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.

Wednesday 28 December 2022

Neil Thomas Horse & Musket Scenario 16: A Polemos Ruse de Guerre game

As part of re-invigprating my gaming by trying to accept the current limitations rather than kick against them, I resumed the series of refights of the scenarios from Neil Thomas' book One Hour Wargames.  Unlike the first half of the series, this time I opted for using Glenn Pearce's Polemos Ruse de Guerre. I had been trying quite hard to get a time/space gap sufficient to do the latest of Glenn's scenarios, Medina de Rio Seco and Eylau, but just haven't managed it. But RdG can handle relatively small actions as well so I thought I would give it a go to see how I got on.


The Forces:

The Anglo-Hanoverian Army:
2 units of Cavalry
6 units of Infantry
1 unit of Artillery (6pdr Foot)

The Franco-Jacobite Army:
2 units of Cavalry
6 units of Infantry
1 unit of Light Infantry

All the units are Trained.  Each force is broken down into three brigades, one of cavalry and two of infantry.  For anyone acquainted with the Ruse de Guerre rules, all the brigadiers are rated as Competent and have 1 Tempo Point each.
The battle is an encounter battle, with both sides arriving during the player turns as they might.  Beacsue of the small table size, I forbad the use of RdG's (generous) road move bonus in this game, reaosning that it would be inappropriate with both sides close but unaware of each other's exact presence.

The Set-Up:

The village in the centre is the objective for each side: the Anglo-Hanoverians will approach from the north (top), the Franco-Jacobites from the south (bottom)

The Battle:
The Anglo-Hanoverian cavalry advances to take the village and threaten south, whilst the infantry marches up behind.

The Franco-Jacobites mirror the Anglo-Hanoverian moves

Another view

The Anglo-Hanoverian Foot occupy the village whilst the Anglo-Hanoverian cavalry reform to face their Jacobite counterparts

The French skirmishers trade fire with the Scots of Leven's regiment ensconsed in the village, but are worsted

The Jacobite Cavalry charges home!

Meanwhile, the Franco-Jacobite infantry try to develop the attack to the Right

Anothr view: note that the Anglo-Hanoverians have managed to get some artillery up in support of their Horse to the left of the town

The Jacobite cavalry is defeated, its regiments being variously repulsed and routed!

The Jacobite Irish skirmishers are in flight after suffering heavy casualties also; they did take a few of the Scots down too (note the casualties inside the town)

The victorious Anglo-Hanoverian cavalry charge the remnants of the Jacobite cavalry and rout them too!

Fitzjames' Regiment riding hard for the rear; meanwhile the Jacobite Irish Brigade is attempting to extend its line to firm up the left flank

The battle has not gone well gor the Franco-Jacobites thus far, with their left flank routed, their central assault repulsed and their right flank not yet in action; the only ray of sunshine is that the British Left has barely formed up yet

The Irish brigade seems to be getting the upper hand in the musketry exchange around the town

The Anglo-Hanoverian's in the centre refuse their Right, so Lord Orkney's regiment pivots to protect against flank attack

The Irish Brigade make the same move to protect their Left from the roving British cavalry (left) whilst the second French brigade (right) develops its attack

Fergusson's infantry engages the French left, but without result - and the artillery proves ineffective too.  The Irish Brigade detaches its right-hand regiment to give it some attacking impetus; meanwhile the second French brigade (right) deploys to protect its own flank.

Eventually the awkwardness of the Franco-Jacobite tells and it starts to suffer from the combination of musketry and artillery

It is getting the worst of the musketry fight on the flank too, despite its numerical advantage

The Scottish infantry retire to allow the British cavalry to charge home...

Whilst Lord Orkney's men make an impudent charge on foot against superior numbers too!

Some of the Jacobite Irish, disordered by heavy casualties, cannot withstand the cavalry charge, although one regiment heroically fights off its attackers(!)

Meanwhile, Orkney's Regiment has routed the Royal Ecossais!

The Jacobite Scots have had enough for one day...

But the flight of these two battalions discourages the others...

Who join them in a general sauve qui peut...

The position at the end of the battle

 Game Notes: 

Quite a triumph for the Anglo-Hanoverians here.  This was partly down to some good fortune in winning lots of the early tempo rules so they could seize the initiative but also some of the rules mechanics worked in their favour and they are quite distinctive features.
Ruse de Guerre is noticeably more generous in allowing most troops to 'do something' each turn than its ancestor set, Polemos Napoleonics is; and also more generous than the ultimate ancestor of this type of game (DBA).  As long as troops don't have a positively idle commander, then they will be able to do something each turn, whereas 'troops doing nothing at all' is quite rare.  If this game had been Polemos: Napoleonics, the tempo bids were such that the Anglo-Hanoverians would have been pretty much in position before the Franco-Jacobites were ready at all.  I think this makes for a better multi-player game, although it is less clear for head-to-head or solo gaming.  Realism-wise, then any system which makes delay is better I think!  However, what Polemos Ruse de Guerre has (as does Polemos Napoleonics) is a very powerful 'Redeployment' move.  For relatively few tempo points, it allows a 'force' (typically a brigade or regiment)  to make maby small moves with all its component parts.  In RdG, this even allows troops to move closer to the enemy (this was not allowed in Polemos Napoleonics).  Since close combat isn't adjudicated until the end of the turn, this allowed the British to move up some artillery in support of their cavalry after the Jacobites had charged but before the resolution of the attack.  This changed the odds from slight Jacobite advantage to a slightly larger British advantage.  This gave the British the advantage which they then successfully exploited; using the powerful redeploy move again to get their troops out of the way to allow the cavalry to charge the disordered Irish.  The Irish did rather better than par given the situation but it wasn't enough. The game was also noteworthy for something I have observed before: the use of d10, including opposed d10 rolls, makes for some quite 'swingy' combat results, especially compared to other Polemos titles (or DBA for that matter).
Anyway, no criticism intended, there is nothing wrong with any of the above, but it does give RdG a distinct tactical flavour of its own, perhaps more than a first reading after playing Polemos: Napoleonics might indicate.  And its simplicity leads to a quick, exciting and very uncomplicated game, without the "what happens here" bits hidden in some other simple sets.  
A really enjoyable game -  I loved getting these C18 figures back onto the table!
Figures by Baccus, buildings by Leven, board 2'x2'.



  1. A very useful exercise to show the flexibility of those rules. I have a love hate relationship with D10, mostly for the reason you state. Having said that, the rules seen gentle enough to allow small order of battle games to ‘survive’ for long enough to enjoy, before the routing / breaking starts across the board.

    1. Thanks Norm. Although it wasn't so quick that it wasn't fun, the combat was much more decisive than that I encounter when using the Simplicity in Practice rules I normally use for these scenarios.

  2. The Jacobites had a tough day in this clash but what is new? OHW is a book that just keeps on giving. The scenarios are worth the price of the book alone.

    I am not familiar with the Polemos stable of rules but if they provide a good game for you, that is all that matters.

    On D10s, well, it is not the die itself but how it is employed that drives the result. Any n-sided die can be used effectively or not. Those decisions are in the hands of the designer or developer. Well, perhaps, the rules' tinkerer can have a hand in this process too. Having been in this hobby for a very long time, I often wonder if some designers fail to understand the math and probability behind some of their decisions.

    1. For sure, there is certainly nothing wrong in using D10s per se and a lot will depend on how the results table is calibrated. As a general observation, these are calibrated the same in raw numbers as other Polemos games, but in those it was possible to 'stack the deck' so much that you could create near 'sure thing' results. It is a bit harder in Ruse de Guerre to do that (since the value of any given pip modifier has decreased) but with the side effect that one-against-one match ups are a lot more swingy (because it is based on a straight d10 roll, or on the differential between two d10s rather than two D6s)...the results table partly compensates for this, but to a fairly meagre 'insta' or 'quick' kills in more even situations are definitely more common - as opposed to other Polemos rules, where there are the same number or even more 'insta'/'quick' kills, but they are based on big modifier gang ups. All this is very different to the much more attritional Thomas' rules.

    2. And yes, the few pounds spent on One Hour Wargames are very well worth it!

    3. Yes, OHW is a very attritional system. Too much so, I think.

  3. A good game and post game thoughts too. I'm not a fan of D10, much preferring say 2D6 to even out those wild swings that single die rolls can produce. Great to see another game on a 2' x 2' board, something that I have been enjoying and hoping to do more of next year.

    1. Thanks very much Steve - and you definitely have a point about the 2d6 over the d10.