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 23 September 2019

Simple '45 Rules - Prestonpans

For my next game from the '45, I used a ruleset with a very different design philosophy from Andy Callan's "This Savage Way of Fighting" which I used last time.  Simply entitled "Three Battles of the Jacobite Rebellion 1745-6" and published in Wargames Illustrated 134 (November 1998), Stephen Simpson produced a set of rules quite similar in many ways to some of the more recent offerings from Neil Thomas. 

There are only two meaningful mechanics: an action test to do stuff (typically enter or withdraw from a melee and change from column of march into line of battle); and a morale test to see if a unit under fire or in melee combat will rout or not.

The author offers three scenarios: Prestonpans, Falkirk and Culloden.  The smallest, Prestonpans only uses the following forces:

Government: 3 infantry units, 2 dragoon units
Jacobites: 5 highlander units

The Jacobites move first (very important, because that means the Government's troops will have to test morale first - morale is tested after an enemy unit moves into range, since that unit is deemed to be automatically firing).  The two sides set up just outside of musket range.

All the Government troops are rated as poor and have a penalty to their action tests.  They will also rout as soon as they fail a morale test (normal units essentially have two lives).

The Set-Up:
Government army to the left with dragoons flanking the Foot on both sides, whilst the Jacobite army is to the right in two groups, with its right flank slightly to the rear (top-right)

The Government army

The Jacobite army

The Battle:
The Jacobites move into musket range and begin a harrassing fire.

Doing slightly better than in real life, the Government Foot maintains itself and begins its own fire on the Highlanders.  The infantry unit on the left wheels slightly to concentrate fire on the Highlanders's most advanced wing (left).  The dragoons charge home (right)

However, the fire is largely ineffective and the Highlanders' maintain their advance.  Their left-hand unit maintains itself in the fight with the Government dragoons (right).  The other Government dragoons (left) refuse to charge.

Just before impact, the Government troops break!  Both the dragoon regiments (left, right) and two of the three Foot regiments (bottom) run, only a single regiment remains in the fight (centre-left)

In a very bold move, the remaining Government Foot charges home with the bayonet!

However, whilst locked in melee, the Highlanders bring up additional troops and begin to envelop the remaining redcoats...

And it is all over! The last unit of Government Foot breaks and runs...
Game Notes:
Well, that couldn't have been more different, could it?  It is a really stark lesson in how different design philosophies work and how fashions change over time.  These rules (published 12 years after Andy Callan's offering) are much, much less detailed but they could arguably be said to be just as realistic a game, since there was no element of it which seemed untoward or unreasonable, but which took so much less time (playing time was about 20 minutes).  The only problem is that it plays so quickly that its main use is probably in a campaign game or a sereies of linked battles, to enable one to play the war out in a day.  After all, the extra die-rolling and details in the Callan rules, although it doesn't ultimately seem to equal a more accurate ruleset in terms of outcome, has more tension for longer because there are more opportunities for chance to intervene (even if the sum total of the effect of chance is the same).

The mechanics are very simple.  Action tests are done by a d10, with 4+ equalling success.  Poor troops have a -1 penalty.  The morale test is done with a d8-d6, modified by a small number of factors: a result of '0' or higher indicates carry on, a negative result means a rout.  Stark, but effective.  The author is correct in the sense that it isn't obvious that one needs anything else for battles in this campaign.

Anyway, Falkirk and Culloden are likely to follow in due course.  Figures are by Baccus 6mm, with Napoleonic British standing in for their mid-C18 forebearers.  I used a 2'x2' board but in all honesty one could have got away with 18"x18".


  1. Those rules sound very similar to Twilight of the Sun King, which uses almost identical mechanisms.

    1. Good point. I hadn't thought of it, but you are quite right (I have Twilight of Divine Right which I assume is at least somewhat similar TotSK, and there is that basic similarity). These rules are simpler than that series but those basic elements are there.

  2. I wonder if WI set preceded them? I've got the original Pike & Shot society version as well as the more recent one (which manages to massively overcomplicate them) but I can't recall the authors name.

    1. I would have thought they preceded them, although I guess it would be hard to tell. Simpson's '45 rules are an adaptation of his set which was first published in Wargames Illustrated 75 (December 1993).

  3. Nice to contrast the two rulesets and complexity doesn't necessarily make for a more 'realistic' outcome.

    1. Yes, very much so. The quicker game probably works just as well if one wants to examine the outcome of the tactics and deployments and so forth. But the longer game works better if you want a more satisfying game experience (doing more stuff, more chances for chance to play its part) or study the intricacies of the tactics.