Sunday, 17 November 2019

Raising the Clans - the Scottish dimension to the Brexite campaign

Real life meant that Dave and I had an enforced break before we were able to resume our narrative Brexite campaign, with the action moving North of the border, with Bonnie Prince Charlie trying to raise the clans.

Background Fluff
Against the advice of Marshal Saxe, the Prince had decided that he wanted to land in Scotland to try and raise the Clans in support of his claim to the thrown. This meant that the invading forces would need to be split, thus potentially weakening their campaign. Marshal Saxe could not send the Prince without support, so detached the Royal Ecosse, the Wild Geese and a unit of Dragoons to aid the Prince in his endeavours.

His reception was somehwat lukewarm, but he did manage to garner enough support to make a march on Edinburgh. General Cope, aware that the Prince had landed and of his intention to march on the capital, sent troops to try and delay the advance of the Jacobites. He chose a small outpost, Ruthven Barracks, known locally for its excellent pies and victuals, run by one Mrs Miggins with the barrack grounds. The 3rd Foot & Mouth were the local militia stationed there and expected support would reach them soon.

The Bonnie Wee Laddie needed a victory to help convince the Clans to rise in his support, so plans were drawn up to take this important staging post on the road to Edinburgh. It would also provide the troops with much needed food (the French were tired of wild haggis and neeps & tatties) and also improve their lines of communication.

Scenario Details
The scenario was based upon 'Attack on a Prepared Position' from 'Scenarios for all Ages' by Grant & Asquith. I tweaked it slightly to include the barracks, but little else was changed.

British OOB
Brigade Commander - Dependable 
1 Light Infantry unit - Independent
1 Militia Unit - Inferior
2 Line Infantry units - Standard 
1 Dragoon Unit - Standard
1 x Light Artillery - Standard

Jacobite OOB
Bonnie Prince Charlie - Dithering CinC
Lord Ranald McDonald - Dithering (commander of the Highland Clans)
French commanders - Dependable
2 x Highland Clans - as per the HoW '45 rules
2 x French units (Royal Ecosse & Wild Geese) - Superior 
4 x Line infantry Units - Standard 
1 x French Dragoons - Standard
1 x Light Artillery - Standard 

The British deployed first, with them forming a line centred upon the barracks, where they could be fortified by Mrs Miggins pies. The artillery was on the hill just off the centre to thr right, supported by the Dragoons, with the Light Infantry in the woods to the front of the right flank.
The Jacobites took the left flank, with the French in line of march along the road. All units started the game off board.

An overview of the table, with the British on the right.

The French in line-of march ready to come on.

The British positions, with the famous 'M' on the hill denoting Mrs Miggins meat pies.

Turn 1
The French got off to the worse start possible, with a failed command roll leaving them blocking the whole road. However the Dragoons and Highlanders moved on, whilst the British looked on in amusement.

The end of Turn 1.

The 3rd Foot & Mouth look on whilst munching on their pies.

The Dragoons observe the advance of the Highlanders.

Turn 2
The French finally arrive and move on as fast as they can, whilst the Highlanders fail to advance, only moving sideways due to a Poor command roll. The British Dragoons move to the flank whilst their Light Infantry push forward in the woods to meet the threat from the French Dragoons.

The end of Turn 2.

The French arrive.

The Light Infantry advance to threaten the French Dragoons.

Turn 3
The French continue their advance, with some units forming into line. The Jacobites also advance, but the British Light Infantry fail to be able to move forward and a unit of British troops push forward on the left of the barracks.

The end of Turn 3.

The French start to deploy.

The artillery looks on but does not have the range to hit the French troops.

The Jacobites advance towards the woods.

Turn 4
The French continue to form line from their line of march, but it is a slow job to do this. The Highlanders close in on the woods, but the British Light Infantry manage to fire first, causing hits on the Highlanders, who miss when they return the compliment. Next turn they will have to charge.

The end of Turn 4.

The British line has pushed slightly forward of the barracks.

A view of the Highlanders as they close with the British Light infantry.

The French advance continues as the head of the column forms line.

Turn 5
The British Light infantry manage to retreat through the woods, this avoiding the Highland charge. The Highlanders advance as do the French, with units from both sides exchanging fire.

The end of Turn 5.

The British cause hits on the leading French troops.

The Light Infantry retreat.

The artillery still out of range.

Turn 6
The British Light infantry continue to fall back, this time to protect the light gun. The Highlanders advance, but are hampered by their Dithering commander. As the French continue to advance, fire from the British forces one unit to fall back to reform.

The end of Turn 6.

The British gain the first advantage, but still face a formidable array of troops.

The refused British right flank.

A view from the French position.

Turn 7
The French refuse to move, making life hard for other units to advance at a critical juncture, whilst the Highlanders fall back through the woods to avoid fire from the British light infantry. Both sides cavalry play at Mexican stand off. The Line infantry on boths sides continue to exchange fire, with a British unit forced to fall back and reform.

The end of Turn 7.

The French, poised to advance en mass, are unable to do so.

The British line forced to fall back and reform, are lucky that the French failed to take advantage of their position.

Both sides observe each other whilst the action goes on elsewhere.

Turn 8
Yet again the French fail to move, with the Royal Ecosse and the Wild Geese struggling to get forward through the inert mass. The French artillery is able to fire on the barracks, casuing one hit on the 3rd Foot & Mouth.

The end of Turn 8.

The calm before the storm?

Both British flanks are slowly being forced back.

Turn 9
Unbelievably the French failed to move, this being the third Turn in a row! As the Royal Ecosse and Wild Geese tried to prosecute the attack, they had little effect and allowed the British to move troops back to the left flank of the barracks.

The end of Turn 9.

The British are simply awaiting the attacks to come in, praying for dusk to fall to possibly save them.

Turn 10
At last the French move and as the lines close, both sides exchange shots, hitting each other but unable to deliver a decisive blow.

The end of Turn 10.

As the French mass, the British infantry on the left flank are once again forced back to reform by the weight of French fire.

A view from the French lines.

Turn 11 
The French move forward as dusk falls, but time has run out for them to inflict a decisive blow to the British troops.

The end of Turn 11.

The British line begin to buckle from the threat on both flanks.

The British defenders look on nervously at the mass of French troops.

The French finally ready to attack, but as dusk falls, they are unable to do so.

End of Game
With one Turn to go it was obvious that the French and Jacobites were not going to be able to defeat the British troops in and around the barracks. So as dusk fell, we agreed that the British were able to safely withdraw their troops, leaving the French hoping that their were some meat pies to sate their hunger...

Post Game Thoughts
Well yet another game where the French simply could not get going. In frustration Dave changed his command die, which helped, but too late to make a difference. His luck must surely change, but hopefully not not just yet! It was great to get the campaign restarted and the rules served up a nice game once again. So always, a few thoughts on the game:
  • For most of this campaign, the Light infantry and cavalry have been the ones mostly engaged in determining the outcome of a battle; this time it fell to the Line infantry. Having read the books on Horace St Paul's diaries from the SYW, it is interesting to note that the sort of battles we've had, were often fought with Grenzers, Grenadiers, Hussars and sometimes artillery, against the advancing Prussian troops. So in a sense our games have so far conformed to this, which is rather nice.
  • Both of us were careful not to over commit our troops, as we were very aware that we are in a campaign, and a loss at an early point might not be replaced. This is true for the French Dragoons, Royal Ecosse and Wild Geese, who if lost will certainly not be replaced. 
  • For small battles like this we've found that the Light artillery work best, as they are not too powerful and with limited range. So in this game if the British had had say a medium gun, then they might have been able to inflict too much damage before the French had been able to close.
  • I tweaked the rules for the '45 from the HoW site slightly for our campaign, mainly by giving the French battalions guns. I forgot to make the other troops Lowlanders as I had forgotten to read rules thoroughly enough. Mea culpa.
  • The Highlanders were hampered by having their leadership roll come up as a Ditherer, as at certain points they would have been able to catch the British Light Infantry with a Highland charge. Post game I decided that Lord Ranald McDonald has imply been sitting on the fence so to speak, awating to see the outcome of the battle. With a Jacobite 'victory', he has now sided with Bonnie Prince Charlie, so will be rated as Dependable in future battles.
  • The French and Jacobites will be hindered for the entire campaign as we both agreed that the Bonnie Laddie should be rated Dithering, given his historical performance, or lack of, during the '45. This does add a bit of uncertainty for those times when an Admirable or Inspiring roll comes up. You also have to make sure to protect the Prince as you cannot afford to let him fall to a stray cannonball, as the rising would collapse like a souffle taken out of the over too soon.
  • We've taken to viewing the table from the other side of the hill as it were during our games as we take 'photos. This does give you a very different outlook on how the actions are developing.
  • We had fun as we always do. Lately I've been reading a few books by Featherstone and one thing that comes through is it was as much about having fun as winning the game way back then. One thing that struck me when reading comments other gamers had made about the late Stuart Asquith was that he had brought fun back into wargaming via his articles in Practical Wargamer and other publications. I think this is something we should all try to achieve in our games: winning is nice but having a fun and enjoyable game is much, much more improtant.
Time to get my thinking hat on for what the next scenario might be for our narrative campaign. So it will be  a case of looking at a variety of books to see what fits and what will give a nice challenge to both players. I also need to get some more units painted, as real life has prevented me from getting anything done for the past month or so. so until next time...

Friday, 4 October 2019

Brexite Campaign - A Ridge Too Far?

After our break for Operation Market-Garden, it was time to return to the 18thC and our narrative campaign. The English troops have been forced to withdraw once again by the French and have chosen to make a last stand on a long ridge controlling the road to Bristol. Further retreat is simply not an option. The French, with their lines of communication increasing by the day, need to defeat the English in open battle, so that they can take control of Bristol. Nothing else will suffice.

Table Set Up
Once again the scenario was taken from the excellent 'Scenarios for All Ages' by Grant & Asquith. Broadly speaking the French have an almost 2:1 advantage over the English, but the terrain favours the defenders. The English have deployed along the rdige, expecting an attack from across the road. However the French have a sneaky plan to attack them in the flank, via a night march. As dawn breaks, the French right flank have mistaken a village for the one they are meant to attack. The French left flank is in the right place, but is late arriving on the battlefield and so is somewhat behind from where they should be.

An overview of the table (3 1/2' x 2 1/2'), with the English on the ridge to the right middle of the 'photo, with the French on the left hand edge.

The French right flank deployed for action, but against the wrong village.

The English on the ridge, suddenly see the French appear on their flank as the early morning mist lifts.

The French right flank, although in the wrong position, are in the English rear.

The view from the French right flank.

Turn 1
The French press forward on both flanks, whilst the English suddenly try to re-align their troops to face an unexpected direction of attack.

An overview at the end of Turn 1.

The French cavalry lead their right flank forward.

English troops move in the village to take up new defensive positions.

The French left flank push on through the Somerset cornfields.

Turn 2
The French continue their advance and deploy their medium gun on the left flank, which opens fire on the village. Their shooting is good and they inflict a hit on the English infantry. In response, the English send more infantry towards the village, whilst their cavalry and light infantry move to meet the threat from the French right flank.

An overview at the end of Turn 2.

The French right flank continues to advance, whilst the English troops make the best use of the wooded terrain to form a defensive position.

The English face towards the French right flank.

The French light infantry advance towards the village, whilst the French left flank struggles forward.

Turn 3
Again, both sides manouevre to try and gain a favourable and advantageous position over their enemies. The shooting that there is misses, as most guns and all of the infantry are out of range.

An overview at the end of Turn 3.

The French flanks begin to converge on the village.

The English left flank moves its light infantry into the woods, whilst the cavalry form a reserve, waiting to see where the French will strike their first blow.

Turn 4
The French left flank suddenly bursts into life, as a double move allows them to close in on the village. The English respond and reinforce the village as best they can, but the French are in a good position. Despite all this manouevring, both sides shooting is ineffective.

An overview at the end of Turn 4.

The French right flank pushes its cavalry through the woods as the infantry advance towards the village, that is held by the English light infantry.

The English have been able to reinforce the village, but the mass of French troops is closing in.

A view from the English artillery position, protected by infantry.

The English light infantry have been outflanked by the French cavalry.

Turn 5
The French manage to close in on the village on the ridge and begun to envelop it. However the English defenders cause hits on the advancing French troops, but take none in return. The French right flanks cavalry put pressure on the English left flank, forcing them to move back, whilst the French infantry move into the village unapposed.

An overview at the end of Turn 5.

A view of the French left flank as they close in on the village.

The view from the French right flank.

The English defenders cause hits on the French infantry, but are under a lot of pressure from the massed French troops.

The English light infantry and the Taunton Tartars hold the woods to try and slow the French advance.

Turn 6
The French left flank, supported by their light infantry, close in on the village and their weight of fire forces an English infantry unit to retreat, with four hits. The English hold on the village is looking somewhat tenuous. The French cavalry on their right flank try and force their way past the defending English, only for them to be shot at by the English light infantry, who cause two hits on the French dragoons.

An overview at the end of Turn 6.

A unit of English infantry having been forced to retreat, leaves the village almost at the mercy of the French.

The French infantry poised to take the village, which is now defended by a sole English infantry unit.

The French dragoons are shot at by the English light infantry in the woods as the English cavalry defends their flank.

Turn 7 
With the village ripe for the taking, the French left flank fails its command roll, meaning they cannot advance! The French light infantry take up the attack and move into the village, as the English infantry withdraw to its edge. The French pressure forces the English infantry to begin a slow withdrawl, but on the English left flank, the French cavalry take more hits from the English light infantry.

An overview at the end of Turn 7.

The French cavalry being shot at by the English light infantry.

The English begin to withdraw, but the French are unable to take advantage of this, other than their light infantry.

The English cavalry form into two lines, ready to receive or make a charge.

Turn 8
Unbelievably the French left flank again faills its command roll, which is aiding the English defense no end. The French advance as best they can else where, but the English are managing to form a good defensive line across the ridge. Both sides exchange shots, but fail to cause any retreats etc.

An overview at the end of Turn 8.

The French poised to reinforce the village, but are unable to do so, whilst the English are.

The French right flank continues to advance and to exert some pressure on the English positions.

The English left flank is putting up an active defense.

The English trade shots with the French light infantry in the village.

Turn 9
Miracle of miracles, the French left flank again fails to advance and so can only look on in disbelief. The French light infantry shame them by causing an English infantry unit to retreat, having taken four hits. This causes the English to further withdraw to form another defensive position. On the French right flank, the infantry advance and charge the English light infantry, who evade. The Taunton Tartars see a chance to charge the French dragoons, who they manage to cause to retreat off the table! Luckily the Taunton Tartars fail their roll to pursue, otherwise they would have gone as well.

An overview at the end of Turn 9.

The French troops in retreat whilst the Taunton Tartars look on.

With the French left wing stubbornly refusing to move, the French right wing continues to try and put pressure on the English positions.

The new English defensive line, now that the French light infantry anre in control of the village.

The English left flank are in a good position to hold any French advances.

End of Game
At this point we took stock of positions of both sides. The English had managed to form another good defensive line, which would take the French left flank, at least two Turns to reach ,as they would have to advance through or around the village. The English left flank also had the advantage of the wooded terrain which would make any advance by the French right flank problematic. Also the English could perform a fighting withdrawl along the ridge to yet another village, which would naturally provide a good defensive position.

So with all of the above, we agreed that the French had missed an opportunity to defeat the English in the field and so now needed to consolidate their postions in Somerset as well as securing their lines of communication. From there they might be able to advance towards Bristol at a later date, subject to seeing how Bonnie Prince Charlie had fared against the English on the Borders.

Post Game Thoughts
Well a highly entertaining game and one with a rather unexpected result. So as always, some post game thoughts:
  • I can safely say that the English didn't win the game, rather the French lost it. They were in the perfect position to push the English out of the village, from where it would have been rather hard for the English not to have been constantly on the back foot. A case of snatching defeat from the jaws of vicotry. 'C'est la guerre' as the French say.
  • Yet again the scenario provided an interesting and challenging game for both sides. These scenarios tend to work well for 18th & 19thC games, but less so for more modern ones. Definitely worth getting a copy IMHO. 
  • Once again artillery failed to have much impact on the game in a direct sense. Post game we talked about this and it came down to the fact that a lot of the time, the artillery was either having to move or shooting at long range and on occasion, both. However it did have the effect of pushing the French left flank towards the village, rather than pusing along to try and turn the English flank, due to the threat that it posed. We both know how devastating artillery can be at close range when it gibes a whiff or grapeshot.
  • Frankly I love these rules. They are elegant and have simple, yet subtle, mechanics that allow one to focus on the game, rather than the rules. Add in us playing with a good dose of common sense you you have pretty much gaming heaven.
  • I know a lot of gamers aren't that keen on 18thC linear warfare, but I find they do provide really challenging and interesting games. They are also colourful and provide a great visual spectacle. I'm glad that Keith Flint first introduced me to this period as it has become on of my favourites to game. 
  • Both sides light infantry had a big effect on the game, largely due to the lack of French line infantry advacning when they were most needed. I do enjoy fielding them and am also tempted to model up some dismounted dragoons at some point. 
  • It was nice to have my new terrain on the table for the first time. Much of my stuff comes from my days of 28mm skirmish games, so hasn't been that useful. Now having terrain specifically for 10mm makes setting up games so much easier.
  • This was the first time that I have been able to field a whole brigade of my own painted units, which was rather nice. To come out with a 'win' was an added bonus.
  • The narrative campaign has been great fun, but now the action moves North of the border. I hope to be able to paint up some SYW British from Pendraken for this, but I'm not sure how much time I will have due to some family visits over the next few weeks.

Our campaign will be on hold for a month or so, as Dave is away for a few weeks and then the aforementioned family visits will most likely put pay to any gaming until some time in November. Hopefully I will get in some solo games and also painting, especially as we are now well into Autumn and I naturally paint more between now and late Spring. So until next time...