easy early victories - is probably key to gaining victory for the Burgundians.  DBA 3.0 handles this sort of game very well, giving a quick but involved experience but still giving some plausible results.

I don't have the right resources to hand, but I need to make a couple of different bases for the Castle to give it a better appearance, and make some more alternative earthworks for this kind of thing.  Any recommendations?

Figures were by Baccus 6mm, the castle is from Leven.

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