Invasion of Cylene 2 (Alpha Strike)

After smashing through enemy forces at Valley Pond the Combine commander sees a chance to exploit the hole in FedCom lines. The recon and assault lances are brought forward to break through enemy positions and wreak havok. FedCom has their heaviest assets in the are but these lumbering beasts will have problems catching the lightning fast Combine recon Mechs.

Breakthrough at Ghetra

A kilometre in front of the town of Ghetra, where FedCom has a supply depot, the opponents clash in a hilly area. Combine outnumbers the enemy 2:1 but they need to exit 4 Mechs through the opposing table edge to win. FedCom needs to prevent that.

The FedCom commander knows that the center of the board is too open for trying a breakthrough, so he positions his Mechs to the flanks where the enemy light Mechs are expected.

The Combine hols back its heavy machines as fire support while the light machines are split to the left and right. They race off from turn one to make the breakthrough.

Although Combine pilots push their engines into the red, heavy fire occasionally connects with the lightning fast Mechs and a Combine Hermes III (top) receives too much damage. Its pilot turns around to get back to safety as a severely damaged Mech behind enemy lines would do no good. Shortly after the other light Mech successfully breaks through. 3 more Mechs and the Combine wins.

On the other flank FedCom has more problems. The enemy can advance in cover of the hills and heavy Combine Mechs are closing in on the flank to give their fellow Mechwarriors some breathing space.

Some turns later Combine forces put up so much pressure that FedCom had to retreat into the forest. The Jenner (bottom left) could have broke through to Ghetra easily but turned around to surround the enemy completely.

Back on the right. With the retreating Hermes II down and the Locust through, Combine heavy assets advance to put pressure on FedCom Mechs. Their goal is to keep FedCom occupied here so they cannot help on the other side of the battlefield. The FedCom commander sees no way to extricate his forces securely so he pushes his Hunchback (right) forward aggressively to at least score a kill on the Awesome (left), a slow Assault Mech.

The Hunchback cannot close fast enough, however. It melts in a spectacular fireball before bringing its heavy autocannon to bear. Meanwhile the FedCom Longbow churns out swarms of long range missiles that damage the Awesome badly. It has to crawl back to safety.

The attrition battle on the right is costly for both sides but FedCom at least has the upper hand. On the left side, however, a Dervish succumbs to enemy fire and the Marauder nearly lost a leg and is overheated. Combine Mechs push into the enemy without abandon and even forget their mission goals. It has become costly for them as well, as their Battlemaster (middle) is badly damaged and has to retreat.

A FedCom Valkyrie manages to peel off from the right flank and help the struggling Marauder. It will finish off the enemy Battlemaster but the Marauder will be destroyed soon after and another Combine Mech breaks through, with a third into position to make a dash.

Meanwhile the FedCom Longbow has become the MVP on the field. It beat back the Awesome, stripped a Dragon heavy Mech of its armor and now goes toe to toe with a Combine Crusader. Missiles slam into the surprisingly fast Crusader. As it gets obvious that Combine forces elected it to break though, the remaining FedCom assets pour everything they have into the mech but it withers the fire and breaks through together with a Blackjack on the other end of the battlefield, completing the mission.

Aftermath

Another victory for the Combine forces but at atrocious costs. Only after I read the next scenario I come to realize that I just witnessed a pyrrhic victory. Draconis’ heavy machines are all damaged beyond battlefield readiness. Repairs and resupply are still not available and so Combine forces can field precious little to go into the potentially last scenario. It doesn’t look good for FedCom either but in contrast they seem to be in good shape with a pristine Warhammer to field.

Invasion of Cylene 1 (Alpha Strike)

I bought Alpha Strike, Battletech’s quick play rules, some years back but never got around playing it for real. Partly due the lack of Mechs and partly due to lacklustre test games.

I decided to give it another try and generally stock up on some Battlemechs. Together with my existing miniatures and the new recruits I’m about to field a company of Draconis Combine and a company of Federated Suns each, with about two stars of Clan Mechs as well.

I decided to play the campaign outlined in the core rulebook which is basically a branching and winding scenario tree with basic supply management later on. The Combine invades the border planet Cylene in the 3rd Succession War. They have a recon lance, a battle lance and an assault lance. Their commander has the Disrupt Communications special rules which limits enemy movement on a roll of 6 on 1d6 at the start of the turn.

The Federated Suns field a light battle lance and two normal battle lances. The command ability is Forcing the initiative, which grands initiative bonuses for destroyed Mechs the turn prior. Pilots on both sides start as veterans.

Meeting Engagement at Valley Pond

After Combine forces made planetfall the battle lance starts an aggressive patrol to deny defensible areas to FedCom forces. One of such areas is the aptly named Valley Pond where a FedCom battle lance was about to go in defensive position. Battle is joined shortly after.

Disclaimer: Miniatures and Mechs they represent differ. If you are a purist who only plays with the Mechs the miniatures reperesent that’s Ok. But I don’t.

The start of the battle has both sides in good positions for a long range battle but neither side is really equipped for these ranges.

In an aggressive move the FedCom lance pushes out to get their close range Mech, the Victor, into range (bottom). They also want to park the Crusader in the water to cool it down for more firepower (the Warhammer in the pond).

Initially the plan goes well. After several turns of concentrated firepower the Combine Whitworth slides down the hill, completely destroyed.

On the other side of the table, heavy Combine Mechs overheat and bring down the Victor before just before it can deal serious damage.

With the threat to their firing line gone, Combine forces concentrate on the Crusader in the pond, while their light Mech flanks around to be a general nuisance. With the mighty Victor lost FedCom cannot match the firepower and the Crusader goes down while retreating. This secures the win for Combine forces.

Aftermath

FedCom losses are heavy after this first clash but several Combine Mechs are already stripped of armor. Neither side can repair or recruit after this scenario so these damaged assets are of no use right now and are shifted behind the front line as emergency reserve.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Days 3 & 4

This is the situation at the beginning of Day 3:

The campaign already rewards me with an interesting strategic situation. French commander Ramille has I Corps in Bolkhov (C9) but his back is against the river and he is outnumbered 3:2 by the Russians around Ozyorsk (B11). II Corps is relatively free to move but if the Russians gain the initiative and act quickly, they can cut off the Prussians from I Corp’s flank or II Corps from supporting I Corps in a battle. Ramille writes three sets of orders. One for moving II corps up, one for moving the Prussians down and II Corps moving to Yartsevo (E11) and one where I Corps move back into a better position while II Corps moves up to give flank support.

The Russians have another problem. Although they have a better concentration of force, they have no idea where half of the French forces are. Nevertheless B9 and E9 seem to be strong blocking positions. Two alternative order sets will be about priority of blocking force movements while the bulk of the army advances to Bolkhov. The third option will be a passive one, where only the flanks advance.

French Orders of the Day

I Corps (A, B, C): Fall back to (north)west of Bolkhov.

II Corps (E, D, F): Move towards south of Bolkhov and secure the crossing at E9 as well as I Corp’s flank.

von Steuen (G): Fall back to A8 in support of I Corps.

Faltenbach (H): Swing east of Corps II towards Yartsevo (E11) but don’t overextend.

Russian Orders of the Day

Medhorovcky (3): Move between enemy G and Bolkhov into a blocking position.

Column Zimin (8, 5): Move into a blocking position so that enemies cannot advance north from E8-E9.

Column Koltsov (1, 2, 4, 6, 7): move southwest into battle positons for an attack against the forces in and around Bolkhov.

Day 3 Begins

Ramille’s orders for von Steuben get intercepted by enemy skirmishers and are lost. Corbin (D) receives orders after spending 4 pips, Faltenbach (H) after 2 and Pirot at the end of the day.

Vorodnin (1) and Koltsov (4) will receive orders after 5 pips. All other orders get through quickly, as the Russians are more condensed. Initiative goes to the Russians.

The Russians quickly achieve their blocking positions north and south of Bolkhov. While moving, they also spot some missing French forces. Meawhile the French slowly fall back behind the river. As Davydov withnesses the French leaving Bolkhov he uses the opportunity and takes the city (rolled for either passive or aggressive move, got the latter).

Note: Situations like these open up opportunities for skirmish wargames. Fighting at the outskirts of the city for example. If the Russians win Davydov advances. As I don’t like skirmish games I went with dice. But for anyone interested in such campaigns this tip might be helpful.

As Ménard’s Division (E) gets into gears his scouts report strong Russian forces on the other side of the bridge. With the bulk of II Corps behind him, he decides to don’t wait in position but to flank west to stay linked up with I Corps.

Up north Koltsov and Vorodnin stay in position for most of the day. As orders arrive they don’t agree how to read and act upon them this late in the day. While Koltsov moves west to stay in contact with force G, Vorodnin moves south towards the rear of other Russian forces.

The rest of II Corps and the Austrians split farther apart due to lost or late orders. Faltenbach was well on his way to I11 when he got new orders and is now in position to move into the opponent’s rear area.

This is the situation at the end of day 3. For the first time, both sides have battle options for day 4. The French foresaw strong Russian flanking moves but failed to counteract them. Still, they have managed to keep their forces at least somewhat connected, thanks to the fall back move and Ménard’s (E) own initiative. Russian aggressiveness came at a prize. Enemy forces suddenly appeared near the rear. The area should have been protected by Column Zimin (8, 5) but they moved west. What’s more, is that the Russians have not spotted D approaching and still don’t know where F is. In contrast the French only lost sight of force 4.

The French gain initiative to declare battles for the next day and do so twice! The upper one has been declared to keep Russian forces in place. Terrain and positioning is rather bad for both sides but the French want to keep the enemy from supporting the battle to the south.

The southern battle is what the French really want. They have only E committed and three forces in reach within a wide flanking arc.

Day 4

As the forces array for battle commanders hastily dictate their orders for the not yet engaged formations. The French orders all revolve around setting up the southern battle. Either they flank heavily or they set up a traditional battleline with only Falkenbach flanking or they block battlespaces early to constrict Russian battle spaces and moves.

The Russians have the opportunity to concentrate on the northern battle and only send a token force to the lower one. They can also try to block battlespaces in the southern battle early to have a strong initial presence on the field, albeit with many French flank marching troops. Or they deliberately concentrate their forces in the southern battle into a small area to prevent being outflanked.

French Orders of the Day

Corbin (D): Move to F10 to block enemy flanking movement

Pirot (F): Enter battle at F9.

Faltenbach (H): Try to flank from E10 or move towards F 9 if not possible.

Russian Orders of the Day

Vorodnin (1) and Koltsov (4) enter the battle at A9.

Ilyin (7): Enter the battle at E9 if possible, else at D9.

Nosov (6) and Beretschov (5): Enter the battle at B/C9.

Day 4 Pre-Battle Maneuvers

All orders went through. The Russians successfully hampered Faltenbach’s flanking maneuver by moving late. This had unforeseen consequences, however. Beretschov, slated to tip the northern battle in even more numerical favor was hindered by French forces moving to his flank and couldn’t reach the upper battle. In the end neither side got what they wanted.

This is the situation before the battles begin. 5, D and H will be supports for the southern battle.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Days 1 & 2

The campaign begins with initial orders for all forces. I wrote three sets of orders for both sides and decided randomly which one to implement. Here is the map again to follow along.

French Initial Orders

Commander Ramille issues rather careful orders:

I Corps (A, B, C): Enter from D1 and move towards Bolkhov C9. Capture if conditions are favorable. Von Steuben (G) will support north of Bolkhov.

von Steuben (G): Enter from A5 on day 2 to support I Corps (moving against Bolkhov C9) from the north.

II Corps (E, D, F): Enter from J1 and secure the crossroads at H8 and put pressure on the crossroads at E9.

Faltenbach (H): Enter from L6 on day 2. Move towards the crossroads at I11 but only to recon and probe. Fall back to II Corps at H8 if necessary.

Russian Initial Orders

Commander Kurkovik weighs his forces heavily in the direction of Bolkhov but doesn’t use the obvious attack routes. The surrounding area has to be secured first:

Column Koltsov (4, 1, 2, 3): Enter at G16 and capture Ozyorsk B11 and the northern area of Bolkhov.

Column Nosov (6, 7): Enter at A16 and defend the flank of column Koltsov south and east of Bolkhov.

Column Zimin (8, 5): Enter at J16, move to Yartsevo E11 and act as reserve for forces north and west of you.

Day 1

No changes to the initial orders are made on day one. This is the overall map at the end of the day. The Flags under C and left of 1 are the respective C-in-C markers.

Day 2

With no contacts no order changes are made. The French have the first move.

French I Corps moves unopposed into Bolkhov and sends out Merle’s Division to defend the bridge south of the city at D9.

Column Koltsov meanwhile moves up to capture Ozyorsk. In passing both forces scout each other.

Von Steuben’s Prussians meanwhile close in in the north and spot only some of the forces near Ozyorsk. They are under support orders so decide to stop well ahead of the enemy.

Column Nosov moves up to Ozyosrk as well.

II Corps secures the area around H8. They fail to spot Zimin’s column near Yartsevo F11.

Column Zimin also fail to spot I Corps as they move up.

Faltenbach arrives and moves towards I11.

End of Day 2

Above you can see the frontlines forming. The French map looks pretty much the same. They only failed to spot force 5 and II Corps in the south doesn’t know of marker 8 either.

The Russian map in comparison. Only half of the french army has been spotted so far.

With the last sunlight vanishing the respective generals and staff officers meet to plot the orders for day 3.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Setup

This is going to be one Frankenstein of a post. My recent game of BBB (Big Bloody Battles by Chris Pringle; Blog) left me in high spirits. I’m also reading Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming. The book hasn’t aged well in some regards but I constantly get new ideas while reading and that’s what counts.

So I’m starting a new campaign. Nothing on the scale of my ECW campaign, as I don’t need another huge time sink to keep me from progressing. the idea is to combine Blücher‘s (Sam Mustafa; Website) campaign system Scharnhorst with BBB as battle engine and enrich it with order writing mechanics. The basic inspiration is Napoleon’s Russian campaign near the Borodino phase. The map and forces will only very vaguely resemble the historical ones, though. The French get to field an Austrian and Prussian Division, although they are not happy to be there.

Scharnhorst has rules for a bigger, 10 day (turn) game surrounding the Waterloo campaign, which I will borrow as well. The map is four times the size of a normal campaign map and the forces involved are nearly as much as I can field miniature wise.

Around Bolkhov

This is known as the larger Bolkhov area where forces will clash. The city of Bolkhov is in C9. French enter from the left, Prussians into A5 on day 2, Austrians into L6 on day 2 as well. Russians enter from the from the right side and at least one force must use each road. The road leaving in A16 leads to Moscow.

Terrain shows only the major features. During a battle further terrain will be added to the six sectors of the battlefield.

Added Fog of War Campaign Rules

The campaign will progress as double blind game. Usually both sides can see all forces but not the contents of a force marker. Each side has eight division strength force markers. In my modification a marker can always spot enemies around it within one map sector (diagonally as well). Two sectors away it may spot enemies on a roll of 4+ on 1d6. Friendly forces can always be seen within a two sectors radius. Everything beyond can only be conveyed by orders from the C-in-C or adjacent forces. These test will be made for both sides every time a force enters a new sector.

To make matters more interesting for me I will use written orders for the campaign and all ensuing battles. On the campaign map, forces receive an order of the day at the beginning of each day which they then try to achieve during the day.

In order to model the difficulties of campaign command (around 50.000 bayonets per side alone), there can be a transmission delay. The C-in-C has its own marker on the map which has 10 movement points (normal force markers have 6). It moves after all friendly and enemy forces have moved in the day but has to end its movement within one sector of a friendly marker.

When handing out the order of the day it will arrive safely if the receiving force is two sectors away. If the force is farther away 1d6 has to be rolled. On a 1 the order is lost. Every other face indicates when the order will arrive in the force’s move. If I roll a 3 for example, the order arrives after the force spend the first three movement points that turn.

Added Battle Rules

During a BBB battle each C-in-C gets a stationary figure. Orders are written down either as instructions or as movement arrows on a map and have to be followed. They can be changed at the end of each turn on a roll of 1+ on 1d6. For every full cavalry move of distance between C-in-C and division commander add 1 to the difficulty. If the division commander is not in line of sight add 1. If the recipient is not French add 2. If the C-in-C from the map is not present add 1. If the dice roll fails, write the target number -1 on the order and roll again at the end of next turn.

The French use the Corps structure but Corps commanders are integrated into the C-in-C during battle. The Russians form impromptu columns.

Overall Goals of the Campaign

The main goal is to bring the enemy to battle in a decisive manner. Villages, towns and cities grant no points in this campaign. Unless one force is crushed in battle I will determine the winner at the end of day 10. Strategic position will play a factor but how intact one’s forces are in comparison to the enemy is the main factor.

French Forces

The allied Austrians were quite reluctant to fight their longtime allies and I classed the Fragile as well as Passive.

C-in-C Ramille

I Corps Lebeau

1st Division Lessard (Marker A)
6S Trnd Plante
4S Trnd Saindon
4S Raw Varieur
Foot Artillery

2nd Division Merle (Marker B)
6SA Trnd Condert
2SA Vet Émond

Cavalry Reserve Collin (Marker C)
2A Trnd (Dragoons) Salois
3A Trnd (Dragoons) Blanchard
3AH Trnd (Cuirassiers) Courcelle
Horse Artillery

II Corps D’Arconet

1st Division Corbin (Marker D)
4S Trnd Audibert
4S Trnd Durepos
3S2A Vet Fabien
Heavy Foot Artillery

2nd Division Ménard (Marker E)
4S Trnd Routhier
3S Vet Franchet
3L Trnd (Lt. Dragoons) Jetté

3rd (Guard Division) Pirot (Marker F)
3S Vet Minonde
3HA (Guard Cavalry) Penterre
Horse Artillery

Allied Contingents

Prussian Division von Steuben (Marker G)
5S Raw Müller
4S Trnd Wiczorek
2H Vet (Cuirassiers)
Foot Artillery
Heavy Foot Artillery

Austrian Division Faltenbach (Marker H)
4PFL Vet (Hussars) Beyen
6SPF Trnd Hain
6SPF Trnd Kaltenmaier
Foot Artillery

Russian Forces

The Russian infantry was quite difficult to command and poor at musketry but they had high morale. Therefore I gave them Passive, Ragged Volleys, no Skirmishers (apart from some Jägers) and Veteran. The Veteran status of course does model their morale, not their training.

C-in-C Kurkovik

Division Vorodnin (Marker 1)
3SP Vet Primakov
5RP Vet Esen
6RP Vet Demidov

Division Darydov (Marker 2)
6RP Vet Pugin
6RP Vet Abramaov
4RP Vet Bychkov
Heavy Foot Artillery

Division Medhorovcky (Marker 3)
3RP Vet Sakharov
3RP Vet Tarask
Foot Artillery

Division Koltsov (Marker 4)
5L Trnd (Hussars) Zimin
5L Trnd (Hussars) Polunin
Horse Artillery

Division Beretschov (Marker 5)
3RP Vet Godorschenkov
3RP Rechensky
Heavy Foot Artillery

Division Nosov (Marker 6)
6RP Vet Bogdanov
5RP Vet Kravchuk
2LA Raw (Cossacks) Loginovsky

Division Ilyin (Marker 7)
3SP Vet Frolov
4RP Vet Katzbach
4RP Vet Kirilov
Heavy Foot Artillery
Heavy Foot Artillery

Cavalry Reserve Zimin (Marker 8)
3H Vet (Guard Cavalry) Popov
3H Vet (Guard Cavalry) Clazkovsky
2LA Raw (Cossacks) Grishkin

The 2020 To Do List

After my review of 2019 I will now look into my plans for 2020:

Modelling & Painting

Still more terrain to finish. Especially woods and painting houses. Town bases to but said houses onto are also on the list. There are two terrain types I haven’t covered in a satisfactory manner: Swamps and rocky terrain. I have concepts how to build them easily, though.

The packing chips I use as smoke markers lately are not the best looking solution but they are very practical to use and stow away (space is at a premium). Maybe cutting some shapes will make them look better.

Still lots of painting to do on my Sword & Sorcery dungeon crawling games. It progresses nicely but will need many month before completion at my speed.

The look of the 2mm figures from Irregular Miniatures is not what I was looking for in Napoleonics. I need to use some different period paint schemes to see if I can salvage them. American and English Civil Wars come to mind.

The movement trays I sometimes use for Blücher are really barebones. Something nicer with re-useable unit labels is on the list. Tests were disappointing so far.

I did some experimentation with a Kriegspiel-look DBA set. It did turn out Ok but is only a side project. Even if I don’t continue I should probably write a blog post about it.

Campaigns

The For King & Parliament ECW campaign will continue. If I can make good progress I will be able to finish it this year.

I have a new, smaller Napoleonic campaign in the wings. Several posts are already written up.

There is also an Ancients campaign with DBA 3.0 campaign I started but packed away for Napoleonics quickly. Not sure if i’m motivated enough to finish this.

Battles

Playing games is of course the main focus every year. I mostly play fictional battles or campaign games but I’m interested in trying out scenarios. There are several good Blücher scenarios here. As I like Big Bloody Battles I would like to give the Aspern-Esslingen scenario a spin. I have enough forces to field the armies but need more road crossings and bendy river sections to set it up.

Then there is 2 Hour Wargames. I quite like the scenarios of the book but I have one or two new ideas to represent encircling and interior lines. Another idea of mine was to randomly combine two scenarios into one larger battle. Some groundwork has been done but a test has yet to be conducted.

I have a large collection of starship miniatures begging me to use them. Maybe this year. Talking of maybe’s, Hordes of the Things arrived over Christmas…

Rules

Over the past years I have tried out a wide array of rule sets for Napoleonics and other periods. Lately I am more and more jaded about most of them. To a point where I’m thinking about getting rid of some. For a self proclaimed rules collector a sacrilegious thing to say! I will think more about this but so far here are my categories for Napoleonics alone:

Rule sets I currently play and like:

  • Blücher: It simply works.
  • Big Bloody Battles: With modifications that are not set in stone yet.
  • Black Powder: I’m using a fair bit of house rules. But this set is easily adaptable.
  • C&C Napoleonics: With the rule that a block can absorb two hits before it is removed.

On the fence:

  • 2×2 Napoleonics: I only played one game which I liked but the rules are all over the place. I started a re-write for my own purposes but it is not finished or tested.
  • General d’Armee: The rules are nice and give a good game but they simply seem less elegant and slower than Black Powder. If I had to replace Black Powder, this set would probably be it. The ADC system is a big draw towards General d’Armee but in order to really get it going you need sizeable forces on the table which is difficult for me figure- and spacewise.
  • Bataille Empire: Again, great rule set for people who want the detail and slower gaming speed. I still think I prefer Black Powder. The move away from YGO IGO will probably much more interesting for people who play this head to head. For solo play the sequencing is actually difficult to game through. Maybe I give it another try with a more traditional turn order, because most of the other rules are quite good.

Rule sets I tried and didn’t like:

  • Field of Glory: Napoleonics: The terrain generation and pre-battle rules are slick but the main rules are too complicated for me, given that it is a tournament set. I want to like them, but I cant.
  • Portable Napoleonic Wargame: Didn’t give me the period feel I’m looking for.
  • Polemos: Neither the small nor the large scale set convinced me. The rules are not written clearly and don’t give a satisfying period feel in my opinion. To be blunt, Polemos is probably the worst on the list.
  • DBN: It feels too much like DBA for me.
  • Age of Eagles: More detailed in scale and rules than Big Bloody Battles. It needs an absurd amount of bases and has some fiddly stuff that is thankfully abstracted away in Big Bloody Battles.
  • Twilight of the Sun King: Not Napoleonic but I tested them in order to modify them for the period. The concepts are great but the writing is quite vague and some details could have been omitted for my taste.
  • Several variants of 2 Hour Wargames Horse and Musket: All the variants I tried added more chrome to the rules but the game still felt very basic and too attritional in a sense that you nearly always inflict some damage to the enemy. Compare this with Blücher or Black Powder where fights can be over quick or last a long time with some regularity. There is no disruption or disorder of any kind which is key for the period in my opinion.
  • Shako: To be fair, I only started one game and it was Shako I not II. The order system is very good and has been nicked immediately for other games. All the other stuff… Somehow too fiddly for me. Hard to put a finger on though. It somehow felt too old school.

Rule sets I want to try:

  • Napoleon’s battles: Brigade scale and they don’t seem too complicated. Hard to obtain the rules or information about them, though.
  • Grande Armee: I already heard that it is very time consuming so I’m going into this to find new mechanics and ideas, not a new rule set.
  • Volley & Bayonet: Command & Control seems underdeveloped from what I read but it has a scenario system I ‘m interested in and maybe I like the combat mechanics.

Rules I want to write:

I developed my own starship combat rules quite often in the past. I even came up with something remarkably similar to early Starmada in the time of dial-up internet. I refrained from doing so for historical periods though, as my grasp on them wasn’t good enough and design space seemed less open. You can do crazy thinks in science fiction which are hard to explain in historical periods. Lately there are some ideas froming for a Horse & Musket rule set of my own:

  • Strong command system that makes it necessary to have a plan in advance. Some form of (written) orders which can be changed at a delay or lost in transmission or misunderstood.
  • A turn order that rewards the battle plan, not good initiative dice and moving unit X before unit Y to get into the building first. I have no solid idea for this yet.
  • A simple, free flowing movement system that is constricted by command and control and not by measuring degrees of wheeling.
  • A combat system a bit like Twilight of the Sun King but even more radical. There is no musketry, there are no charges! The driving concept is the proximity of units and the intensity of their orders and will. For example: My cavalry on attack orders, barely an inch away from your infantry is really hurting your infantry’s morale. Whether they fight or threaten each other is abstracted away in Brigade scale. This idea goes back to a quote I read about French infantry breaking next to Prussian cavalry (which didn’t charge).
  • A pre battle system for stratagems and terrain selection. My working idea is that one player has to offer battle at a battlefield but the enemy can decline, going to another battlefield.
  • Mechanics which allow strong period flavor and national differences.

2019 is dead, long live 2020

Back in December 2018 I decided on a couple of wargaming goals for 2019. Time to review these. My status in italics:

  • Acquire a Napoleonic Prussian Army: This is a task bleeding over from 2018. I already ordered a fully based and painted army in 6mm Baccus. It should arrive by end of winter.

    Done!
  • Acquire a Napoleonic British Army: This is the last big army I need in my set of the five great Nations. I’m thinking about cutting down in size on this army though. I need to make a plan how many British and minor nation allies I need (see below).

    I wasn’t sure if I want to continue the 6mm scale and basing. But I think I will get them sooner than later.
  • Acquire some Napoleonic minor nations units: To add some color to armies and support the British army. I’m thinking about units with distinct uniforms and common presence in the age of Napoleon. Bavarians, Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Vistula Legion, Portuguese

    See above
  • Play more test battles with Age of Eagles: Only played two so far which I didn’t enjoy that much. There are some AoE scenarios I downloaded and want to set up.

    I played another scenario but it felt weird. The units are brigades with thousands of men, they are quite big on the table but they feel more like battalions to me.
  • Play more test battle with Bloody Big Battles (Napoleonic mod): I downloaded two Napoleonic mods for the rules. I want to try them and compare with my AoE games. Playing the same scenario with AoE, BBB and Blücher (my go to rule-set) should give me some insights about the rules systems and how much I like them or not.

    I still need to do this. I think I will run into the same problem as with AoE.
  • Paint the remaining 6mm houses: They are sitting in the box where I primed them. No excuses this year!

    I’m on it. Slowly…
  • Test Twilight of the Sun King rule-set: I ordered it in December and waiting for it to arrive. If I like the rules I want to make them work for Napoleonics.

    I played two battles and had a lot of problems interpreting the rules. There is a long list of modifiers for morale (and effectively shooting) which I now consider bad design. These long lists slow game play so much that it isn’t enjoyable.
  • Set-up and play an ECW campaign with For King and Parliament tabletop rules: So many ECW blogger campaigns I follow. I desperately want to set up my own but it has proven difficult to find a campaign system I’m satisfied with.

    Ongoing. The campaign works, although not moving armies on the map is a bit of a bummer. For King and Parliament works well, too. I tried out other sets and they can’t compare.
  • Find suitable campaign rules for a Europe-spanning Napoleonic campaign: Yeah, good luck with that…

    Need more luck this year…
  • Make counter armies for Fistful of Tows 3: Some easy to read NATO-Symbol counters for WW2 armies. Probably for the eastern front.

    No progress and currently not much interest. I bought and played Rommel though. I liked it but not enough interest in WWII currently.
  • Play some Fistful of Tows 3 test battles: Read most of the rules and want to try them out. Something easy first like a WW2 eastern front tank battle without artillery.

    See above.
  • Base all remaining trees: I have about 40% done since yesterday. I single base them to be more flexible. I build a test forest template a few month ago, however. I have to decide if I like it enough to keep it or rip it apart to re-base the trees.

    I’m trying a new basing scheme but progress is slow.
  • Test a C&C Napoleonics variant: My biggest critique of the game is the time to kill. It is very easy to kill whole units off without much time to react. For the scale and time frame the game conveys to me this seems wrong. On top of that it strengthens the luck aspect of the card drawing. I’m thinking about a variant where each block simply takes 2, 3 or even 4 hits before being destroyed.

    Done that. Best C&C game so far. Have to play some more.
  • Design a random army generator for C&C Napoleonics: Either with dice or as a little coding project with Python (programming language). I already made a list of all available blocks for this and have some basic ideas. I want to tie it to certain periods though, like “French – Russian campaign” or “French – Waterloo campaign” or something along those lines.

    Thinking about this currently as I tried Polemos Marechal d’Empire and its force generator.
  • Design a random terrain generator: Already have a prototype which I tested once. I need to incorporate rivers and roads in a better way and tweak some stuff. Currently it uses playing cards. Maybe I should switch it to a program or custom terrain cards (according to my collection of terrain).

    Seen stuff in other blogs and have enough rule systems with good terrain generation so this is not necessary.
  • Make counter armies for ancients: This is a long term project. The problem is, to make counters that don’t feel too generic.

    Currently testing with a DBA campaign.
  • Get some ancients battles going. Preferably in a campaign setting: I have downloaded some campaign rules, mostly with DBA tied in. They require a set of multiple armies each though.

    See above.
  • Designing a cold war era social game: I began work on this in 2018. It is currently planned as a matrix game for six players and a game master. The setting is a spy war on cold war Berlin.

    Minimal progress
  • And last but not least: Play games!

    Did that

Reasonable progress I think. Apart from the terrain front where I want to step it up.

What Else

Beyond my set goals I did some other unplanned stuff as well. I played the new Field of Glory Napoleonics Second Edition, General d’Armee, Polemos Marechal d’Empire and the new rule set from Hervé Caille Bataille Empire.

Sad to say that none of them convinced me entirely. Being a competition rule set FoGN is to complicated and table heavy for me. General d’Armee was way better than I remembered it but ultimately slower than Black Powder and the results seemd to be similar. The same can be said for Bataille Empire. The rules are very well written and offer a good amount of detail for their speed. I have to try them again but I still think Black Powder can achieve similar results with way less rules clutter.

The Polemos rule set is just a mess. I didn’t create very complicated combat situations in my game but the rules couldn’t even explain the basic stuff fully. Apart from that it just looked like several DBA games played at once. Just blocks crushing into other blocks. Which is totally fine in DBA but looks strange in Napoleonics.

Speaking of DBA and Napoleonics. I also briefly tried DBN again and… see above. The game works but it doesn’t feel right for me.

In regards to miniatures I build some ECW proxies. Essentially lines of painted matchsticks for a rough 2mm treatment of the conflict. I have to play more battles with the buggers to see if I like the look.

I also ordered some 2mm Napoleonic blocks and did some prototyping. Haven’t found the massed Brigade look and feel so far. I’m thinking about using them for other stuff like Ancients, SF or fantasy.

Some of my gaming time, actually quite a bit, went into painting monsters for Sword & Sorcery. A Dungeon crawler boardgame with miniatures I play with friends. I’m making good progress and games with unpainted miniatures are quite rare now. I still have to paint a huge dragon with several heads and his minions. They should be fun.

For King & Parliament Campaign August 1643

With the besieged Royalists running low on supplies, general Nash was sent to the fortress to regain control of the surrounding area. The besieging Parliamentarians left their heavy equipment behind and engaged the enemy force near Endstone to uphold the siege. Both parties used mercenaries from Europe to bolster their lines, as most of the battle line troops were needed elsewhere. The Parliamentarians could make use of some veteran Cuirassiers travelling north from London, though.

Royalist Army

Command…10
General Nash – gallant
Field artillery – seasoned

Brigade of Horse…10
General Enfield
“Swedish”-style harquebusiers – raw, untried
“Swedish”-style harquebusiers – raw, untried, well mounted

Brigade of Horse…18
Colonel Hadley- gallant
“Swedish”-style harquebusiers – seasoned
“Swedish”-style harquebusiers – seasoned, well mounted

Brigade of Foot…27
Pure pike battalia – seasoned, large
Pike heavy battalia – seasoned, large
Forlorn hope – seasoned
Dragoons – raw

Brigade of Foot…38
Colonel Braxton – gallant
Pure pike battalia – seasoned (mercenaries)
Pike and shot battalia – veteran
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Forlorn hope – raw

103 points / 16 victory medals

Parliamentarian Army

Command…5
General Oakes

Brigade of Horse…14
Colonel Hallewell
“Dutch”-style cuirassiers – veteran, small
“Dutch”-style cuirassiers – veteran, small

Brigade of Horse…25
Colonel Everly
“Dutch”-style harquebusiers – raw
“Dutch”-style harquebusiers – raw, untried
“Swedish”-style harquebusiers – raw
“Swedish”-style harquebusiers – seasoned, attached shot

Brigade of Foot…59
Colonel Lester – gallant
Pike heavy battalia – raw, large
Pike heavy battalia – seasoned, large (mercenaries)
Pike and shot battalia – veteran, gentleman
Pike and shot battalia – raw, untried
Pike and shot battalia – raw, untried
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Forlorn hope – raw
Forlorn hope – seasoned

103 points / 16 victory medals

The Battle of Endstone

After set-up. Royalists (bottom) with artilley in the center and only few cavalry units holding the flank. Difficult terrain for horse should be helping them to defend the flanks.

The view from the Royalist artillery.

Parliamentarian left flank with two units of Forlorn hopes ready to enter the forest.

General Oakes position at the start of battle.

In the midst of battle. As the fight rages between the hills in the center, Royalist horse broke through the left flank into the Parliamentarian rear. Moments before the gallant Colonel Lester is killed by a pistol shot.

On the right flank it is the Parliamentarian horse to break through (upper right corner). A full battalia of pike closes the gap quickly but the enemy is roaming behind the lines and there is nothing to do about it.

End of battle. After though fighting the Royalists suddenly break.

Partly thanks to Parliamentarian horse which broke through but was brought around to chase the King’s men instead of looting camp.

A solid victory for the Parliamentarians. Their losses in soldiers and commanders was nothing to scoff at but the superior positioning of the Parliamentarian horse, their prisoners and plunder makes up for that in a strategic way of thinking.

Campaign Moves

The Royalist cornerstone of Oxfordshire was under siege for almost a year. Several attempts to storm the fortifications failed but at Endstone the Parliamentarians managed to assert their dominance over the area and with supplies running low the beleaguered Royalists surrendered.

The Parliamentarian effort in Oxfordshire bound most of their military resources. Cornwall fell with little conflict and several neutral areas were convinced by the ongoing success of the Parliamentarian cause.

The Royalists used the massed attention of their enemy on Oxfordshire to bring South Yorkshire and Leichestershire under their control. All in all it was the Parliamentarians who achieved a net gain of three areas.

The campaign rules can be found here.

For King & Parliament Campaign May 1643

This battle has it all. Blitz moves, traitors, flanking, rousing speeches, dramatic scenes of gentlemen wounded in battle, cavalry in mad pursuit etc. It was my best battle I fought with the For King & Parliament rules and probably one of the very best solo battles I ever played! Although I would rather play these battles with miniatures it shows that all it needs (at least for me) is a good rule set and some imagination. Although the added stakes from campaign play help quite a bit.

The Royalist Army

Before the battle I made sure of a even horse/foot quota points-wise. As the war progresses more and more seasoned units emerge. Recent losses seem to have thinned the ranks of skilled horsemen, though. The random event was “Traitor” but there was no brigade general to replace by a colonel so I ruled that the gallant gentleman I rolled for Gatring’s brigade was the traitor. Given that the Parliamentarian army fields two gentlemen accompanying the troops, it is safe to assume, the traitor found his way to the Parliamentarian camp the night before the battle.

Command…5
General Irving C-in-C

Brigade of Horse…31
Gallant Colonel Fielding
“Swedish”-style horse – raw
“Swedish”-style horse – seasoned
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, poorly mounted
“Swedish”-style horse – seasoned
“Swedish”-style horse – raw
“Swedish”-style horse – raw
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, untried, poorly mounted

Brigade of Horse…20
“Swedish”-style horse – raw
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, untried
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, untried
“Swedish”-style horse – seasoned
“Swedish”-style horse – seasoned

Brigade of Foot…57
Colonel Gatring
Pike and shot battalia – seasoned, large
Pike heavy battalia -raw
Pike heavy battalia – seasoned
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Dragoons – raw
Pike heavy battalia – raw, large
Pike and shot battalia – seasoned

113 points / 20 victory medals

The Parliamentarian Army

On the morning before the battle general Islington, who beat the Royalists handily at Thorne half a year ago, gave a rousing speech to his men. He even presented Sir Fleming who fled the Royalist camp under threat of his life to bring information and his support to the cause.

Command…9
General Islington C-in-C
Field artillery – seasoned

Brigade of Horse…19
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, untried, attached shot
“Swedish”-style horse – raw
“Swedish”-style horse – seasoned
“Dutch”-style horse – raw

Brigade of Horse…30
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, untried, poorly mounted
“Swedish”-style horse – veteran, well mounted, attached shot, gentleman
“Swedish”-style horse – seasoned
“Dutch”-style horse – raw, untried, poorly mounted
“Dutch”-style horse – raw

Brigade of Foot…31
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Pike and shot battalia – raw, untried
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Pike heavy battalia – raw, untried, large
Forlorn hope – raw

Brigade of Foot…16
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Pike and shot battalia – seasoned, gallant gentleman
Pike and shot battalia – seasoned

114 points / 23 victory medals (+1 from rousing speech)

The army has begun to field its horse in “Swedish”-style since April. Being a well liked and able general he even got the command of Baker’s Horse (veteran). The foot on the other hand is relatively fresh.

The Battle of Allerton Moor

Iconography
Parliamentarians in red, Royalists in blue
Unit with many vertical lines = horse
Unit with a horizontal line and vertical lines sticking out = pike and shot
Unit with several horizontal lines = Forlorn hope and Dragoons
Unit with three “+”-like signs = artillery
Red dice = hits
Green dice = ammo
Blue dice = dash
Red die on the left = raw
Red die in the middle = seasoned
Red die on the right = veteran
Hollow square = attached shot
Filled square = large
Question mark = untried
Hat = gentleman
Horse with + / – = well / poorly mounted

The dispositions after set-up. The Parliamentarians have one inexperienced unit of horse in reserve on their right flank, where their strong cavalry wing is situated. The fields in the center are surrounded by hedges and provide an excellent strong-point. The river is rather shallow passable anywhere but still considered rough terrain.

In a surprise rush General Irving sends his horse on the left flank up the hill. The Royalist horse completed crushes their opposition and rip a large hole in the Parliamentarian battle line from the get-go.

The men opposing the king are saved for now by successful Royalist horse pursuing without any sign of stopping. The second wave attacks meanwhile but cannot match the stunning success of the first wave. On the other side of the field the cavalry is locked in a standoff while the smoke of the first volleys of the foot begin to fog up the battlefield.

General Irving personally rode to stop his troops from pursuing and pillaging. He made it clear that such fine, distinguished gentlemen such as themselves where had a duty to fulfill before the spoils of war could be divided. Both units promptly turned their horses and fell into the Parliamentarian flank, riding another unit into the ground.

Elsewhere the fight or standoff continued without much gain.

With his entire right flank collapsing general Islington ordered Baker’s veteran horse regiment to attack and regain the initiative. With some support from other units Baker attacked and handily defeated a Royalist horse regiment, wounding colonel Gatring in the process. Islington meanwhile reordered his troops to defend the center against two directions of attack and gave up on his isolated units on his right.

The Royalists are now in firm control of their left flank. On their right they dealt with Baker’s horse but more Parliamentarian horse streamed in causing high casualties on both sides.

In the center colonel Fielding is wounded by a musket ball but keeps standing.

By midday the fighting ebbed as both sides were tired from hours of intense fighting.

Generals keep shifting troops and rallying wavering men. The second wave of Parliamentarian horse moves on the right.

The second wave’s attack is met with success and both sides have 8 victory medals left. On the other side of the field a spend and beaten horse regiment closes in on the Royalist flank in a rather unexpected move.

The flank attack, although poorly executed nearly ends in a disaster as General Irving falls off his horse in the tumult. Now, all three Royalist commanders have been wounded! After some minutes of rest Irving shrugs his dizziness off. If Colonels Gatring and Fielding can fight on wounded who would he be to retire to the rear.

The end of the battle. Royalists cleared the hedges in the center of enemy troops and break the Parliamentarians will to fight. With only 4 victory medals left a narrow win for the Royalists but at long last the first win in a major battle since the civil war started.

The Aftermath

As I changed the amount of SP (strategy points) earned per battle I thought it is only fair to grant the Parliamentarians the points from earlier battles. So for this turn the Royalists receive 5 SP for a narrow win and their adversaries receive 3 SP for a loss and another 3 SP from earlier wins for a total of 6 SP.

After the battle of Draycott in February the Royalists were in no position to attack the south and shifted to the northern part of England where the still hold popular support. Allerton Moor was a win the battered men of the King direly needed for their morale. It also brought West Yorkshire and Derbyshire to the fold. South Yorkshire was quickly retaken by the Parliamentarians, however.

After some month support for the Parliamentarians in Wales was eroded enough that Dyfed declared their neutrality.

Parliamentarians continued the siege of Oxford but the garrison still holds strong after many month. Parliamentarian support still grows south of the “fortress line” which alleviates their loss of land in the north and in Wales.

For King & Parliament Campaign February 1643

The bloody civil war drags on into 1643. Even though the supporters of the King have been dealt two crushing defeats, their strategic situation seems stable.

The Royalist Army

During the last month the troops got a better supply of ammunition which should prove useful during the battle (random event: Add 1 ammo to a unit of your choice)

Command
General Humphreys (C-in-C)
Field Artillery – seasoned

Battalion of Horse
General Calden
“Swedish”-style horse – raw
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, untried

Battalion of Horse
Colonel Firebrand
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, untried
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, untried
“Swedish”-style horse – seasoned, gallant gentleman
“Swedish”-style horse – raw, poorly mounted
“Swedish”-style horse – raw
“Swedish”-style horse – raw
“Swedish”-style horse – seasoned, +1 ammo

Battalion of Foot
Colonel Lyre
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Pike and shot battalia – veteran, large
Pike and shot battalia – raw, untried
Pike and shot battalia – raw, large
Pike and shot battalia – seasoned
Rabble – raw

101 points / 19 victory medals

The Parliamentarian Army

With the ongoing war troops slowly build up experience. General Horton’s army is a good example of that, though leaders were hard to come by as Horton got the task to stem the Royalist tide from Gloucester.

Command
General Horton
Siege Artillery – seasoned
Siege Artillery – seasoned
Field Artillery – seasoned
Field Artillery – seasoned

Battalion of Horse
“Dutch”-style horse – raw, untried, poorly mounted
“Dutch”-style horse – seasoned, attached shot
“Dutch”-style horse – raw, poorly mounted
“Dutch”-style horse – raw, untried

Battalion of Horse
“Dutch”-style horse – raw, untried
“Dutch”-style horse – raw
“Dutch”-style horse – seasoned, attached shot

Battalion of Foot
Pike and shot battalia – seasoned, large
Pike and shot battalia – seasoned
Pike and shot battalia – raw
Pike heavy battalia – raw, untried, large
Pike and shot battalia – seasoned, large
Forlorn hope – raw

109 points / 19 victory medals

The Battle of Draycott

Humphreys and Horton meet in the area of Avon. The Royalists want to use Gloucester as a stepping stone into the south and Horton’s army marches to prevent that.

Most terrain was removed which lead to a very open battlefield. The Parliamentarians anchored their left flank on a forest and fielded a gun-line similar to what the Royalists tried unsuccessfully at Thorne.
Horse clashes on the flank while the Royalists move up their foot under heavy gunfire.
The battle is marked by indecisiveness and phlegmatic troops. Parliamentarian horse slowly push the Royalists back due to attached shot and good untried saves. The foot fares less well. Confusion in the ranks (stratagem) make a lead battalia turn their flank to the enemy (center). Luckily the Royalist flank charge is not as devastation as hoped by General Humphreys.

Meanwhile the weak Parliamentarian left is overrun by rabble and pike & shot.
The supposedly superior Royalist horse is yet again trumped by the “Dutch”-system. General Calden’s reserve battalion of horse is unleashed for a flank charge to salvage the situation. Meanwhile the foot is fighting at a rather slow pace.
Calden’s horse penetrates deep into the Parliamentarian flank in coordination with a renewed attack of the foot.
Royalists break through on the Parliamentarian left but the situation is saved as Horton’s horse manage to decimate their foes.
End of the battle: With almost the entire Royalist horse strewn over the field or fleeing the Parliamentarians under Horton managed to win with 6 victory medals left.

General Humphreys and Colonel Firebrand are summoned before the king. I doubt we will see them again…

Aftermath

Yet again Parliamentarians win the battles but fail to exploit this on the campaign map. Particularly due to another failed roll when besieging Oxford (third in a row). The battle at Draycott (in Avon) leaves no doubt who is in control of the south though.

The Royalists snatch the last neutral areas they have access to and start a successful campaign to undermine Parliamentarian support in West Yorkshire.

Campaign Notes

I’ve tried two different random generation methods for armies but both properly suffer from the difference in cavalry of both sides. Next time I will try to balance the point cost of the horse battalions somewhat better. The points for winning games is also not high enough. I will amend the campaign rules before the next game.

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