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.

Saturday 25 February 2023

A Note of Explanation...

 I became aware of this today and thought the 'Polis' project looked quite interesting, so I put up a statement that (in theory!) people could debate and discuss...and TBF I am genuinely interested in the theory behind Dupuy's work, so I thought, why not?  This is a link to the actual post.

Further Test

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Gaming in Context

It has been a few of things that got me wondering.  One was playing the next (the 21st) in the series of Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames scenarios and the other was reading the latest of Just Jack's campaign battle reports (this time set in Morocco in 1942 during Operation Torch); Henry Hyde has just released a couple of scenario books, which I think are mainly based in the columns he used to write for Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy; and the last, quite tangential, was reading The Elfish Gene.*  And what they were all bringing home to me is the importance of context for wargaming enjoyment.

There are lots of different ways of bringing in context to a game. The most obvious one is the competitive (or semi-competitive) head-to-head nature of some games, although for every gamer who talks about that, there seem to be a couple who are at pains to stress the opposite! I don't know how universal that trend is.  Next is personal investment - I think this is quite strong in some points-based systems, in which the tabletop army is in some sense "your army" in the way that it isn't so much in scenario games: it is almost something analagous to making up a character for an RPG.  When I played 40K as a child, although I didn't play competitions or competitive pick-up games, I noticed that this idea definitely existed.  I think there is something of it in a lot of the first few decades of hobby wargaming (from Featherstone to the late 80s) when a trip to the shops was framed as "getting reinforcements for my army".  I don't read that so much now, I don't think.

Another way is historical study. I don't mean that games are done as an academic exercise, but I do mean that people intend the games to represent history in some way and take some pains to achieve this. They might do this more or less well, but the intent is obvious and so is the feeling when it works well: the connection between the game and the historical event, no matter how tenuous, is really felt.  Next is the context that campaign games give; when I was reading about wargaming campaigns as a young wargamer, one of the main ways their virtue was sold was to give greater versimilitude to the battles, because commanders would act more realistically if there was a tomorrow, rather than the world ending at 10pm throw-out time/bed time/last orders.  And whilst no doubt true, I think of this as somewhat secondary to the ongoing narrative of the campaign, howsoever expressed. The campaign can also be a useful vehicle for the personal investment in the army I mentioned above, although I don't think that it has to take that form - but it can be brilliant when it does work.  Just Jack's campaigns are superb examples of this in action.

So why is this on my mind at the moment? Well, because I noticed during the OHW scenario game that I was just not quite as into it as I thought I might be: I was genuinely more invested in the result of Just Jack's last battle than I was in my own!  The problem is that taken as individual scenarios, the OHW scenarios are great: clear, easy to set-up, have real tactical conundrums: they are proper 'Tabletop Teasers' in the best sense.  And taken as individual scenarios, they are great for the physical circumstances I find myself in at the moment, where time and space are scarce. But I realized it wasn't quite enough, I needed more context, more investment in the whole thing for it all to come alive for me.  Now I know that many of the OHW scenarios are based on historical battles: but to make them into suitable scenarios for his rules, I think that the link becomes a bit tenuous.  The "Salamanca" battle for example felt like an interesting scenario, but had nothing of the feel of Salamanca.  In part this is because his scenarios are 'scale agnostic' - but as one wise old warrior has written, combat is not fractal: platoons, battalions and divisions fight very differently.

So, a quick re-jig is in order I think, I need to spend a few days getting some more historical scenarios and/or some campaigns prepared!

(* - why The Elfish Gene? Although written about RPGs rather than wargames (although wargames appear in there and get quite a good press in comparison!), and the writer is a pretty unsympathetic in some ways, he has (to steal someone else's ideas about it) an absolute genius for explaining why on a good day the thing is so compelling).


Saturday 18 February 2023

Hobby Update: 18 Feb 23

 A very short update, since I haven't actually been doing much hobby stuff and what I have been doing has been more RPG-oriented.  But I have managed to finish off some more C17 Eastern European light cavalry, sufficient to do all of the C17 scenarios I have for the Thirty Years' War in Europe's Tragedy and To The Peace of the Pyrenees.


These will come in handy as I tackle these scenarios later this year, using the Twilight of Divine Right rules (I think), as part of the preparation for tackling a full Thirty Years' War campaign. Anyhow, here they are, from Baccus:

The figures are quite nice, although they definitely have the older style horses and there were a couple of figures that had slightly difficult to remove flash (attached to the body, face and horse's head) - I have filed a couple down into long beards since I couldn't get a cut to remove them.  I think that this range is getting a refresh very soon (the Polish Great Northern War range isn't on sale at the minute).  But they are nice enough, and I am looking forward to getting them into action soon.

Monday 6 February 2023

Neil Thomas Horse & Musket Scenario 020: A Polemos Ruse de Guerre game

Okay, next scenario up is Scenario 20 from Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames (and again the tactical rules being used are the Polemos: Ruse de Guerre set).  This scenario is an adaptation of an old Don Featherstone scenario originally published in Wargamer's Newsletter. It covers the pursuit of a retreating army, with the retreating army having to retreat over a river and then hold a hill for a certain period of time.


The Forces:

1st Brigade: 2 bases of Trained Infantry
2nd Brigade: 2 bases of Trained Infantry, 1 base of 6pdr artillery
3rd Brigade: 1 base of Trained Cavalry

The British must get all their forces across the river by the end of Turn 2 - any units not doing so are destroyed automatically.

1st Brigade: 3 bases of Trained Infantry
2ns Brigade: 3 bases of Trained Infantry, 1 base of 6pdr artillery
3rd Brigade: 2 bases of Raw Dragoons (can dismount and fight as light infantry)

The French arrive on Turn 2.

The Set-Up:

The British forces are retreating in two columns over the river; they have to still be holding the hill (top) after 15 turns.

The right-hand column: two battalions (Fergusson's and Seymour's) and the guns, with Cadogan's Regiment of Horse in the rear

The smaller left-hand column (Lord North's and Leven's regiments)

The Battle:

(Sorry for this picture) The French Dragoons lead the pursuit: du Roi in the lead, la Reine behind - can they catch the British infantry before they can turn and face?

Royal Ecossais leads the Franco-Jacobite pursuit on the right; with Royal Italien and Surbeck behind

The British on the left do get in position in time, forcing the Franco-Jacobites to deploy

The British infantry brigade on the left has made it safely to the hill and is now moving into defensive positions

The Franco-Jacobites have been forced to deploy on the other flank too, but here at least their musketry is starting to tell on Cadogan's Horse

The British on the left have withdrawn into the woods

Unable to risk further losses from the French (okay, Italo-Scottish!) musketry, Cadogan's Horse retires to rally

The Franco-Jacobite column follows up

Ater quite an effective musket volley, the French on the left attack: du Roi is attacking in the woods, whilst Dillon's Regiment attacks Leven's regiment just outside it; Leven's regiment has already suffered heavily from the musketry

It pulls back disordered in the face of Irish bayonets..

...order is lost, and the redcoats run for safety!

The position at this point of the battle (halfway through)

Lord North's regiment saw off the French Dragoons, who have retired to reform; the Irish brigade then gets into position to attack the woods, but its right-hand regiment (Clare's) is coming under deadly artillery fire from the hill

Lord North's regiment evades a clumsy attack and regroups near the back of the woods

The Franco-Jacobite infantry on the right lumber forward towards the British, defending the hill in some strength

Clare's Regiment collapses after being subject to prolonged artillery fire

The French Right moves forwards: Regiment Surbeck takes heavy casualties from British musketry, but that of Royal Ecossais and Royal Italien sees off Cadogan's Horse...

...which bolts for the rear!

(forgive the poor image, but crucial for the narrative); despite causing heavy casualties in the fighting, Lord North's regiment breaks under the overwhelming odds in the fighting by the woods

Then suddenly, Fergusson's Regiment breaks too, as a result of French artillery fire!!

With just a few minutes to go, the British can hold no longer and retire in disorder...

The position at the end of the battle.

Game Notes:

There is no doubt about it, that lad Featherstone knew a thing or two about wargames scenarios! This looked a bit unpromising at the beginning, but it was one of the most thrilling yet, coming down to pretty much the last roll on the last turn...As far as the actual fighting went, honours were probably quite even (the British lost more units, but the Franco-Jacobites had suffered more shaken results).  Polemos Ruse de Guerre pretty much always gives a good game and this was no exception: the rules are characterized by morale, fire and generous move rates and thus favour infantry more than many other games.  Cavalry neeeds to be thrown in at the right moment...Cadogan's Horse was always playing a dangerous game, but it would have probably been better situated behind the brigade on the hill rather than on its flank - if it had been in a position to charge Surbeck when that regiment became disordered, that might have been just the change to give victory to the British. That is the way it goes...

Obviously one swallow does not make a summer but it was nice to see the Franco-Jacobites win this one for a change! I didn't notice any conscious bias towards the Franco-Jacobites to make that result happen, so I was pleased.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Bias & The Solo Gamer

 I must be playing my solo games biased against the French. And this is a problem, since I am not conscious of it and it isn't a thing I 'want' to happen.  But the results speak for themselves - the French, whether the Lace Wars, Napoleonic or WW2 variety are losing in my solo games at a rate that can't be just chance. This isn't being done at the dice-rolling level, so it must be happening at the decision-making level - I don't play as hard, or think as well, when I am playing the French, it seems.

What else could it be? Well, of the recent games, the Napoleonic naval rules are explicitly biased against the French and Spanish so it isn't a surprise they lost that.  The WW2 stuff has been set in 1940, so in theory there shouldn't be a problem in their losing, although the actual scenarios haven't usually looked that slanted against the French.  But the real killer is the One Hour Wargames stuff, which doesn't have tactical or strategical French inferiority baked into the rules. The only systemic difference between the British and the Franco-Jacobites is that the scenarios are written like a modern military exercise, with "Blue forces" and "Red forces".  Not unaturally, I make Les Bleus the Blue forces and the redcoats the Red Forces.  In actual military convention, blue forces are friendly forces, red forces are the enemy (hence the concept of "red-teaming" which has moved from military wargaming into more general parlance). So in theory, it is possible that there is a bias in the OHW scenarios in favour of making the 'Blue' mission a bit harder than the 'Red' mission - real military exercises work like that, since the Red force is often 'dumb' and the point is to work the 'Blue' troops, staff and/or commander quite hard.  But if this is so, it is a bit hard to see and can't apply to all the scenarios, some of which are 'mirror image' affairs.

In theory it could be because I am more or less often the 'active' solo player with the French.  Recently I have been the active player of the French in the WW2 campaign - but previously, I had done rather well as the active player, so that seems unlikely.

I am not in general terms anti-French in political or historical or cultural terms and I don't silently rejoice inside when the French lose - quite the contrary sometimes!

So, what to do?  Do I need to remake all my forces as imagi-nations?!?! To be fair, if I were starting again from scratch today, I might actually do that, although for unrelated reasons.