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.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Battle of Maldon 991 AD - DBA Refight

Miniature Wargames 35 contained a scenario for the famous Battle of Maldon 991 AD, one of the best known of all early medieval battles as a result of its immortalization in Old English poetry (see translation here).  Attention normlly gets focused on the decision of the Anglo-Saxon commander, Bryhtnoth, to allow the Vikings to cross a narrow causeway from Northey Island.

I used the armies from the appropriate lists in DBA, as follows:

Anglo-Saxons: 3 x Bd (Blades - Thegns), 6 x Sp (Spearmen - Fyrd), 1 x Ps (Skirmishers - Archers), 2 x 7Hd (Hordes - Locals)
Vikings: 11 x Bd (Blades - Warriors), 1 x Ps (Archers)

The Deployment:

The Vikings crossed from the causeway (right) and deployed at the bottom of the shot, facing the Anglo-Saxons (top); the Vikings have two elements of warriors in reserve, the Anglo-Saxons have left the local warriors as their reserve; both sides' bowmen are deployed on the far (left) side

A shot from the Viking left flank

And from behind the Anglo-Saxons; the locals (hordes) are represented by two bases each.

A picture of the Viking line

And a shot of the Anglo-Saxon line
The Battle:
Tactics can be quite simple in this period...both sides advance!

Crunch!  The lines collide.  On the far left, the Voking bowmen have joined the end of the Viking line rather than tackle the Anglo-Saxon bowmen in the wood

Same position, but looking along the line

The Anglo-Saxon right has generally the upper hand, although one element of Viking warriors has penetrated the shield wall.  Bryhtnoth leads his bodyguards personally in combat (right) and pushes the Viking general and his bodyguards back

The Saxon shieldwall holds against the Viking right although it is pushed back, except for that element in the middle

The Anglo-Saxons fight to restore the shieldwall

As they do on the opposite flank

The fighting is becoming slightly more scattered, but in general the Anglo-Saxon shieldwall is holding and the Vikings are coming off worse.  Brythnoth however is pushing his opponent back so hard he has pushed himself right into the midst of superior numbers of Vikings...

Saxon shieldwalls face thinned ranks of Vikings!

But Bryhtnoth is attacked on three sides!  However, the Viking reserve is being pulled in to the right to make up for losses there

The Viking left makes a renewed attack

Another view of the fighting in the centre

Bryhtnoth and his men succumb to the Viking warriors in the centre!

A wider view; the Vikings have lost many more men, but the Anglo-Saxon leader has been killed along with his picked men

The Vikings renew their efforts in another furious assault...

But the fury merely leads to the Saxons reforming their shieldwall

However, another group of thegns goes down in the centre underneath Viking axes!

The local Saxon warriors join the line and surge forward with the shieldwall

As does the shieldwall on the Saxon left flank

The Vikings hold firm in the centre around their leader, but give way somewhat on the flanks

A closer view of the Viking left under pressure

As is its right!

The Viking archers are caught between Saxon spear and bow

A closer view of the same

And the archers are detroyed; this leads to the collapse of the Viking Army's morale!

The view along the line at the end of a hard-fought and bloody battle

The Viking general still fighting hard in the centre, but his army his collapsing around him...

Game Notes:A very close run-thing; the Vikings lost 4 bases, the Anglo-Saxons 2 but including their leader.  The Anglo-Saxon shieldwalls basically held in this game, which makes it a bit harder for the Vikings to get any advantage; all their successes came in the blade-on-blade combats in the centre.  The Anglo-Saxon successes mainly came from attacking isolated Viking elements, although they need a bit of luck too (generally a 3-point swing on the dice rolls).  Anyway, a heroic victory for the Anglo-Saxons in the refight replaces the heroic defeat of legend!

DBA does give a very good game.  Whether there are games out there which represent Dark Age warfare better...possibly.  I think that it does a good job of representing certain aspects by judicious use of factors and bonuses and there is a lot to be said for a game which you can fight to a finish (or two) every single time.  It represents well the importance of timing, since the sequencing of actions is the main thing you can do to try and achieve success.  But the lack of genuine attrition as a mechanism is always a concern.  Plus one also wonders whether Vikings really fought tactically in a very different (and superior) way from their Saxon opponents.  If I recall correctly from the poem, both sides seem pretty similar - not that that is conclusive.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Operation Martlet Revisited - Mission 5: Winning Your Spurs

The Scenario: There is little in the way of defensive positions between St.Nicholas and Rauray.  The British, led by the Duke of Wellington's Regt, must advance along a spur to the outskirts of the village.

The Forces: The British Rifle Platoon is at full strength and has an extra rifle section, plus two FOOs with two 3" mortar batteries in support.  The Panzergrenadier Pl is down to two sections' strength, and is supported by an infantry gun this time.

The Terrain: 

The spur.  The hedgeline marks the edge of the game world.  The stream is really supposed to be a drainage ditch but I figured it would serve a similar purpose.  The key thing to remember is that it is supposed to be lower than the surrounding ground.  Otherwise, a fairly open terrain.

And looking up the table from the British side.
 The Battle:

Given the sparseness of the terrain, the British advance in extended line, with a rifle section advancing along the ditch.

A closer view.  The British troops seem to be successfully blending into the sparse cover!!!!

Contact Front!  A German section opens fire.  The nearest British rifle group is cut down immediately.

Note the gap in the line above.  However, the majority of the British platoon then put fire down and suppress the German section

The British section in the sunken stream advance without being noticed!  A combination of rifle, machine gun and mortar fire have eliminated the threat from the German section in the field

Another German section opens up from the edge of the hedgerow.  The range is a bit greater this time, so the British avoid taking casualties.

The Germans are eliminated by the same combination and the advance resumes.

With the lead rifle section covering both directions and another in the rough ground (top-left), the British continue their advance across the field.

The position at the end of the battle.  There are a couple of photos missing; basically a Germaninfantry gun appeared at the bottom of the table, but although suffering few casualties, they failed their morale test and routed pretty quickly.
British: 1 Rifle Group, 1 LMG Team
Germans: 2 Rifle Groups, 3 LMG Teams

Game Notes: The campaign ended at this point, as although there is another mission to do, the Germans didn't really have enough troops left to field even a barely viable platoon.  I think that this mission just confirms the lessons of the rest of the campaign: for the combination of WRG 1925-1950 rules and the Threat Generation System to work, the rules need to make LMGs more effective and the solo system needs to be able to generate potentially larger number of threats all at the same time to create the possiblity of overmatching the British platoon.  As it is, against methodical play, the Germans were eliminated relatively quickly.  Unfortunately as well, the infantry gun was activated right at the end; an early activation might have been more of a test for the British.  As it was, fairly straightforward.

So, a successful campaign fought, with some interesting challenges.  I don't think I will play it again as is, but may return to it in the future with a different rule set.  When I have sufficient 15mm terrain to tackle it, I think that it may make an excellent campaign for Nuts!

Many thanks to the many of you who have read and commented on this campaign.

The Combat of Fuentes d'Onoro 3rd May 1811 - A Polemos Refight

Issue 21 of Miniature Wargames contained a scenario for the Combat of Fuentes d'Onoro.

 A prelude to the more famous events of the 5th, this took place on 3rd May 1811 when Marshal Massena tried to take the key to Wellington's position - the village of Fuentes d'Onoro - by direct assault.  Over the course of an afternoon, one and a half divisions of French infantry tried to force a crossing over a stream and take the town, but in bitter fighting, were unable to succeed.  This forced Massena to try an outflanking move, which led to the bigger battle on the 5th.  Oman's account is here.
The scenario is quite a small one, being pitched at that 'divisional' level of combat historically most popular amongst Napoleonic gamers.

The Forces:

The Anglo-Portuguese:
C-in-C: Colonel Williams (Capable)
Fuentes de Onoro Garrison: 3 bases of Trained SK2 infantry, 1 base of trained SK1 infantry

Nightingall's Brigade: 1 base of Trained SK2 infantry, 3 bases of trained SK1 infantry, 1 base 6lb Horse Artillery (arrives Turn 8)

The Imperial French:
 C-in-C: General Loison (Capable)

1st Division: (Ferrey - Capable)
1st Brigade: 4 bases of Trained SK1 infantry

2nd Brigade: 4 bases of Trained SK1 infantry (Arrives Turn 5)

Cavalry Brigade: 3 bases Trained Dragoons (Arrives Turn 5)

2nd Division: (Marchand - Plodding)
1st Brigade: 4 bases of Trained SK1 infantry, 1 base 4lb Horse Artillery (Arrives Turn 12)

There is certainly a good argument for making everyone on all sides Veteran (including the artillery).  If you like, you could make the light infantry in the garrison Elite too, but that seems to me to exaggerate things.

n.b. the magazine scenario has Nightingall's Brigade arrived before Ferrey's 2nd Brigade, but the narrative suggested to me that the other way around might be better.

The Terrain:

Looking from South to North: Fuentes d'Onoro to the left of the stream, with a wooded hill behind; the French are advancing from the right (East).

Another view of the village.

And from behind the village, looking West to East.
 The Battle:

The British light infantry units defend the village on the line of the stream, with a line infantry unit to the rear. The French approach on two parallel roads.

Another view, concentrating more on the village.

Loison deploys two battalions to pin the British infantry in the village

Loison himself leads an attack across the bridge and the stream

French success!! The light infantry companies are thrown back and Col Williams rides to rally them.  Both sides are somewhat shaken.

Ferrey leads an attack across the stream; but around the bridge, the leading French battalion has been routed!  The French battalion to the south of the bridge is about to receive an equally devastating volley...

A view of the French secondary attack; Ferrey chucks forward another battalion, and the British are in some disorder (note the two individually-based figures being used as shaken markers.

More intensive point-blank combat around the bridge!

Both sides draw blood!  The French secondary attack has been held in the southern part of the village, but the French main attack to the north has succeeded and the British are routing...however the French brigade failed its morale check and withdrew

Same position, but a wider view from the west

Loison leads an attack by elements of Ferrey's 2nd Brigade...

Yet again, Loison throws back the Brits!

Which led to a morale fail for the entire British garrison (hence the empty village)!!!! Fortunately the next British brigade is just arriving...

Col Williams leads the new brigade to push the French back - its lead battalion can be seen routing (top-right)!

The French attack the northern half of the village

The French nearly succeed in taking the village, but the battalion by the bridge is routed - this leads to the panic of the entire French division!!!

The last French brigade arrives (right)

Another view of Ferrey's division routing and Marchand's brigade arriving

For the third time today, Loison prepares to storm across the stream at the head of his infantry, but this time with some artillery support.

And from the opposite angle

Success! The French force their way across yet again, and yet again the Allied infantry are in disorder

And the reverse angle from the village side

However, a desperate counter-attack throws back the French again...

And this time there is no recovery; another French battalion is broken by British fire!

Marchand's other troops are thrown back too; but the British have managed to get into position to attack the French left flank...

The French still have a couple of battalions and a battery in the fight, but with another battalion broken, French morale fails
 Game Notes: A scenario which is very suitable almost from the starter pack alone (you would need two more bases of French infantry) but gives a very exciting and interesting game and one that reflected history quite closely.  The arrival of the various reinforcements really dictates how the game will go.  For a beginner it would be a good introduction to the infantry combat systems, as well as the way terrain and command work in the game.

 Streams are a lot easier to attack over than hills are to attack up in Polemos and the extra French generals (3 to the Allied 1) meant that the French could largely negate that advantage.  I reduced the modifier for the town to -1 from -2: towns were simply not that easy to defend in Napoleonic times without a wall or being a specific strongpoint.  There might even be an argument to say that the modifier should only apply to artillery bombardment and fire combat, not to an infantry attack.  The dreaded brigade morale roll continues to provide moments of great tension and drama!

Neither in the article nor in the history as recounted by Oman nor in the logic of the situation could I see a reason why the British should be better (or worse) than their French opponents: this action took place at the end of a long and hard campaign; the surviving troops were probably very much on a par, so I was happy to make all the troops classed as "Trained" or "Veteran".  Since Polemos is all about opposed rolls it doesn't matter which you plump for, but in another ruleset, I'd err on the side of veteran, except perhaps the French cavalry.

Another excellent game from the Polemos Napoleonic rules.  The terrain was 3'x2', the figures from Baccus 6mm, the majority of the buildings from Total Battle Miniatures.