Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Stones River - with Field of Battle

A great game with Sgt Steiner today - as we make the most of our respective periods of time off work.

Another experiment with Field of Battle - using brigades as base units, with normal (unchanged) musket range of 2"/4"/6" to reflect rifled muskets and larger units etc.

As with the previous AWI game, the rules were the same - though there was a definite different feel. So, what changed?
  • We'd talked about the same rules potentially creating the 'same' game in a previous post - though the size of the battle came through here, and there were sweeping flank maneuvers, with a battlefield centre where the Rebs hunkered down behind prepared positions and couldn't be moved. It felt like the ACW, just as the AWI battle felt more open.
  • Each side tried to turn the other's flank, with varying degrees of success. Brigade after brigade tried to get the edge with musketry and close range attacks - there was a greater sense of having to exploit every little chance when compared with the AWI game - which seemed to have more room to maneuvre - in turn also adding to the sense of a 'big' ACW smash here.
  • The outnumbered Confederate deck was 'skilled' while the Union deck was 'poor' - adding to the theme: the Confederates had some potential leadership potential, while the Union could be hampered with more lulls and switch-overs in initiative, despite numbers. In the end, the Union played a blinder.
  • The loss of the Union Army Commander - Rosecrans, threatened to stall the battle for them, though, they managed to stem the flow and take the battle to the Rebs' right flank, while holding their own. 

In the end - the Confederates' attempt to turn to Union Right came to a standstill, while the Union, trying the same on the Confederate right, had considerable success in routing units and forcing their way across the fords and bridges and into the prepared positions...until the Rebs simply ran out of morale and withdrew.

Another great game with these big battle rules; very different in feel to the AWI game - yet comfortably easy to play and remember.
There can be a sense of 'clog' with multiple units in tight confines with some rules. As there are few modifiers and most 'mods' are intuitive/memorable here in terms of dice size changes, it makes things easier, and the players aren't put off from 'wanting to make things happen' without grinding against the rules.

 The Confederate left - which would move back and forth all day.

 The centre - well entrenched.

Union troops ready to move on the flank.

Rebs attack the Union right - some early gains, but pushbacks are enough to make gaining a foothold and turning a flank too difficult.

Union troops make gains on the left however, allowing the reinforcements safe passage.
At a pivotal point in the battle, Rosecrans is shot by a sniper - and precious minutes are wasted as initiative swings to the Confederates.

The left becomes a quagmire - volleys and charges, with no clear gains. Union cavalry (40 year old Airfix plastics no less) moves to reinforce.

The Reb right is under more pressure as the ford is taken - allowing Union reinforcements to stream toward the elevated works.

 As Confederate morale ebbs and dwindles away - until a morale roll ends the battle...

 Their left flank - unable to break the Union stranglehold.

 ...while both sides have taken reinforcements from the centre, which remains eerily quiet.

A great game again with FoB; and many new eras discussed. As well as the Aughrim game in preparation, there is a Prokhorovka scenario online for the WWII version. Hmm tempting.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Game Prep - ACW

Some pics of game prep for pending ACW battle (Stones River 1862) using Field of Battle.

(Youngest daughter already saying that she can do better than my painted on rivers...challenge accepted!)

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Le Duc on the Road, Part VII - Aughrim

There have been rumours of late of a planned 'Battle of Aughrim' game in the planning stage, using Field of Battle. :)

Living 4 hours from the battlefield of course, means that on the ground research was required!

There is as excellent heritage centre at Aughrim, and Donal - the 'man on site' is very knowledgeable and helpful - even to annoying wargamers !

 A year after the Boyne, Bloody Aughrim was more militarily devastating and had greater impact - effectively sounding the death knell of the Jacobite cause in Ireland and it is justifiably remembered for the death of St.Ruth, a French commander leading the Irish, after his being decapitated by a stray cannon ball; an action which in turn is forever recorded as having led to a snatching of 'defeat from the jaws of victory', as the Jacobite morale broke.

There are a few Prince August 40mm semi flat miniatures on a large 12'x8' replica battlefield. You can guess of course, that I suggested that the table should be used for 25mm units and a wargaming convention of sorts should be arranged. Here's hoping.

 This map folds out to A2 size. Even if you're familiar with the battle, this is a fantastic (and free) battlefield guide. It shows basic troop movements, but key, it shows the road/trail to follow for best viewpoints of Jacobite & Williamite lines and attacks/approaches.

The only drawback is that much of the battlefield is on farmland, or had no road through the 'middle', but the handout map more than makes up for that by directing attention to features and sites.

 In the centre itself, there is a lovely selection of Prince August 40mm semi flats. Donal uses these for kids and adults alike, to show the main features of the battle - if only there were more of course. We had a long discussion on Patrick Sarsfield's position at the battle, and the effects of St Ruth's death across the Jacobite lines using the battlefield layout presented here. Granted, there aren't enough figures - and the table and map layout is crying out for a larger scale wargame.

 The Jacobite right flank. We pointed here a lot during our Sarsfield discussion.

Some larger displays.

There's the usual DVD show, with good production values, and a good presentation of the events and repercussions (and some flag presentations).

More Prince August stuff.

Other displays dotted around the walls - good introductory stuff for the period.

A rough OOB presented on a modern OS map. Oh, how useful this is for the FoB scenario to come.

 Using the map guide, it's easy the walk (or drive) the battlefield. Now, the perimeter road is a country lane, and is open to traffic, so care is suggested. This is the view looking east to the Williamite lines and Urraghry Hill. The bogland is considerably more drained than it was in 1691, but we can imagine the quagmire as the Williamites advanced toward the heights in the foregroud. The Bloody Hollow is off to the right.

Good use of signs every few hundred yards on the roadway, and you can visualise where you are in line with the map, and the lines of advance.

Looking north across the line of advance (the cow wouldn't get out of the way).

The causeway toward Lutrell's Pass - portions of the raised road and bogland still evident, even today.

The remnants of Aughrim Castle on the Jacobite left - a small fortification which was a ruin even in 1691, with the monument to St Ruth, erected in the 1960s, beside it. Burke's/Luttrell's dragoons - made a deal/got given the wrong calibre of ammo/were suppressed by enemy fire, depending on what source or conspiracy theory you believe.

 Looking from north to south across the middle of the battlefield. Most of the action occurred across this boggy expanse.

A great trip and as with most heritage/interpretive centres, some great local knowledge and advice, and Donal really knows his stuff.  ...I still want to set a game up on that table though ...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Game 56 - Freeman's Farm / 1st Saratoga 1777 (again)

I’d recently played Field of Battle again – hosted by Sgt Steiner (previous post), then got into some good discussion on the Nations in Arms blog about the narrative element of the rules. So, with some free time, we decided to look at the game over a number of periods in the coming weeks/months – to see (1) how they would stack up with ‘period’ hacks (squares/pikes/range changes etc.) and (2) whether we were simply playing the same game, 100 years apart nominally, though not in terms of period feel.  I hope I know the answer to this, as it’s the narrative more than anything that seems to echo through these rules, and the fact that period flavour can be added easily, but any excuse for a game…

First up is The American Revolution (the figures are still on the table from the previous game of Glorious Morning), though I think ACW, Nine Years War and another WWII battle could be in the offing over the summer (and I should add, the Glorious Morning engine also works admirably for these of course). 

In theory, the ACW clash could be a larger game – hence the ranges would stay the same as units would be brigades over AWI battalions/regiments, though will that mean that it feels like the same game – as rifle muskets aren’t firing out to 15” of a sudden? Granted – AWI at lower scale/range, with minimum cavalry vs the ACW version with more troops, but similar terrain, could create some interesting questions, and it does bring up issues with regard to actual differences in terms of say, command and control, and quality of troops. It remains to be seen…

  • At 1st Saratoga however, we join the action as Fraser leaves the high ground to the west of Freeman’s Farm, and Hamilton has pushed skirmishers forward in the British centre, while Riedesel moves into the area from the east. CinC Burgoyne remains in the centre with Hamilton.
  • I’ve scaled most of the action from the map and OOB in W.J. Wood’s Battles of the Revolutionary War (as per previous version of the battle on this blog two years ago, then done with Volley & Bayonet, and I think I have corrected my mistakes from that occasion with a re-read, and some extra research on the net). That said, the table could probably have been a little more wooded.
  • Benedict Arnold has pleaded with Gates to release troops from the fortifications at Bemis Heights to the south, to stem the flow of scarlet columns advancing upon their position, and thus entangle the British in the woods…though Gates only allows Dearborn’s lights and Morgan’s infantry to move forward …at first.
  • In truth, Burgoyne’s British columns are spread widely, in terrain which will not allow mutual support, to his detriment.
  • Morgan’s light troops in turn meet with (the out of command) forward elements of Fraser’s scouts, composed of Tories, Indians and Sharpshooters.
 Arnold moves to the front, having gained Gates’ permission…
So we then use the FoB card schedule to dictate what happens next (and when), with reinforcements and movement dictated by card play (excellent Fog of War here):

Deployed: Morgan’s Rifles & Hamilton’s scouts (both OOC – due to extended position of Americans, and the fact that they have just shot the officers in the British scouting element at long range…)

1st British Move* Card – Hamilton moves into centre ground (in column)
1st American Move Card – Arnold sees the gap between Fraser on his left, and Burgoyne in the centre, and moves Poor’s Brigade in.
2nd British Move Card – Riedesel releases Artillery on the British left
2nd American Move Card – Gates releases Learned’s Brigade on the American left/centre (at Fraser – historically, but driven off)
3rd British Move Card – Riedesel advances from the British left, with most of his force, having seen the battle in the clearing.
Subsequent British Move Cards – Fraser releases a ‘single’ unit from the British right – otherwise they operate only in defence and remain near the high ground. (Historically he released 8 companies only to support).
American ‘Special Event’ Card – Arnold is recalled to Bemis Heights by Gates and takes no further part in the battle – put in deck after first shuffle. Poor will relieve him as Army Commander.

*(We opted to allow the Move One Command Group card to take effect here too.)

The map from Wood’s book was used Roughly six feet of the table width is used in this instance – at scale 1800 yds. Scaling the map gives us roughly the area around which troop movements are outlined, including the high ground across which Fraser arrives.

You’ll note also that I have used some historical precedent.
  • The British scouting element is poorly commanded, and loses what officers it has early on to 'sniping', hence ‘Out Of Command’ at start.
  • Fraser does not get involved in terms of supporting the flank, hence only releases units late on move cards.
  • Learned’s attack against him is ‘somewhat half-hearted’, hence reduced Combat dice.
  • Arnold left the battle several times to ask for help from Gates, before finally being recalled, hence the special event card recalling him – inserted after first shuffle.
BRITISH OOB (Army Morale 14)
Gen ‘Gentleman Johnny’ Burgoyne D12

Right Flank / Scouting Force:
Fraser D10
(With historical deployment – most of this force remains uncommitted, though the American player does not realise this at game start)
  • Converged Lights C12 D8 (terrain movement benefits, skirmish etc. – a VERY powerful unit…and yet, will prove hard to release)
  • Converged Grenadiers C12 D8
  • 24th Foot C10 D6
  • Brunswick Rifles C10 D6
  • Indians/Canadians/Tories/Marksmen C8 D4
Centre Force:
Hamilton D10
  • 9th Foot C10 D6
  • 20th Foot C10 D6
  • 21st Foot C10 D6
  • 62nd Foot C12 D6
  • Arty 3&6 pdrs C10 D6
 Left Flank Force...marching to sound of guns (units outlined below will reach the battlefield):
Riedesel D10
  • Arty 3&6pdrs C10 D6 (early release)
  • Companies from Regt Rhetz C8 D6
  • Regt Riedesel C10 D6

AMERICAN OOB (Army Morale 14)
Gen Gates (Stays to the south at Bemis Heights, but may recall Arnold on ‘Special Event’ card at which point Poor takes charge)
Gen Arnold D10
Morgan’s rifles & Dearborn’s Lights C10 D6

Gen Enoch Poor D10
  • New Hampshire Continentals C10 D6
  • NH Continentals C10 D6
  • NH Continentals C10 D6
  • New York Continentals C10 D6
  • NY Continentals C10 D6
  • Latimer’s Connecticut Militia C8 D4
  • Cook’s Conn Militia C8 D4
Gen Learned D8
  • Learned’s Continentals C8 D6
  • NY Continentals C8 D6
  • Massachusetts Continentals C8 D6
  • Mass Continentals C8 D6
  • Mass Continentals C8 D6
The Sequence decks are: British:Skilled, American:Average – main difference being leadership and move command group cards (which could be the key to ‘unleashing’ Fraser from the right flank.
The initial setup: with Fraser deployed on the British right, despite later restrictions, and Hamilton/Burgoyne moving in the centre, and Riedesel on the far left.

'Don't worry none Zeke. Here we are again where it's hottest!'
Morgan's riflemen and other light infantry deployed at the farm, start an early firefight with the Out of Command British light troops.

 With early British move opportunities (cards), reinforcements are able to reach the action early, with the British considering the open American left flank.

 American move cards start to emerge...with Arnold moving Poor's brigade in the centre, however...

 ...a massive movement opportunity (3 segments) allows Learned's Brigade (who would prove decisive early on), to close the gap to the British right and start a long running firefight - which would end in charge and counter-charge.

Although the American right is protected only by the militia - a fact which does not go unnoticed.

 The British right becomes embroiled in musketry, as Fraser's position is attacked by Learned.

 The 'Death D20' is deployed. Roll a one on this and the commander gets cut down, leaving units Out of Command and confused. (The dice is so big, that it has its own Latvian MIG Pilot! No, really.)

 Of course, with all the confusion, the Hessians on the American right, have started to threaten the Militia on the flank. This could be a disaster!

 Time for reinforcements. "To the FLANK!"

Finally, the move card that unlocks Fraser's brigade, and allows a timely charge.

 'Let 'em have it boys!' The American right will not hold.

 While the centre sees desperate melees.

 The Militia decide not to stand (predictably).

More American routs in the centre, as British bayonets go in hard.

The Americans are also seeing routs on their left. Their Army Morale has also been reduced to zero now, with the British fight-back.

 Despite the fact that they have broken the British centre in the last turn with a run of nine cards...after the British run of nine.

 ...but it's too late. The Army Morale card is turned, and they fail the roll. With their morale points gone, they flee the field.

 The scene at game end: The British right has held, the centre partially broken, while the American right is a confused mess.

The historical precedence did mean that the battle was very similar to recorded events. The advantage of course is that in a wargame, we can let Fraser move more freely next time, and/or improve Learned’s troops’ quality (I'm not sure he needed improvement on the day), though the historical setup was not a bad thing as of course; the rules did still lend themselves to the interesting narrative. Fraser went to melee at exactly the right time, with the best unit on the table. The American flank was left unsecured which created a dilemma for troops which could have been used to hammer the centre earlier. So despite historical similarities, there was more than enough excitement to keep things fresh. 

Historically, the British drove the Americans from the field, though were battered and in poor shape in terms of attempting to take Bemis Heights without reinforcement the following month. We could certainly see parallels here.