Saturday 22 December 2012

Pike and Shotte - Second Play-test

With the first play-test four weeks ago, last weekend Ian and I decided upon a second play-test of Pike and Shotte.  For various reasons, Christmas and all the associated evening card writing, shopping and wrapping included, I didn't get to look at the rules properly again until we started playing(!)  This in itself was a test of the rules.  To my amazement we seemed to pick up where we left off four weeks ago. We just flowed straight back into it. (The above pic is from behind the Royalist Right wing on Game Turn 1 - The wall is made from cat litter layers on PVA glue!)

This time I added a bit more in the way of scenery, a few more enclosures, a stone wall and a few more wooded areas.  No open moorland this time but not First Newbury either.  I played Parliamentarian this time.  We settled for a standard layout - a centre of Infantry and a wing of horse flanking them.  Each was a brigade strength each (i'm not comfortable with the term 'Battalia' which the rules keeps using for a Brigade. I always thought a Battalia was a composite unit of Pike sleeved by musket, often by the breaking of a large regiment into two parts forming two Battalia...however I accept I might not be correct in this).  The term 'Brigade' is much more familiar for a grouping of several regiments for me anyway.

Game Turn 1

The dice was with me on the first throw. I got to give my orders and move first.  My first order was to my Infantry; 'The Infantry Brigade will commence a General Advance towards the enemy centre'. This bold order was unfortunately failed as the dice refused me.  Clearly the Trained Bands had some pay discussions to sort out first!  My cavalry and dragoons advanced on both flanks thankfully.  My two pieces of medium artillery started a long range barrage onto Newcastle's regiment of Whitecoats.

Ian's Royalists opted to hold the Infantry for the first move and also to push the cavalry forward. This gave a close stand-off as in the picture above.

The Parliamentarian Infantry Brigade above with gun battery between Infantry Regiments.

Game Turn 2

I gave my Infantry Brigade another order for a general advance and threw a double six (A blunder!!!)  This was my first blunder throw in any play-test, even solo efforts.  With some trepidation I threw again and checked the table. It was a move to the left side a full turn.  Not so disastrous. A rearwards movement would have been a touch embarrassing though, considering how I had set up so close to the table edge! My cavalry advance on both flanks in the meantime.

Ian's Royalists respond by holding still in the centre again (probably to allow his men to laugh at mine!) and by unleashing his cavalry in a full blooded charge on both flanks. I make a response counter-charge with my outnumbering units on the right.  Battle is now well under way. Both of my cavalry units on my right break and flee...carrying away Lt General Cromwell!!! Disaster!  The only positive being that the successful Royalist Cavalry Regiment has been left with sufficient casualties to make it 'Shaken', which appears to mean no more charges for this regiment.

The Royalist cavalry about to successfully charge Roundheads of twice their number.

The effect of the charge...fleeing Roundheads!

The marker says it all; 'Shaken not stirred!'

Haselrigge's cuirassiers on my left are forced to pull back. Only my dragoons on my left behind the stone walls give the Royalists any doubt as to how to follow up.  Things really are not looking good for the Army of Parliament!

Haselrigge falls back to regroup. So let me get this straight. My right has gone and my left is pulling back...It's a good job I still have a centre!

The Royalist Centre.  Newcastle's Regiment are disordered by the cannonballs hitting their ranks (puff of ubiquitous cotton wool!)

An overview of the centre from behind the Royalist lines.

Game Turn 3

My Infantry brigade in the centre at last makes a solid move forwards.  My artillery barrage continues to hit Newcastle's men. My cavalry on my right continue to flee off the board.  Haselrigge's cuirassiers re-group on my left. Things are looking slightly better now.

The Royalists order an infantry advance.  Things suddenly look dramatic as both brigades advance towards each other. Not all of the brigade can advance however. The artillery barrage on Newcastle's has disordered them so they cannot be ordered forward.  The Royalist artillery fire is ineffective.  Both cavalry wings hold to await developments.

Advance of the infantry

One Parliamentary Regiment swings left of the enclosure to block Rupert's Foote.

Game Turn 4

This turn appears to be crucial and so it proves.  I order a charge with my Infantry.  The Red Trained Bands launch into Pennyman's Royalist Foote.  Essex's Regiment give support on the flank.  Pennyman is supported by the shaken Royalist horse.

Up close and personal. The Trained Bands charge into Pennyman's blewcoats.

A wider view of the combat showing supports on the flanks.

All units in the combat add up their scores for an overall victor to be found.  The Royalist Infantry are overwhelmingly beaten in the combat and break completely.....and there we ran out of time!


So what can I say...what a superb game it was!  We couldn't quite get to a point where a clear victor was found.  I had lost a cavalry brigade on the right early on but the left was quite well drawn and the centre was being won by the Parliamentarian Infantry. Suddenly things didn't look so good for the Royalists.

I did make two mistakes with the rules.  With the infantry combat, even though all of the units in the fight combine score totals to find the winner, I should have thrown for a break test for each losing unit. In this case each musket wing and the pike block is a unit (thus 3 x units).  I instead used the break test and applied the result to all three.  I should also have thrown a break test for the supporting unit - in this case the cavalry unit you can see in the picture above threatening my flank.

The rules flowed really well, and with the small tweaks made in the previous game, this assisted in making it very playable.  I love the order system and how brigade orders make it important to keep brigades together so they are more cohesive and not receive penalties which could upset their orders being received.  This has the wonderful effect of battle-line being kept together and discourages those 'Firework Displays' of units which can happen in some rules.
A final view of the action at end-of-play.

I also like the 'blunder' aspect of the orders.  This is a fun element, but we know that blunders in orders do occur in warfare throughout the ages. This is a very simple way in which to make blunders a possibility.  The skill lies in how the opponent can exploit it quickly.

Movement rates and fire distances seem sensible. Everything seems to function how it did historically. For instance, Dragoons are very flexible, can give closing fire and evade and are great for taking ground like enclosures.  The hard part for them is maintaining ground when under pressure. They do not like hand to hand combat, but can sometimes surprise you!  I look forward immensely to using 'commanded shotte' with the cavalry as I think this will work really well.

There are a couple of minor things in the rules which I don't agree with and will change:  Firelocks should not out-range matchlock muskets. The fire-lock is a change of musket ignition system - nothing more. They do not add extra powder to the charge behind the ball!

The rules on shaken units in brigades not being able to charge need looking at. A small cavalry brigade will quickly become ineffective and may as well leave the table when it takes casualties.  I have read of various ideas of how to improve this situation, mostly in terms of reducing command points or melee dice instead for shaken units (I think I read this on the Edinburgh Wargames website). I'll need to research this further and tinker a bit.

The rules do lend themselves well to minor tinkering and adjusting and indeed encourage players to do so.

Overall I absolutely love the rules and I look forward to playing the scenarios presented in the Caliver Book's ECW scenarios series.  I can't wait for the next game now!

Friday 14 December 2012

A Test Battle with 'Pike and Shotte' Rules

I guess you can read and re-read rules and be convinced they are going to work, but ultimately there is only one way to find out and that's to try them out with an opponent to control the enemy forces.  So this was it, I had staked a lot on these working, my massive re-basing project which has gone on furiously since June of this year, was set on using 'Pike and Shotte' as my rule system.  It wasn't such a gamble, I felt, because I had used 'Hail Caesar' and was convinced on first playing that they could be adapted to the English Civil War with some modifications (this was before I knew that a suitable Renaissance book was in the offing).

A small play-test as a solo game gave very satisfactory results, but one tends to just line the troops up and let them go in such situations.  This time I needed to look at how they worked with a thinking opponent who would do the unexpected (and the expected...and still beat me!). So in November my regular opponent, Ian, came over to try out the rules.

We only had about 3 hours to play, so I went for minimal scenery, with just a few hedgerows and small woods and we also used Ian's 4Ground ECW house with an enclosure.  I have to say how impressed I was with the house. It's amazing how just one item can really set the scene and say 'English Civil War' period.  I will have to paint up my random Greek stone columns for my ancient Greek armies (when I get round to them!). I was Royalists and Ian played Parliament.  The picture above shows my Royalist centre attacking Ian's centre (photo is from Ian's side).

Because of the short time scale I took fairly random pictures as a reminder of the set up and of the game, rather than with a view of giving a full battle report.  Above is a picture from Ian's side of the board.  My plan of occupying the enclosure with dragoons and putting fire into the infantry combat went out of the window as my poor command dice left my units reacting to my orders very slowly.  Ian, however managed to steal a march on me and got his small unit of dragoons into the enclosure to put traversing fire on to my cavalry wing.  I do like how the rules cover order giving and order results. Very simple and effective with plenty of scope for orders not being obeyed instantly or in the way you wanted.  The traversing fire rule was simple too. From being unsure if there was such a rule, we found it and used it, in about 60 seconds. All nice and's just a pity it was my troops on the receiving end of it!

Another shot above from behind the Parliament centre.  My Royalist assault had become thoroughly disordered before making contact due to Ian's good fire dice.  I was forced to break ranks with my central unit (Green Colours) and send the pike on a do or die mission to break his line.  I hit his musketeers with a determined charge and a mighty struggle ensued.  My pike won the combat every turn for about 3 turns but his musketeers held on grimly and survived each break test...just! This forced the combat to continue each turn. Please excuse the units without the basing being finished.  These are work in progress but were needed to add to the numbers for the game.

Above: Essex's Orange coat's making the Royalists think twice about charging.

Above: The lovely house by 4Ground,with Ian's small group of determined dragoons fending off my cavalry and dragoons.

Another view of the house and my cavalry riding by.  You might have noticed the two storage boxes saying 'AWI Continental' and 'AWI British' behind...oh yes...I am working on other things too. I have too many gaming periods of interest if anything, though I know I have only shown Ancients and ECW in my blog to date.  I would like to make progress with my AWI army in 2013, especially as I now have the 'Black Powder' rule-set too.

Well the battle was very enjoyable, with the rules declared a great success. I didn't achieve my battle objectives and was severely disordered in the centre. I also lost a brigade of cavalry on my right so Ian was in the better position when we ran out of time.  The rules have a really good feel about them and there wasn't a single thing I disliked..other than perhaps the ability to move 3 turns then fire into the face of the enemy.  I had read of this aspect being a little odd in other review so amended the rules to say that a maximum of 2 turns of movement then fire is permitted. So 3 moves will not allow fire to be given as well.  This seemed to be a simple solution that worked perfectly and prevented anyone from sprinting up in formation and letting loose at point blank.

All being well, we shall be playing the rules again this Sunday night.  I'm just finishing a dragoon command stand as fast as I can...nothing like a little incentive to aid the painting process :-)

Saturday 1 December 2012

Sir Arthur Haselrigge's Regiment of Horse

Sir Arthur Haselrigge's Regiment of Horse - the famous 'Lobsters' (or should it be 'Liebsters' after the many awards of that name presented to many worthy blogs in the last couple of weeks!).

I painted these in 1991 if I recall correctly, but the basing has all been freshly done using MDF and my current basing methods.  They were originally based on bits of card and flocked but not any more.

The figures were made by Front Rank (as too was my previously posted regiment of Sir Samuel Luke's Regiment).  I still really like the actual figures of the troopers. A nice mix of closed helmets and lobster pots. It's just a shame about the saddle-cloths being cast on to the actual figure, again causing the figures to sit too high, like my previously posted regiment.  I remember being somewhat dismayed to find the standard bearer, commander and trumpeter to be standard Front Rank Cavalry officers and thus not wearing full cuirassier armour.  This was also my first attempt with modelling clay (some bizarre hairy stuff!) to sculpt on figures.  For a first attempt (and if you don't look at the command stand too closely), I might have nearly got away with making it look ok. The command stand is with the main photo of the whole regiment (so they are hidden!), not the pic below which is of troopers! :-)

Sir Arthur Haselrigge formed one of the few cuirassier regiment's used in the civil war.  By all accounts they gave solid service until their destruction at the Battle of Roundway Down, when they were forced to flee down the sheer drops of the hills (I might post photos of the battlefield walk made back in the summer sometime).  The regiment was re-formed afterwards but as a cavalry regiment equipped in the standard way.  I just tried to find an online account of the Royalist Cavalry officer Richard Atkyn's account of the battle and his personal combat with Sir Arthur, but alas, my 3am head has only succeeded in finding this bit of potted history from Wikipedia:

"Haselrig's regiment formed the heavy cavalry in the army of Sir William Waller. The "lobsters" distinguished themselves at Lansdown on July 5, 1643. However, at the Battle of Roundway Down, on July 13, they met a Royalist cavalry charge at the halt and after a brief clash, retreated in disorder, the Parliamentarian army losing the battle. Though they were defeated the armour they wore apparently served them well; Haselrig was shot three times at Roundway Down, with the bullets apparently bouncing off his armour. After firing a pistol at Haselrig's helmeted head at close range without any effect Richard Atkyns described how he attacked him with his sword, but it too caused no visible damage; Haselrig was under attack from a number of people and only succumbed when Atkyns attacked his unarmoured horse. After the death of his horse Haselrig tried to surrender; but as he fumbled with his sword, which was tied to his wrist, he was rescued. He suffered only minor wounds from his ordeal.[4]
This incident was related to Charles I and elicited one of his rare attempts at humour. The king said that if Haselrig had been as well supplied as he was fortified he could have withstood a siege."

Atkyn's account of the battle is dramatic and is a wonderful first hand account of a civil war cavalry battle. If you can find it then it's worth a read. You'll note that Haselrigge's name is never consistently spelt either (i'm not sure the man himself would have used the same spelling!). I used the Barry Denton spelling from his excellent book on Sir Arthur called 'Only in Heaven' (Sir Arthur's motto on his cavalry standard).

I had no idea until I read Barry Denton's book just how central a figure Sir Arthur was to many of the key political events of the Civil War and end of Commonwealth (where he was trapped between a 'rock and a hard place' sandwiched between the rival generals Monck and Lambert, whilst attempting to maintain Parliament as the key ruling power).  All fascinating and very fast moving stuff.

Anyway, painting cuirassiers can be bad for your pocket...I now really want to add a firing copy of one of those massive wheel-lock or dog-lock pistols to my black-powder gun collection! :-)