Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Battle of Benburb 1646 Redux - A Wargaming:An Introduction Refight

I gave the Benburb scenario published in MW085 from the last game another go, but used a different set of rules: this time, the Pike and Shot rules from Neil Thomas' Wargaming: An Introduction:

Orders of Battle:

Confederate Irish:

5 x Foot units (3 bases of Pike, 3 bases of Shot, all light armour, Average morale)
1 x Horse unit (4 bases of Reiters, light armour, Levy morale)

Ulster Protestant:

5 x Foot units (4 bases of Pike, 2 bases of Shot, all light armour, Average morale)
1 x Foot unit (6 bases of Shot, light armour, Average morale)
1 x Artillery unit - 1 base of light artillery, half-range of fire, may move upto 6cm per turn)
2 x Horse units (4 bases of Reiters, light armour, Levy morale)
To simulate their fatigue, the Protestant would count as one morale class lower from the second round of any melee onwards 

The Battle:

Straight into the action this time: O'Neill advances and starts taking fire from the Protestant musketeers and artillery

Losses mount for the advancing Confederates

A slightly wider shot

The Confederate Irish make contact; unfortunately the losses have mounted already and the attack doesn't seem to go in with the required force

The battle develops; the Confederacy still hasn't pushed the Protestants off the brow of the hill but losses have been high amongst the leading units

A wider shot; note the Protestant cavalry is outflanking (on the right); whereas on the opposite flank, the Protestant Horse has used the marsh to keep away from their Confederate opponents

The central melee rages unabated!  The Protestant cavalry has surrounded most of the attacking Irish infantry however

The Confederates in deep trouble: their left-flank infantry have been destroyed and they have been outflanked, but have not managed to achieve a breakthrough on the right

At last a little success!  The Irish capture the Protestant guns; unfortunately no picture, but they have also beaten off one of the Protestant Horse units with heavy losses

The Confederates in deep trouble; with their left flank caved in and outnumbered, there was little chance of success, and O'Neill threw in the towel at this point.
 Game Notes: For the second game, a reversal of fortune compared to real life and also one where the luck of the Irish seemed to desert them!  However, an interesting contrast with the Polemos rules.  Attrition and numbers count for a great deal in these rules, whereas in the Polemos rules, fire is generally ineffective so shock counts for a lot.  On the other hand, combat power exponentially declines for units in the Neil Thomas rules, so melee/close combat can continue for a long time; without very significant advantages, it is very difficult to achieve quick and decisive results.  This is staggeringly unlikely in the Polemos rules; most close combats are over in two phases (i.e. between 5-10 minutes).   The huge differences don't end there: the Horse vs Foot dynamic in the two rulesets is hugely different.  In Neil Thomas, cavalry are likely to have a very short and exciting life against infantry pikemen; in Polemos, equal numbers of Horse should finish off infantry pretty quickly, given a fair rub of the dice.  In Polemos, I think the "Dutch" style of cavalry tactics is better; in Neil Thomas, the "Swedish" style is definitely stronger (not a factor in this particular game though).  And of course, Polemos has its "marmite" tempo points command mechanic, whereas Neil Thomas has pretty much no command rules at all (I use the general can re-roll a failed morale check if present with a unit).

What do I make of all this?  I'm still not sure.  For the little that it's worth, since I don't think I have sufficient knowledge of the period:

Polemos seems absolutely correct on the duration of close combat

It is a matter of degree, but fire combat in Neil Thomas' is a little too effective, fire combat in Polemos marginally too ineffective

The cavalry effect...maybe slightly closer to  Neil Thomas?  I have mentioned it before, but the number of cavalry bases in Polemos has a synergy with the overlap rules - it is quite easy to get an overlap since there are so many cavalry bases as compared with infantry bases and that normally gives the advantage to the cavalry.  So in Neil Thomas the thing to do if you can get away with it is lock the infantry to the front then use the horse to hit the flanks.  Obviously you can do that in Polemos too, but you don't have to do it; don't be hit with pikemen in the frontal arc in Neil Thomas.

I think Polemos is the cleverer ruleset in dealing with the virtues of the difference in cavalry types - but I do wonder if the calibration is slightly wrong against Swedish tactics; Neil Thomas is straightforward, but perhaps slightly too much in favour of the Royalists.

There is also the generic difference between Neil Thomas' and Polemos rules: the first is easy on the brain, but probably allows too much freedom and you end up throwing a lot of dice (and having to remember scores because much close combat is simultaneous); the second is more taxing since you have the tempo points (i.e. command points/PIPs) to deal with, but they do seem to realistically limit activity.

However, I am very happy to hear the contrary arguments on any or all of these points!  (Except the first - that attritional close combat mechanic just can't be right...)  :-)

Figures by Baccus 6mm.  I used a single base to represent an entire foot unit and recorded loss with markers (pink for losses, red for lost bases); for the horse units, I simply used four bases.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Battle of Benburb 5th June 1646 - A Polemos ECW Refight

The Battle of Benburb was the biggest and perhaps most important victory of the Confederate Irish in the entire War of the Three Kingdoms.  A scenario for it was published in Miniature Wargames 85:

It is a very suitable battle for wargaming, with not too many troops or too much difficult terrain.  The whole campaign and the day of battle is full of interest, but, as suggested in the scenario, I only played out the main battle at dusk (after an attempt to turn the Confederate flank has failed and the Confederate horse has turned up).

Orders of Battle:

Irish Confederacy:

C-in-C: Lord General O'Neill (Good)
2-i-C: Phelim O'Neill (Average)
Commander of the Horse: Brien O'Neill (Average)

Foot: 10 bases of Trained Foot (Mixed)
Horse: 4 bases of Raw Horse (Dutch tactics)

Ulster Protestants' Army:

C-in-C: Maj-General Monro (Average)
Commander of the Horse: Montgomery (Average)

Foot: 11 bases of Trained Foot (Shot Heavy), 1 base of Trained Foot (Shot)*
Horse: 6 bases of Raw Horse (Dutch tactics)
Guns: 3 bases of Light guns

*Used because Monro had used a unit of Commanded Shot earlier in the day; feel free to use another shot-heavy unit instead

The game is a straight-forward battle; the game can only last for a maximum of 18 turns (an hour-and-a-half) since this part of the battle didn't begin until 8pm.

The Deployment:

Postition from behind the Ulster Protestants: they are located on the Derrycreevy Hill, facing the Confederates on Drumflugh; Benburb would be off the top of the board.  The River Blackwater is to the right.

From just behind the Protestant infantry, looking over the stream at the Confederates

The Confederate battle order

And from behind the Confederate position; the Confederate Horse has just arrived to the right

And a closer shot
 The Battle:
Responding to the (ineffective) Protestant artillery fire, O'Neill orders an advance.  Monro puts some of his cavalry into march column to try and slip them across and past the Confederate flank.

Monro also moves his other Horse towards the left flank in march column (bottom-left)

Being more active than in the original battle, Monro advances his foot and tries to hit the Confederates just as they are crossing the stream; the Confederates retire, some in disorder

The Confederates cross the stream lower down under O'Neill's personal supervision

Monro orders a general attack against the Confederate infantry

Montgomery and O'Neill lead their respective Foot into the fray

The Protestants succeed! The Confederates are driven back, some in rout

The Protestants are successful everywhere along the line of the stream

O'Neill has been captured by the Protestant Foot, so Phelim O'Neill takes over and launches a speedy counter-attack; the Confederates push the Protestant Centre back

Confederate Cavalry try to turn the flank but are held

This about sums up the Confederates' day...

The Protestant Horse defeat the Confederate Horse...

The Confederate counter-attack is halted, and Protestant infantry stream across the stream in the gaps...

And the Confederate left flank is turned

The Confederate Horse do achieve a bit of unlikely success, but overall the situation is desperate...

The Confederate left flank is simply untenable

Another view - at this point Confederate morale collapsed (unsurprisingly)
Game Notes:
Interesting but not wholly satisfactory in this sharp reversal of fortunes compared to real life!  I think my tactics for the Protestants were rather better than Monro's on the day, aggressively hitting the Confederates at the greatest moment of disorder (just after crossing the stream) - this explained part of the difference.  That said, I think that the effective -2 penalty for attacking across a stream is probably just too harsh on an opposed D6 roll,, especially since the follow up combat will be at -4 or -6. Overall, I think it adds to the sense that I am getting with more experience with these rules that there are slightly too many factors with slightly too great effects and those effects are distributed between individual situational modifiers and "shaken" results.

 I chose not to incorporate fatigue into the game, although it was clearly a factor in real life, because blanket "shaken" or "-1 to everything" seemed too harsh.  I'm thinking now that perhaps it needs to be in; or as an alternative, increase the TP cost for actions to produce a more lethargic performance on an army-wide basis.  

I'm  quite looking forward to giving this one another go  at some point in the relatively near future.

Figures as ever by Baccus 6mm.

Battle of Selby 1644 - A Polemos ECW Refight

Miniature Wargames issue 84 contained a scenario for the little known Battle of Selby, 11 Apr 1644.  A victory for the Parliamentarians under Thomas Fairfax, it is credited with beginning the train of events which led to Marston Moor and the Royalist loss of the North of England to Parliament.

The scenario is basically an assault on a town in spite of the explicit warning in the Polemos ECW rules that street-fighting scenarios were not supported in its design - naturally since I am a gamer and this is the heretical gaming blog, I felt free to totally ignore this advice. The weakest points in the defence were apparently the gates - I gave these a Defence Value of 1.  The Horse of both sides did charge and fight up and down the streets of Selby apparently, so for this game I allowed this, but ruled that Horse could move no further than 1BW per turn and could only move up the main roads (these roads were artificially widened on the terrain to allow this).  I did allow units to overlap when attacking the gate, but only overlapping infantry would count when fighting in the built-up areas.

Order of Battle:

C-in-C: Fairfax (Good)
2-i-C: Meldrum (Average)

6 bases of Trained Foot (Shot-Heavy)
24 bases of Veteran Horse (Dutch tactics)

The King:

C-in-C: Lord Belasyse (Average)

4 bases of Veteran Foot (Shot-Heavy)
12 base of Trained Horse (Swedish tactics)

Fairfax is trying to capture Selby, Belasyse to hold it - very straightforward.

The Deployment:

A stylized view of Selby; Royalist infantry guard all the "gates" (i.e. road entry points) with the Royalist cavalry inside the town; Fairfax has surrounded the town to enable him to attack on multiple axes

A view towards one of the southern gates; the Ousegate is off to the right

Parliamentary Cavalry approach from the West

And approaching the North Gate

And from the bank of the Ouse, looking South into Selby
 The Battle:
Parliamentary infantry attempt to storm the Ousegate, but without success...

A second infantry assault against the other south gate

Fairfax looks on at the head of some Veteran Horse, hoping to exploit any opportunities

Cavalry attacking infantry in a town?  Worth a try here, perhaps

Musketry erupts around the North Gate

The Parliamentary infantry are repulsed with loss at the south gate

The cavalry attack on Westgate works!  The Royalist infantry are pushed back

However, a smart counter-attack at the south gate routs a unit of Parliamentary infantry

After some further fighting, the Royalist infantry at the Westgate rout

Fairfax leads his troopers to attack the south gate in person, supported by some foot; the Royalist foot becomes shaken and is pushed back

A wider shot shows the progress that Fairfax's troops are making in the south and west quarters

The Parliamentary Horse charge down the road, pushing back the Royalist Horse towards the Abbey and Market Square

The attack on Northgate has been a dismal failure so far, as the attacking infantry are again repulsed with loss

The Royalists are beginning to lose their grip on Ousegate (left); whilst their troops are routing away from the Southgate (right)

A stunning fightback by the Ousegate routs the attacking Parliamentary infantry, despite the losses incurred by the Royalist foot!

Parliamentary Horse advancing from Westgate have caused mass panic and confusion amongst the Royalsit Horse in the centre of the town!

The Royalist infantry at Northgate continue to subject the advancing Parliamentarians to a storm of musketry

The Ousegate is secured and the Royalist foot here are finally routed!

The Royalist Horse around the Market Square is under severe pressure from the veteran Roundhead troopers

Finally the Northgate is taken too!  The brave Royalists are finally routed...

Fairfax fights his way towards the Market Square, the red counters denoting the shaken Royalist cavalry

Having gained the gate, the Parliamentarian infantry push forward towards the Abbey from the North

The Royalist Cavalry under pressure by the boat bridge

Chaos in the town as Royalist cavalry begin to flee in any and all directions

Fairfax on the brink of victory, advancing up the road

Infantry advancing up from Ousegate complete the victory

Game Notes: An interesting game, although one which has perhaps left me with more questions than answers. The game seemed to reflect history quite closely, but was that because of or in spite of the rules I introduced?  It just seems so counter-intuitive to have Horse doing that much in built-up areas, but if the article accompanying the scenario is correct that seems to be the way it was.  From a more mechanical point of view, it also shows what an effect small rules can have - here, allowing overlaps for attacking the gates was allowed and this was a distinct advantage for the Parliamentarians - was it more real to allow this or to forbid this?  And what should the "defence value" of these types of urban areas should be?  The rules suggest that a strong-point like a stone church should be DV3, urban areas and woods DV2, so it seemed sensible to have the gates as DV1 (otherwise there would be no advantage in attacking the gates).  Maybe I should have made the gates DV2 to cavalry?

One thing that I am growing slightly more impatient with in these rules is the interactions between the state of 'Shaken' and the situational and terrain modifiers.  In some terrain actions, troops are described as being shaken when they are in it, and perhaps for the turn after, but then (presumably) automatically rally; but these are combined with separate movement and combat effects. It sometimes isn't quite clear at what point a base becomes eligible to take the terrain penalty.  I think the system would have worked more smoothly if these effects were separated to a greater or lesser degree.  For instance, if crossing terrain, then either have a movement and a combat modifier but get rid of the 'shaken'; or alternatively, just use the 'shaken' result (which brings its own negative combat modifiers anyway).  These cumulative factors create a lot of almost "sure thing" combat results.

For this game, I made the decision that the Royalist Horse had to use charges where possible; the results of the game reinforced my opinion that as written, the Royalist Horse is in for a thin time doing this unless they have a strong advantage in numbers or skill.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings from a wide variety of manufacturers, but mainly from Baccus and Timecast I believe.