Tuesday 27 November 2018

The Irish Horse and Conversions

I have been looking for some Irish horse for my Elizabethan project with limited sucess. They look very particular with their mix of English and Gaelic dress, no stirrups, padded seat instead of saddle, over arm javelins etc. Dark age Irish horse might do, but head swaps required so at least a couple have Tudor helmets. Redoubt do a range but I wasnt too happy with them, in the end I decided to get them and see what I could do with them.

This first figure came out OK, I dont mind the horse and the riders body looks fine, but the head....

His moustache runs from ear to ear for some reason and I just cant get my head around his helmet, it doesnt look like any images of the period I have seen. Still I painted him and he looks OK. What about the other four that redoubt do?

For the next one I decided to do a head swap and added a Burgonet helmet from the redoubt English Civil War range, now this looks a little better, but only a bit f I am honest. I think the new head I have chosen is not the best, the Irish were quite Hirsuite, this chaps neat moustache is perhaps not quite enough I may at some point end up changing it which is a shame.

At this stage I was tempted to give up, instead I took the next one and did a head swap with one of the Perys Kern, now I am pretty happy with how this has come out. 
It shows that the body of the rider is just fine, it just needs a nice head to make it work. This gave me a bit of hope that I could actually do something with these figures.

I also painted the Irish cheiftain straight as he comes but he is not a patch on the ones with a Perrys head, what to do?

I decided even though he was painted a head swap was in order, I wasnt thrilled about hacking at a finished figure with a modelling knife, but if I am not happy with the figure I need to do something about it. I chopped a couple of the Graven Images Galloglass heads off, you can see them in the background. I wasnt keen on these figures and I added the Morion helmet to the chieftain.

So here he is with a new head and two more figures prime for a head swap as I am getting a bit head swap happy. I particularly like the Demi-Lancer, I will reserve judgement on the Pikeman until he is painted I think.

Having got into the head swap thing I decided to try a foot figure, this Crusader Kern had already lost his head so a swap with a Maroon with a statute cap followed. Again looking slightly odd at this stage, reserving judgement until he is finished.
So here is the cheiftain in all his glory the, I quite like this outcome and I think he looks the part with his modern but slightly battered helmet.
The hatless Light cavalryman also looks the part now he is mounted, possibly my favourite of all of them so far. The light cavalry that is.
Here are the pair together, I think they match quite well.
Now the earlier light horse man after a head swap. I used a Graven Images Gallowglass head so the style of helmet and moustache is right. Not the best figure I have but a vast improvement on the original I think.

And finally all four of them together. I think they look OK. I have ordered two more from Redoubt lets see if they turn up, not hearing good things at present. Headswaps for both and thats my 6 figure unit for Pikemans Lament.

If Perrys get around to releasing some I may get rid of these and replace them but for now I am happy with my little band of Irish Light Horse.

Onwards and upwards with the English horse next I think.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Black Powder with Russians AAR

So the fourth Great Northern War game in three weeks and our largest yet. This was at Daves in his fantastic games room and with his excellent Russian collection. Its the first time we have played a mainly Russian force so interesting to see how that goes.

We were using a number of amends but not including a lot of Steves thoughts from Thursday so it gave me an opportunity to compare how that works. We reverted to the standard orders process including blunders.

Stats were all from the Last Argument of Kings supplement

We kept fire then move and we also kept brigade morals.

We kept moving and firing at two thirds range of rules.

We introduced that Cossacks and Allied foot could only charge opposition foot if they were shaken or dis-ordered as in Thursdays game.

We also introduced that supports retreated through or routed through are dis-ordered.

We stuck with rallying casualties as per the rules for now rather than Steves method.

We used the option to retire facing the enemy at 2 inches per move. I dont like the idea of a unit retiring at full speed facing the enemy. try marching backwards in formation at the same speed you walk forwards! And of course its unlikely that units would turn their backs on the enemy at close quarters so a slow march backwards seems appropriate.

Dave also took his Que from the other guys and provided butties, drinks and biscuits, cheers Dave thumbs up from me!

This was probably our biggest game yet and I had all of my figures with the exception of two Saxon cavalry regiments on table. Dave had pretty much all of is on table and taken as a whole it really dig look fantastic and extremely impressive. The forces were as follows.
3 x Brigades of 4 Russian foot battalions
1 x Brigade of 2 Russian Grenadiers and 1 foot battalions
I x Brigade of 2 Foot Cossack Battalions
2 x Brigades of 3 Saxon foot Battalions
6 x Field Guns
2 x Siege Guns
2 x Brigades of four Cossacks regiments each
2 x Brigades of four Russian Dragoons each
1 x Brigade Polish Cavalry 2 Winged Hussars 2 light Cavalry (Winged Hussars with Lance and armour)

4x Brigades Swedish foot (2 x3 and 2 x 4 battalions)
3 x Guns
3 x Brigades of Swedish horse (2 x 3 and 1 x 4)
1 x Brigade of Polish Horse (1 Pancerni 2 x light horse)
All Swedes had ferocious charge and Foot had extra combat dice but only 2 firing dice as one third armed with pike.
The Allies had little in the way of cover so this would be more of a stand up fight. Most of the stats were straight out of last argument of Kings.

So the forces stacked up like this

Foot 14 Swedes vs 23 Allies
Guns 3 Swedes vs 8 Allies
Horse 13 Swedes vs 20 Allies
All Generals were rated 8

60 battalions or regiments all told!!!!

The Swedes had overcome these odds numerous times both historically and using other rule sets but could the Black Powder reflect that? The command ratings being even would also probably hinder the Swedes who need to get forward quickly to minimise casualties.
The Horse were all positioned to the flanks and Dave had the Saxons in reserve. I had put my Poles on the Swedish right facing a brigade of Cossacks and the Dragoons (slightly less powerful than the horse) opposite the Polish fighting for the Allies.
Move one and the Swedes had initiative. for the most part the cavalry trundled forward as did most of the foot, unfortunately my second brigade of foot and last brigade of horse refused to move and my third brigade of foot threw an immediate blunder and marched two moves off table. This was pretty much to be the story of my day.

The Russians for the most part took one move forward and the Cossack foot occupied the village near the middle of the table.
The first action came quickly with the Cossacks on the Russian left flank charging the Polish Pancerni who counter charged, The Pancerni bounced as the Cossacks had three supports and the Pancerni had none. The Pancerni retiring back to the rest of their brigade. The Cossacks took a sweeping advance move to follow up but then were bounced by the Pancerni in return, retiring back to their brigade with casualties.

On the left flank the Cavalry now closed with each other and the Swedes continued to make their best time advancing on the Allies. In response the Allies closed up the line and shifted anything that had yet to move into a single massive double line. The guns now opened up and the first Swedish casualties began to appear along with the first unit dis-ordered. The third brigade got two move back onto the table so was back at the table edge.
The second brigade of cavalry over on the left flank charged the Russians with devastating effect.  The Ferocious charge inflicting 6 casualties after saves and breaking the first regiment, their supports rolled a double one and followed them off whilst the third regiment was beaten and forced to retire dis-ordered. They did however pass their morale and remain on table.

The next brigade charged the Cossacks and in turn broke the first two regiments, their supports both retreated dis-ordered.

This was how it was supposed to go, unfortunately the allies had not read the script and it was to be the high water mark for the Swedes.

On the right the Cossacks charged again and broke the first unit of Polish light horse and forced the supports to retire, following them up with a sweeping advance these were also broken and the brigade break test led to the inevitable result of the whole brigade gone.

Unhappily this left a brigade of cossacks on the flank and rear of the Swedish Dragoon brigade.

The Polish on the Allied side now charged and were counter charged by my Dragoons, leaving just one regiment behind to protect their flank from Cossacks. The Poles were led by two units of Winged Hussars with the armour save bonus and the lance reducing morale saves of the Swedes. in both cases the Dragoons were immediately broken inflicting no casualties on the Winged Hussars following a roll of 5 sixes by Dave (I have photographic Evidence) they followed onto the Supports dis-ordered by the broken front ranks and destroyed them again for no casualties. A Brigade break test saw the last unit break leaving the right flank wide open.
As if this wasnt bad enough the first Swedish foot brigade was now hit by musketry from the Russian foot and the first unit was dis-ordered. The Russians immediately charged the unit and forced it back.

In the subsequent move the next unit along was disordered and charged and then broken.
Only now were the Swedish guns brought into action with little effect whilst the Russians had taken a steady toll of the Swedes on their way in.
Daves best throw this year I reckon!

Meanwhile on my left I had charged the remaining cossacks destroying one unit but losing one of my horse to the other. To Cossacks for goodness sake!!!!

The cossacks that had won now formed up on my flank and next go charged my slightly mauled horse, their reaction being to turn to face. The dice though at last deserted Dave for a moment and the last Cossack unit was destroyed on this flank.

Too little too late through. 2 of the 5 cavalry units remaining on this flank were shaken and I needed them on the other flank to stop my whole line being rolled up.

The Cossacks began to wrap around the rear of my right flank and the Poles were on the flank of my first infantry brigade which now lost a further battalion to musketry and Russian Gunnery. My second brigade was turned to cover my flank and my third brigade was finally marching towards the enemy. whilst my fourth was repeatedly passing through its front units disordered by the fire of three guns.

It was going from bad to worse.
I decided my only chance was to press on with the two left hand foot brigades to try keep half of Dave's army busy whilst the badly mauled first and second brigades tried to stem the advancing tide of Russians long enough for the cavalry to try and rescue them. Not much of a plan I grant you.
The lead unit of the third brigade got into short range only to be dis-ordered and charged in the same fashion as the others that had tried to close. Fortunately these turned out to be lower class militia troops and I was able to hang on. Only one unit of the fourth brigade could close and it badly mauled and forced back its opposing battalion of Russians but it was too little too late. The only attack of an infantry unit to actually close with the allies all day.

The 6 battalions of Saxons in reserve were now marching forward with the rest of the Russian Cavalry in support, not that these 9 fresh units were in anyway needed, the battle was lost and it was all about what could be pulled out of the disaster without being over run by the Russian and Polish Cavalry.
By now it was past our 4pm deadline to close the all day game. A wonderful looking game (I hope you agree) that was unfortunately immensely frustrating to play as the Swedish commander. I did still enjoy the company and banter (And biscuits)
So thoughts.

Well first of all I hate losing especially with my Swedes so I have to be careful not to allow sour grapes to influence my thinking. After all if I have lost then surely its the rules at fault, LOL!

What worked and what didnt?

Firing before moving is a must and brigade break tests instead of automatically breaking also work. I may have made the Winged Hussars too strong but will only know when we play it again and get the same result.

The Russians charging the Swedes when they are dis-ordered by close range fire seems un-historical, it meant that three out of four opportunities to close with the Swedes simply never happened, this means if we carry on this way the Swedes need parity of numbers in order to stand a fighting chance which wasnt what I was going for. However I am not sure how you stop that without taking all flexibility away from the Allies. Sigh, this in particular is a little disheartening, one step forward and two steps back. Remembering that the Allies actually have another 16 battalions and 5 regiments of horse to add to their horde should we play with all of our forces its a puzzler.

But all is not lost there  are a few things to try. An easy fix is that regardless of the proximity rule a player must declare their charge before they fire. As they cant declare a charge on a unit that is not dis-ordered or shaken this means that they cant fire see the result and only then decide to charge, the unit being charged needs to already be shaken or dis-ordered before being volleyed. I think that might work. Alternatively we allow the Swedes to counter charge, they would need to be able to do this even if dis-ordered though probably not if shaken. In this case the Allies get a bonus for charging and Swedes a minus for dis-ordered but the Swedes still have  agood chance of winning. Or we only allow units (except Swedes) to charge units that are shaken, not dis-ordered or shaken as per rules. 

I appreciate this may all seem very much like me twisting things to improve the Swedish performance however our games will almost always have Swedes attacking a defender with double their numbers. If they cant reach the Allies to fight them the games will be over before they begin.

In all this we cant lose sight of needing the Allies to be able to get a fun game as well as an historically accurate game of course. There needs to be a flavour of the fighting abilities of each force engaged rather than a 100% accurate representation.

The Polish winged hussars were virtually un-stoppable. I am less concerned about that, the Allies need something good to play with and its easy enough to stick one unit on each side. In reality there were very few Winged Hussars indeed by this stage of History, probably less than 10% of the Poles were this good rather than the half we gave them in this game, they did however tend to be on the Saxon side in the civil war that erupted through Poland. I now know just how good they can be so I will use them wisely to balance games out.

Cossacks breaking regular Swedish cavalry? Again unheard of but if its impossible there is no point in collecting and painting the Cossacks I guess and between us we have a lot of them. Perhaps simply making their command role slightly lower? All generals were 8's for this game and it is a great evener of armies. If the Cossacks and Poles are less enthusiastic making their generals less likely to roll their orders helps or just downgrade their abilities a little from those listed in last argument of kings.

We discussed a morale test for being charged once closing fire had failed to stop chargers. This would be particularly useful for poor quality troops who might be more inclined to break rather than stand and take a bayonet charge. We didn't add it at this stage, as I only charged home once all day it hardly mattered, but will need to consider it for the future. One to put on the back burner.

Dave had some fantastic dice and mine were pretty poor so I don't want to make too many decisions without further play testing. No games this week but a planned Great Northern War at Steves next week to work some of this through.

I have a lot to digest here and decide on a way forward that is balanced and playable with the players and troops we have available.

I think I might have  a week off and paint some more Irish!

Saturday 17 November 2018

Back To Black (Powder)

So having tried four Lilly Banners games it was time to have another bash at black powder. Steve designed the game and was a bit more brutal then we have been so far in the amends, we used some fairly fundamental ones.

Movement was cut by one third so foot from 12 to 8 inches. Musketry the same so long range drops from 18 inches to 12 inches.

These both take the game nearer to a Pike and Shotte game and we are only just leaving that period for the Great Northern War so happy with all that.

We changed the order activation table so the results are less extreme and used the roll of a D10. The table below is what we used and it gives much less extreme results. No blunders though, I do like the addition of a blunder!



1 to 3
3 to 5
7 to 9
1 or 2
3 to 5
6 to 8
9 or 10
2 or 3
4 to 7
8 to 10
1 or 2
3 to 6
7 to 10

We kept the house rules that a player fires before moving and brigades losing half their units take a break Test rather than breaking automatically.

We also changed the casualty removal by Generals so each general gets a chance of rallying a casualty from each of the units in his command rolling a 6 on a D6.

We then added some period flavour. Infantry and irregular cavalry cannot charge formed infantry frontally unless it is shaken or disordered. This does not apply to the Swedes. Also troops may not simply shift position they must wheel to make manoeuvres, again the Swedes are an exception they may oblique. As the game progressed we found we had a couple more to consider I will share these later.
Mr Flowers had got a deal from M&S on the biscuits, two for the price of one. I think he had already eaten the extra pack so I didn't feel bad about eating the lions share of these ones!
The speed of the rules and our familiarity with them, even considering all the changes, meant we could table much larger forces and still get to grips.

The Danes are all from Marks collection whilst the Swedes and Saxons are mine.
The Swedes had:
3 Foot Brigades of 4 battalions each. Two had a gun, the third was Guards who had bonuses
2 Brigades of 4 regiments of Cavalry.
All of the Swedes had higher hand to hand stats and lower firing stats with the addition of Ferocious charge allowing the re-roll of missed hand to hand dice. They are nasty in hand to hand.
The Allies had:
4 Brigades of foot each with a gun and 4 battalions
3 brigades of horse, two with three regiments and one with four.

12 Swedish foot vs 16 Allied foot.
8 Swedish horse vs 10 Allied Horse
2 Swedish guns vs 4 Allied Guns

The balance was perhaps slightly in favour of the Swedes given the quality but not by much.
Steve's stats sheet is below, the Allies were all average. Their commanders also average, the Swedish good. Some criticism has been made about how hard it is to play this period given how much better the Swedes were. However we tend only to look at the main army which had large numbers of Guard troops and the best generals. In the Baltic the Russians were able to take the Swedes on with success with a smaller gap in the size of their armies, facilitated by less veteran Swedes and more parity in commanders. Also some of the best Russian troops were operating in the Baltic.

The below sheets are the Swedish stats we used. Steve increased firing from 3 to four dice for the Allies making it more likely they would dis-order the Swedes as they charged home. The Swedes had only 3 dice due to their troops having a third with Pike.

If you are worried about deciphering Steve's scrawled notes, I have them in my hand I cant read them either!

Sorry Steve only kidding.

Move one and the Swedes were able to shift forward at a brisk march with the exception of the Guards who only managed a single move.

The Allied response was more of a minor re-shuffle of troop dispositions.
With that done the Swedish horse charged forward, 6 out of eight regiments thundering forward and Allies counter charging, the last two Swedes were facing formed foot so I didn't fancy taking them on and decided I would use these to reinforce any success.

The Melee started well enough with the first two units of Swedish horse giving the allies a good thumping and both the opposite horse and their supports broke and fled the field. The next melee resulted in a draw however and as both sides had immediately hit their shaken point both took morale tests. The Swedes failed and retired a full move. A sweeping advance took the allies forward onto the supports and the same thing happened. The third melee was a win for the allies and the Swedes withdrew again, however as the allies were shaken they were unable to follow up.

On the right the Swedish foot advanced up to the river line to take on its opposite Allied brigade. The lead unit taking 4 casualties from musketry and artillery and taking them straight to shaken.

On the left the guards got another two moves and the extreme left brigade advanced to within short musketry range. As we fire before moving I couldn't fire and had to take a volley from the Allies defending the village, luck was with me though and I saved the majority.

Into the next move and on the left the Swedish foot charge the allies after a close range volley inflicted minimal casualties. Marks closing fire inflicted a decent number of casualties most of which I was again able to save, however more worrying he dis-ordered two of the three charging units reducing my effectiveness in combat. We had a discussion at this point about whether the Swedes should still get their ferocious charge re-roll bonus if dis-ordered. However as was pointed out without their bonus they  were unlikely to win any melees and the Allies were likely to dis-order two out of every three Swedish foot charging home and so would get this result in most cases. This would put the Swedes to a dis-advantage meaning that they would only ever be able to fight on equal or better terms attacking the allies. We dismissed this notion for now, I have no doubt we will return to it.
All that said the Swedes were successful in all three melees. The Allies were pushed out of the village, two units retiring and two other breaking. However two out of three of the Swedes were now shaken and unable to do anything further for the moment. The guards brigade moved to short range in order to deliver a short range volley and charge home, the Danes volleys inflicting minimal casualties but again the front battalion of Guard Grenadiers was dis-ordered meaning they at least were not going to be in a position to charge next move.
With the Swedish Cavalry unable to charge the Allied Cavalry under Chris took advantage and charged the Swedes, unable to respond two more units were again driven back and a third broken. The remaining Allied cavalry was however also all taken to shaken and unable to take advantage.

Both sides still had a small reserve of cavalry with two Swedish and three Allied units looking for an opportunity to exploit a gap, these were however all filled with shaken cavalry units from both sides.

This is where Steve's addition of a die roll for each unit to remove a casualty is at its best. You might only get 1 in every 6 but that one could make a big difference in these circumstances. Unfortunately both Chris and I managed to rally none! I like the idea of attempting to rally off casualties in this way but wonder if it should only be applied to shaken units. Undecided we will see in our next test games.

On the extreme right flank the Swedes advanced just one battalion over the river, a daft move I know but I wanted to relieve pressure on the unit that was shaken. Predictably Chris concentrated his gun and two battalions on it and this unit was now also on the verge of being shaken. What I should of done of course is stay outside of musket range and just negate this brigade from the game. But its a play test and we needed to see what works and what doesn't, marching a battalion over a river unsupported against a Brigade doesn't! Who would have thought.
Time was pretty much up with just enough time for the Guards to charge, the Grenadiers were unable so just one battalion fired and pushed forward, the end result was a draw which both sides passed their morale taking us into another round. All in all it felt like it had worked pretty well and we had  a bit more period flavour than using the rules raw.

Chris was pleased as punch, the first time he had not been completely bashed when playing against Swedes, While the game was not over the Allies had by far had the better of the fighting on his side of the table.
Chris Flowers looking rather pleased with himself
On the other flank the Brigade on Marks extreme flank was in very poor shape, two battalions left and both shaken, the Swedes had all four left but two were shaken, they could finish off the Danes but were unlikely to be able to do much more. Marks centre had 8 intact battalions facing the Swedish Guards so again all still to play for. On the whole the Allies still stood a very good chance of winning or at least holding the Swedes to a draw.
Given it was an experiment it went surprisingly well. The Swedes remain difficult to stop but not impossible as Chris proved with the allied cavalry.

A couple of amends we are now actively considering.

Should a unit being charged test to stand? Poor quality troops potentially should stand a chance of retiring from a charge.

Also if a unit retires or routs back through its supports should the supports be dis-ordered for a move? Seems odd that they could have a regiment of cavalry blunder through them and then be able to charge the opposition cavalry in front of them next go whilst they re-cover from winning the melee.

We also considered whether to add in first fire for all the decent troops.

Other than that a very interesting game, playing again on Sunday at Dave's house, no doubt with a slightly different take on Black Powder, as always I will let you know how it goes along with some pictures of Dave's lovely Russian collection for the Great Northern War.

See you soon.