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.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Simple '45 Rules - Culloden

The Battle of Culloden:
Last of the scenarios included with Stephen Simpson's "Simple Rules for the '45" from Wargames Illustrated 134 is one for Culloden.  I recently played this using an older free set by Andy Callan called "This Savage Way of Fighting" but this set is very different in philosophy, being much simpler and faster play.

I have previously replayed Prestonpans and Falkirk using these same rules.

Orders of Battle:
The Jacobite Army: 5 units of Highlanders, 1 unit of Lowlanders, 1 unit of Horse
The Government Army: 10 units of Foot, 2 units of Dragoons, 1 unit of Artillery

As can be seen, the Jacobites look to be in for a rough time in this scenario (although it isn't quite as one-sided as Prestonpans is the other way).

The Set-Up:

The Government forces at the bottom and left; the Jacobites at the top.  The superiority of the Government forces is visibly obvious
The Jacobite army, looking a bit threadbare
The main force of the Government army

The Government flanking force
Another view of the flanking force
Another wide view
  The Battle:

The flanking force moves forward, with one battalion wheeling to start firing on the flank of the Highlanders' line
The government artillery (bottom-right) starts firing into the Jacobite line
The Jacobites have no answer to the Government's artillery, and so must advance.  Prince Charles decides to commit his cavalry along with the front line to try and overwhelm the Government's first line before the Government's flanking movement can work
The Duke of Cumberland makes some adjustments to his front line to maximize the firepower hitting the advancing Highlanders...
The musketry fire from front and flank breaks the right-hand Jacobite Highland regiment
So Prince Charles unleashes his Horse (left) to fill the gap

The flanking force has managed to get through the wall

A wider view

The Highlanders are about to make contact...
Another Highland regiment breaks under fire (top, second from right)
...but the remainder charge home

The Lowlanders take cover behind the wall

And inflict some losses on the Government infantry
As do the Highlanders in the melee (left and centre, see casualty markers); however the Jacobite Horse and some of the Highlanders have also suffered
As the fighting continues, the last Highland regiment makes contact (centre-right)
The left flank of the Government line begins to crumble!  The left-hand battalion routs, and the next two battalions have suffered heavy losses
The Government Dragoons charge the Lowland infantry...

And the other Dragoons charge the Highlanders' left flank

The Jacobite Horse has been routed by the fire of the Government Foot, as its second line gets into the fight (bottom-left)

A wider view: the Highlanders have managed to push forward but are at serious risk of having their flanks and rear enveloped

Another battalion of Foot routs in close combat with the Jacobites (centre-left)!

However, the combined power of bayonet and sabre has routed the left-flank regiment of the Highlanders in turn

As does the Highland Regiment in the centre (centre)

And so does the Lowland Regiment in the rear, simultaneously under attack from the Government Dragoons and from the musketry of the Foot on the flank

A wider shot of the battle at its conclusion: the Jacobite Army is defeated and their remaining formed regiment must now surrender
Game Notes: A very enjoyable game, although my suspicions about the Jacobites' chances seem well-justified.  In a way, both sides did better than in the original battle: the Jacobites came a little closer to actually breaking through but they suffered an even more catastrophic defeat than in real life.  Again, the simple rules seem to have largely captured the essence of the same factors present in my first refight which used the more complicated Andy Callan rules, with a little loss of chrome and detail. 
After three game, I  suppose that the only things I would fundamentally query are:
1 - There is no mechanism for breaking normal-standard units in a single turn.  Generally this seems accurate to the period but one feels there should be a possibility of Highland units being broken by Dragoons in a single turn.
2 - There are no specific benefits to flank attacks in the rules, except in that it allows you to use additional units.  This just seems wrong.
However, the rules do show very well just how much can be achieved using very simple rules (half a page of A4), but the limitations of that format (there is always some stuff that has to be house ruled to make the game work).
Anyway, highly recommended for those wanting a quick set of rules to play the period and/or those just starting who want a fun and workable game with very little outlay.

Portable Air Wargame in the Pacific - Fighter Sweep

Fight Three in this small "tribute series" to Just Jack's Island Hopping with The Old Breed blog uses this scenario of Wildcats contesting a fighter sweep by three Zeros over Palembang.  As ever, the rules used are my development of Bob Cordery's rules for air wargaming in his Developing the Portable Wargame.

Three Zeros SPEED 7, DAMAGE 3, WEAPONS 2 red, 1 white
Four Wildcats SPEED 6, DAMAGE 5, WEAPONS 2 red

Neither side has any energy chips.  I can't actually remember putting in any rule changes for this one (it has been a little while since I played this scenario and my notes don't mention any...), so it is all pretty straightforward.

Three Zeros (centre) are going head on for a pair of Wildcats (top-right); unfortunately for the IJN pilots, its a trap: there is a second (unspotted) pair behind them (bottom-left)

The unspotted pair of Wildcats

The three-ship Zero flight

The other Wildcat pair

...approach the Zeros head on

The Zeros turn in to the head-on pass: both the leading Zero and Wildcat take some damage

The Wildcats pull a variant on a Thatch-weave to get in position and inflict damage on the first two Zeros (remember this is mid-move for Wildcat 3)

The Zeros and Wildcats enter a turning fight with neither side gaining advantage yet (right); the other Wildcat pair approaches (left)

The wingman in the Wildcat pair in the furball gets in position to inflict more damage (right); this convinces the Zero leader to bug out...which is very, very dangerous in the current position

The Zeros (bottom) run for the farm

The Wildcats get into firing position

And one of the Zeros disintegrates!

The Wildcats gunning for another Zero...

And the Zero leader goes down too!

The remaining Zero has got the legs to escape the Wildcats and reach safety...
Game Notes: Short game but worked okay - the Wildcats' improvised weave worked quite well, plus they were shooting pretty well too, whereas the Zeros were hitting but causing relatively little damage.  One point to note about the morale rules is that the Zeros are very vulnerable to just this situation, since they have so few damage points per plane, they can end up feeling the need to run for home relatively early.  They were just very unluckly that they did so just when the second pair were merging into the fight...

Friday 27 September 2019

The Clash at Knechtbrucke - First Thoughts on Shot, Steel & Stone

The Clash at Knechtbrucke

In Henry Hyde's book The Wargaming Compendium he includes a full set of rules for the Horse and Musket period entitled Shot, Steel and Stone.  He also includes an introductory scenario for those rules, based on one of a clash between two armies from his "imagi-nations" setting, the Wars of the Faltenian Succession, in this case between the forces of Prunkland and those of Martinstadt.

I reset this scenario for my own armies.  Keeping with the "Germanic" theme of the source material, I used Austrians against Bavarians.  A Bavarian advanced guard is attempting to seize a bridge over a large stream, which unbeknownst to them is being held by a small Austrian they emerge from the morning mist, the Bavarians catch sight of the Austrian uhlans patrolling the eastern bank...

The Forces:

Comd: Major-General McPreece
1 Infantry Bn (3 bases, Average)
1 Light Infantry Bn (3 bases, Poor)
1 Dragoon Regt (2 bases, Average)
1 Light Horse Regt (3 bases, Poor)
1 Light Artillery Battery (1 base, Average)

Comd: Brigadier Protz
1 Infantry Bn (3 bases, Average)
1 Light Infantry unit (1 base, Average, Rifles)
1 Lancer Regt (2 bases, Average)
1 Hussar Regt (2 bases, Average)
1 Light Artillery Battery (1 base, Average)

3 bases - Average-sized unit; 2 - bases Small unit; 1 base - Tiny unit (company/squadron-sized)

The Set-Up:

 The Austrian detachment.  Its lancers are patrolling the East bank (top), its rifle detachment is guarding the bridge (centre), whilst its infantry, hussars and artillery are just breaking camp (bottom)

A closer view of the main Austrian units shaking out

One squadron of patrolling lancers

And the other
The Battle:
The battle begins with the Bavarian Light Horse arriving and charging the Austrian Lancers...

...who promptly turn and flee!

The Bavarian Dragoons repeat the same with the other squadron of Lancers...

The Bavarians advancing (top)

Austrian riflemen (bottom) begin to engage the Bavarian Light Horse (right), but without much effect

One squadron of Lancers fails to rout...

Neither does the other, even with General Protz doing his best hat-waving to encourage them!

General Protz (bottom-right) turns instead to his Hussars...

and commands them to charge!

The forces lined up

The Bavarian Light Horse triumph and repel the Austrian Hussars

The Light Horse follow up...

The Bavarian Dragoons cross the stream (left) to threaten the Austrian infantry (bottom)

The Austrian Hussars are sabred and routed (right)! General Protz scurries to safety through the abandoned tents...

The Austrian musketeers and gunners try and see off the Bavarian Dragoons

The Bavarian Light Horse are now clear to their front so they are ordered to charge the Austrian musketeers (left) in the flank

They execute a wheel to flank and charge!  Note that the Bavarian light infantry have fallen back (top) to allow their line infantry to advance (centre-top, far side of bridge)

The cool Austrian musketeers form square in time however... meet the onrushing Light Horse...
Although they cause relatively few casualties, they are enough to stop, and then see off the Light Horsemen!

Meanwhile, the Austrian musketry is proving surprisingly effective - the Bavarian Dragoons cannot take it any more and rout

The Bavarian infantry's musketry is proving distinctly inferior to that of the Austrian...

The Bavarian Light Horse rally on the far side of the stream, although they have lost as many troopers from desertion as from wounds

Bavarian artillery is now in action but it is only causing moderate casualties

The Austrian musketeers' shooting continues to shine however and the Bavarian infantry have lost a third of their number...

And they break and run!

The Bavarian light infantry join in the rout! 
Game Notes: As so often, this first game with a set of unfamiliar rules was a little choppy but I think that I got the hang of them reasonably quickly.  It ended up being quite an interesting game!  I was convinced that the Austrians had no chance after the Bavarian successes early on, but the Austrian infantry led a charmed life and everything they tried, worked.  

I used my existing basing, which is normally a single base equals a battalion or a brigade, depending upon the game.  These rules propose 3 bases for an average unit, or 6 if using the "big battalions" variant.   The scenario as written is set up for the latter, so I halved the number of bases in the rules and halved the distances to match (so 1 BW in the rules = 1 BD in my game).  This enabled me to fit it easily onto a 3'x2' board.  A new player could easily get this to the table with something like 60 figures per side if using 15mm or 20mm, which should be within almost everyone's hobby budgets.

The rules seem quite similar to Black Powder and use that familiar Warmaster-type command roll mechanic.  It is watered down though, so failed command rolls tend to produce "slower movement" rather than the harsher "do nothing" penalties in Black Powder (or Blitzkrieg Commander, as far as I can tell).  The combat mechanics are reasonably simple, resembling those in the Neil Thomas' sets, although there are more modifiers.  There are plentiful saving throws which are quite fun in face-to-face games, although I don't really like them for solo play (they just slow the game down without a corresponding increase in interactive tension) and they make it all a bit longer.  The rules simultaneously use 'hits' for tracking casualties and 'disruption points' for tracking disorder, which is more of an overhead than many modern rules use.  It was easy enough to track in this small game, but I think you would need to play a few small games to get your system for tracking this kind of stuff down pat before trying bigger games with these rules.  There is a morale test (or 'reaction test') which is easy enough to do - a modified 2d6 roll to hit a target score dependent upon troop close which you look up on a table and compare it what the troops in question were trying to do.  This is very reminiscent of WRG rules before DBx. 

The rules were mostly in there somewhere.  I think that the only things I had to rule on the fly for myself were how many bases could fire from an infantry square when charged by cavalry: I can see equal justification for "one" and "all".  Cavalry, in particular light cavalry, are more than capable of wheeling or about turning and charging in the same move, which is unusual, although I am certainly not going to say it is wrong.  I wasn't very clear on how pursuing and following-up worked i.e. if these were choices or automatic results.  I am not saying that these things aren't in the rules, just that they passed me by if they did.  But generally speaking, I found it pretty comprehensive. Some of the rules were calibrated in an interesting way, particularly in how infantry fighting worked (and I was quite impressed by the subtleties of this).  The rules do actually permit units to fight in close, loose, open and skirmish order, although it leaves it to the players to work out exactly how this is all going to work with their chosen basing system.

I was a little surprised that the rules were as complex as they are.  I don't say that as a bad thing at all, just that my expectations were more in the way of a Neil Thomas' ruleset level of complexity.  Experienced players should be able to figure it out quite quickly, new players might need a few attempts.  They aren't generally innovative, except where I have noted above, but they do seem pretty good: the kind of set that an experienced wargamer with a good knowledge of the period as a whole might come up with, using a good mix of tried-and-tested mechanics.  I am looking forward to getting a couple more games of this ruleset in during the next few months.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.