Friday, 30 August 2013

Painting Table Recon...DON'T PANIC!

'Sir, I regret to inform that the content of this damned painting table shows no planning, or desire to get anything's a bloody shambles Sir!'

'Tis true, I must confess.

With talk of doing a Charlie Company campaign with a larger group of players, the partly painted 'Figures Armour Artillery' Vietnam figures (I think...though there are a few Platoon 20 relics in there too)  that I got in the '90s - now no longer available(?) - have pushed their way past troops for the Boyne refight, 15mm 7 Years War French, and even my 25mm AWI British.

If I were a painting factory, I'd probably be as far from 'lean' manufacturing as you can get *sigh*

Keep calm...and carry on...or something like that.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Game 12 - Crom Castle 1689

This battle is fictional with an OOB developed from (1) the forces that were (mostly) available in Ireland in 1689 and (2) the Jacobite strategy that was discussed at the Jacobite Parliament in Dublin in May, with regard to sending a force to deal with the raids on Jacobite forces and logistics emanating from Enniskillen. We’ve looked at the actual battle which resulted from that last time. On this occasion, we’re making a few more assumptions.

The day before the Enniskilleners and Lord Mountcashel’s force met at Newtownbutler, he had attacked Crom Castle. The original Crom Castle (as opposed to the current one, built in the 19th century), or at least the remnant of it, was well defended by Abraham Creighton’s men. This had been the second siege, as Lord Galmoy had threatened it earlier in the year with his dragoons/troops. Neither attempt to take the stronghold could be considered a siege in the classical sense, and on both occasions, Creighton’s troops were able to fend off any attempt to take the place (though Mountcashel’s effort with three infantry battalions and cannon was the more serious effort of the two).

Our assumptions for this fictional encounter therefore were:


(1)    Mountcashel was substantially reinforced in the latter part of July with infantry and dragoons from Sarsfield and Berwick (as had been promised but never actually happened) and guns and further infantry from Sutherland.
(2)    Wolseley had not only arrived early from the ships sent to relieve Londonderry, and rallied the Enniskillen troops, but had also brought two English regiments and cannon to help garrison the fort.
(3)    Wolseley had left Enniskillen a day or so before he actually did.

What this all means is that we have two larger forces than we had at Newtownbutler, and both are well reinforced with Irish/English troops and cavalry.

The idea behind this of course was to further test out the Maurice rules in a larger scenario.
All infantry fire was modified for matchlock and presence of pike elements within the battalion.
All cavalry charges were modified for the presence of pikes within the infantry block (this made a real difference).

Other points of note for a larger battle:
(1)    The command range can have a really detrimental effect on your command cards, as you have to spend more and more resource as your troops disappear into melee, until you move closer.
(2)    Cavalry can sit and stare at each other (perhaps trading shots and not charging) until it recovers. This all takes time and removes the focus from other areas of the battlefield. Really excellent for matching the period (Sarsfield at Aughrim for instance).
(3)    Musketry is random and deadly and can break a regiment well before its time if the troops are poorly disciplined.
(4)    You can get pinned on a flank, worn down, while the opponent pulls a surprise move elsewhere on the battlefield, but you are left with no resource in terms of cards and may have to ‘pass’ to get more, letting your opponent retain the initiative. We found that this initiative/momentum changed several times throughout the game. Excellent stuff and very reminiscent of the journals and historical records.

The remains of the original Crom Castle today - sixteen miles from Enniskillen and part of a large estate.

 And so to battle:

The defender's setup. Having opted to position troops outside the castle, Wolseley has positioned his artillery (what there was of it) in fixed positions within the castle. Guns didn't move too much once deployed in the late seventeenth century.

A cavalry clash on the Jacobite right as they send their elite cavalry and (not so elite) dragoons into the fray, hoping to turn a flank and exploit it. The Enniskillener horse suffers badly and is routed through receiving too many disruptions. The English regiments on the flank are forced to wheel and defend the integrity of the whole position. Activity was centred here for several turns.

With a new flank formed, and Enniskilleners moving from the centre to reinforce it, the infantry on the Jacobite right begins its attack. The action was important here for several more turns, with both commanders focused on the outcome, leaving cavalry and infantry on the flanks, staring at each other without command. The Jacobites had failed to exploit their flank action, though it would have meant charging straight into the English regiments, who were well trained to repel them.

Mountcashel's regiment and a guards regiment lead the assault on the covered position outside the castle. Musketry takes its toll, but the Jacobite decision to charge home proves fatal. (Maurice is very unforgiving in this regard, as it should be.)

 The situation on the attacker's right remains quiet, though additional infantry are moving through the woods toward the English flank.

A cavalry action on the left, with charge after charge, is unresolved until the end of the game.

The right too could still be fought over, though there are too many other issues with the attack for Lord Mountcashel to focus here.

A breakthrough of sorts, as an Enniskillener regiment routs.

 But the attacker's momentum in the centre could not hold, and the attack is stalled, with only a single Enniskillener regiment left defending the line. A final assault on the Jacobite right also proved fatal, as massed English pikes broke the dragoons and the cavalry was decimated.

We ended the game at that point. Though army morale on both sides was low, the Jacobites simply had no more infantry left with which to occupy the position.

A great set of rules, with a result within 2-3 hours.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Game 11 - Newtownbutler 1689

I admit, it's been a while since the last game, but the Maurice rules have made it worth the wait.

Some immediate observations though:

1. The game makes nice use of card activation and events which can mean that (really) unforeseen events pop out of nowhere. For a quasi fictional wargame campaign, this is wonderful, and probably lends itself to tales of the 'best laid plans' rarely panning out. When trying to refight a historical battle, it's a distinctly double edged sword, where events can be uncannily accurate while others can have little place on the actual battlefield. That's not a criticism of the rules though, which are very free flowing.

2. I used the adjustment for pikes listed in the rules, which makes musketry a bit less useful, cavalry a
little more brittle and charges a lot more effective if they come off, though of course melee is very risky. Makes for a great game though.

3. Newtownbutler had very little room for maneuver as a narrow raised 'causeway' and marshy ground (which allowed infantry to pass but not cavalry) characterised the approach. This meant that the approach and immediate battlefield was 'somewhat 'squeezed', thus leaving the Enniskillener commander with many headaches.

4. Following that - the rules lend themselves to flanking and maneuver though are heavily restrictive on what the active player can do in a turn. If you like being able to do everything with all your troops, prepare to be disappointed. This is a real military resource management system, which to me makes perfect sense when we consider many of the historical sources.

5. I was really concerned that there weren't enough units to do the rules justice. Yes, I can see how more units would create a larger command headache, but I still got a real feel for how the system works. Larger 9YW or AWI battles would be real epics, especially where very different troop qualities are thrown into the mix. I'm not sure how one would retain the drama in multi player games, though there are guidelines for it.

6. Some of the cards allow real player vs player interaction, where the bonuses used by one player for charging are wiped out by a defensive card, or the hope of firing first is disrupted by the enemy firing first because of a card play. Makes for exciting and very unpredictable games. Of course, any true old schooler who wants to busy himself counting up modifiers and having a sore head may not like this. I won't ever desert the simplicity of Volley & Bayonet though this is a different type of game.

The rough OOBs from last time were used. In the actual battle, Wolseley's Enniskillers encountered the swampy bogland (which was impassable to cavalry), the only access for horses being the narrow causeway toward the high ground. This was defended with Mountcashel's cannon. The Enniskillen troops charged across the bog with infantry - toward the high ground where Mountcashel had assembled his troops. Mountcashel's men got off a few vollies, though could not slow the charge.

When the Enniskilleners reached the guns at the base of the hill, they quickly disabled them, allowing their cavalry to charge in column along the causeway. Melee on the hill and close range vollies ensued, with the Jacobite troops coming off worst. First, their dragoons (who had been bloodied earlier at the Lisnaskea skirmish) broke, then the infantry (mostly conscripts) began to falter. With the advance of the Enniskillener cavalry, the Jacobies routed, leaving only Mountcashel's troops to fight a losing battle. The rest fled into the surrounding bogland, though very few escaped with their lives.

The Enniskillen accounts (Hamilton and McCarmick) also describe the detachment of the pike elements from each battalion, so that they would not slow down the matchlock elements during the charge across the bogland. I tried to mimic this in the game. There was no real effect on frontages in terms of mechanics and the Maurice rules do grant bonuses to those with and without pikes during the early part of the game's period, so, a nice touch.

Mountcashel himself was captured and taken to Ennikillen, though would escape later in the year and get to Dublin, where he would be enlisted by the French to lead the Irish regiments in the French army in mainland Europe, until his death in 1694. Wolseley would go on to fight with the Enniskilleners at both the Boyne and Aughrim, before his death in 1697.

And so to battle:

In comparison with earlier games, the battlefield was certainly a little sparse. Enniskillen troops, having been ambushed outside Newtown(butler), have passed through the town and are making for the Jacobite position on the hill at Sandholes. (In reality, there is a large ridge between town and hill, but it makes little difference in game terms).

The requirement for cards can take up a little space on the table. 25mm in use today, although with 15mm figures and a 6'x4', these would be quite unobtrusive. Having said that, the cards are almost a game in themselves and a welcome addition to the table. I've placed a few in the pics that follow. That's purely for effect as they don't need to be left amidst the figures.

The Enniskillen troops start to close on the Jacobite position...

 ...straight into the sights of King James's artillery detachment.

The first cards start to appear, affecting hit chances and general mechanics. 'Well laid guns' increase the chance to hit,

while 'find the way' allows the Enniskillen infantry to move across the bog without incurring disruptions (uncannily accurate),

...while 'that's not on the map' makes one area of it impassable - HA! (Granted, for a historical refight, this makes it less historical, but this is what makes campaign games unpredictable).

 As the Enniskilleners charge the guns (which had little effect), they are slowed on their left flank, and encounter a fresh battalion.

 ...or perhaps not so fresh, as it breaks when charged (bad dice rolls) and the Jacobites are forced to commit their dragoons/cavalry to their left flank. (This reduces army morale based on a dice roll. The commander needs to keep a close eye on this as the entire army can fracture and run).

More cards help with charges and melee. The cards tend to focus the commander's attention. There may be a grand plan, though it's destined to change as the situation remains fluid. The Enniskilleners charge over the guns in the centre toward Mountcashel's own battalion, with their cavalry behind them on the causeway.

 Repeated vollies in the centre, and the threat of Clare's regiment outflanking them, force the Enniskillen troops to shift position (they have a lot of disruptions and rallying attempts would slow the momentum). They are replaced with a cavalry charge.

 Finally, the Enniskillen left flank is moving, though the Jacobite centre is solid.


 Some nice cardplay allowed the Jacobite player to move an Enniskillen battalion in line for a cavalry charge, just as it was about to hit the rear of Clare's battalion. Total chaos! HA!

Another example of card/counter-card play, as one bonus to stop the charge is outweighed by another which gives it a bonus.

 Finally, in the centre, after mounting pressure from Enniskillen cavalry with the Jacobite cavalry failing to engage in force, Mountcashel's regiment breaks. It's enough to reduce their army morale to breaking point, and the army withdraws.

Maurice is unpredictable, exciting and gives a great game. There is little old school feel to it, though that of course is a good thing in certain instances. Having scanned the campaign rules and the notables/characters involved, a campaign would write itself and remain fluid and entertaining. I will look at these again with a 1690 Irish campaign in mind. Very nice indeed.