David Bickley's Wargames Blog

The occasional ramblings of an average gamer, journeyman painter, indifferent modeller, games designer, sometime writer for Wargames Illustrated and host of games in GHQ.

Friday 26 February 2016

The Battle of Bykleigh's Rough

Earlier in the week Jon and I played an English Civil War game in GHQ using my own rules, A Crowning Mercy ~ available exclusively from Caliver Books for those who might be interested in trying a game 'GHQ Style'! We wanted a decent sized battle, utilizing most of my collection, and so settled on a fictional encounter battle between the army of Parliament, commanded by that stout gentleman, Obadiah Bykleigh, and the King's army commanded by that resolute royalist, Lord Walton. The battlefield is mainly open land with a few hedge rows in evidence, although the Parliamentary start position is disrupted somewhat by the woodland known locally as Bykleigh's Rough. On the eastern fringe of the field of battle a road wends its way from south to north ~

The Royalists of Lord Walton are more fortunate in their deployment area, although their right wing is somewhat obstructed by a series of hedges and clumps of trees ~

Early action in proceedings saw the cavalry of both sides on the move. On the Parliamentary right the Royalist cavalry advanced to engage their foe, supported by a steady advance from the blocks of pike and shotte. Having seen the ground on the opposite flank Lord Walton began to shift his wing of cavalry to support his left, relying on his dragoons and the hedges to hold up any Parliamentary cavalry which might be rash enough to try to turn the flank ~

Parliament's horse on their right at once began to surge towards the enemy horse and the foot struggled forward to offer what support they might in the coming clash of steel. Meanwhile, on their left flank the horse were slow to respond to the Royalist's bold move, a hesitation which was to prove very costly in the latter stages of the battle ~

The slow moving blocks of pike and shotte were soon shaking themselves out into battle order while the cavalry of both armies clashed in a mighty struggle on the Parliamentary right. The very fact that Royalist cavalry were soon able to reinforce the tussle was due in no small part to Obadiah Bykleigh seeing the danger they posed to his plan too late in the day ~

With one regiment of Horse already broken and the other frayed the imminent arrival of Lord Walton's Lifeguard of Horse will surely tip the balance now. The late arrival of Parliament's horse from their left flank means they must run the gauntlet of fire from the encroaching Royalist foot in order to support their wavering right wing or attempt to charge the steady foote instead ~

An unexpected upturn in Parliamentary fortunes leads the cavalry reinforcements to try to charge the Royalist foote; as it turned out this was a forlorn hope when they failed their fighting effectiveness check! The upturn in fortunes for their horse already engaged in combat did not last and the frayed regiment was beaten decisively in the next round of combat ~

With the right wing of the Parliamentary army routed, the foote now finds itself under pressure from Lord Walton's Lifeguards. They wisely form hedgehog to protect themselves but suffer the ignominy of being repeatedly pistoled by the cuirassier. Meanwhile, Royalist foote march ever closer to the beleaguered Parliamentarians ~

As the game reaches its conclusion with the inevitable Parliamentary withdrawal, William arrives just in time to console his grandfather in a crushing defeat ~

The game lasted some three hours and ran to eleven of the twelve designated turns. Royalist horse was decisive in their victory, aided by my inability to see the threat of Jon moving his horse from the right flank to support his left in time. My foot performed admirably on the whole, although sustaining some losses late in the game and my guns held their own mostly, but the less said about my horse the better, commanded by the late Oliver Cromwell, so treacherously slain by Lord Walton's victorious Horse! Our next game will see us move back in time some 1200 years or so for another Late Roman civil war, when Pompus Maximus, the true emperor, will attempt once more to keep hold of his throne against the usurper Albinus. Until then, back to the painting desk and the British limber sets for the FRW!

Monday 22 February 2016

Here we go,again...

...with a fourth version of the SYW game, Action at Kunzdorf! This time played out with the venerable classic WRG Rules 1685-1845, at Phil's request! As you can see they were published in 1979 so we thought it would be interesting to see how they played again after a break of perhaps 20 years. A couple of pregame rereads were in order for both of us, but soon the basics came flooding back ~ "Surprised or Spanish" my favourite ever rule I think!

The game lasted about two and a half hours, with a break for lunch after six turns, and went to 15 turns in total before a decisive result was obtained, although in truth the writing was on the wall after about 10 turns. The game opens as before with the French occupying a ridge to the west of Kunzdorf and the British marching on from the southern approach ~

As in all the previous three games under different rule systems the French heavy guns proved to be mostly ineffective at long range allowing the British to march forward unimpeded ~

The rules lack the degree of built in uncertainty of Black Powder for example, so Phil was able to coordinate his advance much more effectively than in his first run through earlier in the month. Of course, that also applied to my French and so I dispatched my reserve infantry around my right flank to threaten Phil's Grenadier battalion if they chose to assault my line ~

The cavalry played a much more active part in this game than in the others. Phil sent one regiment into the village and deployed the second, the King's Dragon Guards to cover his right flank. My guard cavalry was able to charge them and a melee resulted on his right ~

The melee ended conclusively for the French with a resounding victory and the rout of the enemy. The British cavalry flees before their foe!

With the Dragoon Guards annihilated in the follow up melee the British are forced to respond to the enemy cavalry in their rear and reorder their line, weakening the developing attack on the French left ~

In Kunzdorf itself the remaining British cavalry, the 10th Dragoons, find themselves charged both in the face by the Mestre de Camp's regiment and by the Guard cavalry in their rear. There really could only be one outcome and it was n't pretty for the British cause as they find themselves with no cavalry to protect their flanks ~

Finally French firepower began to take a toll on the British left, with both battalions of Grenadiers being steadily reduced in number. They could not be shaken though and valiantly withstood every French threat for several turns ~

On the French right the infantry begins a steady advance, supported by the victorious cavalry and on the right the flanking manoeuvre begins to bear fruit. The British centre has been halted and shows signs of wavering at last ~

By this time it was obvious that the British cause was lost and Phil began a measured withdrawal to save what he could of his army. The French advanced with steely determination not to allow their foe to escape. The cat and mouse movement went on for three turns before Phil finally threw in the towel and asked for the Honours of War ~

Strangely Phil had looked far happier at the outset of the action than he did at its conclusion. I would guess that's the last we'll see in GHQ of the WRG Rules 1685-1845 for another twenty years or so...

The rules played much more speedily than we seemed to remember they had and produced very few surprises for either of us in the last analysis. On reflection we thought their main failing over more contemporary sets was their utter predictability. Mostly troops did as you asked and those with the advantages usually came out on top. Once the British advance was halted it was only a matter of time before the French won the game as the situation favours them in the scenario. The British Grenadiers proved steadfast for many turns and the French failed repeatedly to charge them until they were much reduced. French infantry proved far more useful than their artillery, but it was their cavalry which ultimately lead to their success. I'd probably have liked more units in the game, but Phil declined that option, leaving the British attack always likely to stumble under losses which could not be replaced. To win the French really could have just stood there ground and waited, but where's the fun in that?

Sunday 21 February 2016

Forward into Battle!

Quite a brief entry, really the lull before the storm, as next week should see two games here in GHQ: a fourth SYW game, at Phil's request, using the old classic WRG 1685-1845 rules followed by an ECW bash  at Jon's request at the end of the week. A few pictures squeezed in here then of the latest additions to the Wars of the French Revolution collection.
Firstly, a couple of shots of my Reiver Castings British infantry ~

I bought these last year at the Carronade wargames show in Falkirk on a whim really. I wanted a unit to represent the British Guards and did n't want to paint another Trent Miniatures regiment at that stage. They sat in the 'to do' pile until this month when I realised I'd no more Trent Miniatues figures left to paint! I have really struggled with these I have to say; not that they are poor figures, more that my eyesight and motor skills don't seem up to their style. I really struggled with the fine details at times, so I put up a close up with the caveat that I know there are lots of mistakes, but it really was my best shot!
The last figures from Trent Miniatures lurking in the pile had been a few Irish Militia in firing pose. I'd also got some spare Front Rank officers and ensigns to add to them and made up a small unit of Hanoverian infantry. {I hope I'll be able to make them up to strength later in the year when I see Duncan at Partizan.} For now, in Black Powder terms, they constitute a small unit ~

Finally, the completed unit of Hompesch Mounted Rifles. I know they are out of period and theatre really, but I wanted an extra cavalry unit and they are something different, so you will have to excuse me with this one ~

For the project on the painting desk now I have some Eureka figures in the shape of two French limber sets in walking pose and a Caisson set in similar pose. I want to finish them this month so I can start the Front Rank British Limber sets. Why the hurry? Well, I have penned a long piece for Wargames Illustrated on this project and Dan is coming over to GHQ to take the pictures to accompany the article in late March, so I need to finish these pieces.

Friday 19 February 2016

The SYW game, Part the Third

As the sharp of eye and mind amongst you will know, here in GHQ we have been playing the same SYW scenario using different rule sets and comparing the experience. So far we've used Black Powder and Honours of a War. Now it's the turn of Maurice, with Jon once again commanding the British and yours truly the French,so let's get straight into the action as you must be familiar with the scenario by now ~ God knows I am! I won't bother with the usual ingame shots of the moves, as there are none in the true sense in Maurice. Instead I've focused on some seminal moments which shaped the course of the game and helped determine the outcome.
The cards which you can play to influence your own or your opponents actions play a key part in the games structure. As the defender I only had five cards to use for activating and for extension to the play, so largely planned to hold my position with my infantry and use my cavalry to threaten the flank of any unwary or uncoordinated British attack. Well, that went well ~

Jon played a 'Confusion' card on my infantry, moving one unit forward as far as it could go. Now I face the choice of using precious cards to recall it to its position or hoping it will prove a move to my advantage holding up or disrupting the attack. I chose to take a chance! Meanwhile, Jon's British cavalry got in a bit of a tangle with the advancing infantry and I sensed a chance for a flank attack. I should have kept the cards in my hand I think ~

Just when it looked as if it might work Jon played a 'That's not on the map' card on me and I had nothing in my hand to counter it. Some rough going in the shape of an unseen marsh held up my cavalry attack! Back in the centre, my infantry so cunningly advanced by Jon were up against it and under pressure. Both units are close to breaking and sadly it was mine that failed.

Not only were the cards against me, but my own dice too! Back to the cavalry now, and I finally managed to attack his infantry and get a sniff of a decisive win! Once more, hopes shattered by a card! Playing his 'Hold the Line' card boosted Jon's chances in the combat and I duely oblidged with dreadful dice. Cavalry repulsed and then shot away in the next phase!

By now we were in the second turn of the card deck, having added a card which on drawing would signify the onset of night and the end of hostilities, with Army Morale points determining the result. Well, things were not going well for the French by then, with half my army lost, although I still held the high ground. We both seem to have forgotten the village of Kutzdorf by now as Jon tried to destroy my army and I struggled to hold on. Sadly about half way through the deck the card turned up to end the game. The result was clear as my Army Morale was down to 5, way below Jon's 9, so the British were the winners!

In all the game rattled along nicely, as we find Maurice always does, reaching a conclusion in under two hours. In contrast to the previous two run throughs which I reported on in earlier blog posts, both players were able to use their cards wisely to organise their forces in a cohesive manner; not withstanding the disruption Jon's cards wrought on the French at two crucial moments. As in the other two games, the French artillery proved useless and its cavalry was completely swept away by British volleys! The British cavalry never saw any action, but the infantry was suitably solid in performance and steady under fire. Sadly, General de Bykli quit the field having failed to live up to expectations, again; pausing only to ensure that he was properly dressed for the occaison!

I always enjoy games using Maurice, even though deploying larger forces usually give me a headache afterwards! I guess that's because we play so many different games in so many different theatres or periods that I never really learn any one set thoroughly! That was the thought that lead me to think I might desert all the different rules for the periods from the SYW to the War of 1812 and concentrate on one set, probably Black Powder. After this experience I'm not so sure as I enjoyed Honours of War more than I expected, given my overall poor impression of Osprey rules, and I definately enjoyed the tussle using Maurice, despite the outcome! I'll have to think on it I guess...
In the meantime next week should see two games here in GHQ: a 1914 game with Phil early in the week and later on an ECW game with Jon. Just time now to get back to painting my Reiver Castings FRW British Guards, only four to go!

Wednesday 17 February 2016

A Little Nostalgia...

...carefully disguised as rebasing! On my 'old' Freewebs site, which is long gone now, I had a gallery entitled 1066 Year of Destiny where I pictured my Wargames Foundry Saxons/Anglo Danes of the 1066 period. The figures, along with their Norman counterparts, had been sculpted by my son Matthew for them. I've done nothing with the army since I last rebased it on 40mm square MDF bases a while back; mainly because I never got around to buying the Normans! If you don't recall the figures, or are new to this Blog, here are a few of the pictures I took back in the day; at the time they were based mostly on 20mm square bases ~
Harold Triumphant

Mounted Saxons and Abbot

The Shieldwall!

Hearth Guards


A sense of the look of the army

After several 'happy hours' spent soaking the figures off their bases and further hours expended cheerfully on sticking them back onto mostly 30mm round MDF bases they are now ready to be textured ~ Oh Joy! {Not to mention the bases then being washed in Country Maple, grassed and tufted!} So far I've textured the archers and the Edric the Wild set, but I've just run out of PVA!!! Now, gentle reader, you are quite entitled to wonder why I am bothering. Well, you see, last year I bought some Normans on a whim while over at the Foundry in East Stoke and last month I bought a few more.  The first cohort have been over at Phil's being painted for me these last months and the new ones are based and ready to go over next week, so I thought I needed to get started on rebasing the Saxons now! I am planning to get into playing Saga later in the year; firstly with the Norman invaders of Guy de Bykleigh, Lord of the Manor of Worzul, and his Saxon nemesis Bicca and latterly with the newly settled Normans and the Saxon resistance of Philla, formerly Lord of Rawnslea. I'm not so sharp at learning new rules now a days, a bit lazy even if I'm truthful, but it will be a nice little filler game on full gaming days in the summer I hope.
To conclude, if any have wondered why I've nothing newly painted to show off: well, having completed my Hompesch Mounted Rifles, from Trent Miniatures, and a 'Small' unit of Hanoverian infantry {from Trent and Front Rank} for the FRW project I started on a unit of British Guards by Reiver Castings and it is proving a very slow job as the 'style' does n't really suit my prefered approach to painting. I've finished the four Centre Companies and started on the Grenadier Company, just leaving the Light Company to do. I hope to get them all finished by the weekend as I've also started on three sets from Eureka ~ two French limber sets in walking pose and a caisson set in similar pose. There is a bit of pressure here now to complete these, and the two British limber sets from Front Rank for late March when Dan is coming to photograph the collection to illustrate two articles I've written for Wargames Illustrated. So I hope you'll not think me brusque if I skip off back to the painting desk now!

Thursday 4 February 2016

The SYW game, Part the Second

On Monday this week Phil and I had played out a SYW game using the Honours of War rule set and the  second scenario from the rule book, 'Action at Kutzdorf'. Jon and I had decided it would be fun to refight it later in the week using the Black Powder rules. Reflecting on the first run through I decided that for these rules the forces on both sides would need to be increased to reflect the different way the rules work. I added a Guards Infantry brigade to the British, exchanged their Light Troops fr two composite Grenadier battalions and increased the cavalry arm by three extra regiments. The French I added three extra cavalry regiments, but otherwise left them as they were in the scenario.
As attackers, the British have the initiative in the first turn.The British left advanced aggressively in Turn one, while the centre failed its order test. The French response saw the cavalry on the left flank advance to threaten any infantry advance and to fix the British cavalry in place. The French artillery opened fire on the advancing British lines

Turn 2 saw a violent cavalry clash on the French left. One French cavalry regiment was shattered and routed but its British opponents were forced to retire also. British infantry moved to occupy Kutzdorf and prevent the French cavalry outflanking their compatriots. In the centre French infantry and artillery fire disorders the Grenadiers and one line battalion, while the French cavalry on the right move to outflank the British advance.

By turn 4 the French are having problems on their left, unable to defeat the British cavalry and loosing another regiment themselves to rout. However, in the centre the French infantry and artillery have halted the British advance, even causing two battalions to rout in the process, The French Hussars smash into the flank of two British lines, supported by some Dragoons.

The Hussars bounce off the British flanks thanks to some unbelievably good dice from Lord Walton! Ominously British cavalry masses on the French right to defeat the remnants of their French opposing number! In the centre though the fight is still going for the French.

Turn 6 sees the French cavalry at last record a decisive win routing the Greys. On the British left the French Hussars de Bykli hurl themselves once more on the thinning British line!

Turn 7 sees the final defeat of Lord Walton's command when another British infantry battalion breaks in rout and the army's morale shatters! Just as the Wild Geese were finally moving to assualt Kutzdorf as well.

The final moments of a defeated army as the British commander realises its all fallen apart, and after such a promising opening few moves too. 

A very hard won victory, celebrated in great style by the Comte du Merde...

So: two games; two sets of rules; two French victories; both in Turn 7. What have I learned? Well, firstly there was far more movement in the Black Powder version particularly with cavalry charges and rallies going too and fro all over the place. The 'Follow Me' rule was extensively used by both of us with our cavalry at different times to deliver a telling blow on the enemy. Sadly, Jon was never really able to exploit his advantages there and my cavalry did me proud in the end, especially the Hussars who pinned vital units when the game was in the balance. Firing was about the same in effect as in Honours of War, although excess casualty removal after testing keeps that in check in Black Powder. The real difference seems to lie in the Command and Movement phases of the game. Black Powder is a hit or miss system on the whole for Commanders and movement can as a result vary considerably. Keeping your units and Brigades coordinated can be more of an issue than we found in Honours of War. On the whole, I enjoyed the Black Powder game more but thought perhaps the Honours of War set was a more satisfying attempt to produce a SYW game on the table top. Both games lasted about three and a half hours I recall and both produced a clear French victory. But, in the end, I'd play whichever game my chums chose; after all, two wins out of two can turn an Average Joe's head really easily!

Monday 1 February 2016

The SYW game, Part the First

Earlier today Phil and I tried out the new SYW rules, Honours of War, here in GHQ. I have to confess that I was n't keen to give them a go, having been massively underwhelmed by what I'd seen of other Osprey rules, but I was persuaded to put that to one side and try them out! We played the second scenario from the four included at the end of the rule book, 'The Clash at Kutzdorf'. I defended as the French and Phil attacked as the British. The table layout looked like this ~

Taking a relaxed view of the coming battle, General de Bykli had time for the better things in life before taking the field ~

Indeed, the local populace seemed to share his view of impending hostilities being a good way off yet ~

Not withstanding the laid laissez faire approach of their commander, the French were standing ready to receive and repel the British attack. The two infantry brigades, Superior to the left and Standard to the right, supported by two batteries of Inferior artillery Heavy Guns were flanked on their left by a brigade of two cavalry regiments, one of cuirassier and one of heavies.

The French cavalry, protected the left flank of the infantry brigades and also threatened the British cavalry opposite them. Their very presence was to hamper the British attack, even though they did not really get into the action at all during the game ~

After three turns of British advance and desultory French artillery fire things were starting to develop all along the French infantry's front. The British infantry, a Standard brigade of four battalions, was supported by three batteries of Standard artillery on its right and a brigade of two Standard Light Infantry units on its left {We are using Grenadiers to represent the Lights in the game}. Its far right flank is protected by a brigade of two units of Horse ~

The French infantry and its supporting artillery are enjoying the advantage of more effective fire than their British opponents, having no deductions for movement at this stage. One British Light Infantry battalion retires to reform in Turn 4 and the French, sensing an opportunity move forward into the gap in the enemy line ~

In Turn 5 the fighting is becoming more complex. Despite halting one British battalion and routing a second, the French find two infantry battalions forced to withdraw and reform, leaving a great hole in the centre of their line. Can the British exploit this gap and turn the battle in their favour?

Well, sadly for Phil, no they could n't. With three infantry battalions now routed, alongside the Lights, and the fourth being forced to retire and reform it was nearly all over ~

The seventh and final turn saw the rout of the one remaining British infantry battalion and the army reaching its break point of 5 points. General Lord Rawnsley and his men quit the field leaving the French commander, General de Bykli, the Compte du Merde, to savour his triumph ~

The sleepy village of Kutzdorf returns to its slumber, until later in the week at least, when Jon and I will reply the scenario in slightly enlarged form using the Black Powder rules ~

The rules hum along quite nicely we found, although as newbies of course we were stopping here and there to check our understanding of the rules or our interpretation of explanations as you do. We played seven turns in about three hours in all which I think is respectable for a first run through. In our post game coffee and cake debrief we did wonder if we were playing in the correct SYW style or just playing the game. As neither of us are SYW buffs we will have to hope others come along and put us right in due course.
The figures are all from my collection and are Foundry miniatures sculpted by Rob Baker I believe. I think they really capture the C18th look of an army, but others I know will disagree. I really need to add more cavalry to my two armies, but that is a long way down the list of priorities for 2016 I have to say. I hope you liked the 'new look' Conflix buildings in action for the first time, as I really think basing has made a real difference to the look of the game.