“Champagne! In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it” - Napoleon
The Spanish Civil War, Chain of Command, 28mm
I found my self in Orkney this week, and so I went along to the local club, where the guys were playing a Chain of Command game set during the Spanish Civil War. Forewarned of this, I threw a box of lead and scenery into the car before I drove north. There were four of us playing, plus a fifth – Joe – playing online chess. Don’t ask. The rest of the hall was filled with youngsters playing assorted kinds of fantasy nonsense. So, in our game we played it with a mixed platoon a side – Gyles and I taking the Republican side, with a mixed platoon of Anarchist militia plus Republican regulars, while the Rebels – Sean and Alan – fielded half a platoon each of Nationalist regulars and Moorish troops.Oh, and tanks. Did I say we had tanks? They had a Pz. I with a Breda 20mm, plus a UMC-35 armoured car and an armoured truck, while we had a T-26 and an old machine-gun armed FT-17. So, the stage was set for the skirmish around the hamlet of La Muralla de la Iglesia – the wall of the church – appropriate enough as we were actually playing in Kirkwall, Orkney.It was a meeting engagement, played on a 6×4 foot table. First, both Sean and Gyles played out the patrol phase, with us grabbing most of the hamlet. Then we got cracking with the game itself.In true democratic fashion I let Gyles’ anarchist half platoon hold the front line, while apart from my light mortar section my Republican regulars formed the reserve. The Nationalists didn’t bother with that – instead they deployed everything, with Sean’s Banda Nacional troops setting up in a wood beyond a stream on our right flank, while the Moors appeared in a fortified farmouse, just down one of the forks in the main road. His armour came on very hesitantly along the other fork.My two light mortars set up on the far side of the table in a small copse, and began lobbing rounds into the Nationalist ranks. Still, we were outnumbered, and in the firefight that followed the worst of it. Gyles pulled his half-platoon back into the cover of the buildings, but for some reason the rebel assault didn’t come. I didn’t remember about Alan. Its been a while since I played a game with him, and I forgot that decision-making cones hard to him. So, things happen slowly.Sean though, came out of his treeline and advanced towards the stream. We moved our machine gun round and between it and the mortars that particular threat was blunted, with two of his three squads shot to pieces, or piled high with “pin” markers. By then we’d brought on our own Republican tanks, with the FT-17 loitering at the back, as some sort of reserve, while the T-26 surged forward, and began shooting up the Moors’ armoured truck. In a rare fit of dynamism Alan played an “ambush” move, and deployed his anti-tank gun right in front of the truck. it missed, but in the exchange of shots that followed we silenced it, but the T-26 had to pull back around the corner of a small church. Still, this little exchange seemed to spur Alan’s Moors into action. Encouraged by a promising roll of activation dice, his Moors finally began to advance. We cut them down a bit as they came on, with mortar and rifle fire, but with a roll of a “double six” he surged on, almost to the edge of the hamlet. That, of course, was when we dropped the other shoe. I deployed my half platoon of Republican regulars, with an attached light machine gun, and lined them up behind a wall. They opened up at point-blank range, and bullets ripped into the Moorish ranks. The next phase saw some lousy dice from Alan, so effectively I got to fire again, and this time the handful of Moorish survivors broke and ran. That left the rebel armour to deal with. Ignoring the armoured car I rolled the T-26 forward into an olive grove, and within line of sight of their Panzer 1. Some excellent die-rolling saw it badly damaged, and “pinned”. Then it went on fire. So, effectively, with the rebel morale plunging, that marked the end of the game. It was a pretty comprehensive win for the Republic, despite the loss of a few anarchists. I hadn’t played CoC for a while, let alone “Spanish CoC“, and it was good to get the toys onto the table. It was also good to spend a few hours gaming with my chums in Orkney. All in all a splendid little evening, with the events recorded for posterity by Senor Hemingway, who saw it all happen – albeit from a healthily safe distance.
The Spanish Main, A Pikeman’s Lament, 28mm
This game was a result of some hasty improvisation. For various reasons only Bart and I were able to play this week, so we wanted something “quick and dirty”. We settled on The Spanish Main, and our second clash between the Buccaneers and the forces of His Most Catholic Majesty. I also didn’t have time to come up with a scenario, so we used one straight out of the rule book.“River Crossing” involved both sides facing each other across a fordable river, with one unit of each side on the enemy bank (west for the Spanish, east for the Buccaneers). The aim of the game was to get your whole force across the river, without the enemy doing the same. You also got extra points for fulfilling a mission for your commander, which in my case was William Youngblood, a veteran of Cromwell’s “Western Design”, while Bart’s leader was Guillermo di Medina, who was rated as “ineffectual”. Our missions were chosen, but kept secret until the end of the game.We set the game on the Mosquito Coast (now Nicaragua), on the banks of the Rio San Juan. Bart moved first, and advanced his small cavalry unit towards my buccaneers on his bank of the river. I then failed my activation, so Bart got to go again. He charged home – I didn’t even get a chance to fire – but although my men were forced back into the river, they survived the combat. The rest of Bart’s force moved up to the west bank of river.Then, I actually managed to shoot, and emptied all but two saddles. Di Medina was attached to his cavalry, and he survived, but after rallying the other cavalryman he and his cavalry escort took no further part in the game. He did though, hid behind his infantry, just over the ford on the west bank of the river, and as a legitimate unit that helped Bart edge closer to victory. My inability to activate was repeated with depressing regularity. In A Pikeman’s Lament you select a unit, and roll two dice to activate it, needing a certain score to succeed. Some activations are easier than others. If you fail, your activation phase ends, and your opponent gets to go. A string of low die rolls kept my troops stuck in their starting positions for the best part of five turns. by that time my plan was in tatters, as the Spanish were across the river.All I could really do was to shoot them, and hope to drive them back. Strangely, my dice-rolling luck turned, and I was able to do a fair bit of shooting. it stopped a charge by the Spanish pikemen, and they were finished off by my small six-man hit squad of sword-wielding Buccaneers – my “forlorn hope”. Another unit of Spanish militia shot were driven back too, having suffered heavy casualties. That was a good start, but it wasn’t enough. The trouble was, although my buccaneers were now edging forward towards the river, apart from his fleeing units all of the Spanish were now on the eastern bank of the San Juan. By now Bart also had his musketeers formed up and able to fire back. So, I started taking casualties. On my right, a thin line of buccaneer skirmishers and cimaroons popped away at their opponents, but were eventually driven back into the jungle by musketry from the Spanish regulars. Things weren’t going well! Next, my leader William Youngblood was forced off the table, along with his unit, as it melted away under Spanish fire. Bart was now within an ace of winning. The only thing keeping me in the game were his fleeing units, which by now were on the western side of the table. So, I sent my sword-wielding buccaneers storming across the ford, but unable to reach his musketeers they had to chop up the last of his fleeing pikemen instead. Sweet though that little victory was, it meant the Spanish only had one unit left on the wrong side of the river.Wavering units have to test their morale every turn, and if they fail they lose a figure. That makes it progressively harder to rally. So, BArt was actually hoping he’d keep failing, as his unit melted away to nothing. By now I had three units on the far bank, or on the ford, but it wasn’t enough. When that last fleeing unit evaporated the game came to an end. As I went after Bart, all that was left was for me to try to turn things around in my own last activation phase. I couldn’t. My cutlass-wielders stormed into another raw Spanish militia unit and broke it, but as I was hitting them from the ford they fled away from me, keeping on the east bank of the river. So, I’d shot my bolt, and lost the game. When we added up the scores, the Spanish got 5 points for gathering their force on the eastern bank of the San Juan, and Bart got another for his mission – launching the first charge of the game. I succeeded in one of my mission – routing or killing more enemy units than I’d lost, which got me too consolation points, but I failed in getting a third for wiping out his cavalry unit. So, Bart won handsomely, with 6 points to 2. It was a fun little game, and our third using these rules. they work splendidly for this level of action, and are simple enough to work fast and smoothly, but have enough chrome through special unit traits, leader sand special objectives to keep up interest. Before the next game though, I might tweak the factors a bit, and the points values, to make the buccaneers a little better at hand-to-hand combat, as that seems a better historical “fit”. I’m also tempted to paint up more Spanish cavalry, as they’re great fun to play with.
The English Civil War, For King & Parliament, 28mm
This was something of a big day. Several months before, Ken and I playtested these rules, written by Simon Miller and Andrew Brentnall. This week, we were using the finished rules, which have just come out. Back when we ran the playtest, the battle we were given to try was Montgomery. Now its the scenario included in the rules, and so replaying it seemed the thing to do. Now, For King & Parliament is based on Simon’s very popular Ancient rules, To the Strongest. While the basic mechanics are the same, there’s a fair bit that’s different , with a few new mechanisms to get our heads round. Still, Ken & I diligently read them before the game, and off we went.This wasn’t too hard, as the rules are unusually well-written, and we already knew To the Strongest . These games are played on a grid – we used 20cm squares – but in these pictures you’ll have to peer closely to see it. The field was laid out as close as we could to the map in the rule book (below), with the Royalists and the top and the Parliamentarians at the bottom. This wasn’t a straight-up battle. The Parliamentarians were outnumbered. Campbell and I had six regiments of horse, three foot ones, and two “forlorn hopes” – essentially small groups of musketeers. Ken and Alisdair had five Royalist regiments of horse, six of foot, and three “forlorn hopes” made up of dismounted dragoons. However, three of the Royalist cavalry regiments were “untried” in battle, while two of ours started off the table, foraging. So, both sides had slight disadvantages to deal with. The battle began with the Royalists moving first. They plodded forward, while their cavalry massed on their right flank, ready to launch a charge. My foot stayed where they were, while Campbell gathered his four regiments of horse together to check the Royalist tide. Still, it was Ken who charged first, as Col. Trevor’s (R) and Sir Thomas Myddleton’s (P) regiments collided. After short sharp fight, Trevor’s horse were routed from the field. First blood to Parliament! Huzzah! Of course, this was only the start. It turned out that Ken’s “untried” Royalist horse were actually pretty reliable. They trotted into action behind Lord Byron’s regiment (R), which smacked into the Derbyshire Horse (P) and drove them from the field. Led by the Royalist CinC (and regimental colonel) Lord Byron they didn’t pursue the broken enemy, but instead they rallied and turned 90 degrees, so they could roll up the flank of the rest of Campbell’s cavalry. That’s Ken above, finding time to tell Alasdair what to do with his foot. So, back in the infantry fight the Royalist advance was met by volleys from my two small units of forlorn hope, out in front of my line. Behind them my three outnumbered regiments lined the edge of a small hill, and awaited the onslaught. I was cheered when one of the forlorn hopes saw off one of their three Royalist counterparts – all detachments of Col. Washington’s dragoons. Back on the cavalry wing our reinforcements still hadn’t appeared. Then, in a flurry of action the two lines clashed again, although Byron’s horse refused to charge home. Much to everyone’s surprise two of the Royalist horse, Tyldesley’s and Lord Molyneaux’ regiments, were swept from them field. Double Huzzah! Over in the centre, Myddleton’s regiment, accompanied by the Parliamentarian commander Sir John Meldrum, rode down a unit of dismounted dragoons, and then faced off two units of Royalist foot, which kept them from outflanking my foot on the hill. So, in the cavalry fight the Parliamentarians had three units left, and the Royalists had two. Our Parliamentarian reinforcements could have added two more, but in fact they never bloody well showed up throughout the game! By now, Brereton’s horse (P) had turned to face off Lord Byron’s regiment, while Fairfax’s regiment (P) charged at Vaughn’s (R). Ken’s run of cards continued, and he lost both melees – and both units. So, the Royalist cavalry had been wiped out, and their army’s commander Lord Byron was forced to gallop over to the safety of his own foot regiments, to avoid capture. In For King & Parliament you get victory medals at the start, based on the size of your army. Each time you lose a unit or a leader you hand medals to the enemy. Ken started with 14, and we began with 13. We Parliamentarians were now down to 10, as we’d lost a unit of forlorn hope (-1 point), and a unit of horse (-2 points), while the Royalists were down to 1, as they’d lost five regiments of horse (-10 points), a colonel (-1 point), and two small forlorn hopes of dismounted dragoons (-2 points). So, just one last push… I was happy to line the top of the hill and shoot, and as the Royalist casualties grew Alasdair decided that one big charge could win the day. However, only Col. Broughton’s Tercio (R) actually charged, and it soon got pushed back. Teh, my musketeers finally caused enough casualties on the Col. Warren’s Foot (R) that it broke and ran. That garnered us 3 medals, and the game. Huzzah all round! It was a hard-fought little fight, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Towards the end a bunch of other gamers drifted over to watch us, as they’d all played To the Strongest, and wanted to see how the new rules worked for this period. Actually, they worked very well indeed. Everyone felt the game moved along very well, and that the rules worked superbly. Even more importantly, everyone enjoyed themselves – even Ken, who had a run of cards that turned averages and statistics on their head!
The Age of Fighting Sail, Post Captain, 1/1200 scale
This week we planned to play a Back of Beyond game, but for various reasons that got postponed for a month. So, we fell back on Post Captain, the rules we use to fight single ship actions. This time, we based the game on a historical action – the capture of the American 44-gun “super-frigate” USS President in January 1815. Bart played the part of Captain Decatur of the President, while Campbell commanded HMS Euryalus, (40 guns) playing the part of Captain Hope. I took charge of the smaller 36-gun frigate HMS Belvidera, which was standing in for the Pomone, commanded by Captain Carteret. The President was blockaded in New York Harbor, but that January a squall drove the British ships off station. Decatur seized the moment to break out. However, she was spotted, and a chase began. The 40-gun was the fasted ship in the British squadron, and soon she and the Belvidera (actually the Pomone) were the only frigates which had a chance of overhauling the American. That’s where we began the game, with President heading east, and the two British frigates about two miles astern. The north edge of the table, off President’s port beam, was impassible, as it represented the coast of Long Island. So, the chase was on. In Post Captain, each turn the players roll a die to see if little gusts or lulls in the wind influence their speed that turn. For a few turns Bart rolled well, and although Euryalus had a knot more speed under full sail, President kept her distance. Eventually though, Euryalus came up within range of her bow chasers, and she fired steadily away. When President jinked to fire back, Belvidera was able to gain ground too, and soon she was joining it with her own bow guns. Now, Bart faced a dilemma. He could turn to fight, and although the Euryalus was a powerful 24-pounder frigate, she wasn’t as well-armed as the President. So, Bart might well be able to win a straight ship duel. However, there was Belvidera too. President might beat one frigate, but defeating two was pretty unlikely. So, while Bart’s plan was to keep heading west, first he planned to jink again, and this time try to disable the Belvidera, which was then about a mile off her starboard quarter. Much to Bart’s chagrin, his broadside didn’t hit anything. to make things worse, that was when Campbell scored his first hit. He was firing at the American ship’s rigging, and a ball struck the main topmast, bringing it down. that pretty much guaranteed the President couldn’t get away from a fight. Soon both British frigates were ranging up closer to the American, the Euryalus on her larboard quarter, and Belvidera on her starboard one. Soon all three frigates were firing intermittently, either with their bow chasers or their broadside batteries. President’s gunners took down Euryalus‘ main top, but lost their own fore topmast in return. Belvidera added to the American’s woes by demolishing most of her mizzen. As senior Captain, Campbell ordered me to “Engage the Enemy More Closely”. to me though, that meant getting in close and battering her with my guns, preferably from a spot just outside the American’s arc of fire. To Campbell though, that really meant “Fire and Board ’em through the smoke”!In his defence, I have to say that Campbell’s preferred tactic is to ram things. Bart likes charging headlong into fights, while I love battering the shit out of things with guns. Each to his own. So, with President starting to look pretty disabled, we really stood a good chance of winning this without incurring heavy losses. that, of course, was when Campbell’s ramming instinct kicked in.He closed to point blank range and did just that – exchanging broadsides, and then smacking the Euryalus alongside the port side of the President. That, of course, was when Campbell had a nasty shock. It turned out that the American frigate carried twice as many men as the British one, and her marines were already up in the tops, ready to blaze away. So, Campbell’s puny boarding party got cut down before they had a chance to jump onto the President’s deck. Campbell fired off one last starboard broadside, then sent everyone on deck. The British tried desperately to cut their own grappling lines, but it was too late. The next turn a swarm of American boarders jumped across to the Euryalus, and fought their way aboard. They captured the waist almost without a fight, and a small knot of British on the focscle were forced to submit. Then, Decatur and his men turned aft, hacking their way through to the quarterdeck. Within minutes it was all over, and a gravely wounded Captain Hope was handing Decatur his sword.While all this was going on Belvidera had been raking the President from the stern, cutting her masts down to stumps. She then ranged past the starboard side of the American, and took station off the Belvidera’s bows. That was where we ended the game. President was now a dismasted hulk, but her crew had the Euryalus. The Belvidera stood off the bows of her consort, ready to pour in shot. In those circumstances Decatur would have surrendered. I suspect Bart wouldn’t have though, but we’ll never know, as we ran out of time. So, the game was declared a draw, even though technically at that point Bart was winning. He claimed he could have scuttled the President and sailed away in his prize. In truth he might have tried, but Belvidera held all the aces, and could have raked the Euryalus until she surrendered. I’ll be interested to see what Bart’s blog says – you’ll find it in the Links section! This was a fun game though, and even though we hadn’t played it for ages the basics came back top us all in no time. However, we were pushing the envelope a bit when it came to boarding actions, as none of us had ever fought one before. However, after a bit of rules browsing it all came together, and a great little game was had by all.