Saturday, 30 September 2017

"To the Strongest" Medieval Spanish Game

On Friday we had a five player game of "To the Strongest" with a scenario pitting Muslim Andalusians against Christian Europeans of an El Cid variety - actually, they are Normans but no one was counting!

The scenario came from a real Medieval battle but I don't know what or where. The Muslims had a small force deployed in sight on a hill in front of the Spanish army advancing in column. The Spaniards started to deploy to attack this small force but then realized there were vast numbers more Muslim troops in the dead ground that they had not seen - an ambush had been sprung - this was the point at which the game commenced.

I tried to do some maps of the action but it was so confused with the ebb and flow that to be honest I really cant do it accurately, so gave up after three! Basically, Chris' Muslim cavalry on the right came forward very quickly and inhibited Nicks left/centre of the Spanish force for most of the game. In the centre, John charged forwards with his cavalry too and engaged some of Nicks knights frontally. Julian on the Muslim left had only infantry but he came forward too to attack my Spaniards on our right wing.

In the ensuing action, I had a great deal of luck with my bowmen, who hardly missed a shot all night and "popped" several of Julian's light infantry units as they only required a single hit without a save to be wiped out. As usual with these rules, we had a pile of coins representing army morale, ours was 15 and the Muslims 18 at the start of the game.

When the game ended three hours later (with a break for Thai takeaway dinner) we had lost about 4 coins and the Muslims were down to 0!

This is not really a true reflection of the game as Chris certainly had the better of things on his wing, but the fact that the majority of the Muslim force was light made it quite easy for us to knock them out and each time one went, they lost another coin. The game ended appropriately when my archers were able to get three unsaved hits on a double sized heavy infantry unit under Julian's command, losing them the last coins. I think my missile troops probably accounted for 75% of our success in this game - which was strange as we have often had games where archery is completely useless and scores hardly any hits at all.....

Above - Initial deployment of the two armies as the game commenced

 The first moves as the Muslim army advances rapidly to catch the Spaniards before they could deploy.....
Position after the first couple of moves - I gave up on the idea of the map after this as I could not really track the movements accurately....Chris came right down the flank and onto the high ground and caused Nick a lot of trouble, knocking out two or three units of light cavalry. John engaged with both Nick and me in the centre - one of my heavy cavalry units pushed him right back to his own table edge before destroying him, but were then hit in the rear by Muslim infantry although I think they survived. Julian advanced against me but my archers killed everything that came in range.

The Muslim left under Julian

 The Muslim Centre under John
 The Muslim right wing under Chris
 The starting position for Nick's force
 The initial deployment of my force opposite Julian
 My infantry commander
First moves - my archers on the hill and in woods backed by heavy infantry - cavalry on the left of the woods engaging John
My cavalry advancing on the right - in the background the Spanish left and Johns centre confront each other 
Nicks light cavalry melee with John in the centre - I think Nick lost this fight 
Julian's black clad Muslim infantry advance on their left towards my force 
The situation on our left - Nick's cavalry pushed back by John's advance 
 Johns heavy cavalry with light cavalry to their rear
My archers on the hill prepare to "darken the skies" 
 My knights advancing in the centre
 My knights engage John's cavalry to the right whilst Johns remaining cavalry push forward against Nick
 On our right, my other cavalry force attack Julian's infantry unit 
The knights won the melee and another Muslim unit was removed from play
The confused situation on Nick's wing - infantry in the woods and cavalry confronting each other - the two units in front of the woods are part of Chris' force from the Muslim right wing. John's central force are just out of sight but were on Nick's cavalry's right flank here 
 Nick's knights have disordered Chris' heavy cavalry in the melee
 Another unit of Julian's black clad infantry in combat with Spanish heavy infantry. This was an extra heavy unit with spearmen backed by archers and took three hits to remove rather than two.
 And they came off worse - now disordered
 My solid line on the right wing of the Spanish army - the disordered infantry from the previous shot have retired to the hill, where they had four rounds of archery to contend with - I achieved four hits and Julian could only save one of them - game over as the Muslim coin pile ran out!
 Final position on my wing
Final position on Nicks wing - Chris still dominates the flank with his units of Muslim cavalry, but John was pretty weak in the centre and Julian had lost two thirds of his force, mainly to the archers.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Battle of Cheriton Inspired ECW Game

On Sunday I made one of my rare forays to play an all day game with the group I have wargamed with for around 25 years. Today the period was English Civil War and our host Barry had set up his huge 12’ x 6’ table with a scenario based roughly on the Battle of Cheriton in March 1644. Following is a brief outline of the real battle courtesy of Wikipedia

The Battle of Cheriton was an important Parliamentarian victory in the English Civil War. It took place on 29 March 1644 and resulted in the defeat of a Royalist army, which threw King Charles I onto the defensive for the remainder of the year.
Early in 1644, a Royalist army under Lord Hopton faced a Parliamentarian army under Sir William Waller in the southern counties of England. After some reverses during the previous December, culminating in the Battle of Alton, Hopton had withdrawn to Winchester to regroup and recruit. He was joined here by a detachment from the King's main "Oxford Army" under the Earl of Forth, who unwillingly took command of the army. They resumed their advance eastward early in March.
Waller's army of the "Southern Association" had also been reinforced by detachments from the main Parliamentarian army under the Earl of Essex and the London Trained Bands, and was advancing westward from his winter quarters near Arundel. Forth and Hopton determined to seize New Alresford, thus placing themselves between Waller and London. They forestalled the Parliamentarian cavalry under Sir William Balfour, and occupied the town late on 27 March.
On 28 March, the Royalists advanced cautiously south from Alresford. An advanced guard under Sir George Lisle occupied an outpost position near Cheriton as night fell, and reported that the Parliamentarians were retreating.
The Parliamentarians had been outmanoeuvred up to this point, and had indeed begun to retreat, but overnight Waller changed his mind and ordered an advance. As dawn broke, the City of London Brigade occupied Cheriton Wood. Hopton had moved to Lisle's outpost, and realised that it would have to be hastily withdrawn. The Royalists fell back to a ridge north of the wood, as Waller advanced.
Hopton determined to recapture Cheriton Wood, and sent forward 1,000 "commanded" musketeers under a Colonel Appleyard, supported by a battery of guns. There was some hot fighting, but the Parliamentarians abandoned the wood. Forth and Hopton intended to stand on the defensive at this point, but an impetuous infantry commander, Sir Henry Bard, launched his regiment of foot against the Parliamentarian left wing horse. Bard's regiment was overwhelmed and destroyed by a charge from Sir Arthur Haselrig's regiment of horse. (This was not his famed Cuirassier regiment which had been destroyed at Roundway Down some 8 months earlier, instead the regiment had been rebuilt as 'regular' cavalry since September 1643). The Royalist cavalry on the right wing tried to support him, but were forced to make disjointed attacks along narrow lanes and were defeated in turn.
Hopton sent the Royalist horse from the left wing under Sir Edward Stawell to make a better prepared attack, but they were also defeated. Haselrig's regiment now attacked the Royalist foot moving up in support, and drove them back. The Parliamentarians also attacked the Royalist left, which had been denuded of its horse, and regained Cheriton Wood.
The Royalists fell back to their ridge, but Hopton and Forth realised they could not withstand a deliberate Parliamentarian attack the next day. As evening fell, the Royalists retreated to Basing House, having lost many brave cavaliers including their Lieutenant General of Horse: Lord John Stuart, Major General of Horse: Sir John Smith, Sir Edward Stowell and Henry Sandys of the Vyne, grandson of William, Fourth Lord Sandys. In addition to these casualties, Raoul Fleury (c/o of the Queens Regiment) and the aforementioned Sir Henry Bard were both badly wounded.
The defeat of Forth's and Hopton's army left the King's plans of a thrust into Sussex and Kent in tatters. It also allowed the Parliamentarian armies of Essex and Waller to concentrate against the King at Oxford. The king merged the remnants of Hopton's army into his own at the review held at Aldbourne during April 1644. The infantry was formed into a single brigade under Sir Bernard Astley while most of the cavalry was formed into Sir Humphrey Bennett's brigade, with other remnants joining Lord Wilmot's brigade.
Although Charles was able to partly restore the situation later in 1644 by gaining victories at Cropredy Bridge and Lostwithiel, the Royalists could never again resume the offensive in the south of England. The prominent Royalist statesman, the Earl of Clarendon, considered the battle a disaster.

Our scenario followed most of the layout for the actual battle, but with reduced numbers. All the Parliamentarians were graded as Raw. The Royalist horse and one regiment of foot were graded Trained, with the remainder Raw. We used our own “house” rules. 

The Parliamentarians had a left wing of two horse units, including Haselrigs, a gun and three regiments of foot. The right wing consisted of two regiments of foot, two of horse, two guns and the detached “commanded” musketeers in the woods.

The Royalist left consisted of two units of commanded musketeers in the woods, two regiments of horse, two of infantry and one gun. The right was one regiment of horse, two of foot and one gun.

The game lasted about four hours, by which time we had basically fought each other to a standstill. The entire Royalist left wing was destroyed and the right wing lost its cavalry and gun. The Parliamentarian right retained one cavalry and one infantry regiment, and the left their original two cavalry and two of the three infantry – a bloody engagement indeed!

Here is my map of our original layout as the game commenced:

The initial several moves were desultory, as both sides engaged in an exchange of cannon fire. Barry our umpire was getting increasingly frustrated with our lack of proper aggressive spirit! The Royalists had the better of the exchange of gunfire, scoring several hit on the left wing cavalry and forcing them to retire to cover behind the ridge. A poor activation roll also led to the Parliamentarian left wing losing it one artillery piece! On the right, the Parliamentarian guns also forced the cavalry to retire and one infantry regiment to quit the field but in the woods, the Royalists soon had the better of the firefight and destroyed the Parliamentarian commanded shot.
The Royalist cavalry now advanced simultaneously, the right flank unit moving adjacent to the woods in the centre of the field, whilst the two regiments from the left flank moved up to support the commanded shot emerging from the woods. The Parliamentarian right had to hastily redeploy towards the centre to face this threat to their flank whilst the left flank advanced to engage the two regiments on the heights before them.
There now followed the strangest combat of the day, whereby a regiment of Royalist cavalry charged a lone gun and after two rounds of combat, not only lost, but rolled such a poor activation dice that they quit the field entirely! The cavalry adjacent to the woods were also forced to retire to the centre of the Royalist line. 

The commanded shot from Cheriton wood and the remaining cavalry continued to press on the Parliamentarian right, the remaining infantry unit descending the hill and attacking and destroying the gun in the centre of the Parliaments position. However, disastrous activation rolling again led to this victorious unit fleeing the field!

The Royalist cavalry redeployed from the centre back to face the Parliaments left flank and charged Haselrigs unit. Two or three rounds of combat ensued until the Lobsters were pushed back; however, both units had exhausted each other in this combat, and the second Parliamentarian cavalry regiment succeeded in getting in the rear of the victorious Royalists, charging them and wiping them out. The Royalist infantry charged off their hill - one unit suffered heavy musketry and failed to go in, the second pressed home courageously and destroyed their opposition. Meanwhile, the third, unengaged Parliamentarian foot regiment advanced up the hill and wiped out the Royalist artillery there.

The combat on the other wing had continued in the meantime, with the last remnant of the Royalist left, a lone cavalry regiment, destroying one of the two regiments of foot. However, they were then assaulted from each side by the remaining Parliamentarian infantry and a cavalry regiment.

This is where we ended the game - maybe Parliament won, but in effect, it was closer to a draw - Parliament had more units remaining on the table, but the two Royalist units included one that was Trained as opposed to Raw and the bulk of the surviving Parliamentarians were very tired from the days combat!

Here are some pictures I took of the game, The figures are a mixture of Front Rank and Foundry, mostly painted 20+ years ago, but still looking pretty impressive today.

 The Royalist deployment before the game commenced
The Parliamentarian left wing
 One of the Parliaments Raw Regiments of Foot
 The cavalry on Parliaments left redeploy to cover after several hits from Royalist artillery
The Royalist Commanded Shot advancing through Cheriton Woods
 The Parliamentarian left redeploying as the commanded shot win the fight in the woods and threaten their flank
 The left wing cavalry move forward again
 The Royalist cavalry from the right flank advancing towards the centre of the table
 The Parliamentarian left begin their advance
Meanwhile, on the opposite hill, two regiments of Royalists plus a gun await them
 The Cavalry redeployed on the left flank to support the infantry advance
 The infamous Royalist cavalry charge on the Parliaments right wing - a single gun won two rounds of combat and then drove them off!
 The Royalist commanded shot advancing from Cheriton Woods
 The second round of cavalry v's gunners melee
And Royalist cavalry unit has quit the field and its support has retired some distance!
The Parliamentarian left wing continues to advance
 The Royalist right with the cavalry in the centre of the line, before they moved back to the wing
 A general aerial view of the action on the Parliamentarian left wing - the Royalist infantry has begun to descend from the hill
 The Royalist infantry smashes into one of the Parliaments gun batteries in the centre of the field
 The cavalry combat on the Parliaments left - note the second Parliamentarian regiment ready to charge the rear of their opponents
 The result of the Royalist charge on their right - the blue unit has destroyed one Parliamentarian regiment but the red unit (Queens Guards, the only trained infantry on the field) failed to charge home after withering musket fire from the white regiment
 The Royalist cavalry have pushed back Haselrigs regiment but it is a pyrrhic victory, as the second Parliamentarian regiment charges into their rear and destroys them
 The last action on the Parliaments right - the yellow coated Royalist cavalry about to be decimated by simultaneous flank attacks
The two Parliamentarian horse regiments facing each other after the destruction of the Royalist cavalry
 Final view - the only two remaining Royalist units on the table (blue and red uniforms)
The commander of the Parliamentarian left wing

A great game - to start with, we Parliamentarians thought nothing was going our way, especially after I managed to lose my only gun in about move three or four, and then Paul lost the combat in the woods and the cavalry charged forward - but the staunch defence by his gunners swung the psychological advantage over to us, and some unlucky activation throws by Rick removed half of the Royalist force from the battle!  I was lucky to overcome Chris in the cavalry melee, whilst he had the better of the infantry combat. As I said, not sure we really won, but we did have more intact units on the table when we called "time".