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.

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Pike & Shot - some thoughts

Amidst a very interesting post  (in a series of interesting posts on the results of WSS' Great Wargaming Survey) on the Palouse Wargaming Journal blog, a finding about the 'clustering' of wargamers' interests really caught my eye. One might think of these as 'break points' I suppose. There is a break point between historical wargaming and non-historical wargaming; obvious perhaps, but a good sign of analysis is that it finds the obvious things first. A second breakpoint is between 'Modern' historicals and 'Ancient' historicals. This is also very interesting, especially as this first break doesn't occur at WW1 or similar, but rather from C18 onwards.  But the most interesting is in the next set of breakpoints.  I won't rehearse all the findings as you can of course read the post yourself, but to me the most interesting thing is that the common 'Pike & Shot' period clusters with the periods before it, not after it. 

So, why so interesting? Well, to me, this points to the thought that maybe 'Pike & Shot' is not really very convincing as a wargames period. Not I hasten to write that I mean that the wars between 1500 and 1700 are not worth wargaming, far from it, but rather that the classification fails in quite key ways. After all, the 'Pike & Shot' period is also sometimes called the 'Renaissance' period, despite at least the Italian Renaissance falling firmly into the 'Medieval' wargames period.  For me, battles like Steenkirke and Neerwinden share much much more in common with Blenheim than they do with Flodden or Biccoca (WRG's iconic rules were 1685-1845 after all). Conversely, the latter two aren't so different from Fornovo or something.  Is there a shared experience of 'pike and shot' from 1500 and 1700 which ties it all together?  I am not sure there is, or at least that the infantry carrying various forms of musket and pike in differing proportions throughout the period is enough to conceptualize it as such. For me, this isn't entirely a theoretical question. As primarily a solo gamer and not a club member (at the moment), I am not going to be able to field every army, not even an army from every period, even the main ones. So if I fancy doing Steenkirke or Sedgemoor, then either my WSS armies or my TYW/WotTK armies are going to have to proxy for them.  Into the C16, then how far can my Wars of the Roses' forces, rounded out with the odd specialist unit (e.g. Spanish sword-and-buckler troops) be used to proxy for the Great Italian Wars?

How far would I go? I think that to my mind, White Mountain still shares more with Blenheim,   And so to expand here, I think that I am arguing for a much expanded 'Horse & Musket' period, which includes Turenne's wars and The Thirty Years' War and The War of the Three Kingdoms and The Eighty Years' War.  Conversely, even up to Dreux, the attack of a mass of heavy infantry aiming to get into close combat is still a distinct possibility and perhaps shares more in common with its predecessors. At least that is how it looks to me. But perhaps there is something which I am overlooking which players who will go to the end of the Thirty Years' War, but no further, share?




Monday 12 June 2023

Villers-Bocagey: Another WW2 Playtest Game

Following on from the earlier Villers-Bocage inspired game, and since I thought that it might work a bit better on a second game, being more familitar with it, I re-loaded the scenario and gave it another go.

Rules are the latest playtest of 'The Farquhar Version'

Scenario once again adapted from one in MW065

Orders of Battle:

British - 'Antforce' Battlegroup:
Bg HQ: 1 x SMG Comd Gp, 1 x Jeep
Motor Coy HQ: 1 x SMG Comd Gp, 1 x Rifle Comd Gp (Deputy), 2 x Trucks
Motor AT Pl: 3 x 6pdr AT guns, 3 x trucks
3 x Motor Infantry Pl, each: 1 x Rifle Comd Gp, 1 x 2" mortar, 1 x PIAT, 3 x Rifle Gps, 3 x LMG teams, 4 x M3 Halftracks
1 x Armoured Recce Sqn: Sqn HQ: 1 x Cromwell 3 x Armd Tp: 3 x Cromwell, 1 x Challenger
1 x Special Support Tp:  3 x Centaur, 1 x Challenger
2 x FOO: Scout Car, FAOwR
1 x FAC: Truck, FAOwR
Air support;  1 x flight of 4 Spitfire IX
Artillery support: 1 x battery of 8 x 25pdr in direct support and 1 x battery of 4 x 4.5" in direct support
British towed 6pdrs have APDS, Challengers don't for the 17pdrs.

German - Kampfgruppe Salz
Heavy Tank Coy: 3 x Troops of 3 Tiger I (1 of the Tigers is the Coy Comd, another in a separate Tp is the deputy). The crew of the Coy Comd Tiger I has plot immunity the first time their tank is KO'd and can take over another Tiger I after d6 turns).
Tank Coy: 1 x PzIVH (Coy Comd), 2 x Troops of 3 x PzIVH
Pz Gr Coy: 1 x SMG Comd, 3 x PzSchrk Teams, with 4 x light vehicles; 3 x Pl of 1 x Rifle Comd, 3 x Rifle Gp, 6 x GPMG (each Rifle Gp has a PzFst), 3 x Hanomag
Recce Pl: 3 x 250/9
SP Arty: 4 x Wespe
SP AA: 4 x SP AA platforms (divided 2 to each tank company)
No APCR for the Germans.

I didn't make too many changes for this second one - the only difference was that I removed some of the German artillery support so the German force had to rely on its Wespe battery only, and mucked about a little bit with the British artillery and air support.

The Set-Up:

As before, the British were advancing from the North (top) and have stopped in the town and on the road parallel (left).  Their next objectives are to seize Hill 201 to the right of the town and the two junctions on the E-W road in the South.  The Germans are approaching from the South (bottom) except a platoon of Tiger I's which are in position to ambush the unsuspecting British.

A weak Panzer IV company supported by a Wespe battery on the hill to the South-East.

A Motor Company supported by a troop of 6pdr anti-tank guns and a troop of Centaurs (with a Challenger) in the rear.

A company of Cromwell IVs and Challengers, about to be ambushed by a Tiger I hiding by the crossroads.

The remainder of the Tiger I company on the high ground to the South-west and along the road

The German armoured Panzer Grenadier company mounted up behind a hedgerow (ignore the actual types of Hanomags!)

A German recce platoon has pushed forward to the village in the East.

A nice wide shot showing as much as possible!

The Battle:

The battle begins! The lead Tiger I platoon ambushes the lead elements of the Motor company in the town. An armoured car goes up in smoke.

Quickly followed by a second!

And the lead Cromwell is brewed up too! So far so good for the Germans I guess, but it could have been worse for the British...

The 250/9 platoon heads for Hill 201.

The British lose another Cromwell (not from the Tiger in shot, but one of the Tiger's far off on the SW hill) as one troop flanks the hedgerow, but the first Tiger I is taken out by a Challenger!

Wittman's Tiger I knocks out another Cromwell at the edge of the town

A wider shot

A man-handled 6pdr firing APDS knocks out the German ace's tank however, and Wittman has to bail out...

A wider shot: note that the first Cromwell platoon has pushed through the gap in the hedgerow by the junction (top-left) but another Cromwell has been knocked out.  Also note the smoke in the town: the forward edge of the town has been under fairly constant bombardment from the Wespe battery, causing a few casualties and damaged vehicles; one of the British rifle platoons has moved forwards into the cover of the hedge to get out of the way; the Wespe's are about to turn their attention to the SW quarter of the town (nearest the Tigers)

Note the third Tiger platoon advancing up the road (bottom-left)

The German Panzer IV company advances...

One Panzergrenadier platoon debuses around the farm and occupies it, to prevent any wild British advances

The rest of the company deploy around the central ridge and woodland, to cover both roads

The Tigers advance...

The Wespe's are wrecking the town: fortunately for the British riflemen, they are causing more damage to masonry than men...

One of those 'everyone rolls a 1 for everything moments' - lots of fire, nothing hit

The lead German Tiger platoon (just one tank plus the SP AA) in retreat...

One of the infantry's 6pdr anti-tank guns knocks out a Demag on the hill

The other Cromwell platoon has gone quite wide right-flanking (top-left)

A lucky shot by the Challenger crew knocks out a second Tiger (another one had been knocked out earlier by a British artillery bombardment)

The remaining vehicles pull cautiously back

The rifle platoon from the SW has displaced into the NW quadrant; the other rifle platoon has mounted its vehicles and is driving towards the hill (right)

Another shot: note the other Rifle platoon is also moving up (in dead ground) to support this move

The British flanking Cromwell platoon attacks - but note that another Challenger has been knocked out by the Tigers on the crossroads

The two lead Tigers advance; the rear Tiger stays behind but fails to spot anything!

The two lead Tigers are knocked out in quick succession as they run into an ambush! A Challenger accounts for one, a Centaur(!) for the other...

On the other flank, the Panzer IV company has lost two tanks to anti-tank gun fire, and another to a PIAT!

A wider shot

The position at the end of the battle - note that two more Tigers were knocked out whilst retreating (one centre earlier in the engagement; one left at the end)

Game Notes: 

More good fun, and perhaps this one was more fun than the first - it seemed to play slightly more smoothly for me at any rate.  All the tank and artillery action worked fine; the only thing that was still a bit clunky was the infantry, not so much the rules as the interaction with the terrain. A rifle group of 4 are based on a 30mm x 15mm base, the support weapons on c.20mm diameter bases. That is about 100m of real estate if they are jammed together, never mind the mortar and the PIAT. So a platoon just occupies too much space, especially when interacting with buildings, which are 'kinda' supposed to represent individual buildings (although they are more like a street, I guess). Anyway, some people have a very wise "don't worry about any of this" attitude, but it does get at me a little, for this type of battle - it makes it both fiddly and the infantry even more vulnerable to artillery - which is fairly lethal over the course of time, even in urban areas.  Only trenches and bunkers etc. are reasonably safe.

As a game, the reduction in the artillery support for the Germans made it a much more even battle, although I definitely think the rub of the green went with the British on this one. Incidentally, I have no idea if HEAT for the 95mm was available in summer 1944?  APDS for the 6pdr anti-tank guns is in the scenario, so I am less worried about that one. 

I have a few more technical points I will send to John, but overall, really enjoyed this! Got me really back into the swing of bigger WW2...

Most of the vehicles are from Heroics & Ros (and frankly some of them need a touch up!); most of the infantry are from Baccus.  Buildings are a mix of Leven and Battlescale, I think.