Although he’s probably gone to bed now, Andy was chasing for some pictures so without any wordy bits, here are a few I thought I’d post ahead of the rest…
One good game played, another slightly bigger one underway.
Although I hadn’t intended to run a public referendum on what game to play on Friday evening, there’s been a landslide vote in favour of the Punic Wars in 15mm. Or rather Count Belisarius said he’d like to see it, so lacking a better reason to do something else, how can I refuse?
Rome vs Carthage then, with the usual assortment of allies for the latter to keep the Romans on their toes. I’ll set up a standard sized game of 100 points per side, using my house rules (By Force of Arms, written by my friend Jase, and which have seen plenty of action over the years).
I’ve already selected the armies, and a dice roll has determined that the Carthaginians are the ‘attacker’, meaning that for strategic reasons they need to get their skates on and win decisively before they run out of time. Good job they’ve got a cavalry advantage and, of course, some nellies to throw at the enemy!
So, up went the first pair of rockets…. and down they came… about halfway to the target! The rules for them certainly made things interesting and unpredictable, and we soon agreed that the safest place on the table to be was the target they’d been originally aimed at. Simon had some nice explosion pieces containing flickering lights which really looked the business.
As my units struggled forward over the rough terrain, I was beginning to feel that I was at least as likely to hit my own troops as the enemy. It was a good premonition, as the very next rocket mischievously decided to turn hard right and plough into one of my rifle groups (which had just failed by 1″ to charge the voltigeurs). Lovely. I’d been aiming at the village again, so as you can see from the next pic, this was a significant miss! One dead and a few shock (disruption) points. It could’ve been worse I suppose..
Still, the rifles rallied and after 1 more shot I ordered the crazy Major Brock to desist for a while, and let the enemy take a turn shooting at us. That last rocket came down short of the target like all the rest, but at least evened the score by killing a voltigeur! We were beginning to close in on the village and the fire from the rifles and the light infantry’s muskets was causing Simon a growing problem in casualties and shock points. His earlier sortie, which had caused me some concern, was recalled or forced back, and his voltigeurs somehow made it back to their own lines by routing faster than my men could catch them. With 26 shock points on a unit with only 5 men left, they weren’t going to play any further part in the action, and about time too.
Getting back to the mission, the church was still a long way away and there remained a lot of French infantry between me and it. Despite the deadly fire my units were now pouring into the defenders, time was running out and with a flurry of unhelpful (to me) cards and turn ends, the French cavalry finally turned up. As I’d feared, my rifles were too spread out and were vulnerable to being ridden down, even on the rough hills. As fate would have it, the turn ended suddenly again (those damned cards!) which freed up the newly-arrived cavalry to launch an immediate charge.
The first group of riflemen fought well, but were killed or sent packing, and over the next couple of turns the horsemen slaughtered another group, killing the rifles officer and the Irish priest who’d led them by hidden paths to the village. Although my speed-bump rifles did finally manage to stop the cavalry, and cause enough casualties and shock to dent their effectiveness, the game was up. We reviewed the table and agreed that despite the losses and disruption among the French, a successful assault by the remaining British would have had little hope of success. In retrospect I should probably have tried to focus on moving faster and ignoring the temptation to stop and shoot. That said, there’d have been a lot more enemies left to face an assault if I hadn’t wittled them down as I did, so the outcome would still have been in doubt.
The final positions, with the rifles major and the priest lying dead on the hillside as the cavalry pull back to re-group, and the remaining attackers still too far away to achieve their objective:
All in all this was a very enjoyable game with lots of fun and surprises, and a believable outcome at the end. Simon was an excellent host, and played his position well, holding on for the cavalry to thunder to the rescue. The rockets were amusing and completely hopeless at the same time, but added extra flavour to the game. The rules are very good, but are vague in places and we were understandably rusty a year on from game 1. We certainly speeded up once we got going, despite grappling with cavalry, artillery and rockets for the first time. The card-generated turn sequence, with all its uncertainty and swings of luck, makes for great entertainment and a real challenge. Roll on the next game!
Yesterday Simon (Goat Major) hosted me for our second ever game using the Sharp Practice rules. We used one of the scenarios from the Compleat Fondler supplement, which involved the British attempting to rescue an important officer from the clutches of the dastardly French before he could be hustled out of the Peninsular. We took advantage of some of our own back-story from the first game we played last year, where the British commander, Fondler himself, was captured (due to my carelessness and Simon’s initiative). It was therefore Fondler who was to be rescued then, by his own men.
Simon had set up the table (6′ x 4′) as an exact replica of the one called for in the scenario, even going to the trouble of putting in some after-work sessions last week to add a necessary large hill! As you can see, the battlefield looked enticing to play over. Pics are from my phone, but hopefully they’re OK.
The figures were an eclectic mix of our 18th and 19th century forces, some on group bases and some as singles, along with the appropriate Big Men to lead them – and my new rocket battery of course. We rolled for sides, with me getting the ‘British’ and therefore being the one to attack. Simon duly set up a tough-looking defence of the church in which Fondler was being held, with one squad of voltigeurs under Sergeant Petain required to be out on the hills to provide warning of the British approach.
The various arrivals due included my main force of light infantry and the rockets by road at the start (on blinds), my riflemen (represented by Simon’s lovely Grenzers) via the middle road after a few (but randomly timed) turns, and finally the French cavalry which Simon had to hope would come to his rescue in time. The action kicked off with increasing numbers of my infantry peeling off the road to go cross country and push the voltigeurs back so the rockets could deploy unhindered. It was to take a long time to drive them away, which definitely had an impact on my troops’ positions in the closing stages of the battle.
I had some luck with the timing of my rifles’ arrival and they were soon racing to cut off the frustratingly resilient voltigeurs, who were benefiting from the cover offered by the scrub-covered slopes they were retreating across.
The game was beginning to hot up as the rocket battery deployed on the road within sight of the main French position and started taking fire from the enemy’s light gun. As the eccentric Major Brock (slightly mad scientist and inventor of these experimental rockets) ordered the first fuses lit, no-one on either side could prevent themselves from ducking a little in anticipation of the impending mayhem that was expected to follow.
Part 2 to follow..
A few days after fighting the battle, I thought I’d jot down some final details and my reflections on the game while it’s still pretty fresh in my mind.
The casualty returns were as follows:
Braganza Infantry Regiment 7 figures
Sebastiani’s Grenadiers 1 figure
Weissach Grenz 2 figures
Montanelli’s Cuirassiers 9 figures (unit retired)
Total 19 figures (380 men, of whom about half could be expected to return to the colours during the campaign)
Bravence Infantry Regiment 18 figures (unit dispersed)
Friant’s Jagers 2 figures (unit dispersed)
Wurttemberg Jager 2 figures
Legion de Fleurie Hussars 1 figure
Total 23 figures (460 men, of whom about a third could be expected to return to the colours during the campaign)
Not too bloody, all things considered. However, with the Medetians holding the ground at the end of the battle (and therefore capturing some of the Fleurian wounded) and with two Fleurian units dispersing (with inevitable further losses to desertion), the actual result was probably more in the favour of Medetia than the close tactical victory would suggest. Certainly the Medetian main army would now be able to capitalise on its advanced guard’s hard work and gain an early advantage in the campaign.
The next clash would take place on Fleurian soil then. I need to look through other scenarios I have kept over the years (many of them Charles Grant’s Tabletop Teasers) and decide what will offer the most interest and fun next time round.
In terms of the rules, although I still have some reservations about certain bits (generally the ‘weightiness’ of them rather than the quality), they did play well and give me believable outcomes. Where there were surprises and dramatic events they all felt plausible for the period and unit types involved, and (assuming I interpreted them correctly) coped well with the ‘tricky’ bits such as split units, fighting over bridges and in built up areas, etc. The Ayton games had given me some familiarity with Henry’s rules, although I think they work better for smaller games with fewer units, where you have more time to appreciate the details of the fighting they’re designed to evoke.
I was pleased with the look of the game itself, and although I still think the rivers are a little ‘bright blue’, the gloss paint does offer different depths of colour and levels of reflection depending on the light, which I like. I wasn’t sure about leaving so much of the table empty of scenery and had been tempted to place more trees, walls, rocks, etc, but having manoeuvered fairly large units all over the place, I’m glad I didn’t!
With the Medetian heavy cavalry having shrugged off the enemy Hussars’ opportunistic attack, and their infantry driving on the village and bridge, General Amore was feeling confident that the battle was going his way. His men were doing their duty well and his artillery had the Fleurian infantry in its sights.
The action was not decided yet, however.
General Bevue watched anxiously from the other side of the river as his Jager bore the brunt of the Medetian assault. Although they blasted away at the approaching enemy, too few Grenadiers and Grenzers fell to slow the advance.
Closer to the river the Wurttemberg Jager were trying to hold their own against the serried ranks of the Braganza Regiment, who traded a powerful first volley against the constant skirmishing fire of the Jager.
A general view of the battlefield at this time, with the infantry coming to grips, the artillery in place and the cavalry yet to fully engage:
Both sides’ infantry regiments were manoeuvring for control of the bridge but neither seemed keen to storm across it until things were settled in their favour elsewhere.
With the cavalry on the other flank yet to really get stuck into each other, the Fleurian artillery decided to intervene first. With an enfilading volley of prodigious dice throwing, 7 hits were scored on the hapless Medetian Cuirassiers (only 2 were saved) as they struggled to form up on dry ground. This was to be a decisive point in the battle.
The Medetians were tough fighters though. The Grenadiers went in with bayonets fixed and the hard-hit Cuirassiers turned to face the Fleurian Dragoons as though they were unwilling to admit the presence of the guns that were busy re-loading..
The infantry fight continued meanwhile..
The reason everyone has Grenadiers in their army – one turn of fighting and the village was theirs, with the Friant Jager taking to their heels.
The Medetians were about to receive a blow to their chances however, when a second artillery hammer blow was delivered on the Cuirassiers. Reduced to half strength, they were forced to retire, leaving the entire flank open and with only the river to protect the artillery, the Medetian line of communication and, basically, their whole position.
General Amore faced a moment of truth; should he accept that his cavalry’s departure had rendered his position untenable or ignore all that and push on with his attack? From fighting stock going back generations, he wasn’t going to give up now! Over the bridge went the 1st company of the Braganzas. Nearby the opposing lines blazed away at each other, with casualties mounting on both sides.
After suffering some casualties, and being outflanked due to the loss the village, the Wurttemberg Jager splashed back over the river and took up new firing positions. Fearing a collapse, Bevue’s ADC waded into the fray and directed the Bravence regiment into positions to repel attacks from two directions.
Seeing the backs of the Cuirassiers as an opportunity, the Fleurian Hussars benefited from a very good command roll by Bevue and thundered forward at an outstanding pace. The Rutowsky Dragoons left their position on the Medina di Spurlacco and followed the Hussars to threaten the flank of the Medetian artillery..
.. which frantically turned a gun to oppose them.
The Weissach Grenz, having helped the Grenadiers take the village, quickly about-turned and dashed back to protect their precious guns. Would their effort be in vain?
Everything was about to turn on a single moment – the Medetian infantry stormed over the bridge into the Fleurian line. Who would prevail?
The dice favoured the bold – and the defenders routed. The impact of the charge, combined with the losses to musketry from across the river, was too much for them.
For General de Bevue this was the end. Although he had dominance on the left where his cavalry were unopposed, without his infantry and with the loss of the village, the Fleurians could not hold their ground against such an aggressive enemy. He ordered the cavalry to pull back to protect the rest of the force, and his artillery to retire in sections, offering covering fire as they went. There were few orders for his infantry, they weren’t stopping to listen!
A few final pictures as the game came an end and the Medetians consolidated their possession of the vital bridge.
Thank you for staying with my battle account, there were a lot of pictures in the end!
So, I’ve blooded my 18th century armies in the Medetian campaign, had a good time with the rules, and enjoyed a superbly fun wargame – hopefully in the spirit of many of those who’ve inspired me in the hobby.
A final word on the scenario: well done Phil, Spurlash Down is a brilliant introductory game and offers a fascinating tactical challenge – even if you’re controlling both sides!
There was little hesitation on either side, and the first turn saw plenty of movement.
Both armies advanced according to their orders, although the command rolls created some variety in the urgency of their marching. Good old General de Bevue was a bit slow off the mark and the more impassioned Amore got the jump on him a little.
So, to the action:
The Medetians advanced, while their Cuirassiers swung right to cross the river.
The Fleurians, being a nation with a long memory, remembered what had happened to their French allies at Blenheim and decided that the best time to attack was while the enemy’s cavalry was disordered after crossing water. With that, the Legion Hussars galloped forward and prepared to charge the first line of Medetian heavy cavalry as it emerged from the river Asta.
Pagani’s battery got into position overlooking the bridge and unlimbered swiftly, its commander seeking out the first target for its guns.
Meanwhile on the eastern flank, with lots of lighter troops involved, things were moving more quickly. Friant’s Jager company occupied Spurlacco and immediately took up defensive positions to repel the inevitable Medetian onslaught. It was certainly coming; TheWeissach Grenz soon emerge from the woods, supported by Sebastiani’s grenadier company – the perfect assault troops.
The Wurttemberg Jager moved up alongside the village, to provide its defenders with flanking support. With the enemy’s Braganza Regiment coming coming on inexorably it would be require careful decision making from the Jager commander on how long to stay and fight, and when to pull back. Shooting commenced at long range in an attempt to disrupt or at least slow the attack.
Across the River Asta, Rasalle’s battery had deployed in its central position. Although the respective batteries were within each other’s line of sight throughout the battle there was only to be a single attempt at counter-battery fire (when no other target was viable), which had no success. No, the artillery was to ply its deadly trade against horse and foot, as it was trained to do.
Skirmishing began on the edge of the village, with the safely ensconced Fleurians getting the better of their enemies in the initial exchange.
On the other side of the battlefield the lone squadron of Legion Hussars charged home into Sebastiani’s Cuirassiers as they pulled themselves up the river bank. Although outnumbered and outmatched they had momentum and elan on their side.
The clash lacked weight however, and the hussars effectively bounced off their heavier opponents, losing the fight by one.
What had been a daring move of dash and courage soon turned to disaster as the hussars, lacking support and having failed to make a dent in the Medetian regiment, suffered a moment of doubt and made for the rear!
General Amore waved his hat and shouted ‘bravo!’ as his victorious cavalry brushed themselves down and dried themselves off. Although they showed restraint and didn’t take off after the retreating enemy, the Medetians had won a foothold on the enemy side of the river, just as their infantry on the other flank was pushing forward decisively between the village and the all-important bridge…
..and that’s where we need to leave things until the next installment. Will General Amore’s bold plan continue to succeed after such a good start, or would the slow but steady (and often tipsy) General de Bevue be able to turn the tables and provide Fleurie with an early victory in this campaign?
Generals Amore and Bevue both looked at the ground they would fight over, and in particular the bridge which was the key. The way the land followed the river on either side of the border meant that each advanced guard would be able to easily push forward on its left, while having to cross the river to engage on their right.
General de Bevue, Fleurian aristocrat that he was, despatched the last of his chilled Sancerre and, via his ADC, ordered his forces as follows:
The Bravence infantry regiment was to march swiftly in column towards the bridge and engage any enemy it found there or on the way.
Both Jager companies were to cross the river before arriving in the area and make an immediate beeline for the village of Spurlacco, to hold it against the expected Medetian assault.
The artillery was to deploy in the centre and support everything else, while denying the opposite bank to the enemy.
The cavalry was to operate on the left flank, to prevent the enemy from crossing and threatening the army from that direction.
General Amore sent off a final love letter to his most local mistress and, from the saddle, gave orders to his Medetian units:
All the infantry was to push forward on the left, capture the village and swing right to take the bridge. The Weissach Grenz would operate on the extreme flank, using the spinney (boschetto) for cover.
The artillery would dominate the centre, while the cavalry would cross the river at the start of the action and drive the enemy’s lighter cavalry from the area around the farm, before pushing onto the high ground and making the Fleurian position untenable.
Sensible plans all round then, with more boldness from the Medetians and a bit more ‘wait and see’ from the Fleurians.
Here are some shots of the forces moving onto the battlefield.
From behind the Medetian line:
Fleurian Hussars move ahead of the rest of the army:
Medetian Cuirassiers on the right flank, with orders to wheel right and cross the river:
The Bravence Regiment massed to rush towards the bridge:
Fleurian light infantry ready to make an early descent on the Medetian border village of Spurlacco:
General view from behind the Fleurian left flank, morning sun on the water:
Everything’s set up for the battle then, so I just need to find some dice and try to remember how the rules work! Battle report next.
Having recently enjoyed a re-read Phil Olley’s short-lived but excellent Classic Wargamer’s Journal, I decided to fight a solo game based on the Spurlash Down scenario devised by Phil ( link ), which was in turn based on the famous Blasthof Bridge action from the book ‘Charge!’
The Grand Duke and the King were at war… A good start, and a typical one for this sun-drenched corner of southern Europe in the 1750s.
Spurlacco is a small innocuous village in the borderlands between Medetia and Fleurie, with one interesting feature – its bridge over the River Asta, the border between our two frequent combatants. On the morning of the day in question armies from both sides are approaching the scene, with their advanced guards out in front. Both are tasked with seizing the strategically important bridge so as to allow the following main force to cross into enemy territory. The high ground to the west and the village to the east are also important for covering the advance, so need to be captured too.
Phil states that “I would go as far as to say it is a perfect scenario to aim for if you are starting out building two balanced Classic armies of Horse, Foot and Guns.”
Inspired, and now with just about enough troops to give it a go, I’m hoping to prove this assertion!
The table is 6’x4’, dominated by a central river with some key terrain features on either side. Due to the style of my river bank sections, I had to square off the river with two 90 degree turns rather than replicate Phil’s diagonal river line. Even so, it retains the effect of dividing the battlefield into 2 halves at an angle. The river itself is fordable to infantry and cavalry along its length (at half speed), except for an area stretching about 9” either side of the bridge.
The hill (the original Spurlash Down) is now the Collina di Spurlacco, and reduces movement by half. The Spinney becomes the Boschetto di Spurlacco, and reduces speed to half, visibility by 6”, counts as light cover and disorders all but light infantry.
Vale Farm becomes Il Fattoria Valle and the village is of course Spurlacco. Both count as hard cover for occupants, which can be up to a full company of infantry (12 figures). As I wanted the village to be on the Medetian side of the river, (primarily so I could indulge in some Italian name changes!) I have inverted the map, so south is up and north is down.
Table plan, created while having a coffee, using my set of small card tiles that replicate my 1 foot square terrain boards. Some extra details added via Paint.net
The table set up and ready for our protagonists
I had an opportunity for a game yesterday, so while Brazil were struggling to overcome Chile I set up a small table in sight of the TV, opened a beer and played through a very enjoyable skirmish.
It was an excuse to use the new river sections and bridges for the first time, so I created a rustic setting with a winding river, crossed by no less than 3 bridges, leading to a small settlement based around an inn and a watermill. This would be a section of the border between Medetia and Fleurie, ripe for a raid by a Medetian force while it was only lightly garrisoned. Strengths were around 30 figures per side, although the Fleurians would start with their irregular allies (a dozen Cossacks) off table, with random arrival times and locations.
The garrison are alert, but don’t yet know where the attack will come from
A lone sentry on the main bridge.
He didn’t need a roll to spot the main Medetian force when it appeared moments later!
Meanwhile groups of musketmen were dashing forward on the left.
One at a time or all together! That’s one brave Fleurian. He was determined to get at least one shot off (he missed) and didn’t last much longer, as might be expected.
Flanking support was coming into position as the main force stormed the bridge.
While the main action on the main bridge was attracting most of the defenders’ attention, the Medetians were pushing round on both flanks too.
The Medetians hurried to send more men that way too, and the action was by now spread over much of the table as the Medetians closed in from 3 directions.